We put a lot of effort into reviewing and sharing info about the latest and greatest bike tech, and it stands to reason that we focus on things that are widely available. But sometimes you have to throw reason out the window. There's something special about the people who can make shit themselves
. Who can wander off into the shop with an idea, and come out with a thing. That works. That someone might even pay for.
I spent a bit of time this winter trying to become one of those people; I’ve been playing with a desktop CNC from Pocket NC
and a 3D printer from Matterhackers
. And well, I've got a long way to go. But along the way I started following some very talented folks making very cool stuff on an incredibly small scale. Here are a few of them.
Tom Sturdy is a framebuilder and framebuilding teacher based in Frome, Somerset. He uses titanium tubes with 3D printed tube junctions to create made-to-order designs. He offers an XC hardtail 29er called the Tara with custom geometry, and he also makes a very special crankset.
I'm especially excited about his stunning new titanium crankset. He initially designed them to make custom lengths for his frame customers (he's even made down to 125mm cranks), and he wanted to improve frame clearance without adding q-factor. He has the arms 3D printed out of grade 5 titanium (not in house yet, those machines are wildly expensive) before all the critical interfaces get machined and finished.
Tom had originally only planned to sell these with his frames, but since there's been so much interest he's made them available on their own. Pricing for this kind of additive manufacturing is affected by what other parts he's making at the same time, so he currently has to charge £1250 per crankset. He hopes to be able to get some stock together for crank only customers in the near future.
He may not think his cranks are necessary, but they might be necessary for me...Sturdy Cycles Crank Details
• Grade 5 titanium arms, spindle, & threaded preload ring
• 30mm spindle
• Modular design allows for setup with wide range of BB and chainline standards
• MTB-ready; length and stiffness can be tuned when ordering
• Weight for a typically sized crankset is approximately 420g (arms, spindle, hardware)
• Titanium chainring is more hard wearing than aluminum 1x chainrings
• Made to order
• Price is currently £1250 per crankset
• More info at sturdycycles.co.uk
Catahoula Ergonomics Saddles
Brian Williams (not that one) is a trail builder for Mountain Bike Missoula, as well as a designer and general renaissance man. His background includes 10 years as a bike mechanic, map maker, welder, car mechanic, long-distance bike tourer, chainsaw operator, and a whole lot of other stuff.
Several years ago he started making saddles, and when enough of his friends wanted them he dubbed the venture 'Catahoula' after his dog's breed.
His saddles have got some passionate evangelists, including olympian Sam Schultz, paralympic gold medalist Meg Fisher, and singlespeed badass Ivy Audrain. Williams says they've all put an obscene amount of miles on the saddles, and their excitement for the designs is a big part of why he's kept making them.
Iterations and refinements over the years.
The saddles are made out of quality materials, and I'm especially interested in his choice to use thin-wall steel rails on a saddle this light. According to him, many of the saddles labeled as having titanium rails or other fancy names are mostly just steel with a negligible amount of alloyed elements in there for marketing. I'm also intrigued by the approach of having a bit more freedom to roll your hips, and his goal of having a bigger sweet spot; there are some saddles out there that are great if you're perched in the right spot, but on mountain bikes we move around a lot.Catahoula Saddle Details
• Made in Missoula, USA from high quality, domestically sourced materials
• Uses Majilite synthetic leather covers, hybrid shell (laminated carbon & fibreglass), open cell polyurethane padding
• Ovalized, head treated, thin-wall steel rails for durability with only a slight weight penalty
• Shell uses carbon for weight and stiffness and fibreglass for flex where needed
• Weight is around 200 grams
• At 140mm x 270mm it's designed for predictable support and a wide sweet spot of seated positions
• Unisex design with wide centre channel to allow pelvis to roll forward as needed
• Available with slim padding, medium thickness padding, and a version wider through the middle and nose for mountain biking specifically
• Only 100 saddles are planned for his next run, and he estimates they'll cost $300 USD
• You can sign up for pre-orders at catahoula-ergonomics.com
Hutzl Bike 3D Printed Run Bike
Max Volk is a German industrial designer who's been experimenting with 3D printed bike stuff while he's not designing shelving systems and coffee tables. Inspired by his infant daughter he started building 3D printed balance bikes with the long term dream of working up to printing her a regular bike when she's older. He's releasing his bike stuff under the name Hutzl, named after a small forest in Southern Germany called "Hutzelwald" ("pinecone forest") with some great trails.
The Hutzl Butzl bike is apparently the world's first serial production 3D printed balance bike. It's longer and slacker than typical run bikes, so I'm disappointed he didn't call it the Grim Timbit (get at me for licensing opportunities Max). It also runs on high volume 12" tires, and is printed from recyclable PETG plastic.
He can currently print one bike per day in his studio, but will scale if there's enough demand.
The design looks badass, and I'm a dork for 3D printed stuff these days, but is it safe? Well he's been working on the design for a long time, and done plenty of load testing
, so... I'm inclined to think so. I'm personally more likely to trust the Butzl over those sketchy wooden balance bikes I used to have to sell back in my shop days. Those things were made of popsicle sticks and dreams at best.
To be honest I want one of his coffee tables too.Hutzl Butzl Bike Details
• Longer and slacker than typical run bikes
• The frame is 3D printed out of recyclable PETG plastic
• Available as a kit you assemble yourself
• High volume 12" dirt or street tires for comfort
• Unique colour combinations available
• Includes a walnut handlebar & Selle Italia Froggy children's saddle
• Manufactured in Berlin
* All parts can be replaced if needed
• Quick-release wheels for easy storage and transport
• It weighs 4kg (8.8lb)
• The price is €279
• More info at maxvolk.design
, & @hutzl.bike
Edward Mason is a mountain biker and mechanical engineer from the UK Southwest who "fell down the monstrous internet chasm that is the world of self-taught YouTube CNC machining" after finishing university. That meant he ended up spending more time in the tool rooms and prototyping shops, running machines and doing R&D. Eventually he started his own machine shop under the name Dward Design, bought a proper industrial CNC mill, and got to work doing tricky parts and one-offs in exotic materials for others. In fact, he does some of the machining for the aforementioned Tom Sturdy.
But he still hadn't achieved his goal of making bike parts until now.
His new CNC Titanium Seatclamp is the first of several pieces he's planning on launching this year. It's milled from 6-4 titanium, and the barrel nut is 304 stainless. He machines and anodizes the clamps in house, in fact the only part that he buys is the stainless T25 Torx screw. He chose ti largely because of its resistance to the elements of UK winters, but the clamps are reasonably light too at 26g-31g (depending on size).
I love how no-nonsense the design is, while still having some really special elements. Here's to hoping he's working on a matching stem next.CNC Titanium Seatclamp Details
• Made of 6-4 titanium with a 304 stainless barrel nut
• Stainless T25 Torx screw holds things in place
• CNCed in-house in the UK
• Available in 28.6, 30, 31.8, 33.5, 34.9, & 38.5 sizes (34.6 for Santa Cruz to be added shortly)
• Colour options include raw silver (no anodising), brown, purple, deep blue, bright blue, straw gold, magenta pink, & green
• Weights vary from 26g–31g depending on size
• Prices are £55 for raw clamps, and £60 for any anodised colour, including UK VAT at 20%
• Shipping is free anywhere in the UK, £5 to anywhere in Europe, and £10 to the rest of the world
• More info at dward-design.co.uk
Pinkbike hive mind please let me know in the comments about your favourite little-known garage manufacturers. I'll take some time checking out your suggestions and maybe do a follow up. I know these are just scratching the surface.
Now back to trying to wrap my head around 5-axis CNCing...