Psalm 150 Frame Details
If we're talking high-end frames, we're usually also talking carbon fiber... but that could change in the near future. Ministry Cycles, founded by industry vet Chris Currie, is one of a handful of brands working on frames machined from solid blocks of aluminum, with the two halves of the Psalm 150 being stuck together using aerospace-grade glue. The 150mm-travel Psalm employs the latest version of Currie's 3VO suspension and was designed around a 160mm fork, but owners can bump up to 170mm if they're looking for more.
It's still early days for Ministry Cycles and the Psalm 150 frame pictured here is the first rideable prototype, but Currie does have plans for a limited run of twenty production frames that will be available in the near future.
Psalm 150 Details
• Intended use: Trail / enduro
• Travel: 150mm rear / 160mm front
• Frame material: CNC aluminum
• Wheel size 29"
• 3VO suspension
• Interchangeable dropouts
• Head angle: 65°
• Seat angle: 77.7°
• Reach: 480 / 490mm (adjustable)
• MSRP: TBA
• More info: www.ministrycycles.com
Why not welded tubes or molded carbon fiber? "I'm looking for a fabrication method that can scale while still allowing for customization, flexibility, and agility," Currie answered before going on to say that it also gives him more control over the manufacturing of his bike, especially compared to following the same route others have that eventually lead to, "big bike factories." Ministry is aiming to produce more frames than most small builders would be able to weld up, but turning to carbon fiber creates all sorts of baked-in challenges, especially when it comes to timelines and, God forbid, wanting to make a quick mid-production cycle update to the design.
All that led Currie to look at CNC machining, but he explained that it required outside help and plenty of homework: "When your goal is to make more than a handful of frames a year, you need to build a team and systems. I finally found a great engineer, Jordan Jackson at Certa Design and Engineering in the UK, to work out the shapes and do FEA so we were sure we had a solid foundation. Then researching the best way to bond, and the different adhesives, and finally finding a factory capable of machining the frames--at a time when aluminum was hitting record high prices--it was one hell of a learning experience. I've been in the bike industry for a long time, but almost none of that ended up mattering. Making this frame meant tearing up the playbook and finding new ways to do things."
Currie actually bonded the two halves of his one and only prototype together himself in his Vancouver, Washington, garage, and told me that the process is pretty straightforward. "I built myself a simple jig for keeping the swingarm aligned during bonding, and the front triangle is designed with multiple self-aligning lap joints, so it just requires a preparation process, and then applying the adhesive in a certain pattern."
"I work through a checklist I created as a series of slides on my laptop because I'm pretty compulsive that way, but as long as you're careful and deliberate, the process has all the drama of super gluing two Lego blocks together--only with an industrial grade adhesive similar to what they use on aircraft and cars. There are a few Henkel products that have really outstanding and nearly identical numbers when it comes to aluminum. I'm still researching but the prototype has been bombproof, so I'll probably keep everything exactly as I have it now."
I am going to argue that the result is one of the most stunning frames out there, with the angular lines and machined finish setting the Psalm 150 apart from pretty much everything else on the trails. 3VO Suspension
The 150mm-travel Psalm uses a dual-link layout called 3VO that's an evolved and tweaked version of what Jamis has had on their full-suspension bike for years. ''The new 3VO suspension is simpler and has a steady, progressive leverage ratio," Currie told me. "It actually goes back to my original, original design from years ago, which uses only two links but was a little too progressive for old-school air shocks." Currie had been using a prototype version of that extra-progressive linkage set-up, called the Prog Rocker, on his personal Jamis Portal for a couple of years, and the Psalm employs that layout combined with a high-volume air shock.
This iteration of 3VO suspension is also simpler than previous versions, with two links rather than three, and Currie has stressed how important it is for his bike to pedal well. ''Unlike a lot of designs that cheat on the center of gravity location or gearing, the 3VO suspension has well over 100% of anti-squat even when you’re in the largest rear cog, and even if you choose to run a 34-tooth chainring," he explained on the Ministry website. ''When it comes to climbing, very few systems can match the efficiency of a 3VO bike. When it comes to balancing sensitivity, responsiveness, and efficiency, nothing is even close.''Geometry
150mm is what some trail riders want, but it could be enough to be many peoples' enduro bike, especially if they were to put a 170mm-travel fork on it as you can with the Psalm. That relaxes the steering from 65-degrees with a 160mm fork to 64.5-degrees. There are also headset cups that can be rotated to let Currie set the reach to either 480mm or 490mm on his medium / large prototype, and Ministry might also add an option to steepen or relax the head angle further.
At the other end of the bike, interchangeable dropouts let him choose between a 435mm or 445mm rear end. The latter provides 37mm of bottom bracket drop, at least on his first prototype, while the former stands the bike up by 7mm.
The seat angle sits at 77.7-degrees, and Currie has been pleasantly surprised with the prototype's uphill performance, especially given that it's still a few pounds heavier than the final bike will be: "With going from a quicker and steeper 130mm carbon XC bike to this burlier 150mm bike with a 65° head tube angle, I was prepared to lose some climbing ability, but this thing goes up walls. I'm at 77.7° on this bike, and it climbs so much better that it's just ridiculous."What's Next?
If you want your own Psalm 150, you can find a pre-order link on Ministry Cycles' website that will let you place a deposit, but Currie is capping the first run at just twenty frames and admits that they will be pricey: "I wish I could get around that, and eventually I think we can, but right now they’re just incredibly expensive to make. We’re working on the revised frame now, and plenty of things could also delay production, so we’re talking a deposit that’s fully refundable at any time."
"The mission is really to make things for people, based on what they want, not make a bunch of things and then try to convince people they want them. I have some really strong opinions about geometry and how a bike should ride, but this really goes back to connecting with people and listening. That’s what I want Ministry Cycles to really be about."
Want to know more? I sat down with industry veteran and founder of Ministry Cycles, Chris Currie, to talk about how the Psalm 150 came to life, public development and lifecycle, design flexibility, and so much more. Chris also started Speedgoat, one of the earliest online retailers back in the 1990s, and has spent more than a decade in the marketing trenches at Stans, giving him a unique perspective on the cycling industry and the future.
THE PINKBIKE PODCAST // EPISODE 145 - MINISTRY CYCLES ON ALTERNATIVE MANUFACTURING, GLUING FRAMES, & STARTING A BUSINESS
September 22nd, 2022
Aluminum, glue, and online sales.
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