When Empire and Renishaw created a 3D-printed titanium bike
a few years ago, it was part work of art, part pipe dream, and partly an unaffordable glimpse into the future. Working in conjunction with some of the UK's heaviest hitting engineering firms, Renishaw, HiETA and Altair, Robot Bike Co have fast-forwarded that future to the now. Their website will be taking your orders by the time you are reading this, that is, if you're prepared to splash out £4390, or roughly $6425 USD for a frame set.
Geometry Robot R160 Details
• 3D printed T6 titanium frame lugs with carbon tubing
• Dave Weagle DWLink6 suspension design
• Custom geometry
• Travel: 160mm
• 27.5" wheels
• Internal cable routing
• 73mm BSA threaded bottom bracket
• 12 x 148mm rear spacing
• Lifetime Guarantee
• Weight approx
: 3.2kgs / 7lbs w/ shock
• Price: £4395 GBP / USD $6437 approx
• Available to order, estimated 4 week lead time
Note the complete lack of a geometry chart in this section. This is because you can have whatever geometry you want. Every R160 is custom tailored to suit your specific body size, riding style and wishes. This R160 bike is designed around the 'enduro' style of riding - Robot has base numbers to work from, and any other changes can be input online and discussed with the designers.
|It doesn't matter how good a frame is if it doesn't fit the rider, and this is where Robot Bike Co. sees the weakness in the current market offerings. If you are trying to produce the very best frame it makes no sense to then only offer it in a small number of sizes when the people you are selling it to come in all shapes and sizes. Think of Robot Bike Co. as the Savile Row of the bike world." - Ed Haythornwaite, Robot Bike Co|
Robot Bike considered Dave Weagle to be the best suspension designer in the world, so rather than spending years designing their own system they went straight to the source. The DW Link 6 system gains a few extra pivots compared to some of his previous designs. From afar, one could be forgiven for thinking this looks like an Iron Horse MkIII, the smaller brother of the infamous Sunday. The DW6 design uses a simple rocker to drive the shock from above, while the lower link has a very short link and also another pivot very close to the rear wheel's axle. The top rocker link is machined from alloy in the workshop next door to Robot who just happen to make parts for Red Bull's Formula 1 cars. Why not print this too? Because it's one of the few parts that will be the same on each frame.
Details and Construction
|The DW6 suspension design represents the latest evolution in modern mountain bike suspension. Essentially, the design takes everything that's great about the 4-bar DW-Link design and adds further tunability to meet the goals of a custom designed experience that RBC aims to provide. The 5th generation DW-Link anti-squat performance is there, along with independently tuneable braking and leverage ratio characteristics. This offers a nearly unlimited level of adjustability from the factory. DW6 is a true design for the future and one that will be constantly adjusted and improved to take advantage of the latest in damper technology and rider preferences.|
DW6 is not just about suspension performance, though. Structurally, the design was conceived from the ground up to work in unison with RBC's ti-lugged construction. Stiff and compact links attach via angular contact bearings at critical points for long-term maintenance-free performance in even the harshest conditions. - Dave Weagle
Once an R160's geometry has been decided, a press of a button followed by a 20-second wait has to be endured. In this time the computer software calibrates the exact shapes and sizes of each titanium lug and arranges each piece on the printing board. After that, it's simply a matter of pressing the big green 'Go' button to start the 50-hour printing process. The parts are cleaned up and heat-treated before leaving the Renishaw premises and heading an hour down the road to Robot Bike Co. Here the tubes are cut to an exact length, again determined by the computer. Every joint has 25mm overlapping, double-shear joints that are bonded internally and externally. All strength testing was done using 10mm overlapping joints and we were told these passed with flying colors.
The carbon tubes are constructed and finished in New Zealand. The finish might not be what you expect a carbon tube to look like, but this is because most carbon products use a finishing layer to make things pretty, but from an engineering standpoint it's useless and only adds weight, so Robot didn't bother with that.Why do I think this is the most important bike of the decade?Customized -
built to order, with a short four week, estimated lead time. New hub standard? Change it with CAD. New headtube standard? Change it with CAD.Low waste -
the printing machine only uses the material necessary to build the frame components.Demand -
the order comes in and the machine starts turning. Mass produced bikes will always be going out of date from the second they roll out the factory door. Changing standards, model years and fashions mean that bikes are continually being devalued. There will never be a container of unsaleable Robots stuck in a warehouse or shop stock somewhere gathering dust as consumers clamor to buy the latest and greatest. Ethics -
the impossibility of human exploitation, you can't subject a machine to unhealthy working conditions and underpay it.Environment -
a bike that could
be designed from anywhere in the world and emailed to a printer in any country. In the not-too-distant future, bikes could be printed in any continent, country or even town. Maybe, just maybe, in your local bike shop?Rule Brittania -
Another product that re-stamps Britain's faded mark on great engineering and innovation.That's a ridiculous price for a bike, I could buy seven used Canyons and three YT's for the same price as one frame!
This superbike carries a heavy price tag right now, but that price will only fall in the future as machines become faster, more affordable and more popular. At £4395 it's still cheaper than an off-the-shelf Trek Session 9.9 frame that somehow comes in at a whopping £4500. People will say the R160 is too expensive, but last time I checked a Bugatti Veyron wasn't what you would call affordable, and neither was a 26 bedroom mansion overlooking Lake Geneva. I could probably afford one side of a chainstay, but there are a lot of people out there with serious moolah that are desperate to spend it on bikes.
My custom frame is currently appearing in the printing machine, so expect a review of the best handling bike in the world, in my opinion (of course, I chose my geometry) later this year. In the meantime, here is Ieuan Williams putting R160 number 001 through its paces: