Brian Riepe writes for Mountain Flyer Magazine
In the tech business they call it open source. In music it’s a jam session. Bill Gates wants to call it The Cloud, but simply put, it’s collective thought and shared ideas: the symbiotic melding of minds, resources, techniques or technologies. And it’s powerful.
The coolest thing at this show is something I see each year at NAHBS. I’d call it an ocean of collaboration. It’s intangible but it drives the innovative spirit of these artisans and ultimately makes them all better.
One example would be the prevalence of 40mm headtubes on many of the steel and titanium bikes at this years show.
In 2009 larger manufacturers began producing mountain bikes with tapered steerer tube forks: 1-1/8 inches up top and 1-1/2 inch below. It was a slam-dunk; improving the ride by stabilizing the front end without adding any weight and it was quickly adapted on aluminum and carbon bikes throughout the industry.
Having ridden tapered steerer tube bikes in July 2009, I asked Rob Mitchell of Moots if they would be able to adapt the design to their titanium bikes, especially on 29ers where the benefits are amplified. His answer was “it’s not going to be easy but we’ll find a way”.
40mm headtubes were the answer but it was not so simple to implement. Moots has the facility to produce the headtubes on-site but not all builders have an in-house machine shop. That’s where Paragon Machine Works steps in. The California based machine shop has been supplying machined frame set kits (including bottom bracket shells, dropouts, brake bosses, stem clamps, and headtubes) to framebuilders since long before NAHBS came about.
Paragon’s Mark Norstad recognized the need and knew he could produce the oversized headtube without a problem but there was another hurdle to get over before bringing the adaptation to market: The existing tapered steerer tube bikes used a 1-1/8 headset cup on top. For titanium or steel, tapering the headtube isn’t a feasible option so the cups would need to be 40mm top and bottom but made to be compatible with the tapered steerer tube on the forks.
A quick call to Cane Creek solved that. “I called up Cane Creek and asked them if they would produce a headset for the 40mm headtubes,” says Norstad. “They said no problem, and that was that.”
The result is that many of the ti and steel mountain bikes at this year’s show have these beautiful, burly 40mm headtubes. It’s one of those no-brainer items that I look at and think: why didn’t they do that 20 years ago? It’s stiffer, stronger, and leads to a better-riding bike.
It’s this type of collaborative effort within the framebuilding community that gives the competitive edge, and a powerful, cloudlike melding of minds that ultimately makes the coolest of ideas – the coolest thing at each show – something that is eventually available to all the framebuilders and therefore to us. And that’s cool.
It's no thing,