This has been a busy week getting the Nebraska Girl completed for Joie. I'm very pleased with the results even though this project took a long time - thanks Joie for your patience!
The frame is custom-designed with compact geometry suitable for both training and racing. Raw material is steel and the tubing is a mixture of True Temper S3 and Columbus Spirit. The end result is a light but durable frame weighing in at 3.15lbs. The precursor to this bike is a mountain frame I designed for Joie's husband Isaias, a long-time college friend of mine and bike geek like me. Joie had a chance to ride that bike many times and was sold on the S3 ride quality...as a result this project got started.
The frame was fabricated by Jason Grove at El Camino Fab using Anvil tooling for tube mitering, fixturing, etc. This is close to the 100th frame Jason has built for me and honestly they keep getting better. Jason understands my design style and overall design intent which makes it easy to communicate every last technical detail.
The S3 down tube is bi-axially ovalized which means there is more material at the bottom bracket and head tube to spread the load. This tube provides excellent ride quality and a distinct look unmatched by other tubes.
The frame is powdercoated white by Mass Bros, clear coated with gold pearl, stickered, then clear coated again in pure-clear to protect the stickers. The end result is classy and the gold pearl picks up the sunlight nicely.
Graphics are custom by VC Graphix and include black logos with gold outline to match the gold Nokon cables. The Enve carbon fork is wet painted to match the frame by Flyworks in Soquel,CA. The SRAM Rival drivetrain, Chris King headset, King Cage stainless cages, and Chris King R45 hubs laced to Mavic Open Pro rims with Sapim CX-Ray spokes round out the build.
Rear dropouts are Paragon 'micro-hoods' that mate very nicely to the Columbus Spirit rear triangle tubing. These dropouts feature a replaceable hanger machined from 7075 aluminum. For that added custom touch, I had 'Nebraska Girl laser marked onto Nokon cable housing...subtle and I'm still waiting for Joie to discover this little gold nugget!
Special thanks to Ryan Bontrager for the wheel build and final assembly. Ryan also understands my design intent with these projects and brings everything together in the cleanest way possible. The wheels on this bike were built, tensioned, re-tensioned, and tweaked until they are as perfect as they can be. I ran out of time to weigh the complete bike but my guess is 16.75lbs - respectable for steel and definitely light enough to hammer on!
This has been a busy week getting the Nebraska Girl completed for Joie. I'm very pleased with the results even though this project took a long time - thanks Joie for your patience!
Posted by Mike Ahrens at 8:51 AM
Movember will be a busy month for Ahrens Bicycles with the start of (2) new steel road frames and my continued effort for stellar facial hair growth. Movember is changing the face of men's health awareness as they say. My daughters recently told me that I looked like an old-man with the facial hair and that was funny because I felt like an old man when they said that!
The first road frame is for my long-time college friend Scott and the second is for myself of course....it's not too hard for me to find a reason to build a new bike. Both will receive a mixture of Columbus Life tubing, Paragon dropouts, Paragon BB shells and of course custom geometry.
Scott's frame will be built up with Campy Ultra Record 10-speed from a previous project and will be rounded off with handmade DT Swiss/Mavic Open Pro wheels and an Enve carbon fork.
My frame gets an extra-tall Reynolds 853 seat tube for added stiffness plus it looks cool. I plan to swap Dura Ace 7700 parts from my existing road frame with the exception of the cranks...special thanks to Ryan for hooking me up with some brand new Ultegra 34/50T compact cranks...much easier on the knees for this old man.
I'm also developing a very new, ultra-stiff aluminum track frame for NAHBS....very stoked about this project but too early to show anything so stay tuned.
Posted by Mike Ahrens at 9:07 AM
I woke up today and realized the holiday season is rapidly approaching. To get into that special holiday spirit, I'm offering limited edition WiseCracker bottle openers with a special message. Drop me an email to pre-order one because they will go fast. Cheers!
Posted by Mike Ahrens at 11:52 AM
Ahrens Bicycles is now offering a Torx upgrade kit for our sliding dropouts. The upgrade kit replaces the (4) M8x20 Pan Head/Socket mounting screws with (4) M8x20 Pan Head/Torx mounting screws. Why? Because Torx screws have much larger surface area at the head for improved load spreading.
Local racer and 324 LABS business partner 'Timmy C' requested this upgrade since he races a Rock Lobster 'cross frame with sliding dropouts (and disc brakes with 324 Labs adapters!). After numerous rear wheel swaps, the standard M8 pan head bolt heads started to strip - obviously
Special thanks to Pro Stainless for helping me source these babies! You can use a T40 Torx bit when torquing them down.
The upgrade kit contains (4) M8x20 Torx screws and will run you $10 including domestic shipping. Send an email or Pay Pal payment to 'mike at ahrensbicyles dot com' to order a set.
Posted by Mike Ahrens at 10:47 AM
I've been developing a 15QR steel fork dropout with some local frame builders for a while. Why? Because most of our customers already have 15QR suspension forks on one of their bikes and it makes sense to re-use front wheels between bikes. Not to mention that thru-axle systems provide excellent steering precision. Since the economy is in the tank, saving money on bike parts is always a good thing.
I just finished off the conceptual design and have teamed up with Paragon Machine Works to prototype the concept. Special thanks to Rick Hunter at Hunter Cycles for design feedback over the last few weeks. The design features 32mm-wide 'hooded' dropouts that accommodate the Rock Shox Maxle 15mm thru-axle. The hoods allow the frame builder to construct various fork geometries easily....as shown this design can be used for 26", 650B and 29" rigid forks. If the frame builder decides to use tapered fork blades, excess dropout material can be easily removed using conventional machining methods.
The Maxle Lite's skewer handle can be easily clocked (to clear the fork leg when tightening) without having to clock the actual nut it attaches to. In this case I was able to eliminate the clocking hardware normally found on Fox forks to keep things simple. I do like the Fox/Shimano system but it is more difficult to source and requires more parts than the Maxle system.
The 15mm axle threads directly into an aluminum nut that is 'keyed' directly into the dropout body. The opposing flat surfaces on the nut will prevent the it from spinning freely when tightening down the axle. On the drive-side, a simple aluminum spacer is used to position the axle perfectly.
Left Dropout Body = 58g
Right Dropout Body = 52g
15mm Keyed Nut = 14g
15mm Spacer = 14g
Total = 136g
Posted by Mike Ahrens at 12:13 PM
Last weekend Ahrens Bicycles shared a booth at Biketoberfest with Hit N Run Designs out of Scotts Valley, CA. Travis Kaschalk is the owner of HNR and he is responsible for CNC machining thousands of WiseCracker LITE bottle openers for me. I've been on some great shuttle runs in the Santa Cruz mountains with Travis and developing a line of gravity components is right up his alley.
In addition to Fox 40 Upper Crowns and the D-VISE seat clamp, Travis has been working on a unique direct-mount stem system for single-crown forks. After many months of testing, he is now releasing the AXIS Direct Mount system into the market (patent pending). I saw these parts first hand last weekend and was very impressed with the design and execution.
The stack height of the AXIS direct mount is only 19mm! This is less than half of most 1-1/8" stems on the market. For example, all Thomson X4 stems have 40.64mm stack height. For long travel forks and big wheels, lowering the stack height is always of key importance to keep the front end low. This is one of the main reasons I can't wait to install the system on my 650B hardtail since running larger wheels automatically lifts the front end of the bike.
The design is straightforward, very light (187 grams combined) and extremely stiff. By spreading the handlebar clamps further apart, the loads are spread over a wide area to minimize flex. If you like to run wide bars, you will love this setup.
Installation is easy and the system uses (1) M8 primary pinch bolt to secure the AXIS Direct Mount to the 1-1/8" steer tube. The Direct Mount stem clamps are then attached using (4) M6 stainless steel mounting bolts at all corners. One added bonus is that the real estate in the exact center of the bar is now open for your night light, GPS, etc.
The stem clamps work with 31.8mm bars and are offered in 45mm length (measured from the center of the steer tube to the center of the handlebar) to keep things as flex-free as possible. If you already own a direct-mount stem, it will fit right into the standard Boxxer bolt pattern these parts utilize. I'm pushing for Travis to offer 35.0mm clamps to accommodate that emerging standard.
AXIS Direct Mount = 76.5 grams
Direct Mount Stem Clamp, 45mm = 110.5 grams
Total System Weight = 187.0 grams
Introductory pricing is shown below and act soon because prices will increase next January 1st! All components are CNC machined in the USA, with pride, using domestically sourced 6061-T6 aluminum. After machining, each part runs through a detailed inspection procedure, is anodized and then laser marked with the HNR logo.
AXIS Direct Mount MSRP: $120 PROMO: $90
Direct Mount Stem Clamp 45mm MSRP: $100 PROMO: $70
FOX 40 upper crown MSRP: $150 PROMO: $110
D-VISE seat collar clamp MSRP: $40 PROMO: $25
Contact Travis at email@example.com for more info.
Posted by Mike Ahrens at 9:10 AM
Special thanks to Mountain Bike Magazine for their recent STRAIGHT DIRT blog post about the 324 Brake Adapter System. Our first batch of fifty, yes five zero, kits are in process and don't wait to get onto the pre-order list. Email 'firstname.lastname@example.org' for ordering details. These kits are moving fast even though they slow you down!
I've been working closely with our machinist to optimize run times on this first batch of split clamps and actuator arms.
Raw aluminum bar stock is pre-cut to size using the band saw. Once order volumes increase, these blanks will be pre-cut ahead of time to save time.
Machining takes place on a Kitamura Mycenter 1 machining center. Although this particular machine is nearly 20 years old, it cranks out these parts with ease. Three adjacent vises are used for each setup. Left vise is Setup 1 for profiling where material is left on the underside for the vise to tighten against. Right vise is Setup 2 for the mounting hole and lightening window. Center vise is final Setup 3 to remove support material from the back side of the fully-profiled part.
After Setup 3 is complete, each completed part is removed from the center vise and deburred by hand. Key features such as the pivot hole diameter are measured against the technical drawing for accuracy and quality control.
People always ask me why machined parts are so expensive - here is a small glimpse into the number of steps it takes to produce a simple clamp. And this doesn't include plating, assembly, laser marking or final packaging! To produce quality designs, I never cut any corners and the difference is clear when compared to some imported components that cost nearly the same amount!
Posted by Mike Ahrens at 3:06 PM
Over the past month I've been working with 324 LABS to develop a new version of their Brake Adapter System. The brainchild of this system is local racer Tim Cannard (aka Timmy C) and I am very excited about this unique product. A handful of the prototype systems were developed by Tim and another smart tinkerer named Denzil. The first generation systems have been undergoing real-world testing since last fall and the performance is stellar.
This unique system enables cable-actuated road brake levers to operate hydraulic disc brakes commonly found on mountain bikes. It is currently aimed at the cyclocross market and I also have plans to build a custom, dual-disc road frame to demonstrate the advantages of this system.
324 LABS is now accepting pre-orders for the system and introductory pricing is set at $140 which includes the following:
- 1X Left Split Clamp, 31.8mm, Hard Anodized 6061 aluminum
- 1X Right Split Clamp, 31.8mm, Hard Anodized 6061 aluminum
- 2X Actuator Arm, Hard Anodized 2024 aluminum
- Stainless Steel Mounting Hardware
- 4X Wheels Manufacturing Alloy Brake Ferrules
NEW! Added image of 'kit' contents on 7/11/11:
Pre-orders should be ready for shipment towards the end of this month if not sooner. The current system works only with Formula R1 Brakes with other brand compatibility to follow. Why Formula? Because it is the lightest disc brake system on the market and utilizes a low-profile master cylinder that is straightforward to mount.
To secure your pre-order, please contact Tim at 'email@example.com' and online transactions are expected to be working at the 324 LABS website shortly. Dealer and frame builder inquiries welcome.
My new design contains left and right 'split clamps' that secure the system to a 31.8mm handlebar, very close the stem. This frees up space across the flats of the handlebar where the first generation design mounts.
The split clamps are 12mm wide and provide a rigid mounting structure for the Formula R1 cylindrical-shaped hydraulic reservoir. Initial tests of this design show zero flex at the mounting clamp which translates into better braking.
I've selected Wheels Manufacturing machined brake ferrules since they are much stiffer than plastic ones commonly used. As the brake cable enters the split clamp, it travels in a straight line to the actuator arm to provide superior lever feel. The brake cable is secured to the actuator arm within a cylindrical housing that contains opposing set screws that pinch the cable on both sides.
After installation, the left and right clamps are nested very close together while still leaving access to all key mounting bolts, stem bolts, etc.
PRELIM MASS ANALYSIS FOR FRONT BRAKE:
Formula R1 Brake (Caliper + Lever Only) = 277g
Subtract R1 Brake Lever, Bar Clamp, Mounting Hardware = -26g
Add Brake Adapter System from 324 LABS = +30g
Total Mass Gain = +4 g
This analysis does not include the disc rotor since many options are available to the end user (Rotor diameter, ISO mount, post-mount 74mm, etc). The message here is that the 324 LABS Brake Adapter System adds less than 10 grams total (left + right) to the original Formula R1 Brake setup - sweet!
Posted by Mike Ahrens at 8:49 AM
Come see Ahrens Bicycles in Petaluma on June 26th! We will be selling a variety of items including frames, wheels, tires and of course our new selection of WiseCracker bottle openers.
From Bruce Gordon's website:
This is basically another good excuse for framebuilders, component makers, soft goods craftspeople, and bike riders of all types from the great state of North California to get together and have a good time.
There will be food from local caterers, beer from Lagunitas, plenty of bikes and bike-related things to look at (or even.. purchase), perhaps a Whiskeydrome, a framebuilders' garage sale (which is basically a swap meet with less yahoos and more good stuff), beer, perhaps a group ride earlier in the day, lots of bike stuff, and plenty of beer from Lagunitas.
Posted by Mike Ahrens at 11:31 AM
This is a great article about converting cable-actuated road brake levers to work with hydraulic disc brakes for 'cross. And a shameless plug for Ahrens sliding disc dropouts being used by Rock Lobster!
CLICK HERE FOR CX MAGAZINE ARTICLE
Sweet 7005 aluminum sliding dropouts from Ahrens Bicycles!
Posted by Mike Ahrens at 11:47 AM
It's been five years since the first WiseCracker bottle opener was machined and introduced to the bike market. This unique product enjoys continued success and ships all over the world to beer drinking bike riders everywhere. Just in time for warm weather riding, I've decided to offer a more complete range of WiseCrackers for your alcohol consuming enjoyment. Each version of the WiseCracker is proudly manufactured in the USA using only domestic materials and processes.
As Henry Ford said, "It's offered in any color - so long as it's black." Why not other colors? The aluminum bottle openers are hard black anodized for durability; this plating process builds a thick oxidation layer that penetrates the part to protect it from damage during use. Hard anodizing produces a surface ~10X harder than conventional, colored anodizing. Hard anodizing colors range from light brown to black, so I use black since it matches nearly everything. Colored anodizing creates a very thin oxidation layer and although this finish looks attractive, it offers no long-term durability in terms of wear. And for a small company like mine, there are just too many anodizing color choices to inventory. Each version of the WiseCracker can be custom laser-marked for your shop, club, team, event, etc for a reasonable price.
WiseCracker PRO, 1.5" clamp, Bike Repair Stand Version
WiseCracker ORIGINAL, 27.2mm clamp, Seat Post Version
WiseCracker LITE, 1-1/8" Headset Spacer
WiseCracker SOLO, 1" Headset Spacer
WiseCracker LITE Stainless, 1-1/8" Headset Spacer
This version is water-jet cut from a sheet of stainless steel. It is low profile and weighs the same as its aluminum cousin, 16 grams.
FACT: (1) 12 oz beer = 340 grams = (21) WiseCracker LITE openers
MuttCracker Dog Tag
The MuttCracker will turn your pet into a mobile beer-opening mammal. It's permanently laser marked with your pet's name, contact number, etc. The MuttCracker is the brainchild of my very smart dog-owner friends, Lee and Donna, and both are also proud owners of handmade frames from Ahrens Bicycles. This version is also water-jet cut from a sheet of stainless steel and weighs in at a svelte 18 grams.
Posted by Mike Ahrens at 12:15 PM
Special thanks to Sean at Soulcraft Bikes for inviting Ahrens Bicycles to A Ruota Libera, a unique handmade bicycle show in San Francisco on March 20th. Pizza, bikes and beer are three of my favorite things and this will be a great event. After taking a hiatus for the last six months, I'm glad to be back in action. Hope to see you there!
Una Pizza Napoletana and Soulcraft Cycles Present A Ruota Libera: A San Francisco Bicycle and Pizza Show.
Date: March 20 2011
Posted by Mike Ahrens at 7:26 PM