Be your own brand.

George’s titanium XC 29’er hardtail from XACD

My wife is off running a marathon at the moment so it’s time for another blog post. Don’t forget folks, do support your local independent coffee shop, especially those that offer free wifi! Love to http://javaandco.co.uk/ xx

20140823_120223

Tested in action – George found his bike was perfect for the epic Barnburner 104 mile MTB race!

And hello to George who kindly dropped me a line about the 29’er hardtail that he had made by XACD recently. So tell us chap, how did you decide to do something mad like get a custom frame made half a world away?

The genesis of this bike was a conversation with my neighbor, also a mountain biker, who mentioned that it was possible to have a custom titanium frame built in China for a reasonable price. As I had successfully built up two bikes with carbon fibre frames bought directly from China I was comfortable with the ordering process and dealing with the language differences.

I wanted a new frame to replace my steel Redline Monobelt. I love the way the Monobelt rides and handles but always wished it was a few pounds lighter. About this time I had the conversation with my neighbor and started the internet research, reading the forums and found your blog. I also discovered bikecad.ca which I used to make the drawings.

Good work; research is always key in terms of getting what you want, especially for a first time build. Tell us more about your thinking around the design process.

I wanted the bike to ride like the Mono but also wanted to make some changes to make the bike more personalized to me. Size wise I am between a large and extra-large frame size with a long torso. My Mono was size Large, and a bit compact on the reach. Monobelts are either 19″ or 21″ for L-XL, so I designed mine at 20″ for a compromise.

The Mono turns great, but it can be a bit pushy in the turns when the forks are compressed, so I adjusted the head angle out to 69.5 degrees to try to fine tune that. The other major change I did was to shorten the chainstays up to 420mm, to keep the bike maneuverable with the slacker head angle. This caused me to bend the seat tube, which I found aesthetically pleasing, so I bent the down tube also and incorporated a large curved gusset to focus the bending stresses from the head down the tube instead of creating a stress riser there.

CAD

Usual neat CAD work here from XACD. Note the 1.32mm wall thickness for the seatstays – I’d have probably just upped the diameter and kept them at 0.9mm.

So now the design is in the bag, how did you choose who to use for the build? 

I considered everything I could find regarding which company to use in making the frame. I decided to use XACD after looking at the frame builds and reading everyone’s input. I felt that I could work through the language and cultural challenges. I sent the Bikecad file I’d created to Porter and within 24 hours I had a positive response from him and a very detailed CAD drawing.

The CNC plate at the right side chainstay/bottom bracket junction was Porter’s addition. I also mentioned that I am a pretty heavy rider at about 250 pounds with hydration pack, so he increased tube diameters in the seatstay and chainstay areas to compensate. He also mentioned increased tube thicknesses but I’m not able to measure this.

This responsiveness encouraged me to go forward with the project using XACD. After several days of email exchanges nailing down details of the construction, I approved the drawing and sent the funds for the frame.

How did you find working with the infamous ‘Porter’? 🙂

Only once did I see an email from Porter containing numerous exclamation points, and that was when I typoed a dimension and he was correcting me. Armed with the information I had previously read, I simply corrected the typo and all was well. I can see how such responses can be off-putting, but I truly believe it is a language/culture thing and not intended the way it comes across.

IMG_20140613_111617

Nice shot showing XACD’s excellent welding and the very neat design of the chainstay bridge area.

Ahh, the waiting is the hardest part though eh? 

Porter quoted four weeks for the build but it was closer to five before I got the tracking number. He did send me a couple of photos of the completed frame which got me completely stoked to get it built. I was out of town when the frame arrived so I had my wife unpack it to check for shipping damage. She is fairly objective regarding mechanical things, but she send me a text describing the frame as “The most beautiful thing ever!”

Weld quality is superb, including some very difficult long welds where the top tube and down tube meet, and at the bottom bracket junctions. The frame weighed slightly over 4 pounds. The idea of replacing the Monobelt frame with this was pretty much out the window when I started building the bike. This had to be its own machine! I did build it as a singlespeed initially, but since there was a hanger on the dropout, I decided to try it as a 1×10. It’s more fun that way so I set it up as an XT/XTR build with a SRAM X0 carbon crank running a spiderless MRP 30T chainring. Cogset is 11-36T.

Wheelset is a combo using Light-Bicycle 35mm carbon rims laced to Novatech 711/712 hubs with DT Comp spokes. The bottom bracket threaded just fine, and the head tube was nicely reamed and faced so the headset pressed in smoothly. I did use the Reba 100mm dual-air fork from the Monobelt. Final weight minus pedals is 24.0 pounds.

And the final test – how does she ride?

Riding this bike is pure joy for me. It is very light and fast and to my delight, handles just the way I wanted it to. It manuevers very well even as a 29er but is stable and comfortable in the fast descents. I admit it is hard to be objective about the ride quality of this bike but to me it is wonderful.

Friends that have ridden it have described it as playful and as feeling lighter than it is. All bikes should be made out of titanium!

IMG_20140613_111346

Interesting headtube gusset too, a larger diameter headtube and downtube would be another way of putting more strength into that area.

Now for ‘Mark II’ right? What would you do differently next time?

I would incorporate a 44mm head tube just to open up more headset and fork options. Second, since this was originally designed to be a single speed, the chain passes very close to the chainstay when in the 11-tooth cog resulting in chain slap. I would add some more clearance there, possibly deleting the sliding dropouts.

I wouldn’t have a problem using XACD again. The most amazing thing about owning this bike is how it came to be. I can sit here on my computer in Arizona, using a website in Canada to design a bike researched in the UK and elsewhere, send the specs to China to have it made, pay the costs with a click of the mouse, and a box with this frame in it shows up at my door. Amazing! And cool.

And finally…

Thanks to my neighbor Trevor, (a countryman from the UK) for getting me going, my patient and understanding wife for being my partner in this as always, and all the riders who took the risk ahead of me and put the information out there for the rest of us to benefit from.

And you can’t say fairer than that – thanks to George for taking the time to put some words down for us too. Being a ‘Clydesdale’ category rider going custom is a strong option as it’s going to be tricky to find a suitable frame off the shelf.

Checking out his ride comments it certainly sounds like he’s got the handling nailed which is the trickiest part of any build to get right, particularly as it’s the first frame he’s designed.

Chunking up the wall thickness on the stays is an interesting idea, I’ve not seen wall thickness of 1.32mm before. Although, as George says, this was Porter’s suggestion. I’m a fan of upping the tube diameter rather than the wall thickness which increases stiffness with minimal weight gain, but it’s all a matter of personal taste. The plate chainstay is a really neat touch too, great clearance and better strength than trying to crimp a tube down there.

George’s idea of running with a larger headtube next time is a sound one, it gives a greater weld area for the tube joints too. Speaking of which, I’d be tempted to up the downtube diameter, maybe to 45mm and going gusset free. You could also increase the top tube diameter to match the seat tube too. Headtube junctions are one of the most stressed points of the frame but the extra welding that gussets need can increase the heat affected area and with it the danger of making the frame weaker.

Overall though it’s great to see another happy customer, I’d be interested in seeing what George comes up with next if he decides to have another frame made. Speaking of which – have you had a frame made that you’d like to share with the rest of the world? Do feel free to drop me a line via the Contacts page. And mine’s a double macchiato, thanks for asking.