21 August, 2019

It's The Little Details That Count

By Scott

In a past life, I worked for a company that made folding sea kayaks. We'd go to consumer shows a couple times a year and you'd see the same folks from other kayak manufacturers at the shows. One of the people we'd see was a wonderful British paddler and kayak designer named Derek Hutchinson.  Derek was a lovely man and always a joy to speak to and to listen to. One of my best memories about Derek was a discussion he had with a colleague of mine about pocket watches. Derek and Sandy were talking about pocket watches and how they were similar to our folding kayaks. The outside of the kayak (or the watch) was a beautiful thing and it was what garnered a lot of attention from people as they walked past our booth. But when you looked inside the kayak (or the watch) you saw all sorts of things that were certainly worthy of a second look. Our kayaks had lots of little pieces that when fitted to the internal frame of the kayak, took on a new life and became a wonder to look at and touch. Similar with the inside of a watch. The gears, springs and wheels all working together is the reason a lot of watch makers have an open case back, so one can admire the inner workings of it.

What got me thinking about this was the similarity to the little details that go into our frames and parts.  The devil is in the detail of frame design and I think some of these cool features need to be shown off a bit.

A good example would be the rear brake cable routing on the Polyvalent.  You look at it from the outside and it looks pretty simple- a nice, slender hole at the top and bottom of the down tube. But what is hidden from view is the tube connecting the two. Big deal? Actually yes. Ask anyone who has inserted cables and housing into the void of a carbon frame. Be sure to bring a bent coat hanger, dental floss, and double sided tape. With the brazed-in tube, housing goes in and comes out with ease.

The rear wishbone/seat stays on the Neutrino is a great case of our design work combined with the incredible crafts people at our frame builders creating a captivating curve. The flattened wishbone, welded to two pieces of precisely bend tubing to create the seat stays is beautifully executed and a similar concept to one we'll be using on an upcoming bike you'll see at Philly.

The most difficult thing to see is the triple butting of the Piolet fork. Designed to help dampen some of the bumps and buzz of riding off road and reducing weight this feature is known only to those who make the forks for us. You know it because of the feel of the fork over rough terrain, you just may not know why. The segmented look may be the part that grabs your eye, but the internal butting is something that you appreciate.

Is there some detail of a bike or product that stands out to you in a similar way? Let the world know in the comments.


frkl said...

The internal tubing is a bit rediculous. Anyone with experience building or restoring bikes knows how to deal with this. You just have to know to set up cabling first, when all the openings in the frame are, well, open, and not last, which is apparently what most new comers think. Doing it first means you can reach into the frame through the bottom bracket shell or seat tube lug.

To do it without internal tubing, just insert a length of cable without stops. You bend the end a bit so it can find the exit easily if you twist the cable. Then thread the housing over this cable and remove the guide cable. Save it for another build. Finally insert the actual cable through the housing. And save the weight of more metal and enjoy the fact that you used skill rather than prefab solutions.

If you are restoring a frame, you can simplify your life by always leaving a guide cable threaded through the framw.

I appreciate your efforts to make things accessible to newcomers but we shouldn't confuse that with innovation. Historically, frames with internal routing haven't had internal metal tubes for a reason: they simply are not necessary if you know what you are doing.

Unknown said...

Did you ever attend L L Bean's sea kayak symposium in Castine, Maine? I met Derek Hutchinson there many years ago. What a great event it was. Lobster dinners and hundreds of kayaks to try out.

I have a few bikes with internal cabling. All have guide tubes but one has a tiny lip at the exit which can ruin your day. Cables do have to be replaced, so removing the BB to replace cabling seems a bit excessive, and my problem child is in the top tube anyway. I think most will agree that most bike mechanics are not find of internal cables.

Now what I would appreciate is an internal fork cable tube for dynamo wiring, instead of a couple of random holes that require (as noted) wire, string, tape, flashlights and hope