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Bicycles are one of the world's most popular modes of transportation, with some 800

million bicycles outnumbering cars by two to one. Bicycles are also the most energy-
efficient vehiclea cyclist burns about 35 calories per mile (22 calories per km), while
an automobile burns 1,860 calories per mile (1,156 calories per km). Bicycles are used
not only for transportation, but for fitness, competition, and touring as well. They come
in myriad shapes and styles, including racing bikes, all-terrain bikes, and stationary
bicycles, as well as unicycles, tricycles, and tandems.
As far back as 1490, Leonardo da Vinci had envisioned a machine remarkably similar to
the modern bicycle. Unfortunately, da Vinci did not attempt to build the vehicle, nor
were his sketches discovered until the 1960s. In the late 1700s a Frenchman named
Comte de Sivrac invented the Celerifere, a crude wooden hobby horse made of two
wheels and joined by a beam. The rider would sit atop the beam and propel the
contraption by pushing his or her feet against the ground.
In 1816 the German Baron Karl von Drais devised a steerable hobby horse, and within a
few years, hobby-horse riding was a fashionable pastime in Europe. Riders also
discovered that they could ride the device with their feet off the ground without losing
their balance. And so, in 1840, a Scottish black-smith named Kirkpatrick
Macmillan made a two-wheel device that was operated by a treadle. Two years later he
traveled as many as 40 miles (64 km) at a stretch during a record 140-mile (225 km)
round trip to Glasgow. A couple decades later, a Frenchman, Ernest Michaux, designed
a hobby horse that utilized cranks and rotating pedals connected to the front axle. The
Velocipede, made with wooden wheels and an iron frame and tires, won the nickname
of the "boneshaker."
The 1860s proved to be an important decade for bicycle improvements with the
inventions of ball-bearing hubs, metal-spoked wheels, solid rubber tires, and a lever-
operated, four-speed gearshift. Around 1866 an unusual version of the Velocipede was
created in England by James Stanley. It was called the Ordinary, or Penny Farthing, and
it had a large front wheel and a small rear wheel. The Ordinaries were soon exported to
the U.S. where a company began to manufacture them as well. These bicycles weighed a
hefty 70 pounds (32 kg) and cost $300a substantial sum at the time.
By 1885, another Englishman, John Kemp Starley, created the Rover Safety, so called
since it was safer than the Ordinary which tended to cartwheel the rider over the large
front wheel at abrupt stops. The Safety had equally sized wheels made of solid rubber, a
chain-driven rear wheel, and diamond-shaped frame. Other important developments in
the 1800s included the use of John Boyd Dunlop's pneumatic tires, which had air-filled
inner tubes that provided shock absorption. Coaster brakes were developed in 1898, and
shortly thereafter freewheeling made biking easier by allowing the wheels to continue to
spin without pedaling.

The frame consists of the front and rear triangles, the front really forming more of
a quadrilateral of four tubes: the top, seat, down, and head tubes. The rear triangle
consists of the chainstays, seatstays, and rear wheel dropouts. Attached to the head tube
at the front of the frame are the fork and steering tube.
During the 1890s bicycles became very popular, and the basic elements of the modern
bicycle were already in place. In the first half of the 20th century, stronger steel alloys
allowed thinner frame tubing which made the bicycles lighter and faster. Derailleur
gears were also developed, allowing smoother riding. After the Second World War,
bicycle popularity slipped as automobiles flourished, but rebounded in the 1970s during
the oil crisis. About that time, mountain bikes were invented by two Californians,
Charlie Kelly and Gary Fisher, who combined the wide tires of the older balloontire
bikes with the lightweight technology of racing bikes. Within 20 years, mountain bikes
became more popular than racing bikes. Soon hybrids of the two styles combined the
virtues of each.
The Raw Materials
The most important part of the bicycle is the diamond-shaped frame, which links the
components together in the proper geometric configuration. The frame provides
strength and rigidity to the bicycle and largely determines the handling of the bicycle.
The frame consists of the front and rear triangles, the front really forming more of a
quadrilateral of four tubes: the top, seat, down, and head tubes. The rear triangle
consists of the chainstays, seatstays, and rear wheel dropouts. Attached to the head tube
at the front of the frame are the fork and steering tube.
For much of the bicycle's history the frame was constructed of heavy, but strong, steel
and alloy steel. Frame material was continually improved to increase strength, rigidity,
lightness, and durability. The 1970s ushered in a new generation of more versatile alloy
steels which could bewelded mechanically, thereby increasing the availability of light
and inexpensive frames. In the following decade lightweight aluminum frames became
the popular choice. The strongest metals, however, are steel and titanium with life-
expectancy spanning decades, while aluminum may fatigue within three to five years.
Advances in technology by the 1990s led to the use of even lighter and stronger frames
made of composites of structural fibers such as carbon. Composite materials, unlike
metals, are anisotropic; that is, they are strongest along the axis of the fibers. Thus,
composites can be shaped into single-piece frames, providing strength where needed.
The components, such as wheels, derailleurs, brakes, and chains, are usually made of
stainless steel. These components are generally made elsewhere and purchased by the
bicycle manufacturer.

The Manufacturing
Seamless frame tubes are constructed from solid blocks of steel that are pierced and
"drawn" into tubes through several stages. These are usually superior to seamed tubes,
which are made by drawing flat steel strip stock, wrapping it into a tube, and welding it
together along the length of the tube. Seamless tubes may then be further manipulated
to increase their strength and decrease their weight by butting, or altering the thickness
of the tube walls. Butting involves increasing the thickness of the walls at the joints, or
ends of the tube, where the most stress is delivered, and thinning the walls at the center
of the tube, where there is relatively little stress. Butted tubing also improves the
resiliency of the frame. Butted tubes may be single-butted, with one end thicker; double-
butted, with both ends thicker than the center; triple-butted, with different thicknesses
at either end; and quad-butted, similar to a triple, but with the center thinning towards
the middle. Constant thickness tubes, however, are also appropriate for certain bikes.
The tubes are assembled into a frame by hand-brazing or welding by machine, the
former being a more labor-intensive process and therefore more expensive. Composites
may be joined with strong glue or plastic binders. The components are generally
manufactured by machine and may be attached to the frame by hand or machine. Final
adjustments are made by skilled bicycle builders.
Assembling the Frame
Tailoring the tubes
1 The metal is annealed, or softened by heating, and hollowed out to form
"hollows," or "blooms." These are heated again, pickled in acid to remove scale,
and lubricated.
2 The hollows are measured, cut, and precision mitered to the appropriate
dimensions. Frame sizes for adult bicycles generally run from 19-25 inches (48-
63 cm) from the top of the seat post tube to the middle of the crank hanger.
3 Next, the hollows are fitted over a mandrel, or rod, attached to a draw bench.
To achieve the right gauge, the hollows pass through dies which stretch them into
thinner and longer tubes, a process called cold drawing.
4 The tubes may be shaped and tapered into a variety of designs and lengths. The
taper-gauge fork blades may have to pass through more than a dozen operations
to achieve the correct strength, weight, and resilience.
Brazing, welding, and gluing
5 Tubes can be joined into a frame either by hand or machine. Frames may be
brazed, welded, or glued, with or without lugs, which are the metal sleeves joining
two or more tubes at a joint. Brazing is essentially welding at a temperature of
about 1600F (871C) or lower. Gas burners are arranged evenly around the lugs
which are heated, forming a white flux that melts and cleans the surface,
preparing it for brazing. The brazing filler is generally brass (copper-zinc alloy) or
silver, which melt at lower temperatures than the tubes being joined. The filler is
applied and as it melts, it flows around the joint, sealing it.
Aligning and cleaning
6 The assembled frames are placed into jigs and checked for proper alignment.
Adjustments are made while the frame is still hot and malleable.
7 The excess flux and brazing metals are cleaned off by pickling in acid solutions
and by washing and grinding the brazing until it is smooth.
8 After the metals have cooled, further precision alignments are made.
9 The frames are painted, not only to create a more finished appearance, but also
to protect the frame. The frame is first primed with an undercoat and then
painted with a colored enamel. Paint may be applied by hand-spraying or by
passing the frames through automatic electrostatic spraying rooms. The
negatively charged frames attract the positively charged paint spray as the frames
rotate for full coverage. Finally, transfers and lacquer are applied to the frame.
Chrome plating may also be used instead of paint on components such as the fork
Assembling the
Derailleurs and gear shift levers
10 Depending on the style of bicycle, the gear shift levers are mounted either on
the down tubepopular on racing bikeson the stem, or on the handlebar ends.
A cable is attached, which extends to the front and rear derailleurs. Front
derailleurs, which move the chain from one drive sprocket to another, may be
clamped or brazed onto the seat tube. Rear derailleurs may be mounted with
bolt-on hangers or integral hangers.
Handlebars, stems, and headsets
11 Handlebars may be raised, flat, or I dropped. They are bolted to the bicycle
stem which is then fitted into the head tube. The headset components, including
bearings, cups, and locknuts, are attached to the head tube. The headset allows
the fork to turn inside the head tube and thus makes steering easier.
12 The brake levers are mounted to the handlebars. Cables extend to the brakes
and are fastened to the calipers. Tape, made of plastic or cloth, can then be
attached to the handlebars and the ends are plugged.
Saddles and seat posts
13 Seat posts are generally steel or aluminum alloy and are bolted or clamped
into position. The saddle is generally made of molded padding and covered with
nylon or plastic materials. Although leather was the norm for saddles for a long
time, it is less commonly used today.
14 The crankset supports the pedals and transfers power from the pedals to the
chain and rear wheel. Cranksets consist of steel or aluminum alloy crank arms,
chain rings, and the bottom bracket assembly of axle, cups, and bearings. They
are attached with bolts and caps into the bottom bracket of the bicycle frame. The
pedals are then screwed to the ends of the crank arms.
Wheels, tires, and hubs
15 Wheel manufacturers conform to the A J International Standards
Organization (ISO) system for wheel diameter and tire sizes. Wheels may be
constructed by machines, which roll steel strips into hoops that are welded into
rims. The rims are drilled to accept spokes, which are laced one round at a time
between the rim and hub flange.
16 A wheel must be trued, or straightened, in radial and lateral directions to
achieve uniform tension. Next, the rim liner, tire, and inner tube are attached.
The chain may also be fitted onto the bicycle.
17 Rear wheels are fitted with a free-/ wheel, consisting of several cogs and
spacers, which frees the rear wheel from the crank mechanism when the rider
stops pedaling.
18 Wheels are attached to the bicycle frame by means of an axle which runs
through the hub of the wheel. The axle may be tightened with bolts at the ends or
with quick-release skewers.
The Future
The future for bicycles looks promising as we approach the 20th century. Developments
in bicycle technology in the 1990s have led to advances in human-powered vehicles
(HPVs) design. Most HPVs are low-slung recumbents, which are
more aerodynamic than conventional bicycles and therefore reduce drag and increase
speed. Recumbents are also safer, and many provide cargo room and weather
protection. A hybrid of the bicycle and automobile called the Ecocar began to surface on
European streets by the 1990s. Designed by a Dutch surgeon, Wim Van Wijnen, it
provided weather protection, safety, luggage room, easy maintenance, comfort, and
The use of computer technology greatly enhanced the design capabilities of
manufacturers and designers. Designers are able to simulate various forces working on
the bicycle, such as pedaling and road shock. Computer-generated programs make
testing simpler, and variations of designs are modified more easily and quickly.
Where To Learn More
Ballantine, Richard and Richard Grant. Richards' Ultimate Bicycle Book. Dorling
Kindersley, 1992.
The Bicycle Builder's Bible. TAB Books Inc., 1980.
Bicycle Magazine's Complete Guide to Bicycle Maintenance and Repair, revised ed.
Rodale Press, 1990.
Watson, Roderick and Martin Gray. The Penguin Book of the Bicycle, Allen Lane Pub.,
Brown, Stuart F. "The Anybody Bike." Popular Science, August 1991, pp. 58-59, 89.
Schwartz, David M. "Over Hill, Over Dale, On a Bicycle Built
forGoo." Smithsonian, June 1994, pp. 74-86.
Soviero, Marcelle M. "Easy Riders." Popular Science, May 1993, pp. 84-87.
Audra Avizienis

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Hydroforming (or hydramolding) is a method of shaping metals into lightweight, structurally stiff and strong
components. The automotive industry is one of the largest applicators of hydroforming, which makes use of the
complex shapes possible by hydroforming to produce stronger, lighter, and more rigid unibody structures for
vehicles. The hydroforming manufacturing technique is frequently employed in the shaping of aluminium tubes for
bicycle frames.
In tube hydroforming there are two major practices: high pressure and low pressure. With the high pressure
process the tube is fully enclosed in a die prior to pressurization of the tube. In low pressure the tube is slightly
pressurized to a fixed volume during the closing of the die. In-tube hydroforming pressure is applied to the inside
of a tube that is held by dies with the desired cross sections and forms. When the dies are closed on the tube the
ends are sealed and the tube is filled with hydraulic fluid the internal pressure causes the tube to conform to the
Our line of frames features 7005 T4/T6 heat threated aluminum BMX tubes. The frames have a 1 1/8" headtube to
fit 1 1/8" aheadsets and forks. The ONE frame is constantly being designed around the advancements and
technologies that have come about over the past decade of ONE's involvement in the sport of BMX. The ONE frame
is manufactured at a facility that also manufactures components for the motorcycle industry. One of their indirect
customers is America's own Harley Davidson.
Quality control
The ONE frame goes through the same quality control process that the other components do guarantying a perfect
product every time. Interesting enough this facility has coined their quality process as "Constant Quality". They are
not satisfied with making a great product. Their approach is to make a great product better and better. Proof of
this philosophy is the constant improvements of the ONE frame over the years. We have seen the advent of the
CNC'd dropouts and the CNC head tube. These advancements are the results of a constantly open channel of
communication between Design, Engineering and Manufacturing. The latest model that came from the design table
is the new ULTIMATE ONE with it's hydroformed tubes.
The components of the ONE frame are made from 7005 aircraft aluminum. Each individual piece of the frame is
either CNC machined from a block of aluminum or is composed of extruded aluminum tubing. All the tubing is
butted and each part is TIG welded into place. Then the frame is polished for the first time. Once the frame is
ready it is T4 Heat Treated for 12 hours at 450 degrees. Afterwards it is sent back to the Machine Shop where it is
adjusted and aligned. It then goes in for a T6 Heat Treatment process at 180 degrees for 16 hours making the
frame rock hard. It goes back to the Machine Shop for one final check of the alignment and is then polished for a
2nd time. The frame is then delivered to the Painting department where it goes through multi stage painting
process. No inexpensive powder coating done here. The frame is 1st run through a chemical treatment process to
insure the purity of the surface.
Then it is treated chemically again to lay down a perfect base for painting. The first stage of painting is to lay
down a basic color. The second stage is to lay down a lay down a solid color that will be the final color of the
frame. The third stage is a clear lacquer coat for a smooth and solid base of the HRNT application, our new way of
having the ONE brandname exposed. The fourth stage is another clear coat which combined with the other stages
leaves you with a paint job that is fresh, sweet, and delivers a look that is only seen on high end mountainbikes
and roadbikes.
That's it, right? Nope. A frame is pulled from every run and is tested starting at 60 kg on up until it breaks at
around 35,000 kg as a final insurance that they are ready for you to use. When you purchase one of our race
frames you are not only buying a proven winner, but a race frame that has under gone the scrutiny of countless
perfectionist in the design, engineering, quality, and manufacturing process.

Grades of Aluminum Alloy
7005 is the grade of aluminum alloy I use for my frames. Most manufacturers of alloy high-end frames in Taiwan use this, whereas China-
based manufacturers will mainly employ 6061. Neither grade of alloy is better than the other in an absolute sense. It simply depends on
what your purpose is.
One property of 6061 is that it is more malleable than 7005it can be more easily drawn, opening the way to creating a variety of tubing
designs through hydroforming processes for example. It is also more resistant to corrosion and fatiguing.
The properties of 7005, however, make it more suitable for creating butted tubing. Although it is more susceptible to fatigue than 6061, this
will only take place over many millions of cycles (High Cycle Fatigue), and so is not something to realistically be concerned about. Key
differences become clearer when looking at the different heat treatment processes applied to each type.
T4 and T6 Heat Treatment
A frame is created first through welding the tubes of the front triangle, which is not quite the right word because of the head tube. Except in
those frames when the top tube and the down tube actually form an angle, rather than a curve, you are talking about an irregular
quadrilateral. Details aside, after this is completed, the chain stays and seat stays are then welded onto the completed structure.
Aluminum alloy is a relatively soft material. But the welding messes this up with the area around the weld becoming harder as well as
producing a raw frame that needs alignment. T4 heat processing at 480C is required to return the material to its original uniform condition.
It can then be aligned to within the accepted degree of tolerance 3mm. Heat treatments are outsourced to a specialist company.
The next heat treatment process is T6 which has the aim of hardening and thus strengthening the aluminum alloy. Its different depending on
whether 7005 is used or 6061.
T6 treatment for 7005 takes place in two stages. In the first, the frame is subject to a temperature of 90C for 5 hours. In the second stage, it
is 140C for 16 hours. T6 treatment for 6061 is 180 for one 8 hour period. Basically, with 7005 you get a rigid frame considerably lighter than
one made from 6061.
Another aspect to all this is the cooling process. The standard procedure for cooling 6061 after heat treatment is liquid chemical. Rapid
cooling in this way causes distortion in the tubes, and increases the weight of a frame cooled in this way. 7005 is more susceptible to
distortion, so frames made from this are air cooled.
Another significant problem is the disposal of the used chemical. Once a factory would expel this sort of effluent directly into the
environment. But with strict controls in place, alongside of a more environmentally aware population, this is no longer an option in Taiwan.
The final process is careful QC control in which each frame in a production undergoes systematic checks. I will document this process in as
much detail as possible in the next few months. The upshot of all this that utilizing 7005 produces a cost effective, light and extremely
durable frame that can be used to build a road bike that is lighter than most of the low-quality carbon offerings that are increasingly
appearing in the market these days.

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Bicycle Frame Materials
Carbon Fiber
Is Titanium Worth the Price?
Four popular bicycle frame materials are steel, aluminum, titanium and carbon fiber. Beryllium, Metal Matrix
Composites and other materials have so far demonstrated limited practicality in bicycle frames. Mysterious
and seemingly miraculous beryllium is one-third the weight of aluminum and six times as stiff as steel.
Beryllium, however, is very toxic during the manufacturing process and there are probably no safe levels of
exposure to the particulate form of this metal.
It is sometimes a matter of opinion as to the particular suitability of different types of materials to different
types of bicycle frames.
Unlike automobiles or motorcycles, the frame materials in bicycles are pushed to their absolute limits in
order to reduce minute amounts of weight. Any bicycle frame can be made stronger by adding weight. The
trick is to come up with a reasonable compromise between weight, performance, durability and resistance to
damage. The compromise will be different for a professional bicycle racer and a person who uses their
bicycle for club racing, commuting, grocery shopping and touring.
The professional cyclist only has to finish the race she is in on that day because the bicycle manufacturer is
providing her with an unlimited supply of replacement frames. The professional racer also has a professional
mechanic who follows her in a car and closely examines her frame every night. A normal cyclist needs a
more durable frame that will stand up to the rigors of normal use and abuse without having to be coddled by
a professional mechanic.
Many people have mistakenly purchased ultra-light frames expecting them to last longer than a few seasons
of category 1 or 2 racing without breaking. At one point, some mountain bike manufacturers were supplying
frames so light the frames would not even last a season of amateur racing before failing.

Carbon Fiber
Carbon fiber is a catch-all term used to describe various different composites that include different
polymers, carbon and graphite that are held in an epoxy-resin matrix sometimes containing metals or
ceramics. Advanced composites offer great possibilities for light weight and high-performance because
layers of composite can be placed only where they are needed. Fibers or whiskers of material can be
oriented within the composite to stabilize dynamic forces to different degrees and directions on different
parts of the bicycle frame.
The semi-metallic element boron is currently all the rage in carbon fiber frames.
One holy grail of the composite frame designer is to achieve lateral stiffness and vertical compliance. On the
other hand, critics claim that the forces on bicycle tubes occur in so many different directions that the
anisotropic (directional) qualities of fiber strength and stiffness can only be advantageously utilized to a
limited extent in a bicycle frame.
Most bicycles manufactured with carbon fiber composites require a degree of care and attention to stand
vigilant against damage that could lead to a sudden and catastrophic frame failure (an especially important
concern on a tandem where a lot of speed and weight are involved). Carbon fiber frames and forks are not
idiot-proof. If the exterior of the frame is not protected by a layer of protective material, such as Kevlar
fiber, surface damage to the outside layer of the composite can propagate beyond the area of initial
damage. Similarly, damage to the interior structure of the composite can also lead to failure. Hidden
damage is most insidious precisely because it cannot be seen.
Failure would not be an issue if bicycles were not subject to abuse and cyclists closely examined their
bicycles for any signs of damage. However, surface damage can result from the normal everyday use of a
bicycle, when it is leaned against another bicycle, loaded on top of a car or into a train or when it is
dropped. Hidden damage can result when frame members are inadvertently overstressed through normal
abuse. Ramming a curb, riding through potholes, airline baggage handling and falling over a loaded touring
bike while stopped could all lead to hidden damage that could later cause a sudden failure.
At certain points, the carbon fiber parts of a frame must be joined to metal parts. Joining dissimilar
materials can lead to problems that carbon fiber bicycle builders are working to overcome. Three issues
arise when joining carbon fiber to other materials: thermal expansion differences, galvanic corrosion and
Different materials may expand at different rates and shear or fracture joints when the temperature of the
materials changes. Titanium has similar thermal expansion rates to some carbon fiber composites, while
steel and aluminum have different coefficients of thermal expansion than carbon fiber.
Galvanic corrosion arises when dissimilar materials are placed in close enough proximity to each other to
undergo an oxidation-reduction reaction that can weaken or destroy the joint. Aluminum and carbon fiber
have different galvanic corrosion potentials that will result in such an electrolytic reaction if the two
materials are not insulated from each other. This is another reason to look for metal frame parts (such as
dropouts) that are made of titanium rather than aluminum if you are shopping for a carbon fiber bike.
Discontinuity of materials can create stress-risers where the carbon fiber meets the other material. The
stress-risers can lead to failure. The termination of the carbon fiber frame part can contain points where
matrices of woven, stranded and free anisotropic fibers are broken and may develop weaknesses that
propagate from the sharp termination.
Keep in mind that these opinions cannot be universally applied to all composite bicycle frames. There are
many different types of composite materials and many different methods of composite frame construction.
Some composite frames have more idiot-proofness built in. The outside layer can be made more impervious
to notch failure and material can be added to resist stress failures within the frame material.
Many cyclists have developed a particular taste for the ride qualities of some composite frames. Some
composite frames are especially adept at absorbing high-frequency road vibration that tends to affect very
light cyclists.
"Fast Freddy" Markham once had this to say about carbon fiber:
Carbon fiber is best. You simply cannot engineer an alloy tube to do what you can with CF. Not only is CF
much lighter, but is also stiffer stronger and absorbs vibration better than any metal. It also has a longer
fatigue life than other materials. Carbon fiber also makes an effective spring, allowing the frame to act as a
shock absorber.
Fast Freddy knows how to ride a recumbent. He set a world speed record on a metal recumbent similar in
configuration to the new carbon fiber Calfee Stiletto
Steel is the material of choice for many bicycle frames. Bicycle builders have had many years of experience
refining the designs of steel bicycles and tubing suppliers have developed high-performance alloying and
shaping techniques for bicycle tubing. Incredibly light and durable bicycle frames can be made from steel
tubing. Steel offers a comfortable ride and a steel bicycle frame can act as a spring to store energy when
the rider causes the frame to flex at different parts of the pedal stroke. That stored energy can then be
released and converted to forward motion on another part of the pedal stroke.
Steel bicycles impart a certain level of confidence in the ability of the bicycle and for that reason steel is the
material of choice for many professional bicycle racers. For many applications, steel frames provide the ideal
combination of performance, durability and purchase cost. Steel frames can be inexpensively repaired and
steel has the ability to reveal frame stress injuries before they become failures. When a steel bicycle frame
breaks, it tends to break slowly rather than suddenly, catastrophically and without warning (unlike
aluminum frames).
High-quality bicycle frames are made of steel tubing that has been alloyed with chromium and molybdenum
(hence the term chromoly) or sometimes manganese and molybdenum. The tubes can be joined using
lugs and some tubes may be welded or fillet-brazed. Fillet-brazing is not a common joining technique these
days, although many quality tandem frames have been fillet-brazed in the past.
An upright bicycle frame that has been brass or silver-brazed together with finely-crafted cast lugs is an
object of technological and esthetic beauty. Despite the current popularity of welding lugless upright bicycle
frames, a well-constructed lugged upright single bicycle frame constructed by a skilled framebuilder is an
object much sought after by knowledgeable cyclists who are seeking excellent performance in a bicycle
frame. For upright single touring and racing bicycles, quality lugged frames have not been overtaken in
performance by the welded, lugless frame.
The steel tubing that is used to build quality recumbent bicycle frames is usually 4130 chromoly which
contains about .75% chromium, .25% molybdenum and .3% carbon. 4130 chromoly is a proven staple in
aircraft manufacturing and is available in the length, diameter and wall thickness required by recumbent
bicycles. 4130 is a magnificent metal that makes it possible to build strong and light recumbent frames that
have outstanding performance characteristics.
Recumbents and most upright tandems are welded because the tubing used on these types of bicycles
allows welding with no loss of performance over a lugged and brazed frame. Mountain bikes can be built
without lugs for much the same reason. Some of the frame joints on recumbents would not be suitable for
lugs under any circumstance.
Some older upright tandems were manufactured with lugs but tandem builders began using larger diameter
tubes and different tubing configurations for different sizes of frames. Lugs were not available for the newer
configurations and bigger or ovalized tubes so the frames were fillet-brazed or TIG welded. TIG welding was
found to provide a strong joint and very low weight. TIG welding is now the preferred method of tube joining
for most tandem builders.
Tungsten Inert Gas welding (TIG welding) is a wonderful technology that allows for a multitude of tubing
configurations in recumbent bicycle frames. TIG welding is a type of arc welding where a filler metal is hand-
fed into a very small arc that is advanced around the circumference of the joint by the other hand of the
The filler metal is fed into the liquid weld pool in wire form. The welding torch is about the size of a pen and
is usually controlled by a foot pedal. The arc takes place in an inert gas shield (usually argon) that is
supplied through a gas line built into the torch itself. TIG welding machines used for bicycle frame welding
are the most sensitive and sophisticated arc welding machines available.
Titanium is the ideal metal for recumbent bicycle frame construction. A recumbent frame made of titanium
can be slightly lighter than steel yet provide even more strength, resiliency and fatigue life than steel.
Strength is especially important on a tandem bicycle frame because of the large amount of weight the
tandem frame must carry and also because of the very large dynamic forces produced by a pair of cyclists
on a single bike. Strength is even more important on a recumbent tandem because recumbent cyclists are
not in a position to unload their own weight from the bicycle while riding over bumps.
Titanium is impervious to the elements. The surface of titanium requires no finish. A titanium frame will last
virtually forever with little or no care. A titanium frame will withstand many more fatigue cycles before
breaking. Titanium is tougher for baggage handlers to damage than steel.
A titanium frame can undergo an expensive polishing process to produce a lustrous and shiny surface but
the polishing adds nothing to the performance of the frame. The most practical finish for a titanium frame is
the beautiful satiny finish produced simply by a 3M Scotch-Brite pad.
Like steel, titanium has the ability to store energy and release energy at different degrees of the pedal
stroke. Titanium frames also have very pleasant riding characteristics because of the unique acoustic
properties of titanium. A titanium frame will absorb a lot of high-frequency road vibration that might
otherwise reach the cyclist. The absorption of road vibration is not going to affect the speed of the cyclist
but it is an endearing feature of titanium that can make a titanium frame more appealing to ride.
Titanium bicycle tubing is expensive and titanium frame construction methods are also expensive. Titanium
bicycle frames must be welded in an environment cleaner than a surgical operating room, free of all oxygen,
hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon. Titanium welding equipment is expensive and titanium tubing preparation
techniques are expensive. Immediately prior to welding, the surface of the titanium tubing must be treated
in expensive ultrasonic baths.
Even the machine tools used to cut and shape the titanium frame parts are expensive. Titanium has the
ability to rapidly consume cutting tools and titanium requires tools to be held in extremely stable and
accurate machines that are very heavy and expensive.
Given the inherent prerequisite expenses involved in the correct construction of a quality titanium bicycle
frame, potential purchasers should be wary of titanium frames that are offered for sale at unusually low
A titanium bicycle frame weldor requires a great amount of skill, training and nerves of steel. One small
error can send an expensive partially-completed titanium frame straight to the recycle bin. The motor skills
necessary for welding a bicycle could be compared to flying a helicopter forward one millimeter off the
ground at night while threading a needle with the other hand. The weldor must have a steady hand and
accurate depth perception. Several tasks must be undertaken with simultaneous coordinated and absolute
precision to guide a tiny white-hot pool of molten metal around various three-dimensional curves, many of
which are in confined areas.
Some bicycle frame weldors have brought the cosmetic appearance of the titanium weld-bead to a high art
form. Their welding is a testament to the technological beauty that can arise when man and thin metal
tubing meet in the superplastic flow of hot titanium. To the extent that the undulations in filler metal do not
cause stress-risers, the welds do not need to be so beautiful but it is a nice touch on a bicycle, which is itself
an object of stunning technological beauty. It is only important that the integrity of the weld is sound,
despite what the surface shape may look like. Weld integrity is what sets one titanium bicycle framebuilder
apart from another.
A careful titanium weldor will pay meticulous attention to the preparation and application of the titanium
weld to make sure that no contaminants are allowed to compromise the integrity of the weld. A careful
weldor will also make sure that the frame parts are perfectly dimensioned before welding. Perfect finishing
of the tube miter and careful planning of the weld sequence will ensure frame strength and alignment
without cold-setting. Titanium should not be aligned to correct welding errors so the frame must be built
straight in the first place (see Frame Alignment ).
The quality and strength of a titanium bicycle frame will be invisible. The purchaser must rely on the
integrity of the manufacturer to supply a well-made titanium frame. Often, the quality is left up to individual
employees so it is possible to find very small framebuilders who adhere to very high quality standards.
Some of the finest frames are supplied by the smallest framebuilding shops.
Is Titanium Worth the Price?
A titanium bicycle is cheaper than a car.
On an upright bicycle, titanium is usually more of a luxury than a necessity. Other frame materials perform
nearly as well as titanium, at a lower cost. If you ride your bike a lot or you want the strength and durability
of titanium for commuting, travelling and touring, the cost can be easily justified.
If you are an occasional cyclist who is considering buying a lighter titanium frame only because you think
the lighter weight will make you go faster, you should save your money and spend it on things that really
will make you go faster, like training. A lighter frame will not make you noticeably faster. On the other hand
a titanium frame may make you want to ride further, because of its pleasant ride characteristics.
Titanium is not a necessity on a recumbent bicycle but, unlike an upright bicycle, the additional cost of
titanium is more easily justified. Upright bicycle frames can substitute steel for titanium with little change in
performance. Titanium tubing is so ideally suited to recumbent bicycle frames that the choice of titanium
over steel is practically irresistible.
Quality upright steel bicycles frames use a lot of butted tubing that has thicker walls at the ends where it
joins the other tubes. Recumbent bicycle frames use a lot of tubing that has a straight gauge constant wall
thickness throughout the length of the tube. Because of the requirement for a greater amount of straight
gauge tubing in a recumbent bicycle frame, as opposed to an upright bicycle frame, the recumbent frame
can take greater advantage of the weight savings offered by straight gauge titanium tubing. A tandem
bicycle uses a lot of tubing so the weight savings may actually be significant.
Although performance and speed may not be significantly enhanced, the lighter tandem may be easier to
handle when it is being lifted up stairs or loaded onto a bicycle rack. More importantly, a stronger titanium
tandem frame can be made without adding weight.
Quality titanium bicycle frames are made with 3-2.5 alloyed titanium tubing (3% aluminum, 2.5%
vanadium, 94.5% titanium) from reputable tubing suppliers.
Aluminum has the worst fatigue endurance of the different metals commonly used in bicycle tubing.
Therefore, aluminum bicycle frames are sometimes designed to be jarringly stiff in order to avoid fatigue
failures and to give the aluminum frame an acceptable service life. So much material must be used that
aluminum frames may not weigh less than steel ones. Aluminum is also subject to catastrophic failure, so
extra material must be added to provide an adequate safety factor. Aluminum performs well on dual-
suspension downhill mountain bikes where stiffness is desirable and additional weight is not a consideration.

Frame materials[edit]
Historically, the most common material for the tubes of a bicycle frame has been steel. Steel
frames can be very inexpensive carbon steel to highly specialised using high
performancealloys. Frames can also be made from aluminum alloys, titanium, carbon fiber, and
even bambooand cardboard. Occasionally, diamond (shaped) frames have been formed from
sections other than tubes. These include I-beams and monocoque. Materials that have been
used in these frames include wood (solid or laminate), magnesium (cast I-beams),
and thermoplastic. Several properties of a material help decide whether it is appropriate in the
construction of a bicycle frame:
Density (or specific gravity) is a measure of how light or heavy the material per unit volume.
Stiffness (or elastic modulus) can in theory affect the ride comfort and power transmission
efficiency. In practice, because even a very flexible frame is much more stiff than the tires
and saddle, ride comfort is in the end more a factor of saddle choice, frame geometry, tire
choice, and bicycle fit. Lateral stiffness is far more difficult to achieve because of the narrow
profile of a frame, and too much flexibility can affect power transmission, primarily through
tire scrub on the road due to rear triangle distortion, brakes rubbing on the rims and the
chain rubbing on gear mechanisms. In extreme cases gears can change themselves when
the rider applies high torque out of the saddle.
Yield strength determines how much force is needed to permanently deform the material
(for crash-worthiness).
Elongation determines how much deformity the material allows before cracking (for crash-
Fatigue limit and Endurance limit determines the durability of the frame when subjected to
cyclical stress from pedaling or ride bumps.
Tube engineering and frame geometry can overcome much of the perceived shortcomings of
these particular materials.
Frame materials are listed by commonality of usage.

A steel framed 2002 fully rigid (unsuspended) Trek 800 Sport

A frame label of a mangalloy steel bicycle frame
Steel frames are often built using various types of steel alloys including chromoly. They are
strong, easy to work, and relatively inexpensive, but denser (and thus generally heavier) than
many other structural materials. Steel tubing in traditional standard diameters is often less rigid
than oversized tubing in other materials (due more to diameter than material); this flex allows for
some shock absorption giving the rider a slightly less jarring ride compared to other more rigid
tubings such as oversized aluminum or carbon fiber.

Main article: Lugged steel frame construction
A classic type of construction for both road bicycles and mountain bicycles uses standard
cylindrical steel tubes which are connected with lugs. Lugs are fittings made of thicker pieces of
steel. The tubes are fitted into the lugs, which encircle the end of the tube, and are
then brazedto the lug. Historically, the lower temperatures associated with brazing (silver
brazing in particular) had less of a negative impact on the tubing strength than high temperature
welding, allowing relatively light tube to be used without loss of strength. Recent advances
in metallurgy ("Air-hardening steel") have created tubing that is not adversely affected, or whose
properties are even improved by high temperature welding temperatures, which has allowed
both TIG & MIGwelding to sideline lugged construction in all but a few high end bicycles. More
expensive lugged frame bicycles have lugs which are filed by hand into fancy shapes - both for
weight savings and as a sign of craftsmanship. Unlike MIG or TIG welded frames, a lugged
frame can be more easily repaired in the field due to its simple construction. Also, since steel
tubing can rust (although in practice paint and anti-corrosion sprays can effectively prevent
rust), the lugged frame allows a fast tube replacement with virtually no physical damage to the
neighbouring tubes.
A more economical method of bicycle frame construction uses cylindrical steel tubing connected
by TIG welding, which does not require lugs to hold the tubes together. Instead, frame tubes are
precisely aligned into a jig and fixed in place until the welding is complete. Fillet brazing is
another method of joining frame tubes without lugs. It is more labor-intensive, and consequently
is less likely to be used for production frames. As with TIG welding, Fillet frame tubes are
precisely notched or mitered
and then a fillet of brass is brazed onto the joint, similar to the
lugged construction process. A fillet braze frame can achieve more aesthetic unity (smooth
curved appearance) than a welded frame.
Among steel frames, using butted tubing reduces weight and increases cost. Butting means
that the wall thickness of the tubing changes from thick at the ends (for strength) to thinner in
the middle (for lighter weight).
Cheaper steel bicycle frames are made of mild steel, also called high tensile steel, such as
might be used to manufacture automobiles or other common items. However, higher-quality
bicycle frames are made of high strength steel alloys (generally chromium-molybdenum, or
"chromoly" steel alloys) which can be made into lightweight tubing with very thin wall gauges.
One of the most successful older steels was Reynolds "531", a manganese-molybdenum alloy
steel. More common now is 4130 ChroMoly or similar alloys. Reynolds and Columbus are two of
the most famous manufacturers of bicycle tubing. A few medium-quality bicycles used these
steel alloys for only some of the frame tubes. An example was the Schwinn Le tour (at least
certain models), which used chromoly steel for the top and bottom tubes but used lower-quality
steel for the rest of the frame.
A high-quality steel frame is lighter than a regular steel frame. This lightness makes it easier to
ride uphill, and to accelerate on the flat. Also many riders feel thin-walled lightweight steel
frames have a "liveliness" or "springiness" quality to their ride.
If the tubing label has been lost, a high-quality (chromoly or manganese) steel frame can be
recognized by tapping it sharply with a flick of the fingernail. A high-quality frame will produce a
bell-like ring where a regular-quality steel frame will produce a dull thunk. They can also be
recognized by their weight (around 2.5 kg for frame and forks) and the type of lugs and fork
ends used.
Aluminum alloys[edit]

Shaped aluminum downtube with keyhole cross-section. It is connected to a dual chain stay made from carbon fiber.
The aluminum parts were TIG-welded, and the carbon fiber parts are glued onto the aluminum sections.

Mountainbike frame made of sections of CNC machined aluminum welded and bolted together.
Aluminum alloys have a lower density and lower strengthcompared with steel alloys, however,
possess a better strength-to-weight ratio, giving them notable weight advantages over steel.
Early aluminum structures have shown to be more vulnerable to fatigue, either due to ineffective
alloys, or imperfect welding technique being used. This contrasts with some steel and titanium
alloys, which have clear fatigue limits and are easier to weld or braze together. However, some
of these disadvantages have since been partly negated, with more skilled labor capable of
producing better quality welds, automation, and the greater accessibility of the same modern
aluminum alloys as used in commercial airliners' structures, assuring strength and reliability
comparable to steel frames. Aluminum's attractive strength to weight ratio as compared to steel,
and certain mechanical properties, assure it a place among the favored frame-building materials
(for example, a very strong rider, who does lots of hill-climbing, may prefer the stiffness of
aluminum). Some disadvantages are that an aluminum frame does not have the same "feel" to
an experienced cyclist as a steel frame, excessive ride harshness in lower quality frames, and
decreased ease of reparability.
Popular alloys for bicycle frames are 6061 aluminum and7005 aluminum.
The most popular type of construction today uses aluminum alloy tubes that are connected
together by Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding. Welded aluminum bicycle frames started to
appear in the marketplace only after this type of welding became economical in the 1970s.
Aluminum has a different optimal wall thickness to tubing diameter than steel. It is at its
strongest at around 200:1 (diameter:wall thickness), whereas steel is a small fraction of that.
However, at this ratio, the wall thickness would be comparable to that of a beverage can, far too
fragile against impacts. Thus, aluminum bicycle tubing is a compromise, offering a wall
thickness to diameter ratio that is not of utmost efficiency, but gives us oversized tubing of
more reasonable aerodynamically acceptable proportions and good resistance to impact. This
results in a frame that is significantly stiffer than steel. While many riders claim that steel frames
give a smoother ride than aluminum because aluminum frames are designed to be stiffer, that
claim is of questionable validity: the bicycle frame itself is extremely stiff vertically because it is
made of triangles. Conversely, this very argument calls the claim of aluminum frames having
greater vertical stiffness into question.
On the other hand, lateral and twisting (torsional)
stiffness improves acceleration and handling in some circumstances.
Aluminum frames are generally recognized as having a lower weight than steel, although this is
not always the case. An inexpensive aluminum frame may be heavier than an expensive steel
frame. Butted aluminum tubeswhere the wall thickness of the middle sections are made to be
thinner than the end sectionsare used by some manufacturers for weight savings. Non-round
tubes are used for a variety of reasons, including stiffness, aerodynamics, and marketing.
Various shapes focus on one or another of these goals, and seldom accomplish all.

Characteristic weld beads on a titanium frame made by a master craftsman.
Titanium is perhaps the most exotic and expensive metal commonly used for bicycle frame
tubes. It combines many desirable characteristics, including a high strength to weight ratio and
excellent corrosion resistance. Reasonable stiffness (roughly half that of steel) allows for many
titanium frames to be constructed with "standard" tube sizes comparable to a traditional steel
frame, although larger diameter tubing is becoming more common for more stiffness. Titanium
is more difficult to machine than steel or aluminum, which sometimes limits its uses and also
raises the effort (and cost) associated with this type of construction. As titanium frames are
usually more expensive than similar steel or aluminium alloy frames, the cost puts them out of
reach for most cyclists.
Titanium frames typically use titanium alloys and tubes that were originally developed for
the aerospaceindustry. The most commonly used alloy on titanium bicycle frames is 3AL-2.5V
(3.5% Aluminum and 2.5% Vanadium). 6AL-4V (6% Aluminum and 4% Vanadium) is also used,
but it is more difficult to weld, make tubes of, and machine. Often, the tubes are of 3AL-2.5V
while dropouts and other peripheral sections are made of 6AL-4V. Experimental frames have
been made with commercially pure (CP, i.e.:unalloyed) titanium, but these proved less durable
for the active riding intended for frames of this cost level.
Extensive butting is also used to create low weight tubes with acceptable stiffness. The early
versions of the Fat Chance Titanium (1992 and 93 versions) had tubes of different diameters
welded together to create a stiffer bottom bracket area. The 1994 version had externally butted
bottom tubes.
Frame tubes are almost always joined by Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW or TIG) welding,
although vacuum brazing has been used on early frames.
Some earlier titanium frames were
made with titanium tubes bonded to aluminum lugs, as e.g. the Miyata Elevation 8000 and the
Raleigh Technium Titanium.
Carbon fiber[edit]

Nude carbon headtube on a Colnago road bike.
Carbon fiber composite is an increasingly popular non-metallic material commonly used for
bicycle frames.
Although expensive, it is light-weight, corrosion-resistant and strong,
and can be formed into almost any shape desired. The result is a frame that can be fine-tuned
for specific strength where it is needed (to withstand pedaling forces), while allowing flexibility in
other frame sections (for comfort). Custom carbon fiber bicycle frames may even be designed
with individual tubes that are strong in one direction (such as laterally), while compliant in
another direction (such as vertically). The ability to design an individual composite tube with
properties that vary by orientation cannot be accomplished with any metal frame construction
commonly in production.
Some carbon fiber frames use cylindrical tubes that are joined with
adhesives and lugs, in a method somewhat analogous to a lugged steel frame. Another type of
carbon fiber frames are manufactured in a single piece, calledmonocoque construction.
While these composite materials can be lightweight and strong, they have much lower impact
resistance than traditional materials and consequently are prone to damage or failure if crashed
or mishandled.
Cracking and failure can result from a collision, but also from over
tightening or improperly installing components.
These materials are also vulnerable to fatigue
failure, a process which occurs with use over a long period of time.
It is possible for broken
carbon frames to be repaired, but because of safety concerns it should be done only by
professional firms to the highest possible standards.

Many racing bicycles built for individual time trial races and triathlons employ composite
construction because the frame can be shaped with an aerodynamic profile not possible with
cylindrical tubes, or would be excessively heavy in other materials. While this type of frame may
in fact be heavier than others, its aerodynamic efficiency may help the cyclist to attain a higher
overall speed.
Other materials besides carbon fiber, such as metallic boron, can be added to the matrix to
enhance stiffness further.
Some newer high end frames are incorporating Kevlar fibers into
the carbon weaves to improve vibration damping and impact strength, particularly in downtubes
and seat- and chainstays.

An Itera plastic bicycle from the early 1980s.
Thermoplastics are a category of polymers that can be reheated and reshaped, and there are
several ways that they can be used to create a bicycle frame. One implementation of
thermoplastic bicycle frames are essentially carbon fiber frames with the fibers embedded in a
thermoplastic material rather than the more common thermosetting epoxy materials. GT
Bicycles was one of the first major manufacturers to produce a thermoplastic frame with their
STS System frames in the mid 1990s. The carbon fibers were loosely woven into a tube along
with fibers of thermoplastic. This tube was placed into amould with a bladder inside which was
then inflated to force the carbon and plastic tube against the inside of the mould. The mould was
then heated to melt the thermoplastic. Once the thermoplastic cooled it was removed from the
mould in its final form.
A handful of bicycle frames are made from magnesium which has around 64% the density of
aluminum. In the 1980s, an engineer, Frank Kirk, devised a novel form of frame that was die
castin one piece and composed of I beams rather than tubes. A company, Kirk Precision Ltd,
was established in Britain to manufacture both road bike and mountain bike frames with this
technology. However, despite some early commercial success, there were problems with
reliability and manufacture stopped in 1992.
The small number of modern magnesium frames
in production are constructed conventionally using tubes.

Some manufacturers of bikes make frames out of aluminum alloys containing scandium, usually
referred to simply as scandium for marketing purposes although the Sc content is less than
0.5%. Scandium improves the welding characteristics of some aluminum alloys with superior
fatigue resistance permitting the use of smaller diameter tubing, allowing for more frame design
American Bicycle Manufacturing of St. Cloud, Minnesota, briefly offered a frameset made
ofberyllium tubes (bonded to aluminum lugs). Given the toxic nature of the material and the
pricing ($26,000 for frame and fork), they never caught on. Reports were that the ride was very
harsh, but the frame was also very laterally flexible.

Main article: Bamboo bicycle
Several bicycle frames have been made of bamboo tubes connected with metal or composite
joinery. Aesthetic appeal has often been as much of a motivator as mechanical

Main article: Wooden bicycle
Several bicycle frames have been made of wood, either solid or laminate. Although one
survived 265 grueling kilometers of the ParisRoubaix race, aesthetic appeal has often been as
much of a motivator as ride characteristics.
Wood is used to fashion bicycles in East
Cardboard has also been used for bicycle frames.

Combining different materials can provide the desired stiffness, compliance, or damping in
different areas better than can be accomplished with a single material. The combined materials
are usually carbon fiber and a metal, either steel, aluminum, or titanium. One implementation of
this approach includes a metal down tube and chain stays with carbon top tube, seat tube, and
seat stays.
Another is a metal main triangle and chain stays with just carbon seat
Carbon forks have become very common on racing bicycles of all frame materials.

A racing bicycle, also known as a road bike, is abicycle designed for competitive road cycling,
a sport governed by according to the rules of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). The UCI
rules were altered in 1934 to exclude recumbent bicycles.
The most important characteristics about a racing bicycle are its weight and stiffness
which determine the efficiency at which the power from a rider's pedal strokes can be
transferred to the drive-train and subsequently to its wheels. To this effect racing bicycles may
sacrifice comfort for speed. The drop handlebarsare positioned lower than the saddle in order to
put the rider in a more aerodynamic posture. The front and back wheels are close together so
the bicycle has quick handling. The derailleur gear ratios are closely spaced so that the rider
can pedal at their optimum cadence. Other racing bicycles, especially those used in time
trialling, prioritize aerodynamics over comfort.
1 Distinction between racing bicycles and others
2 Frame
3 Racing wheels and tires
4 Racing components
5 Other uses
6 UCI rules
7 Racing bicycles for non-competitive use
8 See also
9 References
10 External links
Distinction between racing bicycles and others[edit]
Bicycles for racing on velodromes are track bicycles; bicycles for racing offroad are mountain
bicycles, cyclo-cross bicycles or cycle speedway bicycles; bicycles that race according to the
rules of the International Human Powered Vehicle Association include faired recumbent
bicycleswhich, on flat ground, are the fastest bicycles in the world.
Recumbents were
excluded from the UCI definition of a bicycle on 1 April 1934.
Time trial bicycles are a subset of racing bicycles that are designed for time trial events. The
UCI rules for these bikes are slightly less prescriptive than those for "massed start road races"
(see rules 1.3.020 to 1.3.023).
Triathlon bicycles are governed by International Triathlon Union (ITU) rules, which allow more
recent technological developments than do the UCI rules.
The frame of a racing bicycle must, according to the UCI regulations, be constructed using a
"main triangle" with three straight tubular shapesthe top tube, down tube, and seat tube.
These three tubes, and other parts of the frame, need not be cylindrical, however, and many
racing bicycles feature frames that use alternative shapes. Traditionally, the top tube of a racing
bicycle is close to parallel with the ground when the bicycle is in its normal upright position.
Some racing bicycles, however, have a top tube that slopes down towards the rear of the
bicycle; the "compact" frame geometry was popularized by Giant.
[citation needed]

Frame manufacturers are free to use any material they choose in the frame. For most of the
history of road racing, bicycle frames were constructed from steel tubing,
and aluminium andtitanium alloys were also used successfully in racing bicycles. Racing
bicycles in these three materials are still commercially available and are still used by some
amateur racing cyclists or in vintage racing classes. However, virtually all professional road
racing cyclists now use frames constructed from various carbon fiber composite materials,
and a typical modern carbon fiber frame weighs less than 1 kg (2.2 lbs).
Particularly since the introduction of carbon fiber frames, the shape of the tubes that make up
the frame has increasingly diverged from the traditional cylinder, either to modify the ride
characteristics of the bicycle, reduce weight, or simply achieve styling differentiation. However,
a recent trend in road racing bicycle frame design is tubing claimed to reduce aerodynamic
drag, adopting many design features from time trial bicycles. While many professional riders use
such bicycles, as of 2012 they have not been universally adopted in the professional
[citation needed]
Such frames are typically slightly heavier than comparably-priced frames
without aerodynamic shaping, and reviews of such bicycles have indicated that ride and
handling characteristics of many have been inferior to more conventional bicycles.

Racing wheels and tires[edit]
Most road racing bicycles use 700C bicycle wheels (622 mm bead seat diameter) with matching
2025 mm wide tires. The wheels greatly affect the performance of a racing bike. The rim of the
wheel can be shaped for greater aerodynamic efficiency making a triangular cross-section to
form a teardrop with the tire. For hill climbs, however, energy losses due to the higher weight of
most aerodynamic rims are greater than the aerodynamic drag reduction that they offer, so a
traditional lighter box-sectioned rim is often used to make it go faster.
Wheel moment of inertia is a controversial subject. In this article: wheel theory, the author does
some calculations on wheel effects. Moment of inertia changes result in a decrease in Watts of
between .004 and .022%, while lower mass provided between .2 and .46%, and better
aerodynamics provided between .6 and 1.8% decrease in Wattage. Therefore, wheel moment of
inertia effects are neither noticeable nor important. At the same time, a product launched in
2008 to dynamically alter the rotating inertia of bicycle wheels claims to have "outperformed the
standard, equivalent wheel by 5.6sec/mile."

For aerodynamics and rotating weight, it is generally better to reduce the number of spokes in
the wheel. For high-end wheelsets, the spokes can be shaped to have a bladed cross-section,
further reducing wind resistance.
The most common material for a wheel rim is aluminum alloy, with molded carbon fiber rims
being a popular choice for pro-level racers and enthusiasts. Carbon fiber rims are lighter than
the same shape in aluminium, allowing riders to choose "deeper", more aerodynamic rims
without an unacceptable weight penalty. Race-grade wheelsets are very expensive and often
fragile. Riders who race often choose to own at least two pairs of wheels: a heavier, more
durable, and cheaper wheelset for training, and a lighter, more aerodynamic wheelset for racing.
Racers with sufficient resources may have multiple racing wheelsets to choose from depending
on the course and weather conditions; deeper rims lose their aerodynamic advantage, and are
hard to control, in high crosswinds, and on mountainous courses the lightest possible wheelset
may be preferred by some riders.
To reduce both air resistance and rolling resistance on the road, tires are lightweight, narrow,
and have a thin, smooth tread. They are inflated to a high pressure, typically around
8 bar(820kPa/120psi); track racing tires can be inflated up to circa 14 bar. Until recently, most
racing bikes used tubular tires which have no beads: they are sewn around the tube and glued
to the rim. These tires provide an advantage in weight (lacking the relatively heavy wire bead),
rolling resistance, grip and pinch flat protection, but their greatest advantage lies in the ability to
use a very lightweight simple box-section rim, rather than the U-shaped clincher rim. A U-
shaped clincher rim must be made of relatively heavier gauge material to prevent the tire
pressure from spreading the inherently weak U shape and allowing the tire to come off the rim.
Advances in tire technology, however, have seen the far more practical (due to greater ease of
changeability)clincher (beaded) tire close the gap.
Some manufacturers create tubular-clincher
tires, where the tires are sewn around the tubes and have a bead, but there is some debate as
to the effectiveness of a tubular-clincher tire. Proponents believe that it has all the advantages
of a tubular tire made to fit a clincher rim, but critics argue that the design includes
disadvantages inherent to both systems---the rim weight is still high, the tire is more expensive
than a standard clincher tire, and repairing a puncture on a tubular clincher is as inconvenient
as it is with a standard tubular tire. However, a particular benefit of the tubular-clincher design is
that the risk of pinch flats is very low (like the tubular tire), yet it allows the use of the more
popular clincher wheel.
Racing components[edit]

Top tube
Brake levers
Gear shifters
Head tube
Down tube
Seat tube
Chain stay
Seat stay
Race bike components are collectively referred to as the groupset. The quality of the groupset
determines how refined the bike feels, how much maintenance it requires, and contributes to the
performance of the bike. The three major groupset manufacturers of complete groupsets for
racing bicycles are Shimano, SRAM, and Campagnolo. Some companies only produce specific
components of the groupset, such as Full Speed Ahead (often abbreviated to FSA). The
companies have different design strategies, and some cyclists have great brand loyalty for one
or the other.
In the early 1990s, Shimano introduced dual-control with a system called Shimano Total
Integration (STI). STI is characterized by its combined brake and shift levers, or "brifters".
Previously, the shifters were mounted on the stem, handlebar ends or the down tube of the
frame. Dual control addressed the problem of having to reposition a hand to change gears. STI
was followed by the competing Campagnolo/Sachs Ergolever. SRAM uses a technology known
as Double Tap for their integrated shifter/brake lever. Other than this, the general design of a
racing bicycle has changed little since the development of derailleurs.
The road groupset levels that these companies offer are as follows, from highest to lowest level.
The number in the brackets indicates the number of cogs on the freewheel. Shimano: Dura Ace
DI2 (11s) Dura-Ace (11s), Ultegra (10s), 105 (10s), Tiagra (9s), SORA (9s), 2300 (8s).
Campagnolo: Super Record (11s), Record (11s), Chorus (11s), Athena (11s), Centaur (10s),
Veloce (10s), Mirage (10s), Xenon (10s). SRAM: Red (10s), Force (10s), Rival (10s),
In the mid 1990s Mavic, known for their wheelsets, introduced an electronic shifting
systemwhich was pioneered in the Tour de France by American Greg LeMond and later on by
BritonChris Boardman, who liked the fact that the system allowed him to shift from
his aerobars and his brake levers. The system did not catch on due to technological hurdles.
In early March 2006, some pro riders were seen riding with Shimano electronic shifting
groupsets; further testing in the pro-ranks continued during the next 2 years. In late 2009,
Shimano released their electronically shifted Dura-Ace Di2 groupset, consisting of battery
powered, servo actuated front and rear derailleurs controlled by electronic bar-end or brake
lever integrated shifting paddles. Other components such as the crankset and brakeset are
carryovers from the standard Dura-Ace 7900 group.
Recently in 2010, Campagnolo officially announced the finalization of their yet to be named
electronic shifting groupset. Unveiled as part of the new Pinarello Dogma Giro d'Italia road bike,
the new electronic groupset appears to be similar in structure to Shimano's Dura Ace Di2
groupset in that it combines existing top of the line 11 speed Super Record parts such as the
crankset and brakeset with new battery powered, servo actuated front and rear derailleurs
controlled wirelessly by an electronic Ergopower styled brake lever/shifter. No specific details
about the operation, performance or pricing of the groupset have been released, but
Campagnolo did announce that the Spanish Movistar cycling team will be the first professional
team to use their electronic gear system in 2011.
Carbon fiber has also become more popular for components. Shimano, Campagnolo and SRAM
have introduced carbon fiber for their high-end shifters and brake levers, cranks, and parts of
their derailleurs. Carbon fiber stems, handlebars, shoe soles, forks and seatposts are also more
commonplace, including integrated stem/handlebar combinations. The advantages of carbon
fiber are low weight as well as increased vibration damping leading to a more comfortable ride.

Engineering Challenge:
Optimize a racing bicycle design for ultimate performance, using the design flexibility of
composites, a suite of analytical design tools and improved manufacturing techniques.
Design Solution:
Use a unique carbon/epoxy prepreg layup to manufacture the lightest professional bike frame
ever produced yet still meet all safety and performance requirements for racing conditions.

Design and manufacturing cant be separated; they need to be done in parallel, declares Don
Guichard, director of technology and manufacturing at Vroomen White Designs Project
California research and development facility, the wholly owned engineering group of Cervlo
(Toronto, Ontario, Canada). That point of view has helped propel Cervlo to prominence in
professional bicycle racing and led to the recent introduction of the lightest professional
bicycle frame. At a mere 675g/1.5 lb, Cervlos R5ca bikes frame weighs less than a quart of
The R5ca grew out of the companys desire to develop a better process for creating its
composite bicycles by integrating design and analysis tools, testing regimes and
manufacturing in its self-contained Project California facility. There, the design teams depth of
experience coupled with the freedom provided by Cervlos owners, Gerard Vroomen and Phil
White, made it possible. Usually, in the bike industry much of a new project is predefined by
marketing before an engineer ever sees it, says Richard Matthews, Vroomen White Designs
senior composites engineer. Were lucky that Cervlo started with a performance goal and
allowed us the latitude to develop both the tube shapes and the composite part layups.

Designing the lightest bicycle
It would be easy to make a lighter bicycle by just removing material but we didnt do that,
Guichard emphasizes. The key to the R5casdesign, he explains, is the use of highly tailored
and complex composite fiber architecture to accomplish something that simply cant be done,
for example, in an aluminum frame: balance the many, usually conflicting, high-end
performance requirements. To meet safety criteria imposed by the Comit Europen de
Normalisation (CEN, Brussels, Belgium), a bike frame must exhibit high strength and the
ability to absorb a lot of energy, including energy from a head-on impact of the front fork with
an obstacle, yet it also must possess high torsional stiffness to transfer seat and pedal loads
and provide good handling. However, too much stiffness compromises rider comfort, so some
compliance or flexibility is needed in the plane of the frame. Composites, designed using
nonuniform and directional ply layups, made it possible to combine these properties in one
The Vroomen White Design team used several design tools to help untangle the many
performance goals. Starting with their Squoval (square oval) frame concept for a road bike,
they used SolidWorks from Dassault Systmes SolidWorks Corp. (Concord, Mass.) to model
the initial frame, reports Matthews. The aerodynamic was not a design driver on this frame, as
they would have been for a time-trial bike. Then the SolidWorks model was input to the
companys internal CETOP preprocesser tool, says Matthews. This program creates a rough
finite element analysis (FEA) grid that, coupled with basic laminate theory calculations, allows
for rapid iteration of design ideas. The Squoval concept moves more material away from the
center plane of the frame, which yields greater stiffness with less material. The CETOP
program enabled engineers to quickly conduct analyses of the tube shapes and material layup
under various loads.
With the frame design roughed out, the team moved into a more detailed FEA analysis. The
preliminary results were input back into SolidWorks coupled with NEi Nastran from NEi
Software (Westminster, Calif.) to create a detailed shell model that permitted them to apply
multiple load cases as they optimized the final composite layup. The Vroomen White Design
team was assisted in this process by Laminate Tools software from Anaglyph Ltd. (London,
U.K.), which helps define the composite materials, plies and layup scheme using a state-of-
the-art graphical user interface. Says Guichard, We really like Laminate Tools because it
allows you to define layup patterns easily using finite elements without having to define ply
edges in the surface model, making it very adaptable for lots of iterations. With other
packages that require edge definitions in the CAD surface model, the hundreds of surfaces we
would have to change for each iteration in this complex part make them unusable.
Adds Matthews, I think people tend to think of bicycles as simple, nonaerospace parts, but in
reality the components and the load paths are very complex and difficult to analyze. Indeed,
the modeling process ultimately identified approximately 350 unique prepreg plies in the entire
frame structure.
Prototypes were fabricated for testing to validate the design. Project California includes a far-
reaching testing regimen that is much broader than those used by most bike manufacturers,
says Guichard: We decided, early on, that existing bike lab tests do not accurately reflect
reality and, in fact, make incorrect assumptions about where each tube on a bike frame
carries the most load during certain ride conditions, which was verified with our strain gage
bike. Outfitted with sensors and ridden hard, the instrumented bike showed that bending and
torsional loads in race conditions were distributed in the frame differently than existing
simulations indicated. Cervlo uses more than 15 different tests, including the new load cases
that take into account riding styles, such as carving curves on a fast descent or vigorous out-
of-the-saddle pedaling, which puts high strain on the chain stays, down tube and bottom
bracket. Cervlo also uses testing loads that exceed industry norms by at least 20 percent.
Front fork impact, which CEN defines as 47 joules (35 ft-lb/ft), is tested in Cervlos lab at 87
joules (64 ft-lb/ft), an increase of 87 percent. The strain gage data, coupled with the actual
frame tests and the Anaglyph software, allowed the team to tweak the composite layup
multiple times to add more strength and stiffness in the tubes where needed, yet keep overall
material usage low to hit the weight target.
Several significant geometry changes came out of the design, says Matthews. For example,
the bottom bracket, which puts significant load on the rear of the frame, was redesigned with a
wider stance and larger tube diameters to help maximize overall system stiffness. He
explains: Our analysis showed that a larger, 30-mm [1.2-inch]axle increased the bottom
bracket stiffness at a lower frame weight and also allowed the seat tube and down tube to be
wider as well. This new system we developed, called BBright, is beginning to be adopted as a
new industry standard. Guichard adds that the new bottom bracket design includes bulkhead
walls in the parts interior, allowing the outer surfaces to be thinner. This leads to a mass
savings of 2.2g/0.08 oz and a stiffness improvement of several percent.
Although the exact layup of the R5ca frame is proprietary, Guichard says the fiber
architecture, for the most part, is carbon/epoxy prepreg, typically 80 g/m
, made with 6K
MR60 intermediate-modulus carbon fiber supplied by Newport Adhesives and Composites
Inc. (Irvine, Calif.). Newport also supplies HR40 high-modulus fiber for certain areas of the
frame. Because pitch-based fibers generally provide better stiffness than PAN-based fibers,
the team specified pitch-based YSH60A carbon fiber from Nippon Graphite Fiber Corp.
(Tokyo, Japan) in a few critical areas, such as the sides of the down tube, increasing the
lateral stiffness to counteract out-of-plane bending loads. A fiberglass scrim was specified for
the few places, such as the seat tube, where the carbon layup comes in contact with metal.
The tube wall thickness in some lightly loaded regions is less than 1.0 mm/0.04 inch and
goes up from there, says Guichard. This is the stiffest-performing frame Cervlo has ever
made, yet we were able to reduce the weight by 25 percent while still meeting or exceeding all
strength requirements, he adds.

Precise manufacturing
The frames top tube, head tube, down tube, seat tube and bottom bracket were designed to
be manufactured as a monocoque. The chain stay and seat stay are molded as separate
pieces. The front fork is fabricated separately and is connected to the head tube via a bearing
assembly. For the frame tubes, Project California has developed closely guarded
manufacturing techniques for layup around inflatable latex bladders. We are able to create
the layup and prevent movement of the plies during bladder inflation and molding, which
means more accurate fiber architecture and consistent wall thickness, Guichard explains.
Plies are cut using an automated cutting table from Autometrix Precision Cutting Systems Inc.
(Grass Valley, Calif.). The prepreg layup with bladders is carefully loaded into two-part female
steel mold cavities, then the bladders are inflated and the mold is placed in a heated platen
press for cure.
After cure and removal from the mold, the frame pieces are trimmed, sanded and placed in an
assembly jig for bonding and attachment of the front fork and other system components. A
single-part epoxy adhesive is used for bonding the seat stay and chain stay parts to the
monocoque front triangle. Even the R5cas cable stops are carbon composite to minimize the
bicycles overall weight with all components installed.

here are two general forms of carbon manufacturing techniques used in frame construction:

Bladder and Foam Core Molding: Bladder molding basically consists of taking carbon and resin
substrate, putting it into a preset mold (usually made of aluminum or steel), exerting pressure
from the inside with an inflatable bladder (think blowing up a balloon in a jar), and curing. During
curing, the carbon and resin harden and hold the shape of the mold. Foam core molding uses a
similar process, but heat activated foam applies the internal molding pressure instead of a rubber
Some form of molding can be found in almost every frame on the market. Many mass produced
frames use a monocoque bladder mold where the entire frame is molded at one time. Other designs
use a combination of molded lugs that are bonded or wrapped with other molded, roll-wrapped or
filament wound tubes (see below) to create a frame.
The primary benefits of molding are that any shape and carbon lay-up an engineer designs can be
built and, once the molds are paid for, production costs are minimal. Mass production is feasible as
bladder molding is much like baking a cake you mix the ingredients (lay-up the matrix), put it in the
oven (the mold), and bake (pressurize and cure). The primary drawbacks to one-piece monocoque
molded frames are that the shape and geometry of the frame cannot be changed once the mold is
made and it can be difficult to apply consistent pressure to the entire structure during molding.
Inconsistent pressure can lead to weak areas of uneven carbon fiber compaction known as voids.

Roll-Wrapping and Filament Wound: While roll-wrapping and filament wound construction are
different processes and have some different limitations and benefits, they are often used to
construct similar structures. In each case, carbon fiber is rolled or wound around a steel or
aluminum mandrel in the shape of the end product. The carbon is wrapped with heat shrinking
tape to create pressure and is then cured (pressurized and heated until hard). Once cured, the
tape is removed and the hardened part can be sanded to its final diameter and shape.
Once wound or rolled tubes are created, they are often bonded and/or compression molded to bladder
molded or wrapped lugs to create a frame. This is similar to how metal frames are built, except that
instead of metal and torches, carbon fiber, pressure and heat are used.
Roll-wrapping and filament winding are more time consuming than bladder molding and can be
difficult to use for mass production. However, when done properly, they allow for great tunability and
customization in both ride quality and frame geometry while minimizing voids.
Material and Process Quality Counts:
Arguably more important than the manufacturing technique a builder uses, the care and skill applied
during the engineering (the recipe) and the assembly (the baker) of the frame, in combination with
the quality of the carbon fiber used (the ingredients), are crucial to the end result. This is where some
frames become the cycling equivalent of Twinkies, while others become a decadent triple layer cake
it all depends on the companys approach to materials and process.
Like all ingredients, carbon needs to be stored and maintained properly to maintain quality. When it
comes to raw materials, a very small percentage of bike builders use a RTM (Resin Transfer Mold)
based system where dry carbon fiber is injected with resin during the actual molding process.
However, most builders use Pre-preg carbon. In its raw form, pre-preg is carbon fiber that has been
pre-impregnated with resin and is stored in sheets that are ready for the builder to cut, lay-up, shape
and cure into the end product. Prior to use, pre-preg carbon fiber needs to be stored in a controlled
environment that is below 0 degrees Celsius to prevent premature curing of the resin. In addition to
proper storage, if the assembler does not use care to keep the work area, cutting tools or molds
contamination free, the final product will be compromised.
Ingredients only become a cake after proper mixing and baking and carbon structures only achieve
their potential when the resin and carbon fiber are layed-up and cured ideally. It is quicker and less
expensive to minimize engineering and limit heat and pressure treatment. While a rideable frame may
still result, a poorly engineered frame that is improperly treated will not be as strong or ride the same
as a frame that is well engineered and properly treated. Frequently, part of what you pay for in a
higher grade carbon frame is not only better grade materials, but also the assurance that the frame
was engineered and manufactured using refined and proven processes that minimize contamination
and maximize the integrity and ride quality of the materials.
In the end, an aerospace grade frame only results if aerospace grade materials, aerospace grade
engineering and aerospace grade assembly processes are all used simultaneously. If one frame/bike
costs more than another, it is likely because it was built using higher grade materials and/or more
refined and controlled processes. Shop intelligently and remember, the best made bike in the world
will not do much for you if it does not fit you well. Have a professional fit and geometry search done
first and then consider the quality and ride of only those options that fit you well.
In the next article, we will bite into carbon fiber quality, grading methods, and the murky marketing
that often surrounds the subject.

Wheels are fundamental to the purpose of the bicycle. A bicycle wheel is made up of
a hub, spokes, a rim, tire, and tube. Each part of the wheel may require different
material properties. Our focus will just consider the materials for the hub, spokes, and
rim. Material importance in comparing these parts of the wheel as follows:

Table 2: Wheel parts
Part Key Feature Material Importance
Hub bulky low density
Spokes tension loading tensile strength
Rim shape processing

The frame is the core to the bicycle as a complete functional unit. Material
selection importance should lay with strength and weight (i.e. strength/density
materials and processing). A major consideration is the tube frame design.
The standard commercial bicycle frame diagram is show below.

Figure 1: Bicycle Frame [3]

Components is the bicycle industrys name for the moving mechanical parts:
everything but the wheel, frame, seat and handle bars. We will just the overall
material importance for the components. This focus is the parts function,
wear, weight, and cost. The following figure shows some bicycle components.

Figure 2: Bicycle Components [5]

The helmet materials will be considered separately from the other bicycle
applications. The standard helmet design is crushable foams. Helmet design factors
are weight, cost, and safety. An example of standard bicycle industry design is as
show (Bells Aquila-sport helmet).

Figure 3: Bicycle Helmet [8]

Possible Materials
We will only introduce the most common materials that are presently used for
these applications. The bicycle wheel, frame, and components materials to be
considered are Steel alloys, Aluminum alloys, Titanium alloys, and

Table 3: Possible Materials [3]

The Helmet materials lie in a separate material category: Crushable foams.
Crushable foams are ideal for helmets designed for one hard impact. Some
foam used is EPS (Expanded PolyStyrene), EPP (Expanded PolyPropylene),
and EPU (Expanded PolyUrethane). EPS is one of the most common foam
used in our society, the white foam found in picnic cooler, eggs carriers, and
stereo gear packing. EPP is multi-impact foam, with slow shape recovery,
(higher cost) and mostly for multi-impact sports like skateboarding. EPU is
similar to EPS, but it has very uniform cell structure that adds to the esthetic
appeal. EPS is the most available, cheap, and efficient, thus most common
helmet material selection. [7]

Physical Principles
The following discussion of physical principles for functional material
strengthening will further support the resulting material selection per bicycle

We will give a brief outline four of the major physical principles that can be
applied in these applications. The four principles considered are densification,
composites, and alloying. There many manufacturing techniques used to
strengthen and form materials as well.

Densification is the most common and necessary way to strengthen concrete
cement composites. In general, this increases the tensile strength by reducing
the porosity of the matrix. This can be shown in the functionality of helmet
design. The Styrofoam density and porosity must be proportional and
functional to protect your head upon serious head impact without injury.

The standard composite rule of mixtures is when the standard matrix is
soft/pliable and the reinforcing material is tensile strong. One the major
reasons for the prevalent use of composite materials in construction is the
adaptability of the composite to many kinds of applications. The selection of
mixture proportions can be aimed to achieve optimum mechanical behavior of
the harden product. Selection can result in the change of the strength,
consistency, density, appearance, and durability.

The alloying of metals is one of the oldest and most fundamental material
processing techniques. An Alloy is a solid solution that is composed of two or
more elements. There is a solvent (majority composition) and a solute. The
Solute element can strengthen the overall solid solution by different element
size, density, and other material properties

Material Selection
Given our presented applications, possible materials, and physical principles
we can gather our resulting material selection considering with cost and
without cost. The factor of cost for the materials is difficult to examine due to
lack of presentation in our discussion because vast additional manufacturing,
design, and material processing cost/factors.

Table 4: Material Selection
Application Material w/out cost Material w/cost
Hub/Rim- Composite,
Hub/Rim- Aluminum
Frame Titanium Alloys Steels
Components Steels Steels
Helmet EPP foam EPS foam

This material application selection process as concluded was stated only as a
brief outline to demonstrate the need for material science in bicycle
technology and not by any means a full discussion.

Conclusion and Future Prospects
In the last 10 years of the 19
century at least one-third of all the new patent
applications sent to the U.S. Patent Office were bicycle related. The past
century technical and material design for bicycles at times increased
greater than automobile design. Now in the 21
century even the said low-
class (inexpensive) bicycles are pushing boundaries of lightweight, efficient,
functional, and high performance needs of the cyclist.

In conclusion, we could say that bicycles have a big future due to their
increasing popularity of use; thus material selection and design will lead that
future in terms of technology. Low environmental impacts have been added
incentive for present popular use in contrast to the automobiles for
commuting. But as always, popular use is driven by utility of cheap efficient
exercise and transportation.