Santa Cruz Bicycles Tour - Part 2
In Part 1 we looked at the overall Santa Cruz operation--what their space is like and their bike assembly system. Today we're going to take a look at some of the thought that goes into making a Santa Cruz mountain bike.
Like many great ideas, here's where the magic begins. Pretty heady stuff for the bathroom (that's Kafka's Metamorphosis zip-tied to the rail).
Santa Cruz has engineers on payroll both in Santa Cruz and at the factory they use in Asia. They design and build 'mules' (prototypes) here in the states to test-ride and refine. Pivot points are tweaked and geometry nailed down before a design is sent to Asia for production. Several iterations of a model have been ridden as a mule before making it to the final design. If any further adjustments need to be made in production, they have Santa Cruz staff in Asia to make those changes without having to cycle things back through the states.
Below is a test mule in the making (most likely a 650b, which they say they will show at Interbike this year).
As far as carbon goes, Santa Cruz has some of the best carbon in the industry. In-house carbon testing shows their carbon bikes to be stronger than their aluminum bikes. Below, a slow-load test.
1500lbs of force was applied to the headtube of this Blur LTc before it finally cracked.
Even then it wasn't a catastrophic failure--the headset cup pressed out of the headtube. No top-tube or down-tube failure.
The carbon V-10 pictured below is hooked-up to their fast-load impact test. While they use this test to break plenty of aluminum frames, they had it maxed-out and couldn't break the carbon V-10.
This is a cross-section of the V-10 headtube junction. Note 1) how clean the inside of the carbon is, and 2) how thick the downtube layup is. The lack of wrinkles in the frame shows how evenly bladder pressure is applied to their carbon frames. Even bladder pressure results in even wall thickness and compact, strong carbon. The downtube is layed up to be 5mm thick--stronger where you need it, one of the many benefits of working with carbon.
Again, I was impressed with the overall Santa Cruz program. The operations side of things leaves a little to be desired when it comes to getting bikes to consumers, but their engineering and design is solid. While the brand has grown significantly in recent years, they're still small enough to make adaptations on the fly and rolling changes to models throughout the year, keeping the end consumer on their best and most current designs. And at the end of the day, everyone who works at Santa Cruz is a mountain biker, and that says a lot.
I'll leave you with a photo of a finished product. No big deal, Steve Peat's Syndicate V-10 with ENVE swingarm sitting in the parking lot at Santa Cruz.