When we interviewed Tony Ellsworth a while back, he had some pretty strong opinions on carbon frames, and those opinions have helped shape (literally and figuratively) his forthcoming full carbon road and mountain bikes.
Shown above and after the break is the new Ellsworth Enlightenment 26. Ã‚Â Why the “26” moniker? Ã‚Â Because there’s a 29er version coming shortly thereafter!
Being Tony, he couldn’t just send us some pics…he sent us the philosophy behind the bikes and the material: Rare Earth Carbon. Ã‚Â It’s a cool name, and by Ellsworth standards, it means it’s:
- Certified Material
- Qualified Technicians operating high quality equipment
- Socially responsible disposal of the carbon dust, and treatment of staff
See the white, clean background in the pic? Ã‚Â That’s the carbon manufacturing facility where the frames are made, and Tony points out that there’s no carbon dust, etc., which he says is unheard of from Chinese factories.
Hit ‘more’ for a closeup frame pic and the full philosophy and explanation from Tony himself…
FROM TONY: “Carbon TENDS to be dull and lifeless. Smooth maybe, like a brick maybe. These variations are a product of poor material, poor material design, poor manufacturing consistency, etc. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve taken steps to eliminate the nastiness of the carbon material in my carbon bikes. NOT UNLIKE taking the nasty harsh edge off Aluminum by shaping, swaging and tapering. Our Carbon weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re calling RARE EARTH CARBON. This indicates our commitment to three critical procedures in carbon manufacturing that are important for very specific reasons:
- Material is certified to be what it is, and we engineer for specific materials.
- Carbon material can be ANYTHINGÃ¢â‚¬â€and no one knows what it is. Ash-diamond. So often Chinese carbon (which represents most of the carbon you see in this country, is not certified or verifiable modulus. The highest modulus material, the Chinese government tracks and exchanges in factories for the lower modulus stuff. And no one can tell.
- We get our material all high modulus in varying degrees, from a Japanese supplier of prepreg., it is then precision impregnated in Korea, and shipped to our high tech facility in the south of Taiwan. We certify that material in our Bill of Materials before they molds are loaded. Thus, our material is exactly what we engineered for. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s made in a socially responsible, and high tech facility. The consistency of the materials properties is critical in the consistent feel of the bike that I designed.
- Our lay up technicians are trained and certified for laying up our specific layup designs. No untrained or uncertified lay up technician ever lays up our Ellsworth frames.
- Chinese factory labor loads molds in China. They make $70/monthÃ¢â‚¬â€itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not a typo. The turnover in these factories is over 20%. Literally children will come from the poor center of the country, and work in the factories for a period of time, live in the factories, and when theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re tired, theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll take them money back to the countryside and live well for awhile. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s highly unlikely that any lay up technician has consistent training and experience with a given lay up design.
- The result is not only that the material may not have consistent quality, but the lay up itself may not have any consistency or even be done by design. Lack of consistency means some bikes are light, some are heavy, some ride well, some are flexy, some are so stiff theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re like riding bricks. You never get the same feel twice. They may all look the same, but the performance is all over the board.
- Socially responsible Carbon Facility.
- Is the factory properly ventilated and filtered? Is it clean, are the machines in good repair and capable of consistent heat and pressures? Are the staff trained in the proper operation of the factory and machines?
- Are the staff treated properly, is the turnover of the staff at a reasonable level, so that the training of the R&D guy, the QC guy, and the lay up technicians complete and thorough?
“ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Rare Earth Carbon Fiber.
Note in the picturesÃ¢â‚¬â€how clean that factory is. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s CARBON factory, and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s painted WHITE! WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not kidding around here. I think the customer SHOULD know what goes into making the product they are going to own and espouse.”