Over steaks and beer at NAHBS, we spoke at length with David Parrett at LH Thomson about some hearsay and future products. Turns out they’re working on far more than we ever could have imagined!
At left are three prototype, never-seen-before stainless steel handlebars. From the looks of it, they’re going to be super wide.
And that’s not the only handlebar on tap. They’re working on carbon fiber –yes, carbon fiber!- road, XC and DH handlebars, with a Katie Comptom signature carbon cyclocross bar planned. Both drop bars will have a slight flat section on the tops, and they’re full monocoque with an EPS foam core. Parrett says this keeps the inside smoother, which means fewer opportunities for stress risers, and it doesn’t seem to have a weight penalty. Target weight is 180g for the road bar.
Initially, they’ll be produced overseas, but the plan is to bring carbon fiber construction in house as quickly as they can. Given their parent company’s deep involvement in the aerospace industry, building a composites arm makes a ton of sense, and could lead to some pretty amazing things in the future. Carbon Thomson seatposts, anyone? Yeah, we thought so.
Another rumored item is an adjustable height dropper seat post. We should start seeing prototypes this month.
On a smaller scale, they’re
working on titanium bolt kits for existing products and (explanation below) black or silver bolts for posts to make everything more matchy-matchy.
The link in the comments led to a test page set up for the forthcoming handlebars, which was confirmed by Parrett. The info is/was correct, including the instruction manuals, but the images are placeholders and are not the new LH Thomson components. Of course, us calling to confirm also tipped him off that an eagle eyed reader spotted them, and they’ve been moved again. If you find ’em, let us know. In the meantime, he corrected us on the ti bolt kits with this:
We get asked about switching our standard steel bolts to titanium fairly often. The short answer is, don’t do it. Longer answer below.
Weight is one reason people want to switch. Our new stem bolts now only weigh 3 grams each. The old stem bolts weighed 4.5 grams each. All stem weights have been revised down on our website to reflect this. Ti bolts for our stems weigh 2 grams each. The savings in weight would be 4 grams for an X2, 6 grams for an X4. The retail cost difference would be $40.00 or more. Just simply not worth it.
Both our existing steel seatpost bolts and barrel nuts together weigh 10 grams, you could save at most 3 or 4 grams by switching to Ti. Again, the impact to retail price would be on the order of $35.00+.
All in all the grade 12.9 steel bolts we use are very strong, light and a good value. You gain little by switching to Ti and you will pay quite a bit for the savings. Our steel bolts are also very strong and this buys an extra margin of safety.
If you insist on buying Ti bolts in the aftermarket for our stem or seatpost they must be fully forged with rolled threads. Do not use bolts with cut threads. Seatpost bolts must have the spherical seat to match up with our spherical washer. If you can’t verify the manufacturing method, do not use the bolts.
Ultimately cycling is an aerobic sport. Performance gains will come from fitness, not shaving 4 to 6 grams from a stem or post.
Turns out I still had a browser tab open, and here’s the scoop on the bars:
- Widths offered at launch will be 40, 42 44 and 46 center-to-center
- Claimed weights (for now) are 180g, 190g, 195g and 210g (by width)
- Slight wing shape flat area on top with mid-reach and mid-drop profile.
- Carbon monocoque construction.
- Reinforced 100mm wide OS clamp area for stem, aero bars, auxiliary ‘cross brake levers, etc.
- KfC (Katie f—-n’ Compton) Cyclocross model, because da girl knows what she’s doing on a ‘cross bike.
- KfC models will come in 40, 42 and 44 (C-to-C) and weigh about 225g
- Price will likely be around $300
- They’ll include friction paste and it’s recommended for use with all installations. Recommended max bolt torque is 5nm.
- LH Thomson precision and production supervision mean tight tolerances and excellent fit (their words).
- Warranty is 2 years manufacturer’s defects and covers racing.
CARBON FIBER MANUFACTURING
Parrett explained that while the goal is to have carbon fiber manufacturing capabilities in house “as soon as possible”, that means a minimum of two to three years, and here’s why:
First, the machinery is super expensive. Before they commit to a few million dollars in equipment, they want to test the market for these new items and ensure the expense and effort is justified. We don’t think there’ll be any problem with this one.
Second, they need EPA approval, and likely a new building. And that building may not be located in the same city as their existing offices and manufacturing facility. All of that takes time.
Lastly, labor. Manufacturing isn’t a glamorous job, and it’s not generally set in normal shifts when you wanna get things done. Parrett says a long shift in overseas factories, and by long he means longer than most U.S. workers would be willing to tolerate, is enough to pump out 14 or so handlebars. And it takes three-plus months to train someone to do it right. Then hopefully they stick around for a couple years. And when they’re done with a shift, they’re tired and sore and generally not in a mood to go ride.
Sound like something you want to do? Me neither, which is just part of the reason why it’s so tough to bring carbon fiber manufacturing to the states. Nevermind that most of the world’s expertise in carbon fiber manufacturing is located in China and Taiwan.
Parrett says they are committed to bringing it here, though, particularly because it would boost their aerospace business with major clients.