Factory Tour: Inside Ciamillo’s Carbon Fiber/Alloy Brake Workshop – Plus Gravitas Cranks Closeup!

Ciamillo ZeroG brakes updated and lighter

Ted Ciamillo is an interesting guy. He’s built a business around incredibly lightweight road bike brakes, has been teasing a radical (and radically light) carbon-fiber-and-alloy crankset and dreams of pedaling a one-man submersible across the Atlantic Ocean solo.

Fortunately, on our way home from visiting LH Thomson, he opened his doors to us and showed us how he makes the feathery parts. And his sub. We also took the opportunity to talk about the new Gravitas crankset in great detail, as well as see parts for them being machined and assembled.

Before we show you around, Ted let us know he’s updated the Zero G and Gravitas brakes to -wait for it- make them lighter!

As of mid January, the brakes get a new Delrin cable housing insert to replace the barrel adjuster (both versions shown above). Ciamillo’s brakes are designed to use various pad carrier heights with spherical spacer washers to accommodate different rim widths. Before, you could take up the slack using the barrel, but that would pull through as much as 40% of the brakes’ movement, which means you wouldn’t have the intended power at the end of the stroke, nor use the cam’s leverage as designed.

Ciamillo Zero Gravity lightweight road bike brake calipers get updated design

The carbon fiber Gravitas comes with the washer and both standard and super low profile pad cradles. The Zero G comes with the washers and either standard or low-pro pad cradles, customer’s choice. If you needed extra, a four pack of cradles with hardware is $93. The washer allows for a “middle” setting, and the low profile carrier is made with today’s wider rims in mind.

Ciamillo Zero Gravity lightweight road bike brake calipers get updated design

Another change is that the quick release lever is now aluminum. They were originally Ti, then they went to stainless steel, and now they’re alloy. This saved five grams for the brakeset, and now they can be anodized to match the arms. The Delrin stops dropped another gram.

UPDATE: The photo at the top of the post is the production version with color-matched quick release and cable stop. Directly above, the front brake shows a prototype Delrin cable stop and unfinished alloy QR lever. The carbon Gravitas brakes will keep the threaded alloy cable barrel adjuster for now, but we’re thinking a redesign on that isn’t too far off.

Now for a little tour…

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS

Ciamillo Factory Tour - Teds handbuilt workshop

Ciamillo’s workshop is tucked away, just north of Athens, GA, and all but hidden from view. In fact, we drove down the access road once, turning around just feet from his driveway, before calling him and learning that we really did need to go right up to the barriers, then make a sharp left. Behind a cemetery. His building, which he and his employees built using a chainsaw and hard work, is nothing short of amazing. Massive (and heavy!) doors open wide to reveal work tables down the center, flanked by rows of cutting machines and other heavy equipment.

A giant fireplace sits in the middle for heat in the winter, and a Big Ass Fan covers the cooling in the summer. This is a dream workshop.

MAKING THE ZERO G ALLOY BRAKES

Ciamillo Factory Tour - Zero G alloy brake caliper parts

GSL alloy brakes start out as a six foot blank sheet of 3/4″ 7075 aluminum. The row on the right show how the arms are cut out in a series (foreground), and finished parts are lined up for inspection. They produce nine complete sets per day on average.

Ciamillo Factory Tour - Zero G alloy brake caliper parts

The arms are made on one machine, another makes the pad carriers and cams, and a third makes the quick releases. Once all the parts are cut, they go to a tumbler to remove any burrs.

Ciamillo Factory Tour - Zero G alloy brake caliper parts

After that, they go to a de-ox tank to remove any oils or residues. Cleaned parts have a very matte finish, shown above in bins waiting to go into their anodization tank (for red or black). If ordered white or a custom color, they’ll then move on to the powdercoating booth. They anodize under the powdercoat to make it stick long term, and it also helps maintain appearances if the paint gets chipped. It only adds about a gram per brake (we weighed them).

Ciamillo Factory Tour - Zero G alloy brake caliper parts

Then they move to assembly. Above, all the parts that become a Zero G.

Just some of the custom color options. Ciamillo keeps a few on hand for quicker turnaround of custom orders. He also said if a customer calls and needs something quickly, he can offer them different colors that are on hand if time is more important than exact cosmetics. Standard colors are Black, Red and White Powdercoat.

…AND THE CARBON FIBER GRAVITAS BRAKES

 

Ciamillo Factory Tour - Carbon Fiber Gravitas Road Bike Brakes constructionCiamillo was a little more camera shy with his carbon fiber brake molding process. Without giving too much away, here’s the gist of it:

Carbon fiber comes in a 4′ wide roll. They stack it five layers thick and cut to shape using a cookie cutter like stamp inside a press capable of tremendous pressure. The cut pieces are then put into molds, then put back into the same press, but this time it’s heated, doubling as an oven to cure the parts into a single piece…not unlike how Argonaut makes their dropout sections.

After cooling, it’s a molded part ready for finishing. The arms are machined in the same machine that makes the pad carriers. At left, you can see blanks fresh out of the mold sitting next one that’s already been machined.

Then it’s polished, waxed and assembled. The UV protection is actually in the resin, so no clear coat is necessary. The side benefit is that you can buff out out small scratches and wax them yourself if you’re that type of person.

Custom color (red and blue shown at bottom) is available on the carbon with an automotive finish and process, but Ted says he hates doing it.

They can make about five sets of Gravitas brakes per day.

THE SCOOP ON GRAVITAS CRANKS

Ciamillo Factory Tour - Gravitas crankset sneak peek and construction details

Ted’s being tight lipped on the process for making the very unique Gravitas cranks. They’re already shipping early units, but that’s still considered testing. Ted says he wants to get about 100 sets on the road for at least six months before giving up too many production details.

However, based on comments on recent posts, there were a couple of points we made sure to cover. Namely, shear points and torsional flex from the axle to the pedal spindle. Here’s what Ted had to say on both:

Shear: “There’s sufficient amount of relieving of the corners to prevent sharp stresses where the carbon tubes meet the alloy sections. It would fail elsewhere before it would fail there, but suffice to say it’s engineered to withstand a much higher load than it’s ever going to experience in real world conditions.”

Ciamillo Factory Tour - Gravitas crankset sneak peek and construction details

Torsion: “The torsional load is being distributed not through the bonding of the carbon tubes to the alloy, but on the hollow pins that keep the carbon tubes from breaking loose and rotating. They’re engineered specifically for this purpose by a company that specializes in carbon tubes. In order to have the pedal flex the crank arm torsionally, you’d essentially have to bend the top tube in one direction, the bottom in the other direction and twist the middle one.”

With Ted’s blessing (and a smirk), I put all my muscle into trying to bend one and barely (barely!!!) budged it, and I had about three times the length (leverage) to pull on compared to what will be on the cranks…which will have three of them.

Ted: “I’m not saying the design is perfect. And I’m not saying we won’t have any problems in the future. But the great thing is there’s modularity built into the design. If it proves not to be stiff enough, we can simply make the tubes incrementally thicker or larger in diameter, which will have an exponential effect on strength and stiffness.”

Ciamillo Factory Tour - Gravitas crankset sneak peek and construction details

And speaking of stiffness, Ted says it’s already stiffer than Rotor’s 3D+ cranks, but he has yet to benchmark it against a couple of others to ensure it’s the stiffest crank on the market. All testing will be done by a third party, and he’ll send us the results as soon as he gets them.

Ciamillo Factory Tour - Gravitas crankset sneak peek and construction details

Mmmm… more pictures!

Ciamillo Factory Tour - Gravitas crankset sneak peek and construction details

On the left, a spider getting machined down from the blanks, visible in the image on the right before being milled down to almost nothing! From the looks of things, they’re well beyond the vaporware stage.

THE SUBHUMAN PROJECT

Ciamillo Factory Tour - Subhuman project - human powered one-man submersible to cross the Atlantic Ocean

With all the work going into the crankset, Ted’s dreams of one day piloting and powering a one-man submersible of his own design have been put on hold. That doesn’t mean he’s stopped thinking about it.

Shown above with the Rumorlets using it as a playground is the first version, which Ted says was too big and too heavy. It was a wet sub, and all supplies were carried in the rear. It’s human powered, using levers pushed by the legs to flap fins on the side, propelling it like a penguin. Filled with water, it was equivalent to 6,000 pounds, which was easily overpowering the pilot with tides and winds.

Ciamillo Factory Tour - Subhuman project - human powered one-man submersible to cross the Atlantic Ocean

A metal frame was surrounded by a dense foam to add buoyancy. Inside, a carbon fiber seat looked like little more than a long, bent skateboard deck. This one was so large in order to accommodate a lot of air canisters.

The goal is to cross the Atlantic. At night, he’d bring it up until the top bit was above water, then construct a platform for a small tent.

Ciamillo Factory Tour - Subhuman project - human powered one-man submersible to cross the Atlantic Ocean

The 2nd generation is about half the size and much, much lighter. One half of it is shown here (with a proud Ted) on it’s side. It’ll be much more enclosed, with just Ted’s head sticking out. To save weight and size, he’ll use a snorkel and remain just below the surface, coming up periodically, and diving down for short bits of exploration. Like a whale…which he expects to see quite a few of. If things go as planned, work will resume on this project later in the year.

Behind his workshop is a man-made pond that’s 20+ feet deep. Good for swimming in the summer…and testing submersibles.

Ciamillo Factory Tour - Subhuman project - human powered one-man submersible to cross the Atlantic Ocean

Other fun contraptions littered the back corner of the office, where all of the Subhuman project seemed to live.

Check out the bike stuff at Cycling.Ciamillo.com and the watery stuff at Subhumanproject.com and Lunocet.com

Big thanks to Ted and his crew for showing us around!

Comments

Androo - 01/29/13 - 5:45pm

Thanks for the write-up, guys!

I especially am interested in the human powered submarine, stuff. As an industrial designer, I find the more out-there ideas and implementations really exciting.

I also know there was a lot of controversy on here about the design of the cranks, and while we know it probably isn’t a totally optimized design, it’s good to see that there’s some engineering data here to put some of the armchair complainers to rest. And for a small shop, the modular design might make a lot more sense than something that is totally optimized.

Will - 01/29/13 - 5:45pm

Wow, that is awesome. All of it – from the building to the diversity of design to the in-house manufacturing to the vision. The subhuman fins with the Sidi’s attached may be the coolest of it all.

bc - 01/29/13 - 7:20pm

All that work for a brake that’s only marginally functional.

jaas - 01/29/13 - 7:34pm

^^good…let the hate flow through you^^

Stephen - 01/29/13 - 8:16pm

This guy is my hero.

Steve Worcester - 01/29/13 - 8:48pm

He does make a great product(s), just wish he had better customer service and returned phone calls

A Texan - 01/29/13 - 8:53pm

seriously…I bought into the hype years ago with the zero gravity brakes they looked super cool but didn’t stop/slow down worth a damn fool me once shame on you fool me twice shame on me…

Ventruck - 01/29/13 - 10:34pm

Major ups to addressing the torsional stiffness, although I wish I could get a look at the pins in question. I was a skeptic of it as well. I’ve turned away from the brakes because of claimed shortcomings in performance, but I respect Ted’s work a lot, and at least he attempts to fix things.

Psi Squared - 01/29/13 - 11:22pm

How does Ted envision people adjusting the Zero G brakes without a barrel adjuster? Riders vary in where they want the lever travel they want the pads to contact the rim. More importantly it’s necessary to be able to adjust the brakes as the pad wears. I don’t really see how this can be done with no barrel adjuster.

Moskowe - 01/30/13 - 2:16am

Well at least he stands by his product. As others have said, it’s too bad the customer service leaves a little to be desired.
I’m curious to see that crank benchmark.

Kitch - 01/30/13 - 5:32am

Ted – you’re doing it right. Good work

miklos - 01/30/13 - 5:33am

I own negative G SL. Compared to Campagnolo Record: more brake power, less safe pad locking, pad 3D adjustment range is lower, sometimes unadjustable, the existing barrel adjuster gives less option, the new is ??, frame compatibility is more narrow, needs washers (not incuded), very sensitive for cable length, no centering screw (OK-self align…), while pad holders are Campy compatible, contains quick release unusefully cause it’s integrated in Campy brake levers (schizo:-)) and finally looks better and oc weighs less:-)

Pete - 01/30/13 - 7:58am

I’ve had the Zero G brakes since they came out. The real problem with these things is that you really have to know what you are doing when you set them up. It’s not simply a matter of squeezing the pads together and tightening down the cable. Mine never worked right until I started working in a shop and learned what I was doing. Not great for the amateur wrench (which also applies to about 65% of the techs out there).

chris jones - 01/30/13 - 8:54am

Wish he would have sent the brakes I ordered and paid for 2 years ago. Despite numerous emails. The guy is a crook and thief as far as I am concerned. I guess my money went to that ridiculous boat.

topcheese - 01/30/13 - 10:20am

Derlin? Seriously? Isn’t that why Simplex went out of business? Oh how soon we forget.
I find it funny that the absence of a barrel adjuster/stop is justified by an arbitrary number like “…40% of brake movement…” It is clear to me that braking power and pull has always been an issue with ZeroG brakes. In my experience, this problem is not evident on any other brakes with barrel adjusters (with the exception of some Campagnolo calipers), And removing it (no less replacing it with Derlin) will only lead to constant cable adjustments.
On the other hand, I can’t wait to see the new cranks in action. They look amazing!

Ted Ciamillo - 01/30/13 - 12:08pm

To Chris Jones:

I tracked the package for the set we sent express Australia and there was no confirmation of delivery. I am sorry you did not receive the package but we had no knowledge of this. I am happy to refund you immediately. If you have a Paypal account, we can take care of it immediately.

Tyler (Editor) - 01/31/13 - 9:42am

All – comments regarding customer service issues will not be approved, please direct those inquiries through the appropriate channels. We’re here to talk tech.

cL - 01/31/13 - 11:16am

Looking good Ted. Can’t wait to give the cranks a go!

WannaBeSTi - 02/01/13 - 9:07am

+1 Pete.

I have a few customers with ZG brakes who only trust me to work on their brakes because the other shops in town didn’t understand how to make work, don’t care to learn something new, or how to resurrect them after years of use and abuse.

I’ve run another brand of light weight brakes that didn’t stop nearly as well as ZG’s, but I guess I’m still programed for the craptastic cantis of the 80′s and 90′s. Anything better than those is a plus.

Cheryl Klueg - 02/06/13 - 9:18am

Wow, Ted……you have turned out to be quite a success story!! You’ve come a long way from our visit to NASA in 1989. I still have the “How I Feel” cassette. Love to chat privately. You have my e-mail and the ball is in your court.

dislivello - 02/06/13 - 3:07pm

very smart camillo… !

jasonC - 02/19/13 - 8:44am

You guys have any idea what is going on with Ted? I placed an order last month, paid for the calliper, emailed him with no response, tried calling no response. Seems like the guy is MIA. I dont have my calliper until now. What to do?

Gearhead45 - 06/27/13 - 9:25am

This is late in the game, but as an FYI for anyone needing customer service, I’ve had luck with orders@caw-designs.com. That seems to be their customer service email address now.

Robert - 08/12/13 - 11:41am

Good article here. Love my zero gravity brakes. Been on 3 years and never needed adjustment (take that haters). The cam feature allows me to brake with extreme confidence over other brakes. Yes also lightweight and beautiful (gold) on my Colnago EPS. Nice to see an American entrepeneur with a great product and vision in such a down home manufacturing environment.

Preston - 09/19/13 - 8:19pm

hello my name is Preston Ciamillo and Ted Ciamillo is my uncle. I have always dreamed of being as successful and smart as my uncle. I never met him but I can tell he is a great man and a genius. The inventions and innovations that he has made are remarkable. If you are reading this uncle Ted, good luck on your later inventions.

Yasec - 11/19/13 - 5:41am

Hello Ted! I know, it is hard on the designer/producer site, but it is worth, I think.
I use and now modify a set of your NGSL’s, and I have a lot of fun with it.
Maybe the stopping power from a much heavier DA is bigger, the other question is, that why should I need so much braking power? My Ciamillo brakes works well for me, with Sram RED levers. They are for me in the right balance between stopping power and weight.
Wish you a good work!
Charles-Hungary

Christophe - 11/29/13 - 1:13pm

Bonjour,
Je possède des freins Gravity Négative G GSL Ti et je n’ai aucune problème avec ces freins…Le montage est fait avec des leviers Dura Ace…Sur roues carbone RRC 32 DT Swiss ou Aluminium Mon Chasseral…sur un vélo en titane DEAN El Diente SL et tout est parfait ! Je tiens à préciser que le travail d’usinage est sans reproche et l’anodisation ne cause pas de problème (hiver…sel…) Félicitations pour votre travail TED…et bonne chance pour vos projets…toujours passionnants ! Chritophe. FRANCE

michele - 02/21/14 - 3:23pm

I purchased the model zero gravity and I was fine. The biggest problem was the service, in June last year broke the spring on the front brake and I contacted mr. Ciamillo to directly send me the replacement part, after almost a year of email and after paying € 51 I still have not received anything. Mr. Ciamillo continues to respond but then ensure that it does not matter! bad after sales service …. if I can give some advice let loose products of this manufacturer!
I apologize for my bad English ….

Boy Zone - 10/28/14 - 11:31pm

Hi Ted,

Pls don’t create another dummy tracking number and the goods does not hand over to the USPS department (refer to below tracking no.). The same things you are doing previously on tracking # LZ317037475US. I already contacted USPS, they will update the tracking information by daily basis. If the goods does not reach them, the tracking information will remain the same. USPS are innocent and don’t put the blame on them. I give up with your services and pls do not send me another tacking number and ask me to patience. I patience more than enough ……….. I treat this as one of my lesson learn from buying stuff online. I don’t mind loosing $321USD and I promise that I will not purchase anything from USA especially from TED CIAMILLO. Thanks.

Dude - 11/25/14 - 5:18pm

This guy only picks up when you’re buying, not when he has to deliver !
Has been promising to deliver almost for one year now.

My order is still open, paid off course !!!

Since it’s well over 1000 USD I think I have to pay him a visit real soon, maybe that will help …

Don’t buy anything from this guy, he does not keep ant promiss he makes !

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