Calfee Factory Tour: Part Two – Bikes of Carbon, Bamboo & Other

Calfees first carbon fiber bicycle and parts

While walking around Calfee’s factory, the lessons on how they make their bikes in Part One were interspersed with bikes they’ve built over the years. Everything from original Lemonds to modern day carbon racers to alcohol fueled wooden nightmares were on display.

Craig Calfee’s built his first carbon bike, above, in 1987. He worked at a boat manufacturer in Boston (sound familiar? Bob Parlee had a similar start!). He broke his bike and wanted to fix it himself. He was already rolling carbon tubes and such for sculls, and this was the result. Not only is it his first bike, but it’s decked out with what they think are the first ever carbon stem and fork! And oh boy do you have to see them…

Calfees first carbon fiber bicycle and parts

Craig didn’t just make the frame, he built a fork and stem, too. Yes, he rode this.

Calfees first carbon fiber bicycle and parts

It’s comforting knowing he’s progressed from this to the new Manta endurance bike.

Calfees first carbon fiber bicycle and parts

I spent quite a few minutes just staring at this, slowly shaking my head in awe.

Calfees first carbon fiber bicycle and parts

That is indeed a bolt going through the steerer tube to hold it on.

Calfees first carbon fiber bicycle and parts

The carbon seat tube goes all the way through the metal lug, which is itself quite an interesting design.

Calfees first carbon fiber bicycle and parts

Are you speechless yet?

Lemond’s Bikes

Original Greg Lemond racing road bikes built by Craig Calfee

In Lemond’s heyday, he was racing bikes built by Calfee.

Original Greg Lemond racing road bikes built by Craig Calfee

It’s spec’d in era-appropriate Campy, too, including the seatpost.

Original Greg Lemond racing road bikes built by Craig Calfee

Original Greg Lemond racing road bikes built by Craig Calfee

More Lemond frames, this one for French National Champion Chris Capelle.

Original Greg Lemond racing road bikes built by Craig Calfee

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Original Greg Lemond racing road bikes built by Craig Calfee

Modern Day Carbon Fiber Bikes

Calfee custom Di2 road bike with World Cup stripe paint scheme

Fast forward to 2013 and you get this amazing Di2-equipped, lugged carbon road bike.

Calfee custom Di2 road bike with World Cup stripe paint scheme

World Cup pinstripes follow the cables and wires throughout the frame, lending a subtle, classy bit of color to the matte-and-gloss black bike.

Calfee custom Di2 road bike with World Cup stripe paint scheme

The Di2 control box is hidden inside the stem with two ports for pushing the button and seeing the light.

Calfee custom Di2 road bike with World Cup stripe paint scheme

Even the chain and derailleur were customized to color match.

Calfee custom Di2 road bike with World Cup stripe paint scheme

Calfee Adventure Road Bike with 650C fat road tires

Calfee’s Adventure Road Bike is a popular seller. Notice anything different about this one?

Calfee Adventure Road Bike with 650C fat road tires

It’s a standard 700c frame, but they used 650-sized wheels and fat 650×42 tires to get virtually the same outside tire diameter. So, you keep the larger rolling surface but add a lot of air volume. Win/win for an offroad gravel racer!

Wood & Bamboo Bikes

Calfee oversized bamboo bike with Look ZED crankset and internal Campagnolo battery

This one was shown at NAHBS and was a precursor to the Manta. They used the oversized bamboo tubes to hide the EPS battery and fit the Look ZED crankset, both of which are on the new carbon bike.

Calfee oversized bamboo bike with Look ZED crankset and internal Campagnolo battery

Calfee oversized bamboo bike with Look ZED crankset and internal Campagnolo battery

The charging port for the Campagnolo EPS battery is just above the crankset. Like the Manta, this one had a disassembled battery/circuit board to make it small enough to fit inside the frame.

While the bikes pictured here don’t represent it well, a LOT of the bicycles on hand were rolling on Lightweights. Michael Moore, Calfee’s Sales Manager, says they’re now the domestic service center for Lightweight Wheels thanks to a partnership with Lightweight USA. Now, wheels that need warranty work or other service will come here rather than have to go all the way back to Germany. Craig Calfee will be training at their factory to learn more about them.

Calfee wood bicycle made from fallen tree branches

This wood bike was made from a fallen tree branch marketing manager Steve Chang found nearby:

title="Calfee-Factory-Tour-fat-bamboo-road-bike"

On the table were plenty of leftovers and other pieces of wood for future projects.

Calfee Bamboosero bamboo bikes and their Go Rider all purpose bamboo cargo fat bike

Bamboosero is their other brand, with frames built by folks in poor areas that Calfee trains. Some frames are kept local to help improve mobility and enhance the workforce, others are brought back to the states for sale. The Go Rider is an adaptable, do-anything bamboo bike that can be built to serve local conditions best. This fat tired cargo bike is just one example.

Prototypes and Other Things

Calfee prototype full carbon fiber time trial triathlon aero bike

This time trial bike was just laying against a pile of boxes, as if it had nowhere better to be.

Calfee prototype full carbon fiber time trial triathlon aero bike

Thanks to an external steerer tube, the entire front profile is wicked thin.

Calfee prototype full carbon fiber time trial triathlon aero bike

Tiny bearings make it all possible. Kinda reminds us of Rob English’s personal TT bike.

Calfee prototype full carbon fiber time trial triathlon aero bike

Calfee prototype full carbon fiber time trial triathlon aero bike

TT bikes aren’t known for being compliant, but this one had a soft tail.

Calfee carbon fiber miniature toy bicycle

This little guy was hanging out next to the mold library. It’s shown next to an iPhone 5 for scale.

Calfee bachelor party wood bicycle monster

And this grotesque conglomeration of driftwood and, well, I don’t really know what is simply called the Bachelor Party Bike.

Calfee bachelor party wood bicycle monster

Some employees who shall remain nameless *cough – Craig* ended up in the workshop during a bachelor party, and this happened. Moore says he came into the office in the morning after and there were sleeping bags, bottles, wood shavings and this bike.

Calfee bachelor party wood bicycle monster

It tied for the weirdest/coolest thing I saw with this:

Calfee Bullhorn bicycle handlebars and fork

Bullhorn bicycle handlebars and fork? Yes, please! And that frame next to them ain’t too shabby either!

Next up, Part Three – The Gyrocopters. Stay tuned!

Comments

yojo - 06/12/13 - 6:54pm

Radical!

Chasejj - 06/12/13 - 7:17pm

Is it me, or is this insider factory tour a negative for Calfee?
I see nothing pushing the engineering or design envelope. Just now generic CF tech and hideous bamboo and wood abominations.

David - 06/12/13 - 7:26pm

Just love a good frame-bachelor party.

Matt - 06/12/13 - 7:41pm

@yojo, those are some ugly bikes. I have never like the look of their bikes. Has anyone riden one and can attest to superb performance coming out of this manufacturer? Geez they are ugly, even the new stuff.

Ventruck - 06/12/13 - 7:54pm

I want dibs on those horn handlebars joined with the tusk(?) fork.

Henry - 06/12/13 - 8:29pm

WOW! I LOVE CALFEE!!!! ALL the bikes look so cool. Great article!

Jason - 06/12/13 - 8:48pm

Tyler, the author, probably didn’t mean “skull,” (AKA cranium) but rather scull (a kind of rowed boat). Spell check doesn’t catch homophone errors.

greg - 06/12/13 - 9:56pm

the stuff shown isnt the latest and greatest. it doesnt talk about the different tow fibers, how they decide what direction they get laid up, etc.
they stuff shown is fun stuff. that’s okay. i like fun.

mudrock - 06/12/13 - 10:25pm

He has his fans, but the webbed lugs don’t move me. I would think that thin tubes combined with rigid lugs would create stress in the frame.

Tyler (Editor) - 06/12/13 - 10:44pm

Jason – thanks, you’re right, and my original notes were taken on my phone, which autocorrects the heck outta any sort of unusual word!

M.D.T. - 06/13/13 - 9:18am

Nice stuff, love it! For my part, help me appreceate the company. Manual labor like this is the best! All custom! Thanks!

carl - 06/13/13 - 10:02am

I realize he’s an icon in the industry, but man, those are really ugly bikes. Still, nice to see something different…..

Eric - 06/13/13 - 10:16am

The lugs on those frames look horrible! I’d rather ride a Trek.

Eric - 06/13/13 - 10:18am

I had to do a double take when I read the section, “Modern Day Carbon Fiber Bikes”. They looked identical to the ones Lemond was riding 20 years ago and the lugs looked identical as the ones on that intial deathtrap.

zemil - 06/13/13 - 11:08am

great articles about calfee, thanks. really unique, handmade, interesting and fun. can’t believe there are so many trolls on here trolling.

generalee - 06/13/13 - 4:29pm

tires are flat on the first new bike…

Evilc - 06/13/13 - 5:44pm

I have never ridden one of the bamboos, but I ride with quite a few Calfee carbon owners. They all love the ride. I rode with Mike Moore, several Calfee guys and other customer builders in the Santa Cruz mountains a couple of months ago. Mike rode the same bamboo bike with Campy EPS. It may not have been the prettiest or lightest frame (he told us about 7 lb for the frame), but he sure handled it going up those hills with everyone else. It decsends like a rocket. He blew by me like I was standing still and I thought I was going fast at 40. Definitely not for everyone, but it was still an interesting build, something you don’t see everyday. This coming from a guy riding a carbon Merckx.

Edward Casey - 06/14/13 - 11:41pm

Funny how some guys who never even saw a Calfee production bike in person, can be so negative about the look. I have a custom Tetra Pro that I have well over 4000 miles on so far. If I was forced to give one word to describe this bike I would say it is tough. I ride it on roads full of junk and constantly hit bumps that jar my body, but the frame just takes it all with aplomb. I will wear out the metal bits on this bike long before anything of carbon fiber wears out.

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