NAHBS 2014: Bilenky Goes Ape & Santana Hides the Banana
Bilenky Cycle Works always has some interesting bikes with interesting features, all nestled into an interesting (if somewhat packed) booth.
The completely custom titanium travel tandem touring bike shown above was just one such example. Designed and built over a period of several years (or, at least, that’s how long the customers were waiting), it’s made to break down into multiple sections for easier packing.
See the breaks, and why steel is a perfectly good material for aero time trial bikes and carbon/ti blends make for a smooth ride, below…
In addition to S&S Couplers throughout the frame, the curvaceous design required several other frame breaks and bolts to make sure it would all come together, then apart, with ease.
They said it was quite the challenge getting all the coupled parts lined up just right…and there were a LOT of them!
I somehow didn’t get a photo of this complete bike, but it’s a steel framed time trial bike. Features such as a rear-mounted front brake, streamlined seatpost and swept back tubes help cheat the wind. But art wasn’t swept away in an effort to eliminate drag. The rear brake cable enters through the top tube and behind the imagery on the down tube to run internally. The two shift cable are held in place by a small spur that then guides them into small cable stops. And, being Bilenky, the junction is painted to look like a baboon.
The rest of the frame takes a bit more serious approach to its construction and shows off the talent of their builders.
Another steel aero bike, this one geared more for triathlon. It also gets S&S Couplers for easier travel.
When I think of Santana, this is kinda what comes to mind anymore. Large tube diameter tandems. This one built in a BionX e-bike kit as a third man (second stoker?). But, a closer look revealed a good bit of tech in their high end frame materials and designs.
First, though, their Campagnolo contest bike (Campy sponsored a contest for best Campy-equipped bike).
Most of the entrants had full groups from various years, and a few included some seriously rad accessories like this water bottle.
For their travel bikes, they’ve developed their own coupling mechanism. You have to look really close to even notice it.
The machining is incredibly intricate.
It slides together and bolts in place. All the various angles and grooves prevent bending or twisting in any direction.
Now for the really interesting part. I got the 15 minute master class. Here’s the summary:
You can have a cheap carbon tube, but it’ll be either heavy or flexy or weak. You can have a reasonably inexpensive tube, but it’ll only be slightly better or slightly lighter. Both would be rolled around a mandrel, the latter would simply have more plies and/or better carbon and/or better finishing.
You can spend more and get a bladder molded carbon tube. It would be stronger and lighter, with a perfect exterior finish, but it still wouldn’t be your best option for a lightweight, high performance frame.
Or, you can spend a lot more and get a very high tech, lightweight carbon tube that’s incredibly strong and stiff. That one would use bundled strings of carbon fiber strands woven around the bladder then covered with fewer sheets of high quality carbon fiber. It would be insanely strong and stiff, but feathery light. This would be a very good option, but not the best. It would still carry too much vibration through to the rider. And that causes fatigue, which slows you down even if your bike is 12 pounds.
As an example, imagine taking an all-day road trip in a Lexus sedan. Now imagine that same trip in an original VW Beetle, with all its rattles and engine vibration. How much fresher and alert do you think you’d be after arriving in the Lexus?
And that’s the thinking behind their idea of the ultimate frame material: A mix of carbon and titanium, which is seen as an Exogrid pattern on their higher end bikes and illustrated above. By mixing materials, the resonant frequency of each is effectively canceled out, dramatically reducing overall vibration. We tapped a single material tube on a metal pole followed by the hybrid tube and the difference was night and day. As in “Wow, I want to ride this tubing right now.”
The problem, they say, is that all of that stranded core and mixed materials technology is hidden on the inside or unspoken. But now you know, and knowing is half the battle.