Our latest frames don’t use off-the-shelf tubing.
The Sirius 4G and A.L.I.C.E. use a combination of:
- custom drawn
- tube-appropriate, double, triple or quad butted (front triangle)
- round, ovalised or tapered
- heat treated
- CrMo 4130
The tubes have been designed specifically for each frame and every tube is heat treated – including the rear triangle.
Externally it would be hard to tell the difference between the tubing we use and a branded tubeset: internally, it’s a different matter.
Branded-tubing manufacturers are able to achieve economies of scale by offering standardised tubing that’s appropriate for a wide range of applications. These applications include the aerospace industry, high-performance racing and off-road vehicles, crash-protection beams in cars and of course, bicycles. This explains why the term ‘aircraft grade’ sometimes crops up with bicycle tubing, which if you think about it, is an odd marketing strategy for a bicycle frame.
These tubesets offer builders the characteristics and qualities that work for most applications – in much the same way that an off-the-peg suit ‘works’ – but if you take a closer look at some steel frames sold today, it’s not uncommon to see gussets/plates at various joints to strengthen them. This may be an indication that the tubes selected were not wholly adequate on their own so additional reinforcement was needed.
Sure, builders will sometimes take a belt-and-braces approach to frame design which, from an engineering point of view, is understandable. But as we’ve said before, the extra strength a gusset might offer can be negated by the additional welding need to fit it. This reheating of a critical area of the frame is potentially damaging to the tubes and should be avoided if at all possible. Strangely, these extra features are almost expected nowadays.
Getting the Sticker
Most branded tubing suppliers will not will not allow you to put their sticker on a frame unless all three of it’s main tubes are from one tubing series. In the past it was sometimes possible to get it by only using two.
The pursuit of the sticker may lead to compromises elsewhere, generally to offset the cost of the 3 main tubes which can be comparatively expensive. Consequently, it’s not uncommon for some brands to use the cheapest design-appropriate tubing for the rear triangle, head tube and bottom bracket.
Artisan builders will often select tubes from multiple brands and mix-and-match them to achieve the perfection they strive for. Consequently, you’ll rarely see the branded stickers on their frames, which are of little consequence when you know the builder has selected the tubing most appropriate for it. Here’s another thought: you’ll rarely see gussets/plates on a custom frame either.
Does Branding Matter?
You may still be able to recall the early days of aluminium frames when, if it wasn’t Easton tubing, you’d run a mile…..maybe because there was doubt you’d be able to ride a mile, such was the lack of confidence in unbranded aluminium tubes.
Times have changed and the reality is that the properties of branded and unbranded tubing are mechanically and materially almost identical and the quality of tubing being manufactured in Taiwan (which is arguably at the forefront of bicycle manufacturing technology) is as good as any anywhere else in the world.
Certainly, Columbus and Reynolds have pedigree: they’re still leaders in tubing technology and continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible from this humble material. Other brands like Dedacciai have since come on the scene and are one of the most notable for their use among artisan frame builders. Their distinctive ‘cricket bat’ chainstays are easily identifiable, even without a sticker.
For some, the tubing sticker will always be a mark of honour and a thing to elicit the respect of the cognoscenti. However, when it’s used to demand respect, there’s something amiss. It seems odd that a sticker should be used to define the quality and characteristics of a frame when there’s so much more to it than that.
A Very Special Opportunity
Our latest frames don’t use standard tubing.
The tubesets we use are made in small batches in the same facility that fabricates our frames. The company is not only one of the best frame-builders in the industry, it’s also a leader in tubing technology – specifically for bicycles.
Having the capability to draw and butt tubing in-house means that we’re able to achieve the exact specifications we require for our frames. This super-alloy is custom butted along it’s length and some tubes even have variable thickness in their cross-section. All this magic is on the inside, out of sight. Longer butts and curved tubes also transfer loads from otherwise vulnerable areas, negating the need for gussets/plates which not only delivers a clean aesthetic but maintains the strength qualities of the tubing.
After more than a decade of designing frames, we’re not prepared to compromise a design for the sake of a sticker: it may be a controversial choice but we’re committed to building you the best with the best tubing available.
Our hope is that you’ll have the confidence that we are.