Sunday, February 27, 2011

Best Road Bike!

I'm honored once again to have one of my bikes picked for an award at the Handbuilt Bike Show. Travis' randonneur took the honors as "Best Road Bike", and I couldn't be happier!

The show was also a huge success from a business standpoint with quite a few orders taken and lots of interest from others. I look forward to working with everyone who's either on the list now, or thinking about sending in a deposit.

2011 "Best Road Bike"

Now to get a good night's sleep and prepare for the 20+ hour drive home, I hope the weather cooperates, I can't wait to get home and see Lisa and the cats!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Travis' Rando

Well, Travis made the drive over from MN on Saturday, and we managed to get all the lights and wiring dialed in. Then I finished running all the cables and got the bars taped today. It's ready for the show!
I'll just give you a tour of a couple of the highlights! To see it up close, stop by my booth at NAHBS this weekend!

I used the Schmidt SONdelux front hub, it has the contact built into the front drive side dropout, so no plugs to worry about, just install the wheel correctly and your generator is ready to go. The dropouts are stainless plate, so I finished them with slightly raised points and Jason masked the whole dropout.
The custom front rack with internal wire routing and Edelux front light, super bright!

We made all the wiring connections and then slid them up inside the steerer tube. All that's visible is a small wire heading into the frame for the taillight.

That's all for now, I'll see you in Austin!



Thursday, February 17, 2011

NAHBS Rando Sneak Peak

Just picked this one up from Jason's, it's NAHBS's bound and looking pretty fine even without the parts! The future owner, Travis, is driving over from MN this Sat. with the new taillight and to give me a hand getting all the generator and light wiring squared away. I'm excited to get it built!

See ya'll in Austin!



Wednesday, February 16, 2011

You Gotta See This!

Last weekend, my friend and customer Chris flew into WI for a couple days to build up his Ellis NAHBS bike and while here, he shot a bunch of photos and video of me working on my "raw" frame for NAHBS. Well, here's the finished product; I hope I'm not getting too full of myself, but I can't stop watching this, really really cool!


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dropouts, Function and Style

OK, so I've tried to explain my dropout design from a strength and durability standpoint, but now I'd like to focus on the aesthetics and functionality of them as well.
My first go at the design was a completely hand cut set of dropouts for my 2006 NAHBS Waterford. I picked up some stainless plate and had at it with a combination of drill bits, a die grinder and dynafile. Very cool looking in the end, but WAY too much work. I knew when I started Ellis that I'd need to get these into a CAD program and find someone to cut them for me.

My original design, featured on my 2006 Waterford for NAHBS.
Well, about the time I was getting Ellis Cycles off the ground, my friend Scott offered to do the CAD work to get the process started. Honestly, I hadn't really expected to take on my own dropout design for at least a year or so, but Scott was super helpful and connected me with a shop that would cut very limited quantities, so I wouldn't have to order 100 pairs at a time!
When it came to the design, I had some criteria in mind.
1. It had to work with large diameter 953 chain stays.
2. I choose stainless steel since I planned to offer fully polished stainless rear triangles.
3. It needed to work with a wide range of chain stay/ seat stay angles, from the smallest to largest frames.

One of the cool features my dropouts allow me to feature is internal cable routing, whether it be Di2 wiring, (above) or a derailleur cable.

Ellis dropout brazed to a 953 chain stay.

Some folks might know this, but for those who don't, the minor end of a chain stay can vary in diameter from around 12mm to as much as 17mm. Above is a good example of the larger stay, which mates well with the wide tab on my Ellis dropouts. On smaller stays, I'll often cut the minor end of the stay back to give me some extra width for attaching the dropout.

Another of my pet peeves is dropouts on really small or large bikes that end up looking dog-legged. In other words, the tab of the dropout extends in some angle, say 70 degrees, and then the stays get attached at an angle like 60 degrees for a small frame. I'm sure that it's plenty strong, but it's just plain ugly. What the seat stay tabs on my dropouts allow me to do is to shape the dropout to match this angle. Below you can see examples of both a really small frame (Sydney's), which has a angle of 65 degrees, and Steve's frame, which is pretty large with an angle of 77 degrees.

On both of these, I carefully scallop the stay and locate it on the dropout to make it as seamless a connection as possible.

This last feature is one that just happened kinda organically on one of the first bikes I built with the Ellis dropouts. I had a fairly large chunk of tab that I needed to finish down on the bottom of the chain stay when I realized, if I leave this a bit proud of the stay and then have Jason mask off the paint, it makes a nice landing spot for the rear axle with no chance of chipping the paint off the dropout or chain stay. Once again, the fact that these dropouts are stainless came in handy as well!

All the Ellis dropouts get this "sliver" polished and masked off to protect the rest of the paint.

That's all for now, my next post will discuss the lugs I prefer and why.



Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ellis Dropouts / Strength

I got an email about a month ago from a gentleman who complimented me very nicely on my frames and then informed me that according to his friend, all my dropouts were going to break... He explained that his friend had seen dropouts from another well-known builder break, and since my dropouts bear some vague aesthetic similarity to them, mine must be doomed to the same fate.
Well, this got me thinking, I don't have any doubts in the strength of my Ellis dropouts, I work with them every day, but how could I explain how mine are different than the (dozens?) or other poorly designed or assembled dropouts that exist in the frame building world and that might break at some point down the road?

The first set of Ellis dropouts.

First, let me say that in my 14 years or so of building frames at Serotta, Waterford, and now Ellis, I've seen my share of broken dropouts. I'd say that 75% of those were the result of just one thing; folks flexing their frame open to fit a wider spaced wheel. I know what you think; it's just a few mm's, what's the difference? When the stays get flexed open, two things happen, firstly, there's a built in "tension" that the rear end parts are constantly under, and the dropout faces are no longer parallel with each other. Then you clamp your wheel in and the dropouts flex just slightly back to parallel now that they are under the tension of the quick release, all is well, right? Well, not really, now as you're out riding, the frame has this built in tension that it's trying to relieve. You hit a pothole, ride over some nasty chip seal, and all the while it's slowly working on a way to relieve this stress. What eventually happens is this, either the chain stay breaks just in front of the drive side dropout, or the dropout tab breaks, and the tension is relieved!

So, that takes care of roughly 75% of the dropout breakage, how about the other 25%? I would guess that a good chunk of these happen because the dropout faces of the frame are never properly aligned when the frame is built, essentially following the same scenario I describe above. The rest of the breakage is probably due to poor brazing, crashes, dropout design, and finally a tiny percentage to corrosion.
A drive side Ellis dropout brazed into a 953 chain stay
OK, so if we agree that dropout alignment is key to their longevity, how do I make sure that my Ellis dropouts are aligned? Well, it's a struggle, because my dropouts are cut from 17/4 stainless steel, they are incredibly tough, and hard to bend. I need to check and re-check their alignment throughout the build process to make sure they are straight and stay that way. To start, I pre-bend the dropout tabs in a vise and dry fit all the dropouts and chain stays in the fixture before any heat even touches them. Once I've brazed the dropouts into the chain stays, I recheck again on the fixture to make sure everything is still lined up. The dropouts get checked once again after the frame is brazed and aligned, and then a final time right before the frame heads off to paint.
I can't speak for other builders and their procedures, but I'm confident that when you receive your Ellis, the dropouts will be straight and stay that way for a long, long time!

The finished product, elegant and strong!

I'll post more soon about why Ellis dropouts are shaped this way, and some other cool features I've designed into them.



Monday, February 7, 2011

New Bikes, New Blog Format

I finished up two frames today, Pete's and Hans'. They'll be off to paint soon, but you can see pics of both builds on my Picasa page here;

I also thought it was about time that I change things up on the blog a bit, hence the new layout. In the upcoming days, I hope to try some different content than my regular build posts, I want to try and explain what makes an Ellis... I've been thinking about how to describe this for a while, so bear with me and see what turns up.

I'll still post cool builds too, but I think that alone can become kinda stale.