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  • winkybiker

    Not in a million years would I contemplate one of these.

    • Michele

      Are you sure?

      • winkybiker

        If you gave it to me I’d put it straight on ebay with no reserve. Anything so I didn’t have to look at it. Yep, I’m sure.

        • Michele

          Is it just the finish you don’t like on this particular frame?

          • winkybiker

            It is mainly the finish, especially for the price. I also have some scepticism regarding the amount of pre-production testing and engineering on handbuilt carbon when compared to mainstream offerings.

            • Pete Bradley

              What do you ride?

              • winkybiker

                Colnago C59. Super Record.

            • Ragtag

              I agree. And who is to say what they offer for testing is not different from what they offer to finally sell.

  • d;

    I thought: Wow! How can I nitpick? The choice of components? That’s personal. The brakes? They’re the best. Ow, give up. It’s out of my league anyway. Wait what, where’s the aero? Oh yes, the valve nut. Hey CT, thanks a million for broadening my mind.

    • winkybiker

      You could point out that it looks like an unfinished prototype test mule.

      • d;

        There’s a certain charm about the prototype look, though not to your liking. I didn’t say I’d buy one but if someone gave one to me I’d keep it (if it rides well, no, great).

    • Lyrebird_Cycles

      It could be argued that the peel ply texture will act as a boundary layer separation inhibitor so it’s an aero feature by itself.

    • George Darroch

      That’s not strictly a valve nut though, it’s Silca’s wheel-balance weight. Not the prettiest solution but if it gets you closer to perfection…

      https://silca.cc/products/speedbalance-wheel-balancing-and-computer-magnet-system

  • Velt

    For that price with that finish, not something I’d consider.

  • Jamie

    I was drawn to this bike when Skunkworks was putting photos on Instagram but after a while seeing it from every angle I just got turned off the more I looked at it. Change the lugs to something that doesn’t resemble a DIY bamboo bike kit and maybe go for some 3D printed titanium. I’m sure the guys at Bastion would be up to contract out some parts. Will it add cost? Absolutely! Will it improve the overall look of the bike? Most definitely.

  • You guys do understand that it’s totally custom don’t you? If you want it painted or in a different finish all you have to do is ask ????

    • Zak while thats true and while I very much appreciate the raw appearance of this beast, it just looks very unfinished in many places.

      • I understand that looking at photos of it that is a feeling one could have but after having spent a good month with the bike it’s not a feeling I have had. It gets a lot of attention in the real world and while it does look unique it certainly doesn’t feel or look unfinished in real life.

        • I very much believe you. Would have loved to see that bike in person. I believe there was a thing at the RCC about it but I didnt make it.

  • Chupilovesbubs

    I really love the industrial finish of the bike, That’s the whole point of it. The designer / builder is showcasing how the frame is hand built using only the best carbon materials. Not sure I agree with people’s “personal” opinions on the level of finish. Appreciate what it is and keep the negative comments to yourself. Every custom bike is just that. Custom to someone’s spec be it aesthetic or components. Well done Edvinas and Zak on the build.

    • Dude thats what ”personal” opinions are about and no absolutely not should people keep their negative comments to themselves. We are not in kindergarten anymore and I am 100% sure that the builder appreciates honest feedback way more than you seem to do.

      • Chupilovesbubs

        Wish I could use emoji’s on this, cause I would send you a Kiss ( MWHA). Have a great weekend Simplicityofjoy : )

  • Sean Doyle

    Raw finish? I’d argue it should be a little cheaper given that there is less work in finishing the frame off. ;-)

    • d;

      It’s the other way round, you start off at the raw-finish price and then add anything else on even to advertise for the manufacturer/artisan.

      • Sean Doyle

        Semantics. Doesn’t matter where you start your pricing.

    • James Huang

      Raw carbon finishes cost more because you can’t get away with hiding imperfections beneath paint. Every ply has to be placed perfectly, the process has to be spot-on to avoid wrinkling or voids, and there’s zero room for error.

      • Bob

        I’d actually disagree in this case. In a female mold, yes. But here I suspect the tubes are built separately, it’s pretty easy to do that perfectly, then you just have to nice careful work on the secondary bonding, again not that hard. There’s no fairing, no painting needed.

        • Lyrebird_Cycles

          With all due respect, only someone who has never tried it would say it was easy. I do a lot of this stuff and that frame was built by someone who took a lot of time and effort to get it right.

          Peel ply has very little “give” so to get it to wrap cleanly over the joint and not leave creases is very difficult.

          BTW you are also wrong about it not being faired, the joints are extrensively faired under the wrap layers (again this is obvious to those who have done carbon tube to tube building but perhaps not to others).

          • Bob

            Yes of course you’re right about peelply having no stretch, we use the word drapeable , which it isn’t, and yes the builder did nice work. But I was more referring to James’s comment on the carbon itself. I’m sure you’d agree, anyone at that level should be able to produce neat work. Ok, there’s some fairing UNDER the last wrap, of course, but it’s not a gloss paint finish bike. My point being they haven’t gone through that complete stage. Not a value judgement or criticism. Just an observation.

            • From what I’ve seen most builders put the fairing under the first ply rather than the last. That prevents crimping in the tight corners when the first ply goes down.

  • George Darroch

    I’m going to put it out there – $7500 is a bargain for this frame. Seriously.

    When you pay about that much for a top end carbon frame with standard geometries from a large OEM (eg. Trek’s Project One Madone is $14,300 AUD fully built w DA), this shoots ahead as a value proposition.

    Now, I don’t own bikes that cost more than my car, but if I did then this would be on my list.

    • velocite

      The word ‘fetish’ springs to mind. One that quite appeals to me, I hasten to add. Every month or so I pay $80 for a wonderful massage. I don’t think it does any lasting good but I enjoy having that much attention paid to me for an hour. Likewise..um..the idea of having a bike built around my personal requirements, it appeals to me, even though I don’t believe variations from off the shelf geometry would result in any on the road benefit. Maybe for other, more switched on cyclists, but not for me. I like this bike, but top of my list at present is the Plane, from WA.

    • Larry @CycleItalia

      Thanks for pointing this out. The bike biz has done a great job minimizing the importance of fit since they’re not interested in low-volume, made-to-measure frames. Their support of bike fitters is an effort to cover up the fact their bikes too often come in “too big, too small and close enough” sizes with the idea a good bike fitter can make anything work.
      As to value, a potential buyer for this type of bike might also consider our friend in Italy http://www.albabici.com/favaloro-custom/favaloro-main.htm We liked ’em so much we added 5 examples to our rental fleet this year.

    • Pete

      I personally wouldn’t describe it as a bargain, and they did mention it would be $8500 including a seatpost clamp, headset bearings and fork ($1000 seems a lot for a clamp and headset, so maybe the $7500 didn’t include the fork either?). Not saying the Trek is good value at all (I think we get shafted on the cost of buying a complete bike vs frameset and sourcing parts yourself… not to mention the value of in-house branded components in the second hand market)… but at least the Trek would include a full custom paint job… this frame cost $8500 (assuming you want to have a new fork and headset) and that’s before you’ve even asked if the logos could be painted, in colour (for an additional $600)… so $9100 if you like black and a painted logo… at the risk of becoming unpopular here fast, I know there is more human contact involved but (not knowing the cost of materials or tooling) I still feel like it’s very overpriced.

  • Wily_Quixote

    Personally I love the way you can laconically strike your match off the rough, raw finish.
    It just makes smoking a pipe whilst cycling that much easier, and cooler.

  • Michael Sproul

    I normally love the prototype/function over form style look but those dropouts are a step too far. Still, would bang though.

  • Ashok Captain

    Why are the seat stays bolted to the rear drop outs? Yeah, I get they’re also bonded, but why aren’t they just ‘one piece’/ integrated (like on several other bikes)? Seen this on some Orbea and Argon 18 frames as well. Just seems bad design. . . .

    • James Huang

      Dropouts like that are used because they can be fitted to any frame size. Otherwise, different dropouts would be needed for every size since the angle between the stays would change. It’s basically a cost-saving measure.

      • Ashok Captain

        Thanks for the reply James.

      • David

        The only cost-saving measure on the bike, which given the price and the ” it’s geomotery is completely custom fit” sales line seems a little ironic.

  • Parker

    Interesting many people go purely on the look and ignore performance ability to customise geometry and tube spec.

    • winkybiker

      I customise the geometry on every bike I own by buying the right size, adjusting the seat height and fitting the appropriate stem. There is little to be gained by further “refinement” of geometry. Mainstream bike makers know how to make a bike that handles well. I’m not ever going to notice the difference between tube specs. No, for $8,500 I’m going to prioritise performance and buy something that not only looks better, but that works better as well. This bike is arguably a Veblen good, that is perhaps only desirable because it is expensive, and not for any rational reason.

      Having said that, I am having a custom Ti frame made, but I don’t pretend it will be “better” than a bike from a mainstream manufacturer in any functional sense, but it will be unique and cool (to me). How it looks is of prime importance; and here, the Tsubabsa gets an F.

      • Parker

        Interesting discussion. I’ve raced on steel stock, carbon mainstream and custom race spec and there is a world of difference in perfomance, handling and compliance between them. But everyone has their opinion, thats the joy of life, same goes for making sure it looks good, it’s an image based world after all :-)

        • winkybiker

          As my “race” bikes have become more high-end over the years, the differences between them have become increasingly minimal. The main difference between the BMC Pro-machine I bought 10 years ago, and the Colnago C59 I bought 5 years ago is the looks. They weigh about the same, handle very similarly. The C59 is a little stiffer and harsher riding, perhaps, but there’s not much in it. My aluminum Cannondale T2000 tourer is quite a different beast, and all are quite different to my Reynolds 531 steel frame I had in the 80s. Would I expect a world of difference between this bike and, say, a Supersix Evo? No. But I might be wrong.

          • It’s well known that individuals differ in their sensitivity to sensory input: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just-noticeable_difference

            This “just noticeable difference” describes how much change must occur before the individual actually detects the change, and it can be as little as 10% and greater than 30%. This is something that major manufacturers understand very well when refining an existing bike: they don’t want to publicise an “improvement” if the general population doesn’t have a reasonable chance of detecting it.

            The argument about the value of a custom-made bike can be framed in terms of just-noticeable differences. For those riders with a coarse sensitivity to position/ride quality/road feedback, the gains over a similarly built bike from equivalent materials may go unnoticed, while those with a fine sensitivity will appreciate the difference. The latter, therefore, will feel like they have got their money’s worth, while the former may be left scratching their heads.

            • winkybiker

              Put me firmly in the head-scratching camp. But I disagree about manufacturers not wanting to publicise an “improvement”. They do this ALL the time, for the most trivial things, confident that few will do any sort of A/B comparison (let alone a scientifically sound double-blind test).

          • Theonlyoneinthevillage

            Given I have ridden both the Supersix and the Crow I would say you’re assumption is wrong.. There is simply no comparison.. It even trumps my Z-Zero. The Crow for some reason is at least as fast as my Z-Zero with less road chatter and comparing the supersix to the parlee, well let’s say there is no comparison..

            • winkybiker

              That makes me a sad Panda. I’ll never know the joys of the Crow, because I would never contemplate such an ugly bike. Yes, I’m that shallow.

      • Larry @CycleItalia

        “There is little to be gained by further “refinement” of geometry.” writes the guy who is fortunate that off-the-rack bikes fit close-enough for him. The bike biz works very hard to minimize the importance of fit when it comes to making bikes in a lot of sizes, let alone made-to-measure. That’s why they are working so hard to monetize “bike fitting” – the result is the claim that bike fitters can solve all the issues, no need for custom, made-to-measure. I seem to remember GIANT trying that many years ago with the ONCE squad, claiming their too big, too small and close enough size range would work for everyone including the top pros. But soon enough there were small.5 and medium.5 frames custom made for riders who couldn’t or wouldn’t fit on the t-shirt sizes offered. The Big-S seemed to create some non-stock sized frames for Mr. Boonen over the years and rumors are they do the same for Mr. Sagan as well. No argument that one can get pretty close with just saddle and stem adjustments but why complain about those who want or need something different? A great pair of shoes in size 10 isn’t much good if you wear 8’s.

        • winkybiker

          OK, fair enough, I was speaking for myself. Little to be gained by me, and by people of more-or-less average size and proportions. I note that the bike I suggested as a possible alternative, the Super-six Evo comes in nine sizes (as do C60s) from 44 to 63 ST. TT lengths vary by 10mm to 16mm between sizes. Seems likely that the vast majority of riders would find a size that suits them. I would be confident that bike will handle great, if the right size is chosen.

          A Trek Domane is available in 7 sizes and the Emonda in 8. S-works Tarmac in 7. It’s possibly a little disingenuous to point out that Giant previously offered “3 sizes fit all”, but they do seem to be outliers in that they still only offer 4 sizes in their high-end bikes.

  • Bob

    Matt, you’ve produced another very enjoyable review, superb photos as usual and overall created a strong case for this bike.
    BUT. And it’s for me a big but, and something that’s seems rarely discussed with custom builders, namely Engineering and Testing.
    Any frame builder working in any material has to rely on either engineering and/or an awful lot of experience ( usually learned under the supervision of someone already experienced )
    A composite frame involves a huge number of variables. In this case, how have these decisions of layup, resin ratios, laminate thickness, redundancy etc been arrived at? And has there been any destruct testing of the frames? Cyclic load failure testing? Prototypes out there logging up miles? How many frames has he built? Or is this one guys dream to build (very expensive) frames with only ” aerospace” experience. That can mean working in a production facility.
    I’m not an engineer, but I spent many years in the composite boat building industry, (I’ve also built a carbon frame for myself ) and I understand the learning curves, particularly with very low volume custom work.
    That’s the difference with the big guys, they’re building so many frames they have the budget to test and quickly learn. And perhaps more significantly an awful lot to lose if frames start to fail, they can’t so easily just walk away like a small operator could.
    Anyway sorry for the long post, but as a racer, before I throw myself down a descent at 100kmh I have to have trust. As a boatbuilder, the idea of delivering something to a customer with an exterior peelply finish, well, that’s new……

    • Bob

      …and a 740gm frame. It’s an impressive weight. The margins get much smaller with such light construction. He’s obviously building from the inside out, fairing and painting will add some weight.
      Hey, not bagging the guy, It’s great to see people doing it….

      • Bob

        …..and another thing. Carbon Forks.
        It always interests me how few ( actually can’t think of any at all ) custom builders will have a go at a carbon fork. High load, tight tolerance structure, quite tricky to build, and the stakes are real high. It would need a lot of testing.

        • Another good point. I’ve wondered if it’s simply a pragmatic decision so that the builder can save the time and effort, or if they’d rather not assume the additional risk.

          • Lyrebird_Cycles

            I had a talk to a well known aerospace qualified composites consultant about this subject, the idea being to get him to design the crown / steerer assembly which I would build up into a fork.

            The development costs were huge and I would therefore have to charge a significant premium over say Enve to recoup them. I couldn’t see that flying.

            • Bob

              Yes, I can imagine that, and you’d have to bring something significantly different or advantageous to the table to warrant the time/cost/effort/risk. The market doesn’t seem to be clamouring for custom forks I think.
              Hat’s off to Lauf for what they’ve acheived.

        • Bill Holland has one that Mike Lopez of Action Composites makes. I think it’s pretty much the same fork Serotta was selling before their BK. It’s not cheap.

    • Would love to get more insight in this regard as well. Not just for this builder but for any small builder making carbon frames.

      • Lyrebird_Cycles

        This has been covered before. The relevant standard is ISO 4210 part 6 which specifies the construction and operation of testing apparatus for bike frames. The pedalling forces fatigue test, for instance, specifies 100,000 cycles at 1.1 kN per stroke, that’s the equivalent of Marcel Kittel’s finishing sprint repeated about 8000 times.

        I constructed a machine according to the standard and for the time being I run a test for every variation in frame design.

    • You raise a valid point and it’s a topic that James Huang has explored in one of his podcasts late last year: https://cyclingtips.com/2016/12/cyclingtips-podcast-episode-19-on-safety-testing-and-custom-builders/

      It’s an issue that I discussed with Edvinas. He had to submit a sample of the Crow and Bee for destructive testing that satisfied ISO standards before he could start selling them but there is no need for ongoing testing. He’s responsible for all of his QC (except for the resin, which is left in the hands of the manufacturer) and this is part of the risks that he was referring to when taking on construction of every part of the frame.

      The issue of safety and trust applies to any framebuilder, big or small, working with any material. Nobody is immune from human error but there is no strong argument that a small framebuilder is more prone to them than the biggies.

  • Pete

    Maybe I’m being cynical but I can’t help but feel like the reason there are so many bicycle brands is because (more than some) people find $8500 a perfectly acceptable price for a bicycle frame… and I can’t help but feel like the reason there are new high end brands popping up like this is because it probably wouldn’t be a hard estimation that there is a pretty good margin involved. When you consider (just as one example) a Kawasaki Ninja 300 is $5,990 on road (including a lot of dealer fees, plus registration etc) and consider the sheer amount of material, number of parts and the engineering tolerances involved in engine manufacture etc… I know a bicycle frame is hand laid etc, but still… I feel like you quickly get ‘institutionalised’ to bicycle pricing once in the sport and we forget to look for the value in these machines. Just sayin…

    • Sean Doyle

      Except they probably sell 500,000 Ninja 300 in a year compared to maybe 50 frames from a builder such as Tsubasa. Scales of economy.

      • Pete

        Maybe not that many but I get your point… There are more bicycles sold every year in Australia than motorcycles though, and whilst that vast majority aren’t high end, I still feel like if they did sell a lot of high end, the price wouldn’t change – that was more what I was getting at, that there seems to be a higher percentage of people into bicycles that tolerate (what appears to me at least) to be extreme pricing… or should I say extreme margins… I’ve never seen a 40% off sale last years stock at a moto shop. I’d take a stab and guess the overheads at Tsubasa are a little lower than at a motorcycle manufacturer too.

      • Larry @CycleItalia

        Not to mention Ninja 300’s come in ONE SIZE ONLY. Would you buy a fantastic pair of great looking shoes that came only in size 9 if you wore 8? These are handmade, one-at-a-time, made-to-measure – something totally different than a mass-market, one-size-kind-of-fits-all industrial product.

        • Pete

          You’re absolutely right, and that’s also my point. A bicycle frame consists of 8 TUBES ONLY, so to make it ‘custom’ is much easier than it would be on a motorcycle with so many more parts and complexities…apart from the fact that you don’t need a moto to be custom fit because you don’t pedal it.

          • Larry @CycleItalia

            The point was the basic idea of economic cost difference between cranking out thousands of the exact-same-thing in an automated factory vs made-to-measure, not whether one needs one or not. As to your car example, why do you think Ford originally offered “any color you want..as long as it’s black”? Your comments on how much “easier” X is to make vs Y make me wonder if you know any frame builders or have ever seen custom frames being created? Once the moto-making robots in a huge factory are programmed things are pretty easy. Made-to-measure frame builders are about as far away from this as you can get so any comparisons don’t make a lot of sense.

            • Pete

              Have visited BMW Motorrad factory Germany and Colnago in Italy. Moto production isn’t as automated as you might think. I stand by my comments. Yes a custom frame should cost more than a production model frame, obviously. But does any frame costing $9k represent value for money? We disagree. I think the fact it costs an extra $600 to have the logo painted illustrates my point best. I’m simply saying the bicycle buying public is for some reason more tolerant of very high retail pricing than in most other industries. The resale value on second hand bicycles shows it, the discounts on last year’s stock shows it… only used underwear seems to have worse resale value than a high end bicycle.

              • Larry @CycleItalia

                So to boil it down, you think people creating one-off, made-to-measure bicycles are overpaid? And their products are no good in any “value for money” evaluation? In my humble opinion you are very wrong on both counts, but I will no longer try to convince you as it seems your mind is made up.
                PS-I’ve visited the Ducati factory and I’d say production there is vastly more automated than any workshop of the framebuilders I’ve been lucky enough to visit over the years – people who produce hand-made, 100% Made-in-Italy, made-to-measure frames – each one a treasure and worth far more than the purchase price.

  • Ginny Quid

    Great review, Matt. Great pieces of art, Edvinas. It just surprises me what a shitty taste some people have if they cannot appreciate a carbon frame which for once looks different. There are a million and one other carbon frames, which will have that nice, sleek, super silky finish… But that is the beauty of TSUBASA frames – they don’t look like that.

  • Raoul Luescher

    A couple of points to note;

    a) I would be concerned about the UV protection of the resin using this process, particularly with a peel ply finish which leaves a slightly micro-fractured resin rich surface. It is not harder wearing or more durable than paint. Paints are used to seal the surface and protect it from environmental exposure, you will never see structural parts on an aircraft in raw carbon without some coating on it.

    b) Can people in the bike industry stop talking about military grade materials!

    c) Kevlar honeycomb (or correctly Nomex which is an aramid similar to Kevlar), is much less damage tolerant and prone to a range of problems that has led to it being replaced by monolithic stiffened structures in many applications.

    d) If each frame is a unique blend of materials etc how is testing one frame valid to another frame? Sure, I am well aware of the production factories in asia getting it wrong too, thus the recalls that happen as well as all the flaws I find.

    e) The other question I have for small builders and this is not targeted at any particular builder, rather an open question that should be considered by the purchaser/rider, regardless of the material. What do they do if they find a flaw at the end of the process after having invested significant resources with low margins? It comes down to the integrity of the builder.

    Time will tell.

    • Thanks, Raoul, always great to get some feedback from somebody working with this stuff.

      Regarding the resilience of resin, I was under the impression that the UV resilience of modern resins was much improved, so what kind of scale are you talking about? If the frame was clear-coated, what kind of effect would it have on its lifespan? And surely the environmental exposure that an aircraft experiences is quite different from what a bike will experience?

      As for frame testing and the integrity of builders, I see these as valid concerns that the buyer is forced to wrestle with on their own, regardless of where and how the frame is produced. If bikes were sold with a “safe by” sticker (ie declaring a defined period in which it can be safely used) how many people would abide by it?

      • Raoul Luescher

        Hi Matt

        With the UV stabilised resins, we would need to see the data sheet, often additives can modify the structural properties. The high performance prepreg resins that I am aware of do not have UV stabilisers, however new resins are developed all the time so there may be something that is ok. Whilst the environmental exposure of an aircraft is greater than most, I do still see UV damage to bike frames. The other significant reason to paint is to seal from moisture ingression, Composites are susceptible to moisture damage and epoxy is hydrophillic. Honeycomb panels are particularly bad for this as the water molecules can collect in the open cells.
        So in summary to get the most life out of a part it should be sealed and protected.

        The frame testing question is very open, in that there are few requirements that are required and even the ISO standards are not that relevant to composite frames in many ways.
        I don’t think a “Safe By” sticker would be viable with a composite frame, as a well made composite product has a very high fatigue life, however if flaws are present this can drop off very quickly. Thus the only way to predict the life is to know the flaw content, which the factories are as yet not able to do. Composites are not metals and they do not behave in the same way. Steel in particular has evolved over a long period of time and is generally well understood, however when Reynolds introduced the 753 tubeset builders were required to send a brazed sample back to the factory for testing prior to being able to purchase the tubes. These days anyone can get some tubes or carbon and be a framebuilder.

        Remember passion is not a substitute for knowledge.

  • Transparent Transparent

    Been riding Tsubasa for over 4 years… will be ordering another one for an upcoming summer season.

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