A few months ago I changed my name on Strava to reflect my corporate sponsorship. ‘Bryan Kevan’ became ‘Bryan Kevan | BMK Frameworks’, and I started casually working in exaggerated references on group rides to ‘… my SPONSOR’.
Part 2 of frame 2. With the ability to churn out tubes on my fiberwinder cheaply and with mildly reckless abandon (see Part 1), I still needed to turn these tubes into a bike. And to do that, I was determined to once again use Calfee Design for my inspiration and use 3D print carbon fiber lug moulds. Calfee got me into framebuilding in the first place, and was where I went to for my bamboo ideas back when I was in high school trying to finish frame 1. Or frame 0, I guess, because that bike didn’t even make it through a single ride. So the record, frame 0 is the one that failed, frame 1 is a champ, has lasted for a few thousand miles and many rough gravel rides. And frame 2 is coming to take its place.
Today I’m switching gears from cross-continent trips to my further experiments in carbon fiber framebuilding. I’ve spent the second half of this year bumbling my way through the first quarter of graduate school and designing and building my second carbon fiber frame. I did a lot of different things this time, and I’m eager to share what worked and what didn’t. About 90% of my instruction has come from small blogs with blurry pictures, and 50-page forum posts in a variety of languages. So this is my way to spread my breadcrumbs for others who looking to do something like this. It’s been a fun project.
This post, combining this project with my other failed experiment, is 8+ years in the making. In March, I posted progress I had made on building a carbon fiber bike frame that I was building from scratch using epoxy resin and raw carbon fiber fabric. This is the short and sweet conclusion to that post. The bike is finished, and it works. It is a step for me to say that outright, because I feel in some way that it still might tempt fate to do so. I’m not superstitious, but I am a little -stitious.
I’ve put 100 miles on the frame, mostly on DC’s potholed, nightmare of city streets and bike paths, and I think I’m ready to declare this project a success. I’ve climbed and put stress on the frame, and I’ve taken it up to 20+ mph for long stretches. No play or flexing in the frame geometry, no vibrations, and it’s just… silent. My real road bike is louder, creaks more, and is more fickle than this is. (Its components are 10+ years and thousands of miles old, but still.)
When I was a senior in high school, I made a bike out of bamboo joined with wrapped carbon fiber thread. For various reasons, including my own impatience, inaccurate measurements, cut corners, lack of an income, and just a general ‘winging it’ attitude towards the project, I failed. While it looked nice, the bike broke at the head tube lug on just the second ride. I had made some questionable design choices, including but not limited to sanding the carbon fiber lugs after every carbon fiber wrap (basically ruining the strength of the carbon fiber every time I wrapped it), and not having any sort of strategy with respect towards orienting the carbon fiber wrap in an optimal way. I never squeezed out any epoxy, so the carbon fiber was very loosely wrapped on the lugs, and leaving much of the strength of the frame dependent on the epoxy. I was 18, didn’t know very much, and I never tried again.
I’m 25 now, and after a lot of research I know a tiny bit more about working with carbon fiber, and a lot more about working with bikes. I have an income now, and am arguably more patient with myself. So over the last few months, searching for a distraction from the gloom that is the world outside my apartment, I picked up framebuilding again. I proceeded to get way in over my head and drew up plans to create a whole frame out of carbon fiber.