020 :: New Tools, Snow Bikes, Hollowgram Options and Wheels

Hey everyone, I still build bikes. In fact, it's been pretty busy here until this past week. Many pictures haven't been posted because they don't exist...turns out that while my newish iPhone has a pretty sweet camera, it's hard to reach when it's docked to my shop radio. I spent a little time bending stays for upcoming builds. Hard part needs for the next ten builds were categorized, ordered and should be here this week.

If you haven't seen it yet, I made a new main tube mitering fixture. It's ridiculously fast and accurate. Scribe lines, mandrels, positional goofing about on the mill and more than a few minutes of setup time all went away. Tube lengths are driven entirely by the centerline distances and are setup with a digital caliper. Tube miter lengths should now be accurate to roughly 0.001"ish. Every front triangle tube I've cut since finishing this tool has been dead nuts with no fuss and front triangles can be fully mitered in about 12 minutes. Faster AND more accurate is a good thing. If you're a builder and you want one, give me a call, they're going to be for sale this year.

After I finish a few more bikes, I'll put some time into a chainstay mitering tool to apply the same concepts to that part of the build.

There's a possibility that Cannondale is going to make some 172mm Hollowgram spindles for me for some snow bike projects. This is VERY exciting to me. The Hollowgram is my favorite crank of all time, not just because it looks dead sexy in a robotic sort of way, the adaptability of the crankset is something that's been somewhat lost over the past decade. The removable spider is what does it for me...AND it's light and as stiff as you'd ever need a crank to be.

Also, I've been working on an offset spider for Hollowgram cranks. The idea is that you can run a 2x (22/3?) up front with enough offset to put the chain line in the right area for a 150mm spaced rear hub. Same Q-factor, more chainstay clearance, near zero dish rear wheel (with wider bracing) and a 2x10 drivetrain. You can make your choice...wider tires, shorter stays, more clearance...there's no compromise.

Second to last thing...I've been building wheels for nineteen years and for the past six, I've mostly only built them for my frame customers. In 2013 Vertigo Wheel Works will launch and I will officially open up wheel building so you won't have to buy a frame to buy a set of excellently built wheels.

Last thing...If any of my old co-workers are reading this, read this. That's why I pushed WS spokes so hard in the 90's.

019 :: This non-blog


It's been reinforced a lot lately that I don't post here often enough and some even questioned whether or not I'm still building. I am and will be for quite some time. I edit this page manually and needless to say I'm not a programming wizard so the process required to update here is a wee bit inconvenient.

Updates can always be found on my flickr page (which isn't updated as often as it should be) and occasionally interspersed with some personal photos via Instagram. You're encourage to look for Vertigo Cycles on either of those platforms.

018 :: Changes Coming

Vertigo will be changing a little bit in the coming months. The bicycle side of things will largely remain the same but prices are going up. I want to remain true to my goal of using only domestically manufactured titanium tubing unless it's impossible to do so. So far, the only impossible size is the 1.75" x 0.035" tube I use for down tubes on MTBs for hard riding folks. The cost of domestically produced titanium has nearly doubled in the past year. I've been eating the cost differential for much of the past year and it's obvious that the prices aren't going to drop so my only choice is to restructure my frame pricing. The price increase is effective immediately but will not impact anyone who is currently waiting for a frame.

Some of my customers already know that I also build some very nice wheels. I haven't done much to promote that service outside of the frame business. This fall, there will be a separate wheel building branch of the business. The most obvious change is that you don't have to order a frame to buy a nice set of hand built wheels.

There will also be a new entity of Vertigo focusing on motorcycle accessories for the KTM 990 Adventure. It'll be a slow rollout but look for prototypes of titanium tank guards, pannier racks, grab handles and exhausts this fall.

017 :: Internal Hydraulic Routing


Since returning from NAHBS I've received quite a few inquiries about the hydro routing on my personal 29er. It seems fair that I write a little bit about it.

It will cost $1500 for that option. I want to be straight forward by saying that the hard internal line doesn't do anything at all to help performance in any way. It doesn't make the brake stiffer and it's definitely not going to do anything to help you with the ladies. What it does is add two days and about $900 in material costs to the build.

Material costs are high. Error tolerance is low. For example, the tolerance on line length is about 0.020" making the banjo mount hole location critical. It obviously has to be tested leak proof, requiring a test procedure, a line cleaning procedure. It's not going to work with all bottom bracket combinations as the line location inside the BB shell is highly dependent on where the chainstay meets the BB shell. It's also critical that the line itself won't interfere with the BB spindle or spindle sleeve.

It's a big expensive job with a lot of risk and I won't compromise any other functionality on the bike just to implement this design feature.

016 :: More NAHBS Press


This time an interview with MTBR.

015 :: Belt Drive Bits


Seeing as the single speed CenterTrack belt drive cyclocross bike seemed to be a hit in my booth this past weekend, I thought I'd shed some light on how the split works. I first saw this style break on a bike Dave Levy made for a friend of his. I thought it was genius in its simplicity and asked if it would be OK with him if I attempted to use it. The only difference between Dave's use of this break and mine is that I chose to put it on the seat stay.

My explanation of how it works may not have been thorough enough at NAHBS so here's a thousand words.

014 :: NAHBS Press


My favorite cycling tech writer/photographer James Huang had some complimentary words about Vertigo. Read it on Cyclingnews.com and on BikeRadar.com. I've been a fan of James since the early '00's when he was maintaining his www.angryasian.com web site (unfortunately no longer available. It was very entertaining.) Thanks James!

013 :: Thanks Everyone. NAHBS Rocked!


I'm going to thank some folks who helped make NAHBS a great time for me. I'll write more about that great time later.

Thanks to Kevin and Adam for helping me prep for the show; Tabitha for taking Maddy for me while so I could prep; Heather for being generally amazing and taking vacation days so I could do this at all.

Big thanks to Ben and Ira for organizing the truck AND driving my stuff all the way to Austin. Those guys are superstars. Eric, Connor and Tina, Wade, Jon and Michael were a huge help during setup and take-down. I couldn't have done it by myself; thank you so much guys.

Huge thanks to Jon for 1. flying from Scotland with his family 2. letting me borrow B.A. 3. being an incredible guy 4. helping me out in the booth and giving me a few much-needed breaks. I can't thank you enough.

012 :: Vertigo NOT NOT at Interbike

Well...I'll have a frame there. I thought I was going to miss the deadline but the nice people at Cane Creek worked with me and the frame is shipping out tomorrow. If you're going, check it out. Here's a sneak peek of the new logo design done by Matt Cardinal of Signal Cycles. Thanks Matt. You rock.

011 :: Vertigo NOT at Interbike

Stuff happens and oh well. As I was cleaning up a butted down tube after mitering it I noticed a crack at a butt transition. It was my last butted downtube that would have worked with this frame. The supplier shipped out a new one, but upon inspection I noted that the "thin" portion of the replacement tube varied from 0.018" to 0.050". Not gonna use it. With just a few days left to save the build, I went to pull some straight gauge 1.75 x 0.035 from what was to be Jon's or Matt's frame to find out that tubing was also trash. So, no Vertigo at Interbike this year. Thanks goes to Cane Creek for wanting to use one of my bikes. I'm sorry it didn't work out.

As I'm going through my builds, I'm trying to inject a little more "Vertigo" into detail pieces that I might otherwise overlook. This seat binder is one of those pieces. I'll use this for a while and then it will probably turn up on more customer bikes.

I'm putting my new Sputnik stem fixture to work by building a Headshok compatible stem.

010 :: Vertigo at Interbike

Frames are in progress for Jon, Matt, Gus and two Seans. One of those frames is going to Interbike for the Cane Creek display. Watch for it.

009 :: Velocipede Salon - Smoked Out some more

PolyTube Cycles is at bat on Smoked Out. He has an interesting take on carbon frame construction. How does it work?

008 :: Velocipede Salon - Smoked Out

I got "Smoked Out" last week on Velocipede Salon. Check it out. Nick Crumpton is up this week. Go find out what makes him tick.

007 :: Anvil Tube Bender

This is a very long overdue post. Late last year, I heard that Don was going to make a tube bender similar to something he made years ago and discontinued. A few months ago, he sent me one to test. If you're looking for a summary, here it is...if you have tubes that need bending, this bender will get it done beautifully. Repeatability is excellent, quality of the bend is excellent, setup is super easy and for S-bends, keeping the bends in phase is dead simple. Only one of those comments holds true for the JD2 bender I've been using for the past four years.

The Details:

I've only used two other benders before, a JD2 Model 3 and a fork blade bender available through Nova. It was possible to use the fork blade bender on 5/8" x 0.032 and that's it. Ti tubing of larger diameters wouldn't bend without severe rippling. I have dies for my JD2 bender for 3/4" and 7/8" tube diameters with the CLR of the dies ranging from 3.5" to 5.5". Unfortunately, I've never had great luck with the bender. 3/4" tubing will bend well on the 5.5" CLR die but will ripple on the 3.5" die. A 3.5" CLR is out of the question with a 7/8" tube and the 5.5" CLR die was spotty at best. I have a huge scrap pile of rippled tubes. I think the biggest problem with the JD2 bender is three-fold. 1. the "clamp" doesn't securely hold the tube in place. 2. there's a significant amount of friction on the follower die which often forces the tube to slip through the "clamp". 3. The trailing wiper on the follower die doesn't sit over the area of greatest stress on the bending tube, it's ahead of it, allowing the tube to deform and ripple because it's unsupported in a critical area.

The Anvil bender uses a rolling die for each tube diameter and is profiled perfectly. Once everything is setup, the tube is fully encapsulated at the area of greatest stress and it's impossible for the tube to deform out of round because of how closely the follower fits over the tube. My guess is that there's about 0.003" of room and that's it. Don suggested that because the tube is formed through the bend process, I should mount the bender so I can pull horizontally. I mounted it to my mill, which is the heaviest piece of equipment in my shop and proceeded to pull it off of it's blocks. It takes a tremendous amount of force to bend a 7/8" x 0.035" tube. I machined a base for the bender and re-mounted it on my mill so I can use my body weight to pull the bend downward. For my uses, this is a perfect setup.

Don sent the bender with 3/4" and 7/8" dies with a 11 3/8" CLR which is perfect for mellow S-bends. I'm told that he will be making dies in 2" increments from 5 3/8" through 11 3/8" for three tube diameters; 5/8", 3/4" and 7/8". The dies are cross drilled for pins that act as bending stops. I bent about 20 tubes to the same stop and found that in my sample there was less than 0.005" deviation in the bend offset over the length of the tubes. I also made a "phase gauge" for indicating the edge of the tube when making S-bends and I found that I could keep the two bends in phase to less than 0.008" across the length of the tube when flat on my surface plate. This is EXTREMELY important and was making me crazy with my JD2.

I only had one recommendation for improvement. The tube stop block fit so tightly that it was impossible to load the tube in the bender to make closely stacked S-bends. I milled the stop pin holes about 0.030" longer and solved the problem. I think Don is considering making a similar change for the final design. I believe he also intends to include a "phase gauge" though it only takes a few minutes to make a very effective one on your own.

I'm going to post this up on the Framebuilder forum on MTBR and will link to it here once I do. If you have questions about it, please ask them on that forum and I'll do my best to answer.

006 :: Updates

I post here so infrequently that I bet the ones of readers will be excited to see new content. Because I'm a maker of lists I will present you with a list of items about which I'll share my impressions...in no particular order

Anvil tube bender, my new 29er, the 2011 Fox TALAS Terralogic (for my 29er of course), how much east coast riding rocks and the nice people out there that make it great, Edge AM 29er rims, direct mount front derailleurs, and Groovy Luv Handles. Stay tuned.

005 :: Sea Otter

I'm currently working on a frame for Jon in Scotland that I hope to get to the Sea Otter Classic in April. This AM 29er frame will utilize the new headset and a 120mm travel Reba Team. Look for us there!

004 :: Exciting News

I'm very excited to announce that I can finally publicize a collaborative effort between Vertigo Cycles and Cane Creek. Read the press release detailing the project. The short of it is that I developed a new headset cup to fit an existing standard. The new cup will allow builders like myself to use straight tubes to build frames that will fit 1.125" to 1.5" tapered steerer forks. It will also allow owners of Zero Stack compatible frames to retrofit tapered steerer forks with a minimal change to ride height. I've been working on this for over a year and I couldn't be more excited about it.

When I have time, I'll write a blog post about the genesis of the project. I'm very thankful that Dave Turner of Turner Bicycles who enthusiastically accepted the idea facilitated my contact with Cane Creek.

003 :: Busy Week

Tom's road bike is just about finished. It needs a brake bridge installed and then frame construction will be complete. After that, it'll need some prep work and decals and it will be ready to ship.

I've had most of the hardware for Jon's 29er for months. I'm still waiting on a few fixture parts and a custom 150mm dummy axle from Anvil and I'll be able to get started. I'm extremely excited about this bike, and a new 29er for me that I'll be building at the same time. Both of these bikes will showcase a new product and I couldn't be more excited to finally get this out in the open.

I'm taking off for NAHBS this Friday and won't be available until Monday morning. I'm looking forward to seeing some old friends and meeting some builders with whom I've only had phone and email conversations.

002 :: New Product Soon

I can't post details yet but I've been working on a product for over a year that's going to have an impact on the small and mid-sized builder community. I currently have four bikes in progress that incorporate this new component and I'll be honest, I'm very excited. Details soon.


001 :: Vertigo Cycles Officially Has a Blog

I've been putting this off for years but here it is - the Vertigo blog. As always, there is much going on and I'm going to make a solid attempt to add meaningful content. I'll use this space to give the occasional customer update despite that it's already fairly well documented on Flickr and via email. I'll also use it to present technical information from time to time in an effort to further educate customers, potential customers and like minded nerds. As soon as I can figure it out, I'll get an RSS feed on here too.

Coming soon...welding setup information and equipment breakdown. Also...thoughts on Rohloff and the belt drive setup.