Archive for the 'OPEN' Category

Showtime

August 28, 2014
Finally the main Eurobike show has started after a few interesting days. On the weekend, Andy was at the Assos launch for their mountain bike apparel. To accomodate all the journalists on their rides, Andy built up more than a dozen OPEN bikes.

Of course on the day, it was rainy and therefore muddy, so all the brand new bikes looked pretty used at the end of the day. He then drove back home to Basel just in time to pick me up from the airport. We were both pretty knackered when we finally hit the pillow just after midnight, and feeling pretty much the same when the alarm went off five hours later.

A smooth three hour drive to within a kilometer of the Eurobike demo day and another hour to bridge the last k and it was time to send people out on bikes again. Of course Andy brought the foul weather with him so rain greeted us again. The only plus was that there was no point in wasting time on cleaning the bikes from the day before.

The demo day is always a great day for us, it’s an easy way to convince people of OPEN. We can talk until we’re blue in the face, but it’s much more effective to let people ride the bike. While Andy continued helping people on their test rides, I had a chance to pop inside to look at the booth for the main show. 

Like last year, component maker AX Lightness graciously gave us a section of their booth to display our bikes. With a new bike design and very nifty stands, it was starting to look quite slick. Your main question after the last two blog entries is probably WHAT we were going to display on those stands. The bad news is, no full-suspension and no pathfinder bike.

Some of you have asked why we started talking about these bikes before we knew for sure if we would display it, and if it wouldn’t have been easier to say nothing until the day of the show. Of course it would have, but the reason I wrote about those models was not as a sort of “pre-release”, but rather to do what we promised from the start; to show the inner workings of the company. 

Many bike companies go through similar situations, but you’d never know from the outside. When we promised to tell the story “warts and all”, this was part of it. Not that these warts are that huge, Eurobike for us is mostly about meeting up with our retailers, suppliers and other relations, not about launching product. We can do that any time of the year.

Since I wrote “the bad news is …” just before, there must be good news too. And there is. Although we don’t have the fully, we have made some breakthroughs in understanding how it should be made. So the project is on the right track, although there will no doubt be some more unexpected turns before we get to the final product.

When I included the drawing of the frame, some remarked that it looked a bit like the Liteville 301. Well, that’s no coincidence. When Andy and I started working on the full-suspension, we were looking for two different directions. For the one, focused on marathon/cross country with approximately 5″ of travel, we reviewed all possible kinematics and came to the conclusion that we liked the Liteville very much.

Simply put, we think their kinematics are the best we’ve seen, both for the behavior during climbing & descending but also in the way it is packaged (the stresses on the frame) and how clear it leaves the front triangle (space for two water bottles for longer events). So we asked our friends at Liteville if we could use their kinematics, and although they had until that point refused to license their patented design, they liked what we are doing with OPEN and the quality of our products enough to allow us to use it.

Of course we made some adjustments based on the exact use and travel that we envision for our frame, which is a bit different than what the average 301 is used for, and making it in carbon meant we also changed the packaging to best make use of the material. Key to that is our central rocker design which I showed a snapshot of two weeks ago and which is quite a departure from Liteville’s approach. 

Over the next weeks we’ll write more about the details of both the full-suspension and the pathfinder bike, but first we have to try and survive the next few days at Eurobike.

If you’re interested in either of the two bikes, you can put your name on our waiting list and stay informed here.

Talk soon, Gerard.

 

1 week to showtime

August 22, 2014

Actually, I WISH it was still 1 week to showtime, unfortunately it’s a few days less. A few days that I really could use right now. Last week I wrote about the self-imposed, non-essential goal to show three bikes at Eurobike. A fairly unrealistic goal but you have to dream. Or as they say in German: “Die Hoffnung stirbt zuletzt” (Hope dies last).

In a perfect world, we could have shown our pathfinder/gravel/adventure frame. In a slightly imperfect world, you lose just three days in machining because the chainstay mold needs to be slightly different than initially thought, and Eurobike is over. I’m really bummed out about that, which is weird since there was absolutely no real reason why we absolutely had to have it at Eurobike to begin with.

So now we’ll take our time and show you a fine sample sometime in the weeks after Eurobike (given Andy’s and my travel immediately following Eurobike, it may take a bit of time though). In the meantime, I will write about some of the design details.

On the full suspension frame, getting a tight timeline has been even tougher. Since we are charting new territory in the design (not so much the suspension principles since it uses a Horst link but in the way the kinematics are translated into the final shapes) and even more so, charting new territory in the way we build it, we run into problems on a daily basis.

To quote an unlikely source in Donald Rumsfeld, there are the “known knowns”, the “unknown knowns”, the “known unknowns” and the “unknown unknowns”. We’re dealing with all four of them, and many issues fall into the worst (the fourth) category. So we’ve learned a lot this week, all problems that we can solve but which take time.

This doesn’t mean I’ve given up on the full suspension at Eurobike, it just means I’ve set a new unrealistic goal of showing at least some parts and maybe only to select retailers.

You may wonder why we don’t simply set realistic goals. One reason is the aforementioned “Hope dies last”, the other reason is that even if we don’t achieve the stated goal of showcasing a new product at Eurobike, the push for such a goal will still get us further than we would have been otherwise.

Anyway, a little side view of the full suspension frame model is below (I know, the side view skilfully shows very little :-).

More soon, for now it’s back to the last preparations for Eurobike, which means a few more long days and then the show itself. If you’re in the area, I hope to see you there. We’re in hall B3, booth 108.

BTW, since we are now talking more and more about the pathfinder/gravel/adventure bike and the full suspension, some of you have asked if there is a waiting list. So we’ve made one. Just fill in your info here and you’ll get onto the priority list for either (or both!) models. Then when the bikes go into production, we’ll let you know and you can decide what you would like to do.

OPN-05-000-M_2013-03-17_preliminary handoff (2)

2 weeks to showtime

August 13, 2014

In two weeks, Eurobike starts, which means the whole bike industry is in a mad dash to get everything ready. In most bike companies, a lot of pre-season sales are done at the trade shows, so a failure to get a new model ready in time can be very costly. It always made the month of August the least enjoyable for me.

Aside from the pressure to get ready, there was also the fear that somebody else would show something at Eurobike that was a complete game-changer, something that instantly made everything else obsolete and therefore would threaten our existence. If you’ve ever made somebody else’s product obsolete, the expectance of the favor being returned at some point is only natural. In 15 years, this never happened, but the fear is still there.

Of course, at OPEN we don’t have the pressures of getting product ready for the show. To us, it doesn’t matter if we introduce a new bike in August, January or June. When it’s ready, it’s ready.

Nonetheless, it’s fun to show something new at the trade shows, the only thing different for OPEN is that whatever we show doesn’t necessarily have to be the finished product.

For this year, we set ourselves the target of showing not only the full production version of the ONE, but also the first steps towards our first full-suspension frame and a prototype of our pathfinder/adventure/gravel bike. These are both bikes we’ve been wanting to make for a while, but only if we could figure out how to do it the right way for us. For both, the designs have been finalized, so now it’s down to manufacturing.

Of course both frames will be produced in Europe, but that is where the similarity ends. While the pathfinder/adventure/gravel frame is made at AX, we have started a project with HED to produce the full-suspension parts using Resin Transfer Molding technology. RTM is a way to manufacture carbon that has great potential, but it is very rarely used in bike production.

Traditionally, RTM distinguishes itself by having a super surface finish but less than optimal mechanical properties, but it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, by using the technology properly, we think we can turn the disadvantage (the weight of the foam inside the frame) into an advantage. Tuning the layup with the foam in mind, it will allow us to build a very tough frame while still being lightweight.

Of course, that’s the theory, we have to see how practice goes. The CAD drawings are finished, the molds have been machined (also the first time molds of this kind were machined at HED, so a good learning curve), and the first parts have been made (below the very first part, which of course was far from perfect but a promising start). Still, from there to a complete and fully functional frame will be quite the journey.

If trying to meet a Eurobike deadline with a new way to make molds and a new process to make the frame is tough, the pathfinder/adventure/gravel frame had its own hurdles. The challenge here was more in the design, in making a contradictory set of components fit without giving up the geometry and fit I want. Once that was all sorted out, we could start moving into production very quickly. But that process started only last week, giving us a total of three weeks to cut the molds and make the first frames. We’ll see!

On top of that, Andy thought it was a good idea to have a new catalog. Not technically difficult, but time-consuming for sure!

Stay tuned to see how it all goes.

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