Earlier this week, BST Synergy Nano announced they’d purchased Tony Ellsworth’s eponymous brand and would be lending their materials expertise to Ellsworth’s design experience to launch a new component line and update his bikes.
BST is local, just down the street from Ellsworth’s environmentally friendly compound. In a phone interview, Tony told us how the deal came to be. At the recommendation of one of Ellsworth’s riders, BST Nano Carbon’s Bill Wood swung by the compound and suggested they work together to have Ellsworth design new products, then let BST make them right there in Rancho Bernardo. They liked the idea, but Tony said they were very focused on their own bikes and would need considerably more resources to devote time to another project (or two or ten). So, BST’s folks left, then about 20 minutes later called and asked, “Hey, what if we just buy your company?”
As of Tuesday, September 2nd, the rest is history, and a new chapter begins. Read on for a taste of things to come…
The 2015 line will start to see BST’s material sciences, incorporating nano-tubes and graphene into mid-year launches. They’re not going into details on the hows and whats yet, but they will introduce a lifetime guarantee on all new frames starting at Interbike.
“We’ve done high end carbon products for several industries, including some OEM work for other bicycle brands,” says Wood. “As those projects were sold off, we took a breath, then got the team back together again to take advantage of new materials and technologies with the goal of bringing new products to market under our own brand.
“Our ability to concoct the recipes and use the materials others don’t have, like nano-tubes and graphene, will set our products apart from the competition.”
Graphene, by the way, is the new hot material. It moved into sports equipment first in tennis rackets and has been teased in ‘cross tires. Wood says the benefit is that you only need a little bit to drastically alter the characteristics of a carbon fiber component. Basically, rolled graphene is what makes carbon nano-tubes, and they weigh about the same as air.
He also said BST has an exclusive agreement to buy graphene and carbon nano-tubes for ten years from a partner company that allows them to integrate those ingredients into their products at a price that their competition will have a hard time matching. Having the material is one thing. Knowing what to do with it is another, and that’s where BST’s experience in developing composite materials and equipment will pay dividends.
The first items from the new Synergy Nano component line will be bars, post, stem, hubs, rims and wheels. Tony says the bars come in as light as 125g at 730mm wide, and they’ll offer 6º sweep in 6mm and 15mm rise. Ellsworth brought the design shapes to the table that allowed them to get them so light, and BST brought about the materials experience to make it strong and durable.
They’ll also be taking advantage of some of Ellsworth’s existing technology on the wheels. The Synergy Cantilever hubs cantilever the bearings across the width of the wheel (yes, we’re trying to get a cutaway view). Tony says in a standard hub, you’ve got two bearings on the freehub body handling the loads on that part, then two bearings in the hub shell. The result is the lateral deflection on the wheel can only take advantage of the very narrow triangle created by the bearings inside the hub shell. Then, the drivetrain forces are acting only on the other two bearings in the freehub body.
The Synergy Cantilever system overlaps those forces, spreading them to opposite bearings to create a wider triangulation. It also puts the coasting on only two of the bearings, which reduces drag, and it spreads the direct pull spokes out wider, making a very laterally stiff wheel. Those hubs weren’t ever sold as an Ellsworth product, but the design has been licensed to Commencal and other European brands for almost two years.
Ellsworth says “hub weights are close to Chris King, but that current testing standards can’t destroy them, so that means they’re probably too heavy. We’ll be working on making lighter versions in the future.”
Those hubs will be laced to Synergy Nano carbon rims. Starting in 2015, the new high end carbon rims and components will be made in California. They’re getting the tooling made and everything lined up.
Ellsworth has spent a lot of time developing his carbon manufacturing process with his Asian partners, too, though, so some base level Synergy Nano components will be made overseas at the same factory.
Frames will remain under the Ellsworth name, but will take advantage of the partnership, too. While Ellsworth’s suspension design has been consistent for many years, his frames have been tweaked to incorporate new standards and better shaping. That said, even Tony admits he’s had limitations on his time and resources to fully develop things the way he’d like. Now, not only does he have access to new materials, but a whole new team of engineers, scientists and management and financial resources.