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Allied Cycle Works Factory Tour

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Since our first visit to Allied Cycle Works’ original factory in Little Rock, a lot has changed. They moved near Bentonville, giving them access to way more trails, and their process has been continually refined as they’ve added new models. The latest is the BC40 XC mountain bike, named for the massive Back Forty trail network there.

In this factory tour, Allied’s sales manager Will walks us through how they make their frames, including the linkage parts for the MTB, and how that differs from their road bikes. Check the video for the full story, and scroll down for more detailed photos and notes.

Allied Cycle Works Factory Tour Photos

allied cycles showroom

Enter the building and you’ll find their showroom, where you can see some of the bikes, check out merch, and pick up a demo bike. They keep a size run of each model available for test rides. Allied Cycle Works is also open for tours to anyone, just make a reservation in advance if you’d like to walk through this process in person.

Carbon Layup

allied cycles carbon cutting room

The first step in making the frames is cutting the carbon. They have an automated cutter that reads a computer program to minimize waste. Each frame section is cut in a group then bagged together and kitted in the trays and racks.

allied cycles carbon layup room

From there it goes into the layup room, where employees layup one tube or section at a time.

allied cycles employees laying up carbon fiber bike frames

Each person is trained on one part of the bike for at least six weeks, becoming an expert at that part’s layup.

allied cycles internal soft molds

The carbon pieces are laid up over soft, reusable silicone mandrels.

allied cycles internal soft molds

To make them firm enough to wrap carbon around, they fill them with grains. This gives them just enough shape for laying up the pre-preg carbon fiber, and once that’s done, the grains are dumped back out so that the molds can be pumped full of air once they go into the press.

allied cycles carbon frame parts before molding

Each mandrel has a port where high-pressure air can go in, which will press the inner mold against a CNC machined aluminum outer mold.

allied cycles carbon frame parts before molding

Some small parts and joints, like the BC40’s shock mount, are made by stacking layers of 3K woven carbon rather than the UD sheets used for most of the frame.

To the Presses

allied cycles pass through door from layup to molding rooms

Once it’s all pieced together and in the mold, it passes through this door into…

allied cycles heat presses

…the press room. Here, the molds are hooked up to the air lines and inserted into heat presses. These warm the insides to melt the resin while the air pressure squeezes the carbon layers against the metal mold. This pushes out any air and excess resin and essentially glues all of the layers together permanently.

allied cycles kitted frame parts

Once it cools, the molds are open, and out pops the frame part. In the case of the BC40, the entire front triangle is made as a single piece, and each side of the rear triangle is one piece.

Bonding

allied cycles kitted frame parts

The road and gravel frames are made in sections, then bonded together. All of the parts are made in batches and kitted together, then they move over to the next area to be assembled and have any metal parts bonded into place.

allied cycles frame parts bonding and assembly

Allied uses metal threaded bottom brackets, and those are bonded into place to permanently attach inside the BB shell.

allied cycles frame parts bonding and assembly

The tubes are sleeved to fit together. They use a bonding agent to glue them together, then overwrap each joint with a layer of carbon fiber. Then it’s back into an oven to cure the bonding glue and overwrap, essentially creating one single unit.

Quality Control

allied cycles finishing and assembly station

Once the frame looks like a frame, it goes through a series of checks for alignment and cable pass-through. Now is the time to fix any little issues. They want to make sure all of the hoses, wires, and cables will slide all the way through any internal routing ports before the frame gets sanded and painted!

allied cycles sanding and finishing room
allied cycles frame filler application

Once it passes that QC check, it moves on to sanding and finishing. All flashing is removed, and the frames are coated in a lightweight filler to smooth any small imperfections from the molding process. This is done so that they have a layer to sand smooth before paint without having to sand the carbon. That’s important because Allied doesn’t add a cosmetic outer layer of carbon fiber, and they can’t sand the carbon itself. So this filler is applied all over the frame, and then mostly sanded off.

allied cycles robot sander
allied cycles robot sander test frame

Finishing

allied cycles frames waiting for paint

Once that’s done, the frames are ready for painting. Shown above are bikes ready for their first layer of paint, which will become the color of any logos or graphics.

allied cycles paint room

Allied paints all of their logos using a two-step process. First, they paint a base coat color that will show up as the logos. After that’s dry, vinyl graphics are applied to mask off the logos, then it goes back in the paint booth for the final (outer) paint color.

allied cycles paint example

Once that coat is dry, the masking stickers are pulled off, revealing the logos. So, for this bike above, it was painted neon yellow first, then masked, then painted in racing green. Removing the masking revealed the bright yellow logos. There are no decals on the finished product, it’s all paint. (Side note: The use of filler for sanding and smoothing is why Allied doesn’t offer frames unpainted or showing the raw carbon)

Assembly & Shipping

allied cycles bicycle assembly room

Once they’re painted and check, they move into the assembly room. Allied sells to shops and sells direct, but they’re all assembled in this room.

allied cycles bikes boxed and ready to ship

Then they’re boxed and ready for pickup, heading to a happy rider somewhere!

Huge thanks to Will, Drew, Cole, and the rest of the crew for showing us around and taking us for a ride!

AlliedCycleWorks.com

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19 Comments
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mud
mud
3 months ago

Whenever I see a tour of the carbon lay-up process it reminds me of how fragile carbon frames are. They are disposable. They cannot withstand impacts. They are insanely expensive. All for one pound of weight compared to steel, and even less for titanium.

Greg
Greg
3 months ago
Reply to  mud

Ok

Frank
Frank
3 months ago
Reply to  mud

Spoken like a guy whose name is mud.

Veso Mandaric
2 months ago
Reply to  Frank

hahahahahahahahahahaha thank you Frank

Don Carboneone
Don Carboneone
2 months ago
Reply to  mud

Carbon done well is damn strong. Carbon done not so well isn’t. It depends. It can be fragile and it can fail suddenly or it can last a long time. It depends.

Rusty
Rusty
2 months ago
Reply to  mud

Those are some wide ranging generalities there my dude. You might want to rethink your statements.

Fig Ciocc
Fig Ciocc
2 months ago
Reply to  mud

Yup very fragile. There are several 787s with 10,000 cycles flying right now.

Veso Mandaric
2 months ago
Reply to  Fig Ciocc

You are Conspiracy Theorist hahahahaha

James H
James H
2 months ago
Reply to  mud

I have repaired a few CF frames, they are more repairable than any other frame material out there, including DIY at-home repairs, not all that complex, although time consuming and messy. I’ve been racing on them for years, including winning races, so they must have “stood up” to some impacts and thrashing.

Peter Aretin
Peter Aretin
3 months ago

Interesting, but the persistent little window is annoying.

G-Bike
G-Bike
2 months ago

I own and ride many bikes, mostly made of steel and titanium as well as a carbon one. They all have their unique qualities and characteristics of which I appreciate and I am not confident one is any better then the rest…..

carbonnation
carbonnation
2 months ago

Thanks, Tyler, fantastic article and info.

Jason DW
Jason DW
2 months ago

If I was in the market for a new mtb the BC40 would definitely be near the top of the list. More truthfully if l had the money for one.
I don’t like the aesthetics of their road bikes. I know they’re some of the best money can buy but I dont like the way they look.

Noah
Noah
2 months ago

The opening comment about “more access to trails” in Bentonville compared to Little Rock is misinformed. There is more variety and in my opinion better trails in Little Rock and the central Arkansas area compared to NWA. The reason why they moved to Bentonville is to better suck the teat of Wal-Mart money. I know this was just a simple word-filler line, but it gives the wrong impression of trail availability in Arkansas. The Walton money has done great things for trails in Arkansas, but the Bentonville area is not the only place to go.

Kjoro
Kjoro
2 months ago
Reply to  Noah

One only has to look at trail maps (i.e. Trailforks) to see the higher density of MTB trails near Bentonville as compared to Little Rock. The article doesn’t say “it’s the only place to go”, and based on your derision, sounds like you might be salty the jobs left Little Rock.

Noah
Noah
2 months ago
Reply to  Kjoro

Kjoro, you are right that I am “salty”. It is not (or at least not only) because of jobs that left Little Rock. There is a complex social and economic impact that a small geographical area in Northwest Arkansas has on the rest of the state. Wal-Mart draws an ever increasing amount of money and power to that part of the state. The struggles and challenges faced by other regions of the state (for example the delta) do not resemble the affluence and success that is experienced by Wal-Mart and the many Wal-Mart tangential businesses and entities. I have to acknowledge that you are correct that I have a bias for Little Rock and central Arkansas because I am frustrated when I see policies and decisions that disproportionately benefit the already advantaged. So it is disappointing when a person or group makes a decision to give in to the siren call of Walton money.

From a trail perspective I do honestly believe that the trails in Bentonville are not as authentic and natural as those found in Little Rock and surrounding central Arkansas. I personally prefer trails that highlight and compliment the nature where they are located.

Hamjam
Hamjam
2 months ago
Reply to  Noah

That was maybe true when they moved, but not now. There are so many more trails in Bentonville now. Little Rock has enough trails. The short drive from Little Rock to the Hot Springs area is the best. Also, he rugged gravel roads outside of Little Rock are amazing.

Doc Sarvis
Doc Sarvis
2 months ago

Beyond impressed. Kind of sad to see how much post processing is needed and those poor folks who have to stand in the sanding booth all day. Looks like the robot can do some of it, but not all.

velodictorian
velodictorian
2 months ago
Reply to  Doc Sarvis

Agreed. Was hoping the frames would come out of the molds in better shape (literally and figuratively). Have a TIME ADHX and the exposed carbon looks glorious. I’m wondering if it would be possible to do a clear coated frame of exposed carbon with just the brand logos on it?

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