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New builder row this year was full of engaging new product – there wasn’t a slacker in the house. Out of the batch, Circa Cycles was definitely up there for the most engaging. Rich Fox started the process of Circa four years ago. Having come from the realm of design consultancy, he sought to first examine the problems facing bicycles from a domestic manufacturing standpoint and to build his product from there. Inspired by his first racing bike, an aluminum ALAN Spirit, his medium was set. What he does with it certainly sets it apart from the crowd…

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From initial investigation, Rich resolved that there were five obstacles to building bicycles cost effectively and with low ecological impact: heat, paint, tooling, labor, and geometry challenges. With those constraints, Rich developed an aluminum bonded bike that would be simple to assemble, have a durable finish, and would be relatively simple to customize. Why bonded aluminum? Though this method saw its day come and go in the 80’s, Rich argues that bonding is used in modern mission critical componentry in aircraft and rockets as well as in carbon bikes. Because of his process, he’s able to hold the tolerances in the bonding zones much better than was possible the last time this method was used in production.

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The biggest visual obstacle to this method is avoiding a pipe-to-pipe aesthetic. To combat this, Rich terminated the five-axis machined lugs at lines that run through the frame. For example, the top tube and down tube termination points on the head lugs are aligned.

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Also, Rich took pains to play with finishes both on the lugs and bonded tubes to break up the visual. There were opportunities to add color through the anodized finish such as in the head tube, and Rich took them.  Even the chamfer size and placement is deliberate per lug.

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There were all kinds of fun techy touches on the bike. The dropout, for example, features a removable hanger in addition to an adjustment screw and indexing lines so you know exactly where your rear axles is.

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The seat stays are pinned to allow for belt compatibility across sizes and models. In fact, the whole system has been designed so that parts can be used across different sizes of bikes to help simplify the assembly process. Rich quotes that a whole frame can be fabricated within ten hours using this process.

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RideCirca.com

14 comments

  1. Eric Hansen on

    Thoughts went from “F*ing BONDED? Are you sh*tting me?” to “Oh no, this is actually a pretty sweet tech demo.”

    Reply
  2. Ryan on

    Rich needs to collaborate with Wound Up and offer a filament wound tube set option on these!

    Since they are’t being welded there are other aluminum alloys out there with some impressive properties that can’t be easily welded. It’d be neat to see what could be done with those.

    Reply
  3. Devin Zoller on

    Very much depends on your machine time availability. If you’re outsourcing all of it to a job shop, that’s an extremely pricey proposition- but if you already have access and essentially unlimited time on the machine, it could be much cheaper than a really good welder. That said, a really good 5-axis machine should be cranking 24 hours a day to pay off their high price, but there are always extraneous situations.

    I think it’s badass, and look forward to more.

    Reply
  4. Chris L on

    My first serious, top of the line racing bike was a Vitus 979. I figured if it was good enough for Sean Kelly it was probably good enough for a 15 year old amateur. For a teenager it was pretty awesome to own the exact same bike being ridden in Paris-Roubaix. Of course these days most century riders – never mind even a Cat 5 – would dismiss the Vitus as being too heavy and not stiff enough. Never mind the hundreds of major races one on this and it’s Italian cousins from Alan! Noodles they might be, those Vitus and Alan frames are still the smoothest riding frames I’ve ever ridden – far more so than many current carbon frames.

    Reply
  5. richwfox on

    Thanks for the kind words! (And “Rich Rox” could have been my late ’70’s punk rock name ; ) The author corrected the mistake earlier today.

    Reply
  6. Warwick Gresswell on

    “The biggest visual obstacle to this method is avoiding a pipe-to-pipe aesthetic.” Umm……not avoided. At all. However, I like the bike conceptually. If I didn’t know that it takes Carl Strong about 4 hours total fabrication time, I’d think 10 hours was amazing. Hate to think what TIG production time on frames coming out of the Pac Rim is. Probably 2.

    Reply

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