“I’m an enabler. Builders are trendsetters. I enable them.”

As probably the highest volume frame fixture maker in the world, Don Ferris’ statement just a bit of an understatement. By creating and selling solutions to problems that framebuilders face every day, Anvil Bikeworks is quietly upping the small framebuilder game, enabling these builders to build product more precisely and more efficiently, so the final product is of a much higher quality and caliber.

Anvil creates the tooling that allows these builders to effectively chase the standards that the larger industry creates, keeping product in step with the larger world. As a result, it is relatively easy for builders to keep their product relevant and compatible with the latest and greatest components and philosophies. Which is why it was very interesting to see Don Ferris rolling out a fork blade bending tool this NAHBS. By many accounts, as you look around the hall, metal forks are an endangered species- a novelty.

I wondered why someone who contributes so greatly to the continued evolution of the framebuilder invests the time and energy into making a tool for an endangered part? Don Ferris was one of my very first stops at the show so I could find out…

In order to understand the potential significance of what Anvil Bikeworks is debuting at the show, you have to appreciate how infrastructure affects builders.

Until there is a readily available or cost effective fixture solution, builders will fabricate their own solutions to problems. The talent we generally consider to be trailblazers in framebuilding, as a result, tend to be pretty creative as far as their fixturing because there is typically no easily trod or inexpensive mechanism for accomplishing the interesting things they are trying to do. It is also worth noting that this is one of those edges that mid or high volume manufacturers have, as they are more likely to be able to justify the cost of proprietary tooling over a production run.

When Anvil releases a new product, it can be transformative to the whole small builder landscape. When a single operation can be done better, more reliably, and at less expense, all small framebuilders can up their game by adding capability, allowing for higher precision in the building process, and increasing quality.

For example, with the its frame fixture and subsequent revisions Anvil was able to make framebuilding more accessible to a greater number of builders who, in the beforetimes, were reliant on fabricating their own solutions or foreign or obscure fixtures they might be fortunate enough to come across. And while people have been producing fixtures and tools for framebuilders since the very beginning of the machine, it is the ease of use, cost, and accessibility of Anvil’s product that has made it a relative household name in the framebuilding community. And it is because of all of this that Anvil is a significant factor in the growth and development of the small builder community.

A few weeks ago, Don started leaking images of a new tool. One totally outside the realm of his current offerings. And one that, given the current climate, could have significant repercussions for just existing. “Roberto” is a tool for bending fork blades.

Why metal forks are so rare at the high end of bicycles is an interesting topic in itself. Forks are expensive to build for a variety of reasons. It is challenging to fabricate them precisely and producing them can be time consuming. When all is said and done, a really well-made steel fork can end up approaching the cost of a carbon fork, so why not “upgrade” to something with a higher perceived value?

“A fork today is considered a component rather than part of the frame. If you’re building your own fork, the fork no longer becomes a constraint.” You aren’t limited by standard fork lengths or offsets, or wheel standards when you roll your own. Plus, as Don happily pointed out regarding the feel of metal, “You can tune a steel fork too.”

So what’s so special about the bender? For context, many framebuilders have a blade bender in their shops. The majority of the time, it is a lever that pushes a single blade into a die, giving that blade a specific curve.

The new Anvil “Roberto” bender is the first ready-made solution builders can buy that bends both blades at once. And, what’s really fun, is that due to the elliptical shape of the form and the various settings, builders aren’t limited to a type of bend and can set up the fixture to nail a specific rake value in a single go. “If you’re going to design a fork blade bender that people are interested in buying, it has to be able to bend a variety of styles and types with one bender. Some guys like that ‘french flick.’ Some guys like that classic style. Some like the ‘Italian curve.’” By moving where the blades are mounted on the curve, a number of radii are accomplished.

Plus, because of all the registration marks, if a builder finds a specific bend they like, they can document a given bend’s settings and come back to it.

So does this mean that steel forks can come back in style, better than ever? Will this NAHBS mark the rebirth of the curved blade?

Only time will tell.

The “Roberto” is available to everyone for $1250.

AnvilBikes.com

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Seth
Seth
4 years ago

That is really cool. It looks like it could be adapted to work on chain and seat stays too.

Char
Char
4 years ago

Jeez that is also a really good price, well done

Kovas
Kovas
4 years ago

I don’t even build bikes, and I wanna give that thing a try. Nice job Anvil. Respect.

Alistair Spence
Alistair Spence
4 years ago

Is that Don Walker, out of focus, in that second to last shot?

Champs
Champs
4 years ago

I’m not against plastic bikes, per se, but someday I’m upgrading my commuter bike and this time it’s going to have a steel touring fork. Better to have a local builder make one with the look and geometry I want than buy off the peg.

Also: I get the reference, but was Rodriguez already taken?

Steve Hampsten
4 years ago
Reply to  Champs

There is a Rodriguez Cycles in Seattle, so yeah, taken. But Roberto is pretty funny…

lop
lop
4 years ago
Reply to  Steve Hampsten

Not only that, but Rodriquez actually makes frames and frame building equipment.

Biscuit
Biscuit
4 years ago
Reply to  Champs

Anvil already has a Mr. bender bending rodriguez for stays and such

satanas
satanas
4 years ago

It’s not clear from the photos or verbiage how different bend radii are accomplished – are there multiple formers available and if so how much do these cost? If not, it’s really, really not obvious what happens.

Anonymous
Anonymous
4 years ago
Reply to  satanas

The die is elliptical, and not constant radius.

You bend the blades over a different part of the die for different curves.

Don Ferris
Don Ferris
4 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Nailed it.

AK_Ben
AK_Ben
4 years ago

Pretty slick design. Also, congratulations Anna on the awards received for your Prince tribute Peacock Groove bike. I look forward to reading more about that soon!

JBikes
JBikes
4 years ago

I’d wager one can more easily tune a carbon fork but nonetheless it’s a nice improvement and I’ll never argue against more options

blah blah blah
blah blah blah
4 years ago

look at this piece of kit for $1250 awesome, so how can someone ask $1700 for a set of derailleur pulleys?

dG
dG
4 years ago

I think the name Roberto comes from Futurama, yes? Bender’s arch-nemesis is this crazy robot with a strident voice named Roberto. But I might be wrong…

Don Ferris
Don Ferris
4 years ago
Reply to  dG

Bender. Blades. Roberto. Makes sense to me…

Don Ferris
Don Ferris
4 years ago

Thanks for the kind words folks and thank you Anna for making me sound like a normal person.

Adrian Socho
Adrian Socho
4 years ago

I don’t know if it is useful at all, it seems to be intended for making a bend in fore-aft direction, but much more desired is a way to make a bend in the upper part of an unicrown fork so that a 650b+ rigid fork may be produced. There are too few of these available on the market, especially if someone is looking for a suspension-corrected a2c=490-500mm fork.

DWF
DWF
4 years ago
Reply to  Adrian Socho

Wut?

Morgan
Morgan
4 years ago
Reply to  DWF

I think Adrian is trying to say that off-the-shelf unicrown fork legs don’t allow for enough width to clear 3″ wide tires and he’d like to be able to bend his own.

earle.b
earle.b
4 years ago
Reply to  Morgan

A wider unicorn is what you would want rather than trying to shape the fork legs to fit a wider tire. A segmented style fork will allow this as likely all traditional unicrown castings are going to be too narrow.

Steven Shand
4 years ago
Reply to  earle.b

Bends for unicrown forks and 3″ tyres exist.

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Tom
Tom
4 years ago

beautiful tool, at a very reasonable price. Question is whether there really is a call for the kind of adjustability this tool offers. After all, even the geometry on custom bikes has a relatively narrow window of head angle/trail/offset, and you can find pretty much anything you want, stock, in carbon, at a lot less weight. Maybe this is the solution for the people who are doing dedicated rack mounts/fender mounts etc.

Jonathan Graham
Jonathan Graham
4 years ago
Reply to  Tom

I think the custom steel frame bike market has blown up in the last year or two, and as far as I can tell there isn’t a tool around that can do this so gracefully. I think Don knew exactly what he was doing when he came up with it, along with the rest of the tools he makes (which damn near every custom bike builder is using.)

Sean
Sean
4 years ago
Reply to  Tom

Steel forks are still relevant. Most if not all carbon forks have an aesthetic that is big and a ride that is stiff. With a steel fork you can adjust the curve to suit and tune the flex through different taper positions. You also have the option of having the offset you want rather working around fixed offsets from a supplier.