The ONE is dead - temporarily
Gerard Vroomen - 25-Sep-2015
As you may remember, we first showed the ONE to the world in April 2014. The frame wasn't ready, but "almost". If we had been running a big bike company, we wouldn't have shown it. But this is OPEN, and so we are committed to letting our customers know what we're working on. Then Eurobike came along, still working on the ONE, still sharing that it wasn't going as smoothly as we hoped. The blog post title "ONE frustration (after another)" was a not-so-subtle indication.

Along the way, Andy and I discussed several times if we should stop the project. But we decided to stick it out, because as much as the ONE frustrated us, we also loved it dearly. It is such a nice frame design and the details on it are so cool, that we didn’t want to let troubles with production stop it. But a few months ago we have had to conclude that there is no other choice - we had to stop this project.

First off, you may ask yourself, “a few months ago?” Yes, indeed it’s been a while, but we were so sick of it that although it was on our list to write a blog about it, we just couldn’t. Of course our retailers who had customers waiting for it were informed, and that was hard enough, but somehow every time I started writing this blog, I got so depressed I stopped. And then Eurobike took over, and then Interbike. And now we’re here. We’ll see how far I get this time.

The reason we had to stop in the end was simple: we had no confidence we could get the frame produced consistently and safely. The first 18 months of the project, the ONE prototypes were constantly very close to passing the very tough tests at the German Zedler laboratory.

It was suggested several times to us that we should test the frame at a lower test level (which is perfectly legal since the lower levels still meet all regulatory requirements), but we never want to do that. Our first and foremost goal is not the weight of the frame, it’s the performance, and so we don’t want to sacrifice stiffness or weight. OPEN bikes are meant to be ridden hard, not with trepidation.

And it makes no sense to use a lower standard for a lighter bike when the customer and their riding style is going to be the same. But first and foremost, we want to sleep at night, not worry about our customers riding our bikes. So we won’t make any compromise in this regard.

Anyway, failing the test time and time again is annoying, but it’s also good. It means your process is working. Then eventually, in early 2015, the frame passed. Of course this was great news, and although a year late, we were very excited about going into production. So the layup was frozen (when you finally have a layup that passes all the tests, you want to make sure NOTHING changes between that frame and the ones you are going to produce) and a pilot batch of half a dozen frames was produced.

There were a few issues with the finish of the pilot frames, but that didn’t stop us from starting to put some miles on it. We (especially Andy before his hip surgery) and some others had of course been putting miles on ONE frames during the entire development process, but now, at last, we could ride the final frame. Then, after less than seven hours of riding, one of the pilot frames broke. And not a little, the seatstay broke completely in two. In my 20 years in the industry, I had never seen that before.

As I mentioned, the most important thing in production is that once you have a frame that passes the test, you freeze the layup. If we cannot trust that the frames we send out into the market perform the same as the ones that passed the test, then we cannot send them out. This is also why we keep pulling out random frames during production and test them to destruction; to make sure they are still the same as the frames that originally passed the test.

Breaking a frame that is supposedly the same as the one that passed the test is the worst thing that can happen, it’s worse than never having passed the test at all. Because it means you cannot trust what comes out, and there is no way to recover from that.

If you can’t trust that all frames are the same, then you have to test every frame to destruction to be sure. If you test every frame, there is nothing left to sell. And so as much as we didn’t want to, we had to stop. 

And how about that second part of the title? Well, we still believe in European production, and we still believe in the ONE. So somehow, some day, a ONE will be made (and a better ONE as we can now incorporate more new ideas) and somehow, some day, OPEN frames will be made in Europe.

With regards to the latter, we’re still working hard at the fully, also in Europe (but at a different facility). As you all know, that project has had its ups and downs, but we’re making good progress now. Not enough to give you a firm date (I know you wanted to ask) but I feel that project has definitely turned the corner, which in itself gives a lot of energy to work on it.
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