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2 weeks to showtime

Gerard Vroomen - 13-Aug-2014
In two weeks, Eurobike starts, which means the whole bike industry is in a mad dash to get everything ready. In most bike companies, a lot of pre-season sales are done at the trade shows, so a failure to get a new model ready in time can be very costly. It always made the month of August the least enjoyable for me.

Aside from the pressure to get ready, there was also the fear that somebody else would show something at Eurobike that was a complete game-changer, something that instantly made everything else obsolete and therefore would threaten our existence. If you've ever made somebody else's product obsolete, the expectance of the favor being returned at some point is only natural. In 15 years, this never happened, but the fear is still there.

Of course, at OPEN we don't have the pressures of getting product ready for the show. To us, it doesn't matter if we introduce a new bike in August, January or June. When it's ready, it's ready. 

Nonetheless, it's fun to show something new at the trade shows, the only thing different for OPEN is that whatever we show doesn't necessarily have to be the finished product.

For this year, we set ourselves the target of showing not only the full production version of the ONE, but also the first steps towards our first full-suspension frame and a prototype of our pathfinder/adventure/gravel bike. These are both bikes we've been wanting to make for a while, but only if we could figure out how to do it the right way for us. For both, the designs have been finalized, so now it's down to manufacturing.

Of course both frames will be produced in Europe, but that is where the similarity ends. While the pathfinder/adventure/gravel frame is made at AX, we have started a project with HED to produce the full-suspension parts using Resin Transfer Molding technology. RTM is a way to manufacture carbon that has great potential, but it is very rarely used in bike production.

Traditionally, RTM distinguishes itself by having a super surface finish but less than optimal mechanical properties, but it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, by using the technology properly, we think we can turn the disadvantage (the weight of the foam inside the frame) into an advantage. Tuning the layup with the foam in mind, it will allow us to build a very tough frame while still being lightweight.

Of course, that's the theory, we have to see how practice goes. The CAD drawings are finished, the molds have been machined (also the first time molds of this kind were machined at HED, so a good learning curve), and the first parts have been made (at left the very first part, which of course was far from perfect but a promising start). Still, from there to a complete and fully functional frame will be quite the journey.

If trying to meet a Eurobike deadline with a new way to make molds and a new process to make the frame is tough, the pathfinder/adventure/gravel frame had its own hurdles. The challenge here was more in the design, in making a contradictory set of components fit without giving up the geometry and fit I want. Once that was all sorted out, we could start moving into production very quickly. But that process started only last week, giving us a total of three weeks to cut the molds and make the first frames. We'll see!

On top of that, Andy thought it was a good idea to have a new catalog. Not technically difficult, but time-consuming for sure!

Stay tuned to see how it all goes.

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