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Mountain bike

PhotoEssay: Custom-printed bicycle

The world of 3D printing offers designers a range of possibilities that weren’t there before, starting with easy customisation.

This ultimate mountain bike made of carbon and titanium heralds the arrival of additive manufacturing in consumer products, says Marc Saunders, director of Renishaw’s Global Solutions Centres. Renishaw is the UK’s only manufacturer of metal additive manufacturing machines, used to make the custom titanium parts for the debut bike from Robot Bike Co (RBC).

Saunders believes getting the full potential from additive manufacturing - or 3D printing - will require designers to change their mindset. They need to ask what they could do that they couldn’t before - in business models as well as products and services.

In the case of RBC, that starts with building bikes that are the right size for their riders. “It doesn’t matter how good a frame is if it doesn’t fit,” says RBC co-founder Ed Haythornthwaite. The way they are made in moulds means affordable carbon frames come in only a few sizes. A rider might be lucky and get their size - or they might have to make compromises. “If you are trying to produce the best frame it makes no sense to only offer it in a small number of sizes,” says Haythornthwaite. “Think of Robot Bike Co as the Savile Row of the bike world.”

The new R160 mountain bike frame is made from proprietary carbon tubing joined with custom-made titanum lugs using double lap joints. RBC say that’s because composites work well when shapes and loads are simple - like in a wing spar, for example, while metals work well for complex shapes and when loads come from different directions.

Other components are standard parts as there’s no point in reinventing the wheel - in this case 27.5in wheels. However, the all important suspension was developed for RBC by top suspension designer Dave Weagle. The total weight is 21lb (9.5kg) with “proper tyres” and “no cheating”, says Haythornthwaite.

The frame retails at £4,395 with a lead time of four weeks. It is built for performance rather than looks and for now comes in any colour you like as long as it’s black.

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