Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Favaloro-artisan carbon

Regular blog readers know we're exploring full-carbon bikes to add to our rental fleet. We're both VERY conservative when it comes to what we ride personally as well as what we'd put under our valued clients as they join us on tour.

Our friends at Albabici came up with an idea for us. We weren't too interested in just another "me-too" carbon bicycle molded and baked in Asia and painted up in the Italian tricolore.
We wanted something truly ITALIANO - as in 100% Made-in-Italy. 

 Above: sheet carbon before being rolled into tubing

Michele Favaloro's been making frames for most of his life. Albabici's partnered with him to offer something rare - a custom, made-to-measure, handmade frame and fork, 100% made-in-Italy. We decided to have a prototype made with the idea of adding full-carbon bikes to our rental fleet. Larry's very particular about things like this, so there was plenty of back-and-forth on the design.

 Above: Headtube construction example

We want these bikes to match the great handling and ride quality our current rental fleet is known for, so each one will be a unique-to-us construction. We also wanted the sizes to match with our current fleet so if our steel bike "Bartali" fits you well, we know our aluminum/carbon "Binda" will too. Same for this one, soon-to-be-named "Belloni" after the winner of the 1920 Giro d'Italia, though these bikes will feature a slightly taller headtube so you can get the handlebars up a bit higher if you prefer.
Larry wanted an alloy steerer tube for example, as stems will be swapped around on these far more than on your personal bike and aluminum will be much more "user-friendly" in this regard. You of course can have a tapered carbon steerer tube if you like.

 Above: Front part of frame with mitered tubes glued into place

For ease of maintenance Larry wants 100% external cables with stops optimized for Campagnolo's new Potenza groupset. You of course can have all the cables internal with special ports for electronic groupsets if you prefer. 

 Above: Rear part of frame with mitered tubes glued into place

Favaloro can create your bike to use direct-mount brake calipers as well while our example will take conventional, single bolt calipers. It'll have a mechanic-friendly conventional alloy seatpost too, though you can request an integrated one if you like. 

 Above: The completed bike all glued up. Not shown is the joint wrapping,vacuum bagging or curing

These are made in a very similar fashion to classic steel bike frames. Tube are mitered (in this case after being fashioned from raw carbon sheet) and glued (think of brazing) into place, then wrapped (think of steel lugs) with more carbon before being shrink-wrapped to optimize compaction and then cured in an oven. This construction technique, just like with a steel frame, allows made-to-measure frames to be constructed along with any special requirements, including multi-shaped tubes. More on this can be seen on the Favaloro webpages via the link above.

Above: Completed frame after some sanding

Instead of the laborious filing of brass and lugs once the frame is complete, these are carefully sanded. As you'd guess, experience is required to make sure the joints are not compromised by the removal of too much material - same as with steel.

Our bikes, as you can see on this prototype will feature all round tubes. Multi-shaped tubes cost a bit more since there's more waste of the expensive carbon sheet when they are produced, but they're all hand-made by Michele.

We're waiting for the next photos and news of construction progress. Our goal is to have this prototype assembled and tested with enough time to then have other sizes produced to complete the addition of full-carbon bikes to our fleet for the 2017 season so you can see and perhaps test-ride one. You might even want to rent one.

Perhaps the best part of this is that YOU, unlike even the top pros (with rare exception) can now have a made-to-measure, 100% handmade-in-Italy, full carbon bicycle at around the same price you'd pay for an Asian-made, big-brand, molded frame in your choice of, as we say, "too small, too large or close enough."

Your first question might be "How can this be possible? The big brands make and import hundreds of their molded frames at a time. Surely their economy-of-scale offers me a much better bike for that same price!" The answer is simple - the big-brands also spend millions to sponsor pro teams in an effort to convince you their bikes are good enough for the top pros to use in winning the biggest races, even if some of them actually ride custom, made-to-measure bicycles instead. The costs of these sponsorships are added to each and every frame they sell. Add your bike dealer's markup and it's easy to see how those big-brand frames can be priced at $5000 or more.

With Favaloro you're paying Michele to make the bike starting with raw, carbon-fiber sheets and then Albabici to provide the importation and marketing backup - that's it. You really can get a unique, made-to-measure bike for (usually) less than you'd pay for a "standard" off-the-rack (though yours might have a fancy custom paint job) big-brand special if you're willing to skip that big-brand name.

We're excited to try ours out!

Buon lavoro Michele!

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