Robot Bike Co: Custom Ti & Carbon Enduro Bike

Words Andrew Major
Date Jun 14, 2016

Robot Bike Co, out of the UK, would like to sell you a £4395.00 (~$8000.00 CAD / ~$6250.00 USD)  mountain bike frame. But wait, it’s REALLY cool! Sort of.

Robot-Bikes-5

A custom full suspension mountain bike frame in carbon? This is a new phenomenon.

The R160 uses titanium lugs and carbon tubes to deliver a 160mm travel bike with almost fully custom geometry (within the limits of the suspension design) that “could well be the only bike you need.” It uses Dave Weagle’s latest, “5th Generation” refinement of his patented DW-Link suspension system: DW-6. It looks awesome – or at least completely unique. Is it mostly a use of engineering speak to provide crisp, fresh, marketing to some un-original ideas? Or, is it really “like nothing you’ve ever seen?”

Titanium lugs. Carbon tubes. Custom geometry. DW6 – 5th generation DW-Link. 160mm travel. Robot Bike Co.

I’m a cynic?! I blame my mother.

Actually, the titanium additive manufactured lugs that Robot Bike Co uses are freaking cool (see video below). Even if you’re not an enginerd, titanium powder particles fused together by a high-powered laser and then CNC machined is about as nifty as it gets when it comes to manufacturing bicycles.

It’s almost enough to make you forget the price tag, that makes a carbon Yeti  SB 5.5c frame with a PUSH 11-6 shock look cheap, and just reflect on how sweet the tech is as they “take the best characteristics from aerospace titanium and carbon fibre materials to provide you with a strong, resilient and lightweight frame.”

robot_bikes_lugset

“Your frame is served sir.”

 

Robot Bike Co

No new ideas? Raleigh Ti & Carbon Team Tomac circa 1993. ~$6300 USD in ’93!

“Engineered”

The idea of mating titanium lugs to carbon tubes is not actually new. In 1993, and for $6300 USD (~$10,500 USD in today’s money), you could buy a John Tomac edition Raleigh with bonded construction. Carbon, bonding, and titanium manufacturing have all come a long way since those days of course but is this really “state of the art frame architecture?”

Most, if not all, companies building custom carbon road bike frames rely on some form of bonding carbon tubes to lugs – although generally the lugs are carbon as well – in order to provide custom sizing and geometry.

But then, the materials and manufacturing that Robot is using go beyond what the average bicycle engineer can imagine working with and what the most creative marketing department can dream up.

Robot Bike Co

Mitsubishi-Rayon carbon tubes. Lockheed Martin double lap sheer joints. Titanium additive manufacturing. Beer. Nice to see the threaded BB shell! I guess if you aren’t building F-35’s there’s always bicycles?

Bespoke Bikes

Custom tailored mountain bikes, even full suspension mountain bikes, also aren’t a new idea. It wasn’t that long ago that Titus Ti was laser cutting shapes out of titanium tubes and layers in “Exogrid” carbon fiber to change the ride qualities of their custom sized full suspension mountain bikes.

In a straight up ti-frame both Eriksen and Lynskey are building fully custom full suspension frames, and most any custom mountain bike frame builder can order up a Ventana rear end and build you whatever geometry you’d like around it.

robot-bike-r160-1

Can the Robot be ridden hard? The video below proves that.

Looking for an example that matches Robot Bike Co’s travel & application? Speaking of Ventana, the cosmetics aren’t for everyone (anyone?) but they also offer custom geometry on any of their aluminum frames – including their 160mm travel Zeus. Lynskey and Dean Titanium both have 160mm+ titanium FS frames, which seem ridiculously expensive until you stand them up against the Robot.

Interestingly, Intense Bicycles has easily had the means – though obviously not the motivation – to offer custom geometry on their in-house manufactured, aluminum full suspension bikes since day one although, to the best of my knowledge and Google skills, they never have offered full custom frames to the average consumer.

Robot Bike Co

Custom sizing and geometry from Ventana, Eriksen, Lynskey, Dean, and others. The Lynskey & Dean are both Titanium ‘Enduro’ bikes with 160mm+ travel. The Ventana is sporting 140mm or 160mm in aluminum.

3D printing, additive manufacturing, Robot Bikes R160 Build chamber footage.

Robot Bike Co

I’m feeling like a heel for not getting in line with every other article I’ve read about the R160 and heaping praise about things we’ve never seen before, or the arrival of the future, or even just how cool a bicycle can be when money’s no object.

To me, a company like Lichen bikes actually seems different with the from the ground up philosophy, manufacturing, design, and ride. Whereas the R160 feels as if a more established player is adding another level of premium on top of what they already have available.

The R160 in action

I suppose I look at the price of the frame and imagine all the other shiny bicycle things I could buy with the same outlay – like a custom Lichen dressed to kill – and that’s what has forum users screaming “No Sale” in the back of my head. Which may just mean the R160 isn’t for me?

Click the link for more on Robot Bike Co


Does the R160 do it for you?!

Trending on NSMB

Comments

nat-brown
0
Nat Brown  - June 20, 2016, 9:21 a.m.

I'm a little surprised that the suspension design hasn't attracted more attention in any articles or comments. Granted, the focus here is different.

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ChampfT
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Chris Cogsdil  - June 17, 2016, 5:53 a.m.

I'm a machinist, engineer, man about the shop for a living, and I love to give links to projects like this. So many shop guys are excited and convinced that you can 3d print anything for pennies on the dollar. When I explain the current limitations and expense involved they always say,"There's a video on YouTube." I don't think most people realize that these 3d printed lugs could be made just as strong and for a fraction of the cost by casting versus printing.

Most people forget that WWI. WWII, automobile, trains tanks, planes, and ships were built without CNC! You don't always have to use fancy equipment to make amazing things.

I wonder if CNC machining or even manual machining could make these lugs for less than printing. Where 3d printing really has an advantage is building features inside a cavity where a cutting tool could never reach.

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humanpowered
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Humanpowered  - June 16, 2016, 9:51 a.m.

I was underwhelmed by this as well. They are marketing a manufacturing process first and the product second, which is totally backwards. Take the manufacturing out and what makes this bike better? There are custom bikes, there are lighter bikes and of course, there are cheaper bikes (you might be able to get all three from somewhere else). What does this bike do that none of the alternatives can do? If the answer is "come out of a 3D printer" your business is screwed.

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drewm
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DrewM  - June 16, 2016, 1:14 p.m.

In offering a transferable life-time warranty (where most FS bikes, particularly carbon frames, are 3-5 years and non-transferable) Robot is, at least indirectly, claiming that their process (materials and manufacturing quality) is building a more durable bike/investment.

Not disagreeing with your point mind you. I think if an established brand were to put out a bike like this as a one-off / 'moon shoot' showing what can be done with the technology I could argue that it is a very cool bike solely from a future of manufacturing perspective. As a business model yours is a fair challenge that I don't have an answer; I suppose it comes down to how many bikes they are really planning to sell.

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humanpowered
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Humanpowered  - June 16, 2016, 1:50 p.m.

I agree entirely with your thoughts on an established brand. Putting out a halo model is usually about marketing, not a direct revenue stream. Honestly I'm curious to know where their funding is coming from. I'm guessing this is a pet project, because I can't imagine any serious investors putting money behind this.

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andy-eunson
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Andy Eunson  - June 16, 2016, 7:10 a.m.

That's what the aerospace engineers referred to as black aluminum. Full carbon monocoque was the better option back then and probably still is. This robot would have to be a cheaper alternative to a custom carbon monocoque but I don't know that anyone makes such a thing for a full suspension bike? I think Calfee does custom sized carbon road frames. Are there others? I assume so.

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0
Perry Schebel  - June 15, 2016, 9:19 a.m.

specialized did a ti lugged, carbon tubed frame as well - the epic ultimate (circa 1991). they were also ridiculously expensive at the time. lugs were built by merlin metalworks and specialized bonded in the carbon tubes. i scored a frame for cheap a few years back, but it's size huge, so's currently wall art.

re: the robot - brilliant proof of concept if nothing else, and i (perhaps in the minority) really dig the anachronistic gas pipe aesthetic. can't see it as a viable business model at the current price point - at least in the realm of mountain bikes. bespoke bleeding edge road bikes? for sure. tech will inevitably trickle down, however. cool stuff.

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drewm
0
DrewM  - June 15, 2016, 9:25 a.m.

A few people have mentioned it as a road application but I have to wonder if it's viable in terms of weight and tuning the ride quality (short tubes)?

I like the look as well.

I'm not certain I buy the proof of concept argument (I mean, if it works in advanced military platforms it's going to work on bicycles?) but I appreciate the "because we can" factor.

Merlin did some gorgeous Ti lugs-bonded-to-carbon road bikes but the Epic wasn't on my radar: cool!

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earleb
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earle.b  - June 15, 2016, 3:24 p.m.

Bastion Cycles is doing the same 3d printed ti lugs and carbon process in road.

Firefly currently does some beautiful welded ti lugs with carbon tubes.

Festka flips this the other way and does a mixed carbon ti that is ti downtube, toptube, and rear end all bonded by carbon with a carbon seat tube.

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drewm
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DrewM  - June 15, 2016, 4:49 p.m.

Thanks Brian, that was poorly worded on my part as I actually have seen the Firefly.

I handn't heard of Bastion though which appears to be the same idea but without the double lap joints:

Cool!

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CoilAir
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CoilAir  - June 15, 2016, 9:01 a.m.

I've been saying it for about 5 years, but additive manufacturing will eventually be established as "the" method of manufacturing. Especially for things as relatively "simple" as bicycles. I see no reason why they can't offer something like this but with Ti tubes welded to the printed parts. Or printed aluminium parts welded to aluminium tubes for a cheaper version of this custom frame.

Exciting times.

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hbelly13
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Raymond Epstein  - June 15, 2016, 8 a.m.

I always think of the Litespeed Kitsuma http://www.bikepedia.com/QuickBike/BikeSpecs.aspx?year=2001&brand=Litespeed&model=Kitsuma+(02) when I see a bike like this. The Kitsuma was a freeride hardtail that was titanium. It was a very badass bike that went for $4-5K at the time. However, it only was around a season or so simply because the kind of riders that would buy a freeride hardtail would not spend that kind of dough on bike they would be beating the crap out of. I believe now fifteen years later, the same applies here.

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drewm
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DrewM  - June 15, 2016, 8:16 a.m.

Kona Score was another example of the same idea - also short lived (one model year?)

It will be interesting to see how it goes with Kona's Ti Honzo. I know the first year sold out but will there be year-over-year demand. Especially with what a value the steel version of the frame is…

Great point!

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jt
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JT  - June 16, 2016, 11:57 a.m.

Let us not forget the bike of my 25 year old self's dreams, the DeKerf Implant Ti, with bonded seatstays even.

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drewm
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DrewM  - June 16, 2016, 1:16 p.m.

Another very cool bike!

I wonder how many Ti Implants DeKerf ever built? I bet a handful at most?!

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e-bike-rider
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E bike rider  - June 15, 2016, 12:08 p.m.

But this is an enduro bike, and enduro is the #1 growing discipline for dads in their 40s with money to burn.

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whatyouthink
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whatyouthink  - June 15, 2016, 6:55 a.m.

that guy rips on that bike

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lubo-blazek
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Lubo Blazek  - June 15, 2016, 6:46 a.m.

can you spell UGLY? somebody took visit in plumber store and the way home pick up bottle of liquor . But he finished bottle before starting his home renovation and ends up with this monster. GT was nicer

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jprime
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jprime  - June 15, 2016, 8:54 a.m.

I can spell dramatic…

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craw
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Cr4w  - June 15, 2016, 6:41 a.m.

Shouldn't we be looking at this as a hint of future flexibility to come? Sure it's insanely expensive now but so are the early adopter offerings in most things. Ten years ago an IPhone or a killer high end electric car was science fiction. When 3D printed titanium is as ubiquitous as a decent Ti bike maker I bet the price will be much lower.

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drewm
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DrewM  - June 15, 2016, 7:59 a.m.

On the one hand you're completely correct re. technology becoming cheaper.

On the other hand, the jet-fighter manufacturing (laser forming Ti dust) that Robot is using is at least some % "because we can" (I'll let you decide what %).

But, it is totally imagineable that - in the same way there are many grades of carbon frame but they look the same on the outside - that a company could start making a similar product using fluid-formed or soon 3d printed Ti lugs and much cheaper "bicycle grade" carbon tubes.

I have a hard time imagining it for straight up Ti frames. It would be easier (heat/space) to weld tubes where the Robot carbon-meets-Ti but the cosmetics, ride quality, and stresses might be weird?

A huge part of the cost of a Ti frame is labour (hard to work, hard to cut, hard to weld) so printing and forming have the potential to drive down the labour cost. But the raw material has been going up year after year for the same quality (part of the reason, for example, that Ti mtb shock springs weight so much more and are so much less accurate than they used to be).

Definitely interesting to see where, if anywhere, this tech goes.

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drewm
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DrewM  - June 15, 2016, 8:07 a.m.

The other side of it is now that geometry for mountain bikes has basically stabilized within a range for each application will companies use sizing as a differentiator, I.E. will more brands offer more sizes (outliers and fill in) if they aren't buying tooling/molds every couple of years as a way to sell bikes?

Even now most people are well covered by a standard XS-XL/XXL (I know: more XXL options needed) especially since there are very different fit requirements than riding a road bike 100x miles (stem length / bar width / etc).

Custom is cool (and I think aspects of Robot are cool) but I'd like to see more stock sizes more than more custom options as an industry trend.

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john-rodriguez
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John Rodriguez  - June 15, 2016, 5:51 a.m.

Nicolai will also do full custom geo.

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drewm
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DrewM  - June 15, 2016, 7:08 a.m.

Thanks John; missed them. An acquired taste like Ventana!

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zigak
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ZigaK  - June 15, 2016, 3:28 a.m.

They could make a killing selling road bikes.
Nice to read yet another article from Drew, first I thought wait a minute they're late, everybody else already posted the article a week ago. But this one is not regurgitated press release, it's an opinion piece. More of those.

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drewm
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DrewM  - June 15, 2016, 7:09 a.m.

Thanks ZigaK; much appreciated.

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Captain-Snappy
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Merwinn  - June 16, 2016, 9:55 a.m.

"But this one is not regurgitated press release, it's an opinion piece. More of those."

Seconded.

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matt-grindrod
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Matt Grindrod  - June 15, 2016, 2:45 a.m.

Was chatting to these guys at Ft William last week. The frames come with an unlimited lifetime warranty, which transfers to the new owner if you ever decide to part with it. These guys know what they're talking about when it comes to building bikes. The frame looks amazing in the flesh.

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cam@nsmb.com
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Cam McRae  - June 15, 2016, 9:35 a.m.

That's a nice benefit to be sure.

Reply

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