• Kaisern Chen

On two wheels

Updated: Sep 24

My bikes, my cycling journal

As a cyclist, photographer, and industrial designer, my journal of riding my custom-built bike and the photographs along the journey.

"The bicycle is the noblest invention of mankind."

~ William Saroyan


August 28 Bangkok, Thailand

Most kids grow up with some memories of bicycles; as a native Taiwanese, I probably have more than the average share from witnessing the explosive growth of the bicycle industry and its popularity. My relationship with bikes has been a lasting one since as a kid. And the spinning bike is what I spent the most time visiting a gym as an adult, thousands of hours.

I have a few bikes, from aluminum hardtail and carbon fiber full suspension mountain bikes, a chromoly tour bike, to a titanium road bike. Wanting another one is something those who love bikes always have in mind, but as an industrial designer, I want to design and custom-build the next one.

It is the best time ever to design and build a custom bike with professional CAD softwares, 3D metal printing technology (DMLS - Direct Metal Laser Sintering), modern alloy or steel tubing, and filament winding carbon tubes/parts available today, limited to how one wants to stretch the budget. I want to keep it logical, durable, and maintenance-friendly.

But it is 2022, and I want it to perform with efficiency and one worthy of my design studio label - SOTA - State of the Art. The new all-road bike is not for racing, but it needs to be responsive, agile, and sprint when I want to push it; comfortable enough when sometimes I want to scale a 300+km/day ride.

The all-road bike will be the first of a series of bikes I would design and custom-build moving forward. It will be a titanium bike. I name it "SPIN".

The design criteria:

Geometry: Adopt the current NACA (Aerodynamic) trend, so "SPIN" has a modern appearance as I already have a 2006 Litespeed titanium bike of traditional fashion which is still a great bike, albeit looks dated! But I am ready for a fresher-looking bike. I have decades and tens of thousand kilometers on my bikes, so I will not need to look into a particular stack-to-reach ratio; I know what I want. However, I am going to make "SPIN" a bit more aggressive!

Frame - Tungsten inert gas weld 0.8mm & 0.9mm double-butted and straight gauge titanium tube. I am no weight weenie, and I am not bothered that my frame may be a few hundred grams heavier for my riding type, with this bike anyway. Maximum tire size 32c.

Headtube - CNC milling titanium ∅56mm supports full-internal routing. I will compress the head tube length for a more aggressive approach.

Hydraulic Disk Brake - I have been using hydraulic disc brake bikes since 2006, and all my current bikes are with hydraulic disc brakes. They are dependable, consistent, and low maintenance.

Carbon fork (market stock)

Aluminum or titanium stem (market stock)

Carbon dropbar (market stock)

∅27.2mm Carbon seat post - I will also prepare a titanium seat post just as an extra spare

Wheelset - filament winding carbon rim with carbon spoke (market stock) - I have an old pair of Shimano Dura-Ace carbon wheels which I like, and it is time to go for a deeper rim with carbon spokes.

Groupset - 2X12 Wireless shifting, either Shimano Di2 or SRAM, compact chainset

CAD: Solidworks

September 9 Work in progress

My approach to arrive at a more modern titanium frame, which many custom Ti bike makers already did and some in a combination of Ti-Carbon, such as Bastion, is not exactly what I would like to do now. Not being able to top Bastion with such an approach is one of the reasons, but I want to keep the titanium bike look instead of making it a titanium replica of a carbon bike.

Work in progress at SOTA Ruamrudee Bangkok, Thailand September 9, 2022

Other concerns are that the "SPIN" will be only one of a series of bikes I would like to build - an all-road, a Ti E-touring bike "STORM" (a coupler, maybe), and a Ti KOM bike "SPRINT", which all would share a family look. As the likelihood of an E-touring bike plays into consideration, the dropout will eventually host an electronic connector if I use a Mahle motor, an option anyway. Although the dropout will be 3D DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering) components, the consistence look should maintain, a part that requires more time to settle.

Work in progress at SOTA Ruamrudee Bangkok, Thailand September 9, 2022

This preliminary frame geometry using double-butted 0.8mm/0.9mm Ti 3Al-2.5V tubes and Ti 6Al-4V for T47 BB, CAD simulated frame weight approx. 1,307grams so this may be slightly less than I originally thought it will be. Curious to see the actual frame weight after it is built.

September 18

It will be a lengthy period to prepare the titanium tube and the pressing jigs, and while doing so, there is a window of time to decide on other components.

A custom logo - likely to CNC engraves on the headtube before the TIG weld process.

Bottle cages - 2 should be enough, each on the seat and down tubes. Silca Sicuro titanium bottle cage has been on my Litespeed and will be on the "Spin", including space for a pair of CO2 inflators mounted on the seat tube bottle cage.

Finishes - a combination of brushing and sandblasting, probably some local anodizing. This may take some time, but this is the last stage.

Keep the bike looks simple!

September 23

A close friend of mine, the great Steve McCurry, just published a blog about bicycle

Steve McCurry "The Noblest Invention"

Over a decade-long friendship, countless conversations over the subjects of photography and matters in life, and unforgettable trips together, wandering the streets in the US, Taiwan, Thailand, Myanmar, China, and Russia. Steve Mccurry is a source of inspiration for my photography and the one who helped me to make more meaningful images. I hope one day this blog will amass enough photographs to give inspiration to those who love the ride on two wheels and the pictures along the journeys.

September 24

I made some adjustments on the chain stay and seat stay to give slightly more allowance for the rear wheel according to the suggestion from the frame builder, who has more experience building custom titanium bikes. I prefer my original approach of a cleaner profile of the rear triangle but decided to compromise for my first custom frame, which I can build a revised one after a 3,000-5,000km ride.

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