Do you look to the automotive industry to see what technologies are available?
Of course. I often go to meetings and conferences. Bicycle development is very interesting, because we use a lot of different processes. For example, if you work with aeronautic stuff, it is very strict, very closed in. They cannot do what they want. It takes a long time to validate new fibers, new processes. It seems that ok, it’s a very high level, but with bicycles, we have the opportunity to make some crazy stuff and try a lot of things. We can do that and test it in reality.
If you want to try something new for the wings of a plane, it is difficult to make a sample. With a bicycle, it is very interesting. I use a lot of different kind of processes. I can experiment. When we discuss with the other industries what we do, each time the guys who don’t know what we’re doing are surprised.
Do you go to Asia a lot?
Six times per year. We also do a video conference several times a year.
How did the UCI rules and limitations affect you? Is that frustrating or is that just part of the game?
At the beginning, during maybe the first five years, no one was listening to the rules. Then you saw that in the Olympic Games they said “Ok, we have to do something to inform everyone about these rules.” We were in discussions a lot over the last two years to improve the rules and make it clear. At the beginning, there was more of a philosophical approach to the bike rules. We want to respect the rules, but many points were not clear, and we wanted to translate it to mechanical, clear answers. Sometimes it’s impossible though. You can explain the rules in two different directions, and then you have many different interpretations.
It was a big mess. We have had many meetings with the UCI and discussed this point to try and clarify it and make it more clear for everyone. After that’s done, it’s easy to respect the rules. For the road it’s simple, but for the time trial, it’s very close. We can play around that, because there is not too much limitation for innovation, but for sure some rules, we have to evaluate some more. We still speak with the UCI often to ensure that we’re on the same page moving toward next year.
The possibility has been mentioned of doing away with the weight limit and instead going to testing of each component in a bike. Thoughts?
In my opinion, I think 800 grams for a frame is a better limit to impose. You can make a five kilo bike and add some computers and weights to it, and then you have 6.8. That makes no sense for the safety of the bike. In my opinion, 800 grams for the frame is well controlled and we can get a very safe frame, for sure. 700 grams is possible if you make a prototype with a very good process and a nice design. It’s fine. The problem is in production. You have to be sure everything is clean, the process is stable and everything. It’s possible.
It’s difficult to say – Ok, the limitation is this specific weight – though. It depends on the factory, the process you use, the design you get. For example, the new frame I drew gets a considerably less stress than an Addict at 800 grams. The the formula at 840 grams is very stable and very strong. There is no problem, but if you take away 100 grams, sometimes it is more difficult to get the same level of confidence. For the components for sure they will reduce the weight, but if you look, they improved the technology with Di2m but the focus is not on weight. They improved the quality of the components. I think weight is still on the mind of the consumer though, but the first target is to create new stuff. I prefer to focus on good features of the bike, good stiffness and better geometry instead of trying to reduce the weight. If I want to make a 500 gram frame, we can do it. One sample, ok, but in production. I don’t know.
Do you see any developing tools or technology coming out that will change how things go?
I think there are a lot of possibilities, like plastic resin and natural fibers/ We do not use them now, but maybe soon we can use some new stuff. It takes a long time to validate to be sure that it improves something. If you check certain forums in regards to aerodynamics, you can see some customer who said yeah “Yeah, that’s bullshit,” so we try to show the reality to be sure we have the right interpretation of data. For example on the Foil we have the right measurements that support our claims. We want to be sure we aren’t just playing a marketing game, because it’s very dangerous in the end. A lot of magazines do tests that check the results, and if you do not publish the right results, and you get an article which says that, at the end there is a difference and it can be dangerous. We try to be very transparent and careful.
Are you usually the first person to test the bike when it comes in?
Yeah. I was very, very happy with the first test of the Foil. The first time I tested it with the extra layup, it was really stiff. On our lunch ride, we go fast sometimes. Nothing on the bike moved. It was very impressive. I prefer the normal layup though. It’s stiff, it’s very efficient, stable. I made the first layup to get the stiffness we wanted. Then I made the first prototype and measured the stiffness, and then if I need, maybe I modify my layup. Normally, it is the second prototype that is what we want. It doesn’t take long to reach the definitive layup. Then we move very quickly to the first riding samples.
How long have you been at SCOTT?
There have been some definite progressions since you started.
I started with time trial bike, the Plasma 2, and I finalized this bike when I arrived. I couldn’t modify it a lot. Then after that I developed CR1 for cyclocross, the Plasma 3, the Foil, and the layup for some other bikes. I focus more on the road. Nobody really liked to work on the road, and I like to do that. It’s cool for everybody. I help on the carbon development of the mountain bikes. I am responsible for a lot of the carbon development. I prefer the high end bikes though. It would be interesting to work on the next Plasma…
When do you expect for that to come out?
This one is great, but I think we can improve on the transition between tubes. I think we can make it a little bit more aero and try to again improve stiffness, improve the weight, because for this kind of bike it is 1300 grams. I think we can reduce the weight with different construction and integration. We will try to do that. It’s a narrow bike. If you want a certain level of stiffness you have to add for the layup. The dimension of tubes adds some weight too. I think we can improve some stuff to reduce weight with some new constructions, new shapes. I’m excited about the challenge.
Would you take some things from the Foil?
If we compare purely the aerodynamics between the Foil and the Plasma 3, the Plasma 3 is better because it is a complete aerodynamic form. If we compare all the parameters though, it is not the same target. It could be interesting to test this technology on the seat tube, seat stay, chain stay, for example. Maybe on the head tube. We have to try it.
It’s a long job to complete all the tests necessary to validate an idea or concept. It depends on how many studies you want to do. For the complete frame, if you want to make a simulation, if we have ten different ideas, we have to test ten different prototypes. With the Plasma 3, we made some different SLA on these components, so we can assemble together to test different combinations.
On the same frame, we can change the tube, change the head – we have to test it in the tunnel. For example, we tried a number of different seatstays. Over the course of three or four days of testing, you can go through a lot of different variables. It’s expensive, you have to be prepared, but the results are invaluable.
What about disc brakes on road bikes?
For the carbon rims, it makes sense, because I don’t like carbon rims. Carbon rims are definitely not good for braking. If you increase temperatures to a certain level, the mechanical properties of the carbon begin to goes down, and then it can collapse the rims. For the tubing, it’s ok, but when you puncture, there is a lot of stress on the rims and if the rim is compromised in any way, the rim can fail, you crash.
The braking efficiency is not good either. Sometimes you have the feeling of not braking well, then there’s the temperature increase. I don’t like it. Discs would be a good solution. The disc is very small, so temperature on the disc can get very hot if you descend a 15 kilometer pass. If could be a problem on how to dissipate temperature.
In my opinion, the best disc is the aluminum rim. I think carbon rims are more marketing than anything. I think the customer who buys stuff like that will not be very happy in terms of braking.
I know carbon too well, and I don’t want to use it on the rims. Sometimes when you study too much and you do some tests, you see things that make you think twice. I saw some wheels totally collapse once. I don’t need that.
I also use wider rims, but everybody likes different wheels!