Explain your role at Titan Racing?
The role covers everything from accessories right through to bikes. We can't change all our products overnight, obviously. So we’ve decided to start with the products where we can make the biggest immediate difference. Because of the popularity of the product and the customer base that we have, the cross-country marathon type mountain bike is our first major project. I have also revamped all the kids’ bikes and I’ve made changes to the hardtail ranges (the Drone and Rouge modes). Not all of these bikes are ready yet but they are on their way. By next year, most of our bikes will be in-house designs.
By bringing more of the design process in-house, we’re hoping to have greater control over our own products. We can start to better unify the design language of each product into something that that you can recognise as a Titan Racing product. The new bikes will all have similar design elements that mark them as a Titan Racing bike.
Where did you start with the Cypher design process?
From the get-go, we knew that we’d be designing the Cypher around two key features: the first one being space for two water bottle cages and secondly, the use of a metric shock.
How much of a constraint is squeezing two water bottles into the front triangle on the frame design?
With two bottle cages, you have to juggle having a decent shaped suspension leverage curve with the restricted space in the frame. For example, certain shock lengths are off the table as they will not fit into the limited space. So designing with two water bottles in mind pushes our frame in a certain direction in terms of where to position the shock, what suspension layout to use, etc.
There are only really three layout options with the shock in this position; a single pivot, swing link, or a combination of the two. We played with these three options to see which has the best kinematic characteristics in terms of anti-squat, anti-rise, and critical leverage ratio. And we ended up with the four-bar horst linkage design that is on the bike now.
It is not just water bottles that we need to think of, there are several other constraints that also influence the frame design. Such as meeting our weight targets, achieving a price point, and many others.
We did not intend to design something different for the sake of being different. The design of the bike has a lot to do with the parameters that we thought would tick the boxes that the customer would want. We see ourselves as a value bike offering and we want to pack the most amount of bike in as possible.
What is next after you have decided on the suspension layout?
The drawings take into account the materials used for the manufacturing process and what is possible in terms of clearance, e.g. tyres, wheels, parts, and cable routing. Once you have that conceptualised, you can start going to town with the shape and looks of the bike. We considered a number of different shapes. For example, we had the top tube splitting before the seattube and even considered four separate headtube designs.
Then we put the drawings into CAD and start modelling everything up as a 3D model, where you can start checking the clearances and finalising the lines. Once a design is close to the final product, I print it out on the 3D printer in the office. One of the difficulties with working in CAD is the vague sense of scale. With 3D printing, you can check in real life whether the parts are the correct proportions.
The finished design is then sent to the frame factory. Here the factory’s specialist reviews the design for manufacturing and analyses the forces at a carbon ply-by-ply level. This cuts down on the amount of physical testing to optimise the frame.
The Cypher is also going to be available in aluminium with the same geometries and kinematics. Working in another material comes with its own manufacturing challenges, so it will come out a little bit later than the carbon models.
How do you use the same frame for both the 100mm Cypher RS and 120mm Cypher?
The 100-millimetre travel Cypher RS has the same eye-to-eye shock length as the Cypher 120-millimetre travel bike. To balance the extra travel of the 120-millimetre Cypher models, we fitted a 120-millimetre fork. The 120mm travel fork lifts the front end of the bike slightly because it has a longer axle-to-crown measurement than a 100mm fork. This normalizes (for lack of a better word) the bottom bracket height and the head angle to suit a 120mm travel bike. The longer fork lifts the bottom bracket height but not by 20 millimetres because bottom bracket height is not directly related to the travel amount. So depending on the fork model (they have varying lengths), the bottom bracket can change between 10 and 12 millimetres.
How much does the adjustable geometry flip-chip change the Cypher?
The idea is to tweak the attitude of the bike slightly for rider preference or depending on the courses they are riding (like our race team does). For example, riders might like the bike in the low position for XCO and the high position for Marathon.
You’ve choose a threaded bottom bracket for the Cypher. How did you make that decision?
I do not dislike press-fit bottom brackets, I think they work fine. The downside to press-fit for me is that once you remove the bottom bracket it is designed to be replaced with a whole new one. Most bike shops and home mechanics reuse the bottom bracket if the bearings are still functioning. I also don’t like the idea of throwing something away that still works. And many South Africans have a similar mentality of not discarding a functioning part. And this is when the infamous creaking often starts appearing. So from a maintenance and reuse perspective, thread bottom brackets make sense.
Many modern cross-country bikes are using a flexible pivot but you’ve shied away from that. Why is that?
The Valley Electrical Titan Racing team have been testing the Cypher. How did their input influence the design of the bike?
How do you hope the consumer will view the Cypher on the shop floor?
How do you make sizing work?