Highlights from Cyclitech 2016

The theme of the conference focused on optimization—of safety, testing, and composite materials and manufacturing processes.

The cycling industry opened its Cyclitech 2016 International Conference on Bicycle Technology on Dec. 6th, produced jointly by JEC and SPE, in partnership with the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI, Aigle, Switzerland). Following Cyclitech 2015 in Belgium, this year's event at the Marriott Hotel in Newport Beach, Calif. opened with a presentation by Mark Barfield, technical manager at UCI, on Simplifying Design Regulations.

Bike manufacturers bring new design ideas to UCI for review and discussion, and UCI makes recommendations for new regulations. New designs must conform to the basic definition of a bike as a vehicle with two wheels of equal diameter, with the front wheel steerable, and the rear wheel driven through a system of pedals and a chain. The bike should be recognized as a bike, and built with two triangles.

The theme of the conference focused on optimization—of safety, testing, and composite materials and manufacturing processes. The importance of quality control was stressed. Most defects of composite structures—in this case bicycle frames, forks, handlebars and other components—are invisible until the part fails. And failure at the speeds and road conditions experienced in today’s cycling domain can be catastrophic not only to the bike, but to the rider.

  • It was agreed by several presenters that new standards need to be developed to be in line with current rider usage.
  • For new designs, FEA analysis was recommended in conjunction with CAD to determine material parameters and optimize the design space. Manufacturers were cautioned not to rely solely on modeling from material data sheets, but to perform actual testing to validate modeling.
  • Oxeon’s TeXtreme spread tow fiber, Innegra Technologies’ thermoplastic high performance fiber, Lamborghini/Gemini Composites Forged Composite carbon fiber SMC and Rein4ced engineering consultants’ steel fiber reinforcements were among various products presented to improve bicycle performance and cost control.
  • Helmet materials optimized for safety and speed were presented by Koroyd and Giro Sport Design.
  • Several speakers presented the variety of NDI testing equipment and procedures available to detect delamination, porosity, voids and other defects in manufactured parts before they are sent out on the road.
  • Recycled carbon fiber, mostly obtained from uncured carbon epoxy prepreg, was also described as a suitable low-cost option for bicycles.

The conference closed with a question and answer session with Greg LeMond, three-time Tour de France winner and founder of LeMond Composites (by Skype connection as LeMond was not able to attend). His last two Tour de France races were on carbon fiber bikes and LeMond expressed an affinity towards carbon fiber.

Now LeMond has a signed licensing agreement with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL, Oak Ridge, Tenn.) for the low-cost carbon fiber ORNL has developed. LeMond is building a facility in Oak Ridge to make carbon composite products for bicycles, automotive and other commercial markets from that low cost carbon fiber.  His goal is to provide carbon composite products to underserved non-aerospace markets and to build a database for applicable resins.

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