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Dec 6, 2023

This week we welcome Jonathan Hornell-Kennedy from Canada's Framework Bikes. Jonathan is a relative newcomer to the world of bicycle framebuilding, but his background in manufacturing and design supporting the aerospace industry provided him with some unique skills and insights he brings to his craft.

Jonathan sheds light on his entry into custom bike building, sharing the evolution of his process. He explains the meticulous method behind the creation of his unique carbon fiber tubes and aluminum lugs. We delve into what makes these bikes versatile on various terrains, and the challenges and decision-making involved in custom builds. Jonathan also touches on the struggles of establishing his brand within the competitive bike industry. 

The conversation rounds off with discussions about the future of Frameworks. Join us for an insightful conversation, as we delve deeper into the fascinating world of custom bike building. 

Framework Bikes Instagram

Episode sponsor: Hammerhead Karoo 2 (Use code: TheGravelRide for free HRM)

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Automated Transcription, please excuse the typos:

[00:00:00]Craig Dalton: Hello, and welcome to the gravel ride podcast, where we go deep on the sport of gravel cycling through in-depth interviews with product designers, event organizers and athletes. Who are pioneering the sport

I'm your host, Craig Dalton, a lifelong cyclist who discovered gravel cycling back in 2016 and made all the mistakes you don't need to make. I approach each episode as a beginner down, unlock all the knowledge you need to become a great gravel cyclist.

[00:00:25]Craig Dalton (Host): This week on the broadcast. I bring you Jonathan Cornell Kennedy from frameworks out of Canada. You might've heard Jonathan briefly on the podcast. When I did one of my made bicycle show recap shows.

I was captivated by his designs at the show as they were relatively unique amongst the field of titanium and steel welded bicycles. I'd been familiar with lugged carbon construction from a number of other builders along the years, but I hadn't seen his particular approach. And after following him on Instagram, which I definitely recommend you do, I became a NABARD with the manufacturing process. So I was excited to have him back on board to learn a little bit more about his history. He's a relative newcomer to the world of bicycling, which I think always yields interesting and innovative approaches to things.

That's builders who have been around forever. Might not care to revisit as an approach. . So. I'm excited to have this conversation before we jump in. I do need to thank this week sponsor hammer had, and the hammer had Caru to computer.

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I really just love to see what's ahead of me in the climb. So I can just think about my cadence and effort level. Et cetera. The other big update that I saw come through was around this new e-bike integration, which brings detailed battery usage data right onto this. The display. As the new owner of N E MTB, I'm excited to explore this feature. Because I do have a bit of range anxiety. So having those battery details right in the display unit. By which you can access via a specific persona on the head unit.

So I can switch between things I need on an e-bike ride versus things I need on a traditional gravel ride. Anyway, I encourage you to give. The Karoo to a look right now, our listeners can get a free heart rate monitor with the purchase of our hammerhead kuru two. Just visit right now and use the promo code, the gravel ride at checkout today. This is an exclusive offer for my listeners.

So don't forget that promo code, the gravel ride. You'll get a free heart rate monitor with your purchase of our crew to just go to today at both items to your cart and use that promo code, the gravel ride. With that business behind us, let's jump right in to my conversation with Jonathan.

Jonathan. Welcome to the show. I'm excited to have this conversation after we originally connected at the maid show in Portland, Oregon. Super cool. I thought your product was one of the more. Interesting products I saw in the entire show. So I'm stoked to give the listeners a little bit more insight as to your background and what frameworks is all about.

[00:04:26]Jonathan: Thanks for saying that. That's nice of you. Um, yeah, it's kind of a tired story at this point. Someone with a passion in bikes and who makes things for a living decides to combine those two

of their life and see what happens.

[00:04:40]Craig Dalton (Host): Jonathan, where'd you grow up and how did you discover cycling in the first place?


so I'm, uh, native Southern Ontarian, uh, up here in Canada. I was born in Toronto and have lived within a few hours of Toronto my entire life. Um, so, started biking, just, you know, when you're, Parents kind of teach you how to ride a two wheeler kind of thing in the school field. Well, I was probably like six or seven at that point, um, and we moved out of the city when I was seven and into a more, well, we were still in a town, but I would say a more suburban kind of town.

So biking around the neighborhoods and going to see your friends and stuff, kind of a little bit of escaping mom and dad's supervision. Uh, and then just started kind of. Like, loosely mountain biking. I had like a giant hardtail for my whole, like, biking career from age 12 to when I left for university.

Um, so, you know, go on, jump off of stuff, try and jump over logs, whatever, you know, just being a goof with buddies, and then in university, I, um, that was like, what, early 2000s, um, there was kind of like, the original fixie craze, I feel like

[00:05:57]Craig Dalton (Host): It comes in waves

[00:05:59]Jonathan: but, so I started riding a fixie.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I don't know. It's cyclical, I'm sure. Um, so I started riding a fixie then to get around town, and that was the last bike I purchased before I made one for myself,

I studied, uh, a somewhat esoteric field of statistics called, like, uh, financial math. So it was taught in the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Sciences at the university I went to, so that's like the people who do insurance math. Basically figuring out how much your life insurance policy should cost based on, you know, statistics and market values and things like that.

So, um, yeah, so I was at school for quite a while. I, seven years, I think. Um, studying that I have a master's degree in it and then ended up doing nothing with that degree, uh, in practical use, like I should have been working as like a finance math kind of guy, you know, so didn't really

[00:07:05]Craig Dalton (Host): And then you had mentioned, you know, you had that fixed gear bike that was the only one you had and the next one was one you built yourself. That's for most of us. That's quite a massive leap and journey. What was going on there? I mean, you had, you develop sort of a passion for the sport of cycling. Was it more the idea of frame building and how did you even begin to acquire the skills to manufacture your first bike?

[00:07:30]Jonathan: Yeah, so that, that's maybe where the academic journey ends and then what I've done to earn a living, uh, commenced after that. Um, I, my wife and I own and operate a machine shop and, um, what we started the business with was, um, again, another esoteric thing, uh, pattern making is what it's called. And that's the, the trade that is involved with making the tools that foundries

[00:07:58]Craig Dalton (Host): And how did,

[00:07:59]Jonathan: castings.

[00:08:00]Craig Dalton (Host): I'm curious, Jonathan. So how did, I mean, how did you even see that as an opportunity? Did either of you have, you know, ties into the manufacturing world to begin with?

[00:08:10]Jonathan: Yeah, absolutely. So my dad is a mechanical engineer by education, and he owns and operates a company that, um, basically repairs, refurbishes, remakes large industrial pumps. Um So they, they oftentimes begin life as a casting, like a large chunk of, uh, iron or steel or bronze, whatever it might be. So when I was done university and kind of doing a little bit of soul searching, a friend of mine who's a few years older and was sort of, um, not thrilled with the job he had, I would say, or maybe that's not the right way to say it, but was looking for a change, um, He is, uh, he's a civil engineer by training and approached my dad cause he knew he was self employed and said, uh, Hey Pat, what do you think of like going out on my own?

Got any ideas? I'm pretty handy guy. And my dad said to him, like, Hey, I think you should look into pattern making. The guys are all old. You really can't go to school to learn that stuff. It's all sort of apprenticeship based and they're kind of phasing out their businesses, you know? Um, so there could be an opportunity there.

So Stefan, my friend, and I, um, I took like a night class at a local community college to learn how to do 3D modeling and was kind of pretty handy with SolidWorks. And the modern way of making patterns is to use CNC machines to carve 3D shapes, typically out of like blocks of foam or wood or, uh, tooling board, it's called, which is like a hard plastic.

And those objects that you create are what the foundry uses to create their sand molds. So picture like a cast iron frying pan. The way that's made is they melt iron in a pot and they pour it into a mold that's made out of sand and the mold has the shape of the iron, uh, the cast iron frying pan inside of it.

So my obligation or sort of the service that we offered was not only to produce the tooling, but I was also. You have to design it to work for the foundry. So, uh, cast iron frying pan is a relatively simple object, but we got, over the years, as my skill set grew, got involved with, um, some relatively complicated castings for, like, world leading Aerospace foundries.

And, um, so yeah, Stefan and I ran the business together for about a year, year and a bit. He was living in a different, like he lived in Toronto property. We're in Hamilton, which is about an hour outside. And, um, he had, uh, his first kid in that time. And I was like super hungry to get the business going. And so we were kind of on different paces and there's a little bit of friction that resulted because of that.

So we parted ways and then. We're still good friends, but, um, I kind of ran the business on my own and then my wife, Elise, came on, um, as we started to grow a bit, move facilities, and then started to expand more out of just pattern making to do, um, machining as well, which is, a lot of times, foundries have these metal castings that they produce that are relatively intricate shapes that need some more precise operations carried out on them.

Um, you could, like, an example might be, like, an engine block in a car or turbocharger, like, objects that people, like, think of more readily than some other things I got involved with. So you've got this object that's relatively crude when it comes out of the foundry, and it might need a bearing put in it or threads added so you could bolt it together.

So that, that's an operation that typically happens in some sort of machining setup. So we had this customer base of all these foundries that trusted us to make these relatively complicated things like patterns are, are big, like organic shapes, lots of 3D things that need to be accurate and go together and work.

Um, so it was a pretty easy thing for us to say to them, Hey, you know, he trusts us to do this. Would you allow us to machine your castings for you? Like, can we quote on that work? And the idea for us there was, um, kind of more repeat business. The thing about, uh, uh, pattern tool, uh, is you only make one of them.

Hopefully the customer is not coming back to you for another one right away, because the idea with a mold or a tool or something of that nature is that it costs a lot of money to make, but it allows you to make a ton of parts. Um, so think of that as like a mold for a carbon fiber frame. It's the same kind of idea.

You've got this thing that costs a lot of money is really complicated, but it allows you to put, uh, a basic material into it and get

[00:12:39]Craig Dalton (Host): And then you're in your example of like the engine block, they would have pulled something out of the mold that was a bit rough around the edges, maybe not as precise as it needed to be to fit. You would bring it back into your CNC capabilities and really use the tool to, to make precise edges and cuts and shapes around the basic block.

[00:13:01]Jonathan: exactly.

[00:13:01]Craig Dalton (Host): Gotcha.

[00:13:03]Jonathan: Yeah. And like a lot of that stuff would have happened more historically in the, the cycling industry when they used a lot of investment castings for lugs and things like that, or, you know, a lot of that type of product has moved away, like, um, in favor of probably more cost competitive and superior products.

Uh, but yeah, like, uh, there would have been a whole bunch of examples. I'm sure old shift levers and things like that die castings

[00:13:28]Craig Dalton (Host): Yeah, I remember.

[00:13:29]Jonathan: um. The, you get a

[00:13:31]Craig Dalton (Host): remember in the early days of mountain biking, the wave of CNC machined parts that came out, preferably color anodized that were all the rage at the time.

[00:13:41]Jonathan: Yeah.

[00:13:42]Craig Dalton (Host): Yeah.

[00:13:43]Jonathan: Yeah. So it's, so that's sort of the, the story on, and then we got involved in injection molding and doing, um, work for the government during COVID to make PCR testing consumables, uh, so that involved like some pretty complicated work in terms of reverse engineering, um, yeah, plastic components, getting a clean room set up,

[00:14:05]Craig Dalton (Host): And what was that additional equipment that you invested in at the time?

[00:14:09]Jonathan: Yeah. So we were, we got a grant from the government to set it up. Uh, so we had to put some capital into it for sure. That's how it worked, but you know, we felt like we're definitely doing the right thing when North America was kind of running out of those parts. The whole world was running out of them because when, when did like they ever see a demand spike like that in terms of lab consumables, right?

So, uh, yeah, we got that up and running and then. worked our butts off for two years to make it all happen. And then that's kind of what I would say gave me the financial

[00:14:44]Craig Dalton (Host): So that's that brings us to maybe what 2000 2022.

[00:14:48]Jonathan: yeah, honestly, man, the whole pandemic is a blur in sort of timelines. Yeah, I think so. That sounds about right. Um, yeah, I would say July of 2022 is when we shipped our last part, um, to fulfill the order to the government. And, um, yeah,

[00:15:06]Craig Dalton (Host): And was there a driver behind you saying like, Oh, I want to make a bike? Had you like increased your cycling during the pandemic? Yeah.

[00:15:15]Jonathan: So it's another pandemic story of, I'm sure you remember trying to buy bike stuff. Um, so yeah, the, the, all along, I've been, I've always had a passion for making things, right? Like, using my hands to create an object, like I, like, when I was in school, I worked in, like, fine dining restaurants, like, 40 hours a week.

That was kind of my first form of, you know, trading my time for money in terms of making things. Uh, so the, the shop that I've built up over the years, I've got some really nice equipment. I've paid for it all out of cash flow by doing other people's work. And I've always wanted a product line of my own stuff.

Um, not that I don't like working with other people and you're certainly exposed to a lot of really interesting and challenging problems to solve when other people are bringing you their stuff. But it's a bit of a, like, you know, everybody's got masters, even when I started making my own product, I've got to sell it now.

So that's a whole other thing. But, um, yeah, it's a bit of a, always wanted to make something and I've always been into bikes. So that's why I was saying earlier, kind of combine those two things. And the big push was, um, yeah, just not being able to buy a new bike during the pandemic. I was riding

[00:16:28]Craig Dalton (Host): and given the equipment that you had in hand at that time, can you describe the bike that you were able to make?

[00:16:35]Jonathan: yeah, well, uh, I had originally thought like I'm watching Cobra frameworks as Or yeah, Cobra frame buildings, YouTube channel, how to weld a bike. And I ordered a bunch of chromoly tubing. I've got welding equipment here and milling machines. So I was like, I'm going to just make myself a bike and that's it, right?

Like that's going to be, it'll be very, it'll be a piece of junk because I'm not that good at welding and I've never done one before, but the, it'll be the thing that I made and I'm riding it. And that's cool. Um, and then the tube shot sat on the shelf for like two years. Because it's like, it's not, that's not what I do, right?

That's not my, it felt like too fussy. I was going to have to be like sitting at a welding table, filing things. So the bike that I decided to make was, um, a format that is gaining popularity right now with the advent of 3d printing, which is a lugged. construction frame where the lugs are alloy and I'm using carbon fiber tubes.

So, um, I had actually originally, like I'm really good at 3d modeling. That's one of my main skill sets. So designing the bike took like a day, less than that. And then I was going to have the lugs printed, like 3d printed, like everyone else is doing. It's a pretty, um, in comparison to CNC machine shops that could produce a part like that.

In terms of intricacy, it's relatively easy to find vendors that do 3D printing as a job shopping service. Like, that's kind of the main

[00:18:03]Craig Dalton (Host): And are those, are those, uh, 3d printing? Are they printing in titanium or aluminum or both? Okay.

[00:18:10]Jonathan: both, there's stainless steels, there's all sorts of alloys coming out, there's different forms of printing. And then we, because we do aerospace work, like we had our aerospace designation working with foundries and machine shops that do that type of stuff. Um, we're involved with some of the like, Canadian leaders in terms of operating that equipment and having those processes validated.

So I sent them to the engineers and they said you're not actually going to ride that thing. Are you? I was like, what are you talking about? I was like, yeah, I'm going to write it. And like, well, I don't know if we would like, what do you mean? And that's when I started to like do a bit more research into, um, the metallurgy of 3d prints and would have needed to beef them up more than I thought to get it to work.

But the main thing that

[00:18:56]Craig Dalton (Host): Yeah. Cause I often, when I see companies using the 3d printing, it's often. around the rear dropout. They might highlight that they're doing it back there, but I don't recall of anybody doing a head tube, for example, in the 3D printing style.

[00:19:11]Jonathan: most head tubes on bikes that are logged with 3D prints, they actually segment a piece of carbon in there, um, in between, or a piece of titanium pipe and weld it at the two ends, because that particular shape might actually exceed the build volume of some printers. It's not that they, cost wise it doesn't make sense, it's that it, you're literally talking about a little microwave oven.

[00:19:33]Craig Dalton (Host): Yeah.

[00:19:34]Jonathan: to cram all the lugs into there. Um, and it's the build volume might be like nine, 10 inches cubed. So if you've got a head tube in there, that's, you know, for a taller person, it just won't even fit. So yeah, there was the, the structural element is one thing it can be overcome. The, what floored me was the cost.

Um, these guys are like, often engineers are also in gear guys, right? And they're into cars and biking and stuff like that. So a lot of them knew of these brands that are doing it. And they're kind of saying like, uh, I don't know. We can't with our own cost structure on what it costs to operate these machines.

And kind of how long it takes to print something. We don't get it. So then I kind of went, okay, you know what? For that amount of money, um, that we're talking just to build myself a bike. I can, I can just take a couple. Blocks of aluminum that I have on the shelf and sacrifice a few days of my life to see if I can machine them Um, so I made myself a fixie that that was the first bike and I just bought Carbon tubes from McMaster car like carbon fiber tube.

McMaster car is like, uh, I don't know the Amazon of industrial Ordering so they're they're awesome. They've got everything next day shipping kind of thing. So I got all this stuff and I glued the thing up manually and then I started riding it around, um, around town and going out to group rides, which I hadn't done before.

And people started asking questions about it. You know, most bike people are, they pay attention to stuff like that, whether it's a saddle bike they would ever ride themselves. Maybe not the case, but They know, right? And like, everyone's got

[00:21:07]Craig Dalton (Host): your bicycles have a very distinct look that is going to get people to ask questions. And for the listener, maybe who hasn't, isn't able to kind of visualize what a lugged construction looks like, you've got the head tube. With a little bit of kind of aluminum coming out for the down tube and the top tube, you've got another lug and bottom bracket set up in a similar fashion.

And similarly around the C tube and the rear stay and the carbon fiber tube basically goes inside that aluminum, that lug as we're talking about, and is bonded together in some way to kind of. Create the frame that's somewhat accurate. Jonathan,

[00:21:47]Jonathan: I think that's a pretty

[00:21:48]Craig Dalton (Host): I've never thought about describing lugs to someone in their ears. Not looking at a picture

[00:21:53]Jonathan: Yeah, like, Colagno, Cologno? I don't know how to say the name properly. Like, even their carbon fi Colnago. There you go. They're, they're, uh, Their carbon fiber bikes are logged. So just like there's a step, like most bikes, carbon fiber bikes are made in multiple pieces. They just seen them and sand them and you don't see it because it's under the paint or they might do clear coat

[00:22:13]Craig Dalton (Host): Yeah, exactly.

[00:22:14]Jonathan: wrap or something.

But yeah, anyways, there's a bit of a step and it's, yeah. The, and the, and the first bike, I, it's like bright aluminum. I just left it raw. I didn't put any of the, um, kind of plating that we do on the ones you would have seen. And I use like a more old school looking carbon fiber with like the checkered weave.

So it's like quite, um, yeah. And it's built like a steel bike, like skinny tubes, like I think inch and an eighth or inch and a quarter down tube. Like, uh, yeah, so it was, so I started riding it around and people were saying like, Hey, you know, like go look at, then they list brands X, Y, and Z. Go look at those guys and what they're charging for a bike.

And I thought like, holy cow, like that's, uh, that's, I could do this again and charge less than that and make a pretty good go of it. Um, so that's when I kind of went like, okay, maybe I should try to spend a bit more time not doing it as a one off, but think about how I would build it with the skill set and resources that I have at my disposal and to kind of rethink the construction methodology a bit.

So, as much as my bike is like a object at the end, what I'm, what I really focus on when I'm thinking about the bike is, Everything that goes into making it and optimizing the design so that it can produce the best possible result, uh, in a really predictable manner

[00:23:36]Craig Dalton (Host): Yeah. And in riding that first fixed gear bike and using those off the shelf carbon fiber tubes. Did you kind of recognize something in the tubing that left something to be desired?

[00:23:47]Jonathan: Um, are you, is this like leading towards why I started making my own tubes? Yeah, um, so yeah, they're, they're roll wrapped, so that's a process where you take sheets of pre pranked cloth and picture like rolling pastry on a rolling pin. You've got a 2D sheet on your table and you roll it over. Um, so you're kind of at the, like, you're constrained to what the fabric itself will allow you to do in terms of laying the fiber in certain orientations and what resin is already in it.

Um. So it's, it makes a more limited tube in terms of strength, but honestly, the main motivating factor for me starting to wind the tubes in house was that sourcing stuff in Canada can be problematic for a relatively small economy, you know, and like, there's the border. So every, all these tubes that I had access to were coming out of the States, I'm paying import duties on them.

I'm paying in a currency that's worth a lot more than ours. So when I looked at what it was going to cost me to buy a set of tubes from Rockwest, which is what I made the first bunch of bikes with, like I was working with them on the tubing, um, I just thought like, okay, maybe I can, if the whole idea is to try to optimize the process and drive costs down a bit, I thought I got to do this in house, right?

Like the, the tubes were costing me a lot more than the aluminum that goes into the bike. And that's like aerospace grade coming from a certified mill with traceability certs. And you know, it's. Good stuff. So, um, then there's the option of like when you're using, or option, that's the wrong word, sorry, there, there's the limitation that when you're buying an off the shelf product, you're constrained to how that is made, right?

So the tubes I could have spec'd out to Rockwest, like, Hey, could you make me the tubes with this recipe? And they'd say, yes. But one thing I wanted to maintain, um, as wide open the variable set as possible was like making bikes customizable. Right? So like, say you're talking to a, a frame builder that's using any type of alloy.

They're at the mercy of what tubes they can buy. They can't tune beyond that, right? They can maybe squish them a little bit or change the shape of them to get some different bending compliance in them, but the material is what it is. Um, so it, with internalizing the tube manufacturing, I've got a considerable amount of control over making the tubes behave differently.

Um, so it looks like a fairly basic bike in profile. It looks kind of as like a classical shape in terms of if you overlaid a welded steel bike over it, they'd almost look the same, right? Like, I use a relatively large down tube, but, um, but I wanted, like, I, I think carbon fiber is an excellent material, but to produce a carbon fiber bike in a traditional sense.

Um, you need a mold and then you're not doing custom geometry at that point, right? So I wanted to maintain the ability for every bike to be both custom geometry and have a lot of the benefits of

[00:26:42]Craig Dalton (Host): Can you describe what the filament wound carbon fiber, what's that process like?

[00:26:47]Jonathan: Yeah, so instead of roll wrapping where you're taking prepreg sheets, um, you have a machine, it's like a CNC machine that I built. Um, that operates like a lathe, so a lathe is where you have a spinning thing on a single axis rotating and something tracing back and forth along it. So, I've got a mandrel that's spinning and I, uh, like a spool of carbon fiber is on this carriage and it goes back and forth and I can basically roll or wind the single strand of carbon fiber onto this tube.

So I, I got to do the math again. I did it a few months ago and I forget the number, but I think to make a tube set for a bike, there's like 20, 000 linear feet. that I lay up in a really precise manner. Um, so we build up the tube in layers and we can have different layers for different tubes, different rider thicknesses.

And then what the winder allows me to do is put the fiber down in different orientations. So like, I'm not, I don't have to buy prepreg fabric from someone where it's only unidirectional, it's only. 45 or 90. Um, I can go any angle I want and put down as much or as little as I want in certain areas, and that's all done

[00:28:00]Craig Dalton (Host): that sort of pastry analysis, uh, comparison you used, is there the equivalent of the rolling pin inside that you remove at the end after it's sort of wound into shape?

[00:28:11]Jonathan: yeah. So our, that's where our process is differentiated once again, from people who roll wrap is I don't cure on the mandrel. So most production roll wrapping places or other frame builder, or sorry, um, filament wound tubes, what they do is they have a really precise rod that they wind onto, the mandrel, and then whether it's, you can use, so just to really muddy this a bit more, you can use two forms of fiber to it.

You can have prepreg fiber, so it's a single strand with the resin already in it. Or you can do what I'm doing, which is wet winding, where I buy dry spools of fiber, and then I'm mixing my own resin, um, and the fiber gets wetted on the way to the mandrel. Um, both systems require a cure cycle after to set the resin, but with the prepreg toe, you're subjected to the same constraints that prepreg is in terms of, you know, needing to store the stuff in the freezer.

It has a shelf life. You've got no say over the resin whatsoever. Um. So for us, I can mix and match the recipe for whatever I want. We use some really high performance resins and that's something that I think, you know, the bike industry doesn't talk a lot about. They talk about the fiber. I've got Toray T1100 in my frame or Ultra High Mod in my frame here, but no one talks about the stuff that actually holds it all together, which is

[00:29:28]Craig Dalton (Host): Yeah. I've never heard of it beyond a technical discussion.

[00:29:31]Jonathan: so we spent a lot of time

[00:29:32]Craig Dalton (Host): Yeah. Yeah. I would say, I would say I would encourage the listener while they're listening to this in their earphones to go onto your Instagram account because a lot of this discussion will become more visual. If you start looking through some of the framework bikes, Instagram stories, you'll get sucked into this process and everything Jonathan's saying will come together visually for you.

[00:29:54]Jonathan: I appreciate the plug. So I think the question I'm taking a really long time to answer is like, what happens once the fiber is on the rod? Most places, what they do is to get some amount of consolidation is they wrap tape over it once it's on the mandrel. Kind of like wrapping a hockey stick or a golf club grip or a tennis racket or whatever.

So they've got an additional head that has what looks like packing tape and they pull on it kind of hard and then try and wrap, wrap it under tension to consolidate that fiber down onto the mandrel. Then that whole thing goes in an oven. Some guys will vacuum bag it depending on what you're doing. So that means they put a big plastic sleeve over it and pull vacuum on the sleeve.

So that'll give you, I think it works out to about 14 PSI of consolidation, um, and then, then they have to remove the rod from the carbon fiber once it's cured, pull it out the end, and you're left with your final carbon fiber tube. So what we do that's a little different is, while the fiber is still wet, like the glue, the epoxy glue hasn't set up yet, mandrel, and then I place it into a mold, like a, The mold that has two hemispheres in it.

So I slip a bladder inside of it and then, um, expand the fiber into the mold to give it a really accurate shape and much higher consolidation than you can achieve with, um, traditional

[00:31:21]Craig Dalton (Host): Interesting. You mentioned you, um,

[00:31:24]Jonathan: So that there's, there's a few motivations for that. One is to get like much higher quality product without, because when you're wet winding, um, air and stuff gets worked in.

It's really hard to avoid little micro air bubbles and tiny little air bubbles in carbon fiber is what causes the material to break down over time more rapidly. It's if the, if the plastic starts to fatigue, the fibers get overworked and then the thing kind of breaks down. So the higher quality you can make the product coming out of the mold, the longer it's going to last, the better performance you get out of it.

The other thing for us is I wanted really accurate. diameter on the outside of the tube because that's how we glue it into the lugs. Um, so if you can imagine the process that I described where you tape the outside of it, you're left with a fairly coarse outer surface on your filament wound tube. So most people have to sand it quite heavily to get it either dimensionally accurate or, you know, looking good.

So that's another step I wanted to avoid. Like my whole thing is about trying to minimize the amount of human

[00:32:26]Craig Dalton (Host): Yeah, I think when many of us look around our garages at the carbon fiber frames, uh, clearly like they, they must've been sanded. And then obviously like the paint and everything gets it smoothed over. So you don't see if anybody's seen like a raw construction of a carbon fiber frame, they look a lot rougher around the edges than the finished painted products do.

But in your case, there's nowhere to hide. You know, the, the, the product is everything.

[00:32:52]Jonathan: You could, like, like you, what you could do to rectify it, and I think some other builders do need to do this, is like, you've got little pinholes everywhere, you've got little wrinkles in the surface, you lay on a clear coat, you mix up your epoxy, or some other finishing agent, you lay it down, and then you sand it.

And then you repeat that process three or four times until you've got something that looks really nice, but it's, you can kind of think of it as like the, the mosquito trapped in amber, you know, there's like, your carbon fiber tube is in there, but you have layers of extra resin and clear coat on the outside to make it look pristine, but there's actually a lot of like little plastic and paint on the

[00:33:31]Craig Dalton (Host): So we've given the listener a little bit of an understanding of like the process that you go through and all the, your background as a machine shop first, and why you became suited to kind of create these frames with the process you have today, what is a customer engagement look like, how do they work with you?

How do you leverage? All of that customization capability you've just described to create a unique ride property for a customer's bike.

[00:33:59]Jonathan: That's a question that I don't have a, I don't think I have a satisfying answer to for most people. I'm, I'm coming to this from an extremely technical background where, like, you have to measure and prove everything and, uh, ride feel is totally subjective. You know, there's no, there's no, um, industry standard guidelines for how you test for ride feel.

So people will say to me, Oh, I ride your bike. If you could. talk more, or I'd buy a bike from you if you talk more about how it feels and all these things. So my, I would say my thesis on it is that torsional stiffness is really important. So again, coming back, there's so many layers of like, I could go into techie deep dives on everything, but the, the torsional strength you can get from a filament wound product is like exceptionally high.

It's how they make, like, really high performing, um, motorsport driveshafts and stuff like that. So, torsion refers to how much twisting the downtube can handle, basically. Um, that's the main structural element there. Uh, so, if you wanted to make an object that had the same strength as our downtube, and sort of, in terms of torsion, they would be really stiff in all your other dimensions, right?

It would be an uncomfortable bike to ride. So, I really focus on, um, like, speed and comfort. I would say, uh, you'd think those things might be at odds with one another, but the efficiencies from sort of the bike, not wanting to twist it, like. Yeah, when you pull on the handlebars and push on the bottom bracket, you're trying to torque the down tube, right?

So, I can make that strong enough to resist that, that you're not being inefficient during pedaling or riding and you're gonna corner well. But it, it's not unnecessarily stiff in plane, so you don't get like, uh, a chattery feel when you're going over bumps. So, yeah, but I, I don't like, I don't have an answer that I think is satisfying.

I, I, I, Honestly, I was researching this last night, going through like academic literature for what places, like, where do you put accelerometers and strain gauges on a bike to try and figure out ride feel? And there's no, there's no answer. And then even if you, even if I come up with a rigorous testing methodology, I say my bike's a seven.

Like, what does that mean to you, Craig, when you're going to buy it? Right. So I think within custom frames, the customer is taking a little bit of a risk. Because they can't go to the showroom floor and try my bike, right? And even if they did try my bike, um, that was built for a different rider, there's no guarantee that the one I make is going to be, you know, I'm not a mind reader and a psychic.

I don't know how to translate those things. But, um, for people who are very concerned about that, I don't have a satisfying answer. I don't think I can't tell them I can make you exactly what you want. The things we look at are your weight, your riding style. Um, your preferences in terms of stiffness, like just having a sort of verbal conversation about that, and like describe what you're looking for, your power output, like FTP, things like that.

Um, yeah, and

[00:36:59]Craig Dalton (Host): the challenge with your process that you can make it overly stiff and it's backing it off to the

[00:37:06]Jonathan: Uh, no, I don't, I don't think we'd ever be able to, I, I, I maybe could if I redesign things, but no, we're not going to be like, uh, you know, early 2000s, we feel like riding a board. That's like our, our two profiles in a lot of places are slender, our chainstays are small, they're strong, they're very strong.

But, um, you know, I think if, if you're someone who comes from riding like pretty hardcore road bikes or like time trial bikes, our bike is not going to feel, um, too stiff to you. There's no, no, I'm making something that I want to ride for a couple hours and have fun on, and we can stiffen things up for sure if that's what you're looking for.

But I. You know, like there's the whole conversation of, um, pedaling efficiency, aero gains, all those types of things. Like I'm not making a type of bike that anyone is going to race on, right? Like people who are racing and are concerned about aero gains and drivetrain efficiency and all that stuff are, they're probably on, they want to be on the BMC or the Canyon or the Factor or whatever other guys are racing on.

So for me to try to tailor the bike construction methodology to capture that little bit more of the market, Even if I had a product that met their needs, I don't think I'd have a very easy time selling it because it's not got, you know, it's not what other people are racing. So, um, yeah, I've, I've. Tried to make a bike that is really enjoyable for most people.

Like even if you are a serious racer, train on one of our bikes, you're going to have a lot

[00:38:33]Craig Dalton (Host): Yeah. Yeah. Interesting. So, I mean, just to be clear. So for the would be gravel cyclists looking at one of your gravel frames, what size tire clearance can you get? And do you sort of in your mind say this is sort of a, this is an all around gravel bike. This is going to get it in that sweet spot of you can do almost everything from including racing with it to, you know, your local group ride, gravel rides, et cetera,

[00:38:59]Jonathan: Yeah. I think that comes down to what do you define a gravel bike as, right? So we, because everything is custom geometry, I can take it from being basically like a nineties, late eighties mountain bike, um, to. Basically a super fast road bike that you can fit gravel tires on, right? Like it's, I can do the whole spectrum.

So I kind of didn't answer this part of the question that you asked about what the customer experience is like. Everything we do is like, I haven't made two bikes that are the same yet. Right. And I'm on a boat. Bike 20 at this point. So we can do all your normal fit stuff. But then again, yeah, the question of tire clearance, drivetrain impingement.

Um, I'd say, uh, we would have a tough time stuffing a 50 millimeter tire in with a two by drivetrain with one by no problem. Um, upfront. So we're, uh, classified OEM. I don't know if you're familiar with those. Uh, yeah. The internal shifting hub. So if people like really want huge tire clearance and two by that's like one of the things I can lean on there.

Um, but yeah, like I think my, I've made myself, uh, kind of an all road gravel leaning bike and a gravel bike. That's got a really slack head tube and I ride it with 45s on it all the time. Uh, so yeah, we can, we can kind of do whatever you're looking for. I think. Gravel as a segment has a lot more variability than like a road bike, you know, there's fast gravel Um, you know, whatever slack bike packing type gravel.

So yeah, we can kind of do Anything really and that that is one of the challenges we have is like, okay I'm telling you about how diverse our system is in terms of its output and we can tune tubes and all this stuff It

[00:40:39]Craig Dalton (Host): 100%. Yeah.

[00:40:40]Jonathan: For the customer, right? Like they can't, it's, it's, it's too much.

So that's why in the new year, I'm working on it right now. We want to offer like pre made geometry essentially at a slightly better price than our customs. We're going to have a couple of geometry tables, um, for, you know, road, all road, gravel, maybe even do two gravels, like the fast gravel and the, but that'll kind of like, which is all road,

[00:41:02]Craig Dalton (Host): Yeah. Yeah. Having gone through my own, uh, custom

[00:41:05]Jonathan: And just to kind

[00:41:07]Craig Dalton (Host): overwhelmed with choice all of a sudden when someone says they can make you anything all of a sudden, it's hard not to become paralyzed. And it took me a while. And fortunately, I'm surrounded by lots of advisors in this front to help that helped me kind of just narrow down the constraints.

Of what I wanted and then kind of work with the frame builder to say, yeah, this makes sense.

[00:41:28]Jonathan: yeah. So our, like. Easiest customers, fastest, like, time from first interaction to when the bike is built are people who have commissioned lots of custom bikes already, right? They don't, like, they're not doubting their decision. They know what they're looking for. They know they're fit. Um, so they're not belabouring these decisions of like, oh, what's a 0.

2 degree difference on my head tube gonna do, right? Like, they're, it's To them, it's not a big deal. So that's where it's, someone said it to me at, at made actually is like, Oh, what you want is freedom from choice in terms of like having the, the, the product, you know, take this or leave it, you know, that's, if you want to do the full custom thing, we can do that, but maybe it's easier for you to just cross shop geometry tables on like bike insights.

And that's what you, how you want to do it. So I need to kind of make that, um, available for people. So yeah, it is, it is totally overwhelming. And I think it's, so there is no customer interaction for me right now that isn't like one click buy on the website, right? Like I'm, there's a bunch of emails back and forth.

There's drawing revisions, there's discussions about what you're looking for, what bikes you currently have, um, and what your goals are for the build. So yeah, it's, it, it's involved. And that's part of the reason for shifting to like sort of the tiered model of like prebuilt at one price. And. Full custom at another price because there's a ton of time involved in custom where I can just like Turn on the CNC machine and make make the size 56 all road and you get your thing a couple weeks later You know, there's

[00:43:06]Craig Dalton (Host): You had mentioned in this conversation sort of this journey to becoming part of the bike industry. Is, is there anything that stands out that surprised you? About the way people buy bikes or what it's like being a bicycle manufacturer.

[00:43:20]Jonathan: no everything. I'm I'm yeah, we talked about this a bit before we started But yeah, like that's the whole side of it. That's It's a total mystery to me, like I'm, I'm a like tech focused, fact based kind of person and to try to navigate, um, the mind of the consumer amidst all the information they're giving, given from general marketing and you know, what, what's important, what's not, it's, and, and convincing someone that what you're doing is worthwhile.

Is really challenging. That's, that's going to be the kind of crux of my success or failure. It's not like, I think we make a good product and I can't guarantee you. Sorry. I think my heater just kicked on in the shop. Did that come

[00:44:03]Craig Dalton (Host): No worries.

[00:44:04]Jonathan: microphone a bit? Okay. Um, so yeah, like that, that, that's going to be the make or break for me.

Can I sell enough bikes to keep it, uh,

[00:44:14]Craig Dalton (Host): Yeah. Yeah. It's, it,

[00:44:16]Jonathan: So

[00:44:16]Craig Dalton (Host): so interesting

[00:44:17]Jonathan: inside the mind.

[00:44:18]Craig Dalton (Host): your business over Instagram because you're, you're so, um, open about sharing your manufacturing process and open to engineering debates and discussions with would be commenters on your Instagram stories that I do think, I mean, from an outsider's perspective, Jonathan, I think you, you showcase the quality of your work in those discussions.

And you have always shown up in every story that I've, I've watched in our, our previous conversations, you show up as someone who's very thoughtful about the things you're doing. And obviously there are different ways of doing things, but you are clear about why you are doing things the way you are doing that.

[00:45:00]Jonathan: Yeah. So that's always been what's worked for me is sort of the behind the scenes, lay it out for what it is. Um, I think what a lot of people have told me in that sort of marketing branding thing is like, you need to take it a step further. You need to not just show what you're doing, but you need to explain why it's good.

And that's where I think I draw a little bit of a personal line because it's like, I'm not, I don't want to take it to, I'm telling you what you should think. I want to leave it at let me show you and you decide for yourself and I don't know if

[00:45:29]Craig Dalton (Host): Yeah, I think, I mean, I think the challenge now just my two senses, um, given the small number of frames you have out there in the world is just getting rider feedback, testimonials, reviews, other people riding bikes that are willing to comment on things like ride quality to kind of bring it all together, because as I just said, like, I do think that you've yeah.

You've established through your social accounts that trust in your skill as a manufacturer. Now people are just wanting to see what do people say when they've got one of these underneath them?

[00:46:02]Jonathan: Yeah I've had people literally DM me and said like there I've got some review bikes out there with Certain reviewers and I've had people say when so and so writes their review as long as it's not bad. I'm buying a bike It's like okay great I think that's good that you need that little like last bit of confirmation that it's not a crapshoot but Like I'm, I'm over here kind of feeling a little vulnerable to be honest, like you put yourself out there.

I'm selling bikes. I don't know what expectations I had in terms of how fast sales would take off. I think, like my wife keeps reminding me, like you've been doing this for a year, like maybe you have unreasonable expectations. Just keep your head down and keep like doing good stuff. So yeah, I think you're right.

That'll just take a little bit of time, awareness.

[00:46:46]Craig Dalton (Host): Yeah. And then

[00:46:47]Jonathan: Yeah, all those things of

[00:46:49]Craig Dalton (Host): would say, and I maybe I've missed this on your account to the degree in which you are writing your own product and out there. Just sharing a little bit of, of your own commentary again, like everybody's going to take it with a, Hey, this is one rider and, you know, maybe it's a very self interested rider's perspective, but I, you always have struck me as someone who's honest.

So I'm not thinking you're going to film a video of yourself riding a gravel trail saying this is the fastest bike ever been produced on earth.

[00:47:17]Jonathan: so yeah, I might've given, uh, discredited myself already in this conversation in that regard of, I wrote a fixie for the last 20 years, right? Like what's my frame of reference? I've, I've said this to people and they look at me like, Oh my God, this guy must be a total idiot. Where I say like, I'm not a bike guy.

Like, I'm a cyclist. I love riding bikes, but I'm not a guy that's reading the magazines every month, seeing what the latest and greatest is, or knowing what the trends are. Like, I'm kind of outside of all of that. So I think, to your question about what are the biggest kind of shocks is, um, yeah, the whole branding, marketing side of it.

I was, I really underestimated that. I thought like a good product, a good, well made product is worthy of, um, you know, at least consideration from a buyer, but there's so much information out there, right? There it's overwhelming and it changes

[00:48:06]Craig Dalton (Host): hundred percent. I mean, I think what,

[00:48:08]Jonathan: me saying, I'm enjoying riding my bike.

It's like, yeah, of course I'm going to say like,

[00:48:14]Craig Dalton (Host): oh man, well, I mean, this is great. Jonathan, just one final question on like the customer journey. Like if someone was to come to you with a custom project and assume that they kind of are in the know and got to understand the basics of what they want. Once you kind of locked in design back and forth, how long does it take you to produce a bicycle?

And are you typically selling a complete bike or just a frame?

[00:48:35]Jonathan: so I'll answer the last part of that question first. We do both. Um, I would say. The farther away the bike's getting shipped, the less likely it is that it's a complete, if that makes any sense. Like I'm in Canada, I'm sourcing components here, so our American customers, it might make more sense for them to work with their local shop.

To fill out the build and I just send the frames work and handlebars or whatever they're buying down there. Um, local people have bought full builds. I've sent stuff, yeah, internationally as far as Japan more recently, and those are typically frames. So we do both. We do want to know about component, um, compatibility, even if we're not the ones.

We're doing the full build, you know, that's an important part of making sure everything works for the customer when they get it. Um, so the way we work is we take a deposit, uh, 500 right now to reserve a spot in the build queue and to kind of do that back and start the discussion on what you're looking for.

That deposit's non refundable, but it gets applied to the balance of whatever the build cost comes out to at the end. Um, and from the approval, like some people approve same day. They know exactly what they want. Might go to production later that day or the next morning. Uh, it's, I would say it's typically about a month right now from start to finish to build the bike.

Like, it's, there's, it's not a lot of my time, but there's a bunch of steps where you wait in between. The main one being that I send the lugs out for plating for, uh, corrosion resistance and Uh, and that, you know, if I finish them on a Monday, I ship them out a Tuesday or Wednesday, I get them back a week and a half later, uh, in that time I can have made the tubes.

So, yeah, it's our lead time right now is about two months. I think we've got some backlog, a small backlog of orders to work through, some review bikes going out and. Yeah, so it's, we're pretty quick, I think, like our, the theoretical throughput on what I can do in a year, uh, on our current equipment is

[00:50:41]Craig Dalton (Host): Okay.

[00:50:42]Jonathan: 200 bikes. So I don't expect to be selling that many. If I was,

[00:50:47]Craig Dalton (Host): Well, we'll get you there in time. Jonathan. I'm good. I'm excited to see this journey ahead of you.

[00:50:53]Jonathan: Thanks.

[00:50:54]Craig Dalton (Host): Yeah. Cool. Well, I'll put links to everything in the show notes. So people know how to find you again for the listener. Definitely follow the frameworks framework bikes, Instagram account, which I'll link to as well.

You can get all the behind the scenes. You're going to want a friend of mine who tipped me off to your brand when we were at Manufacturer's porn, which I think is appropriate.

[00:51:15]Jonathan: No, Yeah, the website, uh, it's there. It needs some work. Like I said, we're working on the kind of program for 2024 in terms of the stock sizes. Throwing some more information up there. It's just really it's a placeholder website right now. So definitely needs

[00:51:31]Craig Dalton (Host): Right on. Thanks for all the time, Jonathan.

[00:51:34]Jonathan: Thank you

[00:51:34]Craig Dalton (Host): that's going to do it for this week's edition of the gravel ride podcast. Big, thanks to Jonathan from frameworks for coming on board. And telling us all about his journey and manufacturing process for those beautiful bikes. Additional thanks. Goes out to our friends at hammerhead. For sponsoring the show many times this year, truly appreciate their support as I couldn't do what I do without some of their underwriting.

If you were able to support the show, a couple of things you can do for me, ratings and reviews are hugely appreciated. They really help. With discoverability. Or if you're able to financially contribute to the show, simply visit buy me a gravel ride. Until next time here's to finding some dirt onto your wheels.