Bespoked 2018 was held over the weekend at the Engine Shed in Bristol, where as per usual it provided small, independent bike and accessory companies the opportunity to show off their wares to both the press and the public. For the 8th edition of the UK Handmade Bicycle Show there were more mountain bikes on display than ever before, and most of them were downright stunning too. Don’t believe me? Then do yourself a favour and check out our highlights article from the show.
One of the bikes that appeared in that highlights reel came from the Monmouth-based crew known as Robot Bike Co. Andy Hawkins and Ed Haythornthwaite from Robot were on hand at Bespoked to talk through their distinctive carbon & titanium mountain bike frames, including the new-ish R130 short-travel trail bike, and this soon-to-be-released prototype hardtail that’s known as the R-Zero.
Like the R130 and R160 models currently in the Robot lineup, the R-Zero is named after its rear travel. As in, Zero. 0mm. Nada. Zilch. Donuts. The R-Zero is indeed a hardtail, though it makes use of the same carbon fibre tube and titanium lug construction as the bigger full suspension frames. Like those frames, the R-Zero will also be manufactured in Robot’s Monmouth factory, with the titanium lugs produced via an additive manufacturing process that results in the complex shapes you can see in the photos.
Because there’s no shock in the back though, that has opened up the design possibilities when it comes to customisation. As in, you can pick your wheelsize, tyre width, fork travel, and for the most part, the geometry. Want an XC hardtail with a 72° head angle and 29in wheels? Robot can do that. Prefer a 27.5+ hardtail with a 150mm fork and enormously long chainstays for all the stability? Sure thing! Robot will even be able to make an R-Zero fat bike, though the fellas are yet to receive that specific request from any potential customers.
After a long period of prototyping the design and testing it both in the lab and in the real-world, the R-Zero will finally be set free on the Robot website in the coming few weeks. It’ll sell for a grand less than its fully suspended siblings, and there will be a plethora of custom options available including singlespeed and belt drive setups.
For Bespoked, Andy brought along his own personal R-Zero hardtail, which features 29in wheels, a 130mm travel fork, and a set of geometry numbers that look like they’d fit me like a glove. Just sayin’.
This was the first time I’ve seen the R-Zero in person, so I whipped the camera out to grab a load of photos of the exotic prototype hardtail, which you can check out below. I also pitched some questions to Andy about the R-Zero to find out why they’re offering a hardtail in the first place, and what the limits are of that custom geometry…
Andy Hawkins’ Robot R-Zero Prototype Features
- Made in Britain
- Carbon fibre tubing with titanium lugs
- 29in wheels w/clearance for 2.6in tyres
- Zero Stack tapered head tube
- 130mm fork travel
- 66° head angle
- 74° seat angle
- 435mm reach
- 420mm chainstay length
- English threaded bottom bracket
- ISCG 05 chainguide tabs
- Optional front mech mount
- Bolt-on hollow titanium rear dropouts
- 148x12mm rear axle spacing
- Optional belt drive and singlespeed compatibility
- Internal routing for brake, gear and dropper post cabling
- Full custom sizing and geometry available
- Frame weight: 1.8kg
- Frame RRP: £2,895 including VAT
Aside from the customisability of the hardtail platform, the guys at Robot discovered some further ride quality benefits to building a rigid frame with Robot’s tubed & lugged construction technique. Titanium is already well known for its springy ride quality, but what about when it’s combined with carbon fibre tubes? According to Andy, it’s quite springy and lovely.
ST: So why did you guys decide to embark on a hardtail?
AH: We’ve all loved riding hardtails for various reasons, and riding our R130 and R160 bikes showed that our construction method of using titanium lugs and carbon fibre tubes led to some pretty interesting ride characteristics. There’s a degree of flex and compliance through the frame, which provides some incredible cornering grip. We thought it would be interesting to see if this translated to a hardtail – we love the ride feel of titanium hardtails and thought our titanium lugs at the joint intersections could provide that feel, whilst the carbon tubes would give the pedalling efficiency of a carbon frame. It turns out we were right!
ST: What sort of rider is the R-Zero designed for?
AH: The frame is designed to be an aggressive bike in terms of loads, however due to our ability to fully customise virtually all aspects it can easily be setup for anyone using it to ride anything from XC, trail and enduro to freeride or even dirt jumping!
ST: Given the unique construction method, what were some of the challenges around making the R-Zero?
AH: We’ve learnt a hell of a lot over the past 5 years developing our full suspension bikes, so all of that knowledge and experience has gone into this, but there were some particular challenges with this bike being a single piece assembly. We had to come up with some ways to configure the design and fixture to allow us to maintain our double lap joints which our critical to the life of our frames.
ST: And what about the advantages then?
AH: Custom fit, custom geometry and the ability to configure the frame to your exact style of riding are the obvious ones. We use bolt on dropouts too which give the opportunity to run singlespeed or belt drive, and we can also provide additional dropouts for chain stay length adjustment if required.
ST: You mentioned the frame is customisable around wheelsize, fork travel and geometry; what are the limits?
AH: The limits are we will only be offering tapered headtubes and threaded bottom brackets. Minimum chain stay length on a 29in” wheel with a 2.6in wide tyre is 410mm. Head tube length will only be offered between 100-130mm. The internal seat tube diameter will always be 31.6mm. Otherwise there are pretty much no limits within reason (we might need to run some FEA to double check an order for a bike with a 60° head angle a downhill fork!). We haven’t looked at a fat bike, but there’s no reason why we couldn’t. We have some people interested in the Pinion gearbox, which will require a bit of adaptation to the design, but if the demand is there we will do it.
If nothing else, the R-Zero is a masterpiece of UK manufacturing and design expertise. Along with its practical design elements and customisability, the state-of-the-art R-Zero proved to be a deserving winner of The Singletrack Choice Award at the 2018 Bespoked show.
Want to know more about the company and the R-Zero? Then make your way over to robotbike.co
Robot R-Zero Specifications
- Frame // Carbon Fibre Tubes w/Titanium Lugs
- Fork // RockShox Pike RCT3, DebonAir, 130mm Travel
- Rims // Hope Tech Enduro, 32h, Tubeless Compatible
- Hubs // Hope Pro 4, 110x15mm Front & 148x12mm Rear
- Tyres // Schwalbe Magic Mary 29×2.35in Front & Nobby Nic 29×2.35in Rear
- Chainset // SRAM GX Eagle, 170mm Length, 32t X-Sync 2 Chainring
- Rear Mech // SRAM GX Eagle, 12-Speed
- Shifters // SRAM GX Eagle, 12-Speed
- Cassette // SRAM GX Eagle, 10-50t, 12-Speed
- Brakes // Hope Tech 3 E4, 180mm Front & 160mm Rear
- Stem // Renthal Apex, 35mm Long
- Bars // Renthal Fatbar Carbon, 780mm Wide
- Seatpost // RockShox Reverb Stealth, 31.6mm, 150mm Travel
- Saddle // Fabric Scoop, Titanium Rails
- Sizes Available // Custom