Bike Check: 18 Bikes Full Suspension Prototypes

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Peak District based 18 Bikes had two prototypes on display at Bespoked Manchester. Matt talked us through them.

These two bikes are the first prototypes on what is already quite a long course to us finally launching a full-susser that will be available at some point. But these are both prototypes, they are geometry and suspension mules. We’ve got one built up, the conventional, normal bike, we’ve then also got its e-bike brother running the Bosch SX motor. Bosch haven’t delivered the battery that would sit underneath the down tube, we’ll get that next week.

Image Credit: Josh Weinberg
Image Credit: Josh Weinberg
Image Credit: Josh Weinberg
Image Credit: Josh Weinberg
Image Credit: Josh Weinberg
Image Credit: Josh Weinberg

Image Credit: Josh Weinberg

So we’ll be doing testing with these over the rest of the year and then working out how we’re going to manufacture the rear end to actually put it into production. We’re aiming to launch sometime in the new year with hopefully both models available but certainly the conventional bike will be coming first, that’s the highest priority, and the e-bike will come later because it’s only a different front triangle. The idea is that we use the same swing arm on everything.

Okay and so these are both steel, is that what you’re going to be doing with them in future?

So for production the front triangles will be steel made by us in the Sheffield workshop because it gives us the versatility, so we can offer full custom but also set sizes. The rear triangles is a big old question mark at the moment. We’ve got a lot of contacts that we’re talking to about various different production methods, so steel is still an option, made in various different places. We’re also looking at aluminium both welded and bonded, and we’re looking at bonded carbon as well so it’s pretty wide open as to what the rear end will be at the moment.

Okay there is a lot going on here, I’m tempted to start with that bit of bonded carbon that you’ve got in there already, tell us about that bit.

Yeah so that is a floating brake arm that is one of the experiments with the prototype we’re not actually sure if that will make production. But we wanted to see – because it’s a high pivot with an idler everyone will tell you that the brake is going to affect that – we want to see how true that is, so if you look on the other side of the frames there’s actually three mounting points for that. So you could just on the trail do a run, put it in a different position to get a different feedback from the brake, and we do have a neutral position as well that effectively eliminates the floating brake arm.

The reason we’ve done that with carbon is because it was easy to do it and it was a good first experiment with doing a little bit of bonded carbon with just the little pieces bonded into the end of the tube. Originally I had planned to do that out of steel as well but I realised I can do carbon and then we’ve got all the materials.

What kind of ride are you looking for from the finished product?

So we’ve obviously been around a while and we’re after the same sort of thing that we we did with the Number Nine hardtail. We want what we would call a mountain bike, so it’s not tied into a genre. It’s 160mm fork, 150mm rear for just riding. Do whatever you want on it, we’re not aiming for super light, we’re not aiming for it to be an enduro race bike. Just a bike for someone to ride. It’ll be the one bike does everything.

It’s a bold claim!

It’s the sort of bike that we want to ride so that that’s what we’re building basically.

What about the linkages that you’ve got in there did you make those?

No, they were designed in house and it’s one of the reasons that these are unpainted prototypes is that we’ve had some difficulty getting stuff machined. The guy that we dealt with at our previous machine shop left, and then everyone’s busy. Ultimately they will be made in Sheffield, we do have a machine shop there that we use. So the idea is that the production frames we will know who has done every single part, we’ll have much more control over the whole process. It will effectively be that I could name the the guy who did the machining, the guy who does the powder coat – all of that will be done in the UK purely for control more than anything. But at the moment though those links were actually machined in China.

The vision is that in future it’ll be an entirely British bike?

That was purely a timescale thing because China turned it around in 10 days.

You told us the travel, what about some of the geometry numbers?

So we’ll be matching the sizing to the Number Nine frame, so named after the reach dimension. So these are both the 475s because it gives us the most options for the people at the shop to ride them. I would normally ride a 500 and so would Si, but we’ve got some shorter guys as well so we’ve done that so that everyone else can ride it. 65 degree head angle, 77 seat tube – off the top of my head. We do size specific chainstay lengths on the Number Nine – this gets it as well but I can’t remember the numbers for that.

Will it be mullet compatible?

So the idea will be that the production swing arms will have an interchangeable dropout so the main piece of the swing arm will be one piece, with a dropout that does the chainstay length, that will also have a mullet option. So we will be able to have three different chainstay lengths with two different bottom bracket drops by changing the dropout insert.

Okay and it looks like a very straight seat tube there does that mean you can get as much dropper post in there as you like?

Yep, it was one of the design criteria when we were trying to work out suspension layouts. We wanted something that gave full dropper insertion, we wanted to have everything out of the way of the bottom bracket area so that we could slot a motor in instead without having to move anything, and we also wanted to be able to put bottles and accessory mounts in. So the way we’ve got it built up with the Tigon shock with the piggyback on, you can’t fit a full-size bottle in there but you can fit a bottle in there. If you had an inline shock you can fit a full-size bottle. That’s the ultimate aim is we want something that’s practical to you, so full dropper insertion, be able to put bottles on and other stuff as well. and for the e and non-e versions to ride the same.

And will the e and non-e versions have the same geometry as well then?

Fundamentally yes. Because we’re going with the SX motor we view that it’s either a lightweight e-bike or it’s a heavyweight normal bike. It’s one of the reasons that we’re doing these prototypes – to test it. These two frames do have the same geometry, we want to see if that works. It might be that we do make minor tweaks, but it it’s not going to be anything major we don’t think. But that’s one of the reasons that we prototype.

And so the SX motor, is that because you want something light or do you think that bigger batteries aren’t necessary for the sort of riding you do? What’s the rationale there?

Yeah it’s fundamentally what we’re interested in. I’ve just switched over to riding a lightweight e-bike because I’ve got crap knees and ankles, I don’t have any personal vested interest in full fat bikes yet. It’s not to say we might not add one in the future, but in terms of the priority order, a full power e-bike is actually quite low down our list. We’ve got some other projects ahead of that. This is more interesting to us because it’s more like riding a normal bike – that that’s what we prefer.

Is there anything else that we should know about these bikes that I’ve not already asked you about?

I think we’ve covered pretty much everything. The only thing would be that if people do want to keep up to date on it, if they sign up to our newsletter that’s where they’ll see everything. Or follow us on social media.

Brilliant, thank you very much!

Image Credit: Josh Weinberg
Image Credit: Josh Weinberg
Image Credit: Josh Weinberg
Image Credit: Josh Weinberg
Image Credit: Josh Weinberg
Image Credit: Josh Weinberg

Image Credit: Josh Weinberg

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Hannah Dobson

Managing Editor

I came to Singletrack having decided there must be more to life than meetings. I like all bikes, but especially unusual ones. More than bikes, I like what bikes do. I think that they link people and places; that cycling creates a connection between us and our environment; bikes create communities; deliver freedom; bring joy; and improve fitness. They're environmentally friendly and create friendly environments. I try to write about all these things in the hope that others might discover the joy of bikes too.

More posts from Hannah

Viewing 6 posts - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)
  • Bike Check: 18 Bikes Full Suspension Prototypes
  • jeffl
    Full Member

    They do have a lovely head badge.

    matt_outandabout
    Full Member

    I’m intrigued to see where this goes.
    I’m a steel fan, but still struggling to get my head around such a slim looking rear end…

    tuboflard
    Full Member

    I’ve always liked what 18 Bikes are doing, and it helps they are a lovely bunch of blokes too. I go out of my way to use them as a bike shop when I need stuff doing.

    b33k34
    Full Member

    Yes, lovely guys I got to know back when I was doing Nicolai.

    That’s properly lovely work – especially to see someone making a one off e-bike proto like that (though the biggest issue I can see is the battery – theres a good reason manufacturers moved from ‘bottle cage’ type batteries to integrating them into the downtube.  On the old Orbea Wild running the Bosch battery on top of the downtube made a big difference to the way the bike feels to ride, even more so if you did it without the downtube battery in place.

    prettygreenparrot
    Full Member

    Saw these IRL. They were very prototype-looking. Which is great for Bespoked. I liked the skeletal steel look, But that idler cog and the shock connected to the top tube aren’t my thing. Could easily see trying one out though…

    At Bespoked what I was pleased/disturbed by was how neat the Atherton bikes looked IRL. The pictures I’ve seen over the past couple of years have been “Orange++”. But seeing them on the stand – wow! I could imagine buying one. Obviously, not deserving one…but they looked so neat! The lack of bottle bosses on the carbon ones aside.

    ThePinkster
    Full Member

    I feel a little daft at the moment but when I read the title I thought it was 18 different prototype suspension bikes. Was a little disappointed when I could only find one, but in a lot of detail ?

Viewing 6 posts - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)

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