SILCA Blog

Rethink the way you work on your bike

 

SILCA announced today that it has acquired Hirobel Cycling Solutions and has moved production to SILCA HQ in Indianapolis.

Our engineering staff at SILCA has more than 35 years of combined experience developing carbon fiber wheels, frames, cycling components and even carbon components for auto racing and aerospace.  We set out to design an improved way of clamping modern, lightweight, composite bicycles out of frustration with existing clamping solutions, and also from seeing first hand damage done to frames both home and shop use.   We have watched as frames have become ever lighter, with more complex tube shapes and internal laminate designs using higher ply counts of ever thinner carbon fabrics… we wondered why we were still even trying to hold them with a pressure clamp using 2 semi-circular jaws of fixed diameter?  It was eye opening to learn from the numerous pro teams we work with that the bike sponsors forbid the use of clamping repair stands in the ProTour.. hence the popularity of the ‘euro fork mount stand’.  With the advent of disc brakes I started asking why the mechanics were doing the extra work of removing the front wheels just to put the bike in a stand to wash it and was shocked when I was told over and over again that a mechanic could lose his job for using a clamp on a pro bike.. ‘the safety risk is too much’.  Which begs the question, why are we using these types of stands at home and in bike shops?

 

HIROBEL FRAME CLAMP

 

Another data point came from our friends at Ruckus Composites, the country's leading repairer of composite frames.  Shawn at Ruckus was telling me how they see a few frames every week with clamp or repair stand damage which they evaluate for repair.  At that moment, we decided to collaborate on better understanding this phenomenon and also working on a solution.

Of course we then learned that another company, founded by a pro mechanic, was already moving down this path and had developed a solution that we quickly grew to love using. 

Then, last year, on a sales call, I met a shop owner who was telling me a story of how their shop and another in the same city had been involved in a fascinating and terrible lawsuit.  A customer had been involved in a terrible, life threatening crash while sprinting on a group ride when the top tube of his carbon fiber bicycle has failed catastrophically.  It was determined that the tube had failed after being initially damaged by being clamped in a repair stand.  Since the customer had work done at multiple shops, the insurance company went after all of them, and won!

Silca (22 of 38)This product fascinates me from two sides of the engineering problem… on the one side you have the consumer who expects their frame to be ever lighter, laterally stiffer, vertically more compliant, aerodynamically shaped, layup optimized for the nuances of layup position and load path… and at the same time, expect that there should be no issue clamping the frame in any number of places with a 40 year old clamp designed in an era before even aluminum bikes, much less carbon fiber ones.  This is sort of insane!  It reminds me of the early days of carbon seat posts.. they were a little bit lighter, and I remember one after another people buying them and talking about the ‘comfort’ and as I had access to the lab equipment to look at the question, we realized that they were all way stiffer than the light metal posts of the era.. the reason being that the engineers were unable to design a seatpost to do the job of a seatpost, but rather had to subjugate the entire design to being able to withstand unrealistic point loads from the various seat post clamping designs of the era.  20 years later and this has been sorted on both sides of the aisle… modern seatposts have very strategic additional layup to resist clamp forces at the rear of the post, and modern frames use numerous techniques to move the stresses around to provide significant clamping force without localized point loading.  Even more advanced, frames with seat masts or custom posts can be ever lighter AND more vertically compliant by designing the entire system to work with only itself, and as a result, we have even lighter AND more comfortable seatposts and frames.

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Of course the problem is that we still have to account for clamping forces from repair stands, which brings us to the frame design engineers perspective.  The frame designer has phenomenal tools at hand to optimize every single tube shape, ply shape, ply orientation, thickness etc. to handle even the most demanding riding.. however, they are then stuck with going back afterwards to add additional material for reinforcement throughout the frame to handle things such as repair stand clamp loads, car rack loads, etc.  I view this as a 2 steps forward one step back situation.. one which has pushed designers of the highest end, lightest weight equipment to place the infamous ‘NO CLAMP’ stickers on top tubes, seat tubes, seat masts and posts alike.  3 Companies have even made custom clamping systems for their top end frames to help with this problem, and every major manufacturer that I know of forbids their pro team mechanics of using clamps at all on the team bikes.   Which, of course, explains the prevalence of fork mount stands in the ProTour, despite the added hassle of this type of stand with disc brakes.. this isn’t necessarily a mechanic preference, it’s a lack of choice as they lose their jobs for clamping a team rider’s bike with a traditional stand!

 

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Hirobel is a specially designed clamp replacement for bicycle repair stands which better distributes stresses and loads within the frame to eliminate damage potential to paint, graphics and especially to irregularly shaped thin walled tubes of modern high end bicycles.  The Hirobel clamp provides a significantly more stable hold on bicycle frame designs of all shapes and sizes.  Ergonomics are improved as the clamp raises the bicycle drivetrain compared to traditional clamps to reduce bending strain on your back.  The clamp design also allows for easier, more stable clamping of heavy e-bikes as well as modern full suspension enduro and downhill bicycles which often times must be lifted with one hand and clamped with another.  With Hirobel, the clamp is capable of supporting 100% of the bicycle weight before it is fully adjusted and secured.

 

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 "We see more clamp damage than people might think. The seat tube and the top tube are the most likely candidates for damaged due to the advancements in aerodynamic shaping and geometries. Often the top tube is one of the thinnest tubes on any bicycle. Also the forces from working on a stuck crank arm or bottom bracket while it is in a work stand can generate damaging forces. One of the benefits of the Hirobel is that the system holds the bicycle frame in two locations that are significantly thicker and spread the support forces out into a stronger area of the frame." -Shawn Small, Ruckus Composites

 

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SILCA GEAR WIPES

During the early stages of the Hirobel acquisition, Brandon was so excited about these wipes that he had developed and I honestly, wrote the product off as something we likely weren't interested in, seriously, they are glorified hand wipes, right?  Well a few weeks later he sent me a canister and I started using them and was pretty amazed at the results!  So after buying the company I sat with a chemical engineer to understand what the secret was and it's pretty darn clever!! 

Not to give too much away, but these were designed by a chemical engineer with a background in cosmetics and skin wipes for hand cleaning.  They use cosmetic certified ingredients and have a completely clean MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) which is extremely rare in the world of cleaning products!  The basic secret is that the wipes contain 3 types of cleaner, one focused on organic oils, one on synthetic oils and a surfactant  that excels in lifting particulates of dirt, dust and other things into solution to be carried away.  All of these are fast evaporating and leave behind no residue!  Most cleaning wipes are developed primarily for hand cleaning, and if you are cleaning hands 20 times a day in a workshop it makes sense for those wipes to have emolients and other skin lotion ingredients to prevent over-drying of hands.  However, for SILCA Gear Wipes, the idea is that the wipes are first and foremost for gear cleaning, so NO emolient or lotion content in the wipes!  This means that you can clean matte surfaces without leaving streaks or residue, and most importantly, you can clean bar tape and grips back to 'like new' condition without risk of finding a slimy residue once you begin to sweat on your next ride!  

Truly, these wipes will change your cleaning and maintenance life!

 

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