The Making of the Smaller ENVY BLK Carbon Fiber BMX Race Frames
October 14, 20165 min read
People think that building a winning BMX frame is easy. "It's only BMX they say" , It should be simple right ? Well when you want it done right, it takes hundreds of hours of R&D.
Some people think that there is just a big catalog and you pick what frame you want, pick your colors and stickers and you are done. Well that may be the way some people do it. But not here at Supercross. Every frame we build starts off as an idea and goes thru hundreds of steps and testings before you see it on the race track and then at your local BMX Race Shop for you to build up your own personal dream bike. Take a minute and read thru below to find out more about the development of the ENVY BLK Expert Series Carbon BMX Race Frame.
When we developed the Pro Size ENVY BLK race frames, we knew that the natural progression would be to offer that same technology to the smaller riders. While that sounds easy, there is a lot of work that goes into developing a carbon race frame that is stiff, but not too stiff. It’s real easy to over build the frame, but then you end up with a frame that is slower as it’s not responsive. So you want the perfect balance of stiffness and compliance. We need to look at how to lay up the fibers to ensure that it launches like no other out of the gate, but isn't overly rigid. To use the perfect balance of carbon ensures it will allow you to dive and hold a line in a turn without being so rigid it throws you high side. With that in mind we spent a lot of time on the Cad program, and using FEA to get the perfect balance. When you are in the cad File, you want to ensure that it is perfect. We learned a lot on our larger ENVY BLK frames, if you make a mistake on how you want it and you have to change the molds, it becomes an expensive mistake for both time and money!
The molds are not cheap , they are huge plates of billet aluminum. A simple change to the mold can cost upwards of $30,000. And take up to 6 months by the time you make the changes to all the parts of the tooling. So when you commit the file to the tooling stage, you want to make sure it is perfect. Spending a few late nights here and there to make it perfect in the preliminary design, will save time and money later. And that’s our goal, the pursuit of the perfect riding bike. So we have to make sure it is right. And preferably, get it right the first time.
With the carbon frames we have many tools that we use to manufacture. The molding process is just as important as the material and design choices. It’s all a part of the recipe for the perfect frame. With our molds, we do a high compaction process and use an EPS internal molding process to ensure that the maximum benefits of the Torray T700S carbon fiber is optimized. It's the details that you can't see on the inside of the frame that further optimize the strength and allow us to build the lightest frame possible.
Once the tools are made and the material is cut, we start the building. The laying of the carbon material on the mandrels and being placed into the mold takes hours. It’s extremely labor intensive as the process has to be done right. There is no room for error. At this point we are 10's of thousands into the process and we have to make sure it is right. And as soon as we get the first finished frame out of the tools, what do we do? We throw it on the test machines and try to break it.
We don't just do the cycle testing, it goes thru a full array of impact testing as well to make sure that it meets and exceed the industry standards. We also aim for the EU standards, but our own standards are over 3x more strenuous than the EU standards. We don't just take the computer and data information and call it good. We prove it to ensure that you are getting the best frames on the market.
Now you would think that after we have computer data and actual test data we would call it good, right? But now, we take it another step further and build one up and put it under a rider for real world testing. In this case we had originally planned on putting the Mini Ninja's and Bella on the Expert and Expert XL frames. Unfortunately, those darn Mini Ninja's grew and needed Pro size frames, so all of the burden of testing fell on the one and only Bella Hammonds and her parents Heath and Melissa.
You may be wondering how the parents would have to get involved, but we needed them to gather data. Send in photos, timed laps, timed sprints. Tearing down the bike, building it back up. extra track time away from the prying eyes of the BMX media and the competition.
Now you think we would be finished and ready to build these for production, right? No, we weren't. we needed months of testing, and we also went back to the drawing board on a few things and dropped the weight on the frame even lighter and improved the launch out of the gate even more. All which make us start back at the beginning, modifying those huge billet molds, more hand lay ups, more machine testing, and finally more real life track time. I know, it sounds glamorous, right? Well it is! Except when you are having to pay the bills and field the calls of why isn't it ready yet, and when can I get one. We hated having to tell people "Not Yet" and "Soon" but we weren't going to release these until they were ready and they were perfect.
Well with the final production Expert ENVY BLK in hand, Bella took off to the California State Finals and picked up her State # 1 Plate and then backed it up heading to Arizona for the Gold Cup Finals and grabbed a pair of wins on Saturday. They say race it Sunday and sell it Monday. That theory doesn't work in BMX anymore, but here is proof that it does. Real world R&D and testing to bring you the best.