Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Lichen Bikes: Handmade full suspension bikes

Lichen bikes is the up and coming collaboration between friends Roland and Devin.  The two friends started biking together on the upper Kitsap peninsula during their formative years, and recently started biking together again following a long hiatus.  Devin brought together his custom metal fabrication business and his rekindled love for mountain biking, and was inspired to create his own bike frame.  Unlike most starting mountain bike builders whose first creation is some variation of 29er hardtail, Devin was intent on hitting right at the heart of his biking eperience:  long travel trailbikes that can pedal well, soak up heavy hits, and haul ass.  Green Mountain, near Bremerton, WA serves as one of the local testing grounds for the bike.  The trails are fast, with plenty of technical rock and flat corners.  Although the roads are open to shuttle in the summer months, there are scattered uphills throughout the trail system, which make a pedal friendly bike desirable. 
Click the pictures to see them bigger!
More after the break...

Plenty of standover height here

Dual link suspension with lots of anti-squat for getting up the hill with (slightly more) ease
Geometry for the first frame
Suspension is designed for stiffness at the pedals and deep, plush end stroke travel

The bike shown here is the first frame out of Devin’s Indianola, WA shop.  The geometry follows recent trailbike trends, with inspiration from the Kona Process and the Yeti SB66.  It has a long top tube to fit Devin’s 6’ 4” height, which contributes to a long wheelbase for stability at speed.  The suspension is a dual-link design that gives 180mm of rear wheel travel, balanced in the front by a 180mm Fox 36 fork.  The rear travel is first dominated by strong anti-squat.  Each pedal stroke drives the rear wheel into the ground forcefully, belying the bike’s long travel.  Once past the first third of the stroke, the shock is activated with a falling rate.  This makes the bike follow the ground like a downhill bike.  Fast, rough sections of trail feel like they have been groomed underneath the bike.  In corners, the length and stiffness of the frame let the bike trace perfect arcs underneath the rider.  Very little momentum is lost in each corner, as the bike lets you take a precise line and sticks to it the whole way through.  Jumping the bike is made difficult by the falling rate suspension.  There is very little platform to push into off a lip, although landings were a non-event.  There was no discernable bottom out sensation on small hits, but I did not get a chance to test it out on anything bigger.

Tiny, machined lower link.

Upper link to match
Devin has done an incredible job with the construction of the bike.  The short suspension links and mounts were CNC milled.  Even the small details on the frame were made by Devin, including the cable housing guides, suspension hardware, derailleur hanger, and 12x142 rear axle.  Both front and rear triangles are made with steel.  Devin hopes to expand into aluminum in the future, but his familiarity working with steel made it the logical choice to start with.  A clear powdercoat protects the front triangle, which shows off the colorful patterns left from welding.

Shock mounts machined by Devin

Custom washers on the shock hardware also made by Devin

 Going forward, Devin and Roland are going to make some more prototypes in order to dial in a design.  They’d like to eventually make the bikes out of aluminum and offer custom geometry, as well as offering their frame in a number of sizes.

Custom axle

In-house derailleur hanger

A little gusset for getting rowdy

In-house custom cable guides.  Devin says he isn't likely to make these for future models

What wild concept would you try out if you could build your own frame?  Got any recommendations for the builder?  Wonder when you can get your own? Say it all in the comments below.

1 comment:

  1. Dreamy - 180mm designed to climb, then descend. And home grown. Brilliant. Love the name - Lichen Bikes. Sign. Me. Up.