More machine trickery

I've already made my enthusiasm for Tree sprockets public so this is just a little follow up.

This is a video of the making of the Tree splined sprocket at that hub of bicycle machining known as Super Rat Machine Works. If you haven't looked at the Super Rat site before, take a look. It's full of raw metal machined bicycle porn.

But anyway... here you can marvel at how a square bit of 7075 billet, with the help of seven different machining tools and some extra trickery, is transformed into the best sprocket on the market.

Sprocket Making Video from andy chapman on Vimeo.

Profile like it light.

Profile have updated their classic Race Crankset.

They won't be doing solid spindles anymore. Instead, they'll come standard with a nice big gun barrel hole drilled right down the middle. Hence the name GDH (Gun Drilled Hollow) Race Cranksets.

It's about time too, those solid spindles were straight outta the 90's. And who ever heard of a broken chromo spindle? The solid ones didn't break and these wont either. Profile are so confident that cranksets will still come with a lifetime warranty.

I'm guessing they'll still be doing their titanium spindles, but these will only be 2 oz heavier so who's going to pay the extra $80?

Rusty Nuts

Are these the most valuable pieces of metal in bmx?

A while back I made an unremarkable post about Tree sprockets costing almost a $1 a gram. I thought that was impressive, but since that day I have worked tirelessly to uncover a part that breaks that $1/gram benchmark.

And finally, here it is. And it's going to be tough to beat:

For your 10 bucks you'll get 5.7 grams of titanium - that's about $1.75/gram.
Of course you also get the unmeasurable satisfaction of knowing that your bike is around 2.5 grams lighter than it was previously.

Sarcasm aside, it'll mean no more rusty nuts and just that slightly cleaner brake set up. And there's a few colours to get fancy with.

So here you go, BlueSix titanium nuts:

S&M Slams

Here's an edit that'll interest anyone who is even a little bit into bmx design and how all that stuff that you pay good money for is actually made.

The vid shows S&M Slams being chopped, embossed, knurled, sprayed and stickered. But considering that all bars are pretty much the same anyway, just substitute your preferred brand

Frames - 5 Lightest

Seems like sub-4 is the new sub-5, which was the new sub-6 on and so forth.

Here's the five lightest frames that I could dig up - all 4 lbs or under of course. I was going to keep it strictly freestyle and strictly production frames, but the KHE Ti is too whacky to leave out.
This thing is ridiculous, I'd say if you made a frame out of plastic it'll probably weigh about 2.2 lbs. KHE say it's a legitimate frame, but it must flex like crazy when you ride it. I used to have a pair of those titanium Eastern bars. They were light, no doubt, but they flexed like mad and snapped pretty quickly. Wonder why Eastern don't make them anymore. Or the Ti Reaper.
If you want it there is a little bit more info on KHEs little experiment

They turned up out of nowhere with super light frames. There was plenty of talk about them and it was all a bit suspicious if you ask me - an unproven company with the lightest frames around? Anyway now the talk is all about these frames snapping when someone so much as looks at one. If you're thinking of buying one of these frames, you might want to read this first.

These things should be a bit more reliable. Premium is made by Haro after all. This is from SPRFLS about the Lowpez Lt: the tubes are double butted and drawn in a special way. then heat treated for 3.5 times longer than normal frames. haro guy said it would shatter before it bent... so you have that to look forward to!”
I think that KHE is totaly and madly obsessed by making extremely light bmx parts and this frame is one of them. Check more on it here.

It feels like this ugly piece of work has been around forever, yet it's still up there matching with all the other feather weights. You've at least got to give Eastern credit for being ahead of their time.

This is a Popularity Contest

Today I was messing around with Google's keyword tool. This is basically a tool tells you what words people are searching the net for, and in what numbers. That in itself seems quite harmless and you could even say quite boring.

But this tool can be used for good or, more interestingly, for evil.

Allow me to illustrate. You could compare the terms "bmx" and "sluts".
If you did you might be suprised to find that "sluts" are only marginally more popular than "bmx", with "sluts" being searched on average 3,350,000 times a month and "bmx" close behind with 2,740,000 searches a month. On average that is. Of course there may be seasonal variations and you might find, for example, that sluts are less popular at Christmas, while bmx increases in popularity.

If you were then to combine those terms and get the figures for "bmx sluts", you would find that roughly 16 hopeful kids a month are searching for those words. Useless, but interesting.

Now for some more useful, but maybe less interesting numbers.

Below is a table for the search quantities for most of the larger bmx companies. The search numbers are a monthly average over the last 12 months and I've added "bmx" after each company name just to make sure that all searches actually are for a bmx company rather some contraption that will allow obese middle aged women pedal while watching Oprah - think "fit bikes"

Search words

Avg. Searches / Month

Mongoose bmx


Gt bmx


Haro bmx


Fit bmx


Animal bmx


Eastern bmx


Diamondback bmx


Sunday bmx


Odyssey bmx


Macneil bmx


Schwinn bmx


United bmx


Subrosa bmx


Huffy bmx


Federal bmx


Specialised bmx


FBM bmx


We the people bmx


Mirraco bmx


Felt bmx


Fly bmx


Mosh bmx


Profile bmx


Verde bmx


Primo bmx


Premium bmx


S&M bmx


Simple bmx


Mankind bmx


Mutiny bmx


Shadow conspiracy bmx


Standard bmx


Shimano bmx


Khe bmx


Skavenger bmx


Giant bmx


Volume bmx


Proper bmx


Éclat bmx


Terrible one bmx


Gsport bmx


Now for some commentary on these ground breaking numbers:

  • Mongoose, GT, Haro, Schwinn and Huffy probably get a pretty good boost from old schoolers looking for rusty old frames to re-chrome impress their friends and sell on ebay for US$3,450. At least, I hope so.
  • Fit are as popular as they seem to be.
  • Animal are right up there, just behind Fit without even making frames or bikes - Not bad.
  • Mosh are matching it with a few big names with out actually existing any more.
  • Shadow Conspiracy tie with Shimano - Well done.

So there you go, the figures aren't 100% accurate, but not bad for a rough idea of what people want.

Rich Hirsch Enjoys Diet Coke

More softgoods and creative than part design, but there's a Rich Hirsch video interview up on Defgrip and he actually comes across as a level headed and humble guy. I always just assumed he was on himself with all the Lotek and Fremont hype and the whole Fit, Mosh, Baygame scene, but there you go... That there is exactly the problem with assumptions about total strangers.

The interview was cool, but is Rich sponsored by Diet Coke or does he just like that shit? Plenty of label at the camera action going on - I'm making no assumptions about that.

If you're into the opinions of total strangers, there's a huge thread full of love and hate for Rich on BMX board


Here's something that's been kicking around for a while.
It's a twin top tube frame from Subrosa. Not scheduled for production as yet, but it's definitely out there and being riden by Justin Kosman.
It's different and you'd have to say "retro", but definitely not an engineering advantage ie. it's not stronger or lighter than a regular frame. In fact it is either a) weaker or b) heavier.
But at least it's something different. Credit for that.

It looks pretty nice from this angle, but looking down of a split tt with gussets and braces and things might not look so clean. Check this thread on BMX forum about the frame.


Marketing bullshit. What can you say?
I actually have to write it a lot for work, so I probably hate it more than your average person.

Like everywhere, it's alive and well in bmx. And not just in the places you'd expect it. S & M have this little look book up with 3 new frames, a bit of marketing hype on each and all specs. According to the speil "Tony's (Cardona) frame is as original as his riding". Sounds really... original. Except that it has pretty much exactly the same geometry as Randy Taylor's frame.

Has eveything become so much the same that a having a different laser-cut seat stay bridge or 0.35" differnece in standover height is as original as it gets?

Screenshot: You can see the real thing here

Trees by the Gram

Just an after thought on that Tree post.

You know, those Tree Lite sprockets are pushing very close towards reaching the magical $1 / gram benchmark. There's not a lot of bmx parts for which you get the privilege of paying a buck a gram for. Or is there? Couldn't tell you.

That said, with minimal weights being the sole focus of bmx at the present moment I'm sure there are thousands of enthusiastic bmx part consumers that want less and less for their dollar. We've been getting far too much for our dollar for far too long now. Less for More!

A sprocket, is a sprocket, is a ...?

How nice is the Tree home page?
Maybe it's just my inner hippy speaking, but I really like it.

They don't make everything at Tree, but the stuff that they do make, they make really well.
I've pretty much always had a tree sprocket.

The original ones were perfect. When they first came out with them everyone else was making sprockets out of 6061 t6 aluminium, which is pretty soft really. Tree had an ingenious idea to make a sprocket that didn't just bend, break or wear out. Now how the hell did they come up with that?

So they ended up using 7075 t6 aluminium which according to them is "84% stronger than 6061 t6 and 51% stronger than 6013 t6." They really are hard, they're 5/16" thick - and they pretty much last forever. I've had mine 4 years and it's got plenty left in it.

This is from their website about testing the sprocket. Pretty funny:
We tested the 7075 sprockets by doing repeated air to sprocket bashes on a coping to coping spine while using a motorcycle chain so we didn’t have to keep replacing links. First I tried it with a Tree 7075 sprocket and then I tried it with the common 6061 sprocket. I would slam the sprocket into the coping as hard as I could to try to bend it. When I tested the 6061 sprocket the teeth were smashed in and miss-shaped after 5 hits. With the Tree sprocket I slammed it as hard as I could with the same force of hits in excess of 25 times. It did not bend and the teeth had scratches on the side of them along with the tooth valleys being pushed in just a little bit!!
Such a simple innovation, but one that was so obviously better than what else was around that now pretty much everyone makes 7075 sprockets.

So you'd think that's it. Sprockets = Done.

Choose one that's 7075, choose one that's CNC'd, choose your favourite brand, choose from one of the hundreds of designs that are only slight variants of one another. A sprocket is a sprocket is a sprocket.

You just wouldn't think that someone would go and try to reinvent that (chain) wheel.
But Tree did, and they came up with this:
For something so simple, it's tech as hell. It kind of takes sprockets too far - in a good way.
Each of the spokes uses an I-beam section to achieve maximum strength to weight ratio. So you end up with a 25 tooth weighing just 61 grams or 2.2 oz.

From the Tree site:
I designed this sprocket from the idea of the structure of the bike wheel has a hub, spokes, and a rim. I used our 3D drawing program where we can actually test the sprocket strength on the computer. This allows us to make a very high tech sprocket with a tremendously high strength to weight ratio.

We have designed the spokes of this sprocket to be tapered and I-beam shaped. This makes the best use of the material used to form the bridgework of the sprocket. Every single detail has been thoroughly thought out. Many all nighters have put into designing this thing.
I love it! There is no way that anyone has ever put so much effort into designing a bmx sprocket!
I'd bet that no else even bothers to do the breaking strain analysis that they talk about, let alone do an all nighter for a sprocket.

I don't know if I'll be swapping over to the splined version, but I do like the idea of having two plain crank arms with no crank bolt or boss on your drive side crank arm. It'd just add a nice simple detail to your bike - and it'll drop an oz or two and that's bound to be popular.

If you're interested, Profile are selling crank sets specifically for the Tree splined sprocket. Basically they are just putting two non-drive side cranks in the box instead of a regular set - nice and simple.

Want to design bikes for Fit?

This message was posted on the Ride UK site. It seems that Fit are looking for a new product designer. Pretty strange place to post a Position Vacant notice for a product designer if you ask me. Apart from posting the ad on The Come Up, this would have to be the best way of generating a flood of emails from unqualified kids all over the world, which would then take days to sift through, just in case there happened to be one from an actual designer or engineer in there.

And why post it in the UK?

I have my own theory on this:
I reckon that they are trying to pinch Chris Harrison from Federal bikes. He had an interview up on bmx union a while back and seems pretty switched on. Even more suspicious is that in the ad it says "Just in case you are currently working for another company". Hmmm... corporate espionage is afoot.

There is a massive thread on SRPFLS where just about everybody puts in their two cents about the job, the industry and just about everything else. So I thought there was no harm in adding mine.

All that aside, it doesn't really seem that there would be loads of design work to do at Fit. They're damn popular, but isn't that cause they've got a shit hot team of street shredders that blaze up on camera, rather than for pushing bmx design in bold new directions?

They're more of a marketing success you'd have to say, making great videos and having a nose for a trend. Case in point: taking a stock standard seat post and cutting to 78mm long. That doesn't take an engineer or designer. But maybe that'll change.

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