The in-house composites lab at Santa Cruz was initially set up for their Reserve wheels program. The testing there is what resulted in the distinctive spoke reinforcement profiles found on Reserve rims today. It features all the equipment you'd expect in a carbon lab - cutting table, prepreg freezer etc. - but also a few things you won't find anywhere else, like a heat press they designed and built in-house.
Resembling a panini machine built by Egon Spengler, the press is an invaluable piece of custom machinery whose infinite adjustability allows them to fine tune the ideal curing sequences. That adjustability became invaluable when it came time to build a certain YouTube star his dream bike.
"Once we had the latex bladders nailed, we needed to understand how precise we could get with layup and materials in order to maximize the new technique," explains Nic McCrae, composites engineer at Santa Cruz. "Almost every carbon fiber product is made with a wide variety of fiber materials, varying in grades and attributes. Our production bikes are strong as hell, and we feel we have a good handle on our toolbox of materials, but the goal with Danny [MacAskill]'s bike was to push that understanding forward, and take advantage of emerging materials technology."
This is where having a composites facility in Santa Cruz has a serious advantage. Most carbon materials development is done for the aerospace industry, and because of that, there's reams of paperwork to be done if you want to take it out of the country. But if you're in the USA, it's vastly easier to order small quantities for experimentation and prototyping.
At the same time Santa Cruz was experimenting with layup on Danny's bike, they were also developing the new Blur and Highball XC frames. Going from one extreme to the other, the learnings shared between the concurrent projects helped accelerate the process all around, and after 18 months of designing, prototyping, and testing it was time for the fun to really start...
"We had a frame, we had a spare frame and we had some parts. It was time to go to Scotland," recounts Nic. "I wanted to hand-deliver the frame to Danny. It was the single most expensive thing Santa Cruz has ever made so I needed to handcuff it to my wrist the whole way. Well, that's not exactly true, but I did want to see firsthand just exactly what Danny might do to it."
Head over to www.santacruzbicycles.com to read the rest of this story. And be sure to catch Danny at the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California, April 19-22, where he will be giving his new bike its first public appearance.