The construction categories are thinly entered because for most builders, the choice between bringing an unpainted frame and a painted one that is sexy as hell, logic suggests you bring the sexy unless being acknowledged as one of the best builders in your medium is a priority. All this is to say, I get why more builders don’t enter the construction categories; unfortunately, the only way for us to adequately judge these categories is to see the submissions without paint.
It’s entirely possible that Nick Crumpton is doing the most refined work in wrapped tube-to-tube construction. While this particular frame has been cleaned up and built into a complete bike, It is evident from the finish that the layup was performed without wrinkled plies or bondo to smoothe the surface.
The cleanliness of the construction is truly impressive.
Crumpton makes his own dropouts and disc mounts.
The folks at Hope showed off this carbon fiber front triangle of a trail bike. Other than removing some flashing no cleanup was performed. We were particularly impressed with their ability to net-mold seats for bearings at the headset, bottom bracket and pivots.
Those bearing recesses were close to being ready to have bearings pressed in.
The layup was expertly performed and yielded symmetric application of plies for an effect like a book cut in wood as used in stringed instruments.
The precision of the molding was very impressive.
The winner, as mentioned previously was Pursuit by Carl Strong. The fact that they presented the bike with no clear coast and only the flashing removed certainly helped build their case. With no sanding done to the frame we could judge the bike for wrinkles and ripples. There were good bikes we saw but in some cases they were ruled out because they featured surface blemishes that went beyond just a visual disturbance in the wrap.
The bottom bracket is precision molded and then a threaded T47 insert is bonded in. There’s a window on the underside of the BB to aid the internal cable routing.
It’s an incredibly well-considered approach.
Pursuit brought along the section that includes the bottom of the down tube, the BB and the beginning of the chainstays. This gave us a chance to see what parts look like before they are molded into a finished frame.
The work is as clean as any I’ve seen.
Touches like this disc mount made them a clear winner.
The No. 22 submitted for best TIG was the finest frame I’ve seen from them since the company’s launch.
The welding wasn’t cleaned up with a bead blast to hide any flaws in the welding.
Even though Seven Cycles didn’t bring a raw, unfinished frame, we requested a bike from them because their welders—Tim Delaney in particular—set the standard for the stack-of-dimes bead that became the look to emulate. We were simply curious to see if Seven could matching Bingham.
The welds were truly excellent, better than what we see from anyone else and …
Often featuring technical challenges that some other designs may not feature.
But as good as Seven’s submission was, it still didn’t top Brad Bingham’s work. We’re on the verge of checking for a robotic arm.
He’s consistent in a way I’ve yet to see in frames welded by anyone else working today.
It’s Bingham’s work in dropouts and other small brazens, like the disc mount, that shows just how good his work is.
Todd Ingermanson finished the fillet brazing on this frame and concluded that he didn’t want his work covered in paint and decided to give it a spray of clear. That gave us the opportunity to see just how good his work is. Black Cat was our only finalist; all the other bikes were deemed insufficient to be finalists, either due to the quality of the work or the presence of paint. when we have fewer than three entries, we have the option to choose not to award the category, but we also have the latitude to award a bike if we believe the achievement level is high enough.
As good as this fillet brazing is on this Black Cat, and we loved how he joined this gusset to the head tube in a bi-lam twist, his work on the frame isn’t what sold us on this frame.
The fillet brazing on this fork is what particularly wowed us. He had to use a very large torch, not a little pinpoint tip, in order to control heat over an area encompassing most all of the fork crown. We saw no pitting which would have indicated overheating.
There was some concern expressed by other builders that an unrideable frame was given an award. When Nick, Tom and I spoke about how to handle this we were all confident that the consistency of Mark DiNucci’s work was such that none of us had any trouble giving him the nod. The other submissions didn’t come close to this level of work and the few entries we had were all painted, if I recall correctly.
Simply put, there are a handful of builders on the planet who can do the work seen above.
The challenge of trying to get across how good DiNucci is is that when he finishes filing a lug it doesn’t look like it’s been worked by hand. It looks like someone simply took some emory cloth to a lug that was molded with that thickness.
I liken this work to sculpture. He started with more material than was necessary and the task he set for himself was to remove material until the shape he saw in his head emerged. And while I understand the process to get there—tens of thousands of file strokes—I don’t remotely understand the eye that allows this to emerge.
The most amazing piece of work on this unfinished frame is in this bottom bracket shell. Most builders who will work the three lugs shown above will do little more than remove any casting seams from a BB shell. There are so many nooks, corners and weird radii that getting the right tool into the right place to do work is, in my unskilled estimation, a complete bitch. I only feel like I can say this because of how often I don’t see this.