There’s a tendency to think that carbon frames have to be made in China. But Aprire Cycles is going against the flow and has set up its carbon manufacturing in Cheam, South London.
China has its downsides as a manufacturing base. Although labour costs are low, there’s high staff turnover: up to 20% each time there’s a national holiday.
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And the cost of production of a set of steel moulds for frames in five sizes is over $50,000, while energy costs for the open heat presses used to cure frames are high.
Plus there are the third party manufacturer’s overheads and margins and the cost of shipping on top.
Aprire’s founder and chief engineer Phil Dempsey had over ten years’ experience working for big name brands in Taiwan and the US before returning to the UK.
He says that with more efficient mould production and curing processes his costs for UK production are only around 15% greater than in China.
Aprire uses tube-to-tube construction for its carbon frames, in which internal lugs join the frame’s main tubes together and the junctions are wrapped in further layers of carbon fibre.
Nevertheless, Dempsey says Aprire’s frames weigh around 850g for a painted size 54 in its top Vincenza model and 900g for the Celeste.
Dempsey says that with tube-to-tube construction it is easier to control how the carbon fibre plies sit relative to each other than with a monococque design.
Aprire uses a Finite Element Analysis software package to analyse how its frames respond to different stresses placed on them in use, modelling how much stress is placed on the frame and how it will respond to it.
Fine tuning the frame is a matter of judgement though: in some places, such as the seat tube, more flex in the frame is better as it leads to a more compliant ride.
The other key analysis technique is Computational Fluid Dynamics, to model airflow over the frame’s tubes. Aprire is using CFD extensively in designing a new aero frameset to be released in 2017.
It is also making small design changes to the Celeste for 2017.
As well as its carbon framed bikes, Aprire also sells the alloy Inverno road and Inverno AR all-road/cyclocross models.
They’re made in the Far East, but Dempsey has plans to bring alloy frame manufacture in-house too.
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Once the frameset has been made, Aprire paints it in house. It offers 15 standard colours, although most buyers elect to pay a bit more and choose from its range of over 8000 bespoke options.
The painted frame is then built up to a customer’s specification selected from a range of full Shimano and SRAM builds, although you can buy frame-only too.
Aprire’s bikes are used by the Aprire-HSS Hire women’s race team and Aprire will be supplying bikes to a yet-to-be-announced men’s team too in 2017.
It offers a three day test ride option for potential buyers and ships its completed bikes out to selected dealers for a final inspection before collection by their new owners.
It’s an interesting manufacturing model and we’ll be looking to test one of Aprire’s UK made bikes in the next few months.