>of aluminum and not CNC-hollowed like it's planned to be.
>I'd be willing to bet that Outside hasn't ridden
>the bike at all, and are only telling what the designers boasted to them.
>I heard from a friend who went to the Interbike show that the bike is really
>quite a long ways from actual production. Now, maybe since Alex Pong is
>not a typical bike-industry guy his time-to-production is much less, but
>I'm betting that Outside is just trying to show a crack at the future, and
>not actually reviewing the bike.
I have both read the Outside article and seen the bike in question (I went
up to Magic Motorcycle's shop and took Skooks Pong out to lunch). The
bike was (at interbike and when I visited the shop a few weeks later) a
mix of production ready pieces and solid aluminum chunks. The Outside
article is NOT a review of the bike (which also lacks essential parts like
disc brake calipers and suspension mechanisms), but is a fairly balanced
description of the Pong/Cannondale cooperation. The article matches my
impressions in describing the bike as a very original and jewel-like piece
of equipment. But also subtly raises some questions about such things as
why it uses 12 aircraft-quality bearings that cost $90 apiece. I guess if
you're going to build a flagship model you go all out, but there are other
places on the bike where a lot of cost and effort go into seemingly small
improvements. The thing I noticed was that the wheel retention mechanism
was really slick -- one torx***acts on a lever and clip system that
grabs and holds the hub. However, the mechanism appeared to be made up of
at least 10 very small pieces, each of which is CNC machined. How much
is too much?
I'm not sure the bike will be shipped in the spring, but I think
it will reach production much faster than a typical show-bike prototype.
The unique thing about the Pongs is that their prototypes are not
hand-made -- They are CNC machined. That means that the piece is ready to
manufacture by simply running the programs again after putting a fresh
block of aluminum in the machine. The manufacturing is facilitated
because they design within the capabilities of their CNC machine and try
to avoid non-standard tooling (i.e., special size or shaped cutting bits).
It's not like a system where the design crew comes up with something and
tells the manufacturing guys, "Here. Figure out how to make this." The
Pongs, until they teamed with Cannondale, were both the design and
manufacturing guys and they are retaining the resulting philosopy of
design. Skooks told me that this integration was one of the key things
that made Cannondale interested in the partnership.
The other possible failing of the project is that the Pongs work
almost exclusively in aluminum. I think they do incredible things with
the stuff, but I wonder if other materials might better fit certain
applications. Perhaps the best example is the body of the bike. It seems
to me that the most advanced work in monocoque construction right now is
probably in F1 racing, and composite materials seem to be the choice
there. Would a carbon fiber X-shaped frame like the Trimble mountain bike
I saw in a magazine some months ago (sorry, but I forgot which and when)
work better than the bonded aluminum shells the Pongs are fabricating?
I can't say that I think the future of bicycles rests in the hands
of Cannondale and the Pongs, but I think it's good for the field to have
people out there pushing the envelope. I also think that whether or not
one thinks the endeavor will be successful, anyone who closely examines
the bike will be impressed with the originality, precision, and quality
of the pieces. I wish I had had more time to ogle the thing myself.
Mark Vande Kamp | Probably the earliest flyswatters were nothing
| attached to the end of a long stick.
| -- Jack Handey