Empire Cycles

You may or may not of heard of Empire cycles but I am sure if I were to say “3D printed Titanium bike” it might get a raised eyebrow. Empire Cycles have showcased some pioneering technology over the years. Some of the ideas might not be practically or financially viable at the moment but it is great to see companies like this experimenting with new technologies.

Empire Cycles are a relatively small company in Bolton with an engineering background. I have been following them since the revolutionary AP-1 was shown. This is a Downhill frame with a difference; it is cast Aluminium rather than the normal welded Aluminium tubes. This was very inative when it was release and still is now. Not only did the AP-1 have this cast frame but the whole bike was full of well though out and executed ideas; adjustable dropouts for wheel base, built in bump stop pads for the forks, intelligent cable routing, needle roller bearings for the swing arm, the list goes on. It is nice to see attention to detail, coming from an engineering background I can really appreciate this. Looks might not be to everyones taste but personally I love it.

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From here the guys started working on an Enduro machine, the MX6, but we will get to that in the minute. Their latest innovative piece is the Titanium 3D printed version of the MX6-Evo; the MX6-R. If you are not aware of 3D printing, I don’t know where you’ve been for the last 5 years. It has been used in many industries over the years and involves a machine that “prints” 3D objects from a computer. This is an additive process that lays down material in layers to build up an object, rather than starting with material and subtracting to get to the desired design.

Empire Cycles got together with another UK firm called Renishaw to bring this project to life. In the video below you can get an idea of what the additive process is like. A layer of titanium powder is put down, then a laser fuses the metal to create the object, layer by layer.

 

Here you can see the MX6-R parts in detail. The seat post support is printed in one piece with a wall thickness of 1mm, so it is hollow. There would be no way to produce this through a subtractive process. The whole frame weighs in at 1.4kg’s, 0.7 kg’s lighter than the current aluminium production version.

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So, when can you buy one? That may be some time away and there is no guarantee it will ever make production. At the moment the production costs are too high I am sure there needs to be a lot more testing in this area before it can be concluded that this is the future of frame production or not, but it is so good to see people trying out new ideas and methods of construction.

On to the current aluminium MX6-Evo production bike I mentioned earlier. Again, this is a very exciting bike. Properly 26″ and 27.5″ (650B) wheel compatible, 150mm rear wheel travel and a 66.5 degree head angle…. all with a frame only price of £999!

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The thing I really like about this is ability to run both 26″ and 27.5″ wheels keeping the geometry exact the same. This is accomplished using a different lower shock mount and a spacer for the lower head set cup. Personally I have not ridden 27.5″ (650B) wheels yet. I have read all the press and as an engineer can understand the pros and cons, but as yet, I have not had the chance to test it for myself. This would be an ideal set up to test the differences in these wheel sizes as there is no change to the bottom bracket height or the geometry, the only thing you are changing is the wheel size. There are many other nice features on this frame which shows how thought out it is; ISCG 05 AND 03 mounts, 135 / 142mm rear hub compatible and intelligent cable routing.

Empire MX6

So Empire cycles is definitely a company to keep an eye on and if you want to find out more, or are interested in the AP-1 or the MX6-Evo, head over to Empire Cycles