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Pursuit Cycles' lightweight carbon fiber bespoke bike attracts fans across the country

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Pursuit Cycles bike frames are made from carbon fiber and weigh just 1.5 pounds. By comparison, the Strong Frames titanium frame weighs 3 pounds. Both of these companies were started by Karl Strong, who until recently ran out of a small shop the size of a two-car garage behind his house in Bozeman, Mont.

Strong builds the world’s lightest bikes, stripped of just what it takes to go as fast as possible, and sells them as unique customs to highly specialized customers for $8,000 to $15,000. “Our typical customer is a very competitive, middle-aged man with a Type A personality who may have raced bicycles when he was younger, but now that his children are grown, he I want to go back to,” Strong says.

The bikes don’t look flashy, but they often have a very distinctive paint job. Their unique properties aren’t fully understood until you pick them up or ride them with one finger. All in all, it might weigh 15 pounds. It’s no surprise that the Strong has a huge reputation in the cycling world. Strong Frames dates back to 1993 and Pursuit Cycles, which now dominates the business, dates back to 2016. Strong came to make bikes with a long history of racing.

“I grew up in Seattle and started racing BMX and dirt bikes,” he says. “I went home in his ninth grade class around 1978, building a mini bike, and then in the 1980s I got into motorcycle road racing.”

Strong, 58, quickly grew his former company to 1,000 bikes a year with 10 to 12 employees. “But we found that we were making less money than when we were little,” he says. We’ve maintained our level.” His team is very small, with part-timers. It’s also a family adventure. Strong’s wife, Loretta, keeps books and takes pictures.

Fast touring is the primary asset of the Pursuit Carbon Fiber Cycle.

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Luke Middelstadt, who studied at nearby Montana State University, is a Pursuit production engineer.he shows Penta A carbon process that begins with a small packet of sticky flat sheets that he pulls out of the freezer. “It’s a bicycle frame,” he said.

Working out of a small space filled with vintage machine tools, the company uses costly modular monocoque construction to build larger frame sections in molds. A raw carbon sheet wraps around the frame’s bladder, which is filled with a proprietary material to keep it stiff. Direction is important. Carbon fiber sheets are stronger than steel when pulled in one direction, and easily tear when pulled in the opposite direction.

Intricate parts are joined using aircraft grade adhesives and hardened by baking (using additional carbon fiber in the joints). It’s cheaper to join many smaller parts together, but the monocoque system makes for a stronger, lighter bike.

The transition from titanium to carbon fiber was a complicated one. “Carbon fiber requires a lot of engineering,” says Strong. It helps that Montana State University produces a lot of professional engineers.

Jared Nelson, a graduate of Montana State University and now an assistant professor in the Department of Sustainable Product Design and Innovation at Keene State University in New Hampshire, is Pursuit’s director of engineering.

“Even with regular metal materials, building a bicycle frame isn’t inherently easy, but composites add a whole new level of complexity,” says Nelson. “Instead of starting with a shape like you would with a metal tube, you start with a sheet of pre-impregnated carbon fiber and wrap it around a mold to get the shape. It does not mean.”

The non-in-house wheels are carbon fiber, but the spokes are stainless steel. Solid carbon wheels are subject to dangerous crosswinds. The bike is unique. Order one and it will arrive in about three months, complete to the buyer’s specifications.

Strong’s bikes are no garage decorations. John Davis, a magazine publisher in Fairfield, Connecticut, and Evelyn Leback, wife of a copy editor, Strong owns two of his framed titanium bicycles, and they can reach speeds of 80 km/h. Thousands of miles on it. 50 mile weekend trips are common.

Davis has ordered a 15-pound Pursuit carbon fiber bike and explained the expansion process, which included multiple body measurements, and then all of his custom settings, including seat, top tube, handlebars, wheels, and gear cluster. . Maryland-based owner Tim McTeigue said: [and] Frames are not cheap. And all the little things that are often overlooked in today’s market get attention. ”

Davis adds: I read every article and watched every video I could find before diving into my first bike purchase. Pursuit Cycle has three basic models. Pure Road is designed for high speed driving on asphalt. Supple Road is well balanced with the rest and recommends 2 sets of wheels.

Pursuit will move to a larger neighborhood in Bozeman soon, but the company isn’t likely to change much. The money that comes in tends to go back into the business to buy more tools and learn more craft. It’s part of the philosophy, which is why the company is called Pursuit. “It’s always about getting better,” Strong says.