- by Christopher Jones
- Published: 30 September 2014
When a new brand enters the market it is hard to get it right. On the one hand there is the opportunity to deliver a substantial technological improvement and make waves. On the other hand, the bike industry is older than the automobile industry, so most ideas have been tried before. The status quo is a result of the gradual evolution of the bicycle. Reporting for Bicycles Network Australia, Alexander Weishaupt spotted Caterham Bicycles at Eurobike. The stunning design and motorsport legacy of Caterham Racing was turning heads and was worth investigating.
Caterham Cycling is based in Hürth, a few kilometers from Cologne in Germany, and the enthusiastic team were receptive to sharing their story. Marc Vischer, Design Engineer for Caterham Cycles provided insights on the brand, the design, and when Caterham Bicycles will be available in a bike shop near you.
Caterham Duo Cali Limited Edition Road Bike
BNA: Caterham is widely known for its racing and sports cars. How do bicycles fit into the Caterham group and is the bicycle division an integrated or separate part of Caterham?
Marc Vischer: The new bicycles fit perfectly as an integrated part of Caterham’s dynamic lifestyle brand. The unique frame design provides strong brand recognition and the styling incorporates the strong corporate identity of the Caterham Group, connecting its racing heritage with technology, speed, and riding performance.
The group strategy of “growth through intelligent partnerships” is something that is evident across the group and, by collaborating with world-class bicycle component manufacturers, we’ve been able to jointly deliver a product one step higher and add considerable value for our customers.
BNA: The Caterham Bicycles were released at Eurobike this year. Are these conceptual, to showcase the talent of Caterham Composites? Or are they custom bicycles, or even production bicycles which will be available for sale?
Marc Vischer: Of course the bikes allow us to demonstrate the composites expertise, passion, and hard work of the team at Caterham Composites, but all 5 of the bikes (4 of which were showcased at Eurobike) will be available to buy, the first commercially available product from Caterham since the legendary Super 7. There is a large range in prices, which will therefore suit varying target customers. We already have Poshbikes on-board as the first UK dealer and we are in discussions with others.
Caterham Duo Cali Urban Bike
BNA: Rather than just a single racing bike, Caterham also presented a steel road bike and urban bike. This suggests that Caterham Cycling is a fully fledged brand. What is the next step?
Marc Vischer: The next step is to establish a network of dealers world-wide, for both the Duo Cali bikes and the steel-framed Fairspear. There are also further steel models in the pipeline.
We have an agreement in place with Reynolds UK, a world-leading manufacturer of alloy tubings and we’ve received great interest from dealers both in Europe and further afield who we’ll be dealing with directly rather than using distribution partners.
BNA: In designing the carbon fibre bikes, what problems did you see with bikes on the market today and what solutions have you provided to create improvements?
Marc Vischer: Most bikes follow the same design rules, have similar colour schemes, and many of the frames come out of the same 2 or 3 big factories in Taiwan and China. As a brand we decided that another labelled, matt black frame with a good marketing strategy was not the way we wanted to go.
The rideability is not just dependent on being lightweight and on steering and bottom bracket stiffness. It’s the process of finding the right balance between those and many more factors. That’s why we’ve taken 2 years to bring the bikes to market and why we now love riding the bikes ourselves!
The ‘brand-own’ stem was created for even clamping pressure and GPS computer integration.
BNA: Most road bicycles focus on performance for the cyclist, often with lightweight and aerodynamic frames with great power transfer while retaining rider comfort. What values and goals are achieved by Caterham Cycling?
Marc Vischer: We’re not afraid to challenge tried-and-tested technology and develop our own solutions. This includes our unique integrated seatpost, our stem with an innovative clamping system providing an even pressure and increased safety on clamping carbon handlebars as well as a recess for a Garmin GPS computer. Nothing spoils the clean lines. We’ve also used high-grade carbon fibres for a smoother finish.
One of the things we recognised was that most companies go for “lightweight or aero” but there are very few frames with a well-balanced combination.
Regarding great power transfer, whilst we found that no study out there specifically provides a measure of stiffness affecting energy and efficiency, we believe the rider is the most important factor and think, distinct from most competitors, that a defined lateral flex will provide a smoother power transition.
BNA: The Duo Cali with monocoque frame is eye catching. Most brands don’t make true monocoque frames, why have Caterham chosen this approach?
Marc Vischer: Because the lateral movement of the frame when pedaling results in maximum displacement near the bottom bracket and is the dominant load factor on riding the bike. The displacement starts at the front axle and ends at the rear axle (not taking the wheel flex into account). The monocoque ensures the best technical solution: a continuous frame structure between the critical points to get the best performance out of the fibres. This results in maximum control of where and how much flex occurs within the frame.
BNA: Have Caterham developed manufacturing and production proceses to make the monocoque frame manufacture more cost effective… or is price not a limitation?
Marc Vischer: We chose AX Lightness as a partner because they are one of the world’s best and most creative composite parts manufacturers. Together, we found ways to improve lamination processes, reduce production times, and achieve competitive prices compared with other German-manufactured frames.
Caterham is known for great performance at an affordable price. We stick to this philosophy even on the Duo Cali Limited Edition (of 73) which, at a price of $19,730 still provides an affordable proposition.
BNA: Thank you for taking time to share more about Caterham Bicycles. We look forward to seeing these on Australian roads in the near future.
As a new brand, there is limited information currently available. New information on the brand and the bicycle models will be shortly available online: www.caterham-cycling.com