June 18th, 2010
Recently we (forum member Uber Goober and myself) got to chat with the guys from Dash and to ask them some questions. Some really interesting things turned up from this conversation including full carbon hubs. Our conversation follows a brief introduction to the company.
Founded about 4 years ago and based in Boulder Colorado, Dash with their 9 employees has been making custom composites for all kinds of industries. However being avid cyclists themselves it was only a matter of time until they turned their attention to cycling.
FWB: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Currently what products does Dash offer?
FWB: We know that Dash does custom work for clients but are you currently working with anyone in the cycling industry?
Dash: We’re working with Ligero Wheelworks right now on developing some custom rims. Zen Cylcery has also expressed interest in doing some custom work. We’re open to pretty much anything people want to throw at us.
FWB: With the bike stuff ramping up, what do you do when someone calls and want a hood for their car, or a cup and saucer?
Dash: We do get those calls a lot. There’s never a shortage of people who want it, or they want a carbon money clip. (showing me the custom one he made) People like the look of it, but a lot of people don’t understand what’s involved to make it. Typically you quote a price and you don’t get a lot of call backs, because they didn’t realize the cost of the time and material. We don’t really like one-offs too much. We’ve done a few but it’s pretty rare.
FWB: On your website we found mention of rims and seatposts. Can you tell us more about the rims?
Dash: We’ll likely be offering them in 24, 48, and 68mm depths. We’re going to do 20 hole, 24 hole and 28. They’re all going to be cast, so we’re not going to be doing any drilling. With molded valve stem tube. Clincher and tubular. We’re also testing some new methods of dealing with heat. Since they are still prototypes and of course not finalized we can’t give much information, but we’ll have more to tell sooner rather than later.
FWB: So that means they’ll be available this summer?
Dash: Yeah. (laughs)… or maybe not.
FWB: Will you guys be appearing at any races? Interbike?
Dash: We’ll be at the Niwot crit in July. And then we’re working on Interbike — we may be sharing a booth, but that’s up in the air. The best thing to do would be to check our website to see where we’re going to be. We’ll have test bikes, so you can sit on the seats and try any of the other new items we may show.
FWB: How is it marketing something like carbon fiber to the public when it’s often so hard to understand? 1k, 3k unidirectional weaves, fiber-to-resin ratios — how do you present it to the public?
Dash: My background is in engineering and I’ve been working in the field a while. I have been blown away by the people who come up to us and have no engineering background and yet know probably more about these materials than half the aerospace engineers out there. The general cycling community is very very knowledgeable.
FWB: Do you have an eye for others manufacturing tolerances or workmanship?
Dash: Definitely. Like all companies we’ve actually sanded down a couple frames and lots of various components, and looked at manufacturing techniques. It’s just night and day. Some pretty weird stuff when you’re looking at things like ********* I mean you’ll see unidirectional mixed in with weaves, we’ve also seen fiberglass woven into carbon. One company set all their logo-ing up to hide all the seams. I’d say typically that all the companies that don’t finish their products with a paint job are some of the best workmanship.
FWB: Nude carbon looks like high quality workmanship?
Dash: Yes. Taking pride in the construction.
FWB: Where do you think that modern bikes can improve?
Dash: Everywhere! (laughs) It seems that some people are kind of stuck in a rut. Because it’s the same designs, over and over again and people aren’t really jumping out of the box. We have a list at the shop with the order in which we want to do our new parts. We’ve almost got a whole bike. It’s just amazing — I really think the sky is the limit.Almost every part has the potential to be improved.
FWB: The more we learn about the company the more ambitious it seems, what do you think you bring to the table that is different from what the industry already has?
Dash: I would say the biggest thing we bring to the table is our ability to prototype and bring a product to the market in extremely short periods of time. This is one thing we can offer to US riders that European companies cant . We also place an extreme amount of time and capital in our R&D department and plan to keep it that way. Our product are and will forever be made in Boulder, Colorado. Each product is hand crafted by our team of engineers from the raw stages to the market form.
FWB: How about parts like shallow clinchers and stems, where it seems like there isn’t a clear weight advantage to carbon fiber. Do you think that there are parts that are just going to lag that are hard to catch up? Where aluminum or other metal seems to work fine?
Dash: You need to decide if it’s ok as is, or if you think you can make it better. Once you decide to make it into the composite form you can start playing with it a little. You start planning how you can take it beyond what you can with aluminum. There’s limits what you can machine or forge out of aluminum, while with molding there are still limits, but they are not the same.
FWB: We’ve now seen pictures of a full carbon front hub, tell us what you can about it?
Dash: The full carbon front hub is going to be offered in a few different versions. The current proto version is weighing in at 29g with full ceramic 6801s. The actual dimensions are very similar to that of our He.72 hub, however, the flanges have been spread a few more millimeters. It features a 12mm carbon axle as well. The only non carbon component happens to be the bearings.
FWB: Why after so many years of alloy hubs, try a composite one?
Dash: The reasoning behind the all carbon construction is that by doing so it allows us to cut off every last gram of the hub while maintaining a strong and stiff hub. Through a carbon application we are also better able to orient fibers to cope with specific stress levels found in a hub set.
The only reason I can think of that has kept the hub market in other directions would be the fact that it is a royal pain to manufacture these hubs. Not to mention the techniques used are drastically different from anything else out there.
FWB: The front full carbon hub sounds quite nice, but I like my hubs to match, what do you suggest for a rear?
Dash: There are a few options that would possibly work with our front hub for a matching set.
FWB: Since you aren’t taking the bait, perhaps we’ll just ask directly. Supposedly a prototype of a full carbon rear hub has been seen in Boulder. Would you care to confirm or deny?
Dash: Well I guess that would solve the matching hub issue.
FWB: We also hear that it’s at or under the 100 gram mark. Care to comment?
Dash: Not yet.
FWB: If true, a full carbon hubset is certainly something special, what else can we expect from Dash in the future?
Dash: Over the next few years we have quite a few projects in the works. You can expect to see carbon clinchers and tubulars as well as a very light disc. We currently have a 52mm clincher coming in at 375grams in testing. The production version will be closer to a 45mm. We also have a few harebrained ideas in the drive train department as well, but your just going to have to wait for those.
FWB: Recently I was one of those pesky people that had asked for something custom in a padded, carbon saddle. Reminiscent of one of the most loved saddles, the SSM Concor but significantly lighter and with larger rails. I didn’t actually expect anyone to take that up and make it, but I have to ask, how’s it coming?
Dash: Great actually, I’ve got one on one of my personal bikes and have been testing it out the last couple of days. I can definitely see why you wanted our take on a version of this shape. It is by far the most comfortable saddle I have ridden. You can expect to have one in your hands within the next few weeks.
FWB: I look forward to seeing how it turns out and will share the results on the blog.
Thanks again for taking the time to talk to us and best of luck with upcoming products, we’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for them.