November 19, 2007 3:51 PM PST
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The Payson, Utah-based company on Monday unveiled the Arantix, a mountain bike made out of hollow tubes spun from carbon fibers. The unusual design of the so-called IsoTruss tubes, based on technology from Brigham Young University, allows Delta 7 to cut down weight. A standard hard-tail mountain bike frame (without shock absorbers) made from the stuff weighs about 2.7 pounds, but it's as strong or stronger as a conventional carbon or aluminum frame, according to the company.
In 2009, Delta 7 will come out with a lightweight road bike too, said Lester Muranaka, who runs marketing and sales for the company. Delta 7's road bike will likely weigh around the same as other elite road bikes, but early tests indicate that it could be more aerodynamic and, thus, potentially give a rider an edge.
"We think the strength and aerodynamics are going to be big sellers," Muranaka said.
If anything, you'll get noticed. Delta 7 has taken its prototype out to nearby Moab, the epicenter of dirt riding in North America. There are a lot of fancy bikes in Moab, but the Arantix gets stares. Test riders must invariably answer a lot of questions.
A fully equipped bike costs $11,995--way more than any bike out there that isn't encrusted with jewels--but each one takes 300 hours to build. Volume manufacturing will lead to lower prices, according to the company. Consumers also can order the frame separately, without components, for $6,995.
The IsoTruss tubing relies on a combination of chemistry and geometry. Delta 7 takes carbon fiber, which has one of the better weight-to-strength ratios in industrial material science, and weaves it into an intricate pattern with a spool-like loom. The overall pattern consists of isosceles triangles, which are triangles with two equal sides connected to each other to form pyramids.
The weaving is done by hand. In essence, making the tubes is sort of like making a giant cat's cradle or a lanyard. One piece of carbon fiber is used for each tube. In all, a finished bike frame from Delta 7 will contain 1,672 linear feet of carbon fiber.
Kevlar is then used to fix the carbon fiber in place. The Kevlar-coated tube is inserted into an oven, where it gets baked for four hours at 255 degrees Fahrenheit.
Delta 7, which is a subsidiary of Advanced Composite Solutions, is hoping to have a machine ready in 18 months to two years that can automate the weaving process. Two other companies have licensed the IsoTruss technology for things like cell phone towers, but the hand weaving made the products uneconomical.
Delta 7 went with bikes because, well, there are always guys out there who will pay money to get something cutting-edge. CNET News.com also has written stories about an Internet-enabled exercise bike from Daum and two-wheel drive motorcycles and mountain bikes from Christini.
Delta 7 will produce 200 of the Arantix mountain bikes in 2008 and will grow production to 1,000 bikes in 2010. The first bikes will be released in the first quarter. Delta 7 is taking deposits for them now.
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