PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling : American Pie! Lynskey Performance Titanium

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American Pie! Lynskey Performance Titanium
Sure we’ve had a few nice bikes roll through. Just in the last little while we’ve had top liners from Parlee, Crumpton, Serotta’s, Seven’s and I’ve owned a few more… All stunningly good, but this was the first time through a factory where instead of handing me a cup of coffee and guiding me through the shop, David Lynskey handed me an apron and said “you can wash up over there when your through, here’s some tubes”.

To be clear, I wasn’t wandering aimlessly to my own doom. I left the details and most of the work to the folks that do it best and had my hand held for what little I did touch, but it sure as hell made me appreciate what I would ride a lot more. Still it was an enlightening journey from “here’s some tubes” to this…

Click the little picture above for a HUUUGE look



Starting At The Start

Lots of you know the story… The Lynskey Family brought you Litespeed Titanium, made great bikes, then sold the company to the multi-brand American Bicycle Group. Several years later, the Lynskey’s are back together and doing really well under one roof as the poetic call of cycling, a passion for the sport as well as the less poetic but not unimportant end of a non compete agreement have allowed them to get back to what they love and more importantly, back to building bikes the way they want, which involves a lot more direct contact with the customer.

Both Mark and David Lynskey have a passion for bikes that’s absolutely plain to see and feel. Of course passion for bikes stretches a little further through the family as (left to right) David, Ruby, Toni, Chris, Mark, and Tim (not present: Theresa) mean that Lynskey’s are at all stations, from start to finish in development, building, selling and servicing the business…



After running a high volume production facility like Lightspeed, the Lynskey’s combine the focus of the small custom builder, a huge understanding of the material to be used and good organization and build process. That equals a lead time that has their existing (and expanding) dealer / retailer base as well as their end customers pretty happy as the bike is still a one of custom, without the typical several months lead time.

It Starts With Performance

The order process was pretty simple. But to be “simple” you need one of two things going for you. The first is a great fitter the second and far less frequent is to have the experience of already spec’ing and owning more custom bikes than fingers and toes. Since I’m lucky enough to have both A and B, all of the priority went to the one question that seems most important to Lynskey and should be more important to lots of builders… “What do you want your bike to do”.

That’s a short question, but it’s deep for Lynskey. Because they have a very good understanding about the character and performance of the grades, shape, size and thickness of titanium, your answer isn’t simple courtesy, it’s critical. And it’s this deep understanding of titanium that answers the question; why still concentrate on Ti?

Simply put, titanium is what Lynskey know and are waaaaaay beyond comfortable with… My take on this was very short. I’ve been on some crap bikes. Crap aluminum, Crap carbon fiber, Crap steel and yes, Crap Ti.

Material alone doesn’t make a great bike. Exceptional understanding of a materials character and the ability to apply it to a purpose-generated design-build makes a great bike…

My answer to their question then? “I want a very smooth ride and fairly relaxed handling, I’ll give up stiffness but I don’t want a noodle as far as handling goes. I don’t want a to need a torque wrench when I build it or rebuild it for that matter, for fear that a bit of over tightening will have me screwing the frame up. And I want it 15-16 lbs all in, so the frame will need to be below 1100 grams (size 54ish).

Mark Lynskey’s answer was a little unexpected… “That’s easy and we’ll even drop a frame grade from level 4 to level 3.”

My reply… “Uh but uh… I… er…” ( meaning “I’m a greedy bastard and want your top of the line to ride…”). But Marks explanation and challenge was great.

“What you’re asking for is doable at a level three. We’ll need to shape the tubes to give you some of the stiffness, but we don’t need 6-4 Ti at your weight and size unless you want this thing almost too stiff. I want you to see that customers don’t always have to pay absolute top dollar to get what they want in performance. But I’ll say this, if we don’t get this where you want, we’ll do a 4.”

K…


So Lets build It

The system for the build is basic and smart. It all starts with a design on computer, based on both your fitters info and your personal interview with Lynskey. And Lynskey want that interview regardless of who your fitter is, as they want to be doubly sure they understand your version of what you want.



The next thing they do is spit out a full sized set of drawings that feature specs etc…



I found it kinda interesting that they had a large multiple sheet drawing that they were reviewing for someone while I was there… It was for a 29er bike and a rider who was a little more than a foot taller than me… My bike picture damn near fit in the front triangle! But back to our test bike.

Once the drawing is spit out, they use small bits of L-metal fixed directly to the cart through the drawing so that the tube formers and cutters can have what is basically a fit guide for the first part of production.



Shape Up

Then the tubes are chosen and, depending on the level of bike, they may get shaped. For our level 3, they had to select the correct form from a slew of tools…



Looking at all of the carefully shaped forms was impressive. Even more impressive is that Lynskey machine all of the forms and tools used to shape the different tubes in-house. This is an outstanding example of this shop’s understanding and depth of experience in the field.



Once the form is selected, it’s locked into place and double check to make sure the angle is correct, as different tube types and lengths will need more or less contact to make the proper shape.



Then a tube is inserted and pressed carefully to get just the right form.


no, you don’t want to have your hand in the wrong place

Quick note is that some tubes take multiple presses. They do this because the functional goal at one end of the tube may be different than the other…



And if you ever wondered why a 6-4 Ti bike is a lot more money that a 3-2, part of that’s due to the added effort in shaping the harder metal. It’s also because 6-4 tubes generally need to be made in to tubes before any of these shaping steps take place… Folks hardly ever get a look inside a bike once it’s finished, but this is a shaped 6-4 tube and you can see the weld on the inside, but finishing usually makes the seem disappear to the user.



Once the tubes are chosen, cut partially to length and formed, they go back to the drawing board and are wheeled over to be “masagged”…



Lighten Up

Along with all of the variables and understanding needed to shape a tube set, butting tubes is an art form where a feel for your work is absolutely required. Each tube’s wall thickness is specified on the drawing ahead of time, but it requires hand turning to slowly remove material in an even fashion.



This is a really important part of the process as it’s not just critical to remove the correct amount of material, but also to make sure it comes from the right place or places… To much or too little in the wrong area changes how and where the tube will flex, so every tube is measured along several points.



Then it’s of the “meillotine”


Cut Up

At this point, I started to get a few butterflies in the stomach, as I would not just be messing with expensive tubes, but expensive shaped and butted tubes, meaning any screw up would be costly… Honestly I’m pretty sure that both David Lynskey and my new boss, Eric Barnes were both doing and thinking exactly as I was… “Try and smile and act like it’s fine, but does he (I) really want to mess with his(my) own bike?”



The short answer from me was “no”.

My first thought was “let me try it on those tubes”, meaning a set of fresh sticks for a certain Mr. Simmons, sitting perilously at the table next to mine. But the crew was having none of that…


70 years of performance cycle building experience here

So first we double check all the angles on the drawing and make sure that all of the L metal braces were properly in line. Then we tossed a tube into a machine and poof, it’s cut…



Of course “tossing” a tube into a machine requires an understanding of a few things… Including what shape the interchangeable clamping surface (so as not to damage the tubes it will hold), what angle the clamp is set at, where the tube is sitting in the clamp (both in rotation and length) and where the cutting bit is sitting and what speed it’s set at and what speed the table holding all of that is set to move at and, and, and…


19 years and, erm, 7 minutes of combined experience

And… that’s one frikin cut!

Which I botched…



Of course mitering, unlike sex is one place where it’s good to come up short. So I got another shot.

Which I botched…

But third (ok, 4th) times a charm, and unlike Mr. Barnes (who’s been doing this and other things for 19 years and was literally the first full time guy hired by the Lynskey’s before Litespeed was what it was) I was more than happy that I could manage a single cut on a single tube in the same time frame most sitcoms run…



Of course they also made the mistake of letting me work on a 6-4 tube which is cut using a pretty high end belt grinder… And it was there that I discovered three things… First that you can demolish a grinder belt. Second, that some things you don’t expect to be flammable actually are if you get em hot enough. And third (which would have been good info to get first) that you should alternate applying and backing off force on this machine as you cut or the belt will first turn pretty colors, then make a pretty strange noise probably similar to a cat being run over by a slow steam roller, followed by the belt coming off in a fashion not unlike a scene from Tommyboy…



But hey, tubes cut, lessons learned and we’re off to welding, where another Lynskey, Toni, would be busy at work…



She did take a minute to talk about welding, but this is such a critical area that it would take what little of your day is left to tell you what’s going on, what to look for and how it’s done. With that, we’ll skip over a whole hell of a lot and simply say that Lynskey don’t mess around in this area either.



The skill, touch and flexibility required makes joining tubes a job that isn’t suited to a lot of people. While some other parts of fabrication can be learned, there is something about welding properly that doesn’t lend it’s self to everyone.

It sure as hell didn’t lend it’s self to me and there was no way I would have even tried to work on anything that would have been for anyone’s use.

Finish Up

When the frame comes out of welding, it goes to finish or in the case of the superpimp painted bikes, it goes to finish prep.

The first step after welding is to check alignment and also a second inspection all the welds…



After this it depends on what you want, as Lynskey can give you anything from a base brushed finish to a spectacular high polished (almost chrome) finish.



If you note the little scraps on the floor, that’s wood… Lynskey get hands on with the finish and I didn’t see any power tools being used in the process. Everything down to the smallest detail was getting the rub & tickle…



One of the best things about a factory tour is that you get to see more about a company than when you’re simply handed a test bike (or wheel or…). One of the toughest things about reviewing product is never really being sure if what you’re handed is representative of consumer product or if it’s a one off promo special. Getting to walk the floor let me see that everything in the shop was being handled like my bike and that was anywhere from the process floor to hanging on the wall…



The welds on everything, pre finished to post rub all had super detail…



But at days end, there was only one thing on my mind and that of course was “what would come out of my box!!?”


What’d Ya Get?

The first box held a VERY sweet smelling and extremely smooth er uh, we’ll call it “chain cleaner”.



Tennessee if famous for this particular type of “chain cleaner” and this one was sweet with just a hint of apple cinnamon…

The second thing out of a box was just as sweet, but rather than the hint of apple, this one was the hint of old school meets modern paint process and exactly what I pictured…

Lynskey took the time to make sure the Bontrager XXX fork, bars, stem and seat Post got the same House of Kolor Pearl coats that would dress the frame and the preview picture sent to me ahead of shooting the color was spot on what showed up.



A goal for me was to make as much of this bike US branded as possible and I managed a fair bit with the as mentioned “Upgrades” from Bontrager like the bar and stem…



That got a little dressed-down sexy with the simple Bontrager “B” logo’s keeping the old school theme… As did the fork sporting only the B at the bottom and the Lynskey crest…



The saddle had to stay Selle Italia’s Prolink as no proper US alternative could be found, but the easily adjustable Bontrager post was the right setback as well as being super easily adjusted. It’s also a solid part and not some crush-easy tuner kit.



All of the fixed components got matched paint and the Red B’s along with the Red alternating link Nokon cables sat well with Lynseky’s Family head badge…



We also got a matched out Chris King Headset…



But chose to swap it for Kings silver colored unit as it dressed that part down perfectly.

The groupset choice was a SRAM Dunk. The Force group tossed a little carbon into the mix and we “blinged” out the rear mech with a red splash from Tiso (though Sram use a different bolt size for the upper pulley wheel, so that stayed black). A metal clincher wheel seemed to fit the theme of this build best and none would be better on our American Pie than American Classic’s outstanding new version magnesium clinchers…



The target of this bike was to sample some of the best of Americana… It was also to build a bike that I would have complete faith in for travel and bashing round. It’s not that I don’t have faith in the performance of any or all of the last few bikes I have put together as far as on road performance. We’ve succeeded in building customs that are well below the UCI limit yet have no extreme weight limited parts included. That doesn’t mean the others are ready to be assembled, disassembled, packed, shipped and rebuilt with as little care as this bike requires and that was also part of my goal.

Mission accomplished.



The frame simply doesn’t risk damage the way a few of my carbon wonder sleds do (again, in build and transport) and the parts groups are absolutely rock solid… But is it now “too” heavy?

Hell no. This Frame came in sub 1100 grams and with this build, the bike sits at 15 pounds and change. For a build like this, I’m not sure that any reasonable person could ask for more (more being less), but if they did, a crank swap (Zipp) and maybe one or two other parts could have this in the low mid 14’s.

Is there more to bikes that “est”?

Yep.

Honestly we’re growing tired of manufacturers not being able to do much besides be light-est and stiff-est. Sure those are selling points, but there’s more to cycling than “est” and overall ride quality was what we were more concerned with.

Lynskey’s take on the build was to use a few shapes and some basic thinking to give us what we asked for.

Getting a light Ti bike is fairly simple. Getting one that rides smoothly is also no big deal. But getting both of those things without being a bit of a noodle is something not so regular…

Lynskey’s top and down tubes both get a bit of shape. The down tube gets manipulated in two ways. Tall (and large diameter with lots of contact area) at the head tube but wider across the Bottom Bracket are purpose designed. It’s also butted to leave more material not only at the BB contact but for a few more inches up the tube as well because “bottom bracket” flex isn’t really bottom bracket flex at all. It’s the result of forces bending the down tube, seat tube and chain stays combined (your bottom bracket is just along for the ride)…



This picture (above) also shows the substantial butting of the head tube and the oval form of the top tube that is shaped to better resist head tube twist. It’s actually easier to get a hint of the shape back at the seat tube (as well as get a little taste of the pearl colors in the paint…)



A quick look at the BB section doesn’t seem to show much at a glance. You’ll note again that the paint is very bright, but what’s tough to get a picture of is that both the white and blue not only shimmer, but also change colors a bit (the white has blue and gold tints to it and the blue has a little green, all of which come out in the light as the bike moves…)



But flip it and you’ll note that the chain stays are a vertical oval (higher top to bottom) on the drive side and flat on the chain stay side. This is getting to be a standard on some carbon frames lately and Lynskey counter drive force in the same fashion… What you can’t see is that the wall thickness of the chain stay tubes is also fairly thick. Lynskey leaving the stays fairly thick at the BB does the same thing that larger diameter (but thinner walled) stays do, but do it with a more traditional look…

The seat stays get a bit of a bend as well as being both thinner walled and smaller diameter. All combined to soften the bumps…




Did I Ride It?

Sure.

And no big shock here, but another top line custom bike rides nice…

The frame stiffness as relates to pedal force is not extremely stiff. There isn’t much side to side flex or twist at the BB. There is a bit of flex, but it’s not something that’s bad enough to be focused and identified as coming from the BB. Cranks, BB and the wheels all seem really well matched and there’s plenty of go from the bottom end. The Lynskey has much better overall stiffness than a couple of all Ti bikes I’ve tried in the past few years and those were Ti frames that weighed more as well. When I say that the unit flexes well, I mean that no one part is an obvious problem being too loose. Standing on the gas doesn’t have the wheels rubbing the brake blocks or the front end feeling wishy washy… There’s flex, but not much and certainly not anything that makes me feel as my performance is suffering.

Stiffness as relates to handling is also very good on this build. That no doubt has to do with Bontrager’s fork mating well as relates to flex with the overall package. The relaxed geometry also helps, as you’re less likely to load up the front, then suffer from “rebound” that can make for some rather sudden instability when a fork is to flexible for either the frame or geometry (or both) to handle well. Lynskey asked about the fork type as they wanted the whole unit to perform well together in handling.

The metal steer tube as well as the fairly stiff Bontrager bars and stem also added to very good steering input as well as road feel. Not sudden and quick, but very controllable and easy. A great overall combo of frame, parts and geometry that make this bikes handling confident and easy. You glide and lean in with ease and straighten up with ease rather than dart in different directions or feel like you’re falling into a turn.

Smoothness is where I could tell that I was not on a carbon bike. That’s a bit of a plus and minus here, as this bike soaked up larger bumps and more harsh road vibes extremely well. Maybe a bit better than a few top production carbon bikes I’ve been on that are concentrated a bit toward overall stiffness. What I do feel is a bit more of the high frequency vibration in both hands feet and butt. It’s not a numbing buzz or anything that’s discomforting, but more like I just seem to feel the road a bit more. I don’t find that to be a bad thing, especially when going hard, and it’s this feeling along with that overall frame flexibility that I believe some folks are speaking about when they try and describe a “lively” old steel bike.


So

Modern bikes keep surprising me. I’ve said before, that people who would have you stereotype bikes based on materials are full of sh!t… All carbon isn’t “dead” feeling or too brittle. All steel isn’t lively or “too” heavy, All aluminum isn’t harsh (in fairness though, lots is…) And Ti doesn’t have to be heavy or like a noodle.

A great bike doesn’t come from great materials alone, it comes from good design and a very good material understanding as well as the ability to then put form to a desired function.

The fit and finish, not just on our tester but on every bike I’ve seen from Lynskey, has been outstanding. The fact that they’re not afraid to knock out some of the best paint found in Cycling today (exceptionally detailed, applied and finished paint mind you) is a HUUUGELY welcome addition and should be a model for most of the big names in custom. Sure there’s more to bikes than custom Paint. But custom paint is a big part for some people and Lynskey are about delivering dream bikes not dictating dreams…

And last but not least, this is a bike that I will have absolutely ZERO concern with, riding hard, traveling hard and not needing any special care what so ever. The only thing I need to take any sort of care with is securing the stem cap on Bontrager’s bars, but “taking care” and being worried about someone ultra-light gear are two entirely different things and these bars and the smooth finish on the stem face plate are both extremely well done… In fact, there were a couple of revelations for me here in that I know that I can still get an exceptional metal bike and that I’ve been under rating components that I’ve now taken to calling “The Killer B’s”.



All in, you would be nuts not to consider Lynskey’s Level 3 Custom if you’re shopping in what’s become the reasonable 3,000 frame range, especially if you’re looking to build something that will need to stand up to a bit of abuse. I don’t want to cubby hole it as “durable only” as it’s as light as most bikes available (as we designed it) regardless of material and it’s also got a comfort level that some manufacturers have decided is less important than having the “est” added to stiff. Geometry and handling are your call, but Lynskey will talk you through it to make sure they (and you) understand what’s what…

Give them a peak at www. LYNSKEYPERFORMANCE.COM and or simply give them a call.



Have Fun,

Charles Manantan






Note: if you have other experiences with gear, or something to add, drop us a line. We don’t claim to know everything (we just imply it at times). Give us a pat on the back if you like the reviews, or a slap in the head if you feel the need!

PezCycling News and the author ask that you contact the manufacturers before using any products we test here. Only the manufacturer can provide accurate and complete information on proper use and or installation of products as well as any conditional information or product limitations.

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