How are Carbon Bikes are Designed?

The Design
From Concept
To Reality

The SWIFT brand of bikes are conceived and designed for maximum rider benefit. That goes beyond just speed – our bikes are fast, of course, but we look for balanced performance.

Design Philosophy 

We pay huge attention to every part of the ride, balancing often-contradictory requirements. For example, to make stiff frame, more material is required, either to make higher-volume tube sections or to make tube walls thicker. More material means more weight, so stiffness and weight are always a trade-off. It’s possible to use stronger materials, which let you use less material for the larger tubes, but that introduces the additional axis of cost.

It’s a similar scenario when it comes to aero features. A tube with a deep aero cross-section inevitably uses more material than a round tube. It’s a question of balancing the benefits of reducing drag against the weight penalty. Aero tubes are also stiffer along the long axis of their cross-section, which often seriously compromises frame comfort and ride quality. We spend a great deal of time testing and assessing all these axes of performance to achieve the ideal balance.

We pay particular attention to the ride quality, deliberately setting out to achieve a ride feel comparable to the very finest steel bikes of the mid 1980s, when steel was the dominant frame material. The geometry, feel and characteristics of 853 and 753 Reynolds frames that Mark rode as a professional left a lasting impression on him.

The Swift Carbon Genesis 

This tubing marked the last generation of steel frames before aluminium, and then carbon fibre, took over as the primary material for high-end road bikes. But Mark was underwhelmed by most carbon fibre bikes, and this drove him to launch SwiftCarbon. “My experience of carbon in the past had always been not necessarily that good,” he explains. “Numb, slightly over engineered, or very unsettling, twitchy and nervous, hard and unforgiving. People without pre-carbon experience take these handling characteristics as a given for how bikes usually feel. Having ridden some of the best steel bikes in the world I knew the benchmark for handling and ride quality was much higher.”

For Mark, carbon fibre had masses of unrealised potential. It was light, and strong, and could, in theory, deliver the best ride attributes of steel in a stiffer, lighter frame (if tuned correctly). It became his goal to create bikes that combined the undoubted weight and stiffness advantages of carbon with the lively, interactive ride quality of the best steel frames. He wanted comfort and confidence as well as stiffness and low weight – handling and acceleration to win races from frames you can ride all day.

The unique ride feel of a SwiftCarbon frame should instil complete confidence in the rider. It’s a sensation that comes from being totally relaxed and comfortable on the bike. When a bike is predictable yet agile, stiff under power yet damps out road buzz, with spot-on fit for its intended purpose, that rider feels utterly at home on it. A relaxed rider is an efficient rider, and an efficient rider is a faster rider. The feeling of confidence may be almost subconscious, but the speed will be clear to see.

Unique Balance 

So how do we achieve this unique balance? Time. Also, there’s a great deal of design, engineering and testing work that goes into each model. The key is to recognise that different parts of the frame are stressed in different ways, both in terms of direction and magnitude. In a hard sprint, for example, a rider’s efforts exert forces that twist the bike along its length – the head tube tries to go one way and the bottom bracket tries to go the other. Conversely, in the saddle, vibrations and shocks from the road are transmitted upwards and excessive vibration at the contact points makes for an uncomfortable, fatiguing ride – this must be minimised for greatest efficiency and speed.

This is where the balance comes in. We identify and quantify the stresses and loads at different parts of the frame, and use that knowledge to tune the construction of those zones. We work to enhance stiffness in the appropriate direction while maintaining a balance between stiffness and compliance. Using carbon fibre makes it possible to very finely adjust the characteristics of every part of the frame – the key is to do that while retaining a balanced whole.

An example is the contrast between the high-volume head and down tubes, bottom bracket area and deep chainstays, and the slender seatstays. The backbone of the frame is stiff to make the most of the rider’s power. The sections that support the seated weight are engineered for vibration control. It’s the best of both worlds.

All in the Details 

As well as frame construction, geometry and components have a big part to play. Some bikes have the back wheel pulled in for an ultra-short wheelbase, but we use a slightly longer back end. That adds comfort and stability, with the extra stiffness of the frame – especially in the head tube and bottom bracket – keeping the bike lively on climbs and accurate in turns. And we use 27.2mm diameter seatposts – these are more compliant than larger ones, offering an extra element of vibration control.

Our bikes have a signature look, standing out in the bunch while remaining understated. And characteristic design details are carried across the range – a SwiftCarbon bike looks like a SwiftCarbon bike, whether it’s a road racer, TT bike or MTB. But the key element is, and always will be, the ride.

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