Project Z, medium prototype

To say I’ve put a lot of work and hours into this project doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the truth. And the reality is, I’m excited about it, because this bike has shown more promise than I ever could have hoped. I’ve gone over the design more times than I could ever count, and based on what we’ve learned from the first two, the third prototype will need a complete redesign, just to change some very very subtle things that will make it perfect.

When it comes to my products and craftsmanship, I take things personally. What I produce is a direct result of how hard I’ve worked to make it, and I won’t settle for anything short of the best I can do. And that means not just paying attention to one thing, but every, single, thing. From the way it rides, to the way it pedals, to the way you have to tune your shock to it, to making sure the bearings are easily serviceable and have proper dust caps to keep them swinging away year after year. It’s a long process for one person, but I’m finally arriving at a product that is really, really good.

I learned a lot from the first Project Z prototype, and I needed to get more riders out on the design before moving forward.

While I was still happy with the geometry, there were quite a few questions as to the construction of both the swingarm and the main triangle, and many of those questions were answered in both the design process of this second frame, as well as actually constructing it. Here’s a breakdown of a few of the considerations:

The main thing I wanted to improve over the first prototype was the forward shock mount and how it interfaced with the downtube. In this new design, I’ve done away with the DT reinforcement sleeve that sat between the shock mount and DT, and completely redesigned the whole assembly. The welded plates now spread the load over a full 6″ of the downtube, and are designed in a way to prevent stress risers and allow the downtube to flex slightly in it’s natural way as the swingarm loads up. There are aluminum plates bolted to these that then house the actual shock mounting hardware. These plates can be swapped out for two different swingarm positions, similar to a “Flipchip” as seen on other bikes. This changes the relative BB height by about 8mm, and slackens the head and seat angles by .5 degree or so. You’ll also be able to swap the shock yoke for a longer one which will lower the rear dropouts by about 13mm, making a mullet setup with 27.5 rear wheel a work quite well. Options, options, options…

The next thing that’s different is an upgrade to a 17mm pivot axle, which utilizes a larger, more durable, double row Enduro MAX bearing. It has the highest load rating of any bearing that can fit in this space, and frankly, is probably overkill. But I can, so I will.

I also came up with a different set of chainstays for this bike, which start life as a straight gauge .875″ 4130 chromoly tube. After a series of bending and forming dies, it’s the perfect shape to fit a 29 x 2.6 tire and also provide a ton of stiffness to the swingarm.

I tried out a different way of fitting all the triangular bracing into this swingarm, but I don’t think I’ll go that route again. I’ll probably be using a variation of what was done on the first Project Z, with some slight changes. I did use a new laser-cut brace that worked out nicely though.

This frame has an ISCG-05 tab that I’m still unsure about for the final design. When riding, I have no issue with dropped chains, but I know some folks will want a chainguide and bash guard, so some variation of this will probably be included.

Lastly, I tried out a new powder coat color on this frame that I’m thinking of adding to the lineup. It came out pretty nicely, but I learned a couple things about how it goes on. With the first out of the way, the second frame with this color will be perfect.

Always developing, always learning! This was a fun one to build, and I came up with a couple things that will be added to the next (and I hope) final version. Such as: a new aluminum shock plate design, new dropouts, and dust caps for all the bearings. Small things, but as a craftsman, it’s my job to sweat the small stuff.

I’m working on a page here for Project Z, and when it’s published there will be quite a bit of information on the final product, as well as it’s actual name!

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