• Published in Bikes

Editor's Note: A news service hired by Philly Bike Expo to document the show offered to share content with us, so I graciously accepted. What follows are three separate brief-but-interesting articles on three different bikes (and the frame-builders behind them) from the show.


Calfee Manta Pro

By Paul Skilbeck
Photos by Brad Quartuccio/Philly Bike Expo

Calfee.Manta.Pro.WEB

One of the most advanced road bicycle designs at the Philly Bike Expo was Craig Calfee’s Manta Pro, a road racing bike with rear suspension. Calfee has had this concept on the drawing board for a long time, and an early production model first appeared at the Sea Otter Classic in 2013.

At the time, Calfee said he was waiting for market readiness, and Trek’s release of its Madone gave him the confidence to move.

Since 2013 Calfee has made several changes to the design, and while the present iteration already offers an excellent ride, expect to see more tweaks in the near future that will make the frame even better.

Early iterations of the Manta used an elastomeric shock, but finding this material lacked the rebound he was looking for, Calfee switched to a coil spring that offers 12mm of travel in total, and about 7mm with the rider in a seated position.

Located above a wishbone joint in the seat stays, the suspension unit looks like it couldn’t provide enough shock absorption, but after extensive testing, we can confidently state that the rear end of this bike is silky smooth until you start hitting deep potholes that you’d normally avoid anyway, and even then it considerably softens the blow.

Calfee.Manta.Pro.Rearjpg.WEB

Calfee.Manta.Pro.Front.WEBFour different spring strengths are offered, and these can be changed by the owner without much fuss with 10-15 minutes of work.

Our test rider weighed in at a hefty 230 pounds (104 kg), and used the upper medium strength spring. After several hundred miles on the bike he has not felt the suspension bottom-out. Admittedly, this was with a 38mm Compass Barlow Pass tire on the bike, run at around 70 psi, not the 28mm Schwalbe One tire on the show bike.

The fact that the Manta Pro is fitted with Schwalbe’s most serious road racing tire makes a statement in itself: this bike is meant to be raced.

For races of two hours or more, it is easy to imagine the Manta Pro being a great choice. For shorter races we’d need some empirical evidence to draw conclusions.

The design concept of the Manta is a departure from tradition for Calfee, the frame builder who back in 1991 demonstrated to the pro peloton in Europe that carbon fiber would be their future.

One approach to designing lightweight carbon tubes is to use smaller tube diameters with thicker walls. Another is to go with larger diameters with thinner walls. Traditionally, Calfee has preferred the former, arguing that this makes a more resilient and comfortable frame.

The other point that Calfee makes about thin-walled carbon frames is they are not good shock absorbers. Not only does a lot of stiffness increase rolling resistance, but also it adds to rider fatigue on long rides.

In the Manta frames, Calfee used thin-walled, big diameter tubes with a rear suspension unit to provide comfort and resilience.

Calfee’s next development steps for the Manta are to beef up the seat stays to increase stability at high speeds, and to the same end use a flatter section tube for the chainstays.

“I was surprised to learn that a flatter section chainstay increased the rear-end stiffness,” said Calfee at the Philly Expo, adding, “I had expected a taller, thinner tube would have been more effective.”

Also, he is working on a front suspension system. This will help balance the feel of the ride, because as it is the rear is silky smooth, while the front still transmits some road shock.

Calfee’s Manta line comes with three geometric options: Pro, for road racing; Adventure for endurance and gravel; and Cyclocross.


Nagasawa Classic Road Racer

By Matthew Butterman
Photos by Brad Quartuccio/Philly Bike Expo

Nagasawa.Classic.WEB

Among first-time exhibitors at this year's Philly Bike Expo was Paul Brodek of Bronin Jitensha. Brodek is importing two Japanese brands: Cherubim and Nagasawa.

Although relatively unknown in the U.S., Yoshiaki Nagasawa is a legend in Japan. As a young man, he studied with Sante Pogliaghi and Ugo De Rosa in Italy, before returning to Japan in 1976, where he opened up shop in Osaka as a specialty Keirin frame-builder.

In Italy, Nagasawa learned the craft and art of lugged frame construction, and from both Italian maestri he also learned to appreciate the aesthetics and beauty of the bicycle.

Brodek came to know of Nagasawa frames during years he spent living in Japan, working in the bicycle industry there.

Nagasawa’s frames have been raced by some of Japan's fastest Keirin riders, including Koichi Nakano, 10 times winner of the UCI Track World Championship.

Nagasawa.Classic.Rear.WEB

Nagasawa.Classic.Front.WEBThe show bike was built for one of Nagasawa’s sons and was loaned to Brodek for the show.

Brodek was unsure of the exact tubing used in the bike, but Nagasawa typically builds with a selection of specially butted Tange tubing. The bike is equipped with a full Suntour Superbe Pro groupset from a mixture of eras.

The rear derailleur, headset, hubs, pedals and crank are from the early to mid-1980s, while the front derailleur and shifters are from the late 1980s. The brakeset is a true hybrid, with exposed cable levers from the early 1980s, and the later, hidden-spring calipers from the late 1980s. The frame was built in 1994.

The Specs:

Bike: Nagasawa Road
Tubing: Tange
Headset: Suntour Superbe Pro
Crankset: Suntour Superbe Pro, 172.5
Rear Derailleur: Suntour Superbe Pro
Front Derailleur: Suntour Superbe Pro
Brakes: Suntour Superbe Pro
Seatpost: Suntour Superbe Pro
Pedals: Suntour Superbe Pro
Stem: Nitto
Handlebars: Nitto B115 450
Hubs: Suntour Superbe Pro
Rims: Nisi tubular
Tires: Panaracer


Royal H Tourer

By Matthew Butterman
Photos by Brad Quartuccio/Philly Bike Expo

RoyalH.WEB

The Royal H booth at the Philly Bike Expo featured a touring bike labeled “Hollingsworth” that seemed to be inspired in looks and stately design by the English brand Holdsworth.

It turns out that Royal H’s owner’s name is Bryan Hollingsworth, but the bike was in fact inspired by a Holdsworth owned by Bryan’s uncle, Pete Hollingsworth, and it’s quite an interesting story.

Pete Hollingsworth is a master craftsman and woodworker who, like his brother and nephew, is also a cyclist, and the three of them were planning to do a trip from Boston to Montreal a few years ago. Pete was cajoled by his brother into purchasing a used Holdsworth touring bike at a swap meet for $500. He begrudgingly bought the bike, unconvinced of its utility and suitability for the trip ahead.

The three took a shakedown journey from Princeton, New Jersey, up to the border with New York and back through hilly terrain that somewhat resembled the higher mountains ahead of them on their Boston-to-Montreal trip. Pete Hollingsworth began to change his mind about his used Holdsworth as the miles piled up beneath his wheels.

“I loved it,” Pete Hollingsworth said. “The more I rode the bike, loaded down with full panniers and gear, the more I realized that this sort of journey was what this bike was meant to do.”

Then, on a tricky descent in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, Pete Hollingsworth suffered a bad crash that destroyed his Holdsworth touring bike and sent him to the emergency room.

As he recovered and began to ride again, Hollingsworth yearned for the geometry and overall ride of his defunct Holdsworth. He discussed the idea of a build with his nephew Bryan, and it snowballed into a plan for a formal re-creation of all the best features of his old Holdsworth.

About the same time this plan was hatched, Pete Hollingsworth was changing his artistic medium from wood to metal after attending a seminar on lugs given by master frame-builder Doug Fattic at the 2015 Philly Bike Expo. Hollingsworth began to create intricately shaped lugs from metal, making use of his skills honed as a wood craftsman.

With his nephew’s frame shop and fabrication skills added to his new aptitude for shaping lugs, Pete and Bryan Hollingsworth launched the Hollingsworth line of bikes. They are not copies of the classics, but new classics.

RoyalH.Cassette.WEBAlong with the hand-cut lugs for each Hollingsworth, Pete also hand-draws all of the retro-design graphics and decals for the bikes.

The bike he showed at the Philly Bike Expo was built with what he termed a “dog’s breakfast” of tubes: some Columbus, some Tange and some Ishiwata. Hollingsworth plans to create tongue-in-cheek “DB” seat tube decals for this mongrel mix in the near future. The bike had 56cm x 56 cm seat and top tubes, with a 104cm wheelbase.

The Specs

Headset: Campagnolo Nuovo Record
Crankset: Sun XCD, 32/50 rings, 170mm
Rear derailleur: Sun XCD
Front derailleur: Sun XCD
Shifters: ENF micro-ratchet downtube
Brakes: Weinmann centerpull
Seatpost: Nitto
Saddle: Brooks B17
Stem: Geoffrey Butler, 90mm
Handlebars: Cinelli 66-40
Freewheel: Sun XCD 13-28
Hubs: Campagnolo Nuovo Record, 36 hole
Rims: Weinmann Concave
Tires: Panaracer Pasela 700x32c
Pedals: MKS Sylvan Prime
Fenders and racks: Velo Orange

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