Dave, Grove Bike Co's founder, completed his Bachelor of Materials Science Engineering degree at the University of New South Wales in 2007 before promptly heading to Canada for a season of shredding in Whistler; but we digress. From ceramics to metallurgy and an honours thesis researching carbon nanotube reinforcement of carbon fibre laminates, Dave's acumen in the chemical and physical properties of materials literally shape every aspect of Grove Bike Co's product design.
We'll take you through the science and ride-ience of the various materials we utilise when crafting Grove bicycles over a series of blog posts. First up...
At Grove Bike Co we strive to create the best performing bikes. The starting point of all our product development decisions is finding the best material for a given purpose. When pinning along a rocky fire trail in the middle of nowhere we love the responsiveness and reassuring durability of an aluminium frame. With the new era of tube forming and utilising the highest performance aluminium alloys we can engineer frames with top-level strength and ride characteristics without the ticket price, big business mould costs and damage risk of carbon fibre.
Let's clear something up; "alloy" doesn't necessarily mean aluminium. Alloy actually just means that said metal is a chemical composition of multiple elements. Steel is an alloy of iron, carbon and likely some other elements such as chromium, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, tungsten and more; the specific ratio of each element will determine the grade and properties of the resulting steel alloy. Likewise, pure aluminium is relatively weak, but once formed into an alloy with elements such as copper, magnesium, silicon, zinc or manganese the chemical and physical properties can become incredibly varied. Certain aluminium alloys are also heat treatable which can result in enhanced properties through varied rates of heated solution treatment and quenching. So, which alloy is the best for a bike frame?
Most aluminium alloy bike frames are made using AL 6061-T6. This is the same material that's used to make a lot of automotive parts. After the T6 heat treatment, it's relatively strong for its weight and the machining and welding capabilities make it the go-to material in the new era of high performance formed aluminium tubed bike frames. Some of the components on Grove bikes are made from Al 6061-T6 however, it wasn't up to spec for our frames.
Add a little more copper, chromium, magnesium and silicon to the foundry plus some vanadium and dash of strontium while holding back on the zinc, iron, manganese and titanium and you upgrade your standard 6061 to the supercharged 6069 alloy! When compared to AL 6061 with a similar T6 heat treatment, AL 6069 boasts higher tensile and fatigue strength plus superior fracture toughness and corrosion properties. The superior properties of AL 6069-T6 allow us to engineer a frame equally as strong and durable as 6061-T6 but with thinner walled tubes resulting in reduced overall weight and the ability to improve frame compliance and hence ride feel through further optimised tube butting.
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