Thursday, 5 December 2013

Waki bike

Ever since I started biking 12 years ago, I have been dreaming of having my own bike company, visualizing and drawing a line of mountain bikes, from XC to DH. Two years ago I decided to make one of those bikes real, design an allround hardtail and build it to ride it. Half of a year ago I got it delivered to my hands thanks to some good people in Poland who made me a prototype according to the project. Today I am sharing my experiences with you of how it rides, I hope it can give you an idea how good or bad a bike designed by a troll can be. Let me present you the Hard T(r)ail.

It feels really good to be looking at something that is the way it is because you made it be so. By my own will and hands, then help of a few skillful people I arranged particles and elements of this Earth into an useful object. The inspiraton for the character and geometry of the bike were our local trails and a bird that I met on one of the rides: the Capercaille aka West European Grouse - a wild, aggressive, big, fat turbo chicken that wanted to kick my ass and chased me for over 200m until I got off his territory. I wanted to make a bike that would be this incospicious animal that can kick the ass of a Moose that a full suspension 29er can be. Trails we have here are very technical even though the speeds are relatively low - the longest dowhills don't last for longer than 30 seconds. You need a bike that can effectively move through rough terrain with frequent ups and downs but every once in a while you come upon some really tough bit, like super steep muddy, root infested shute, vertical rock face or field of boulders and rocks. Things can get as sketchy as a Hafjell World cup track and if even for a moment at a time, you do need some balls and skills, as well as the strength and stamina. A hardtail fits very well, however the best possible weapon might be a 120mm full suspension bike, like my Santa Cruz Blur TRc.

Head angle: 68deg
Seat Angle: 72.5deg
Eff Top Tube: 615mm
Chainstay length: 405-417mm
Seat tube: 430mm
Reach: 428mm
BB drop: -33mm
Max tyre 2.3", ISCG05
Chart based on 120mm fork 

I designed the frame using my 3d modelling skills and simplistic CAD software. Project was made at Mielec factory where Mig fighter jets were made long time ago. Now they make all sorts of things, also bicycle frames, like Zumbi. Guys at Mielec Bike did a great job, everything is straight and all dimensions seem accurate after measuring a photo in autocad for angles and with tape on actual bike for lengths. Somewhere deep inside i always knew that as soon as I take it into my hands for the first time I will feel a great pride that will immediately give place to perfectionistic scrutiny to find something if anything went wrong. And so i did find bits and bobs, three sins of which the biggest one is the tyre clearance which is less than 3mm on each side of the tyre. That is really annoying, when I lean the bike more I hear the tyre scratching on chainstays. That is very unfortunate as i have a lot of place left on the side of the chainring, where I could even put a 40t chainring, while the initial requirement was 36t. I also screwed up the rear disc brake mount, making it 1cm closer to the wheel axle than it should be, forcing me to use 140mm adapter for 160mm disc - but I call that a nice save, considering what would have been if it wouldn't fit at all. The second problem is the sliding drop outs. Apart from being expensive to make, they are frighteningly thin and small. On computer everything looks bigger than in reality. Then, there is no place for washers under the bolts which isn't good and causes noise while riding. When I will be making another prototype every dimension will be 1mm to 3mm larger.

A short info on the build:
Frame: Waki Hardtrail M, 7020 T6 straight gauge tubing, 7075 dropouts /Fork: Sektor coil RLT / Wheels: Mavic Crossmax ST / Tyres: Specialized Butcher C and Purgatory C, run tubeless / Drivetrain: Shimano XT/SLX components with Gamut P30 chain device / Brakes: Shimano XT / Controls: 60mm stem, 750mm bars, KS Supern. dropper post, WTB Pure V saddle. Weight frame: 1996g, complete 11.6kg w/o pedals

RIDING the Wacky Hardtrail

The thing that makes me most proud of myself is that from the very first moment, the bike felt quite right, it wasn't perfect like with some bikes (Nomad, Stumpy evo) but it was quite close. No later than at the end of the second ride I felt confident to hit everything as I used to on my pumped up Xc racer. My very first impression was - that is a long bike comparing to what I am used to, and as soon as I went down the first descent I thought to myself that it is also very stable. It felt almost as big as my 29er hardtail, but as soon as I started popping from stones and roots it felt fantastic. Short chainstays are awesome! They allow for easy picking up of the wheel, to jump or manual. They also allow for snappy turning, the bike is really good in turning at slower speeds, what comes very handy on our tight trails. I think as long as you don't race in HT downhill, the short chainstays give you more fun than take from other places.

The bike feels really stable in rockgardens and handles quite predictably, it's a bit better downhiller than uphiller but balanced in general. I felt damn confident on that bike - longer reach allowed me to be smoother and more active on steepest stuff, more room up front enables a larger range of movement - I can be more dynamic over the bike, thus make it do more. Now, I know that to many, a 67 degree static head angle with 150 fork does not sound like slack, but to me it is more than slack enough. I would like to point out that at the time when those first NUschool hardtails like Ragley Blue pig were coming out, we were still riding narrow bars, even for downhill and anyone having anything above 700mm was considered crazy. These days, the 720mm seems to be a trail riding standard and I honestly think those bars cover up for a lot of previously unstable angles, I honestly think that we don't need 65 head angles on hardtails which cannot go as fast as fullys. If I ever get weary in a rockgarden it is more due to tyres on narrow rims than geometry. A thing that I noticed later on is that the bike has much more oversteer than my XC bike. It needs to be forced to turn while riding faster otherwise it shoots out of the corners earlier than I would like to. It takes commitment at higher speeds, a thing unnoticable at normal Gothenburgian trail pace.

Here is a short video of me riding the bike

I heard many sceptical opinions while I was designing the frame that climbing will be compromised due to short stays. If you climb seated then yes, it does wander more than my XC racer but aren't real men pedalling standing, at least while riding through obstacles?  We can also lean our chests down all the way to the stem by bending those weird things, you know, elbows. It fascinates me how do we all tend to isolate factors and consider certain things static (I am guilty of that as well) while we move around on the bike, in fact many of us move too little so any incentive to get your ass up is welcome. So no, I did not find climbing any more troubling than my XC bike, I conquered every single challenging climb I was doing before, and a couple of new ones. I made quite conservative seat tube angle at 72.5 degrees and I like it. It gives me room between the end of the saddle and my ass while pedalling standing.


To sum up I feel damn proud of myself that I met some of my design goals like playfullness were met, some unexpected riding characteristics came out (oversteer). I thinkt I designed something beinga good weapon for our home trails but to get some credibility I will try to give the bike for a review to some qualified local testers. Hopefully in the future I will learn to weld frame myself and but I'll tkaei tone step at a time. The next step it to redesign it to make it better, build another one and realize another dream: meet someone on the trail riding my bike, that means produce and sell at least few frames. I think that long reach and short chainstays might be the future of "fun bike" geometry just as slack head angle and low BB used to be. If anyone asks me why would I produce it, why yet another company then I would find it to be a very relevant question. I will answer using a very wise words from Will I-am which went more or less like that: "I always wanted to do melodies and songs, I was doing it for fun. Do a melody, share it and maybe one day someone hears it and likes it, then one day you might be surprised how many people like it. You do not make it happen, it is people who like or don't like that thing you do, and whether it makes sense or not it is not for you to decide but for them".

Bike isn't perfect by any means and some things need redesigning: Tyre clearance MUST be around 10-12mm for 2.5" tyre, I'll take room from chainring clearance to compromise and keep 405mm chainstays.
I might want to skip sliding drop outs or at least make them so that they slide 45deg backwards to give room for 650b wheel geometry. After rolling on my buddies Production Privee Shan I would make the reach even longer by 12mm and run a shorter stem. Angles stay as they are, eventually I could consider steepening the HA by 0,5 degree. Second frame would also have a tapered head tube.

That's it, for now, I'd like to make a blog entry about designing and making of this frame. I wish to make a big shout out to Roman Pyrkosz from Omen Racing Frame for help with production, without his help it would not be possible. His help with production experience and advices were very helpful. Also big thanks to Jon Lindgren for his advices on geometry. Thanks to Johan Gustavsson for riding pictures.



  1. Wow, that bike looks superb.
    What town is it on the picture?

    1. Thanks. It is Gothenburg in South-Western Sweden.

    2. Haha, I believed in your "Mauritania" thing, so I was very surprised to see this architecture. Now it makes sense =)

    3. No no, it is a long story with Mauritania, Polish internal affairs :)

  2. Beautiful Article brother!
    You have taken your dreams and made it true partly.
    Its also a deep imagination of mine to fabricate my own personal bike and maybe into production for those who are so keen to give it a try. I wish you good luck in perusing Waki-bikes in the future.
    RideOn mate!

    1. Thanks man! I sure will, hopefully one day you can be my test rider!

  3. Excellent blog Waki mateyou go for it... look where Cy Turner at Cotic has ended up.... Seriously, I was never interested in engineering since high school when I struggled with Applied Maths, moments of inertia and vector forces, but all that changed when I started biking more seriously about 8 years ago. I wish I had not given up with the maths now! Good luck mate! As Niko always says... RideOn!

    1. Thanks, I honestly hate Maths, it is a subject of many of my night nightmares to this day. I will do my best to be entertaining in the future :)

  4. Beautiful Waki! As first prototypes go, I'd say you've done a brilliant job, well done!