The SCULP - our ultra light project - announced at Taipei Show in 2014.

‘Exploring the boundaries of physics’ is how we described the project - to test the limits of what composite technology was capable of (the materials, the layup and the manufacturing). Designed, engineered and produced in Germany it was the result of a collaboration between our carbon engineer and manufacturing facility specialising in high end automotive and carbon fibre bicycle parts.

The medium-sized frame weighed well under 700g, with paint and hardware (cable guides, derailleur hangers and bottle cage bolts). As far as we could tell at the time, it was the lightest available production frameset, like for like. According to Zedler (the independent testing facility in Germany used by the bike industry), its stiffness to weight ratio was among the best.

A glance at the price tag will give an indication as to why and how. Firstly, it was the time it takes to make a frame like this. The SCULP featured MR46J carbon (among the most expensive composite materials available) and the layup process alone lasted up to a full day. Then the moulding process (a secret hybrid method involving autoclaving) took over four hours - four times longer than mass produced frames, even high-end models.

The layup was optimised to the highest degree possible. Each and every piece of carbon fibre used in the layup is cut individually - not even 5mm too long or short - and laid in a specific direction to gain the most amount of stiffness while still keeping the weight to a minimum. The SCULP was possibly the truest example of this dark art.

One such example of this ‘dark art’ was the BB area. The walls of the carbon material were super thin, so the strength of the area relied on its oversized structure. Normally, the stiffness would be compromised as a shape changes under load - engineers refer to the change in structure as ‘breathing’. To avoid this, we installed a carbon ‘brace’ across the inside of the BB. This brace could never withstand pedalling forces on its own, but in maintaining the structure’s shape, it indirectly resulted in a far stiffer BB area. A simple solution, yet effective.

Suffice to say, it was an engineering masterpiece. But even though we learned how far we can go to making a light and stiff bike, the biggest lesson was that bikes aren’t raced in a lab. The SCULP may have been a KOM segment weapon, however (and we are the first to admit this) the ride quality was nowhere near the balance and neutrality of the Ultravox. At the time, our staff had access to test bikes and almost invariably, when it was time for a long hard ride, they reached past the SCULP and grabbed the UltraVox.

We were reminded that bikes should be designed to enable the rider to cope with and react to real world conditions - the unexpected. While weight and stiffness are highly important, they’re not the be all and end all and we remain careful of what we wish for when chasing numbers on a spreadsheet. We learned to keep on testing, and keep relying our gut instinct. When we went on to make the Hypervox, and then the Racevox, we never lost sight of that - weight, or stiffness is just part of the big picture.