Inside Stanton Bikes’ return to hardtail manufacturing in the UK

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Tucked away in Matlock, UK is a small unit that designs and manufactures mountain bikes. This is a fitting British production and it is rapidly gaining momentum. Last December I visited Stanton Bikes to take a look at how the new Switch9er FS and Switch FS full suspension frames are made, but Stanton is best known for their hardtail. to recover.

The unit remains much the same, with a greater buzz of activity. Staffing has undergone changes; the most notable addition to Stanton’s quiver is Ollie. Ollie comes from an aerospace background and was recruited for his impeccable skills and knowledge. He has a keen interest in welding titanium which makes him perfect for the job as Stanton is bringing Ti and Steel production back in-house. Long story short, Ollie first met Dan through mutual friends who frequented the local bike shop where Dan then worked, while their paths diverged Ollie developed his skills in aerospace. A chance meeting brought them together in this mutually beneficial agreement. Manufacturing is overlooked by longtime team member and local boy Jord.

To make this overview of how Stanton is made a little more interesting, I wanted to compare and contrast the production paths of the steel and titanium frames, focusing on the Switch9er hardtail – with aspects taken from the Switchback and Sherpa. , the Switch9er is the evolution of their modern geometry. It’s a super aggressive 29 inch that has all the characteristics of a Stanton to the end.

Tube Kits

Steel

Ti

Let’s start with the most obvious difference. On top is a set of Reynolds DZB tubes made in Birmingham (not pictured the 631 used to make Switch9er). Bottom is a custom designed 3AL2.5V 3AL2.5V tubing set imported from Taiwan, the UK is running out of people producing titanium tubing sets from raw materials to fit Stanton’s custom specifications.

The two materials differ considerably in their physical properties; hardness, weld point, weight and tensile strength, resulting in different driving properties, but the two materials share a more tolerant ride than aluminum. Due to the different properties, the tube sets required for each frame have unique cross sections. The steel tube is circular, while the Ti is ovaloid.

Other parts are also CNC from the appropriate material. CNC work for Ti and steel is currently outsourced, with slight adjustments made in-house to ensure perfect fits.

Cups – Steel

Manufacturing at Stanton Bikes is led by Jord. Jord is responsible for finalizing pre-assembly adjustments and making critical cuts and fits. During manufacturing, there are similarities and differences in the two production paths.

Steel is much more tolerant to work, while being considerably less expensive. Which makes it the perfect material for prototyping and experimentation.

Calibrate.

To cut.

Cups – Titanium
The final cuts of the titanium tube sets are done in-house. In addition to tubes custom-made for Stanton, doing it in-house gives them ultimate control over the precision of fits. Cutting titanium is more clinical than cutting steel. Thorough cleaning is required before cutting or working with Ti and tools should be titanium specific to avoid contamination. Ti should also be handled with gloves to reduce oils from our skin that touch it.
The final checks are done by Jord and the team before making the ti cups. As the ti is oval as opposed to round, the orientation of the cuts is much more difficult.

Titanium is a much harder material, so it is cut at a much lower rpm to avoid knife wear and the risk of fracture.
Material costs are considerably higher if something goes wrong. Measure three times cut once for ti?

Preparation before the template

Before the tubes are placed in the jig, there are a number of preparatory tasks to be completed. There are similarities and differences here for steel and ti.

Both the BB and the steerer tube need to be drilled holes to allow welding gases to escape

The front end is assembled in the jig

Welding – Steel

Heat sinks are installed in the frame

Once made the adjustments are verified

Before being finished and checked again

Welding – Titanium

Welding of titanium frames has its similarities and differences with steel. In general, the process takes longer, with titanium being welded twice along each seam after spot welding. Lead solder is followed by fuse solder, which ensures full penetration into the joint. Welding titanium is more technical and requires a highly skilled operator.

The entire frame should be made airtight with space tape. This process means that argon gas can be pumped through the frame while welding. The use of this noble gas reduces oxidation and therefore discoloration – this would have negative implications for the integrity of the weld. Oli targets aerospace standards for weld discoloration. Slight discoloration of the straw is acceptable for the ATV; but Oli will try not to discolor.

Aerospace welding of titanium carried out in argon ‘tanks’. Access and cost limitations prevent this in most ATV applications because it is impractical. At Stanton, precautions are taken to minimize exposure to oxygen when welding Ti.

Argon is pumped through

Bedbugs are placed

Finished with fuse welds

Finish – Steel

Finishing the steel frames is relatively straightforward – they are either coated with an ED coating for rust protection, followed by a powder coating and vinyl finish, before being lacquered.

… or they can be finished rough, showing the heat spots around the welds and craftsmanship. The rough finishing process is a trade secret. Stanton is prepared to advise customers that as the finish wears out, the frame will need to be returned for “second life service” where the frame is coated with an ED coating and powder coating.

Finish – Titanium

Painting titanium bikes is a misstep, the material needs to be visible and celebrated. The “standard” titanium finish is raw brushed with polished decals, titanium does not corrode and therefore does not require protection from the elements like steel does.

“Elite” titanium finish offers bespoke titanium anodized decals and allows for personal customization. This process is described below:

Some alternative ideas

Check Out All Stanton Mounts Here


Additional images by Joe O’Brien

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