Product Development: When Things Don’t Make It
I've been wanting to share the tale of the now canceled Macho King cantilever (a Zona version of the Macho Man) for a while now, but I've been afraid to show you something that you can't have. We've been getting a bunch of questions about a Zona Macho lately, and as I feel there are a number of interesting behind the scenes info / how AC works aspects of the story, this is my attempt to let you know what happened and why.
Now a lot of people have warned me not to share this kind of information, for a number of reasons:
a. people will bitch and complain that they can't get one
b. consumers don't need to know this level of background detail
c. you're letting competitors know what you're working on
d. competitors will know your capabilities and testing standards
So what I'm getting it is that we're taking a risk by letting you in on the goings on behind the scenes, please don't hassle us about it. It is what it is. We're bummed out too that it's not a reality. But those are the breaks. We're moving on.
While it's a touchy subject, if the old Bridgestone catalogs have taught me anything, it's that bike nerds are always stoked to learn about manufacturing and design process. Why we do what we do, etc.
make the most amazing cantilever bike we can before cantilevers become obsolete, and push the boundaries of what a production bike can be.
This was to be our most "handbuilt" frame (though of course all of our frames are handbuilt) in that it would include a level of detail and complexity that none of our other bikes posess.
To that end we decided to give it "full internal" cable routing (though it is external on the chain stay), with a quadruple top tube and a double downtube piercing. We would also make it out of the always delightful Columbus Zona tubeset and give it a more heritage english BB shell.
the now canceled Macho King proto
racing the proto at Bandit Cross
visible is a custom seat collar that we're working on, the finished version should be even more refined. No ETA available
We actually received first round proto's fairly early last year and commenced ride testing. They rode amazing as you would expect any frame built with high grade steel to do and the quality of the construction left nothing to be desired. They were flipping flawless.
I'll let you judge for yourself, but in our eyes they were simply gorgeous. The paint scheme remains my favorite to date (rest assured it will be used on something somewhere down the line), and the clean lines of the bike were positively NAHBSian.
We knew we had a real winner, even writing this revisiting the project I'm getting all misty about what could have been.
So what happened?
Well testing happened. I'm sure you're aware that most bicycle companies perform some sort of testing to ensure that their bicycles are safe. We over at All-City actually use the European Union standards which are harsher and stricter than their American counterparts. Now the thing about testing is that modern standards were not really designed for steel. They were designed for aluminum and their appropriateness for steel is a question of some debate. The metals don't act or react the same.
That said, they are the standards to which we've decided to hold to, in order to ensure that frames that wear an AC badge can stand up to the punishment that we know you dish out. In the Macho King we had a frame which 40 years of steel bike design and our own riding tells us is perfectly safe and reasonable, yet it didn't pass our requirements. There was no question of what to do, we would go back to the drawing board and try again.
So we worked with Columbus to produce a custom Zona tube (I'm not saying which tube or how it failed because some information needs to remain proprietary to All-City, and we'd like to keep some of what we learned close to the vest) and tried again. This time it made it through almost all of the required cycles but ultimately came up short. We were close but running out of time as we wanted it to arrive in June 2013 in time for cyclocross selling season.
Due to the high sample and testing cost, and because we were also working on the 612 Select disc version, we decided to simply cancel the bike and focus instead completely on our disc development. It was a sad and difficult decision, but ultimately the correct one for the brand. We certainly haven't given up on doing a higher end version of our steel cross bike, it's just that it won't happen in canti.
We shot for the moon and came up a bit short, but we learned a lot from doing this project. We pushed our frame builders, we pushed our supply chain, and we got to work with Columbus on designing a custom tube. We have a better idea of what our capabilities are and what our partners can accomplish. It's not coming out, but the project was far from a waste of time.
This was intended as a mic drop product that ultimately failed, yet from it's ashes emerged the Macho Man Disc and way cooler shit to come.