We explained to you in the previous article why we prefer layered carbon frames to monocoques, how we work them and why we should choose them in the everyday use of the high-level bike enthusiast. Our article deviates from the position of most other bike manufacturers. And there are reasons, some technical, but others more strictly commercial.
In a word, we could define the answer with marketing. But let’s explain in detail, point by point, why the interests of big manufacturers converge in selling a monocoque rather than a hand-wrapped one.
A monocoque has costs of installation, study and production start-up. Afterwards, the actual production is much cheaper than a hand-wrapped, which requires many hours of work. We should add that production displacement often occurs in Asia or Eastern Europe. At the same time, it would not be possible for a custom-built frame to produce so far, both in terms of delivery time and quality control, from the actual market. The higher margins of the product include the frames for athletes of image and professional teams. These frames would be a surplus of work in a made-to-measure process to guarantee customization even for riders who do not pay for the bike but use it for the contract. In the case of bikes produced on a large scale, athletes readjust standard bikes with the help of the teams to their needs without affecting the manufacturer’s costs too much.
Scalability of the product monocoque
As mentioned above, pure production is less costly. So if by chance a frame needs to be replaced under warranty, it won’t affect the firm’s profit too much. But, conversely, a hand-wrapped and custom-built frame cannot possibly have defects, otherwise the production costs of a replacement frame would nullify the profits from the sale.
While a custom frame needs to be partially redesigned each time, a monocoque finished its design work request at the production launch. Agreements are then signed with component manufacturers to make the frame compatible with most of the components, or only with some, depending on the company’s choices. Unfortunately, this becomes very limiting for the end-user, who only realizes it when he has to replace parts in many cases.
Lightness and structural characteristics of a monocoque
We have made a list of marketing-related factors. Let’s go a little deeper, technically.
It is true that with the monocoque one reaches exciting values of lightness. It is easier to compress more the carbon fibre with a single mould. It is also true that in the production of a monocoque it is possible to act in such a way as to focus more attention on specific strategic points. This operation is the duty of a skilled worker, usually within a large production. Which, however, is different from the job of a craftsman who puts his heart and soul into his work. A particularity that differentiates industrial processing from artisanal processing is also the finishing. The frames require various fine processing to accommodate different components. We don’t just mean headset or bottom bracket. But for example also just the passage of internal cables. How many frames need a magnet to search for a gear cable inside the down tube, when instead it is enough to insert a Teflon guide during construction? Finishes, details that make the difference.