they say time flies when you are having fun. this is very true and thinking back to early 2011 when we started work on the now well documented “VIPA STORY” it feels like it is definitely time to remind everyone about the process and development stages of this successful full suspension platform.
Whilst the naysayers are quick to think and believe our VIPA was some kind of “off-the-shelf” full suspension frame that we just by chance found and started selling, this could not be further from the truth #truestory ( this seems really silly to me, but easy to believe when some brands are doing this quite successfully )
In what started literally as a by-chance meeting in Pietermaritzburg ( in the Coffeeberry Cafe during a World Cup event ) turned into the first ( #1 #dontforgetthat ) full suspension, full carbon mountain bike to be designed / developed / tested right here in South Africa!!!
Using real-world rider input ( multiple Cape Epic rider Nico Pfitzenmaier must take some credit for various changes to the design and features ) and personal riding experience we were able to refine and tune the drawings before we opened up tooling and moulds for the original 3 sizes – which were Small ( 27.5″ Wheel ) , Medium ( 29er ), Large ( 29er ).
Below is the original Alloy Test Mule – my personal bike from September 2012.
Once we had validated the kinematics and geometry of the bike we were able to use the test mule to confirm smaller but important details like cable routing , tyre clearance changes etc. The next step would be the expensive and most important one – the machining of the moulds! At this point there really is no turning back – unless you are prepared to scrap a mould and re-start and pay for another version.
I still have fond memories of seeing the moulds in the factory for the very first time – literally each and every item is proprietary on the frame – Rocker / Dropout Ends / Chainstay / Seatstay / Seatstay Ends / Pivot Hardware and of course the Front Triangle ( 1 mould per size ). This is something I know most people still do not know about this bike – check out the below raw forged alloy parts – there is NO OTHER bike on the planet that uses these bolts! The initial costs for forging are alot higher than cnc machining a few items but from day 1 this project required us to be competitive in terms of final price , for this reason we had to invest in forging moulds and allow for up-scaling production should the market like the bike : )
the first frame “pieces” were hand carried back to South Africa by myself so we can could take the relevant photos for marketing etc. They were unfinished but “featured” in our first advert for the VIPA project. These parts are on display at our offices in Port Elizabeth.
the above frame was the first carbon sample we received ( early February 2013 ) and it was the culmination of just over 18 months of revised drawings, changes and input from various riders and designers – I remember riding the Alloy Prototype with Sean Badenhorst ( @mrtread ) on our local Baakens Valley trails and explaining how this very crude prototype was the basis of the soon to be available VIPA Carbon full suspension model.
It was Mid February 2013 when we received the first complete 19″ Test sample for Nico to race in the Cape Epic – it literally arrived just a few days before the start of the race!
The original riding samples allowed us to make some minor changes before final production took place – during this real world testing we also identified some changes that were implemented as the bikes were being produced eg.a revised chainstay radius at the front. This update was necessary as we had originally worked with SRAM on the tolerances and used their XO/X9 Tech Drawings during 3D design – however, our final spec would be Shimano XT Direct Mount which had a slightly different cage position meaning the FD would touch when in the smaller front chainring. ( fast forward to 2017 and none of the current year model bikes even have a FD! live and learn )
The media received various samples and first impressions and ride reviews were very positive – see some here:
Tread Magazine: click here
BikeHub: click here
Ride Magazine: click here
Bicycling Magazine: click here
Cape Epic Video: click here
Perhaps my favourite article: Momga vs Pysen – click here
What many people do not know is that the bike’s development was very much a team effort – a collaboration of a group of individuals each with a specific skill set – various industry insiders know the real story. This is something that perhaps contributed to the “X” factor that has somehow become the VIPA’s unique feature and ultimately contributed to the bike’s success.
Below is a brief outline of the timeline for the VIPA’s development process:
- April 2011 – concept outline
- July 2011 – first kinematics related to project and design brief
- November 2011 – first drawings finalised and approved for Alloy Test Mule
- July 2012 – CNC parts ready for Alloy Test Mules
- September 2012 – Medium Alloy Test Mule in Port Elizabeth for real world testing
- November 2012 – Forging Moulds completed for Medium and Large Frame sizes first ( High Priority: Large Frame for 2013 Cape Epic )
- December 2012 – First frame samples out of the moulds
- February 2013 – Riding Samples on local trails and prepared for 2013 Cape Epic ( Nico Pfitzenmaier Bike )
- May 2013 – Revised the design and bearing placement of the Rocker Bearings following rider testing – decision made to update the design and make a new rocker mould – expensive mistake!
- June 2013 – First production run of VIPA frames for sale
- October 2013 – Design dedicated 1x Chainstay and open up moulds for MY14 range – new trend of 1×11 gaining popularity
- November 2014 – Change of Small Frame from 27.5 wheel design to 29er wheel version – updated tooling for chainstay seat stay and front mould modification
- January 2015 – New design and modification of mould to allow fitment of 2nd Bottle Cage Mount – Adaptor designed and tooling finalised for production
- April 2015 – First samples of new frames with Modified Front Triangle for 2nd Bottle Cage Mount – running change in production to this version for all MY16 Carbon models
- January 2016 – Updating of front triangle drawings for Internal Cable Porting for MY17 production models
- June 2016 – Final drawings and tests done for Internal Cable Porting
- November 2016 – First samples of new frames with Internal Cable Porting for MY17 VIPA TWO and soon to be released VIPA TWO Di2 …
The challenge now is to improve on the Version 1 with a V2.0 – no small task but one which we are certainly up for! Initial concepts are already on the drawing board, but like many good designs we do not have any plans to throw away what we know works – the V2.0 will definitely be a product of evolution – not revolution!