Interbike 2011: KVA Stainless Inc. MS2 Tubing
Written by Brian O’Connor on 15 September 2011
The ultra-light, very strong, MS2/Exogrid tubing in a frame by Dean (Photo: Dean Titanium Bicycles)
“Steel is real.” This is the motto that many cyclists who ride steel frames live by. Steel has a lively feel that aluminum and carbon fiber simply do not have. Titanium has this similar lively feel, but the cost of just the raw material puts it out of reach of most riders. However, being a “man of steel” has its drawbacks, notably that in certain parts of the country steel can also become ‘real’ly rusty if not properly maintained, which makes a new tube set from KVA Stainless Inc. attractive.
What should be a ‘no brainer’ material to be used as a frame tube set, stainless steel has had a checkered past. Those of you who have been around the bike industry for a number of years will remember the Columbus Metax tube set. That too was a stainless steel tube set that was used by a number of frame builders including the now defunct Rhygin. The problem with the Rhygins is that they were plagued with a cracking problem… not something that you want to be known for in the frame building business. On the other end of the spectrum is the Reynolds 953 stainless steel tube set. This tube set is still being used today by prestigious builders including Waterford and Independent Fabrications.
The KVA Stainless Inc. of Escondido, CA has taken the stainless steel tubing idea and pushed it even further. At this year’s Interbike, they are featuring two very interesting variations of their Ms2 tubes set and showcasing them using various builders.
KVA Stainless teamed up with Vyatek Sports to develop a carbon fiber and stainless steel tub set. KVA’s vice-president of sales, Douglas Gore, explains,“The starting point is an MS2 stainless steel tube. We then design and engineer a precise pattern to be laser machined to remove the optimal amount of material from the tube. The resulting lightweight metal skeleton tube is then fused with a patented carbon technology that has an advanced composite inner structure. The characteristics of the different materials in a multi-material tube structure allow for a tube lighter than the original stainless steel tube with stiffer bending/torsion performance. With this mix, we could achieve 1050 – 1110 gram (37-39 ounce/sub 2.5lb) frames.”
Exogrid tubing, which includes an MS2 skeleton. Photo courtesy: KVA Stainless.
This mixing of material is not new – a similar process has been used for years with titanium tubes, but the stainless steel has a lower raw material cost. Hopefully this lower cost will allow the cost of the frame to be better in reach of more cyclists; and the resulting hybrid tubing can be incorporated into frames using conventional lugged, fillet brazed or TIG welded construction methods – all very different techniques used to build a bike frame.
Prototype thin-walled MS2 bicycle frame tubing for female and lightweight male cyclists
Weight limits are seen on some components, but it is rare that they are seen on bicycle frames. KVA Stainless is in the process of prototyping a variation of their MS2 tubing that will have a weight limit, but in turn, the resulting frame should be extremely lightweight. This thin-walled tube set is probably best reserved for a road frame which ultimately takes less abuse that a frame ridden on trails; but weight-weines can rejoice in the possibility of having an ultra-light steel bike.
Currently there are a handful of builders using the KVA Stainless tubing, most notably Cielo Cycles (Chris King), Nobilette Cycles and Taylor Bicycles. If you are interesting in the technical details or even pricing a tube set for yourself, KVA Stainless offers all of that information on their website. If steel is real and near to your heart, check out the builders using the KVA tubing so that they can build you a dream bike that won’t rust away.