By Eric Peterson | Feb 19, 2019
Industry: Consumer & Lifestyle
Products: Mountain bikes
After working with aluminum for about five years to make performance mountain bike frames, Guerrilla Gravity began exploring composites as the materials that could take the manufacturer to the next level.
"We have developed a new way to manufacture carbon bicycle frames," says Montague. "It's a process we developed in-house." Dubbed Revved Carbon Technology, "It combines a new material and a new manufacturing method."
He adds, "We see this as being necessary for U.S. manufacturing to compete globally. We're never going to compete on labor rates, so we need to innovate our manufacturing methods."
In 2018, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade gave Guerrilla Gravity a boost with a $250,000 Advanced Industries Accelerator grant to accelerate R&D on Revved. "It was the first time that grant had been given to an outdoor recreation company," says Montague.
On the way to perfecting the patent-pending Revved, Montague says he "found a lot of dead ends” before finding the right material -- "a new type of carbon fiber" largely used for applications in aerospace -- and subsequently coming up with the new methods. "We developed a process to make it from the ground up," he says. "There was no way to create a hollow structural unit."
Bridging that gap involved new tooling, automation, and higher curing temperatures. "Traditional carbon fiber frames are very labor-intensive," says Ben Bosworth, Guerrilla Gravity's composites engineer. Revved leverages automated fiber placement instead of the hand-laid status quo.
Montague says Revved "requires one-third or less labor time of traditional manufacturing methods," ultimately allowing Guerrilla Gravity to compete with manufacturers in Asia.
Curing the frame is likewise more efficient with the company's new machine, dubbed the Frame Maker 3000. "We're able to do a complete frame bake in 30 minutes versus three to four hours for traditional carbon fiber," says Bosworth, who joined the company in 2018 with a background in composites and vehicle engineering.
After the frame is cured, the process is also streamlined, with far less sanding and the ability to use powder coating instead of wet paint. "The fact we can use powder coating is a huge advantage," says Montague.
Guerrilla Gravity's bikes remain built to order with a two- to four-week lead time, versus months for overseas manufacturers. "That's a pretty stark contrast to a lot of our competitors who use Asian supply chains," says Montague.
Guerrilla Gravity makes five bike models -- The Smash, Megatrail, Trail Pistol, Shred Dogg, and Pedalhead -- with different features geared towards different riders and terrain. Carbon fiber frames start at $2,195 and complete bikes start at $3,695.
"What the end user gets is a frame that's on par with the same characteristics of what an aluminum frame brings," says Bosworth, touting a 300 percent more impact-resistant frame for Revved. The new bikes also incorporate the GG Modular Frame Platform, which allows riders to adjust their frames for different terrain or even convert it into a different model.
The Revved processes will ultimately be utilized for all of Guerrilla Gravity's full-suspension bikes. "The most popular size is the one we'll launch first," says Montague, anticipating four frame sizes will be available in Revved by mid-2019.
As the company innovated, it expanded its footprint in central Denver from 1,700 square feet to 5,300 and nearly doubled the employee head count since 2017. "Growth numbers have been 50 percent to 150 percent every year we've been in business," says Montague.
Challenges: "Making them," says Bosworth. "There are always challenges in scaling production, especially with technology that's new to the industry." Revved, however, "lends itself to scalability," he adds. "We have the ability to grow."
Opportunities: "The upshot of this technology is it could fundamentally change how bikes are made," says Montague. "It's a fundamentally more efficient process and a higher performance. . . . It really changes the supply chain."
Needs: "We'll need labor post-launch," says Montague. "We plan to hire three to four more employees."
A bigger facility is another need on the horizon, he adds. "Space is a big one."