Calfee Manta

Calfee Manta

Why, after touting the comfortable qualities of his beautiful bamboo bikes, Craig Calfee decided to go and create a high calibre soft tail road bike, is hard to fathom. Probably because he can’t leave well enough alone. But there it is: the Calfee Manta, one of the most revolutionary carbon fibre frames to emerge from the Northern California factory in recent years.

Greg LeMond was onto a good thing when he test-rode one of Calfee’s early frames, realising carbon composites were the future of performance bikes. The alliance between LeMond and Calfee was forged when 18 frames were ordered for LeMond’s Team Z and eventuated with Calfee manufacturing carbon frames for LeMond Bicycles.

A Calfee frame is certainly distinctive, robust tubes joined by webbed lugs, and the Manta is no different. Look closely at the seat stays, however, and you’ll see an interesting conjunction that houses a centimetre’s worth of elastomer — enough to increase traction, making descents faster and safer — and delivering a cyclist that’s less fatiqued at the end of each ride.

The Manta design has already been perfected on Calfee’s disc-specific Adventure and Cyclocross frames, so it wasn’t a far stretch of the imagination to translate it into a tarmac version, especially with the Shimano R785 levers which flawlessly integrate their Di2 and disc brake technologies. There’s also a 65mm bottom bracket shell and LOOK’s one-piece Zed 2 crank set down there.

This Manta was to be a NAHBS show bike, a collaboration between Calfee and Tucson’s Fairwheel Bikes, before it was shipped home to be built up for a customer. It’s a striking machine, but it’s strong and light as well. ENVE’s disc-specific 3.4 rims and Tune’s new disc hub make for a heavenly wheelset — more grams were shaved by the proprietary bonded bar / stem combo.

Thanks to Emiliano Jordan for the story. Head to the Fairwheel Bikes website for more information and the Calfee Design website for more innovative bikes by the iconic American designer.

Calfee Manta
Calfee Manta
Calfee Manta
Calfee Manta
Calfee Manta
Calfee Manta
Calfee Manta
Calfee Manta
Calfee Manta

  • hugh

    What a great post and and a great bike. Cleverly designed and nicely built!

    I don’t think I’d ever get bored of looking down at that stem…

  • So, for the suspension to work, the chainstays have to be vertically compliant (because there is no mechanical pivot).

    But for the disc, the left stay is built up super-burly, which means that the left stay has be be stiffer and that will in turn generate a bending moment when the elastomer compresses, putting the rear end a bit out of alignment.

    Similarly, if there is vertical compliance built into the stays, actuating the rear brake should also generate a twisting moment and put the rear end out of alignment with the rest of the bike.

    Now, Calfee is a bright guy and has presumably thought about these problems. So what am I missing? How were these issues dealt with in the design?

    Now, about “revolutionary” — don’t tell Profile or Ritchey, who were both doing the seatstay elsatomer thing something like 20 years ago…

    • hugh

      I think there *is* a mechanical pivot of sorts because the flexible elastomer part is small and localised (only a cm thick)? The impression I get from the description and image is that it’s a flexible joint with stiff chain/seat stays.

      Interesting point about the twisting moment from the brake – presumably this setup would work even better with just a rim brake?!

      • Right. A rim brake on the rear would seem to be the preferred solution. Especially since on a properly-ridden road bike, like a motorcycle, the rear brake is largely vestigial except as a backup, or on very slippery pavement or sand/gravel.

        • hugh

          It also looks like there’s a huge rectangular hole in the RH side of the front fork !?!

    • bung

      looks like those ti rods from the BB to the chain stays might help with these issues?

      • Hard to see how that could help? It’s not at all clear what those things are for.