Author Topic: Frame availability  (Read 1520 times)

thenandrins

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Frame availability
« on: June 12, 2024, 04:46:39 pm »
There hasn't been stock of many Thorn frames for months and months.
Anyone have any info?
Have there been problems? Are they winding down the frame side of the business?
New models in the pipeline perhaps?

WorldTourer

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Re: Frame availability
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2024, 07:49:58 am »
Frame designer Andy Blance retired years ago already. I haven't heard of Thorn hiring anyone to replace him.

Andre Jute

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Re: Frame availability
« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2024, 11:50:21 am »
I doubt you go to your local university or technical college to hire "your best bicycle designer" like you go to Bristol to hire an aerodynamicist or to Cambridge or Padua when you want a pure mathematician.

On investigation, I think we'll discover Andy Blance was originally a bright kid and a bicyclist who sought a job in the bicycle trade and grew into a designer when the opportunity offered.

In real life you don't "go to Bristol to hire an aerodynamicist" unless you're a huge organisation which can afford to throw out all the kid's radical ideas for several years before he produces anything that doesn't risk your hard-won reputation. If you're smaller than Rolls-Royce Aerospace or Boeing, you hire an experienced man from a competitor because he can produce immediately.

Which leads me to wonder how many experienced bike designers there are available to hire...
« Last Edit: June 13, 2024, 11:58:58 am by Andre Jute »

Moronic

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Re: Frame availability
« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2024, 01:01:50 pm »
It's bigger than that. From public information Andy was a public servant in a science field, who happened to know Robin Thorn and then joined Thorn's business as a bicycle designer. After that it was passion and luck, and mainly passion.

The Mercury is an astonishing achievement, not least its being produced at a price point a committed but not wealthy touring cyclist can meet. The Nomad is doubtless yet more impressive in its performance envelope.

Andy's Rohloff memoir credits him and his wife with having crossed the Andes by bicycle 27 times. Most if not all of it after he joined Thorn. I can't imagine how anyone follows that act - not the touring history, but the combination of that with design skills, an understanding of the market, an understanding of the production outsourcing available, and an ability to build a weird marketing program that works.

However Robin Thorn has told us, in an adjacent thread, that a combination Nomad-Mercury will be ordered, probably, at some undefined point down the track.

Who knows how good it will be. I'm just glad I got my Merc Mk 3 when I could. (Although sometimes I wish I'd acted earlier when they still had green ones.)
« Last Edit: June 13, 2024, 01:03:38 pm by Moronic »

Andyb1

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Re: Frame availability
« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2024, 01:32:25 pm »
I wonder why the basic frame geometry would need changing?
They may need details updating to accommodate modern components and current trends but assuming that the steel tubing is available to the same specification, why change something that works and is well proven?

Danneaux

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Re: Frame availability
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2024, 01:43:35 pm »
For words on the topic from Robin Thorn himself, please see...
https://thorncyclesforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=15020.msg113316#msg113316

Best, Dan.

WorldTourer

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Re: Frame availability
« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2024, 07:08:10 pm »
I wonder why the basic frame geometry would need changing?
They may need details updating to accommodate modern components and current trends but assuming that the steel tubing is available to the same specification, why change something that works and is well proven?

The bicycle space is infamously fad-driven. When a number of other expedition-touring bike makers have introduced Pinion gearbox frames and those are generating so much buzz on social media, Thorn risks falling behind with its frames supporting only Rohloff. And even if one wants the frame to be steel, carbon forks are becoming popular in the expedition-touring and bikepacking space, but I don’t think that Thorn are advising customers on those options.

Andyb1

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Re: Frame availability
« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2024, 08:29:12 pm »
Would someone buy a steel frame and carbon fork?   Alloy and carbon, yes, but the reasons why some people buy steel frames and others buy carbon forks seem a long way apart.….. it was Pinion gearboxes, 1 x 12 gearing, forks with multiple mounts, USB ports etc that I was thinking about that Thorn might have to incorporate into their bikes - but the basic frame geometry would not have to alter.

Moronic

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Re: Frame availability
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2024, 12:12:35 am »
For words on the topic from Robin Thorn himself, please see...
https://thorncyclesforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=15020.msg113316#msg113316

Best, Dan.

Thanks for popping in that Link, Dan. It's exactly what I was referring to above - and very appropriate for this thread.

The core of Robin's explanation is:

"The current PLAN is a new model with flexibility of the Nomad mk3, the tubing of the audax mk4 and be very similar in function to the Mercury. This is a plan, there's no model name, price point or time frame."

Adding that he didn't have anything else to contribute.

So reading closely, my comment above that the new model would be a combination Nomad-Mercury was a little misleading. Rather, it sounds like the shop has in mind something rather like the Merc in performance but with more flexibility in how it is specified.

Regarding @Andyb1's query on why change the Merc Mk 3 at all, I think that is a good question. They've got a classic design amd very possibly could leave it alone.

Against that is a comment I picked up from Sarah when ordering mine, that when ordering a production run of frames from their builder in Taiwan the number required would satisfy about five years' worth of sales. (To hold down the cost per piece, compete with orders from other firms, etc, I'm guessing.)

And then when they order, they go into a queue and the frames come out a year or so later.

So if they were to order a new batch of Mercuries, they'd have to be pretty confident the bikes would still be in demand at the predicted price point five years later, when the investment would be starting to turn a profit, and not a pile of metal hanging in a warehouse that could be sold only at a discount because even touring cyclists had latched on to new fashions.

Re the carbon fork: from photos quite a few of the earlier Mercuries were sold this way. The main reason you'd do it now would be to offer a disc-brake front end that retained a bit more springiness than Thorn's heavy steel disc fork delivers.

I see the shift to discs as a significant risk for Thorn. Most consumers won't understand the downside of a disc at the front, and will assume Thorn is simply old-fashioned in recommending a rim brake. Eventually it will get hard even to supply a good rim brake.

PH

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Re: Frame availability
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2024, 12:21:09 pm »
So reading closely, my comment above that the new model would be a combination Nomad-Mercury was a little misleading. Rather, it sounds like the shop has in mind something rather like the Merc in performance but with more flexibility in how it is specified.
Thanks for clarifying that, your original comment had me wondering if I'd misunderstood.  A combined Mercury/Audax makes more sense, I don't think there's a lot between them other than fittings and the traditional steel Audax bike is pretty much dead, at least in a fashion sense. The Mercury has always struck me as an indulgent design, I like mine though I've previously questioned if it would be much different without some of the manipulation and in 631 rather than 853 (Or any other heat treated DB steel).  My last Audax bike, a SOMA ES, had many of the qualities I like in the Merc, but I have no way of knowing if the difference was geometry or something else.  I think the current Mercury stock is still at pre-pandemic prices, the Nomad frame increased by about a third when it was re-stocked post-pandemic, I'd guess a new order of Mercury's would have a similar increase.
I have no idea what the future holds, or is planned, for Thorn/SJS, it's tough times for many in the bike industry, I hope they continue to prosper.

PH

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Re: Frame availability
« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2024, 12:50:14 pm »
Would someone buy a steel frame and carbon fork?   
It's a very popular combination, before the prevalence of disc brakes it was the default option on many steel Audax bikes, even from some custom builders.  For such a bike, the carbon equivalent of Thorn's lovely 853 fork, is half the weight and a third of the price. When it comes to disc's the weight gap widens, due the the way carbon can be manipulated that isn't matched by steel.
The downside is the failure mode, steel bends, carbon snaps.  Steel damage is usually visible and quantifiable, carbon damage is often hidden and unknown.  My Nomad has a scrape down the fork from someone else's careless bike parking, what has irritated me on a steel fork might worry me on a carbon one.

Andyb1

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Re: Frame availability
« Reply #11 on: June 15, 2024, 02:14:57 pm »
Do you think people would still buy a steel frame with a carbon fork?
If they are concerned about weight then they will buy a carbon or alloy frame.
If they want a strong rugged bike (steel frame) then they probably would not want carbon forks for the reasons you give.
In the past a quality steel frame and carbon fork might have made sense but I think modern frames in alloy and carbon are much better than they used to be.

Just advertised here is a beautiful looking Nomad MkII with Rohloff, Sol etc and 4000 km.  At £900.  Difficult for a manufacturer to sell new bikes when there are such bargains around.
(No connection to seller).

WorldTourer

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Re: Frame availability
« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2024, 03:44:24 pm »
Do you think people would still buy a steel frame with a carbon fork?

Yes, they most certainly would, as seen by the surge of interest in Tout Terrain bikes in the last three or four years. As I said, the bikepacking and touring space is extremely fad-driven, and to understand what the current fads are, you can follow sites like Bikepacking.com and various influencers on YouTube and Instagram.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2024, 03:46:46 pm by WorldTourer »

PH

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Re: Frame availability
« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2024, 04:43:49 pm »
Do you think people would still buy a steel frame with a carbon fork?
I don't need to think, I can just look around, here's a small sample from the first page of Google hits, I could easily find dozens more, or come up with example of such bikes in use:

https://www.ribblecycles.co.uk/ribble-gravel-725/
https://masoncycles.cc/
https://www.enigmabikes.com/products/endeavour-readytoride
https://www.genesisbikes.co.uk/genesis-croix-de-fer-50-vargn21070
https://www.planetx.co.uk/products/on-one-rujo-sram-rival-1-gravel-bike
https://www.spacycles.co.uk/m1b0s223p4908/SPA-CYCLES-Elan-725-Mk1-Drop-Bar-Sora-9spd-Triple

Quote
If they are concerned about weight then they will buy a carbon or alloy frame.
There isn't the same advantage, there's more rigidity in a frame and it's strength comes from the geometry.  If you build a carbon bike to have the same properties, or intended use, as a steel one the savings are in the region of 10 - 30%, if you do the same with a fork the savings are 50 - 70%. 
Then there's the cost/benefit.  A mold for forks will be a fraction of the price of that for a frame. That single mold will produce forks suitable for many models in all sizes, most of the manufacturers listed above will be buying forks from a mass producer, they don't need to be unique.  Unlike a frame where every size of every model will need it's own more complex mold.
Have a look for yourself, it's reflected in the price, you can buy carbon forks cheaper than steel, that isn't the case with frames.



« Last Edit: June 15, 2024, 04:46:04 pm by PH »

Andyb1

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Re: Frame availability
« Reply #14 on: June 15, 2024, 07:27:00 pm »
Hi Paul - It was a question I asked rather than a statement.
The examples you have given seem to be of gravel bikes rather than touring bikes and on a gravel bike weight is perhaps more critical?  Thorn bikes are more built for Touring.
WorldTourer - I had a look at the Tout Terrain web site and their top end touring bikes like the Silkroad Xplore II have steel forks.  I did not check the spec of all models, so I am sure you are right that they sell bikes with carbon forks elsewhere in their range or as an option, but steel forks are still there.

In the past I was under the impression that the ‘best’ touring forks were steel and designed for rim brakes to avoid the stiffness needed for a disc brake.  Of course it is difficult to quantify what ‘best’ is - but strength / long term reliability / ability to absorb small road imperfections (comfort) would seem high on the list, with weight perhaps less important?

Is that still the case, or is a carbon fork now ‘better’ in these respects on a touring bike - or just cheaper to make and lighter?
If carbon was ‘better’ I would expect that some people here would have by now thrown away their steel forks and bought lighter, comparatively cheap carbon forks.