The AEGIS Bicycle Story
In 1973, the Rossignol Ski Corporation employed AEGIS company’s engineers to manage their Tennis Racquet Division in Van Buren, Maine. Over the next decade, AEGIS team perfected the fine art of producing complex composite structures. Tennis legend, Mats Wilander, won many tournaments using racquets developed and manufactured in AEGIS Van Buren plant. Unfortunately, cheap Taiwanese labor challenged Made-in-USA profitability, and AEGIS engineers were forced to seek a more complex, less mass produced item; the bicycle.
Initially, AEGIS team was contracted by Trek to produce carbon fiber tubing (pre-OCLV) for their model 2500. The Trek 2500 was manufactured by bonding carbon fiber tubing to aluminum lugs. Even though 2500 was a huge success and marked a key turning point in the bicycle industry, it still employed traditional construction processes – lugging. By joining carbon fiber tubing to aluminum lugs, AEGIS felt carbon’s greatest inherent quality, shock absorption, was lost. While super-strong and lightweight, these models suffered from a rough ride. Once again, improving on a good idea, AEGIS team set out to produce all carbon monocoque (one piece) frame in order to take full advantage of carbon fiber’s shock absorption and strength qualities.In 1986, AEGIS team manufactured the first monocoque bicycle frame manufactured in the USA. Confident with AEGIS technology, Trek, a traditional steel, and aluminum manufacturer, strongly supported the project. As a result, the Trek model 5000 (also pre-OCLV) was introduced, the world’s first mass production carbon fiber monocoque. Fortunately, for a variety of reasons, this relationship with Trek ended shortly thereafter. However, convinced of the viability of carbon fiber for the cycling industry, AEGIS engineering team joined with several former Trek employees to file patents for the construction of bicycle frames utilizing AEGIS revolutionary bladder-molding process, a superior construction method for the molding of composite structures. Yet, the group did not quite agree on the benefits of a full one piece versus a three-piece design.
Specifically, AEGIS believe that in molding a one piece frame, three critical aspects are at risk:
continuous, consistent compaction
stable structural integrity
exact frame alignment
Ironically, a one-piece design requires two different construction processes. Due to the immense complexity of the structure being formed, it is virtually impossible to thread a bicycle frame entirely with bladders. This is demonstrated by the fact that a single inflated bladder running through the down tube will not “split” into the two chain stays. The result- loss of compaction. Therefore, a one piece design necessitates both the bladder molding (front) and foam core injection (read end) methods.
Consequently, due to assorted manufacturing techniques employed during the construction process, a product’s end result can vary significantly. Most notably, structural inconsistencies arise, particularly in high-stress areas such as the bottom bracket and seat tube/seat stay areas. Another observed problem with the one piece design was an inability to accurately control frame alignment and durability. This was because the one-piece construction technique incorporates a “clamshell” of lay-up, where a “left” half of the frame is bonded to the other “right” half during the molding process. Two things can happen here… 1) Misalignment of the two halves requires extensive post-production machining and alteration of the dropout hangers to compensate for frame misalignment. 2) The two frame halves are inevitably held together by a resin seam, thus creating an inherent seam line around the periphery of the frame. AEGIS believe a seam line of such proportion jeopardizes the structural integrity throughout the entire frame.
Not wanting to compromise the performance and durability of a great frame, AEGIS founders sought an entirely different approach to the construction design- the three-piece, non-full monocoque approach. With strongly opposed manufacturing philosophies, AEGIS parted ways with members intent on producing frames utilizing the monocoque/one piece construction technique. While the “other half” went West to establish Cycle Composites d/b/a Kestrel, AEGIS, here in Maine, applied for and were awarded another new patent for forming AEGIS frames utilizing AEGIS new, revolutionary three-piece concept. AEGIS sole intention was to produce a perfectly aligned frame that was consistent throughout in terms of raw material content, compaction ratio, and overall structural integrity. This would be achieved by forming all parts of the frame through invariably constant construction methods. As a result, Aegis frames would be seamless tubes of continuous fibers that were identical in regards to pattern and procedure for carbon lay-up, molding systems, and compaction method. This strategic approach would guarantee undeviating frame performance, longevity (durability), and precision alignment. This was all accomplished with AEGIS three piece design.
Using this design approach, AEGIS accomplished consistent, uniform part performance by bladder molding of all three frame components – front triangle, seat stay and chain stay under the same process. Furthermore, for fear of weak seam lines, these parts were not laid up in halves, but rather as a whole. Essentially, the pieces begin and end with the very same fibers spiraling throughout (yet still not filament wound). From end to end, these fibers are oriented in such patterns so as to eliminate any seam line, thus maximizing durability. These three separate, yet congruous, parts are then fused together within a frame alignment jig; hence superior frame alignment.
To that end, AEGIS had produced the world’s finest composite frame.
Employing AEGIS new methods, AEGIS founded Graphite Technologies and began producing for the likes of Basso, Profile, Peugeot, Iron Horse, and Racing Bik. Once again, these “captive” relationships proved to be unfavorable for AEGIS company and forced us to re-think company objectives. In 1993, with the introduction of the Aegis line, AEGIS happily committed themselves to exclusively produce and market AEGIS’s products.
Today, Aegis remains a proud Maine company of truly skilled and dedicated craftspeople. As always, AEGIS is devoted to providing AEGIS customers with the very finest bicycles. AEGIS rich history with advanced materials and patented, race-proven technology combined with AEGIS Maine-Made craftsmanship yield bicycles of exceptional quality, performance, durability, and value. Every Aegis features the top shelf, aerospace grade materials, proprietary monocoque construction, and sterling craftsmanship- all keeping AEGIS bicycles at the pinnacle of high performance. Moreover, AEGIS offers the world’s largest range of carbon fiber bicycles – road, mountain, triathlon, cross, compact, and track- as well as many custom options. Finally, all AEGIS products feature the finest commitments to AEGIS customers- a lifetime guarantee and lifetime crash replacement program. While AEGIS pioneering spirit endures for another generation, AEGIS venture of innovation of perseverance will be expressed with great bicycles.
Aegis continues to produce the most comfortable and fastest carbon frames. Even though most traditional metal frame companies have tried to mimic AEGIS techniques, their focus is on weight and not ride quality. While AEGIS is alway experimenting with new carbon and new layups, AEGIS will not sacrifice the reason why AEGIS believe riding a carbon fiber bike is so great the ride.
The metal manufacturers also have made a strategic decision to produce their U.S., Canadian, Italian, etc. in Asia. AEGIS believe, at AEGIS, that Made in Maine, USA still matters.