– Where it all began
VMG (velocity made good) means “The most efficient use of effort towards a goal”.
Why would VMG (www.vmgblades.com) a water sports equipment company build an Electric mountain bike?
During the last few years there has been much discussion about the demand , supply, and high prices of mountain bikes and electric mountain bikes.
We often got asked, could VMG with their manufacturing and design expertise, manufacture a premium E-MTB that could be made available to everyone?
After some investigation with various suppliers and factories, we decided yes we could do this, although it would be challenging…..
Some suppliers and distributors in Australia jumped on board with the vision right away, many thanks especially to KWT imports, Bicycleparts wholesale and Magura Australia for their support on this project right from the start.
– Did we bite off more than we could chew?
We set out to find the right manufacturer, that could provide a finished product of the high standard that VMG is known for.
Well the challenge was a lot harder than we thought. Initially we were going to build an alloy frame, and thought we’d found a factory, but the quality was not up to VMG standards. We then spoke to countless factories, but eventually each discussion came to a dead end after many false starts.
Some factories understandably thought we were too small, some factories said they could build the design we wanted but lead times were crazy, some factories lured us in by saying they would build it, but then tried to sell us a catalogue frame, and some factories just gave up and stopped responding to us.
Somehow during this time between pandemic lockdowns, I became a qualified Bicycle Mechanic, and even gained extra qualifications to operate a Bicycle Workshop.
With component lead times now up to 24 months we ordered many components for the first batch of bikes, so we were pretty well committed to going forward, but we still didn’t have a factory to build our frames.
Maybe this really was a crazy fools idea?
“It ain’t about how hard you hit, It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” – Rocky Balboa
– A change in direction
Should we switch to a carbon frame?
Having run out of options with alloy factories, and out of sheer desperation, we thought we would check in with a few carbon manufacturers.
Wow, the response from the carbon frame manufacturers was a world apart from the alloy factories. One manufacturer in particular felt like exactly the right fit, and could also demonstrate production of frames for some known brands in the market.
We quickly swiped right on this manufacturer……
A premium carbon frame, is more in keeping with VMG products, but we could still do this at a very reasonable price for everyone.
– Time to get down to work
Research and Development
During this whole period we sought experts from around the world. We had Andre Santos from AndreXTR consult on the suspension kinematics.
Greg Cannon from Cannon shockworks for overall frame, geometry and consulting on the design.
And VMG’s own engineer, and expert mountain biker Mark “The Professor” Profaca was always on hand.
After countless hours of research, looking at existing designs, determining where the E-MTB and analogue MTB market was headed, what should be the suspension kinematics for an E MTB, and what are the emerging developments in frame geometry, I presented my proposed numbers to Greg, and fortunately we were on the same page, and with some minor tweaks we sent the numbers to the factory.
– Finalised design
We’ve got blueprints
The way this process worked, is that we provided the geometry and frame details we wanted, and the factory would use their design team to produce an ODM product for VMG.
The factory was excellent to work with, there were some challenges incorporating the numbers we provided, along with some of the pre-determined components, but we were always able to find a solution.
The CAD drawings were sent to Andre many times for analysis, and he would make fine adjustments to pivot and shock locations to achieve the kinematics we were looking for. Finalising on a 30% progressive leverage curve, with a low anti squat number at 95-100 percent to keep the suspension active for climbing
Bafang provided all of the CAD drawings we needed, to make sure the motor and battery package would fit precisely.
The end result was a design that was within only a few mm of our original specified numbers.
That’s a major win in my book.
– Put your money where your mouth is
Time to commit to tooling and Production Samples
Now it was time to spend some big dollars, and commit to tooling and production samples.
Tooling creation was relatively quick, initially for the medium sized frame for checking before the large frame tooling would be made. The factory kept us well informed of the process, the resulting sample was well above expectations.
The factory also put a test frame through rigorous strength, impact and fatigue testing, with the one frame being used for all tests at 70 – 80 percent above requirements for ISO4210
Through out the entire process, we were continuously sourcing the remaining components needed to assemble the first batch of bikes. Due to the world wide shortage of bicycle components, I heard more than once “You’ve picked a really bad time to launch a bike brand”
– The build and test
Testing the Production Sample
Fedex going on strike in Australia only made the anticipation higher, but the first production sample arrived quickly. In anticipation we had all of the components ready to assemble.
For a brand new design, it went together very easily. There are some minor changes to be made, but the existing tooling can be easily modified
Now the exciting part, ride testing. Greg did an initial fork and shock setup before heading to Thredbo.
An initial local shakedown, before hitting the road to Thredbo, with a stop in at Mt Stromlo.
Testing at Mt Stromlo, Thredbo, and then back on the rocky trails of the Northern Beaches has really tested the bike in all conditions. The bike has performed really well, confidence inspiring, poppy and stable on the downhill tracks and loads of traction climbing, even with just a quick setup from Greg. The bike has exceeded expectations.
There is still more testing and setup to be done, and then we’ll be creating base tunes for all levels and weights of riders.
While we wait for the first M510 motors to be delivered(in the next couple of weeks), we have been using the M500 but with improved firmware to draw more current than standard.
Ultimately the bike will be supplied with the new M510 which is 0.5kg lighter because of a new a magnesium casing and also has 20% more power. Combined with the improved internals and increased current draw of the M510, the performance will be outstanding
To be continued…..