Lyon, the third largest city in France, occupies a strategic position dominating the valleys of the Rhône and Saône. It therefore acts as a gateway to the mountains which form one of the most important battlefields of the Tour de France.
And just outside this battlefield, in Vaulx-Milieu, lies one artisanal bicycle manufacturer, dedicated to high-tech, luxury procedures, helping a number of riders in their pursuit of victory. It’s TIME (Time Sport International), maker of carbon tubing frames, pedals, handlebars, bar stems, and bottle cages. TIME is just one of the 29 bicycle makers and designers featured in the new book The Elite Bicycle.
France is of course known for many luxury goods, as is Lyon, whose principal industry is the manufacture of silk. Although it’s not a textile company, TIME is celebrated for a fiber some consider as fine as silk: carbon. And their process of weaving this lightweight, durable material, is what sets them apart from others.
TIME’s extremely high production values and constant refinement of everything they make, through incessant, tireless research and development, is reflected in their unique process of Resin Transfer Moulding (RTM) of carbon fiber. Like spiders’ silk, carbon is known for its lightness and strength; as a result, TIME frames are renowned as probably the lightest bikes on the market but endowed with a resistant strength seemingly at odds with the airy thinness of their structure.
Although the process of weaving might seem homespun and outdated, when it involves carbon fiber, it’s anything but. The extremely high-tech process begins with a monstrous loom equipped with dozens of bobbins of carbon, Vectran, polyamide, and Kevlar. It spins together “stocks” of these fibers, adding more or less of each to enhance such qualities as stiffness, vibration damping, and compliance. The end product is flattened by a roller, then cut to size and layered onto wax tube formers and steel mandrels to give it it’s basic shape. Strands of fiber are used to tie stocks of carbon onto the mandrels, and with that, the frame begins to take form.
Extra carbon is applied to high stress areas. A hot air gun aids the process of fitting the fibers more closely together. After excess carbon is trimmed, the mould containing the carbon goes through the RTM process, which simply put, involves placing the carbon in two halves of a mould which is then closed up and injected with resin.
The RTM process is carefully controlled. It’s a precise operation that takes time. But TIME believes in high quality and in luxury. It’s no wonder that high-end car companies like Lamborghini and Ferrari also believe that this unique carbon-weaving process is well worth the effort.
This brief portrait of TIME was adapted from its full chapter in the new book The Elite Bicycle.
The Elite Bicycle brings together intimate portraits of the world’s greatest bicycle artisans, examining the philosophies, the meticulous workmanship, and the eccentric personalities behind cycling’s most prestigious brands. Their materials and methods could not be more disparate, yet their pursuit is the same: the perfect bicycle.
In chapters featuring some of cycling’s greatest craftspeople, The Elite Bicycle offers up a conversation with the men and women who make the most coveted bicycles. Lavish, oversize photographs and personal interviews invite readers into their workshops to show the melding of old-world craftsmanship with space-age materials in fascinating studios and factories that fabricate superb machines.
The Elite Bicycle is both an homage to the bicycle maker and a collector’s piece in its own right, celebrating the stories behind the greatest bicycles and components in the world.