Automation makes local bike production dream a reality
Amsterdam's Mokumono Cycles reckons that 97 percent of bicycles assembled in Europe actually use frames manufactured outside the EU. Brothers Bob and Tom Schiller are looking to bring back local production – to safeguard Europe-based manufacturing and to put a stop to the "unnecessary and extremely wasteful" shipment of millions of frames across the globe. Taking lessons from the auto industry, the twins decided to try and reinvent the way a bike frame is produced. And the first model is rolling off the production line.
To make local production more competitive, the Schiller brothers looked into reducing the high cost of manual labor. Instead of hydroforming the tubes to shape the frame, hand welding components and relieving heat stress, the frame production process for Mokumono frames is automated, using robots just like in automotive manufacture.
"A Mokumono frame starts out as two flats sheets of aluminum, which are pressed into a mold to form the two frames halves," Tom Schiller told us. "The halves are then, together with the bottom bracket, head tube, and seat post, laser welded together to form the frame. The whole process can be automated and is therefore extremely suitable for production in Europe." The resulting monocoque is described as strong and lightweight and completely made in the Netherlands.
Mokumono hit Kickstarter back in 2016 to raise production funds and is now ready to unleash its first model, the Delta commuter. That aluminum laser-welded frame features floating rear stays designed for a comfortable, smooth ride, and cables are routed through the frame to keep the aesthetic clean and to protect them from the elements.
The Delta has aluminum and carbon forks, a Shimano Alfine Hollowtech crank, Gates Carbon Belt Drive system, hydraulic disk brakes, and a Shimano eight or 11 speed Alfine hub or fixie setup is available. Elsewhere, a Satori Chaser bars with Brooks grips, a Brooks Cambium saddle and Ryde Dutch19 rims with Continental tires complete the picture.
"We pre-sold 62 bicycle via Kickstarter in May 2016 to gather the funds to start the development of our first frame," revealed Tom. "Now just over 2 years later we are almost ready to start shipping the bicycles to the Kickstarter backers. Next week the frames will through painting and we can start building them up and start delivery."
The next edition Delta is on sale now for €1,690 (US$1,990) and is due to ship next month.
"We really see Mokumono as a proof-of-concept for the production process we developed, which in the next few years will become our main focus to develop and market further," Tom told New Atlas. "We're already in advanced talks with other European bicycle brands to develop and produce a frame for them. The main advantage of our production process is that we can bring the production time down from 6-7 months, which is the norm for frame production in Asia, to just 30 days. The second advantage is that with our production process, because you start out with a flat sheet, your form freedom is almost endless while with standard bicycle frame production you are pretty much limited to using round tubes."