circa cycles’ MABEL process radically rethinks bike manufacturing
all images courtesy of circa cycles




former NIKE innovation director rich fox has had a passion for riding bicycles since he was a kid: ‘whether you’re thinking about just the mechanisms themselves, or the freedom that they give you, or the ability explore and express yourself with the bike, that’s just something that’s always been a part of me.’  after noticing the shift of manufacturing from america to overseas locations, fox decided to rethink traditional assembly techniques and finishing options. throughout this research, he realized that he could radically reduce labor costs while creating a scalable, versatile platform for production. eventually, he reached his goal a process called MABEL (modular and bonded endless lug) to counteract the challenges presented by heat, paint, tooling, labor, and geometric complexity.  around this system, he has formed circa cycles, a company that intends to build bikes to order, in ten days or less, with complete structures starting under $1,500 (USD). 


video by uncommon era, courtesy of circa cycles




the first solution appears in the shape of aerospace-grade structure adhesives. this creates the same amount of strength between bonds seen throughout airplanes and race cars and replaces the amount of heat and embodied energy required for welding and brazing. a common way to unify the components is a fresh coat of paint, which can be expensive and time-consuming. taking away each of these dilemmas, the company utilizes a cost-effective and detailed mode of anodizing.

circa cycles trillium bicycle manufacturing portland oregon
the durable anodized finishes reduce cost and time




within the setting of a factory, tooling refers to the molds that form molten metal and plastic into various shapes. this method can only help when performed in large quantities. instead, circa relies on CNC machines to quickly work on small batches that can be easily manipulated for the consumer’s preferences. in regards to geometric complexity, modularity is involved in a way that accommodates different frame sizes and angles. each of these carefully considered events reduces the overall labor time in the workshop from 50-100 hours to 10-hours or less.

circa cycles trillium bicycle manufacturing portland oregon
detail of the framework




the brand’s first frame, the ‘trillium’, shows the playful possibilities for personal expression with different versions, each with their own features. the road package is available with a derailleur-based drivetrain with drop bars. the urban bike provides users with an 8-speed, internally-geared drivetrain with flat handles. meanwhile, the town version is meant for comfortably cycling through the neighborhood with a 3-speed drivetrain maneuvered by natural-colored riser bars. each construct is completely made in the united states. the aluminum comes from american mills that are then worked on using computer numerical control routers and anodizing craftsmanship in portland, oregon. according to fox, ‘the trillium is the only bike that shows this level of production at this price.’

circa cycles trillium bicycle manufacturing portland oregon
the distinctive seat lug demonstrates production efficiency and a unique, tightly controlled design language

circa cycles trillium bicycle manufacturing portland oregon
the road bike

circa cycles trillium bicycle manufacturing portland oregon
the city bike



designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.