Massive Attack Disc Case Study

At WyndyMilla our focus on producing made to measure high performance custom frames has always allowed us to build bikes for people of all shapes and sizes and to optimise a bike's performance around each customer's individual needs.

The mainstream bike industry tends to cater reasonably well to its core demographic and if you're an average build man you can often take it for granted that you are able to stroll into any bike shop and find frames, clothes and shoes on display in your size. For anyone else though it can be a struggle, blindly ordering in the biggest or smallest sized product and hoping it's going to work for you.

Two of our favourite custom projects this season illustrate this perfectly, both are Massive Attack Disc bikes but with very different design specifications reflecting the contrast in their owners needs. These are Karen and Stuart’s Massive Attack road bikes.

Like a lot of our customers Karen is not unusually small, just small for a Cyclist. Most stock size ranges stop not far below the average size woman, meaning a lot of women or small riders can be overly stretched out and compromised on a bike which is designed around a rider taller and heavier than they are. Karen's primary focus is on long distance endurance riding and as an Osteopath she understands the consequence of poor ergonomics better than most.  

Stuart, like a lot of riders, has come to cycling after years of other sports and at 6.5ft tall with the build of a heavyweight rower he has to duck under the beams of our Surrey Hq. For big powerful riders like Stuart the key is to give them the stability and support to let them convert their strength and power into forwards motion without their equipment flexing under the strain.

Their stark difference in size and build mean that Karen and Stuart experience the performance characteristics of a bike in totally different ways - here's how we've manage to cater to their seemingly opposite requirements all within one platform.

One thing is pretty clear from a first glance; Stuart's bike is a lot bigger than Karen's. One is smaller than an xs, the other significantly bigger than an xl. Small riders often suffer with compromised bikes being too long and too stretched out, with geometry that doesn't suit short stems producing nervous handling. At the other end of the spectrum Stuart's previous bike had the seatpost set to it’s limit and the saddle was still too low, Once we set our fit jig to the correct saddle height his previous handlebar position was a long way away and looked incredibly aggressive. By the end of the session we’d achieved a balanced position with a sensible bar drop but which would not be achievable with a stock geometry.

In contrast Karen’s fit coordinates are some of the smallest to come out of our studio in the last few years and makes use of some of the most ‘small bike appropriate’ components we have available for the women's market including a 36cm compact handlebar and 165mm Crank arms.

It’s almost unheard of for a small rider to complain about any modern carbon bike flexing under their power or feeling soft and inefficient. Because small sizes of bike use shorter tubes and tighter triangles they are inherently stiffer than the larger sizes. This can result in a bike being overly rigid and riders will often complain of it feeling jittery, skittish and not very confidence inspiring or predictable at speed.

Karen's frame is tuned to a light rider weight and uses our lowest stiffness tune to keep the flex dynamics proportionate to the rider. Compared with Stuart’s frame all the main tubes are smaller in diameter and the junctions are not reinforced to the same degree.

When building frames for big riders, sufficient stiffness and stability are absolutely key to performance on the road with excessive torsional frame flex causing the bikes handling to feel vague and unpredictable. That same lack of stiffness also causes the bike to flex under power robbing the feeling of responsiveness and speed.

For years we tested frames under Paris-Roubaix winner Magnus Backstedt, at 6ft4 and over 90kgs race weight there's no better way to test something is strong enough and stiff enough than to get Maggy to pedal the cranks off it. He was instrumental in developing our highest stiffness spec on the original Massive Attack and is all too aware of the challenge of bigger frames, his race frames were our first to feature extra laminations at the headtube and BB to ensure an absolute bare minimum deflection when cornering and sprinting.

On Stuart’s frame the tubes are made larger in diameter, stiffer and stronger with extra laminations at the junctions compared with Karen’s. The seatpost is a larger size as well to reduce the deflection a little and provide a stable pedalling platform. Notably Stuart’s bike does not use our most rigid option - the integrated one piece seatpost that Magnus’ race bike spec has. This is for 2 major reasons, firstly Stuart wanted a comfortable compliant ride for long days on the bike, so a little deflection at the saddle is desirable and secondly he travels regularly with the bike and needs to be able to get it into a box, not easy with a saddle height of almost 88cm and an ISP.

For our biggest bikes like Stuart’s we use an Enve Road 2.0 Fork, this is in part due to the excellent strength and stiffness characteristics but also because they offer a steerer tube 5cm longer than the industry standard allowing us to build longer head tubes for bigger bikes without having to compromise on the aesthetics or adjustability.

On our smallest frames we often use longer rake fork options and smaller fork tapers to give a better balance of stiffness and comfort as well as to improve handling response with smaller stem lengths. Karen’s uses our standard Disc Road fork with a tapered steerer.

Both riders are using electronic groupsets with Hydraulic disc brakes but for quite different reasons. For Stuart’s bike the disc brakes are an essential upgrade as they reliably produce the necessary power to bring the bike under control at high speeds with a higher rider weight. Moving the brake temperature away from the wheel rims means that larger riders can safely use fast, comfortable and lightweight carbon wheels year round regardless of the terrain. The Sram eTap System makes for a super clean build and consistently responsive shifts.

At the opposite end of the sizing spectrum the hydraulic brake system is a huge benefit for smaller riders who often have less grip strength with which to apply the brakes. In this application the Disc Brake is a massive improvement in terms of confidence and safety. Karen’s Shimano di2 levers are set up with a short reach for less stretch to the controls to reduce hand fatigue and give confident control.

Stuart’s bike is rolling on a set of Custom handbuilt wheels from Noble which use a high spoke count and stiff 38mm Deep rims, compared to a factory wheelset they are a lot better suited to the higher stresses of a big riders. The rims have a broad 20mm internal profile which stretches the 28mm tyres size up to well over 30mm to improve the cushioning and resistance to pinch flats. The Massive Attack Disc Platform clears this wheel / tyre spec comfortably.

Karen’s bike uses a more conventional 25mm tyre on the Mavic UST Tubeless system, this system is great for smaller riders as it performance is at it’s best at the lower pressures which are suited to lower body weights.

No custom bike is complete without it’s paint, the small frame size and tubing diameter of Karen's bike meant that our Design team at WM Paintworks had a small canvas to work on that couldn’t afford to look busy or cluttered. The gold/pink aztec pattern they came up with fitted Karen’s design brief and suits the bike proportions perfectly.

For Stuart’s smart Gun Metal Grey / Tequila blue paint scheme the downtube logo has been scaled up a little to fit the frames oversize dimensions and his name added subtly to the toptube in a matching logo style. Jonny at Noble matched in custom hub logos for that final detail touch to really set the bike off.

If you’re interesting in a made to measure bike, designed around you and your needs why not get in touch with us as or on 01252 782960.