P R E Z O X CREATING DREAMS Each season, bicycle manufacturers bring new models to market featuring new technology or to meet the evolving demands of the marketplace. With the surge in 29ers, companies in Europe began experimenting with 27.5” wheels (also known as 650B) to allow greater travel options and to service shorter riders. With early success on the World Cup circuit, this slightly smaller wheel trend is catching on and coming to North America. In this two-part series, Pedal looks at boutique bike builder Xprezo Cycles, based in Bromont, Que., and the process of introducing its new 650B bike for next season. 58 > PEDAL Fashion 2012
story and photos by Pierre Bouchard
Founded in 2005, Quebec-based manufacturer Xprezo has come a long way from its humble beginnings. Success came early as word quickly spread about the new kids on the block with cool bikes and frame designs that rivaled the best. The company’s Wuuu, its flagship dual-suspension cross-country/trail mountain bike, is testimony to Xprezo’s craftsmanship and passion for the sport. But it’s not the only bike that Hugo Bardou and Philippe Benoit (Xprezo’s great Manitou and master welder), design and produce in the new facility in Bromont. Drawn and built with the conceptual criteria that are pivotal to Xprezo’s philosophy and ethos —namely efficiency, lightness, simplicity and durability — road, cyclocross, touring, BMX, downhill bikes and other mountain bikes are now handcrafted in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, prolific grounds for bicycle riding and . . . testing! “Every Wednesday afternoon, Philippe and I meet with Jonathan, the company’s mechanical engineer, for our weekly two-hour R&D sessions, which is followed by another couple of hours of test-riding our prototypes on the slopes of Mount Brome, just behind our premwww.pedalmag.com
(left) The Xprezo team (l-r)
Jonathan Allard, Hugo Bardou and Philippe Benoit
(above) Having absolute control
over of the process assures the
quality of the results.
ises!â€? Bardou, the 37-year-old founder and president of Xprezo, says with excitement. But what theyâ€™re riding these days in the Bromont woods is not your conventional mountain bike! Inspired and intrigued by Europeâ€™s frenzy for 650B bikes and framesets built to accommodate a 584mm-diameter wheel that has been a standard in France for touring bicycles for decades, the Xprezo R&D triumvirate is exploring the advantages of what might be the next big thing in the evolution of mountain bikes. â€œOur European distributors talked a great deal about the demand for this type of bike so we decided to build our first 650B prototypes. We want to establish for certain if this frame size represents a real gain over highly manoeuvrable 26â€? bikes and super-comfy 29ers,â€? explained Bardou. Convinced that geometry is the crucial element determining a bicycle frameâ€™s best use, Bardou and Benoit rely primarily on their own riding skills in order to devise the best geometry for specific-use. While Bardou is more of a cross-country rider, having competed at the highest levels when mountain biking was nascent at Mont Ste-Anne some 20 years ago, Benoit revels in dropping down steep faces. For all-mountain or trail bikes such as the Wuuu, Super D and now the 650B, a wellbalanced compromise between the two perspectives proves crucial in providing responsive frames able to cope with these kinds of riding. A key step in the evolution of any Xprezo bike is feedback from their team of top riders who push their bikes to extremes on race circuits around the world. â€œHonestly, itâ€™s the best-feeling frame Iâ€™ve ever ridden,â€? exclaims Sandra Walter, veteran World Cup and Canada Cup rider, in eloquent approval of the new T-4, a cross-country hardtail built 100% with Colombus Zona Megatube steel tubesets introduced two years ago. Walter, along with her Xprezo-Borsao teammates Jean Ann Berkenpass, Matt Hadley, Anne Laplante, Hans Lambert, Fabien Pedemanaud, Ben Rioux, Etienne Moreau and Aroussen Laflamme, all participate in the companyâ€™s R&D efforts with their valuable feedback and insight. So following many test rides in Bromont on the 650B dual-suspension bikes that Xprezo plans to introduce this fall, a 150mm all-mountain and a 100mm cross-country, Bardou will take the former model and fly to Vancouver, B.C. in order to give it a final definitive test at the 2012 BC Bike Race (BCBR). Heâ€™ll meet up with reigning Canada Cup champion Hadley and the two of them will ride the prototype and compare notes. â€œWe hope to validate our expectations of the 27.5â€? wheel size and our adapted frame angles for enhanced control, acceleration and comfort. In other words, to see if we managed to achieve the best of both www.pedalmag.com
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(above) Master welder Philippe Benoit — quality craftsmanship in every frame
worlds between the realms of 26” and 29ers. The prototype is also equipped with an improved version of our distinctive chromoly rearsuspension arms fresh out of our lab . . . we can’t wait to ride it,” explains the young CEO. The results obtained during the both extensive and intensive riding on the grueling BCBR trails will lead the R&D team back at the drawing board for final revisions and modifications that will be tested again and again before the first 650B units go into production. “We’re confident to be able to maintain the piloting and accelerating qualities of a conventional 26” bike by keeping the frame’s centre of gravity and level of inertia low, while improving its stability over rough terrain and its adhesion to the ground — what 29ers do best! But unlike 29ers, the 650B will have greater tire clearance and feature higher-travel suspension without needing a larger frame. Everything will be relatively compact and ready to respond to any command,” assures Bardou, a mechanical designer by trade. To deliver the best bikes with the smallest carbon imprint (literally, as Xprezo frames are made of aluminum, titanium and chromoly
PEDAL Fashion 2012
tubes) remains the company’s motto and raison d’être. Outsourcing is not an option for Bardou and his acolytes, and they take great pride in keeping the whole chain of production within a 100-kilometre radius of their Bromont HQ! If Xprezo Cycles ever builds carbon-frame bikes, it’ll certainly be done in-house. “It doesn’t make any sense to us to have bike frames welded overseas, bits and parts traveling around the world before being assembled somewhere, hopefully where the frames were made, then having the results shipped back to the manufacturer and then ship them again elsewhere for someone to purchase. “By doing everything here — cutting and threading tubes, welding them together, getting the frames heat-treated and painted by highly skilled local contractors and assembling components in-house — we gain absolute control of the process and thus can assure the quality of its results. Labour costs are higher, sure, but so is the level of craftsmanship of everyone involved in the chain of production,” justifies Bardou. But it’s Wednesday afternoon here in Bromont and time for Xprezo’s weekly R&D meeting and . . . test-riding! Stay tuned for Xprezo Part Two in the next issue of Pedal and the results of their BC Bike Race testing and if either landed on the podium . . . after all, it is a bike race.
Published on Jul 20, 2012