Cupajoe's Guru Crono

[Publisher's note: Last Fall Slowtwitch held a contest to choose our new logo. The winner was Slowtwitch user Cupajoe, a graphic designer in Eastern Canada. We offered the winner a new carbon complete bike—we did not specify which bike. When Cupajoe (Joe McNamara) won, we asked him if he had a preference. We thought it reasonable, and asked him to blog about the process. Part I, of the blog, containing the first several installments, is below.

What follows is not an advertorial, and in fact Guru is not a Slowtwitch advertiser. The blog is exactly as Joe wrote it, without any coaching from us.

About Cupajoe: he started racing as a junior in 1987 on the road. He raced both road and mountain bike from 1988 to 1995, and was Eastern Canadian Hill Climb Champion in 1991 off-road for sport class. Joe lives in Eastern Ontario and is a member of the Cornwall Multisport Club. He currently competes in triathlons and footraces. He is married and has twin eight-year-old daughters.]

Confession Time

[January 11, 2008] I'll start right off making a disclaimer, I've always said that it is not the bike that makes the rider, it's the rider himself. Whenever someone asked me buying advice I'd always say, "Get something with solid components, light wheels and get properly fit on the bike. You don't need carbon fiber this and titanium that."

Now that I've been given the opportunity to get set up with the ride of my choice, I've had to do some cyclist soul searching to justify my decision.

Initially when Slowman told me I had won the logo contest I was ambivalent about which bike I wanted. My answer was something from Kuota, Cervelo, Quintana Roo or surprise me as long as it fit my needs (a 6' 1", 200 lb. triathlete).

Over my 21 years riding I've owned six road bikes. The smoothest was my '91 Specialized Epic Carbon lugged frame with full Shimano 105. But my favorite was a late '80s Sekine that was built in Manitoba, Canada. It too had full 105 and it fit me perfectly.

So, it was with this nostalgic thinking that I used to make my decision to choose the ultimate Canadian carbon fiber bike that fit me perfectly... A Guru Crono.

A Custom Fit

[February 29, 2008] The last time I had anything custom fit for me was when I was getting married. I choose to get a really nice suit instead of renting a tuxedo. The tailor took various measurements and asked some key questions (like which way I dress, whatever that means). Getting fit for a GURU is a very similar experience.

I was fit at the GURU factory on a typical Montreal mid winter day. The snow was blowing outside but inside the GURU factory was a different story. The two story building looks like a Ferrari dealership with windows from top to bottom, glass partitions between offices a long coffee bar (with great espresso) and highly polished floors. The "showroom" features the whole lineup of bikes displayed on the second floor.

I was fit by Robert Pinazza, one of GURU's founders, and the person currently responsible for their fit program. Robert has had the opportunity to perform hundreds—if not thousands—of personal bike fittings over the past decade. Based on that experience, he has gained a unique insight on fit. These learnings contribute to a better understanding of why, as he says, "Every true rider deserves a custom bike. Ultimately, if we can get even one cyclist off a badly fitting bike, it'll be worth it."

For the fit I was asked to stand against a tall instrument to take various measurements. I was asked about my current ride (how low were my bars, what are the angles) and my flexibility was measured (which I had to contort myself a couple of times to find out). Next was to get on a 56cm Crono on a trainer and start spinning during which we shared some chit-chat about different sports injuries, family life, among other things. All of this was probably to make me comfortable on the bike in order make some observations for the fit. Robert made various notes, changing seat height and aero bar position.

With all the measurements and notes in hand, it was time to sit down at a computer and plug in all the numbers. At this time Robert asked my how I wanted the bike to ride. Since some of my riding is done in the Adirondacks and Gatineau mountains, we opted for a little longer rake on the fork to make it more stable on the downhills. And since I can range from 195-210 lbs. I took the Clydesdale option too. Ten minutes later and my bike was in front of me—on paper. This was how my custom GURU was going to look with all the angles, heights and lengths documented right there in front of me. The speed at which this was done was very impressive and from what I'm told the fastest in the custom industry.

The last thing to do was to pick colour and graphic design of the bike. Slowman has given the the green light on having the logo worked into the graphics so I sat down with John Anagnostopoulos, the Director of Visual Communication and he told me what was possible and the design parameters that I had to stay within.

The whole experience was a day to remember. Here is a photo gallery of the factory tour.

If you build it...

After my fit process at the GURU factory I had to sit tight as the bike made it through production. This is a process that can't be rushed and has been fine-tuned with the goal of producing a one of a kind bike. So, as they say, "Good things come to those who wait."

With the configuration form made, the frame goes into production. These measurements are double-checked by GURU's team of engineers to ensure a good start.

Using a state-of-the art cutting table, the premium grade carbon fiber (no scraps here) is precisely cut based on individual specifications. GURU strives to achieve a 70/30 fiber-to-resin ratio in each frame.

GURU's technique for fiber lay-up is one of their secrets. It is a revolutionary new way to lay up carbon that produces true monocoque parts. The elimination of a continuous seam allows the carbon fibers to interact exactly as they were intended to. It results in a frame with a much stronger structural integrity.

The carbon lay-up is placed in a mold (for each part of the frame) and is cured in an autoclave unit. The goal at this stage is to pressurize the fiber/resin mix to the max in order to compact the fibers as tightly as possible.

Once the curing process is complete the part is removed from the mold. Every GURU bike has its own configuration according to the rider. Extra time must be taken to ensure that the parts belong with the exact configuration. The parts are then machined to optimize the overall shape of the frame.

The carbon parts are placed into a specialized jig that has been set-up according to the custom geometry configuration. Aerospace grade adhesives are then used to bring the components together into one unbreakable frame.

Before going to paint each part frame is sculpted to make sure components are fitting flawlessly. A GURU craftsman meticulously goes over the entire frame with special tools to perfect its profile.

The painting of a GURU carbon bike is a laborious, multi-phased process that requires skilful hands and exceptional patience.

The first step is to sand down the frame to make it as smooth as possible for maximum paint adherence. Next the frame is cleaned with a cleanser that eliminates any residue that could contaminate the paint. A primer is applied with zero tolerance for pinholes. The frame gets sanded once again to make it as smooth as possible.

The colour process now begins. No decals here. Each colour change is achieved using masks precisely cut and place between layers of colour. Each coat is cured and once it is dry the masks are removed.

A clear coat is applied to get that "wet look." Tony Giannascoli, one of the founders, still personally clear coats hundreds of frames a year. The frame is then buffed before sending it off to be built up.

During the build process the bottom bracket and head tubes are inspected to ensure the perfect fit of parts. A master mechanic then builds the bike according to the customer's specified components.

At this point the GURU head badge, which they call "The One," is placed on the bike.

Each carbon GURU gets an average of 24 hours of hands on fabrication from start to finish. Now you know why these bikes have the reputation they deserve.

[Cupajoe's Guru arrived last week. Part II of Cupajoe's blog will focus on the bike's performance. How does his new Guru fit? Does it perform on the road as was anticipated on paper?]