Apr 25, 2007


KYLE CASTEEL, PRODUCT DESIGNER FOR RALEIGH BICYCLES, TALKS ABOUT BIKES, HIS HISTORY – AND A ONE WAY.

{INTERVIEW CONDUCTED BY CAREY SCHLEICHER-HASELHORST}

{click on all images to enlarge}

Q}Who are you and what was your background before coming to Raleigh?
A}Well, Kyle Casteel is my name, 30 years old (31 in a couple of weeks), and I am a Washington Native. Before I came to Raleigh, I was a rider, student, warehouse worker, and then migrated into a bike shop where I worked for over 4 years. I then moved to Seattle and started working at Raleigh America Inc. (which was Derby Cycles back then).

Q}How long have you been the main designer for Raleigh Bicycles?
A}My first full run of bicycles for Raleigh was the 2004 line, so I was working on that line in 2003.

Q}As I look at the 2007 line, we have a small pocket of steel bikes like the One Way, Rush Hour, and XXIX family, which most consider to be niche bikes. What was your intent in designing/introducing these types of bikes and using steel?
A}The intent was to create bicycles that worked with the bicycle culture. There are many brands (us included) that try to always be innovative, stay ahead of the curve (which is great and it should be done), but what we saw was a hole. There are people out there that still want a super simple, clean looking, functional bike that rides great and is beautiful. That, and we were also paying attention to current trends in the market (single speed, fixed gear, and 29”). The choice to use steel was easy. We wanted the bikes to fit that customer; historically, a majority of the material being used on those products was always steel. Plus, the ride quality and history Raleigh has with steel made perfect sense. Raleigh’s marketing push was “The ALL-STEEL Bicycle,” so it just made sense to reinvestigate our heritage.

Q}From what I have seen for 2008, we are introducing a couple of bikes that I consider to be classic and have a tie to Raleigh’s historical heritage. Yet, they are also super contemporary and geared towards the modern commuter, touring enthusiast, and comfort rider. Can you tell us a bit about these bikes?
A}Yes, we are coming out with more Commuter and Touring focused products for next year.
Our first model is the Detour, which is based around our current alloy-framed hybrid line and will be equipped with a full Shimano drivetrain, disc brakes, fenders, rear rack, and a Shimano hub dynamo powered light system. This will be a full-on commuter special. For the Touring market, which will also work for commuters, we will be introducing our Sojourn model. It is based on a Reynolds 520 butted steel frame, which pays homage to Raleigh’s “historical heritage” you mentioned. I don’t want to give too much away right now… but it will be set up and ready to go as an OE (Original Equipment) product. And there will be some great details that will make it stand out for the true touring enthusiast.

Q}Now a switch of materials – our carbon bikes are incredibly hot this year. How were you able to come up with a frame design that weighs under 1 kilo, rides like a rocket, and is super affordable?
A}Getting the Carbon products out in the time frame that we had was not easy.
This project started from scratch. We worked a lot on the design with a great local Industrial designer here in Seattle. The idea was to make the bike look different, fast, and show an evolution from the current design of the ACE Carbon frame. Once we had the sketches and modeling done, with the look we wanted, we moved on to work with our engineers to make sure it could become a reality. We were, of course, focusing on weight; one of the easiest ways to reduce the weight was getting rid of lug construction. Just by doing this, we were able to lose a majority of the weight. We call it Direct Connect, a process of eliminating lugs and connecting tubes directly to each other. In order to get the bike to “ride like a rocket,” we had to change a lot not only in design, but in construction as well. Engineering the specific carbon lay up was the next step in reducing weight and tuning the bike to ride how it does, which really is awesome. The affordable price is a result of hard work, smart spec-ing, great relationships, and a little bit of sacrifice.

Q}Is there anything in the current world of bicycle technology that excites you?
A}I’m always excited about what is being done with suspension (forks, shocks and frames), tube shaping technology, and Carbon.

Q}What part of the bicycle is the most fun for you to design? And do you have a favorite part or accessory on a bicycle? Mine is the way a track handlebar drops; if the arc in the drop is just right, it can be super sexy – I love it.
A}Creating the entire bike is what I like most ; I would have to say it’s the entire bicycle that I love. All the parts coming together, whether they are the latest and greatest road or mountain parts or classic and comfortable parts. It all depends on what you are trying to accomplish. The right parts can completely change the look of the bicycle.

Q}What bike do you ride currently and why?
A}I try to ride as much of the product as I can. It helps me make sure the experience we are trying to accomplish is being reached. But the one model I’ve been on the most and really enjoy commuting on is my One Way. I currently have it set up with a Brooks saddle & bar tape, and an internal geared hub (only because I have a steep and long hill to climb going home). I love the classic simplicity, the clean lines, and the ride of the steel.

Q}What have been your biggest influences in regards to designing bicycles?
A}Life and people.
Trying to give people the bikes they want to own, giving them a look that speaks to the past and future, with influences from yesterday and today.

4 comments:

Tim Jackson- Masi Guy said...

Kick ass! Keep these coming!

As a Product guy myself, I can totally relate to all of those comments. Steel is my personal passion, but designing carbon is such a neat challenge. I love the way a well-designed bike rides; all the parts in harmony. That always brings a smile to my face.

And Carey- I'm totally with you on the track bars! As a track racer (Sprint, Keirin, Kilo), the bars are something I always slobber over. My current bars are the Deda all steel sprint bars. They weigh a ton... but they are sexy and stiff as all hell!

Jim G said...

I just noticed that the 57cm One Way has a 72-degree head angle and a whopping 65mm-offset fork, resulting in a trail of 44cm. Did you intentionally design this bike to be low trail?

James said...

Great Interview. Nice job on those bikes Kyle.

Fritz said...

Nice on the interview. Thanks for posting this.