Bike team’s success rides on nano-based frame


Team Phonak has a message for the other cyclists racing in the Tour de France this summer: Eat our dust. That is, if their 15-pound BMC Pro Machine bicycles churn up much dirt during the 2,256-mile marathon journey that begins in Strasbourg, France.

The Pro Machine owes its featherweight status to Easton Sports, which engineered and manufactured the frame using a carbon nanotube-based material called CNT Nanotechnology. Carbon nanotubes give the frame its needed strength and stiffness without the weight of traditional materials.

“Durability improves with the use of CNT Nanotechnology,” said John Harrington, vice president of Easton’s bicycle division. “The weak link is the epoxy. Nanotubes strengthen the resin in the matrix.”

The BMC Pro Machine weighs about 15 pounds and retails for $3,650. Photo courtesy of Phonak Cycling Team
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Working with the nanotech company Zyvex, Easton found a way to evenly disperse nanotubes into resins that could be formed in components such as seat posts and forks. Easton introduced its CNT Nanotechnology frame in 2005, which the Swiss-based Team Phonak used in the Tour de France.

Easton customer BMC showcased the frame with its new Pro Machine bicycle during the Eurobike show in August, and won a gold award for design at the show. Team Phonak will ride the commercially available Pro Machine at this year’s Tour de France.

“We’re shipping now to the dealer,” Harrington said. “The sales have been really good. We can’t keep up.”

As a former racer and biking enthusiast, Harrington knows how the slightest advantage could mean victory for the 26 cyclists in Team Phonak. While they climb grueling mountain slopes, he’ll be in a race of his own. “It’s a never-ending chase to be lighter, stiffer, stronger.”
- Candace Stuart