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The Roundtail: ringing the changes in frame design?

Sixty times the shock absorption of a traditional diamond frame, plus 'esoteric' looks.....

Anyone who's ever read anything written about bikes anywhere will probably be aware that the holy grail of bike design is a machine that's – let's all say it together – laterally stiff yet vertically compliant.

So when we saw the Roundtail on Bikebiz and read that Finite Element Analysis shows that the design provides ten times the vertical flex, and over sixty times the shock absorption, of a traditional frame... well, we were intrigued.

The man behind this brave new world of bike design is Lou Tortola of Windsor, Canada, whose epiphany came when he was out riding one day. What, he wondered, if you could do away with the straight-to-your-bum seatpost and replace it with something else? The something else he came up with, as you can see, is a design incorporating a ring at the rear instead of the usual triangle. Lou got experienced framebuilder Paul Taylor to knock up the prototype you can see in the video.

So what are the advantages? Well like we said at the top, the vertical compliance numbers thrown out by the big finite element analysis machine are very impressive. Tortola also claims that "the unique shape of the rings is expected to provide aerodynamic advantages" but we'll bite our tongue on that one; there seems to be an awful lot of metal involved and we'd be surprised if the Roundtail was any more aerodynamic than a standard diamond frame.

another claim is that the Roundtail "is ideal for promoting the corporate sponsors that cycling teams so greatly depend on", presumably because of its distinctive shape although you could also stick a panel in that circle if your company branding is the right shape... not sure what the UCI would think about that though.

And any disadvantages? Well, we'd encourage you to have your say on what you think of the bike's looks, as well as how you think it'll perform. Here in the office opinion isn't really that divided, we're afraid: it's an odd looking beast and no mistake. The charitable voices were calling it 'esoteric', whilst others were suggesting that it looked like you'd forgotten to unlock your bike after leaving it in town, and ridden away with the bike stand still attached.

The bike has been on show at the San Diego Custom Bicycle Show this weekend but currently there's no date for a full launch; the Roundtail website is still not much more than a picture of the bike. But when we hear more we'll let you know...

Dave is a founding father of, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.

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