“There are those that don’t view a product, a job, or life simply at face value…there are those with a vision. And they pursue it with passion. Their creations seem to be endowed with a soul…”
– ‘Carbonframes’ early philosophy
Carbonframes was the early brainchild of Craig Calfee, which would later become Calfee Design
Craig Calfee’s history is simple. His Tetra may be the most important carbon bike ever made. It’s been manufactured continuously since 1987, when carbon was considered just a passing fad. In fact, according to Calfee’s math, the Tetra has been in production longer than any other carbon bike.
In 1991, the Tetra was badged “LeMond” and ridden by Greg at the 1991 Tour. LeMond knew carbon from his days with LOOK, but wanted the lighter weight with a bike he could trust descending. LeMond called the Tetra “the best bike I’ve ridden in my career.”
Today’s Tetra is still made the same way, with it’s signature gussets at tube junctions. “We miter carbon-fiber tubes to fit each other, as in traditional steel-frame building, but we join them by laminating fabric directly to the tube junction all in one go. This allows most flexibility for custom geometry and the ability to change the stiffness as needed, by using thicker walls or higher modulus fiber in the tubes.
“The best bike I’ve ridden in my career…”
Where it all started…
1987 – Manhattan, New York
Pictured below is Craig Calfee’s first ever carbon fiber bicycle, moments before it was stolen in a Manhattan subway. Craig was in need of a new frame after a head on collision with a car left him bike-less. Utilizing tools from his then job (making composite rowing shells), he set out to engineered the strongest bike he could.
The bike would later be found and returned to Craig. It now lives in the Calfee production facility.
With a $10,000 loan, Craig hired a machinist to make the first production tooling. Professional bike couriers and amateur racers took to the streets of San Francisco to test the first frames. Adjustments were made and the frames were soon ready to sell to the public. ‘Carbonframes’ became a corporation and debuted at the industry’s biggest bike show, Interbike, in 1989.
LeMond Alpe d’Huez
Greg LeMond was searching for a bike fast enough to keep him at the very pinnacle of professional bike racing. Craig Calfee was busy forging a quiet revolution in carbon construction. Together, they changed the face of cycling.
Carbonframes filled a big purchase order from international cycling champion Greg LeMond who wanted 18 frames for Team Z. Carbonframes relocated to Reno after entering an exclusive licensing agreement with LeMond Bicycles. LeMond rode in the leader’s yellow jersey on his Carbonframe. Craig got his 15 minutes of fame with coverage on CNN, the Associated Press news network and National Public Radio. The companies parted amiably two years later. Enjoy this article in Cycle Sport which describes in great detail our formative years and early achievements at the highest level of the sport.
‘Carbonframes’ Tetra Pro/Tetra Tri
From its new headquarters in Santa Cruz, Carbonframes built a state-of-the-art production facility and continued production and sales of its superior frames. Professional triathlete Dave Scott rode his Carbonframe bike to second place at age 40 in the Hawaii Ironman World Championship triathlon.
Bamboo Bikes are Born
“One afternoon, in 1995, my dog Luna and I started playing with a bamboo stick. I was sure it would break, or splinter—but it didn’t. I’d never realized how strong bamboo was. It inspired me, and I built my first bamboo bike as a gimmick for a trade show.”
Bamboo bikes would go on to be a staple of the Calfee brand. Calfee Design remains producing exceptional bamboo single bicycles and tandems.
The Luna Pro and the Luna Tri were introduced as affordable frames for a mainstream public who want lower prices yet high tech craftsmanship along with longevity.
Craig got the name “Luna” from his dog, Luna.
Calfee Design is Born
A decade after building his first frame, Craig Calfee launched Calfee Design and proceeded to build topnotch road racing frames.
The First Tetra Tandem
In 1999, a customer sends an email saying: “Can you build me a carbon fiber Tandem?” After a year of testing and refinement, Calfee offers a tandem frame that is 2 pounds lighter than the next lightest tandem on the market. But the smooth ride quality is what gets the tandem community excited. It is the first production carbon tandem!
After a three year period of substantial growth, Calfee Design is ready to raise the bar in bicycle technology. The two pound Dragonfly frame debuts in 2000 but it takes over a year to finalize the production and begin shipping in late 2001. Although the economy slows, Calfee Design continues growing.
Carbon Repair Service
From broken top tubes to severed seat stays, Calfee’s expert ability to repair damaged carbon frames, and select components, has enabled thousands of riders to return to the roads and trails. Calfee’s Carbon Repair business continues to grow year over year driven by validation and authorization from the world’s largest bicycle manufacturers.
Stiletto and BarStem
Stiletto and BarStem. Two new products keep everyone busy. Production of the Stiletto recumbent proceeds apace. The BarStem debuts at Interbike, creating lots of interest.
Coupled Carbon Frames
Calfee becomes the world’s first bicycle manufacturer to couple carbon frames. Made by S and S Machine, these clever devices allow you to break apart the bike and pack into a suitcase for easier and much less expensive travel.
Bamboo Bikes Hit the Market
Beginning as a publicity stunt in 1995, Craig’s bamboo errand bike evolves into a well-tested new model for the general public. 12 Bamboo bikes had been built for employees, relatives and friends. The feedback on the smooth ride quality was too good to ignore, so we decided to go into production.
Bamboo Bikes in Africa
Back in 1984, when Craig was wandering around Africa, he noticed three things: 1. There was a lot of bamboo, 2. People used bikes and didn’t have enough of them, and 3. they needed jobs. Perhaps people could build their own bamboo cargo bikes. So he put a small notice on the website to see if there was any interest in the idea. Various organizations and individuals encouraged and funded Craig to go try it out. Now there are bamboo bikes being made in Ghana Uganda, Zambia, Liberia and the D.R. Congo.
Partnership with ENVE Composites
Calfee aligns with startup composites company ENVE, at the time Edge Composites. ENVE begins making all Calfee carbon tubing and the resultant bicycle frames are the very best Calfee frames ever produced. From ENVE; “We got our start making tubing and molded parts for the best frame builders…custom artisans who refuse to adopt the big box mentality. There’s no fluff. No flash. Just quality engineered components guaranteed to be the best you’ve ever ridden.” The marriage and success of these two innovative companies is forged in their shared commitment to product that is designed with form, functionality and beauty in mind.
Di2 Internal Battery and Wiring System
Calfee creates and offers an elegant solution for the impressive Di2 electronic shifting system. The innovation starts with a custom battery system housed inside the seatpost. This solution is lighter and longer lasting, eliminates all external routing and mounts and is available on many Calfee models and also as a retrofit on most carbon frames. This system is compatible with both Dura Ace and Ultegra Di2. Calfee licenses the battery retention patent to Shimano.
Carbon Randonneuring Frame – “Adventure” Debuts
Calfee introduces a new carbon frame with “long road” geometry. This model is highlighted by increased tire clearance, full wrap fenders, critical accessory mounts, and long reach caliper or disc brake option. This bike is nominated as our “Adventure” platform and becomes the first carbon frame of its category. Then in 2012, building on the popularity of the world’s only carbon “Adventure” Calfee tweeks the tooling convention to allow the rider to easily change between 700c and 650b (27.5″) wheel sizes. The upgraded adventure model features tire clearance for 700x35c and 650x42mm; the rider need only swap wheelsets. Further optimization for the endurance road cyclist is manifest by Calfee laminating braze-on mounts to carbon fork legs to support a small rack.
The Manta is Born
Opportunities and technologies coalesce to catalyze Calfee’s newest platform, the Manta. Available in Pro, Adventure and CX frame geometries, the Manta integrates numerous options: tapered forks, rear suspension, rim or disc brakes, electronic drive trains and the exclusive opportunity to utilize Look’s Zed2 carbon crank and bottom bracket.
Off Road Tandems, Front Suspension and Full Suspension
At the 2013 Interbike show, Calfee introduces two new Off Road tandem models: hardtail and full suspension. While we have already built a handful of custom Off Road tandems, we have not, until now, created a “stock” convention for these two platforms. Please consider geometry, features and pricing for our Off Road hardtail tandem and Full Suspension tandem.
Calfee Goes 44
With the inclusion of tapered steerer tubes on new forks and the desire for increased front end stiffness, we began offering our complete Calfee classic line up standard with a 1 1/8″ head tube diameter, now with a 44mm head tube & a larger down tube. The enlarged tube sizes livened up the feel of the ride and provided more efficient power transfer to each pedal stroke, while maintaining the smooth ride our classic models are known for.
Bamboo DIY Kit
At the 2015 North American Handmade Bicycle Show, we introduced a do-it-yourself bamboo frame kit. Complete with all the necessary frame materials, tools, and Calfee designed blueprints, a customer was able to purchase a Calfee Kit follow a series of informative videos, and build their very own bamboo frame.
Due to the popularity of our adventure platform from our single frames, designing our tandems with these features became a natural progression. Tire clearance for 700 x 35c/650b x 42c options were added, along with an option for an integrated carbon front rack system.
The Bigger the Better
With the increasing demand for wider tires and more capable machines, we designed a platform around wider tires. This bigger adventure tandem was designed for off-road and gravel use while the larger tires offered a level of pneumatic suspension.
The Leaf Spring Stays
Utilizing a unique and proprietary molding process, Calfee engineered carbon “flex-stays” to offer a supple rear-wheel ride feel for hardtails. This design created lateral flexibility without sacrificing torsional stiffness.
The Calfee Design Bottle Cage
Our first carbon cages were engineered. Elegance meets performance…
Cephal is Born
The first mountain bike from Calfee Design is created with industry leading geometry adjustment via machined flip plates. Everything from a downhill hardtail to a capable cross bike is possible with the same Cephal frame.
On the hunt for tandem rated carbon fiber wheels, we fell short on anything that quite met our expectations. So in the spirit of Calfee, we made them ourselves. Our Nautilus wheels are hand-built in house utilizing the same tired and true sourced carbon that you have come to expect from Calfee.
Something even bigger is coming…
You asked for the something even bigger. We listened, and were almost ready to show you just how big you can go.