Geaeheao

SMALL CHANGES A nearly final prototype (right) and a much earlier version.

sion through its travel and run motion analysis-checking for tire clearance, drivetrsin compatibility and myriad other potential snafus-before the design ever leaves their hard drive. They can even tell how much the finished bike will weigh before the first piece of metal is cut.

"Three-dimensional modeling enables us to innovate so much more quickly than we could have even a few years ago," Landsaat says. "We're still doing several prototypes to get the bike just right, but if we were doing it the old way, the development cycle would be more on the order of three to four years."

MARCH '08-JULY '08: STARTING OVER IN TAIWAN

Diamondbacks Mission is made by Taiwanese manufacturer A-Pro, which specializes in high-end frames. This is par for the course in the bike industry. According to the National Bicycle Dealers Association, 99.53 percent of bicycles sold in America last year were made in either China or Taiwan.

In early March, Landsaat sends the new SolidWorks design files to A-Pro, and work begins on prototype three. This version sports a new downtube, seatstays, chainstays and headtube. The new frame is lighter. The larger, stiffer downtube weighs 38 grams less than the older version. The newly sculpted Knuck-lebox shaves off 20 grams. Scaled-down dropouts cut another 40 grams. In total, Landsaat orders 17 tweaks to the frame, which whittle a half-pound off its total weight-from 6.69 to 6.21 pounds. Brown estimates that the tapered headtube and larger downtube increase the

Mission's front-end stiffness by 30 percent.

By July 1, Brown and company are pummel-ing prototype three at Whistler.

JULY '08-DECEMBER '08: FIDDLING WITH THE DETAILS

A-Pro cranks up the CNC machines again. This next prototype needs a new toptube and a few minor tweaks. It can take up to five months to get a new prototype completed-it all depends on how much tooling needs to be finished. It's December before Brown can hold prototype four up to the light. Unfortunately, the new toptube isn't right. When Brown runs an ultrasound sensor over the tube, he finds that the wall thickness is out of spec: 0.4 millimeters too thick and 100 grams too heavy. A couple of the bolts on the Knucklebox link are also the wrong length. It's back to A-Pro for a new prototype.

DECEMBER '08-MARCH '09: EVEN MORE DETAILS

Prototype five arrives, and the toptube and Knucklebox bolts and washers are perfect. Now, however, Brown decides, what the hell, he might as well beef up the chainstay bridge and shift the mudguard braze-ons and cable guides. Meanwhile, Fox sends over its new Boost Valve rear shock. It's a good excuse to ditch the cubicle for a couple weeks of trail testing.

APRIL '09-JUNE '09: STRAP 'EM TO THE MACHINE

Prototype six is in the house. This frame is much closer to what the final product will look like. It has forged (instead of CNC'd) frame components as

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