I recently interviewed Brent Foes and did a write up
In the last interview we talked with Dave Turner about his company, history and design methodology. Dave Turner is known to glean information from every source available and convert this mass into something pragmatic and usable.
Also, Turner works with Dave Weagle, a well known mechanical engineer who specializes in suspension design. Dave Weagle has a super computer set up with custom software engineered to map axle paths, spring rates, spring curves, antisquat curves, etc.
The net effect of this partnership is some of the nicest riding bikes on the planet.
In this interview, we’re going to do an about face and Interview Brent Foes of Foes Racing. Foes Racing is a small bike company in Pasadena California, producing between 1,000 and 1,200 frames each year. In contrast Turner makes about 3,500 bikes each year and companies like Giant make about 500,000 each year.
All Foes bike are made in house at Foes Racing and most of the welding is done by Brent himself. Brent has always preferred monocoque construction over simple tubes. He CNC's all connectors, pivots, etc in house and almost all bikes that leave this shop include a Curnut shock, also handmade in house by Foes Racing. Each shock is custom designed and manufactured to the riders specifications.
“I’m building bikes in the US as long as I can. I’m NOT going to China. I’m fed up with everything going over there!” – Brent Foes
Brent Foes was born in Pasadena California. A town of 150,000 in Los Angeles County.
Growing up Brent got into motocross and even raced professionally for a time. Always tinkering with his suspension, he eventually got picked up by Nissan to design their offroad race trucks.
During the 1980’s and 90’s Brent Foes was an all-star combination of race car driver, co-pilot, mechanic and engineer. He co-piloted race trucks for Roger and Rick Mears Baja and stadium trucks, while working for Nissan. He built race trucks for Nissan, Mitsubishi and Dodge.
Being a co-pilot in off road races, Brent didn't just monitor performance of the vehicle, but also had to fix it when bad stuff happened. This made him constantly aware of how his designs worked, how they failed and how to make them better. .
Somewhere around 1992 Brent designed and built his first mountain bike. This was not an off the shelf mountain bike – this was a toy built by a guy that knew how to build performance machines. Full suspension was not yet accepted in 1991 and full suspension bikes of this era had many downfalls and quirks.
1992 Cannondale full suspension bike with 2.5" travel.
While most suspenions bikes of this era boasted 2" of travel, Foes' had 6". Many suspension bikes hadn't progressed to fluid damped suspension, instead using rubber bumpers. Foes used a custom Fox damper with a 3" stroke.
1993 Trek Full Suspension bike with rubber bumper shock.
The bike Brent built was so far ahead of his time, the first Foes could be sold today as a “Freeride” bike.
Interestingly enough, Brent Foes was not yet in the bicycle industry. It wasn’t until Brent was out riding one day that he ran into Richard Cunningham http://www.stevevance.net/nishiki/Richard_Cunningham
Editor of Mountain Bike Action. Richard struck up a conversation with Brent and took some pictures of him and his bike. These ended up in Mountain Bike Action, garnering Brent Foes lots of attention.
Foes Racing was born.
Brent Foes has always been a leader in Downhill full suspension bikes. It’s just in his blood. Brent Foes’ first mountain bike was a 6” travel full suspension bike called the LTS (long travel system). Remember, this was 1991/1992. There was nothing in the market like this.
A 1993 Mountain Bike Action article describes the Foes LTS thus:
"Nothing currently out there comes close to the 6" of movement the Foes supplies. It's closer to motorcycle numbers than bicycle. What we consider state of the art full suspension machines, can only muster 1/2 the travel put out by the Foes."
Unfortunately there were no comparable forks on the market, either. After a few years of design and testing, Foes released the Foes F1 “Wet One” downhill fork. An inverted design, this fork required a disc brake, and boasted 5” of travel.
Around 1997 Brent started work on his next design. Initially called the “MoFo” the Foes Slammer was to be an 8” travel DH bike. It eventually ended up being called the Foes Slammer.
During this period, Brent started looking for shocks to meet his needs. The shocks produced by the major manufacturers simply weren’t big enough to produce the kind of travel Brent was looking for. That, combined with Brent tendency towards lower leverage ratios, Foes needed bigger shocks.
It was at this time that Brent reached out to Charles Curnutt Sr.
Charlie Curnutt was immersed in suspension technology, having built and raced motorcycles and run motorcycle race teams for Honda and others during the 1950’s and 1960’s. Charlie designed and developed a whole line of shocks specifically for off road race trucks that enabled the truck to track corners, without diving. Meaning the truck’s weight didn’t “roll” into corners. But as soon as the truck hit a bump, the suspension would open up and absorb the impact.
Charles Curnutt Jr began using this shock technology on mini-motorcycles in the 1970’s and 1980s. When Brent came to Charlie Curnutt looking for a shock suited to mountain bikes, Charlie Sr, introduced Brent to Charlie Jr.
With a little work they were able to fix a Curnutt motorcycle shock to Brent’s new DH bike and the collaboration began. It took 4 years of refinement to get the product where they wanted, but ever since each Foes bike is designed in concert with Curnutt. Each frame is designed with a specific travel and spring rate in mind and shocks specifically suited to the frames compression curve and temperament.
All Foes frames and Curnutt shocks are built in house at Foes Racing.
Brent Foes' design and creation process is as distinct from Dave Turners as night is to day. While Dave Turner distills information from as many sources possible, and employs engineers to create suspension designs with computer programs; Brent is seat of the pants. Literally.
“I can tell a lot by just bouncing on a bike and seeing how it reacts.” Says Brent.
When designing a bike “We just know what we are looking to do, and it’s just a matter of trial and error.” “We usually get what we want right on the first try.”
Rather than use computer modeling or Finite Element Analysis for frame design, Brent prefers pencil and paper. All the monocoque frame designs he does starts with a hand drawn diagram, then a paper model, and finally a 3D model.
When asked about the influx of multi-pivot, multi-link bikes on the market ,Brent hesitated to compare himself and his bikes, instead opining on the wisdom of simplicity and strength.
“Foes has always been a basic single pivot, and with the Curnut shock, you don’t need it (multiple pivots).”
“A lot of this is due to the shock. Pivot point is critical, but the shock makes it all work.”
I asked Brent how he sells himself and his bikes in a competitive market against companies with larger marketing budgets.
“We are looking for people looking for an American product.”
“When a guy orders a frame from us, we build it then. It’s built for them.”
“I like to think they get more personal attention”
“We work with them.”
When asked about the market and the economy, Brent understands his is a dying breed.
“I’m building in the US as long as I can.”
“I’m not going to China”
“I’m fed up with everything going over there!”
I asked Brent about manufacturing in California and Pasadena specifically. California’s tax rates are a burden on business and Brent gets this.
“Pasadena has run a lot of businesses out of town.”
“They are trying to bring companies back, though.”
Brent isn’t sitting on his laurels. He just released the Foes Hydro DH bike, an 8.5” DH bike which accepts Curnutt shocks as well as shocks by Fox, Elka, Marzocchi and others.
Asked which bike he likes best, the Hydro or Mono DH, Brent likes the Mono.
“The Mono is more of a world cup bike. Made to run over anything.”
“The Hydro was designed to accept any shock on the market, and meet any price point.”
At $2,600, the Foes Hydro is Foes’ budget minded DH frame.
For 2011 Brent is refining a few bikes in his line. He doesn’t believe in change just for the sake of change, though and doesn’t use model years.
At Sea Otter 2011 Brent will unveil a new FXR and new XCT.
The FXR changes will include adjustable travel from 6” to 7”.
The Foes XCT, a Cross Country bike will have some refinements to lower weight and lower cost
While Foes is small builder, they have had a huge impact on the market. Pioneering long travel full suspension frames, forks and shocks.
The Foes LTS was used by the Iron Horse race team in the mid 1990's, piloted by Toby Henderson and "Pistol" Pete Loncarivich.
Rich Houseman also piloted Foes during the 2004 racing season.
World Champion downhiller, Misse Giove rode Foes in 2003.
Foes currently sponsors a small race team incuding top Amercan pro Cody Warren.
The Curnutt "Cavity" shock technology was eventually licensed to both Manitou and 5th Element and later renamed "Stable Platform Valve."
Most recently Fox Racing has released their "Boost Valve" which closely mimicks the Curnutt.url]
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