Carlos on the 2022 TIME ADHX Gravel Bike
Spring 2016 — It was April. I packed up my TIME Skylon to embark on what I thought was just a month-long trip to France but ended up to be something quite more.
I was a web designer contracted to do some work for a small French bicycle manufacturer. I had built the websites and this trip was more about seeing the factory in person and doing some riding in France. At the end of the month, I would ride a gran fondo (remember those?) starting in Megeve, France
There was also a big transition as TIME was being acquired by Rossignol - the ski company. Again, a lot going on but I really just wanted to see the factory and do some riding. And, because FRANCE!
The Little French Company That Could
I have always known the brand TIME. I remember their carbon forks listed in the Palo Alto and Colorado Cyclist catalogs. Some Euro teams rode their frames but it never went any farther than that. My brother owned some of the original TIME 2-piece cleat pedals. They were cool but the 2-cleat thing was hard to set up. It was all LOOK pedals for me.
Jump to 2014 and I would end up doing work for the small company—on the surface, just another bike frame manufacturer—but deep down did things significantly different than literally the rest of the industry.
Le Defi–in English means “The Challenge.” The word looks like “defy.” And that’s what TIME did. While the rest of the carbon bike industry moved to east Asia, TIME didn’t. Defying all sound business sense: cheaper manufacturing at scale, cheaper labor costs, TIME built their frames at a rate of about 7 per day while others put out 7 per hour.
In 2014, I had a meeting with the CEO, Julia Cattin. Roland Cattin had just passed away and Julia, Roland’s daughter, took over. I believe she was 26 at the time. The meeting was in Salt Lake City with the TIME US Manager, Trent Ping, Gilles Lalonde - TIME US Sales Manager, Julia (CEO) and Ryan at Contender Bicycles to discuss the future of time. Contender was and still is TIME’s biggest retailer in the US.
We were trying to assess the market and get Julia up to speed on TIME. She hadn’t been involved with her dad’s company prior to his passing and had never even ridden a TIME. Contender puts some Xpressos on a Fluidity and let her take a spin down the little neighborhood across the street from Contender. S 1000 E: I park on that street every day now.
Part of this meeting was to sell her on TIME. She took on running the three companies her father created. TIME wasn’t super profitable but we wanted to show her why it was special, hoping she would continue to run it and continue her father’s legacy.
Bricks vs Rebar
Most carbon frames are the same. You can talk about layup schedules and different types of directional and multi-directional weaves, but they are all the same. TIME was different.
Bricks - Prepreg is how most carbon frames are constructed. You take sheets of carbon fiber with the resin already embedded with the fibers and place them on top of each other (like bricks) to form a structure… Maybe it’s more like a layer cake. The resin/carbon (prepreg) sheets have to be stored in a freezer or they will start to cure. The little pieces are laid inside a mold and a bladder or core is used to control the shape of the inside of the tube. Again, little pieces of prepreg patched together. Air pressure is sent into the inner bladder while the 2 halves of the outer mold are joined. This forms the shape of most frames.
Rebar - I like to think of a TIME frame like rebar/cement construction. The fibers are woven into socks — at this stage dry with no resin. Several layers of these ‘socks’ are pulled over wax molds to form the inside shape of the tube. Placing and adjusting these layers can be very precise as there is no resin at this point. It’s like adjusting your socks or sleeves.
The best part is when they pour the cement in… in this case the resin. This process is super slow, using gravity and pressure to make sure there are no air bubbles in the resin/carbon structure. Remember Trek’s OCLV frames. ‘LV - low void. In every TIME frame — no voids. No voids makes for a super durable frame.
Remember the wax molds? Yeah, those melt away when the frame is cured. The wax is collected and remolded for the next frame. Brilliant!
Back to Rebar — jump to 2016 and I’m asking Jean Marc Guenugneaud what the advantage is of TIME's carbon manufacturing over prepreg. I couldn’t understand or speak enough French so one of the other engineers helped translate. Sign language prevailed here. He motioned his left hand around his right in a spiraling/helical pattern. “One thread connects the front of the tube to the back of the tube,” the other engineer replied in broken English. Vibrations are spread across the whole frame. An impact gets dissipated over the rest of the structure. With prepreg or bricks you can punch a brick out. It’s more complicated than that, but I hope you get the gist.
This blog is supposed to be about the TIME ADHX, also known as the TIME Alpe d'Huez X. So here goes!
The ADHX is modeled after the TIME Alpe d'Huez 21 road bike. The fork and rear stays allow for clearance of a 38mm tire. Much of the rest of the frame looks like an Alpe d'Huez 21. There is the inclusion of top tube mounts and a panel on the lower seat tube allows for a 2x crankset.
Beauty and the Beast
In a world of subtle pastels, flip-flop oil slicks or black carbon, the new finishes are simply stunning. This is Paris Runway material. The frame is available in a translucent amber, blue, green and carbon. In indoor light the colors are dark and understated yet showy and elegant. Similar to a guitar with a maple top — angling the guitar in light ‘animates’ the grain. If these finishes are similar to the orange scandium Pinarello Prince I owned a few years back, under the sun the carbon weave under color will light up and animate as the carbon moves through the light. Solid paint would’ve been easy and more in line with current colorways but in the spirit of Le Defi, the finishes show off quality, innovation and beauty – just because they can. I want to collect all four.
Now the beast: Because of the way a TIME tube and carbon are made a tube is made of up to 11 different weaves. Each weave with its own orientation, the angle of threads to each other and how each weave relates to all the other weaves. So lateral and longitudinal compliance and stiffness can be dialed in by simply having a weave in a certain part of the tube or frame.
The other advantage is the ability to add material — at the thread level — to change the desired attributes of the weave. For example, in the past Kevlar was added to the fork steerer tube to increase durability. Rossignol, with their history in the ski world, added basalt fibers to the mix to reduce vibrations.
For the ADHX, TIME added Dyneema, a carbon/bio-based material which increases strength in the weave without compromising stiffness or weight. From the pre-release marketing material, Dyneema is used where the tubes join – virtual lugs if you will.
Back to the beauty: Adding the Dyneema to the weave creates a diamond or argyle pattern to the material. Unfortunately, there is a cosmetic layer of carbon fiber that covers the whole frame. Maybe one day they’ll let this pattern show through. I like it when the craftsman is not afraid to show the work.
As for the ride, we’ll know that shortly as we’ll have small and medium ADHXs in the store sometime mid-April. Let’s say May to be safe, but stay tuned. I imagine the ride will be very responsive yet comfortable and stable for long rides.
A quick look at geometry points toward a frame that has a shorter reach and taller head tube. I’m comparing the XS size to the ADH21. The ADHX uses a more compatible DEDA S DCR headset to tuck away cables and a round 27.2 seat post. Great for dialing in your fit and feel. As I mentioned before, the max tire size is 38mm but one wonders if 650b wheels could fit a bigger tire. Also, top tube bosses are included for those who want to use a low-profile feed bag for long rides.
2x or Not 2x
The ADHX can run a 1x or 2x setup. For a 1x setup, TIME has built a nice cover, protecting the frame and covering the front derailleur mount holes. I think I would prefer a 2x for this bike.
The Last One
When I was younger, I was all about N+1 bikes. Lately, I find myself trying to buy the ‘last one’. The one bike I could ride for the rest of my life (in each category, of course). I’ve had five TIME bikes and am currently down to one TIME Skylon (with a “k”). I thought this would be my last road bike. Rides great and is likely my last rim-brake bike. One can only chase the ‘ride’ for so long. For a gravel bike, I was thinking of a Moots. I have never owned titanium. It would have completed my bike material bucket list. But now, a TIME, built the TIME way which could be a road bike and a gravel bike? The ADHX might be my last bike. Budget for two wheelsets and I’m set.
There is a popular 26 mile route in Park City. The majority of the ride takes place on paved roads with a few climbs and a fast descent. One road though, has a gravel section. Since this is a road ride, it’s done on road bikes with 28mm tires. If you’re lucky to have an “endurance'' bike like a BMC Roadmachine, you could get a fatter tire and achieve more comfort on that section. The TIME ADHX with 30mm tires will be perfect for a route like that.
A little farther off that loop is Soapstone Basin. A gravel ride which can be quite loose and dusty in the summer that would be great with 42mm+ tires but doable on 38mm. In the hit state for the TIME ADHX. Any rougher terrain could be covered by my Otso Voytek or my SCOTT Genius.
So three bikes. One for winter/trail. One for mountain. One for gravel to pavement.
Love something, Be Obsessed — But tell me why
In this age of consumerism, it would be easy to get caught up in the next, new, shiny bike. And the ADHX is certainly new and shiny. I currently have a great gravel bike in the form of an Otso Waheela C. So gravel is covered, and I do use that bike for the not-so-pampered roads in Park City. The rim-brake Skylon sits on my rollers and gets taken out on a perfect day. Like Cameron’s father’s Ferrari in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
There is something about TIME. Why do I love this brand? Why do I want yet another one? The ride quality? Maybe. There’s a lot of subjectivity here, and I don’t think there is a brand that makes a bad riding bike. It’s part “the ride,” but not all of it. I think it comes down to the brand. And the brand isn’t the bike or the technology. It’s the story and the people.
When I spent a month at the TIME factory, I walked around every day and struggled to talk with some of the people (in French) that stitched the weaves together, cleared the molds for the next frame or put the final polish on a frame about to be boxed up. It’s one thing to know you have something that is of good quality and quite another when you know the people and the hands that touched the bike you're riding. I guess that’s the difference. I never take for granted how much time was put into each and every one of these bikes.
I was skeptical as TIME got passed around. I feared the technology and history of the brand might get lost. From a numbers standpoint, it made sense to spend a lot on marketing and put out a product on par with everything else. That didn’t happen. More was spent on marketing but the looms that make the carbon weaves are still in Europe (Eastern Europe, but still Europe). The product continues to be improved using the original carbon braiding and resin transfer molding process dreamt up by TIME founder Rolland Cattin and the lead engineer Jean-Marc Guenugneaud.
I’m lucky — we’re lucky — the new owners of TIME have kept the heart and soul of TIME alive in their current offerings. I look forward to more innovation and passion coming from this brand. TIME+1.
Words by Carlos Interone. Photos by Carlos Interone and TIME Cycling.