"I’m a composites nerd," Kim Kington told BikeBiz today during a visit to Reynolds’ facility near Salt Lake City in Utah. She’s the wheel company’s engineering manager and has been with Reynolds for a year.
"Instead of sending stuff into space or blowing it up, I’m now sending wheels down the road fast."
Kington, like others at the composite wheels specialist, arrived at Reynolds via the local aerospace sector. She has worked for Honeywell and the ATK Aerospace Group and, prior to being in charge of engineering lightweight carbon clinchers and other high-end wheels, worked on parts for the super high-tech F35 fighter jet.
"I was a ballet dancer but got an injury. I had to work out what to do for a living. I was good at maths and my dad’s an engineer so I became an engineer. I fell into it, really."
Kington was one of the Reynolds staff giving tours to editors assembled for PressCamp, 45 minutes up the Wasatch mountain chain at Deer Valley Resort.
Talking tech with the editors was Paul Lew, the triathlete and composites specialist who, in 1998, created the first full carbon clincher when he had his own company, Lew Composites. Pros have been riding on tubular carbon wheelsets for many years but clincher carbon wheels heat up fast when braking on descents (on a long descent, braking temperatures can reach 300 degrees Fahrenheit) and it’s been a challenge to find the right resins that won’t lead to overheating and thence tyre blowouts and worse.
Lew has been full-time with Reynolds since 2008 and is the company’s Director of Technology and Innovation. Reynolds of the US licenses the name from Reynolds, the steel tubing company of the UK, founded in 1889, but there are no other business links between the companies. Reynolds of the US has been owned by Maclean Investment Partners of Chicago for 18 years. Maclean Investment Partners also owns Maclean Fogg, a billion dollar machine parts manufacturer. Founder Barry Maclean has one of the largest antique maps collections outside of the US Library of Congress and the companies in his group have huge and valuable maps decorating their walls, including Reynolds. (Maclean also owns a popcorn manufacturer and all Maclean business have a popcorn machine in a corner somewhere).
Reynolds is headquartered in a 25,000sq ft facility in Sandy, near Salt Lake City, with 32 staff. As well as sales and admin, the facility is home to Reynolds’ research, product development, and very extensive product testing. The company has its own fully-owned manufacturing facility in China, with 90 staff.
Reynolds sources its carbon from the US and ships it to its factory in China. For quality control purposes the factory in China has most of the same equipment as the Utah facility so that wheel designs created in the US can be replicated exactly in China (although made in bulk, and made more quickly too: lay-up of a carbon wheel can take two hours in Utah, it takes less than an hour in China).
Utah is one of the hotbeds of US composite manufacturing, with a number of aerospace manufacturers located close to Salt Lake City. Matthew Collins, a carbon lay-up engineer, formerly worked for some of these manufacturers. He has been with Reynolds for eight weeks.
"It’s good to be building bike parts and not bombs," he said. "I feel better about myself."
For 2014, Reynolds has upgraded its Attack, Assault, and Strike carbon clinchers, added a 46mm option to its Aero line, and revamped its Alloy family to include disc brake options.
On the mountain Bike side, Reynolds has expanded both its carbon and alloy offerings, including new 27.5 AM and 29r XC wheels from both the carbon and alloy side of product development. There are four models available in two rim diameters for both carbon and alloy.