While international and local demand for bicycle component manufacturer cSixx Components’ offering is steadily increasing, it has also seen a spike in demand owing to a supply shortage from bigger original equipment manufacturers.
This stemmed from the significant global uptake of cycling during the Covid-19 pandemic and larger manufacturers experiencing a huge, unexpected demand on reopening after governments’ shut down economic activity worldwide to curb the spread of the virus. This was compounded by the consequent insufficient supply of raw materials globally, limited logistics and expensive freight changes.
Based in Woodstock, Cape Town, the company comprises mountain bikers who develop products that they believe are needed by themselves, their fellow riders and local bike shops, says cSixx sales and operations manager Alex Mancini.
It is the company’s ability to adapt to the needs of the local market that has prompted South African riders to upgrade their bicycles with cSixx chainrings, derailleur pulley wheels and other components, he states.
“It all starts with us sitting around the coffee counter in the mornings, chatting about our rides from the previous day, issues mentioned by other riders and feedback from local bike shops.”
When unable to find a product locally that can improve their bikes and their riding experience or when the available solution is too expensive, the young dynamic team at cSixx starts brainstorming.
With all components manufactured in-house under one roof, cSixx can quickly design, test, develop and refine a product.
“This means we can update our product to work with any new technology launched on to the market. We also ensure that quality control steps are in place at every point of production, to ensure the best results at the end of the day,” explains Mancini.
cSixx was founded by head of design Mark Hopkins in 2016. This was a few months before the company took delivery of its first computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine in October that year, at which point version one of cSixx’s products were ready for prototyping.
Learning how to operate a CNC machine, as well as adapting its design to achieve the perfect surface finish, was the most challenging aspect of initial product development, notes Mancini.
It was a year later that cSixx produced the first chainring with which it was “100%” satisfied and officially launched its offering to the mountain biking community.
When developing a new product, Hopkins uses a computer-aided design program to create a few options that are then fabricated using a three-dimensional printer.
“This allows us to touch, feel, see, test fit and generally get a better idea of the product in real life than we would virtually,” says Mancini.
cSixx computer-aided manufacturing engineer John Human then programs the CNC machine and creates a jig to hold the part inside the CNC machine to produce a working prototype.
Thereafter, the prototype undergoes quality control checks, tolerance measurements, stress testing, compatibility testing with all chain and/or crank variants, real-world testing and long-term testing.
“Once the prototype passes all these tests, we enter pre-production testing where we improve the efficiency of the production process,” explains Mancini.
At full-scale production, cSixx uses square heat-treated 7075-T6 aluminium plate to fabricate its design, deburring and drilling mounting holes in each raw aluminium plate.
“First the top side, including the crank interface, is machined, which is followed by the bottom side and the teeth. Finally, the final cut is performed to release the circular chainring from the square plate, revealing a complete raw chainring. All excess plate and swarf is recycled,” adds Mancini.
Five quality control checks are performed on the raw chainring. Should it pass, the chainring is sent for anodising where it receives its black finish. A design and product information are then laser-etched onto the chainring. A final quality control check is performed before the chainring is packaged and distributed to bicycle shops.
Mancini says cSixx would love to upscale its production to increase the variety of products it produces; however, to do so, more CNC machines and operators are required.
“We are currently looking for a new team member to operate a CNC machine and assemble products,” states Mancini.
cSixx currently employs six full-time staff members and three part-time night-shift staff members to manufacture its products.