BikeCAD is an on-line bicycle design tool used many frame designers, cycle stores and bike fitting specialists. There are two versions, a free on-line version and the 'Pro' version, the latter has a one off charge of $500.00 (Canadian $, about £270.00), note there is no subscription there after and includes updates. Unlike the on-line free version 'BikeCAD Pro' is loaded directly onto a computer and once installed can be used without internet connection, it's far quicker as well as having lots of extra features.
Yes the free version is nowhere near as extensive, but it's still an extremely useful and impressive piece of software. While many of the unavailable features are simply missing, arguably resulting in 'what you don't see you don't miss', be warned others are enticingly greyed out; to the extent that I often have customers with 'BikeCAD' envy when they visited me when I worked at Enigma! Many find the free version of great value after after a 'bike fit', to see how their 'fit' data matches an off the peg bike. Most manufacturers list their relevant geometry data that will allow you to quickly recreate the bike via the 'primary dimension' box, then you can simply add your bike fit data. A bike fit via one of the many fittings jigs such as 'Retul','Cyclefit'',Guru and Shimano www.bikefitting.com will often provide the four key bike fit contact points, which are known as the handlebar and saddle X & Y (506-594 and 238-722mm below) all of which are easy to add to the drawing so you can then clearly see if the bike is suitable. Those four measurements effectively advise saddle height and setback, then reach and drop or height to the bars, far easier to take than the X & Y coordinates but it's some of these that are 'greyed out' on the free version, so if you want to show those on the drawing they are all available if you upgrade to 'Pro'. As a Pro user I can export the BikeCAD drawing as a pdf then email it to the customer; because I have access to more data I will automatically include bar height from the ground as well as the handlebar drop,
Drawing made with the 'free version' of BikeCADThe unavailable features are hardly a deal breaker for the occasional user, it's simply that in the 'Pro' version you get so much more, to the extent it makes that upgrade invaluable for frame builders and designers. In conclusion for many the free version is more than adequate, as you can see that drawing above of the Trek Madone RSL does give a lot of very useful data, even the logos are available to help create a more accurate visual of the finished bike. Note that the initial set up of the free version can be 'a bit of a faff', you will need to install the current version of 'Java' and make sure the 'security settings' are set as described in that link. It will not work in certain browsers either, Google Chrome does not support Java and I couldn't get it to work in Microsoft Edge, I used the old 'Explorer' browser that you can still use with windows 10 to create the drawing above and I believe Brent himself uses Firefox.
While I was at Enigma Bicycle Works (I am now a bike fitter at C & N Cycles) I understandably used the 'Pro' version. This is not a tutorial of how to use BikeCAD, as there are plenty of very informative YouTube BikeCAD videos' for that, but just as relevant it's a typical story from start to finish from the customer's perspective and how useful it is to them, watching their thoughts, ideas and dreams all come together as their frame or complete bike gradually evolve from initial brief, through to drawing then through to the finished bike. In this example the customer brief was that in his words he wanted a Titanium UK built "proper long and low race bike"; as you can see below that's exactly what we've achieved.
So, the journey begins with a 'Frame Fit' in our 'fitting room' below, after we have collected all the rider's dimensions using the standard www.bikefitting.com analysis system we can then talk through all the sizing and design options relevant to each rider. It's only when we have a clear indication of what we need to achieve that we can then start designing the frame using 'BikeCad' software.
Enigma Bike Fitting room.
The first drawing below is shown in this way so the customer can see their relevant bike fitting data and dreams come together, then how that will then translate into a complete bike, it's far clearer than just illustrating the drawing as a frame only. Gradually the design and drawing evolves as options and adjustments are discussed and implemented.
All the relevant frame and bike fit measurements are clearly shown to be viewed and analysed, we can even chose the final build colours, wheel dimensions and even logos' to give an even clearer indication of what the completed bike will look like. There are many other dimensions that can be shown if required, stack, reach, stand over height, saddle setback to name just a few. Any relevant adjustments are easily made and seen, as the frame-bike design gradually evolves and the alterations can be dismissed or retained as appropriate.
For example, a common question would be "I find the bars too low...." in this instance we can show how much the drop to the bars can be reduced by increasing the height of the head tube, not only showing that altered dimension as sizing data, but visibly how the complete bike will then look. After all nothing worse than altering something only for the customer's face to drop on collection, " I didn't think the completed bike would end up looking like that"! Well with BikeCAD they can see just what it will end up looking like. As mentioned earlier the brief for the frame-bike in this review was to actually achieve a lower front end than normal and we could clearly show the drop to both the top and bar center, as well as reach from saddle tip to bars and brake hoods. As you can see from the drawing as we can stipulate tube sizes in BikeCAD we can even show how close the mitered top and down tube interface with the head tube, look carefully and it's clear that the bottom of the top tube doesn't quite meet the top of the down tube; replicated perfectly on the actual built frame, a credit to both the accuracy of the BikeCAD software and the build team here at Enigma.
As well as adding the height to the headtube we can change the amount of spacers under the stem, flip the stem and even change the stem's angle, increase the stem length, rotate the bars, change reach and drop of the bars and even reposition the brake levers on the bars, all relevant to the overall bike fit. Infact that are some many options available that I can't think of an example whereby either the 'BikeFitter' or customer would not be able to amend and view the data that they would like to see. As such in reality this is a pretty much as faultless as it gets.
The second drawing below is actually the same drawing as the first, but stripped back for the build team here at 'enigma'. This drawing has the relevant data which will enable Enigma's Max Norrel to cut and miter the tubes, Max will then pass the mitered frame onto Joe Walker, our award winning frame builder to start the welding process. When Joe has finished building the frame it then passes onto Jaco Ehlers to then start the finishing, in this case bead brushed frame with mirror logos'. Enigma's Greg Stevens then anodised the mirror logos' gold to match the chain and then built into a complete bike. The end result, a true 'enigma'; absolutely stunning.
We know that many find this an extremely useful tool, as you can see the initial drawing does give an extremely accurate representation of the finished set up, it's clear, precise and accurate; 10 out of 10 as far as I'm concerned.
The finished bike; absolutely stunning.
Designed by Paul Smith, tubes cut and mitered by Max Norrell, welded by Joe Walker, bead brushed and mirror polished logos' Jaco Ehlers, the mirror polished logos' were then anodised by Greg Stevens who then skilfully built this stunning frame into a stunning bike; the end result, a true Enigma. Designed and built by us the Enigma Team right here in Sussex.