Aspiring framebuilder or bike fitter? BikeCAD could be the software for you

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Continuing our series of articles targeted at those starting out in the cycling industry, today we interview Brent Curry, founder of bicycle design software BikeCAD.

Curry’s software was inspired by his work at Dekerf Cycle Innovations and was eventually picked up by Serotta. From there on in, BikeCAD has been essential to anyone studying bicycle geometry as part of frame building or bike fitting.

Tell us about your business background and how you got into software creation:

I studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of Waterloo in Canada. During that time, I did internships with several bicycle companies. The first was Vitus Cycles in France. Then I worked at Syncros in Vancouver, BC. I spent my next term in Australia working for a company that made postal delivery bikes for Australia Post and also imported GT bikes. I spent my two final work terms learning from Chris Dekerf of Dekerf Cycle Innovations.

In all those experiences, I found myself creating technical drawings of bicycles or components using either old school drafting tables or a variety of CAD software. At that time, the idea of parametric CAD software that would allow one to modify a dimension and update the entire model without re-drawing or manually moving a lot of things around was a bit of a new concept. Software like that was largely out of reach for all but the biggest bicycle companies. At Dekerf, I developed a spreadsheet that would draw a parametric model of a bicycle frame and would work out all the lengths and angles at which to cut the tubes for any given design. bike cad4

After graduation, I set out to build a few bikes for myself and for friends. At the same time, I thought it would be fun to take my frame design spreadsheet and turn it into a web-based program which I called BikeCAD. I did that and used the program to design a few tandems and mountain bikes.

What inspired you to develop BikeCAD and what are the limits of the software?

I posted the BikeCAD program on bikeforest.com, an eccentric bicycle site I had started to share some of my projects. A few small framebuilders started using it, which I was happy to see. Eventually, the people at Serotta contacted me about customizing the program for their needs. Through working with Serotta, I started to recognize the potential the program held for other serious builders and fitters. Since then, the development of BikeCAD has become my primary focus. For now, BikeCAD does not address rear suspension designs, but can model pretty much any other diamond frame bike or tandem.

Have you time for bike design yourself?

If anyone ever has any trouble modeling a particular design on BikeCAD, I’m always happy to help them realize their vision. (There’s also an FAQ and glossary to assist newbies) In that regard, you’ll see several examples of my work on the BikeCAD forum. However, beyond that, I prefer to invest my time in adding new functionality to the program, so I guess I wouldn’t really call myself a bike designer at the moment.

Typically who downloads your software? Any big bike brand designers?

The majority of custom framebuilders use BikeCAD Pro, a small sample of which can be found here. Although BikeCAD was initially intended for the custom builder, the program now includes functionality that is also useful to bike shops and fit specialists. Fit specialists are the fastest growing segment of my customer base.

How complex is the software for a beginner wanting to try their hand?

BikeCAD is very easy for the beginner. When you launch the program, you instantly habikecadve a bike on the screen. All you have to do is change it to your liking using a series of menus, which you can use in any order you choose. These menus allow for control over such things as frame geometry, tubing shapes and curvature, components, paint, decals, dimension display and a parametric model of a rider.

Any tips for the beginner?

Have a look at the BikeCAD user guide. There are several video tutorials there to walk you through all aspects of the program.

It’s one thing designing a bike on a screen – what other knowledge would you recommend for the aspiring bike maker?

These days, custom frames are built in more ways than ever. Welding and machining remain valued skills for many BikeCAD users. However, several are now building custom frames in carbon, bamboo, wood and other non-traditional materials.

Would you perhaps attribute the increase in downloads to the proliferation of handmade bike builders?

BikeCAD sales have been increasing every year since I started selling the program in 2004. An increase in handmade bike builders, a greater appreciation for the importance of bicycle fitting, as well as glowing reviews from existing customers have all likely contributed to the continued growth of BikeCAD.

Beyond design, what other capabilities has the software?

Many fitters will use BikeCAD to model a rider’s existing bike. From there, they can design an entirely new frame, or they can retain the existing frame and swap in different components such as seatposts, saddles, stems, handlebars, headsets etc. Once a new setup has been established they can use BikeCAD as a documentation tool to display the critical dimensions of the new setup or highlight differences between the old and new.

bike cad2And it’s free to download? What additional perks come with a pro download?

There is a free version of BikeCAD which runs as a Java applet inside your web browser. BikeCAD Pro is a standalone Java application which does not require a browser plugin. It runs on any computer running Mac OS X, Windows XP to Windows 10 or Linux. BikeCAD Pro provides full access to all the dimensions necessary to build the frame, as well as the ability to customize the Fit advisor, export PDF’s, display a rider on the bike etc. BikeCAD Pro sells for $500 Canadian. This is a one time fee. As new versions of the software are released, all owners of the program receive the new update at no extra charge.

Big on Bike Fitting? Check in with our house expert Jon Iriberri and his deeply insightful columns here.