Factory Tour - July 17, 2009
Aerospoke, Inc. Milford, Michigan
Here's the Aerospoke crew in front of Right Brain Brewery in Traverse City at the
Fixed Gear Symposium Trackstand Contest sponsored by Aerospoke. Thanks guys.
Pictured left to right Joey, Luke, Mike Panczyk, Bill Micol, Summer, Kyle and Larry Carlson:
So it was a beautiful morning on July 17th when I headed down to the Detroit area and a stop at the Aerospoke facility in
Milford. Milford is most noted in these parts for being the site of the General Motors Proving Grounds, a place of
considerable innovative testing all the way back to the 1950's. It'll be interesting to see how much of that innovation
rubbed off on the Aerospoke team.
This is I-75 near Flint, Michigan; another storied GM town here in Michigan.
After a swing to the east on I-96 just north of Ann Arbor, it's a turn north onto South Milford Road for a couple of miles.
And then a right turn onto Holden Road.
And on the left .... Aerospoke and Giroux Precision.
So, let's pull in. Larry, Mike and crew are expecting my visit.
First up, cup of coffee and the history of how Aerospoke came into being from; (left to right)
Bill Micol, Head of Sales, Mike Panczyk, Director; and Larry Carlson, President of Aerospoke, Inc.
from the Aerospoke website:
"Aerospoke founder Ed Giroux started out as a precision machinist, tool and mold maker. He later opened
his own business in Milford, Michigan where Aerospoke is still located today. As an accomplished triathlete, it was Ed's love
for cycling that inspired him to pursue a strong, aerodynamic, fast, low-maintenance wheel. Using the skills that he honed at
his trade over the years, he developed the first Aerospoke wheel and the company was incorporated in 1988."
Here is an interview that BSNYC did with Bill Micol in 2007.
Here's a raw Aerospoke wheel on Larry's desk, along with it's alloy hub, and some sections cut to show wall thickness and the
interior of the hollow spoke sections.
After the usual chit-chat, it's off to take a look at the factory where Aerospoke wheels (and some other unique
products) are manufactured.
There's the classic Mayline drafting board sitting forlornly in the corner. The Mayline tilting drafting board was once
found by the thousands in and around the Detroit area....back in the days before computers every part was hand-drawn on
velum drafting paper and every change and correction painstakingly made as well. Replaced mostly by computer screens and
plotters they still serve well. I nearly bought one last month - virtually brand-new for $125.00, they cost 3x that back
in the 70's even, Aerospoke finds theirs useful too while a CAD program on the computer at the right does the design work
faster and cleaner..
Giroux Precision offers product design, precision maching, welding and assembly, investment casting, and injection molding, so
out in the west section of the plant, Aerospoke has some pretty sophisticated computer operated equipment for the original
business that Ed Giroux started back in the 1970's - building molds for investment casting and plastic injection molding.
The processes for manufacting these molds has changed as well since then, with CNC machines handling
many complex machining
On the day of my visit, Giroux Precision was finishing a batch of housings for a military contract.
Meanwhile, a bit closer to the front .... wait, what's this clear plastic cover?
We'll find out soon.
Below are some machined hubs that'll be inserted into an Aerospoke wheel. Aerospoke can manufacture all of these parts in-house.
From the Aerospoke website:
"Our hubs and hardware are machined from solid billets of 7075 Aluminum – the same superior quality Aluminum alloy found in
aircraft. Ratchets and cassettes are made from ion-nitrided steel for maximum hardness and durability. All hubs and hardware
are made in our Milford, Michigan plant to exacting quality standards."
And wait, is Bill going to let us see what's in this machine?
This is the simple little machine where your Aerospoke wheel was trued and machined parellel. Just in case you thought you
could make your own in the basement garage, here's just one of the machines that you'll need. We'll see the molding
machine in another part of the building.
And here's a stack of Aerospokes with the rim attached. Interestingly, Aerospokes uses rim sections exclusively
from Velocity USA - another loyal Gallery supporter - and Michigan manufacturer that is in Grand Rapids just west on I-96 about
from the Aerospoke website:
"Aerospoke considers Velocity Rims some of the finest made and
is proud to use them exclusively on our wheels."
Next up ... Aerospokes can be finished in a wide variety of colors and finishes and we'll see some more colors
a bit later, but, wait, there's a whole stack of the clear wheel covers, what's up with them?
Mike and Larry explained that Aerospoke wheels aren't only used on bikes - they're the totally hot choice
for sulky wheels on horse tracks around the world. The clear plactic covers are designed to keep horses feet
out of the spokes...Aerospokes have been proven to be stronger than the conventional spoked wheel - Bet you had
no idea that 700c wheels were used in horse racing. If they are strong enough for horse racing, they'll surely
hold up to your abuse.
Wait, what's this? A broken Aerospoke. Larry didn't really want to tell me about this wheel. Sent in for
replacement my some horse racing stable. Kicked by a horse, yes even an Aerospoke can be damaged. This wheel had logged
literally thousands of miles on the tracks before it met it's demise. That's a lot more abuse that you'll ever give it.
So, does the Aerospoke clear cover have a home on your polo bike? They aren't light, but they'll sure stop the ball
from going through. What about polo on a windy day? Don't know, hasn't been tried yet. Maybe Mike and his crew
can make up a lighter weight cover for polo use. Guys?
As I promised, here's some Aerospokes in some other colors. Most 'Spokes are custom made.
Want a pair in striped neon yellow and pink? They can probably make 'em up for you.
Neon green static or ........
Treebark camouflage? Yep, it can be done.
A really detailed Walnut Burl too. Nothing seems impossible
Track hubs or cassette hubs are available too. The basic spoked wheel and rim can
be mated up for any combination including front wheels.
And ... surprise ... you can even get Aerospokes in plain black.
Here's a rack of Aerospokes waiting to ship to a street near you.
Or holy cow, the Neon Pink really lights up in Michigan's July sunshine.
But wait, there's still a bit more to see at Aerospoke.
What's going on back here? This is the other little machine - the injection molding machine needed to make the Aerospoke wheel.
Here's another molding machine used for some other projects, but as Larry pointed out ...look up on
the wall behind the machine. Those are the first three Aerospoke wheels made back in the late 80's.
A lot of 'Spokes have gone through this room since then.
And finally, here's a quick shot of one of the other products these guys make - the is the Evolution Sulky. Better pair
yourself up with one of these and a couple wheels....and a few fast trotters.
So hope you enjoyed a quick look at Aerospoke. Check out their website for their dealer list and their full product line.
Here's a few shots from the 2009 Fixed Gear Symposium Trackstand Contest - Winner Joergen Trepp holding
the big prize - a pair of Aerospoke wheels. A worthy winner.
Dennis Bean-Larson ... firstname.lastname@example.org