Latest Technology Carbon Fiber Wheel

Met for the 1st time Michael Kamalian from Revolution Cycle Manufacturing  during the 2005 V-Twin Expo where he was exhibiting his first custom motorcycle fitted with his own carbon fiber parts, frame, tank, wheels etc.  Seven years later we talked again at the same last weekend V-twin Expo and Michael gave me an update on his company progression and specifically on the improvement brought to his carbon wheels that he manufactures in his Marietta, Georgia facility.

But first, a reminder of the multiple advantages of carbon fiber wheels. In addition of look (if it’s the one you are after), because of reduced static mass (upward to 26+ lbs on some common wheel sizes) a motorcycle will feel lighter while riding, turn faster and just make handling more controllable and comfortable. 

Mike redesigned all his wheels using technologies not available just a few years ago. They are no more pieced together, like in the past, but in fact woven in one piece through a 3D tube, providing increased strength over the original carbon designs. Some fitment issues for some motorcycles have been resolved by creating a removable hub system similar to the one used in conventional billet wheels.  It’s now possible to fit any make, model, and year (of course, if a conventional chain/belt drive is used).  These carbon fiber wheels can be adapted to single sided hubs and to some fancy specialty brake systems now offered by the industry .

Current sizes offered are. For front wheel: 17×3.5, 18×3.5, 19×3, 21×2.15, 21×3.5, and 23×3.5. For rear: 17×6, 18×3.5, 18×5.5, 18×8.5, and 18×10.5.  The good news is that due to new more efficient technology, cost is much lower with retail pricing starting at $1,600 for front and $1,900 for rear, with a $200 surcharge for the 23″ front and 10.5″ rear sizes.  They are offered in a 6-spoke design for the first runs with a 5-spoke model in the works. Expect to see these carbon wheels on quite a few high-end custom motorcycles during the 2011 show tour. Revolution Cycle Manufacturing. 770-420-9191

18 Responses to “Latest Technology Carbon Fiber Wheel”

  1. 1 Drake Feb 13th, 2011 at 9:56 am

    It’s many years that I think about building using carbon fiber for frame, tank & wheels. Still hesitant.

  2. 2 Larry R Feb 13th, 2011 at 11:44 am

    If it ain’t steel, it ain’t real.

  3. 3 J Feb 13th, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    The mechanical advantages of using carbon fiber wheels are extremely tasty- I hope these start to pick up in application, wonder what happened to the couple of companies that have played with these already- didn’t Dymag reorg?

  4. 4 fluke Feb 13th, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Dymag are back making wheels in the UK, just have limited wheel sizes, so do BST in South Africa. they both really cater to the sportbike market.

    Revolution AFAIK are the only ones doing these HD or custom bike sizes at the moment.

    Though there is also a French company bringing some to market later in the year. They are very different in both design and technology to Revolutions models.

    As competition heats up I can see carbon wheels hitting billet aluminium prices within 5 years, increased choice is good.

  5. 5 bigitch Feb 13th, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    looked at the web page and saw nothing on frames. am i missing something or did it not become a reality?

  6. 6 fluke Feb 13th, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Bigitch, frames are an issue, while carbon frames can be made easy enough, retail sales of frames are problematic as there is this thing called galvanic corrosion which is hard to avoid.

    Galvanic corrosion happens when materials of different nobility are mechanically attached to each other, an electrochemical reaction happens, you have probably all seen it at some time in your life. An electrical charge is formed between them as Carbon composite is also an electrical conductor, but radically different to the conductibility of steel or aluminium, about the only metal that can be directly attached to carbon fibre without galvanic effect is titanium, as it has an almost identical nobility. Titanium is a bugger to work with and eats expensive machine tooling for breakfast.

    If you attach a steel bolt though a carbon chassis the galvanic effect over time will cause the carbon to absorb water and de-laminate and the steel to corrode. As there is no way of removing the water from the air around us the carbon needs to be both electrically and hydraulically isolated from the steel or aluminium to stop that, there are a variety of ways to do this, but it is not something you can trust to an unknown retail customer and also stand by your product. Wheels are an easy product to electrically isolate via chemical bonding or hard water repelling gaskets between the wheel and aluminium hub, chassis’ with the multitude of fixation points for various materials the bike builder needs, aren’t.

    I hope that makes some sense.

  7. 7 Quint w/ Feb 13th, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    Well put, Fluke. Thank you.

  8. 8 bigitch Feb 13th, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    then it would be save to say they use a titanium axle or some sort of sleeve around the axle?

  9. 9 Wiz Feb 14th, 2011 at 3:09 am

    Wow Fluke, you sure know yer poop when it comes to this subject. Is that what happens when you use a stainless steel bolt in certain applications and immeadiatly try to remove it? It siezes Big Time! It’ a Bitch! I’ve noticed this phenomina a couple of times. Wiz

  10. 10 Revolution Mfg Feb 14th, 2011 at 10:16 am

    Ok lets address some of the comments:

    First, we were the ones to bring the wheels to the hd market a while ago when we partnered w/ BST. many issues with diff things caused us to do it ouselves, in house. And if you look at all the guys running these things in race applications and on the stree, well, that should negate the comment “they will never work”. We have some new projects going together this year with our new design that should be fun and make people take notice.

    Fluke (and others), i agree with most of your comment but the technique for using any conductive metal directly on carbon hasnt been done in over 20 years (in commercial applications – theres is always that exception though). Carbon does have conductivity (spotty at times but still there). stainless steel and more commonly, aluminum, are wrapped in a layer of fibreglass thus insulating the metal from any effect of delam or debonding around the part. The chassis we did back in 2002 was a hardtail and still rides the streets once a month. that frame is a true monocoque design and has stainless inserts on where metal to metal contact would be (rear axle, engine mounting points, streering neck bearings, etc). The last variant we did (for the S&S build off back in 2008) weighed in at 342# wet and the motor put out 174hp and 168trq. Also we are VERY close to getting to billet wheels in price and if you look at the accent cut stuff (dont wanna get sued by anyone for saying contrast cut), we are there.

    Bigitch there are 3 bikes on the site we did out of our carbon frame. The frame was done as an exercise to see if it could be done (and a dollar bet by a magazine friend). It was never meant for production as i knew the costs back then were outrageous as well as the point fluke pointed out that most peopel arent versed in what can and cant be done with the material. I have 2 new designs i have been working on and with the advances in mfg techiques, i may bring them to market in a year or so.

    I appreciate all the input, good an bad so let rip!

    Michael Kamalian
    CEO – Revolution Manufacturing

  11. 11 RogerG Feb 14th, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Mike its great to see you are still perfecting the wheel, really liked the old ones and i can see you doing quite well with these as you can kick them out the door competitively priced against the billet stuff. Getting that unsprung weight down on a bike does wonders.
    Cheers r

  12. 12 Bigalyts Feb 14th, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Michael, very good way to Promote and Distribute your Wheel’s and if you can get by these SHARPSTER’S on Cyril’s Blog then you got a Winner! These Dood’s ,are REAL SAVY! I Love the Wheel and I understand the difference in moving Mass and Inertia and all of those calculations, tribulations and everyhing else. I just don’t think that it means so much on a 600 lb. or 800 Lb V-Twin with 70 HP!. If I was V-Twin Ducati Hipster, or a Busa Owner riding a 180 HP Murdercycle it might make sense, but those $$$$’s are Mucho!.

  13. 13 Revolution Mfg Feb 14th, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    Rodger – great to hear from you and if youre doing anything new let me know what i can do

    Bigalyts – your statement making a diff on the bigger bikes is actually backwards – it make a much bigger diff on those than a busa or race bike. ask anyne from brian klock and his wfb bagger bike to rodger (above) from his bonny bikes. i have a 2009 flhx streetglide here at the shop that feels as light as a dyna when in motion. if youre in the atlanta area anytime or can catch me at a rally, i invite you to try it. i am positive, like my other old skeptics, that you will be amazed at the diff.

    Michael Kamalian
    CEO – Revolution Manufacturing

  14. 14 Jim Gianatsis / Feb 14th, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    I have been running BST carbon fibre wheels on my Ducati Superbikes for 10 years, street and track, and have never experienced a problem. They can can even have tires mounted with regular tire changing machines. A few years ago in the sportbike market you could easily save 6-8 pounds per wheel when changing from a cast aluminum OEM wheel to carbon fibre. The handling and performance gain was incredible and well worth the cost on a 400lb sportbike.

    That performance value on a high end sportbike has recently been somewhat negated by the latest superlight OEM Marchesini forged billet wheels which are only 1 lb more per wheel than the BS carbon fibre. Its difficult now to justify a $3200 set of carbon wheels just to save 2lbs. You can now save 8 pounds for just $140 by switching to a new lithium battery.

    The question for a custom Harley you have to ask, is your Big Twin light enough and performance oriented enough that you will even notice the difference the weight savings by switching to CF wheels? If you are a straight line cruiser, then it makes no sense. But if you are building a high performance hot rod you will be riding hard on twisty roads, then the answer is “yes”.

  15. 15 fluke Feb 14th, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Michael, my response to Bigitch was talking about the problems of retail sales of bare frames to unknown people who may not get the issues involved with using carbon parts, as you know they cannot be treated in the same way as a steel frames. The solutions to the negatives are fairly easy to work around and well proven ( as you say, for over 20 years) if you are aware of them and make allowances in design, the advantages of using structural carbon composites are immense. Not many frames are left 100% stock by the custom bike builder , those changes scare me if I am the one who would have to stand by the guarantee. I bet we can both ( and others) easily bring commercial frames to market but I have no desire to pay the public liability insurance premiums if I do.

    Bicycle frames, where chassis flex absorbs rider power, have been using this technology to great advantage for decades, it is time the custom motorbike industry joined them. but Bicycles tend to follow a very set and less complicated formula with fixation points for non carbon parts, not so with custom motorbikes.

    I learned my trade with composite race cars , unsprung weight is enemy number 1 if you wish to achieve good handling, first on the list of upgrades has always been lighter wheels, aluminium over steel, magnesium over Alu, Carbon over magnesium. 1 lb lost on the unsprung or rotating mass is worth at least 5lb in the frame/powerplant.

    Like you say, until you have ridden with them you will never get how much better they hold the road and easier they handle the twisties.

  16. 16 RUB Feb 14th, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    I have seen carbon fiber parts fail . its quick and unforgiving . I can see the benifits for racing , its the street that would concern me . a steel rim will bend , not shatter .

    google carbon fiber wheel failure

  17. 17 jatinder pal Feb 15th, 2011 at 8:18 am

    If u are out to build exotic custom bike u have to have the CARBON FIBER.

    Lighter parts to go fast.PERIOD.

  18. 18 Patrick Jansen Feb 21st, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    My brother and I were just looking at my trip map in the garage last week and he started doing the math on miles. Just over 500,000 since I started riding and hopefully many more to go. Point is, I ride, alot. I’ve ridden alot of big touring bikes for lots of these miles. I worked for Mike at Revolution for about a year and while Mike is kind of a putz (love you Mike) these wheels are freaking awesome. I rode the 2009 FLHX regularly to events and around the mean streets of Atlanta and that bike handles 10X better than any other Harley bagger I’ve been on. Cost is an issue. I was responsible for selling those puppies and it really takes the right customer to pick up on their value. I’ve recently sold two sets however to a custom builder in California after he picked up a used set of Revolution wheels and gave them a try. They’re worth the money. You’ll spend many more dollars on engine and chassis upgrades trying to accomplish what these wheels will give you. Hey Mike, can I have my job back? These wheels look great!

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Cyril Huze