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Back 2.8.2018

Bikes of Zipp: Dave Morse’s Think Piece

Dave Morse’s aero track bike hangs in Zipp’s advanced development lab in Indianapolis. It’s pristine, yet to be ridden.

He will eventually climb aboard the custom Dimond frame with Zipp wheels, most likely at the nearby Major Taylor Velodrome, and surge at anaerobic threshold around the banked oval. Yet this story runs deeper than simply building a bike to ride. Just as a sculptor chips away marble to reveal an artistic vision, Morse, the self-described bike nerd, laid up carbon to reveal his cycling vision.

“It’s my interpretation of a bicycle,” said Morse, a Zipp advanced development engineer. 

The Essence of Performance

First, he sought simplicity. He wanted a track bike. 

“It’s the minimum that you could have for a working bike. If you take off any part of that bike, it becomes non-functional, which is not true of your typical road bike,” Morse said. “You could lose a brake or you could lose some gears or your front derailleur, you can ride it. But on a track bike, you take any single piece off and it’s not a bike anymore.”

Morse has raced road, track, cyclocross, and triathlon. For this project, he was inspired by the melding of technology and human performance demanded by track events such as pursuit racing and the hour record.

“You’re trying to do as much as you can with very limited resources. A human on a bike really can only put out about half a horsepower, or even less in some cases, for sustained efforts. Yet you can get it to go 50 km per hour sustained for a while, for example the hour record,” he said. “To do that, though, you really have to squeeze every once of energy into going forward, and eliminating drag and friction and all of the other things that slow you down. From an engineering standpoint, it’s really fun to try to tweak and optimize and refine. Then you get to see the results of your work when you ride, going faster for less effort is really fun, validating and exciting.”

Reflecting a Career 

Morse started racing on his high school cycling team. He began on a loaner, a 25-pound (11.34kg) Bridgestone two sizes too big. He worked in a bike shop. “I immediately got hooked,” he said.  Then he studied mechanical and biomedical engineering at the University of Colorado-Boulder, where he also raced on the triathlon team.  

After college he applied for jobs at Cervelo and Zipp. “I didn’t hear anything from either of them, and then like six months later I got a call for an interview at Zipp,” Morse said. “That was probably the one time in my life where I really felt like a kid on Christmas day, overjoyed. But I had to play it cool on the phone call. I tried my best to keep an even voice.”

In November 2008, he moved to Indianapolis and started work on what were then Zipp’s biggest projects: Carbon Clincher and Firecrest technologies. In 2013, he left Zipp for Iowa triathlon-bike startup Dimond bikes, which produces “beam” style bikes first inspired by the Zipp 2001 bike. In 2015, Morse returned to Zipp’s advanced development team, working on projects including NSW wheels.

In building this bike, Morse sought to represent his career by selecting a Dimond frame and slightly modifying it for track usage. He designed the molds and did the carbon layup. He also designed the fork. For wheels, he selected the Super-9 Disc and 808 Firecrest Carbon Clinchers, both wheels he helped design.

Honoring the Past, Contemplating the Future

Morse also sought to pay tribute to the bygone era of unconventional aero superbikes of the 1990s. The American-themed paint scheme of his Dimond bike is a tribute to the “Project 96” bikes of the 1996 U.S. Olympic cycling team. It’s also a nod to the fact that Zipp and Dimond manufacture in the U.S.

Though he loves history, Morse’s job in advanced development is rooted in the future. As part of Zipp’s AD lab, “The Nest,” his responsibility is to develop concepts for projects several years away from reality. It’s constant trial and error. “Our goal is to weed out the good ideas from the bad ideas, and do it as quickly as possible spending as little resources as possible. Just because something doesn’t work, doesn’t mean that you wasted all of the time working on it,” Morse said.

There’s something hard to define about Morse’ bike. It’s gloriously elegant yet gloriously impractical. (Its frame design is not legal for UCI track competition.)

It’s an idea as much as a bike. 

“It took me a while to build it, and when I finished it wasn’t riding season, so I am waiting for next season to really take it out,” Morse said. “I don’t really want to use it as an everyday thing. I’m not going to race it. I’ll probably take it out to the velodrome just to say I did. It will probably end up under a canvas in my basement for decades before I dust it off again.”

Morse paused, adding: “Somehow it’s just comforting knowing that it exists.” 

Like all good ideas, it’s stored away deep in the brain, ready to inspire and be improved upon again and again.

More Bikes of Zipp Features 

Bikes of Zipp is an ongoing series featuring the bikes of our employees and the stories (and passion for cycling) behind them.

Bikes of Zipp – Ivy Cline’s Getaway Ride

Bikes of Zipp – BISSELL-ABG-GIANT’S ZIPP AND SRAM Setup

Bikes of Zipp – Dave Schweikert rides across the USA for WBR

Bikes of Zipp – Engineer Todd Winget Goes Old School

Bikes of Zipp - Chris Chou's Track Bike