Tuesday, August 3, 2021
HomeInterviewsHambini - the Aeronautical Engineer who tells it like it is

Hambini – the Aeronautical Engineer who tells it like it is


If you read the recent, ‘Vik Rant’ we ran the other day, you’ll be aware that the VeloVeritas answer to Nostradamus is a disciple of a certain Mr. Hambini, purveyor of tools, small parts and bottom brackets as well as YouTube videos about the quality of bicycle frames and componentry.

His videos pull no punches and have not endeared him to certain sections of the frame and equipment community. The reply he gives is that he’s just telling the truth…

I thought it would be interesting speak to the man. Whilst we had him on the line we asked him his opinions on some of the bicycle design aspects of the moment. 

Thank you for speaking to us, can I open by asking about your background?

“I’m and aeronautical engineer on military jets like the Eurofighter Typhoon and the F 35 Lightning.”

How did you get into cycling?

“I have to tell you that I’m not someone who has ever ridden a bike to compete or is mad keen about the sport.

“I was simply a leisure cyclist who migrated into making parts for bicycles – I must stress that I’ve never had any desire to emulate Chris Froome.”

Hambini’s beautifully engineered custom shell for the BBright bottom bracket. Photo©Hambini

So how did you get into manufacturing cycle components?

“In or about the early 2000’s I was working with British Aerospace when a major cycling nation approached them; they wanted to go fast on the track and in time trials.

“I was an aerodynamicist then, at a time when the science of aerodynamics was at it’s absolute peak in the UK – even now it’s still at the cutting edge, many of the Formula One teams are based here.

“I was involved in the project to an extent on the aerodynamic side which piqued my interest.

“Around 2013/14 I bought a Cervelo S5 to commute on, it had a press fit bottom bracket which ‘wasn’t the best’ [Mr. Hambini described it in rather more strident terms] so I made one myself.

“Then I had problems with the Di2 on the bike and I took it to my local bike shop.

“The guy in the shop was looking at bike when he was sorting the Di2 and asked where I got the bottom bracket from, I told him I’d made it myself and he asked if I’d make him one. 

“It all started from there; the rep from MADISON, the importers heard about me and I started making brackets for them – a hundred quid bottom bracket is a lot more cost effective than replacing a frame.”

Why are your brackets superior?

“I’m not maintaining they’re superior but they won’t creak and they’re much stiffer.”

The Hambini PF3030 shell. Photo©Hambini

A pro mechanic friend of ours tells us that all press fit bottom brackets are ultimately doomed to wear and therefore creak?

“He’s right, if the bearing unit is harder than the bracket shell it’s being inserted into then the shell will wear.

“SRAM came up with a sleeve between the bracket and the shell but after a few extractions, that will wear too.”

Some frames you work on get a very bad press from you with non-round bottom brackets, voids in the carbon lay-up and mis-alignment; but you admire Look and Time frames – why?

“I believe that some manufacturers simply sub-contract from the cheapest source they can find so there’s minimal quality control.

“The Looks and Times are better designed from the start and have good locating systems for their bearings – they look like they have good quality control and attention to detail in their design and manufacture.”

Hambini has polarised viewers of his equipment videos with his opinions. Photo©YouTube

What’s the Hambini take on ceramic hub bearings?

“On a test rig they may spin nicely but in real life they’re so hard, harder than the bearing surfaces they run on, that’s called a ‘hardness differential’ and it means that they’ll eventually mark the bearing surfaces and run rough.”

Our hoop ‘guru’ tells us that 44 mm. is the optimal depth for aero rims?

“I’d say maybe a little deeper, maybe 55 mm but he’s certainly in the ball park.

“But when you get into 80/90 mm that’s just too deep for practical road use in the UK, it’s just too windy.”

Hambini explores the manufacturing of bearings and wheels, as well as framesets. Photo©YouTube

‘Wind tunnel tested’ road bikes, how relevant in the real world?

“In a bunch in a road race the wind will be coming at you in different directions and at different velocities, plus you’ll be moving about on the bike, constantly correcting and there’s also a lot of turbulence in a bunch.  

“In a wind tunnel everything is rigid, fixed so the results are irrelevant – I’d say ‘aero’ road frames are a waste of time.”

Disc brakes?

“I’ve never ridden a bike with discs so can’t really comment on performance but can tell you that they’ll cost 10/12 watts at race speed with the additional drag.”

Tubeless tyres?

“They enjoy better rolling resistance, yes, but if you get a cut which the self-sealing compound can’t cope with and you’re out on the road then you have a problem.

“There’s also the issue of seating the tyre on the rim, on a lot of occasions you need a compressor to get enough air into the tyre quickly to make it locate on the rim.

“I think there’s still development to be done.”

Over-size derailleur jockey rollers?

“A waste of time, the extra aero drag with the longer cage negates any friction savings – and there’s a slight weight penalty with the longer chain.”

The trend to mega chainrings on the track and in time trials?

“That’s valid because it reduces the angle the chain runs at but there’s  trade off – if you look at how much closer to the road the bottom of the chain ring is then that has to cause more turbulence, the top of the ring isn’t so much of a problem because that air is churned already.”

1 x transmission a good idea or vehicle to sell more frames and group sets?

“A student at one of the universities chose that very subject for his thesis and his conclusion was that if you’re a rider who can cope with a wide variation of cadences, say 70 to 90 rpm than they’re fine.

“But if you’re someone who rides within a narrower cadence band, say 85 to 90 rpm then they’re not for you and you need double chain rings.”

Is paying £7,700 for a pair of wheels justifiable?

“That’s not for me to say, perhaps if they were made to micron tolerances then ‘yes’ – but do you need that kind of tolerance on a pair of wheels?”

Team GB’s radical Olympic track bike. Photo©Hope Technologies

What’s your opinion on the new GB Lotus Hope machines?

“My aero philosophy would be to minimize breakages in the path of the air from front to rear of the bike. 

“The Lotus has gone for the exact opposite and I think it will be quite a flexible frame in riding. 

“The Argon 18 bike or the Koga with close clearances is what I would go for.”

Finally, tell us about those YouTube videos of yours.

“When I realised that much of the cycling Media in the UK was just an extension of the marketing departments of the major bicycle manufacturers I decided that someone had to tell the truth.

“And most of what I say is just common sense…” 

And he does not ‘hold back’ when he says it! With thanks to the man for his time and insights.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

The VV View: In the Bleak MidWinter

Brexit, Covid, desperate weather, it’s been a long hard winter and we're still in what might be termed the Bleak Mid-Winter, made even worse by the sad news that former Scottish cyclo-cross, grass track and MTB Champion Craig Hardie has lost his fight with cancer. VeloVeritas offers deepest condolences to his friends, supporters and family.

CeramicSpeed Helping Riders Triumph On The Global Stage

Since launching in 2004, CeramicSpeed have been working hard to provide cyclists with the very best equipment, giving riders ease of mind when competing at the highest level – and most importantly – valuable marginal gains.

Craig Middleton – Onix Bikes Owner, Designer, Webmaster…

We became aware of the bike brand Onix when our blogger, Asfra Professional Dan Patten told us he was using them for this coming season. Thrashing around the Flandrian kermises and InterClub races on the cobbles, concrete roads and paths will be sure to give any bike a good test, and Dan has been enthusing to us about his new machines. Turns out Onix Bikes was started recently by Craig Middleton, who gave up his previous job in printing and threw everything into creating something pretty different.

The Continental Grand Prix 5000 cream sidewall tyre is back!

To celebrate the 2021 Tour de France, Continental has today announced the return of the cream sidewall Continental Grand Prix 5000 road tyre, which joins the transparent sidewall and traditional black tyres to form the new colours range.

Dr. Pad Seat Pad Replacement – Review

Seat pad replacement. It seems it's a fairly common requirement amongst people who ride a lot or race; changing the worn or uncomfortable seat pad (or "chamois", if you or your clothing are of a certain age) in your shorts and so extend the life of the garment whilst increasing the comfort factor, and there are a number of options available to you to achieve this - but fewer than you would imagine in this consumerist, throwaway culture. We're happy to report that we've found a company who are able to replace your seat pads for a minimal cost and who have an extensive range of quality pads available (at the time of writing there are 26 different styles available!) to suit pretty much every requirement and body type; Dr. Pad.

FSA K-Force WE makes history at the Vuelta a España

Full Speed Ahead, the fourth electronic road groupset producer in the world, has just debuted its electronic wireless FSA K-Force WE groupset in a three-week Grand Tour with a historical triumph on Stage 5 of La Vuelta a España.

At Random

Davie Lines – “It’s Just a Pity I’m Too Old!”

Last weekend saw Endura's Davie Lines realise one of his big goals in the sport in winning the Scottish Criterium Championships. We had a word with 'Falkirk's Flying Fireman' (sorry), here's what he had to say.

Phil Young Memorial Time Trial

The recent Phil Young Memorial TT was a tremendous success. The weather was a bit cold and damp but it certainly didn't dampen the enjoyment of the field. Every rider in the race got a prize, and it was really nice to see the expression on the face of riders who have never won a prize before.

Havik and Van Schip top the Copenhagen Three Day

From the very first chase there was little doubt about who was in charge of the Copenhagen Three Day 2020; Dutchmen Jan Van Schip and Yoeri Havik were the strongest men on the track. In the recent UCI World Cup in Milton, Canada Van Schip won the Omnium then teamed up with Havik to win the Madison – so we knew they were on form.

Yuriy Metlushenko – Winning Races Across the Globe for a Decade and a Half

If you’re a regular VeloVeritas reader then you’ll know we try to buck the superlatives trend – ‘iconic’ and ‘awesome’ are words you won’t see on our pages too often. But we have to use a superlative when we talk about today’s interview subject, the Ukraine’s Yuriy Metlushenko – ‘Legendary.’ He’s been winning bike races across the globe for a decade and a half and shows no sign of slowing down.

Introducing Two of my Astellas Teammates

Two of my Astellas teammates are Ryan Aitcheson, 25, from Kitchener, Ontario (Canada) and Olly Moors, 19, from West Sussex (England). Ryan is one of the best criterium racers in North America. He is also my longest standing teammate. Olly has only been on club teams up until this point. He’s now a professional and he and I are teammates; Ryan and I passed Olly on the way home from our ride and he told us about a racing memory, because I asked.

Giro d’Italia 2012 – Stage 14: Cherasco – Cervinia 205km. Ryder Back in Pink

Today we're in Cervinia, looking back at yesterday's stage... we thought it was the end for Cav. The gruppetto was way down on the first of the two big climbs of the day - but Cav was even further back.