All About UNNO
by Paul Aston
UNNO may be a new name, but it showcases an accumulation of knowledge and brain power from one of the most seasoned bike designers in the business.
Cesar Rojo, and his design studio, "Cero," is the man and machine behind Unno bikes. Never 'eard of 'im? Rojo was teammates with a young Greg Minnaar and Mick Hannah, back in the glory Global Racing era. The Spanish junior champion was picked up by Martin Whitely's former mega-team, where he managed a career-best, sixth place at a muddy Les Gets World Cup. That was way back in 2002, before the young man became burnt-out with full-time racing and studying side by side. Cesar left racing at the age of 21 to concentrate on his masters degree in industrial design.
Since then, Rojo has been a key player, developing motorcycles for KTM, Superbike teams. and the short-lived JotaGas trials motorcycle. Mondraker's Forward Geometry theory was conjured by Cesar, and some of the finest shapes and structures to come out of Alicante, including the stunning Foxy, Dune and Summum, which recently made history in Val di Sole. Cero is also the brains behind other brand's bikes - most, under strict disclosure restrictions by manufacturers who represent their bikes to as their own creations.
Powered by minds like Rojo's the Catalan's are becoming a well-respected driving force in the industry, and secrecy is turning into pride. Expect the next big thing in downhill to appear before Christmas, with "Designed by Cero" proudly stickered onto the chassis.
What is Unno?
Unno is a five-bike lineup, from a cross-country racer, to a downhill juggernaut. The range includes two XC bikes, a hardtail and a 100mm full-suspension model: a 130mm-travel, 29"-wheel trail bike; a 160mm-travel, 27.5"-wheel enduro bike; and a 200mm-travel downhiller. Every frame is created from premium carbon fiber, designed, molded, laid up and baked to perfection in downtown Barcelona. Destruction and fatigue testing is done downstairs in Cero's workshop, and test riding is straight out of the door and up into the hills behind the city. All that adds up to some of the best frames on the market, combined with one of the highest price tags: ranging from €4000 for the hardtail, €5000 for the full suspension frames, and up to €5500 for the downhill bike.
Geometry and Sizing
Unno's bikes are built around principles that should be prevalent across the industry but often aren't. Frames are designed to create a feel that is consistent across every bike in their range. Medium sizes were first to come off the press, with a reach number at 455mm using a 30mm stem. The XC frame is slightly shorter, but uses a longer stem to maintain a similar reach.
Geometry is configured to progress between bikes, low to high. The XC bikes start with the steepest head angle and shortest chainstay - angles that should give the best handling on predominantly flat terrain, with the short chainstay giving maximum power transfer and direct grip. As the plane of trail turns downwards, head angles slacken for steering and balance, seat angles steepen for sharper climbs and to offset suspension sag. Chainstays grow longer for stability, with an understanding that there is less call for pedaling grip from due to chunkier tire choices.
Overall, the geometry is somewhere in the range of Mondraker's radical "Forward Geometry," the Mojo GeoMetron, and Pole Bicycle's mega radical, double forward geometry.
Initial plans are to construct 25 frames of each model, all in the most popular medium size. Off the back of these sales, Unno are hoping to up production and add a large frame option, which will feature a big, 490mm reach.
European Carbon Construction
Cero already had some of the machinery in-house for crafting these beauties. Two of CNC millers in the workshop used for prototyping motorcycle parts, now spend some of their time crafting huge chunks of billet into frame molds. If you think mountain bikes are expensive, and are chomping at the bit to comment "I could buy an MX bike for the same price as this frame," consider this: an unnamed, competition motocross brake caliper had just popped out of the machine when I arrived. Retail price will be €12000, for the caliper only. Obviously, not the same brakes you get on a production motocross bike, but it's nice to know that when buying an Unno, you access the same level of technology those guys race on.
Mold machines, check. Design experts in-house that already work with carbon frame manufacturers, check. All that was left to complete this jigsaw was some polystyrene internal molds (mandrels), and a carbon fiber cutter. The rest of the manufacturing time is just laborious, time-consuming placement of carbon shapes into the molds followed by a couple of hours in the oven.
Cesar stressed that the Spanish production towel had been on the verge being flung, many times in favor of the easier option of Asian production. But, he couldn't do it. Not fully content with the ethics and accuracy of the Far East, he decided to keep on going in his home country. Sure, he could have saved money, made the end product cheaper, and had frames on sale for at least two years by now, but that's not always the way to do things. In-house manufacturing means they can have complete control over every step of the process, as well as much shorter lead times for prototyping, for trying new ideas and generally having the freedom to act like men in a shed, making stuff they think is cool.
The most important factor for Unno in the carbon lay-up is the combination of comfort against strength. Cesar suggested that most carbon frames are too stiff in the wrong directions because manufacturers don't have the knowledge, or above all, the time to experiment with multiple layups and structures.
Styling is also consistent through the range. Unno wanted the frames to look sleek and fast from the side, but give an empowering feel when you're on the bike. Looking down on the frame, the tubes look broad and robust. All frames share a similarly shaped, slim top tube, rear brake mounts that nestle inside the chainstays, and internal hose and cable routing. Production bikes also feature internal carbon tubes for simplified component installation.
Unno has also built test rigs to do their own destruction and CEN testing. All of the sample frames have exceeded the CEN safety standards by over 50%.
DASH Trail bike
AORA XC bike
BURN Enduro bike
In the same vain as the geometry and sizing, the suspension also works its way up in terms of progression and length of travel. Towards the downhill end of the spectrum, more progression is found as the travel increases. All bikes follow a similar leverage theme, initially progressive with small bump sensitivity towards the sag point, which then continues in a more linear fashion on the way to bottom out. The final part of the stroke is regressive to work with air shocks and their inherent end stroke ramp up. Dual link designs are found on all bikes with inline yokes to drive the shocks, with the exception of the downhill bike that has the shock eyelet nestled in between the link and swingarm for an increased stiffness in the design.