David Martínez is one of the key pieces of the whole ROTOR team. Director of the engineering and project departments, through his hands pass all ROTOR components, from the first sketches to final production. We sit with him so he can explain to us his day to day, the future of ROTOR and his professional opinions in a super interesting conversation.
1.David, as Director of ROTOR’s Engineering and Projects department, tell us a bit about your daily life.
They are two different roles. In the engineering department, we cover from the conception of ideas to their validation to the production of a new product. Project management is more transversal and involves practically the entire company; it is about being aligned with achieving the objective that is to achieve new components that improve the rider experience, which is the mission of ROTOR.
I usually start the day by getting updated, I review what was achieved the day before, I think about the goals for the coming day, I take a look at the emails… We usually have a lot of teamwork throughout the day, as I was saying we are all aligned. The team spirit mixes with the cyclist, and some of us take advantage of lunchtime to go out and enjoy our passion, the bike, and come back with more strength to face the afternoon.
In these days of confinement, we have obviously seen these habits changed, but we continue to work 100% and maintain very fluid communication.
2. How many people are working in both departments?
Although we have engineers in practically all areas of the company (in production, in quality control …), 8 people are involved in product design. These 8 engineers normally conceive the ideas for new products or technologies (although the proposals may come from any area of the company, sales are also common, but we also listen to the rest of the competition, assembly colleagues …). We design and we generate the drawings to be able to manufacture the prototypes with which to validate, we test in our laboratory before moving on to field tests, and finally we document and prepare the system to launch the final product into production.
Innovation is a constant in ROTOR products and this is part of the product development process, resulting many times in patents that we also write ourselves. ROTOR’s innovative spirit remains true to its beginnings, and among the participants in product development, we have the company’s founder and engineer, Pablo Carrasco.
The project management function involves all areas of the company. With the constitution of a new project, a project team is created with representatives of the different roles (sales, marketing, manufacturing …) who work in coordination throughout the project.
3. 12 years at ROTOR means having been involved in very exciting projects like Q rings, hydraulic drive transmissions, or INpower watt metering systems. What has been the most difficult project to develop under ROTOR standards?
My time at ROTOR is more intense than you might imagine, as can be gathered from the products listed in the question. The powermeters, in their different generations and models, have been a very nice challenge, but the most complicated project to undertake has been the “Groupset”, the complete set of derailleurs that encompasses all the transmission components (connecting rods and chainrings, cassettes …) including hubs and wheels in the current 1×13 generation, or brakes in the road / gravel version.
4. The 1×13 MTB Groupset is one of a kind, with a 10-52 range cassette and 331 grams in weight. Do you think 13 speeds is the limit for external transmissions, or does it make sense to add more speeds to the equation even with limited space on the hub and chain line interaction?
13 speed is the maximum we can offer today. It is an advance in terms of 1x transmissions, which currently occupy the market, providing more range, 520%, and a smaller spacing between gears as it has a sprocket more than usual.
Nor should we forget the advantages of having a 1×13 platform in which to choose the components to your liking; the 10-52 cassette is the most used for mountain use, but there are those who choose another of our options, the 10-46, for some disciplines such as the XCO, managing to lighten up even more and put the sprockets a little more together. And we have 2 other sizes of cassettes to cover other disciplines such as road, gravel, triathlon … and we doubled with all previous versions, but in 12 speeds, which are compatible with conventional hubs / wheels.
Matching 13 speeds with existing frames has been a challenge only possible due to advances such as the boost platform (148 mm between dropouts), which allows us to have more space to move the hub and the right flange of the hub inwards to make room for one more sprocket, without losing rigidity and reliability in the wheel. Another of the project’s restrictions was being able to use a 12-speed chain. An element of wear and tear that supports good abuse in some disciplines and that has to transmit our power from the cranks to the rear wheel.
Do more speeds make sense? There are internal hub systems that feature 14 speeds, most 2×11 combinations provide 14 non-overlapping speeds. Today, removing the front derailleur in road, gravel or triathlon disciplines, and providing an additional sprocket in mountain disciplines, is a great advance.
As for the different types of systems, ROTOR is committed to chain transmissions, because unlike gear systems, the performance is much higher, and many of our products are aimed at maximizing the performance of the rider.
5.Q rings are undoubtedly the star product of ROTOR, at least for being the most recognized component of the brand. Simplicity and proven effectiveness. Is it possible to evolve a settled product?
Continual improvement is what drives us. Since the Q RINGS® were conceived in 2005, 15 years have passed with many different evolutions and generations.
For the double chainring transmissions we have evolved a lot the design of the teeth and all the characteristics of the system (ramps, pins …). It is worth taking an outer chainring and stopping to observe the design and execution of the chamfers and small surfaces of which the different types of teeth are made up of depending on the task they perform.
In single chainring systems we have our own wide-narrow tooth design to achieve optimum chain retention.
And in terms of some purely mechanical aspects, because in terms of biomechanics we have tested and validated different shapes in competitions at the highest level and have refined one of the unique characteristics of Q RINGS® oval rings, which is their possible orientation and customization, adapting to the pedaling characteristics of each cyclist.
We are constantly working on new designs, materials, production processes… At ROTOR we are restless and also as cycling progresses, and for example, certain disciplines are strengthened, new needs appear that motivate us to evolve our star product: the Q RINGS®. In the current range we have Direct Mount chainrings, manufactured in one piece, replaceable in a couple of minutes thanks to the modular configuration of the current cranks, and adjustable from 1º to 1º.
6. Powermeters are becoming more popular and are not only used by professional cyclists. Will the day come that all the bikes will come with them incorporated as standard?
Definitely at the high-end level. We are already seeing bicycles that incorporate them as standard, reflecting the reality that for many users it has become an indispensable tool to monitor and plan their workouts, or simply to follow their fitness, or to be able to participate in virtual platforms which have become so fashionable in these days of confinement.
For ROTOR, which registered our first power meter patent in 2012, this component is more than all of this. Our power meters close a triangle with two other essential components in our range: our power meters are located on the cranks (in different elements of them depending on the model) and are the ideal complement to our Q RINGS® oval chainrings.
Our chainrings have the unique characteristic of being able to orient and adapt to the particular power delivery curve of each cyclist, we call it OCP, which stands for Optimum Chainring Position. Until the development of our power meters, we had a guide that contained recommendations to be able to find the adjustment that best suited your pedaling style, but with the current generation of power meters (2INpower, INspider and INpower®) we are able to accurately measure the power delivery curve and recommend the most suitable position for Q RINGS® chainrings. This feature is unique to ROTOR power meters and you can access it with our free ROTOR Power App for your phone.
What does the future hold? The pace of technology development in these fields is very fast, so on the one hand it stands to reason that meters will continue to evolve. On the other hand, economies of scale will make it possible to lower costs by manufacturing larger quantities, which will have an impact on a drop-in prices that will help democratize power meters, similar to what happened with heart rate monitors a few decades ago.
7. Now that ebikes are an unstoppable part of the cycling market, will ROTOR fans soon see specialized ebike components? And on the other hand, how do you see gravel in the near future of ROTOR?
You will see it very soon. We are in the final phase of validation of components compatible with some of the main manufacturers of e-bike motors, and we will continue working in this line in order to have more users of electric bikes enjoying the ROTOR experience.
As for gravel, it is a discipline that has had strong growth in some markets such as the United States, but has come to stay in the national market as well.
Gravel welcomes cyclists from other disciplines, and in a way, it is a return to the essence of cycling, which we at ROTOR really like. We have components focused on gravel, from our range of cranksets and power meters that are combined with a large number of 1x chainrings, to the 1×13 Groupset itself, which allows you to choose between 8 different cassettes, with a hydraulic actuation, both for disc brakes and for the derailleur system, it does not need maintenance or replacement of cables / covers or requires battery charging.
8. As an engineer and being in charge of a department as fruitful as ROTOR, is there any component or mechanical part of the bike that you dream of completely revolutionizing one day?
We already have practically all the components in the range! From chainrings, cranksets and power meters, hubs and wheels, complete gear and brake systems … except for the bike’s structural parts, our current catalogue has practically all the components.
The most ambitious project we have undertaken is the 1×13 Groupset, and I am convinced that it is only at the beginning of its evolution.
9. In addition to Carlos Sastre’s Tour de France in 2008, where ROTOR shot to world fame and all the cross country world championships, Cape Epic and other brand wins, are the big races like the Tour, Giro and Vuelta the perfect showcase for ROTOR?
Professional competition showcases our products to some of our users, and is proof that the product works and that it maximizes the rider’s performance.
But the vast majority of us are not professional athletes, and there are other factors that enhance the experience when riding a bike. For example, the Q RINGS® apart from improving pedaling efficiency and providing more uniform power delivery to the wheel that improves traction, have many fans among those who suffer from knee problems.
All satisfied ROTOR users are our best ambassadors and we develop our products with them in mind.
10. David, finally, where are you most comfortable pedaling and training? Mountain, road, cyclocross or gravel?
I love bikes in many of its variants … although in some disciplines I am very bad. Like many of us, I experienced the birth of mountain biking and I always carry it in my heart, but due to the rhythm of daily life and the limited availability of time or adequate spaces to practice it, in recent years I have ridden more road.
CX is another discipline that I love, I have been practicing it for many years and I have a great time, it helps me to stay hooked on my sport in winter and to satiate that competitive point without having to train for a long time to be able to enjoy the competition and from a very healthy environment. The truth is that it is surprising to see how the discipline has grown in recent years in our country, like many gravel riders, I practice during the year on some occasions to get to work or go out on more stressful days or when I want to feel a little freer.