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There will be lots of flashy carbon shown off at Sea Otter this week. But just down the street from the Expo, in Monterey Bay, is the small builder of a carbon bike more important than any at the show – Craig Calfee. Enjoy this look at the Calfee Tetra Pro 44 from issue 73 of PELOTON Magazine, which you can buy at our store.
Cycling loves its history. We revere heroes of old, the tough-as-nails road warriors. And the old European brands are legend, iconic names forged in iconic races. But, today, what connection do many of those brands have to that history? Many are owned by investment groups with no connection to the past other than the name on the down tube. The bikes are molded thousands of miles away from where their originals were welded. Fear not, that history can still be found, securely connected to its origin story, in a little shop a few steps from the Monterey Bay in Central California.
Craig Calfee’s history is simple: His Tetra may be the most important carbon bike ever made. It’s been manufactured continuously since 1987, when carbon was considered just a passing fad. In fact, according to Calfee’s math, the Tetra has been in production longer than any other carbon bike.
In 1991, the Tetra was badged “LeMond” and ridden by Greg at the 1991 Tour. LeMond knew carbon from his days with LOOK, but wanted the lighter weight with a bike he could trust descending. LeMond called the Tetra “the best bike I’ve ridden in my career.”
Today’s Calfee Tetra Pro 44 is still made the same way, with its signature gussets at tube junctions. “We miter carbon-fiber tubes to fit each other, as in traditional steel-frame building, but we join them by laminating fabric directly to the tube junctions all in one go. This allows most flexibility for custom geometry and the ability to change stiffness as needed, by using thicker walls or higher modulus fiber in the tubes. We can also trim more or less material from the gussets to tailor stiffness,” says Craig.
While still using the basic manufacturing process, in the last 30 years Calfee has refined the bike endlessly. Today’s Calfee Tetra Pro 44 uses higher-modulus carbon than the original, has a 44mm head tube and oversized down tube and has shaved considerable weight—but there is one area Craig will not skimp on: impact resistance.
“Our experience repairing other maker’s frames has shown the vulnerabilities in trying to make frames too light. We had access to high-modulus fiber back in the ’90s, but it was too brittle for our taste. Now it is tougher but still needs a minimum wall thickness to be useful for everyday riding.”
With the original Tetra, carbon fiber reached levels of performance that proved it was the cycling material of the future. Three decades later, Craig’s Calfee Tetra Pro 44 draws a precise line from that history to today—a line just as precise as it will carve down a mountain with the same race-inspired performance that Greg LeMond fell in love with. 7.7kg/16.9 lbs (as pictured); $3,295 frameset; calfeedesign.com