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Looking to get a towards the upper end of the price range carbon frame/bike as a summer weekend mile muncher.

One thing I'm having trouble quantifying is how long should you expect a cared for carbon frame to last.
Thanks

42 comments

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Flying Scot [918 posts] 2 years ago
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Firstly, I'm not a composite engineer, but a friend who is a former pro ( not a very good one) runs carbon frames for 2 summers, then relegates them to 3 winters, then sells them.

That's his take on it.

I also heard, though it may be here say, that the pro teams race bikes get used for 6 months tops, then get made the spares for 6 months, then go to the junior team for a year, then get handed to feeder riders for training and don't get raced again.

I think there is good evidence that the stiffness isn't everlasting, but I also know guys on 10 year old stuff that hasn't fell apart from beneath them.

I do recall Ferrari being very careful about painting carbon and not exposing the weave until about 5 years ago, they were worried about UV.

My main bike was made of air hardening cro-mo ....61 years ago. Needs painted every 12 years or so though.

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Welsh boy [293 posts] 2 years ago
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So, lets summarise Flying Scot's reply: If you are a top pro riding the sponsors latest advert, 6 months/1 season of hammering over cobbles and poor road surfaces then replace it with their latest "must have" model. Frame then handed down to a junior team to get hammered/crashed then handed down again to a feeder team. Manufacturers seem happy with this and confident that something with their name on will take this level of abuse. No life issues there then. A former pro uses his for 2 summers and 3 winters (5 years in total) then he is still confident enough to sell it on for someone else to use and buy another carbon frame. So no life issues there either.
I think that this is a good advert for carbon frames and unless you are really hammering them then I don't think you have any life issues with decent modern carbon frames. Does that sound fair?

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Nick T [913 posts] 2 years ago
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People still ride around on 20 year old C40s...

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Flying Scot [918 posts] 2 years ago
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I believe if dropped or crashed, the big teams crush them, I didn't put that in!

But yes, fair summary and bear in mind, that part of my post might be total shite, as it's just what I was told.

My post summary is actually, they 'might' lose stiffness with use and thus lose their 'edge' I don't recall any stories of frames failing in use....unlike forks and rims, which in reality, were probably damaged.

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Lost faith in t... [116 posts] 2 years ago
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structural integrity will last about 5 years (the same as aluminium)

this isnt saying after 5 years the bike wont last, but more that the quality will have dropped as will have the structural properties.

its like anything, it depends how its looked after.

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kenong [22 posts] 2 years ago
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Does this mean I should really consider getting a titanium bike instead?

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Super Domestique [1605 posts] 2 years ago
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Certain manufacturers stick original owner lifetime warranty on their carbon frames so those must have some confidence in them.

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mike the bike [683 posts] 2 years ago
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I seem to remember that, when carbon fibre frames first appeared on our Christmas lists, one manufacturer's testing laboratory released a video of different forks being stress tested on a powerful machine that repeatedly flexed the legs.

The engineer reckoned an aluminium fork might tolerate this torture for a few hours, a steel design for a whole day and the carbon equivalent would still be in one piece in a year's time. I was mightily impressed by this claim and have no reason to doubt its veracity.

I should say that it didn't affect my judgement of aesthetics. I still don't like the look of those huge, ungainly tubes and have never bought a carbon bike. I have succumbed to the lure of composite forks but that's as far as this old man is prepared to go.

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Trull [81 posts] 2 years ago
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All things considered, a high quality steel frame will outlast anything else on the market. The weight penalty (at the high end mind) will be less than 1kg and you will benefit from skinny frame aerodynamics, I'd love to speak with the engineers at Madison and Genesis http://www.genesisbikes.co.uk/bikes/frames/road/volare-953-di2

But, back to your question… so long as you don't scratch into the strength layers or break it I'd expect a CF frame to last as long as epoxy does, ie about 20 years. Boeing's biggest plane uses a CF frame and they are not made to be disposed of after 5 years.

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allez neg [497 posts] 2 years ago
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If it were me, I'd drift towards ti or very good steel for a 'forever' bike.

That said, as there are many aspects of bike design in a state of flux (brakes, cable routing, hub spacing and dropouts, headsets, BB shells off the top of me 'ead) then maybe just buy the one you like the most and enjoy it.

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Gordy748 [110 posts] 2 years ago
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The real answer is "all of the above".

Carbon can easily be built to last a lifetime, but you'd have a frame so stiff and heavy as to be unrideable. Older frames were overbuilt using more weave than needed, which is one reason why a C-40 or Kestrel SCi frame can still be bought and ridden today, and also the reason why the frames are pretty heavy.

These days, the frames are buiilt down to a weight, as well as being very stiff. This means less weave is doing more work than in older frames. For a modern frame, the operative issues become rider weight (the heavier the more the frame has to support), rider power (the stronger the more the frame needs to resist flex) and road type (the rougher the more the frame has to absorb vibrations).

Cancellara racing on cobblestones every day will probably go through a frame in 2 - 3 months. A petite female sportive rider only riding on smooth tarmac would get years out of the same frame.

The other thing is the point at which a frame is considered unusable. Carbon has a fatigue life and, over time, flexes more and more every pedal stroke. Every time this happens, it absorbs (fractionally) more and more watts produced by the rider. For a pro, the point at which the frame is unacceptably flexible will happen a lot sooner than a sportive rider.

Bottom line: amateur racers will change carbon frames every 2 - 3 years, sportive riders every 5 - 8 years.

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crikey [1252 posts] 2 years ago
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What a load of nonsense.

Trek give a lifetime warranty on their frames, I've got a 14 year old one that's still as good as the day it was bought. People change frames because they go out of style, not for any material science reason.

Your cared for carbon frame will last at least as long as any steel or titanium frame.

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Neil753 [447 posts] 2 years ago
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crikey wrote:

What a load of nonsense.

Trek give a lifetime warranty on their frames, I've got a 14 year old one that's still as good as the day it was bought. People change frames because they go out of style, not for any material science reason.

Your cared for carbon frame will last at least as long as any steel or titanium frame.

How do you know your frame is as good as the day it was bought? Have you had it tested? In fact, how does anyone know how close their carbon frame is to catastrophic failure?

If a manufacturer offers a lifetime warranty, that doesn't mean the product will last a lifetime. It just means the manufacturer has estimated that the extra profit on collective sales will be greater than the cost of servicing that warranty.

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crikey [1252 posts] 2 years ago
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The same comment can be applied to any frame of any material, and I've broken steel and aluminium frames...

The idea that every carbon frame is minutes away from 'catastrophic failure' is one used by people who don't like them, and as above, is not related to material science.

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chrisp1973 [55 posts] 2 years ago
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crikey wrote:

The same comment can be applied to any frame of any material, and I've broken steel and aluminium frames...

The idea that every carbon frame is minutes away from 'catastrophic failure' is one used by people who don't like them, and as above, is not related to material science.

Absolutely!

I get tired of hearing armchair engineers telling me my carbon bike is likely to explode at any second sending shards of razor sharp carbon through my gentleman parts!

These are generally the same people who tell me I must never allow a carbon bike to get wet - "It's likely to degrade it mate" - sure, sure it will.  21

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fukawitribe [1755 posts] 2 years ago
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Trull wrote:

you will benefit from skinny frame aerodynamics

Wuzzaht ? Deliciously gorgeous though the Volare looks, i'm not completely certain smaller but perfectly round tubes would give much aerodynamic advantage compared to bigger but more judiciously shaped fellows. Then again, i'm most definitely not a aerodynamicist nor CFD expert - wouldn't mind hearing from some though.

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7thGalaxy [44 posts] 2 years ago
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Carbon should last as long as any other material - longer even than aluminum, as that is subject to fatigue damage. There's no evidence that ultraviolet light damages carbon fiber, and no evidence that stiffness reduces over time.

Sources:
http://carlhart.com/how-to/how-to-care-for-carbon-bikes-and-parts-pg220.htm

http://www.ibiscycles.com/support/technical_articles/all_about_carbon/

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notfastenough [3685 posts] 2 years ago
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Just go for a frame with a lifetime warranty.

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Neil753 [447 posts] 2 years ago
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There's always going to be opposing views on carbon, but you you'd have to be pretty isolated not to have heard, read or seen examples of carbon frames and components which have failed, quite often without any prior warning, sometimes at high speed, and sometimes causing injury to other riders. We all have a responsibilty towards other road users, and indeed towards the resources of the emergency services and the NHS, and clearly far more important than a small weight saving.

You certainly don't have to be an engineer, armchair or otherwise, to conclude that if you really want to ride carbon then it's sensible (and responsible) to only buy from a well known source, destroy any frame/component immediately after suffering any impact, never lend your bike to anyone, and never EVER buy second hand.

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weenyd [19 posts] 2 years ago
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My '02 C40 hasn't turned in to a flexy noodle as yet, and there's plenty of them out there still being ridden.

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7thGalaxy [44 posts] 2 years ago
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Neil753 wrote:

There's always going to be opposing views on carbon, but you you'd have to be pretty isolated not to have heard, read or seen examples of carbon frames and components which have failed, quite often without any prior warning, sometimes at high speed, and sometimes causing injury to other riders.

And I've heard the same of Aluminium, and it's probably happened with cheap steel too, I seem to remember a story a couple of weeks back of someone trying to sue Halfords when his steerer broke. It happens to all materials.

Neil753 wrote:

We all have a responsibilty towards other road users, and indeed towards the resources of the emergency services and the NHS, and clearly far more important than a small weight saving.

Rather off the point, your frame material really doesn't factor into responsibility towards other road users. I pay for the emergency services and the NHS (and for my insurance for that matter) and as such I feel quite entitled to use them if I have an accident. Carbon isn't just about weight saving, you can get superior stiffness, aerodynamics, comfort, looks. What is clear about it? Why would your priorities automatically be shared by anyone?

Neil753 wrote:

You certainly don't have to be an engineer, armchair or otherwise, to conclude that if you really want to ride carbon then it's sensible (and responsible) to only buy from a well known source, destroy any frame/component immediately after suffering any impact, never lend your bike to anyone, and never EVER buy second hand.

Brought to you by (insert bike manufacturer here). You could say that about ANY frame material. You can have carbon repaired quite happily, to a good standard. As with any second hand purchase, check it over carefully.

It's stronger, more durable and lighter than steel. Live with it.

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Neil753 [447 posts] 2 years ago
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7thGalaxy wrote:

It's stronger, more durable and lighter than steel. Live with it.

Luckily I don't have to "live with it" at all. I feel much safer on a custom steel frame. My garage is a carbon free zone  3

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7thGalaxy [44 posts] 2 years ago
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Fair enough  3 I have a classic steel frame too (in need of restoration, but it was my trusty steed for many years, and has taken much punishment). It's a joy to ride in many ways, and I fully plan to do some touring on it once it's been sorted out. But carbon isn't something to be afraid of.

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redmeat [149 posts] 2 years ago
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I wonder what it's like to live in fear. Fear of teh crabonz.

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chrisp1973 [55 posts] 2 years ago
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Neil753 wrote:

There's always going to be opposing views on carbon, but you you'd have to be pretty isolated not to have heard, read or seen examples of carbon frames and components which have failed, quite often without any prior warning, sometimes at high speed, and sometimes causing injury to other riders. We all have a responsibilty towards other road users, and indeed towards the resources of the emergency services and the NHS, and clearly far more important than a small weight saving.

You certainly don't have to be an engineer, armchair or otherwise, to conclude that if you really want to ride carbon then it's sensible (and responsible) to only buy from a well known source, destroy any frame/component immediately after suffering any impact, never lend your bike to anyone, and never EVER buy second hand.

You'd have to be pretty isolated not to have heard the same about metal frames.

It has been known for cars to fail and hurt people, by your metric you'd better not drive, get on a plane, push a supermarket trolley.............

Your point about responsibility to other road users linked to frame choice is weak at best and as for destroying a £2500 frame after "any impact" is stupidity at it's finest ( I suspect getting it checked by an official dealer might be a better call?)

Carbon, in some cases, is easier and more effective to repair than metal and will, if correctly looked after, last just as long if not longer (it doesn't corrode you see).

Yes there are shitty Chinese fake Pinarello's out there but you'd be a fool to buy one in the first place, if you can't afford a genuine bike set your sights a bit lower or save a bit harder.

I understand you're a fan of steel, I'm a fan of all bikes and great workmanship, but don't do another product down because you don't fancy or can't afford it.

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Yorkshie Whippet [530 posts] 2 years ago
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I'd like to know how many accidents were caused by catastrophic failures and how many catastrophic failures were caused by the accident.
"I fell off due to my handlebars/frame/crank snapping." Sounds better than,
"I was not looking where I was going, fell off and broken part x!"

Going back to the OP, just get a carbon frame if you want, in a few years time you'll be replacing for the next generation of disc braked electronic shifting frames anyway.

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Jimmy Ray Will [470 posts] 2 years ago
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My understanding is that different materials behave differently to load.

For instance aluminium is compromised with every bend, twist, vibration it is asked to absorb. Over time the material degrades and at some point, no matter what you do, it is going to fail.

Steel has a definite yield point. Below that yield point it can suck up as bending, twisting/vibration almost indefinitely. Above that yield point, then the material ages in the same way as aluminium.

Titanium is like steel, although the yield point is considerably higher.... so it can take more extreme bending etc. The challenge with this is that it also makes for a bendier frame, so manufacturers mix in alloys/treat the material in such a way to stiffen it, which also lowers the respective yield point. So.. you can have a ti frame for life, but it rides like poop, or one that rides well, but has a similar life expectancy to steel.

Carbon, as I understand it is a yes/no material. It'll bend, twist, vibrate within a range indefinitely. Push it beyond its limit and it will fail spectacularly, and rapidly. The challenge with carbon is as mentioned, blunt impacts can compromise the material and right now we are still in the realms of developed understanding of the long term degradation of epoxies.
The great thing about carbon is that it is so un-precious its untrue. Punch a big hole in your frame... as long as you fix it, its no bother at all.
Its certainly not the super fragile material some make it out to be.

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glynr36 [637 posts] 2 years ago
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Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

Carbon, as I understand it is a yes/no material. It'll bend, twist, vibrate within a range indefinitely. Push it beyond its limit and it will fail spectacularly, and rapidly. The challenge with carbon is as mentioned, blunt impacts can compromise the material and right now we are still in the realms of developed understanding of the long term degradation of epoxies.
The great thing about carbon is that it is so un-precious its untrue. Punch a big hole in your frame... as long as you fix it, its no bother at all.
Its certainly not the super fragile material some make it out to be.

Everything fails beyond its limit, thats why it's a limit...
We know plenty about long term epoxy degredation, they've used CF in aerospace & F1 with enough research into CF in them to cover what bikes require.

At the end of the day people will have a material of preference, though usually the steel luddites are quick to shout down CF as fragile and weak.

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allez neg [497 posts] 2 years ago
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I wouldn't worry - 6 to 12 months after purchase the bike companies will realise that the headset, BB and brake mounting standards they used to use are all shit, and then new ones are like, so much better it's unreal and we all need to upgrade or be stuck with a 2 wheeled betamax.

Works for Apple, no?

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chrisp1973 [55 posts] 2 years ago
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allez neg wrote:

I wouldn't worry - 6 to 12 months after purchase the bike companies will realise that the headset, BB and brake mounting standards they used to use are all shit, and then new ones are like, so much better it's unreal and we all need to upgrade or be stuck with a 2 wheeled betamax.

Works for Apple, no?

Only too well *as he pens this reply on his brand new iPhone 5S* - damn that company, it's like they posess me!  14

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