Proposed time trial rules to outlaw modified & older bikes & parts

Obree-style homebrew machines to be banned

by Michelle Arthurs   November 12, 2013  

Time trial handlebar (CC licenced image by Glory Cycles:Flickr)

Proposed regulations could mean time trial riders will only be able to race using bikes and components available online and in shops.

The agenda for the annual meeting of the national governing body of cycling time trials (CTT) was published last Monday sparking debate over suggested amendments to the rules.

One particularly controversial section says: “machines, frames and components must be commercially available through normal retail outlets (shops, internet, etc) and be unmodified except that the normal requirements of frame and component size are permitted.”

Chopped aero bars, home-made wheels and trimmed seat posts have all been items which riders have raised as widely adopted, but potentially illegal components.

The second heavily questioned amendment is to edit an existing regulation 14 (h) to say: “The use of recumbent machines, protective shields, fairings or other means of reducing air resistance or intended to reduce air resistance whether commercially available or not shall be prohibited.”

These changes come soon after heated debate over the creative efforts of Nik Bowdler (pedalrevoloution.co.uk) who modified his bike to win the National 12-hour time trial in August this year. 

Bowdler’s winning bike had a large nose cone, and a bottle carrier loaded on the back which was argued to have broken regulation 14(h). Bowdler still stands as the official winner of the event, but the new amendment appears to directly thwart such efforts at improving a bike’s aerodynamics.

There was strong reaction against Bowdler’s bike from a number of racers, including an official complaint from eventual CTT British Best All-Rounder (BBAR) competition winner, Adam Topham.  

Topham told us: “It seems likely [this amendment] is a reaction to Bowdler’s bike. Probably the intention is to ensure riders don't achieve an advantage not available to other riders and therefore an unfair advantage.”

He added: “Extreme alterations to reduce drag are clearly against the spirit and threaten the integrity of what is supposed to be a predominantly athletic competition.”

However, he added: “As to whether it resolves the issue, I'd suggest it’s a valiant attempt but doesn't prevent someone from setting up a website and offering their contraptions for sale at unattractive prices.”

National Secretary (legal and corporate) of the CTT, Nick Sharpe told us: “We are trying to create a level playing field with the minimum amount of regulations. Time trialling is an amateur sport and we don’t want to enforce staunch regulations like the UCI.”

He added in relation to amendments to 14 (h): “We are just trying to make the sport safer for everybody.”

The new amendments have been greeted with criticism. This rule would outlaw innovation from riders who attempted to follow in the footsteps of cyclists such as Gareme Obree, who created his hour record breaking bike using washing machine parts.

Bryce Dyer is a time trialist and product design lecturer who specialises in design and ethical use of technology in sport. Responding to the question of the amendments supporting fair racing on the timetriallingforum.co.uk he said: “With respect to technology in sport there is no such thing as a 'level playing field'... it cannot exist outside of 'one design' sports such as some sailing classes.”

With some riders able to spend upwards of £5k on their race winning bike, whilst others make do with lesser machines, cycling time trials are far from ‘one design’ events and it’s arguable that the field will never be flat.

Dyer has made modifications to his own bike, but said: “I don't think it would be policed any better than any other rule they have as the CTT relies on us to police ourselves which is about as robust as asking Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich to look after cycling’s anti-doping policy.”

The rule itself could be interpreted to ban all old-fashioned or out-of-manufacture kit, as cycling journalist and multiple time trial champion Michael Hutchinson tweeted: “CTT rule proposal taken literally would also appear to ban anything no longer available at retail – obsolete manufacturers, old models.”

In response to this, Sharpe said: “We have to adopt a common sense view. This is a motion to be discussed at the annual meeting. If someone wants to add terms regarding previously available components this would be discussed.”

Sponsored riders racing on demo kit provided by suppliers could also fall foul of this rule if taken literally.

The amendments will be discussed on Sunday December 1st, and two thirds of the membership must vote in favour for these to pass.


Unlikely to be affected by the new CTT regulations (CC licensed image by camknows/Flickr)

43 user comments

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It seems like any attempts to enforce such a rule would be rather complicated and pretty discretionary

posted by jarredscycling [436 posts]
11th November 2013 - 19:54

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what is going on with his bars/bar?

http://www.kimroy-photography.co.uk/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=181809

I don't know about the aero rules but there should definitely be rules banning bikes this ugly.

posted by SpooksTheHorse [28 posts]
11th November 2013 - 20:09

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monty dog wrote:
I except CTT may be trying to protect themselves from those "shed men" who make / modify parts that might fail catastrophically in an event with serious results e.g. takes-out another competitor who then takes out a suit against CTT.
I agree. Some of the riders you see in old pics, with drilled components, must have been barking.

But then again, parts from yesteryear were generally over engineered, compared to modern components, where weight and aerondynamics seem to now take precident over long term reliability. Modern chains sometimes snap under load, a single spoke breakage can now cause a catastrophic failure of the whole wheel, a pothole can cause fork blades to actually separate from the main fork column, and the whole issue of carbon component service life is still a bit of a grey area.

And there must be loads of riders out there, riding 2nd hand carbon stuff, who cannot be entirely sure that what they're riding on hasn't been compromised by the original owner.

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

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posted by Neil753 [451 posts]
11th November 2013 - 21:18

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Most roads is this country are over loaded! So let's just ban cycling!!

posted by Krd51 [20 posts]
11th November 2013 - 21:55

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Quote:
“With respect to technology in sport there is no such thing as a 'level playing field'... it cannot exist outside of 'one design' sports such as some sailing classes.”

Rolling On The Floor
Best laugh I've had all day.

posted by Al__S [480 posts]
11th November 2013 - 22:06

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Neil753 wrote:

Modern chains sometimes snap under load

You're forgetting we run 11 sprockets on the back now, in the same space as 6 or even less in years gone by.

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posted by glynr36 [230 posts]
11th November 2013 - 22:08

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allez neg wrote:
Seems a shame to outlaw the "men in sheds" who have been making left-field oddball stuff for decades, and yet allow those able to afford £10k TT bikes and all the other aero kit.

Where will the next generations of Obrees and Burrows come from?

I'm at the innovation is good end of this debate, for sure there needs to be some limits but for me they should be quite broad - certainly no independent motors!

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posted by evo111 [20 posts]
11th November 2013 - 22:14

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Charles_Hunter wrote:
I note there isn't a picture of the bike in question, I think it is this one, correct me if I am wrong please.

http://www.kimroy-photography.co.uk/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=181821

http://www.kimroy-photography.co.uk/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=181809

Entirely correct- that is the bike in question!
Michelle

Riding, writing and repeating from www.ridewriterepeat.com

posted by Michelle Arthurs [3 posts]
11th November 2013 - 22:53

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The one thing I'm still surprised (but happy about) they still done require a rider to wear a helmet and leave that up to the rider.

I'm getting pissed of with their stance on recumbents lately though, I have been trying to find some TT's to do next year, but no-one will let me in because they run on CTT rules

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posted by Gkam84 [8638 posts]
12th November 2013 - 0:46

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Yes, that's a Lemonade Jetpack behind Bowdler's saddle. Vibration shakes the additive (carbon dioxide), which is forced out, er, behind, with an amusing hissing sound, guaranteed to shave 0.5 of a millisecond off yer time over 100 miles. Not much, but hey, every little helps!
P.R.

PhilRuss

posted by PhilRuss [267 posts]
12th November 2013 - 3:00

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The hpv fraternity have managed to come up with a scheme of classifications for different configurations within circuit races. Dunno why it should be so hard for the CTT.
ISTR there was a proposal to allow 'bents in TTs - more from the point of allowing former upright competitors to still compete - I guess that's gone nowhere ?

Simply adding an open class for 'anything goes' - within safety arguments (ie no streamliners) would be better than the current state of affairs, I'd have thought. You'd probably get more people interested in hpvs too...we're not all sandal-wearing beer-bellied beardie-weirdies...some of us don't wear sandals or have beer bellies Wink

posted by JonD [175 posts]
12th November 2013 - 12:05

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Gkam84 wrote:
The one thing I'm still surprised (but happy about) they still done require a rider to wear a helmet and leave that up to the rider.

I'm getting pissed of with their stance on recumbents lately though, I have been trying to find some TT's to do next year, but no-one will let me in because they run on CTT rules

^^ I remember you mentioning that on twitter it really sucks!! Half the time people's stance seems to be "why don't you just go to the human powered vehicle meets" but that doesn't seem fair. Cycling is cycling and should be available and accessible to all who wish to take it up.

It would be a real shame to see the wholesome, old school atmosphere of the CTT go down the pan in lieu of policy changes, it's already sh1t that folks get denied races based on what are often unavoidable or completely fair modifications.

While some of them are pretty respectable in the case of making it a fair sport (why should a super rich dude who's trained half as much get a better result than someone who's worked their arse off both on their body and bike?) - BUT I think they need to be very careful as to how this is going to be enforced.

CTT has a lot of responsibility as the main body for TT's here, either they want to be recognised as a more professional racing body like BC OR they just want to make sure folks don't take the piss.

There's always an element of give & take. I really hope they don't screw it up.

Merlin Cycles women's race team ~ http://www.merlincycles.com
Manx nerd peddler ~ http://mooleur.blogspot.com

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posted by mooleur [531 posts]
12th November 2013 - 13:47

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^^ half of that post didn't make sense. Too much caffeine.

Merlin Cycles women's race team ~ http://www.merlincycles.com
Manx nerd peddler ~ http://mooleur.blogspot.com

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posted by mooleur [531 posts]
12th November 2013 - 13:48

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Al__S wrote:
Quote:
“With respect to technology in sport there is no such thing as a 'level playing field'... it cannot exist outside of 'one design' sports such as some sailing classes.”

Rolling On The Floor
Best laugh I've had all day.

Why?

posted by ficklewhippet [36 posts]
12th November 2013 - 14:48

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Neil753 wrote:
There was a point, as a family man, where I simply could not compete anymore with riders who were able to afford equipment that created a substantial advantage, but I accepted it with good grace.

But if "vintage" bikes were banned, given that most time triallists are the wrong side of 40, it could sound the death knell for this peculiarly British branch of our beloved sport.

Don't see why personally. A TT bike can be built up pretty economically if you know where to look:- some good frames are available if you're not a fashion victim. Plenty of 2nd hand kit available as people with the cash (and there are plenty) off-load and/or trade up.

Neil753 wrote:
monty dog wrote:
I except CTT may be trying to protect themselves from those "shed men" who make / modify parts that might fail catastrophically in an event with serious results e.g. takes-out another competitor who then takes out a suit against CTT.
I agree. Some of the riders you see in old pics, with drilled components, must have been barking.

But then again, parts from yesteryear were generally over engineered, compared to modern components, where weight and aerondynamics seem to now take precident over long term reliability. Modern chains sometimes snap under load, a single spoke breakage can now cause a catastrophic failure of the whole wheel, a pothole can cause fork blades to actually separate from the main fork column, and the whole issue of carbon component service life is still a bit of a grey area.

And there must be loads of riders out there, riding 2nd hand carbon stuff, who cannot be entirely sure that what they're riding on hasn't been compromised by the original owner.

Catastrophic wheel failures if 1 spoke goes? Unlikely. The trend of reducing spoke counts has generally led to stronger rims. Manufacturers have to meet or exceed certain safety criteria.

And your comment about 2nd hand carbon stuff is equally applicable to steel or ali.

posted by ficklewhippet [36 posts]
12th November 2013 - 14:59

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I haven't ridden a TT for 30 years, but there always was a RTTC rule banning any modification that was intended purely as an aerodynamic aid.

Grizzerly

posted by Grizzerly [113 posts]
12th November 2013 - 19:58

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Personally I'd like to see the regulations ban anything that makes a bicycle difficult to control on a public road (and sorry that does include aero bars - except chocolate ones). Won't be long until a cyclist is successfully sued for an accident that's directly a result of their modifications.

If cycling is indeed a sport of self-abuse why aren't more cyclists sectioned under the mental health act?

posted by hairyairey [275 posts]
12th November 2013 - 20:00

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In order to make things fairer, especially with regard to hill climbing events. All competitors should have weights added to their steeds, so that they all weigh as much as the heaviest competitor. As is the case, in horse racing. Other events should have weight categories. Where the weight of the rider and his steed combined, determines within which category he competes. This must be the fairest way. Although, you would have to be vigilant, for the discarding of weight, especially on the longer events, just to replace them, nearer it's conclusion.

Robert Worrall

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posted by velocibob [6 posts]
12th November 2013 - 22:53

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ficklewhippet wrote:
And your comment about 2nd hand carbon stuff is equally applicable to steel or ali.
Maybe you're right, but there are many websites showing damaged carbon parts, even one that is completely dedicated to carbon failure.

One bike website says, "Carbon fiber cannot be visually inspected and many parts have only a one-season life span",
and goes on to say that the number one carbon failure is seatposts (ouch) and number two is the steering column (scary).

Ok, I've ridden carbon, although not racing, to be fair, but I'm a hefty bloke who's been regularly riding steel frames with aluminium components for nearly 40 years and I've never had any sort of failure whatsoever. In days gone by, I remember I was fearless in the bunch, down some really hairy decents, but I hear that even top pros feel a tad nervous on the plastic stuff nowadays, and they're not riding five year old frames bought second hand on Ebay from someone they don't know from Adam.

Ps - I'm always very careful in my truck, when overtaking you guys doing time trials.

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

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posted by Neil753 [451 posts]
12th November 2013 - 23:53

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Stifling rules. They stop inovation, they stop progression; and quite simply they piss people off. PAY TAX / RIDE A SHIT BIKE / DIE. Thanks UCI/RTTC etc...Bloody sporting politicians.

CJStevens

posted by CJSTEVENS1955 [25 posts]
13th November 2013 - 11:17

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velocibob wrote:
In order to make things fairer, especially with regard to hill climbing events. All competitors should have weights added to their steeds, so that they all weigh as much as the heaviest competitor. As is the case, in horse racing. Other events should have weight categories. Where the weight of the rider and his steed combined, determines within which category he competes. This must be the fairest way. Although, you would have to be vigilant, for the discarding of weight, especially on the longer events, just to replace them, nearer it's conclusion.

That is just ridiculous.

posted by ficklewhippet [36 posts]
13th November 2013 - 14:12

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Most people with any sense would consider writing off a bike that's had a major stack, or at least get it looked over properly (regardless of material).
I'm always sceptical of websites that make vague statements without data to back it up. I mean, everything everywhere that exists as an assembly has potential to fail, therefore it will have a no. 1 cause, as well as a no. 2, ad infinitum. Everything can be broken! Where are the data stating why and how they failed? Are comparisons with other materials available?
I think it's just scaremongering to be honest. Better not fly on a Dreamliner or an A350 XWB!
Ah wait a minute - I've just twigged from your name why you're a sceptic! Smile

Back to the TT scene though, I think some of the issues regarding homebrew parts and validity could be overcome by introducing an appropriate homologation process, which would allow for suitable durability tests to be performed. Would weed out the oddball semi-dangerous stuff while allowing products which genuinely advanced the technology to be available to the market...allowing some natural selection in the market to happen. Could be costly though.

posted by ficklewhippet [36 posts]
13th November 2013 - 14:48

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velocibob wrote:
In order to make things fairer, especially with regard to hill climbing events. All competitors should have weights added to their steeds, so that they all weigh as much as the heaviest competitor. As is the case, in horse racing. Other events should have weight categories. Where the weight of the rider and his steed combined, determines within which category he competes. This must be the fairest way. Although, you would have to be vigilant, for the discarding of weight, especially on the longer events, just to replace them, nearer it's conclusion.

That doesnt make it fairer, though. In horse racing, you are not weighing the horse - you are weighing the additional weight it carries. So a handicap horse race means that each horse carries the same weight, not that each horse plus rider weighs the same.

The point is that a large horse may produce more power, but will also be heavier. Just as a larger cyclist may also be able to produce more power, but will also be heavier. Weighing the bike (sort of) makes sense, if equipment weight is a key factor in the race, but making all the riders up to an equal weight means you are stripping out power-to-weight as a factor and instead making it based on absolute power and aerodynamics. No fairer, just different.

posted by step-hent [644 posts]
13th November 2013 - 14:54

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Wow, that set-up takes "butt rockets" to the next level!

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posted by pedalpowerDC [194 posts]
13th November 2013 - 16:28

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ficklewhippet wrote:
Most people with any sense would consider writing off a bike that's had a major stack, or at least get it looked over properly (regardless of material).
I'm always sceptical of websites that make vague statements without data to back it up. I mean, everything everywhere that exists as an assembly has potential to fail, therefore it will have a no. 1 cause, as well as a no. 2, ad infinitum. Everything can be broken! Where are the data stating why and how they failed? Are comparisons with other materials available?
I think it's just scaremongering to be honest. Better not fly on a Dreamliner or an A350 XWB!
Ah wait a minute - I've just twigged from your name why you're a sceptic! Smile

Back to the TT scene though, I think some of the issues regarding homebrew parts and validity could be overcome by introducing an appropriate homologation process, which would allow for suitable durability tests to be performed. Would weed out the oddball semi-dangerous stuff while allowing products which genuinely advanced the technology to be available to the market...allowing some natural selection in the market to happen. Could be costly though.

Ah yes, I'm a big fan of steel frames as you've spotted.

Interestingly, I've just been watching the Open University series on bicycle design, and an expert on there says that the advantage of steel is that it provides protection against catastrophic failure, when compared to carbon. So that's all right then. I mean, at my age, catastrophic failure could be, er, catastrophic.

I guess like many cyclists who grew up in the pre-plastic (sorry, carbon) era, I'm alarmed when I see pics of broken frames, wheels, cranks, stems, seat posts, pedals.... hang on a sec, the list is endless! No, sorry, I just can't face that hurdle of swinging my leg over a carbon bike.

But what would I gain, if I did take the plunge? In the same Open University series you can see Bernard Hainault talking about riding on 531, with an all up weight of 9kg. So if the UCI limit is currently 6.8kg, thats only a 2.2kg difference. And I'm 110kg, so with my bike I'm perhaps 120kg, which would mean less than a 2 percent saving if I went the plastic route - hardly worth writing home about now, is it?
Not for this fat bloke anyway Cool

Oh well, back to the cosy familiarity of 753. And, of course, I can always brag about minimising my carbon footprint.

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

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posted by Neil753 [451 posts]
14th November 2013 - 1:54

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The limit's exactly that, the pros would be racing on 5kg bikes if the manufacturers were permitted to provide them. Remember that they're able to equip bikes with power meters and still have to add ballast to the frame to make the minimum weight.
Anecdotally I heard that the bikes of the 70's were pretty whippy, but I can't confirm that.
A bike with a stoved in dent on a steel down tube, or a crimp in an aluminium handlebar is as dangerous as a carbon bike with a crack in it IMO. The upside of a steel frame is that theoretically you could get it repaired. I'd still be tempted to relegate it to the turbo though...
Personal experience for me is that I'm still racing on my Chinese TT frame which has some topcoat chips in it from a couple of topples and a crash, and it's rock solid.
But hey, each to their own. I don't care what you ride, as long as you're riding Cool

posted by ficklewhippet [36 posts]
14th November 2013 - 18:05

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ficklewhippet wrote:
The limit's exactly that, the pros would be racing on 5kg bikes if the manufacturers were permitted to provide them. Remember that they're able to equip bikes with power meters and still have to add ballast to the frame to make the minimum weight.
Anecdotally I heard that the bikes of the 70's were pretty whippy, but I can't confirm that.
A bike with a stoved in dent on a steel down tube, or a crimp in an aluminium handlebar is as dangerous as a carbon bike with a crack in it IMO. The upside of a steel frame is that theoretically you could get it repaired. I'd still be tempted to relegate it to the turbo though...
Personal experience for me is that I'm still racing on my Chinese TT frame which has some topcoat chips in it from a couple of topples and a crash, and it's rock solid.
But hey, each to their own. I don't care what you ride, as long as you're riding Cool

Modern frames are stiffer, for sure, but I'm no expert. I have ridden carbon, and my steel frames feel more comfy on rough roads. I'm sure carbon frames are more efficient at transferring power through the cranks, at least that's what I read, but I can't personally feel the difference.

I guess the thing that makes me worried, and I promise I'm not getting at you, is that you say you've had "a couple of topples and a crash" on your (presumably) carbon frame, and carried on using that frame even though the advice from many sources is not to, because of the risk of some weakness in the frame or components.

I'm sure most riders would be happy to accept the small risk of catastrophic failure, but the problem is, and again, I promise this isn't aimed directly at you, is that when you ride on a public road you have a duty to not knowingly ride a bike that may have a defect, in the same way that we would all expect car drivers, who have a prang in their cars, to not drive on the road until they had had their car checked out. If you're by yourself, fine, but in the peloton, or time trialing on a road where there are cars, other cyclists and pedestrians, I would say that it's perhaps unfair to include those other people in your self assessment of your own potentially damaged machine, which you are presumably still riding in order to save buying a replacement. And even if you are on your own, you are risking the already squeezed resources of the NHS, just so you can save a bit of cash.

I'm playing devil's advocate here, to get people thinking about the whole issue of risk, and how we should be applying a duty of care to others when participating in a high tech sport.

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

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posted by Neil753 [451 posts]
14th November 2013 - 20:03

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Neil753 wrote:

I'm sure most riders would be happy to accept the small risk of catastrophic failure

That's highly debatable, I've been on a bike that failed and if I was going any faster there's a good chance the resulting accident would have killed me. The last thing you want is your frame failing whilst your cycling at 25mph, the thought of coming off in an uncontrolled manner at that speed is cringe-worthy.

Of course there's always an element of risk, personally I'd like to know how much more likely to fail carbon frames are.

posted by kie7077 [419 posts]
14th November 2013 - 21:35

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I promise you, absolutely no offence taken Smile
To be honest I did take the bike on some gentler rides before building up to committing myself on it. Now I don't even think about it. 4 years on from the worst knock and my opinion is it would have broken by now if it was liable to.
The funny thing about the bike is although it's ultra stiff and corners on rails, it damps a lot of buzz from the roads. So you can have the best of both worlds - it's largely in the hands of the frame designer how a frame 'feels'; I'm not sure the 'steel or ti for comfort' adage is quite as exclusively true as it once was. Marketing has a lot to answer for!

I'd also suggest that the rise in the proliferation of mass-produced carbon bikes has coincided with the mass adoption of the internet (say c.2001), so the drag net of publicly viewable reportage on component failures suddenly widened dramatically. I wonder how many bike frames, wheels, etc. failed prior to that point without the same potential mass exposure?

posted by ficklewhippet [36 posts]
15th November 2013 - 13:58

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kie7077 wrote:

Of course there's always an element of risk, personally I'd like to know how much more likely to fail carbon frames are.

My favourite video of some serious carbon frame abuse:

http://www.pinkbike.com/video/243228/

The best bit...skip to 5:02

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posted by William Black [196 posts]
15th November 2013 - 14:30

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