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  1. #1
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    Carbon Frame Longevity: I promise won't lift the football this time Charlie Brown

    Has anyone had a carbon frame that has seen serious use and that has lasted more than 5 years? I am considering getting a new bike. In the past (although maybe 8-10 years ago), I knew many people who had problems with their carbon frames cracking, but I realize the technology has been improving. I have seen videos showing that new carbon frames do not crack even under extreme pressure from punch presses in a machine shop: obviously people from companies trying to sell their bikes. However I have also seen the recent video where someone destroyed a bike, cracking the carbon frame in half, by slamming the bike into the ground in frustration. So I was wondering what experiences have people been having lately? Maybe carbon frames really have improved, I don't know. My steel frame was really heavy, 15-17 kg +, but lasted 30 years. My aluminum bike is a lot lighter and has lasted 12+ years and is going strong, but is starting to act up component-wise and is getting close to the "too-old-to-fix-easily" stage. I plan to get a 2nd bike, maybe better than my aluminum one, to replace the steel one, which recently died. I am doing a lot of hill climbing / mountain passes/ descending on the roads around here, but do not plan to do any racing. My gut feeling is that aluminum will probably be ok, but I am curious about carbon.

  2. #2
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    I have a carbon mountain bike that is more than 5 years old.
    I have a carbon road bike that is 4 years old with 27,000 or so miles on it.
    I have a carbon CX bike that is just over a year old.

    They are all fine. But, I haven't smashed them in machine shops or thrown them on the ground.

    Yes, aluminum would be fine. But, I am not sure that an aluminum frame would necessarily come out of smashing, throwing, or crashing unscathed.

    I would ignore the frame material, do some test rides, and buy the bike you like most.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmfriedman7 View Post
    Has anyone had a carbon frame that has seen serious use and that has lasted more than 5 years? I am considering getting a new bike. In the past (although maybe 8-10 years ago), I knew many people who had problems with their carbon frames cracking, but I realize the technology has been improving. I have seen videos showing that new carbon frames do not crack even under extreme pressure from punch presses in a machine shop: obviously people from companies trying to sell their bikes. However I have also seen the recent video where someone destroyed a bike, cracking the carbon frame in half, by slamming the bike into the ground in frustration. So I was wondering what experiences have people been having lately? Maybe carbon frames really have improved, I don't know. My steel frame was really heavy, 15-17 kg +, but lasted 30 years. My aluminum bike is a lot lighter and has lasted 12+ years and is going strong, but is starting to act up component-wise and is getting close to the "too-old-to-fix-easily" stage. I plan to get a 2nd bike, maybe better than my aluminum one, to replace the steel one, which recently died. I am doing a lot of hill climbing / mountain passes/ descending on the roads around here, but do not plan to do any racing. My gut feeling is that aluminum will probably be ok, but I am curious about carbon.
    I am sure this thread will end in a flame war but maybe that was the intent. I think there are lots of folks here with CF bikes older than that that are just fine. My lower-end Douglas CF frame is still good after 9 years. Undoubtedly there have been failures, and if you search here you will find many tales of busted carbon. My feeling is that it is more about the pursuit of the lightest frames than an inherent issue with the material itself. I consider myself mainly a steel guy so I don't feel any need to defend carbon but i don't subscribe to the idea that all CF bikes are prone to failure.

  4. #4
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    A carbon frame will last somewhere between one ride and infinity. Like anything, some are good and some are not.
    Last edited by Jay Strongbow; 10-16-2017 at 07:28 AM.

  5. #5
    hfc
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    1996 Colnago C40
    2006 ALAN Carbon Cross
    Recently sold a beautiful 2005 Colnago E1 as I wanted a more modern lugged carbon.

  6. #6
    your god hates me
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmfriedman7 View Post
    Has anyone had a carbon frame that has seen serious use and that has lasted more than 5 years?
    I bought a Cannondale Synapse Carbon 2 in July 2006, put anywhere from 3,000 to 8,000 miles on it per year, and it still works just fine. A few dings in the paint, but no structural damage, it hasn't gone all "flexy", it hasn't melted or asploded [sic] or given me any indication that the frame & fork won't last at least another 11 years if I continue to treat it the way I did in the first 11 years.

  7. #7
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    I don't own a carbon bike; all my current bikes are steel.

    However, I wanted to get a bike that would be my dream bike and last as long as I did.

    Originally, I was going to get a Calfee carbon frame; but after discussing it with friends and researching, I had the same concerns you did.

    In the end, I decided to get a Titanium frame instead, since it *seemed* that that would last longer, all things being equal.

    Had you thought of titanium as an option?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveG View Post
    Undoubtedly there have been failures, and if you search here you will find many tales of busted carbon. My feeling is that it is more about the pursuit of the lightest frames than an inherent issue with the material itself.
    ^This.^
    “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” -- Aaron Levenstein

    "Beware of geeks bearing formulas."
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    "Education is what you get when you read the fine print. Experience is what you get when you don't. -- Pete Seeger



  9. #9
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    To me it is comical that these fears are still circulating.

    Carbon Fiber has been around in the bike world for three decades now? In that time, there have been many failures and recalls ... of steel, aluminum and carbon fiber frames and forks and other parts.

    There have been unexplained failures, there have been bad designs, shoddy manufacturing ...

    And still, somehow, 99.9% of the people who buy bicycles ride them without incident ... or at least without major mechanical failure caused by materials or design. If you hit a parked car and bend your fork, that's on you.

    For every guy who talks about his 11-year-old Cannondale with 50,000+ miles on it, you will see four people telling about a story they heard about how a CF bike snuck into its owner's house one night and murdered the whole family.

    Yet for some reason we only remember the one apocryphal tale of CF asplosion, and ignore the reality that people have been riding CF bikes for decades.

    Still, I'd recommend you buy the bike which makes you comfortable. If, despite logic and evidence, you are leery of CF, don't buy it. You need to like your bike, and if you cannot like a composite bike, admit it and buy a metal bike.

    In the end, you will enjoy riding more on a bike you like better.

    A bike which is 100 grams lighter or a tiny bit more aero or slightly more rigid or compliant by some measurable but imperceptible percentage won't make as much of a difference to your riding and owning experience as will the color of the paint.

  10. #10
    'brifter' is a lame word.
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    Pretty sure I've had just as many Ti frames have problems that could be covered by warranty as I've had carbon...at the shop level. If a carbon frame is damaged and it's not a 'warranty' issue it's for sure easier to repair than Ti...although Ti is more damage resistant.

    That said there are millions of carbon frames being ridden now, why are you worried about them? Are you one of those people that can't take care of their stuff?
    I work for some bike racers
    I've got some bikes, some guns,
    and a bunch of skateboards

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maelochs View Post
    For every guy who talks about his 11-year-old Cannondale with 50,000+ miles on it, you will see four people telling about a story they heard about how a CF bike snuck into its owner's house one night and murdered the whole family.

    .
    Those stories of gruesome murders are exactly the reason CF has earned its soulless reputation. I accuse the big carbon cartels of a huge cover-up

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmfriedman7 View Post
    Has anyone had a carbon frame that has seen serious use and that has lasted more than 5 years?
    How about a 1992 Kestrel 200sci that was still being raced on by junior racers up to 5 years ago? It had as a beginners bike been in a heap of prangs.I replaced the original fork after getting t boned by a car. It is still in the clubrooms but relegated to the last one chosen now. "not cool enough".
    I handed it to the local cycling club when I was leaving the country and thought I was done cycling. Today my new carbon fiber road frame arrives. n+1 FU.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmfriedman7 View Post
    Has anyone had a carbon frame that has seen serious use and that has lasted more than 5 years? I am considering getting a new bike. In the past (although maybe 8-10 years ago), I knew many people who had problems with their carbon frames cracking, but I realize the technology has been improving. I have seen videos showing that new carbon frames do not crack even under extreme pressure from punch presses in a machine shop: obviously people from companies trying to sell their bikes. However I have also seen the recent video where someone destroyed a bike, cracking the carbon frame in half, by slamming the bike into the ground in frustration. So I was wondering what experiences have people been having lately? Maybe carbon frames really have improved, I don't know. My steel frame was really heavy, 15-17 kg +, but lasted 30 years. My aluminum bike is a lot lighter and has lasted 12+ years and is going strong, but is starting to act up component-wise and is getting close to the "too-old-to-fix-easily" stage. I plan to get a 2nd bike, maybe better than my aluminum one, to replace the steel one, which recently died. I am doing a lot of hill climbing / mountain passes/ descending on the roads around here, but do not plan to do any racing. My gut feeling is that aluminum will probably be ok, but I am curious about carbon.
    Some questions before I say something.
    Budget?, your weight? Riding aptitude? Hours per week of riding? Road or mnt bike?
    But even after you have answered all these my recommendation for longevity and return of investment would be a Ti frame as the material. It could be expensive but it depends. Expensive is very relative. Hence me asking for a budget.
    Based on what you said you seem to like things that last.
    Aluminum would be my second choice. Won't last as long but still it will probably last 10-15+ years.



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  14. #14
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    Weight and riding style. Is something that all fail to mention when recommending a carbon bike. This is key for tolerance over one on a not custom carbon frame.
    Someone said that the lighter the frame the more prone to breaking which is true.
    The heavier and more aggressive the rider the more prone to break it too


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  15. #15
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    The proof in the pudding are the warranties being offered by the manufacturers. Many are lifetime (usually to the original owner, some restrictions apply...) but if the frame is guaranteed for life, who cares whether it breaks; the manufacturer will most likely warranty it with a current model if the broken model is no longer available.

    I've seen ALL frame materials break. It's not in the financial interest of the manufacturers to build frames with such iffy lifespans, so you should feel confident that regardless of which material you choose, it should last a long time. Just verify the warranty covers a lifetime of use and is not limited to a number of years.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter P. View Post
    The proof in the pudding are the warranties being offered by the manufacturers. Many are lifetime (usually to the original owner, some restrictions apply...) but if the frame is guaranteed for life, who cares whether it breaks; the manufacturer will most likely warranty it with a current model if the broken model is no longer available.
    Key words for sure. Always remember that a warranty is only good as the company behind it. If that company is known for trying to weasel out of warranty claims and claiming user abuse, the lifetime warranty is worthless.
    “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” -- Aaron Levenstein

    "Beware of geeks bearing formulas."
    -- Warren Buffett

    "Education is what you get when you read the fine print. Experience is what you get when you don't. -- Pete Seeger



  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveG View Post
    Those stories of gruesome murders are exactly the reason CF has earned its soulless reputation. I accuse the big carbon cartels of a huge cover-up
    I don't have much to add besides this: My 15 year old Cannondale CAAD 7 had been great to me, and it did indeed have well over 50,000 miles on it. It now has a huge crack in the top tube and a stealthy carbon bike is perched in my living room...

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by charlitin View Post
    Someone said that the lighter the frame the more prone to breaking which is true.
    No it's not true. Not as a rule like you stated it anyway. If all else was equal yeah sure but it never is.

    You don't really think a Parlee, Time or Storck frame which are all pretty light is more likely to crack than an ebay knock off that weighs a ton do you?

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter P. View Post
    I've seen ALL frame materials break.
    And this is the ultimate reality.

    Even a well-made frame from a well-known manufacturer can break---some hidden flaw int eh material, a tiny flaw in a weld or in layup, rider abuse, simple random and unfortunate chance ....

    Likewise any frame material can be formed into something which lasts a lifetime.

    Further, you can read about riders who were screwed by some companies with lifetime warranties, and others who were completely satisfied with the warranty service of those same companies. Luck, karma, whatever.

    Frame life has never been a factor in any of my bicycle decisions. It is a given.

    Still .... if simple logic cannot over-ride a buyer's prejudices, than that buyer should buy what his/her prejudices demand. No point in buying a bike one doesn't trust, even if it is all in one's head.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Strongbow View Post
    No it's not true. Not as a rule like you stated it anyway. If all else was equal yeah sure but it never is.

    You don't really think a Parlee, Time or Storck frame which are all pretty light is more likely to crack than an ebay knock off that weighs a ton do you?
    Hummm as a general rule of thumb. If you use less material of the same strength to make something lighter it will make it weaker. This is physics. A 1/2 inch of the same material vs a 1 inch will be weaker and more
    Prone to failure due to bending forces and any external force. Don't overthink it please.
    Most of the time when I see the supporters of carbon I see these skinny 60-70 kg guys that don't race or do more than 10 hrs per week.
    If you race and you are skinny, you are going to break that frame. Guarantee!
    A fall, stress after a fall, you name it. It will break!!! My skinny 60-70 lbs pro racers go thru 2-3 frames per season!!!
    I made it to CAT 3. In about 3 years starting at 33. I cracked 3 frames. Scott CR1 all of them. I cracked 2 wheels made of carbon. Zipps and cosmic carbones. I had falls with some of them and some of them didn't fall but still cracked because my racing weight is about 87kg. I was doing 20hrs per week of training with 1-2 races per week on season.
    After I finished racing I decided to build stuff that last. Ti was the answer for me. I'm not going to go over why but it is the best metal to build bikes with proper butting of the tubes to improve stiffness due to its flexible nature. Familiarize yourself with the new welding techniques that Ti uses. If the weld is not contaminated it will last a lifetime. Steel is also very good but it corrodes and it is heavier, but cheaper. I wanted a 15lbs bike so Ti was the answer.
    If you are going to defend carbon please state how you ride it, how much you ride and for how long. How much do you weight? This will determine how long it will Last you.
    Please do not compare a carbon frame in longevity to a Ti or steel.
    These carbon frames are not made for longevity. They are made for performance. Stop deluding your self. And please do not get offended and start berating me for stating what I have seen over the years of cycling.
    You want a carbon frame that is light, relatively cheap and lasts? Like the saying goes. "In cycling there is, Strong light and cheap. Pick two"
    Something else that carbon does is it keeps the wheel of production turning. What doesn't break doesn't need replacement.
    The person that started the thread wanted ideas and what is going on with carbon now days. You want a carbon bike that is going to be strong and light? It ain't going to be cheap because you will have to make it custom.
    For the same price range you can have a Ti/carbon or full Ti bike that will last a very long time. Just don't hit the carbon tube too hard on a fall.
    Carbon is weaker than aluminum and Ti and steel. This is a fact not an opinion. Check the MDS for stress in the different tubes of each material and see for yourself. Carbon It is stiffer and performs really really nice for racing. This comes at a price. Longevity is diminished. That is the bottom line.





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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by charlitin View Post
    Hummm as a general rule of thumb. If you use less material of the same strength to make something lighter it will make it weaker. This is physics. A 1/2 inch of the same material vs a 1 inch will be weaker and more
    Prone to failure due to bending forces and any external force. Don't overthink it please.
    Carbon bikes are not all made of "the same material". And even if they are lighter is not necessarily stronger because placement of that material and workmanship make a big difference. So does bike geometry.

    The fact is that 'lighter is weaker' does not apply to carbon bikes unless everything else is equal, but it never is equal so does not apply.

    I wasn't able to make it though your life story but sort of ironic telling me not to overthink it right before you launched into writing a novel about it. Nice work there.

  22. #22
    pmf
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Strongbow View Post
    I wasn't able to make it though your life story but sort of ironic telling me not to overthink it right before you launched into writing a novel about it. Nice work there.


    I just replaced all the parts on my 2001 Colnago C-40. Just like a new bike. Did my annual century on it last weekend.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Strongbow View Post
    Carbon bikes are not all made of "the same material". And even if they are lighter is not necessarily stronger because placement of that material and workmanship make a big difference. So does bike geometry.

    The fact is that 'lighter is weaker' does not apply to carbon bikes unless everything else is equal, but it never is equal so does not apply.

    I wasn't able to make it though your life story but sort of ironic telling me not to overthink it right before you launched into writing a novel about it. Nice work there.
    I am not sure what you think is special about CF in this regard but I agree with the statement that in general lighter means less durable. That applies to all materials. Yes, through careful design you can remove some material without sacrificing durability, but to get really light you need to trade-off durability for weight savings. There is no way you are going to convince me that an ultra-light 700g frame is just as long lasting as a 1200g frame.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveG View Post
    I am not sure what you think is special about CF in this regard but I agree with the statement that in general lighter means less durable. That applies to all materials. Yes, through careful design you can remove some material without sacrificing durability, but to get really light you need to trade-off durability for weight savings. There is no way you are going to convince me that an ultra-light 700g frame is just as long lasting as a 1200g frame.
    It's not special at all in this regard. There are different levels of quality in steel, ti, alloy, bamboo or anything a bike could be made of.

    Do you really think a carbon bike from, say, Parlee, is using the same carbon and workmanship as a knock off ebay special so it's definitely more apt to crack because it's lighter?

    I have no interest in convincing you of anything. I know I'd take my chances on Storck's top offering (if I could afford it) over a heavier ebay special though.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by pmf View Post


    I just replaced all the parts on my 2001 Colnago C-40. Just like a new bike. Did my annual century on it last weekend.
    So if you replaced ALL the parts, is it really the same bike?
    “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” -- Aaron Levenstein

    "Beware of geeks bearing formulas."
    -- Warren Buffett

    "Education is what you get when you read the fine print. Experience is what you get when you don't. -- Pete Seeger



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