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Do carbon bikes really have a shelf life?

Which tyres for Paris-Roubaix? Whose time trial bike is fastest? Suspension mountain bikes or singlespeeders? Talk equipment here.

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Do carbon bikes really have a shelf life?

03 May 2010 19:23

Thought maybe a 40 year old semi-noob could get some help on here. I am looking to upgrade from my steel touring bike to something faster..either titanium or carbon. I like the ride of both with maybe the carbon as a slight preference. I am puzzled by the dueling mantras by the bike makers. Carbon makers insist that their material is best and I agree with that with regards to ride quality, but the titanium guys all spout that carbon bikes "wear" out after 5 to 6 years and that durability is an issue. I heard quite a few opinions at the shops but thought I'd get a more impartial view before I put down 4 to 6k.
Thanks!
nvcowboyfan
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03 May 2010 21:01

nvcowboyfan wrote:Thought maybe a 40 year old semi-noob could get some help on here. I am looking to upgrade from my steel touring bike to something faster..either titanium or carbon. I like the ride of both with maybe the carbon as a slight preference. I am puzzled by the dueling mantras by the bike makers. Carbon makers insist that their material is best and I agree with that with regards to ride quality, but the titanium guys all spout that carbon bikes "wear" out after 5 to 6 years and that durability is an issue. I heard quite a few opinions at the shops but thought I'd get a more impartial view before I put down 4 to 6k.
Thanks!


i've owned two carbon bikes and two titanium bikes. my whippiest frame ever was the CF specialized epic and the best riding frame i've owned was a kestrel 200SCi.

i've also owned an eddy merckx ex pro ti which rode more like a cross between a steel and aluminum bike but with kestrel CF fork it was very comfortable.

i now own one bike, a litespeed pisgah with CF fork that i ride on the road. unless it gets stolen or breaks it'll be the last bike i'll ever buy.

if you are worried about durability definitely get a ti bike.

ed rader
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03 May 2010 21:19

welcome to the Forum!

If you are not going to race , why spend that kind of money on a carbon or ti frame? I know it is your money, guess what the bike doesn't go any faster. that part is up to you.

I would agree with the previous poster that the ti bike is most likely the better choice.

Let us know which frame you purchase. Happy riding! :D
Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades. - Eddy Merckx
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04 May 2010 01:43

nvcowboyfan wrote:Thought maybe a 40 year old semi-noob could get some help on here. I am looking to upgrade from my steel touring bike to something faster..either titanium or carbon. I like the ride of both with maybe the carbon as a slight preference. I am puzzled by the dueling mantras by the bike makers. Carbon makers insist that their material is best and I agree with that with regards to ride quality, but the titanium guys all spout that carbon bikes "wear" out after 5 to 6 years and that durability is an issue. I heard quite a few opinions at the shops but thought I'd get a more impartial view before I put down 4 to 6k.
Thanks!


I have a Dean titanium with carbon fork that is 7 years old now. I have raced it a bit, I have taken it on planes, done big 250km's rides, raced criteiums & guess what it is still a great bike. It is just a plain matt ti finish with black lettering, was going to upgrade to a new bike last year but just decided to get a new carbon Campag chorus g/set. I have two sets of wheels, campag Nuetrons about 1450g & Mavics about 1800g. It is still a really good bike, my guage of this is that every now & then a rider will quietly ask me if that bike is ti & comment that it is a really nice bike, even bike shop sales people have said that to me. It has not dated, just plain matt grey Titainium, not last years loud or not loud graphics. I cannot really see me getting another bike except maybe an ultralight Ti frame, i.e. 1000 - 1100g.
In 3-4 years your carbon bike will be last years colours or shape no matter how good it looks now. If I was happy to spend spend on bikes I would just get the lightest ti frame, g/set & wheels available.
tidean
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04 May 2010 01:46

Carbon will last forever if perfectly made and engineered. However, it will still be more fragile if dropped or crashed and damage may not be visible. Also, when carbon fails is does so all at once (catastrophic failure mode) . Ti in these regards is much better as is steel and aluminum. Frame material does not determine ride quality, design does. It is all about your preference and staying within your comfort zone.
Cheers...Daryl

-Life is too important to be taken seriously-
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04 May 2010 03:24

I have owned a titanium Litespeed Ultimate and carbon Cervelo R3, and currently own a custom titanium Lynskey Level 4 road bike. When I was deciding on a new bike, I agonized for ages over titanium v carbon and I am sure I drove at least a couple of LBSs crazy. But, bottom line, the most sage advice I received was that for my standard and expected use (ie, enthusiast and non-high level racer), I would be unlikely to tell the difference between either frame material. I chose the titanium Lynskey because of my previous good experience with the titanium Litespeed. Later, I still had the carbon jealousy and test rode and bought the Cervelo R3. I sold it 6 months later because, despite the same setup, it was so much more uncomfortable than my Lynskey, but my performance (power, times, speeds) were the same on both flat and hilly local courses. I still dream about another carbon bike, such as a Parlee, but am very content with my Lynskey and will be taking her to RAMROD this year. Oh, and she has traveled to Ireland, Australia and Colorado without a problem.
"If you're going through hell, keep going." - Winston Churchill
User avatar elapid
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04 May 2010 06:21

I have a 7 year old full carbon I tryed it on a crit early summer and it dose loose the back end on tight corners but for normal riding and time trials its OK.
So yes Carbon dose have a use by date somewhere around the 40-60 thousand ks. Depends what you want it for.
But how long dose others last for. excepting steel or Titanium
brianf7
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04 May 2010 08:14

Hmmm, so from reading this thread I have learned that CF forks last forever, so long as they're attached to a Ti frame...

FUD.

Given that Boeing and Airbus are both using CF as a major structural component in their newest passenger aircraft, I doubt that CF suffers from any longevity issues in a bicycling application.

Failure mode is a separate issue, but even crash-worthiness I would dispute any advantage to Ti, for a frame built to a similar weight and for a similar application.

This is borne out by the significant number of CF mountain bikes out there; as an avid MTBer as well as roadie, I've yet to come across anyone who has broken a CF frame, despite witnessing the riders crash at at least the same frequency as their Al riding poor cousins.
dsut4392
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04 May 2010 15:51

dsut4392 wrote:Hmmm, so from reading this thread I have learned that CF forks last forever, so long as they're attached to a Ti frame...

FUD.

Given that Boeing and Airbus are both using CF as a major structural component in their newest passenger aircraft, I doubt that CF suffers from any longevity issues in a bicycling application.

Failure mode is a separate issue, but even crash-worthiness I would dispute any advantage to Ti, for a frame built to a similar weight and for a similar application.

This is borne out by the significant number of CF mountain bikes out there; as an avid MTBer as well as roadie, I've yet to come across anyone who has broken a CF frame, despite witnessing the riders crash at at least the same frequency as their Al riding poor cousins.


Apples and Oranges. As for crash worthiness you can not compare a CF MTB frame to a CF road frame. The MTB frame is built to be hit hard, the road frames are not, they are built to be light not tough. CF road frames will fail in accidents that a metal (Ti, Al, or CrMo) will not. It does not mean that the injuries to the rider will be any different, it just means that you need a new frame. CF is engineered to handle loads very well in specific directions, when loaded in other directions it can be as fragile as a popsicle stick. Metal does not suffer from this property nearly as much, however, you pay a small weight penalty. It all comes down to design and engineering.
Cheers...Daryl

-Life is too important to be taken seriously-
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04 May 2010 17:16

dsut4392 wrote:Hmmm, so from reading this thread I have learned that CF forks last forever, so long as they're attached to a Ti frame...

FUD.

Given that Boeing and Airbus are both using CF as a major structural component in their newest passenger aircraft, I doubt that CF suffers from any longevity issues in a bicycling application.

Failure mode is a separate issue, but even crash-worthiness I would dispute any advantage to Ti, for a frame built to a similar weight and for a similar application.

This is borne out by the significant number of CF mountain bikes out there; as an avid MTBer as well as roadie, I've yet to come across anyone who has broken a CF frame, despite witnessing the riders crash at at least the same frequency as their Al riding poor cousins.



Sorry to be a ghoul. But the 1st time one of these cf passenger airplanes goes down there is going to be a lot made of the cf and did it or didn't it have a role. (Mostly b/c the media has to fill the space by making everyone hysterical to keep readers/viewers/sheep.)

CF from my perspective is not as intuitively beneficial as a metal. Maybe that's just me. And it seems the epoxy may have some qualities that aren't totally understood all its own.
r.avens
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04 May 2010 17:24

r.avens wrote:Sorry to be a ghoul. But the 1st time one of these cf passenger airplanes goes down there is going to be a lot made of the cf and did it or didn't it have a role. (Mostly b/c the media has to fill the space by making everyone hysterical to keep readers/viewers/sheep.)

CF from my perspective is not as intuitively beneficial as a metal. Maybe that's just me. And it seems the epoxy may have some qualities that aren't totally understood all its own.


Well, CF has been used in military aircraft for over 25 years and these aircraft undergo some serious strains. They may have worked out a few of the kinks by now. This is not to say that there have not been some great failures along the way.
Cheers...Daryl

-Life is too important to be taken seriously-
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04 May 2010 17:42

dsut4392 wrote:Failure mode is a separate issue, but even crash-worthiness I would dispute any advantage to Ti, for a frame built to a similar weight and for a similar application.


Carbon and ti frames are not built to the same weight, so that it irrelevant.

dsut4392 wrote:This is borne out by the significant number of CF mountain bikes out there; as an avid MTBer as well as roadie, I've yet to come across anyone who has broken a CF frame, despite witnessing the riders crash at at least the same frequency as their Al riding poor cousins.


You have never seen any carbon MTBs with a cracked swing arm, or carbon bars and seatposts that have broken in a crash (or in some cases failed unexpectedly)?
"Listen, my son. Trust no one! You can count on no one but yourself. Improve your skills, son. Harden your body. Become a number one man. Do not ever let anyone beat you!" -- Gekitotsu! Satsujin ken
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Military & other aircraft

05 May 2010 02:16

In my reply regarding the request about longevity of Ti frames there were many aspects regarding my preference for Ti long beyond just "will it last a few years"?.
Offering the comparison with military aircraft is probably a long shot. The specification for military grade materials, construction processes of military products & the maintenance of the same is totally different to a bicycle frame that was probably made in China by a poor person who really wants to be back in the home village with their family & not in a sweat factory earning pittance working 15hrs a day. You or your local bike shop are probably at the opposite end of the maintenance spectrum from a military or even civil LAME (Licensed Aircraft Mechanical Engineer). And having said all that it took me a few years before I gave up being really sensitive to how my bike was parked at the end of any regular ride that I do, you know when 10 or 20 get to the café & all the bike are Lent up against a wall somewhere!! Whereas I do care about the treatment of my bike I have given up being overly concerned & you know what after 7 or so years the Ti finish is still great & I know that it is still structurally as sound as it looks good. There are heaps great looking CF bikes around Parlee, Ridley, even the Giants for value for money but for good, no great sound every day top notch year in year out my money is still on Ti.
tidean
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05 May 2010 02:47

dsut4392 wrote:Hmmm, so from reading this thread I have learned that CF forks last forever, so long as they're attached to a Ti frame...

FUD.

Given that Boeing and Airbus are both using CF as a major structural component in their newest passenger aircraft, I doubt that CF suffers from any longevity issues in a bicycling application.

Failure mode is a separate issue, but even crash-worthiness I would dispute any advantage to Ti, for a frame built to a similar weight and for a similar application.

This is borne out by the significant number of CF mountain bikes out there; as an avid MTBer as well as roadie, I've yet to come across anyone who has broken a CF frame, despite witnessing the riders crash at at least the same frequency as their Al riding poor cousins.


Local young mtb'rs carbon frame came apart at the bottom of a steep G out dip (not a jump) he got hurt a lot, but thankfully nothing permanent, recovered in a few months.
tidean
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05 May 2010 03:06

Does anyone have any links to documented carbon frame failures? There are probably a lot of good reasons not to choose a carbon frame bike, but I'm skeptical that it's because there's a significant danger of them failing all at once out of the blue.
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05 May 2010 04:27

bc_hills wrote:Does anyone have any links to documented carbon frame failures? There are probably a lot of good reasons not to choose a carbon frame bike, but I'm skeptical that it's because there's a significant danger of them failing all at once out of the blue.


In the early days of carbon forks there was wide spread fear that injury causing failures would be common. Those fears turned out to be unfounded. On the other hand, in the early days of carbon MTB bars and seatposts failures were not uncommon. As far as frames go I think the issue is more one of frames getting cracked in crashes where metal would survive. I am not fearful that a carbon frame will suddenly fail during regular use.

If you want to see some scary stuff then visit this blog:

http://www.bustedcarbon.com/
"Listen, my son. Trust no one! You can count on no one but yourself. Improve your skills, son. Harden your body. Become a number one man. Do not ever let anyone beat you!" -- Gekitotsu! Satsujin ken
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05 May 2010 04:36

Carbon, in every aspect of the bicycle, frame/fork/parts is immensely better than it was a decade ago. I was witness working deep in the industry to the carbon explosion, literally and figuratively in the late 90's early 2000's.. Piles of carbon garbage. Much has changed since then.
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Me too...

05 May 2010 09:53

I just went through the same thing as the OP. Spent a lot on a bike that I know I don't need. But it sure looks pretty!!

Anyway, after much deliberation, I ended up with a 2010 Felt F4. The frame comes with a lifetime warranty, so if it does break, I'm OK.

Whichever frame you look at make sure you know what the warranty is. Some (like Scott, I think) have limited-time coverage.

Enjoy the shopping,

Murray
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05 May 2010 10:00

karlboss
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05 May 2010 12:33

BroDeal wrote:Carbon and ti frames are not built to the same weight, so that it irrelevant.


I disagree. If you're trying to say "you can't compare CF and Ti bikes because they're fundamentally different critters" that's fine, but you can't allow the comparison and cherry-pick the advantages of one material but ignore the advantages of another. Much of the claimed superiority of metals including Ti is due to their inferior mechanical properties (tensile strength WRT CF) in terms of meeting design-specific stresses. Essentially, to be strong enough to deal with the forces of normal riding, a frame built with a traditional drawn metal tubeset, whether Al, Ti or Fe, ends up 'overbuilt' (again WRT CF) in terms of resistance to damage. You could just as easily build some extra strength for crash worthiness into CF; this happens with MTBs).
Witness what happens to lightweight alloy bikes, or steel bikes built with modern ultra-thin tube sets; neither crash worthy nor repairable. Perhaps this hasn't happened yet with Ti because such tubesets are too hard to draw in Ti, but it's still not "irrelevant" if the OP is comparing two bikes made from the different materials, ostensibly for the same use.

BroDeal wrote:You have never seen any carbon MTBs with a cracked swing arm, or carbon bars and seatposts that have broken in a crash (or in some cases failed unexpectedly)?


Actually, I haven't, but that's probably because CF MTBs are still in the minority; I don't doubt they are similarly susceptible to breakage. I have seen broken alloy swingarms, broken alloy frames, broken alloy bars, broken alloy forks and broken alloy cranks, broken arms, broken collarbones and broken balls however;)

My own opinion is that if you have a crash that results in visible damage to your bike, whatever material it's made from, you would be a fool to ride it faster than walking pace until you're able to get it professionally examined AND tested. On the flip side, I see no justification for the paranoia about 'invisible' crash damage to CF; any deformation significant enough to affect the CF material would almost certainly result in visible, tangible damage to the clearcoat.

Of course, if you know of any evidence to the contrary I wold love to read it as it might one day save my life!:eek:
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