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Carbon Frame protection/maintenance

Whether you are wondering how to true a wheel, how to fix that clicking sound or simply maintain your bike for the long haul, the Workshop & Maintenance forum is your one-stop online mechanic shop.

Moderator: Pricey_sky

Carbon Frame protection/maintenance

09 Sep 2015 23:20

This is something that I see people neglect a lot beyond the odd wash/wipedown, especially with Matte finished frames where the dirt doesn't show, unlike a gloss frame.

While carbon fibre composites are wonderful materials they still need attention like the steel and aluminium frames you may have had previously. Areas of your frame that see a lot of wear (inside of forks/chainstays, drive side of BB, bottom of downtube) or a lot of sweat/rubbing (top/headtubes, outside of chainstays) need attention to make sure that the finish of the frame isn't compromised, exposing the composite materials.

This is especially important with lightweight frames, as they will usually have a lighter, softer finish to achieve that low weight.

Frame Protection

The first thing I do when I get a new frame is clean it thoroughly and then apply clear frame stickers to the following spots:

Drive side chainstay - to stop chain wear, and heel rub if necessary
Both sides of the headtube - making sure that cables cannot rub against the frame
Top of the seattube (if it has a seatstay mounted brake) again to stop cable rub
Behind the chainrings on the drive side chainstay, to prevent wear and chipping from a dropped chain (some frames already have a protector for this purpose.)

Stone chips

These can really speed up wear and flaking on a carbon frame. Sweat, dirt, rain and mud can get it and make them grow at a rapid rate. Most common places are the downtube, seatstays and headtube but they can appear in other places.

Small chips can be easily treated when you spot them early. Clean the area thoroughly and then seal it with something such as shellac or even clear nail polish. More than one coat may be needed to seal it completely.

Cleaning

One of the most important things is to recognise which parts of the frame get exposed to the most sweat, dirt, mud etc. My knees have always come in towards the top tube at the top of the pedal stroke, so I need to keep it clean or it will wear quickly and become "polished". I also sweat a lot more than most people so I need to keep an eye on my headtube as well, as the sweat can get into the headset, as well as under the edge of the coat.

Sweat eats away at the finish of your bike quickly, so be sure to clean it (or at least wipe it down) after every long ride. Don't be "that guy" who always has a filthy bike, then wonders why the finish on their high end frame only lasts a year or two.

Baby wipes can be a great way to get your bike clean quick, but I avoid using them too often as some brands can wear away the paint over time. The best thing is to get a good bike wash product and use some elbow grease.

When I give my bike a thorough wash, I degrease the drivetrain first, focusing on the chain and rear derailleur. After this I'll scrub it down and rinse off, avoiding getting water into the bottom bracket and headset as much as possible. Then I dry the bike down thoroughly. Pro mechanics generally air dry bikes after a wash to reduce moisture ingress as much as possible.

Once the bike is washed I'll check that there's no grit or dirt in the brake pads, that the bar tape is clean and intact, and check the bottom bracket and headset are clean (no obvious dirt, grease etc). I'll then lube the drivetrain lightly and give the frame (not the drivetrain) a very light wipe over with a spray on cleaner like Mr Sheen, silicon grease, WD-40 or even a very light chain lube to give it a barrier and shine the bike up nicely.

With the wheels, I will give the rims a clean with methylated spirits to make sure that the braking surface is clean and the pads grip nicely without squealing. I'll also check the cassette for any trapped gunk and if necessary remove and clean with degreaser. Every 3rd or 4th wash I'll put a tiny drop of chain lube on the nipple of each spoke to make sure that it won't strip when it comes time to true or tension.

Good things to have when cleaning your bike:

2 buckets of water - one for detergent, one for rinsing
Degreaser - I usually use methylated spirits or a bike specific degreaser
A soft scrubbing brush with long bristles
A 1" paintbrush for degreasing the drivetrain
Baby wipes for wiping off excess mud/dirt from the drivetrain
Soft cleaning cloths
Old but clean towels/rags for drying
Rag for wiping off excess chain lube
Chain lube
Spray on cleaner/very light lube
User avatar 42x16ss
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10 Sep 2015 02:44

excellent write up 42x16ss - thanks for the contribution

sweat can play havoc to your cockpit and make a real mess if you're not conscious of its impact

a few years back i worked the mechanics area at Ironman NZ for 3 days in the lead up to the race
i know it's a different set up to a road / mtb position, but the amount of disgusting rotted bartape that needed changing and amount of corrosion to stems, stem bolts, head sets and basically anywhere there guys and gals had sweated profusely was quite incredible!

i have found acetone excellent in cleaning up rim surfaces and rotors.....not to mention many other areas on the bike
but be careful
it will take off paint and decals no problem
use with caution
User avatar JackRabbitSlims
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Re:

10 Sep 2015 04:20

JackRabbitSlims wrote:sweat can play havoc to your cockpit and make a real mess if you're not conscious of its impact

a few years back i worked the mechanics area at Ironman NZ for 3 days in the lead up to the race
i know it's a different set up to a road / mtb position, but the amount of disgusting rotted bartape that needed changing and amount of corrosion to stems, stem bolts, head sets and basically anywhere there guys and gals had sweated profusely was quite incredible!

Oh yeah. Triathletes that love to train indoors seem oblivious to the effects of sweat. Like you said, corroded parts and bearings, manky bartape, flexed wheels and squared off tyres seems to be the norm with a lot of them.

And there's nothing worse than a tri geek who doesn't wash their bike after a long course or IM and then takes it in expecting you to pack it. Blecch!!!
User avatar 42x16ss
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10 Sep 2015 05:06

Morgan Blue Glossy carbon polish in a spray can ;)
User avatar wendybnt
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11 Sep 2015 09:03

Sweat... I can soak a beach towel just by doing an hour on a turbo... Horrible! Yes, people have to really pay attention to that one.
Vincenzo Nibali:
"I know how to ride a bike"

Reduce your carbon footprint, ride steel.
User avatar King Boonen
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Re: Carbon Frame protection/maintenance

14 Sep 2015 16:23

If your bike is painted then obviously you have to get through the paint before you reach the carbon.
So all the above advice works great.
If you have a nude carbon bike or have exposed carbon sections then I would recommend Aero 303. It gives great protection including UV.
Its also very good for buffing up any carbon bits that you may have scuffed or have sanded off decals or stickers.
In-fact Parlee and Giant give you a free bottle when you buy their nude carbon frames.
ray j willings
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29 Sep 2015 12:23

What is the importance of having the carbon exposed by poulish damage? This is my wife's bike, I've bought her another but I wonder if it might break on its new owner...

Image
oronet commander
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Re:

29 Sep 2015 15:14

oronet commander wrote:What is the importance of having the carbon exposed by poulish damage? This is my wife's bike, I've bought her another but I wonder if it might break on its new owner...

Image


Some company's put a cosmetic layer of carbon , so it looks nice. If this gets damaged it should not be a problem.
If the carbon is flaking or chipped on the surface and its just a tiny bit then some carbon glue can fix that. If the the carbon has been badly cracked then the frame would need a repair as the integrity has been compromised.
It can also depend where the damage is. I have drilled many holes in my carbon frame and its fine.
But any damage near joining points and you risk your health riding it.
ray j willings
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