Monday, February 11, 2019

Carbon Fiber Bikes Failure

See the fork break
If you're a cyclist in Singapore, you would have probably seen the pictures of yesterday's crash from the failure of a carbon fiber fork. The fork snapped when the rider attempted to sprint. His teammate crashed as a result and broke his collar bone. Thankfully only one rider hurt.
Another look 
It looked like the epoxy bonding came off on one side of the fork and then the other side of the fork snapped. The cyclist is from the Integrated Riding Club and they were using Boardman bike frames previously. They just changed sponsors to this current 2019 Genesis frame.

Almost everyone who likes high performance bicycles uses a carbon fiber bike now. It's considered the norm and a wonder material since it's strong and extremely light to boot. Downside is damage to bikes with carbon fiber frames and/ or components can be hard to spot and potentially catastrophic as seen in the crash yesterday.

Of course these kinds of accidents are rare though they do happen. There was an article from Outside magazine last year highlighting other examples of carbon fiber bikes failing seemingly out of nowhere.

I spoke to Kenneth Tan from Cycleworx yesterday and he said that carbon fiber technology is "very advanced" now and not so prone to failure. In most cases, it's probably a legitimate design or manufacturing defect in the carbon fiber that leads to failure under normal conditions. Problem is it's difficult to see cracks with the naked eye before the cracks get worse and fail big time often without warning.

Kenneth says shoddy manufacturing and especially counterfeits, bikes that look like a "real" Pinarello (that Cycleworx is the agent) are the real problems. Counterfeit bikes pose a much greater risk than factory defects from a reputable brand. For those of you who don't know, Pinarello bikes are the Crème de la crème of bicycles. I've been going to Cycleworx since they opened in 1996 at the first Cycleworx location at Serangoon Gardens. And I used to ride a Fondriest and Pinarello before.

If you crashed your bike or plan to get a used carbon fiber one, get it checked by an expert. A foolproof test is to get an ultrasound scan done, but's it's pricey and not easily available here anyway. A simple test may be using a coin to tap the carbon fiber. When there's a defect in the carbon fiber it sounds a little flat compared to a "solid" sound.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you need to abandon carbon fiber bikes. You just need to be aware that carbon fiber bikes need regular inspections and maintenance. Read the owner's manual and don't overtighten carbon fiber components (I'm sometimes guilty of that as I'm fearful of parts loosening and maybe causing a fall).

Me? I'm a fan of steel bikes although I do use a carbon fiber fork and seat post. Make sure you stay safe on the roads.
Steel is real for me
*From the Outside Magazine article.

"There's already a cottage industry of people who specialise in lawsuits resulting from bike accidents, including a growing cadre of attorneys and forensic experts who specialise in carbon fibre. Now that use of the material, once reserved for high-end bikes, has become widespread in the bike industry, reports of accidents and mysterious failures are on the rise. Kowal's case signals that bike manufacturers - even overseas brands - may be accountable. The result could be a dramatic spike in the number of lawsuits brought against makers of carbon fibre bike parts".  

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