Carbon fiber bikes are made by weaving carbon fiber strands and then setting them in a hard epoxy resin. Most new cyclists love these bikes due to their lightweight which makes them easy to handle.
However, it comes with some problems just like any other bike out there. In addition to problems that are common to bikes in general, carbon fiber bikes come with some other problems unique to them.
Let’s look at some of the problems you may encounter as an owner of a carbon fiber bike.
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1. Frames Crack on Impact Instead of Bending
Carbon fiber is a very stiff or rigid material that is not flexible on bending. While the stiffness improves handling, it also means the bike doesn’t impact well. If it hits an object with a great impact, the frame cracks instead of bending.
If you have a carbon fiber bike of low quality, it can crack even from a light impact. Besides, the frame can crack when overtightened.
However, this should not put you off. Most carbon fiber bike frames are strong and are made to withstand impacts for years.
2. Defects are Hard to Detect
Another big issue with carbon fiber bikes is that the damages can be invisible. When there is a minor defect in the carbon fiber frame, they become hard to detect.
To easily detect the cracks, you may use Non Destructive testing which is costly and most beginners may not afford it. The cheapest way is to look closely for the scratches. If it is something deep or through the paint, you may see it.
You can also tap the suspected area with a coin and listen to a change in sound. When the carbon is broken the sound usually becomes dull.
3. Safety Issues
As I mentioned before, it is not always easy to detect damages on a carbon fiber bike by just looking at it or running your hands over the bike. For that reason, you can ride a carbon fiber bike for quite a long time before you notice the damage.
Sometimes they simply fail without apparent warning due to hidden damages. That said, a carbon frame is not a very safe type of bike if you compare it with other brands.
I don’t want to be an alarmist, but this lack of awareness of the current situation of your bike is even more serious when you purchase a used carbon bike.
You may hire an expert to help you inspect the bike thoroughly before you purchase them if you want to be on the safe side.
4. Repairs are Costly
Though carbon fiber bike frames can be repaired when they crack, it is not everyone’s job. This is because carbon fiber contains complicated materials that need specialized equipment to fix the defects and repairs.
For beginners, this means you will be involving a third party to undertake the project. But it comes at a cost. Depending on who you hire and the extent of work, the project may pork a serious hole through your pocket.
5. Tire Puncture
Anytime you meet someone pushing their bike, ask why and I guarantee a 60% chance of a “tire puncture” reply. It is not unique to carbon fiber bikes but it is so common that it can’t go without being mentioned when talking about common bike problems.
Sharp objects such as broken glasses can accidentally pork through the rubber and pierce through the inner tube rendering your tire flat. When this happens, you can have the tube sealed and returned or replace it with a new one altogether.
But always remember to locate where the object is and remove it before you fix the new tube.
Are Carbon Fiber Bike Frames Expensive?
A carbon fiber bike frame is expensive, costing almost twice an aluminum bike frame. One of the contributing factors to their high prices is the quality of carbon fiber.
All the materials related to the composites are expensive, and thus it makes the carbon fiber bikes generally expensive.
Another factor is the greater level of engineering needed during manufacturing. The bikes are extensively processed and there is never mass production like in the case of aluminum. For that reason, they are more in demand, which results in price increases.
Are Carbon Fiber Bikes Worth It?
Though carbon fiber bikes are a bit expensive, saying that they are overpriced may be misleading because these bikes come with a lot of benefits.
To begin with, the material is stronger but less dense, giving a lightweight bike of high quality. Unlike other frames, carbon fiber frames don’t fatigue and therefore last longer. The frames are made to resist impact and they don’t break easily.
The bike is stiffer and more responsive compared to other materials. This stiffness improves handling. Their smoother feels and rigid designs also offer a comfortable ride that is second to none.
How Long Does a Carbon Fiber Bike Last?
Under normal conditions, carbon fiber bikes are strong and durable. In fact, carbon fiber is five times stronger than steel and also boasts one of the highest strength-to-weight ratios. If well taken care of, these bikes can outlive the owner.
However, you should have it in mind that this material fairly bristles. When the bike experiences an impact force that is concentrated to a small area, the frame can easily break when you don’t expect it. The most common failure points of the carbon frames are the joints or bonded junctions.
To be safe, always inspect your bike to ensure it is in a good condition. You can use a coin to knock around the suspected area and if it produces a dull sound that is different from other parts, it is likely that there is damage.
Knowing what you expect from a product before you purchase it is the first line of care you can give to your product. You have learned the common problems with carbon fiber bikes, how to inspect the damage and what to do when the problems occur.
With this information, handle your bike with a lot of care and enjoy riding for years.