It’s always been a question when buying a carbon bike for the first time, caring for your new machine can become an obsession, but for some reason there are a lot of myths surrounding carbon fibre when used in the cycling industry.
I currently only own carbon forks, when buying the bike I never really thought about any special maintenance ritual for them, instead I treated it like any other part of my bike. They’ve been through half a winter already and I plan to use them this winter too. The only visible mark is where stones have flung around the sides and slightly scratched the inside of the forks, in line with the side of the tyres. Not a problem. Now, because most of the roads around are shocking and filled with potholes, I make a habit of checking my frame and wheels. What I didn’t realise is that it’s a good idea to check the carbon more. I’m not sure why, I always thought carbon was stronger than aluminum, but I do it nevertheless.
Another tip I was given was that if you do happen to crash, it’s a good idea to check every piece of carbon for damage. Often these are hairline fractures and the only way to do so is an ultrasound through a bike shop. These can be expensive. This is where you need to decide whether you’re happy to ride carbon that you’ve checked over yourself or whether you need that extra piece of mind.
When the inevitable comes around and you do crash, in a race for example, the signs of wear may be slightly more visible. If the frame happens to fail, then many manufacturers offer a crash replacement scheme so you need not worry too much about the price of the bike every time you ride it. However, you do need to check the agreement with these schemes, most don’t cover racing incidents. Silly, I know.
Now, Ant is the flash one who’s risking his carbon racing in 2012 so I’m sure he’ll add any additional thoughts to this post. I myself am using aluminum for racing and shall use carbon for general use if the opportunity comes around. But if I start to get a tad slower, I’ll start using carbon. 😉
- I think it goes without saying, if you do own a carbon bike, do not clamp anywhere on the carbon. This clamp could be from a work-stand, car rack or anything. Do no clamp it. If you need to put it in a work-stand, do so by using the seat-post if it is aluminum. Do not clamp a carbon seat-post, swap it for an aluminum whilst in the stand.
- Always tighten to the manufacturers recommended torque. You might find that you can do it less than that, which is better for your frame.
- Use carbon Assembly paste. This isn’t expensive (£8 for a tub which will last about the life of the bike). Put the paste on the seat-post, seat-post collar, steerer tube and head tube ends where the bearings sit. This will do several things, such as require less force to get a good grip on the seat-post etc, so less likely to over-tighten, and makes it easier to remove said items.
- Following on from the above, I recommend using a torque wrench. This will stop over-tightening, reducing risk of cracking. You can buy preset wrenches, and ones which do a certain range. Be careful with ones which do variable torque, as these need calibrating about every year to make sure that they are giving the right reading.
- Remove your seat-post every few months or so. This makes it stop from getting stuck in your frame. Take this chance to put some more paste to it.
- If you have carbon wheels, again check for wear on your rims when cleaning your bike, just like you would on alloy rims.