Tech Tip: Caring for Carbon Fiber Frames

As one of the most advanced and increasingly popular materials, Carbon fiber composite has revolutionized the bike industry. Carbon composite frames and components have created a dynamic shift in the way bicycles are designed and built. By replacing heavier and less aerodynamic materials, carbon composites have proven to be uniquely advantageous. It’s strength to weight ratio and virtually limitless shaping characteristics allow for strong, lightweight, aerodynamic components that were not possible even ten years ago. Because carbon’s history is short when compared to other materials, current science and testing shows it to have a functional lifespan a bit shorter than traditional frame and component materials and it must be treated with some special care. Carbon composite is comprised of a fabric and epoxy matrix and it’s strength lies along the surface where it is more susceptible to abrasive damage and cracking when abused or crashed. But, with the proper care and maintenance carbon composite can be a long-lasting and high performing material.

Here are a few regular maintenance tips that will help insure the longevity of your carbon fiber frame and components:

  • Washing and cleaning Keeping your frame clean and washing it on a regular basis will keep the paint that further protects the surface clean and will allow you to inspect for any hairline fractures, cracks, or nicks. Although carbon composite will not corrode or rot, many of the aluminum cable guides, seat clamps, and other connected frame parts will corrode, and washing the sweat and sports drink away will prevent this from happening.
  • Store and hang your bike properly Never utilize any of the carbon frame tubes or sections to clamp or support your bike into a work stand. Most manufacturers will specify how to support or hang your frame, but it is typically best to clamp it by the seat post or mast. When using your frame to secure your bike to your car rack be careful not to cinch the straps too tight. Carbon composite tubing does not tolerate clamping pressures, and can crack easily under surface pressure.
  • Regular mechanic inspections When having your bike tuned, it is not a bad idea to make sure your mechanic inspects for any frame or components damage or cracking. A properly trained and experienced mechanic can often find issues and problems that are not easily noticed. Always have a trained mechanic inspect your frame or carbon components after any crash or accident. If you are in doubt about your bike, don’t ride it until it is properly inspected. As a Mechanical Engineer, Curtis is very knowledgeable in the design and fabrication of carbon composites and has the necessary tools to make in depth frame inspections.
  • Support your favorite mechanic with good beer and baked goods. Most good mechanics, like myself, like good beer. You’re always guaranteed to get top notch service at Cannon Cyclery, but it never hurts to drop your bike off with a nice micro brew or baked goods!