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Stories about exploding carbon frames(17 posts)

Stories about exploding carbon framestexfan
Jun 4, 2002 1:18 PM
and other urban myths . . . or are they.

A post by Mtbiker below got me thinking about the distrust of carbon frames and their durability.

I have ordered a carbon frame bike so I am curious. my LBS (perhaps not surprisingly) informs me that in his almost 15 years of selling carbon frames, he has had two returned for failure. One was the original Trek monoquoc (sp?)frame that did have a manufacturing defect. (Trek no longer uses this method) The other was one that had a top tube cracked in an unfortunte meeting with an auto.

Has anyone out there experienced carbon frame failures or seen any. Also does the Trek lifetime warranty give comfort to doubters out there or is it merely an effective marketing tool to lure in rubes like me.

My take.Len J
Jun 4, 2002 1:27 PM
First of all let me say that I ride a trek 5500 carbon, so you can either say I am biased or I did my homework.

I have never met anyone who had a catastrophic carbon frame failure.

Carbon is also used in some applications that are much more stressful than bicycles.

The clincher for me, after much reading & talking to shops & other riders was the realization that 90+% of all bikes on the road have a carbon fork. Think about the effect of a catastrophic Fork failure conmared to a frame failure. I suspect in most cases the fork failure would do more severe damage. Why is it OK to ride a carbon fork & not a carbon bike?

Finally I believe that Carbon is a much more technical material to work with that steel or aluminum. Consequently, I think that those companies with greater experience with the material are going to have a probability of producing more road worthy parts.

My .02

the only frame failure I've ever seenlonefrontranger
Jun 4, 2002 1:38 PM
was precipitated by severe deceleration force (perpendicular impact with a curb at high speed) under massive braking load (shear) brought on by a burly Pro/1/2 track sprinter overcooking a corner in a crit; in his defense he did get hit hard by crosswind in the apex, which boogered up his line. This was a Mongoose IBOC frame and the resulting catastrophic failure was one each neat "spiral" fracture in the middle of the top and down tube, leaving nothing but the cables holding the remnants of the frame together. Dude did a "Superman" and flew quite a ways without his bike, fortunately he landed in grass, got dirty and p.o.'d but was physically fine.

Saw a Profile carbon fork sheared off at the crown lugs a couple months ago by a signature Cat 4 silly stunt: dude rode head down full sprint into a barricade, once again going so fast he flew over top and landed in the dirt & weeds on the far side. The OCLV frame was fine and the rider walked away with remarkably few lumps and bangs.
re: Stories about exploding carbon framesbrider
Jun 4, 2002 1:40 PM
I've seen two carbon failures -- or more correctly bond failures. They were both the old Specialized Allez Epic, carbon tubes bonded to aluminum lugs. One was a failure at a chainstay/BB junction (the guy riding it was over 200 lbs at the time), and it was replaced free of charge. The other was at the TT nationals in Seattle, and the guy finished the race with strapping tape holding it together (more correctly, he STARTED with the bike in that condition). I just shook my head. Any way, those are the only failures I know of that weren't the result of collision.
Trek stands behind their warranty...JOM
Jun 4, 2002 1:46 PM
I bought what was probably the first 5200 OCLV in NJ back in January 1992. It was so new it did not have an anti chain suck thing on the chain stay. Over the years I had chain pops which eventually caused the stay to crack. I returned the frame no questions asked and got a new one.
Since then the frame I received in 96 has had thousands of miles without a problem. I almost wish it would crack as I love those Postal frames.
I have always heard great things about this frame. In the cases where they need to be replaced, Trek has always come through. I would rate them one of the best. When I was getting my new frame I even got to choose the new color.
As for explosions, I have heard of them but never met or knew of anyone it happened to. In my case, even after killing the chain stay I managed fifteen more miles home without much fear.
Unless you are severe on bikes or plan to race the frame regularly you will probably never have a problem.
Good Luck
not always, my Trek rant revisited.thatsmybush
Jun 4, 2002 3:11 PM
had the same thing happen on a 2002 frame and trek and the local bike shop in Asheville (you know who you are) tried to screw me. Even wanted me to pay to have the fork painted the same shade as the frame. Took months of frustration and shipping charges just to sell the damn thing. I will never own a Trek and am wary of carbon in general. If the chain had fallen off my ti frame all I would have done was put the thing back on and continue to ride.
I think you realize your LBS suks and not TREK... eom.spyderman
Jun 4, 2002 10:18 PM
It's mtnCRANKERmtncranker
Jun 4, 2002 1:47 PM
As in slowly cranking up mountains on my lowly triple crank and aged knees. But I do mountainbike as well, so I guess you're forgiven.

Good points on the carbon - I do have a carbon fork I installed last year. Nice for road buzz. And I've experienced cognitive dissonance about that... concern with carbon is not catastrophic failure per se, but the long term effect of small pebble/sand on the down tube, as they're kicked up by the front tire. I have had too many carbon fishing rods fail from minute "injuries" of that nature. Admittedly, we're talking about a very different application, but I still am leery of it.

And I'm looking at steel forks for the new bike...know of any good ones? ;)
Jun 4, 2002 1:59 PM
sorry about that.

But it could have been worse, I could of typed mtnwanker.

How do the fishing rods fail? Just break under the strain? Kind of like death by a thousand cuts. its not the first one that gets you.

Helicopter Blades - Trickle Down TechnologyJOM
Jun 4, 2002 1:56 PM
Back in 92 when I bought my Lunar 5200 OCLV I remember the guys at the LBS saying that the designer of the frame worked for Sikorski - the defense contractor who was making carbon blades for helicopters at the time. I believe for the Black Hawk.
Thus, your bike should be safe... See where all those defense dollars land!!!
Everybody seems to trust carbon forkspaulw
Jun 4, 2002 1:57 PM
The fork is probably the most important part of the bike in terms of if it fails, you die. If I trust a carbon fork, I'd trust a carbon frame.
exploding frames? A myth.Tig
Jun 4, 2002 2:36 PM
Usually the myth involves freezing temperatures causing the frame to suddenly explode under otherwise normal stress. I have yet to hear of anyone seeing that! I've seen the old Specialized Allez Epic (CF bonded to aluminum) frames work loose at the joints, as well as cracks around the BB in early Kestrels, but never a catastrophic failure. I've seen plenty of CF fishing rods snap due to a minor ding or dimple, but they are extremely light and the blank's walls are super thin. As for failure over time from minor damage accumulation, I'm sure it's possible, but not very likely. Minor scratches and tiny pits or dings most likely won't degrade a CF frame to the point of failure. Then again, we may find out in another 8 or 10 years, but I doubt it.

Bonding CF to aluminum has gotten much, much better. I would gladly trust the frames Look and Colnago are making these days. Titanium is a better metal to bond with since it has a virtually identical rate of thermal expansion as carbon fiber, therefore it doesn't naturally separate from carbon fiber. This is one of the advantages of Calfee's frames over the competition, but I'm not trying to start a brand war here! My bike has a CF seat stay bonded to aluminum, and I have no fear of it failing during the 5 years I plan to keep it (if that long!).

Bottom line is, if a bike is put under a load (crash, hit by a car, etc.) that would destroy a modern CF frame or fork, then you can bet your very life that most any other frame material would fail as well, if not sooner. The difference will be the type of failure (shearing vs bending). This doesn't include the possibility of a manufacturer's poor design or workmanship that could cause a failure. I believe the Wound Up fork problems have been corrected. I forgot which model had the problem.
re: Stories about exploding carbon framesCarbon fiber fanatik
Jun 4, 2002 3:52 PM
The net is an awesome tool. Research Carbon fiber sometime. You would be surprised at what you find. But to make a long opinion short. My road bikes are carbon, my mountain bike is a kestrel, which is warrantied for life. Handle bars, forks, seatpost etc., on my bikes are carbon. Okay, I have a fetish... Ride on..!
re: Stories about exploding carbon framesGalibier
Jun 5, 2002 4:29 AM
I don't know about "exploding" carbon frames, but my 1993 Trek OCLV frame (after eight years) developed cracks in both chainstays where they meet the bottom bracket. Under warranty, Trek replaced the frame with a frame of my choice.
Trek never made a one-piece framepmf1
Jun 5, 2002 7:20 AM
They have always lugged their frames.

The BS that goes around about carbon frames has never ceased to amaze me. I bought a Kestrel 200 almost 9 years ago. At that time, carbon bikes were relatively rare and real men rode steel. I got all kinds of grief over my "plastic" bike. I even had one guy believing me when I told him I couldn't ride the bike in cold temps (it could shatter) or hot temps (it would get soft and warp).

Your Trek will be just fine. Probably tougher than many aluminium bikes. You'll like the ride and be happy with it.

But keep it out of the sun, or it will melt.
Yes, they did!RC28
Jun 5, 2002 9:08 AM
See if you can find a Trek rep who's been at it for a while or a long-time Trek dealer /LBS owner (or an old catalog for that matter) and ask them about the late '80s 5900 model.I remember because the club I rode for as a junior was sponsored by a big Trek dealer and they had a couple of people riding these.They were monocoque and came in only one color, kind of like candy apple red.They made them for a couple of years, with the aluminum lugged, carbon tubed 2300 and 2500 below it before they came out with OCLV.
real men still ride steel.. reallycyclopathic
Jun 5, 2002 10:43 AM