What Happens When the Six Million Dollar Man (bike) Crashes?

Today's coffee talk: Are the benefits of carbon worth the increased cost of potential replacement/fixes/injuries? To keep my somewhat silly comparison going, when the Six Million Dollar Man fell off a building or got ran over, the secret segment of the Government and their team of doctors fixed him right up for the next episode. Same with carbon bikes for the pros. The average pro goes through...many bikes in one year. The crashes are nothing short of a terrifying, spectacular show at ridiculous speeds. The bikes and riders are often shattered, but the team car arrives, with new bikes and doctors, fixing the rider right up.

But for the average local rider/racer, it's not such a 80's action sit-com ending. Your bike is gone, your crash is painful and there you are in a situation that may not have been as severe (financially) than if you were on an aluminum or steel frame.

Recently trusted bike-fitter extraordinaire, (Big) George Mullen (Peak Cycles, Golden) and I were discussing this very topic during a fit. His prediction for the future: all major bike shops will have their own carbon repair person in house. That's how common repairs are becoming. In his opinion, "It will simply become a necessity.". Read the article below and give us your opinion.

From the mobile.nytimes.com
-Ian Austen,
July 26, 2014, Periguex, France

Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

In terms of technology, Greg LeMond, the three-time Tour de France winner, was a pioneer. In an age when steel still dominated, LeMond rode bikes made of carbon-fiber composites, then an exotic material mostly used by the military.

At this year’s Tour, carbon fiber is the only material used for bikes, and it has also replaced aluminum in wheel rims. The strength, lightness and the design flexibility offered by carbon fiber have ensured its dominance. And its most extreme form, the special aerodynamic time-trial bicycle, was on display Saturday in the 20th stage.

But there has been a catch. Unlike steel or aluminum, carbon fiber does not bend in crashes. Rather the bikes and wheels frequently shatter, often hurling riders to the road and, many fear, increasing the severity of injuries.

“Anyone in a team who’s being honest with you will tell you how frequently their bikes are breaking; everybody knows,” said Mark Greve, a physician and assistant professor of sports medicine at Brown University who studied injuries to 3,500 competitive cyclists. “Few people in the public appreciate how many bikes a pro team will go through in a season, because they break for one reason or another. The bikes, they completely explode.”
For the entire article, click here.

Photo: bikeforums.net

*And by the way, if you DO happen to be in need of this service, call Sam Morrison, Brady Kappius and their crew at
brokencarbon.com. I just picked up two bikes (mine and a neighbor's) last night. They did amazing work. Much cheaper than a frame/crash replacement. Much. For more on their business, go to Brady Kappius and Broken Carbon.

News Item: 


Steel and Ti

I still haven't seen enough evidence to prove that a carbon frame is worth the extra expense over a good steel or ti frame. Yes, carbon is lighter, stiffer, and more aerodynamic. However, I'd argue the advantage carbon has is so small in these areas that the durability of steel and ti more than makes up for that. Even if you race! You're going to crash in a race eventually, might as well get a frame that won't sever (like the picture in the article). The pros get their frames for free, but for us schmoes that pay for them, it doesn't make sense. And don't get me started on carbon mtn bike frames.

Frame Costs

Don't get me wrong, when I'm ready to stop participating in the money pit that is bike racing, I'll be on a Moots. Until then, I'm going to try to avoid being at a competitive disadvantage, and carbon fiber frames offer superior race performance characteristics, with better value than titanium and steel.

For all intents and purposes, top of the line name brand carbon fiber and titanium frames have suggested retail prices in about the same price range, and the price similarity trickles down through other price points within their product lines. In fact, since a carbon fiber frame purchase entails a complete frame set, when you factor in the cost of a fork, HS, and BB, carbon frames can cost less and offer more value. Even if you don't feel like burning your kid's college tuition to build up your ride, there are plenty of second tier offerings from the major brands that are comparable to the frames raced at the World Tour level a handful of years ago. These frame sets retail at a price point that is very affordable by today's standards, easily costing less than name brand Ti frames or the steel offerings from the custom builders that are still working with it.

Despite the premise of the NY times article, there isn't a plague of catastrophic carbon fiber frame failures. When you crash, they can fail, and I've seen titanium and steel frames failure as a result of impact as well. Fortunately, all 3 materials can be repaired.

While I appreciate a high quality titanium or steel frame, the purchase of one isn't a logical decision.

Exploding bikes

well that is troubling...

Anecdotal for sure but I've gone through more warranty replacements with Aluminum frames than carbon. I do agree with your friend George about shops eventually having staff qualified/able to repair these frames.

Ride/Race What You Want/Can Afford

Race/ride what you want and can afford to replace. If you know the risks of riding/racing carbon and can afford to replace a broken frame, then go ahead and do so.

By the way, that NY Times article is riddled with errors and inaccuracies. If you want to read some rebuttals to the article, go to redkiteprayer or the Bicycling website to read rebuttals to the NY Times article.

Another Point

I am disappointed that the obvious increase in performance with having a carbon frame isn't addressed. A price can't be put on that. By having a carbon frame worth several thousands of dollars (and carbon compoments) the rider achieves an increase in performance that can never be achieved through training. This is especially true for the non-professional cyclist. Instead of worrying about the cost of replacing a carbon frame, find peace of mind in knowing that every piece of carbon automatically makes you that much faster. Infact, I use ground carbon fiber flour when I make my energy bars to keep myself as light and fast as possible.

Contador was not even in the captioned picture

The real conspiracy theory is why in the NYT's article the captioned picture referenced Alberto Contador's broken frame and then showed a completely different picture with no Contador to be found.
Our quasi TMZ interweb team has determined that the fully snapped S-works frame (run over by a team car or not) was photographed and slated to run with the article. Then "The Man" (the word Roubaix is mine) Specialized caught wind via a routine fact check call and immediately went to the handy "cease and desist, we will sue your arse" drawer and the pic was changed. C'mon people enough w/ the fluff....bike preppers unite!

When are people going to

When are people going to realize your equipment doesnt really matter all that much in this sport. As long as its "good enough" getting better stuff probably isnt going to help. Everyone right now is drinking the aero kool-aid and aero bikes are a very common sight. Marketing is all about who tells the best lie. People were going fast on old bikes 25 years ago. An entry level bike now is better than what Greg Lemong won the Tour de France on. Wake up people, if your equipment made you better wouldnt alot of people be better than they are? Im talking to you guy with aero helmet and a s works mclaren venge zipp wheels and carbon bottle cages.

A great example of bike

A great example of bike industry marketing to push consumers to new tech is CX disk brake bikes. Although the advantages seem obvious, the results so far are lagging behind. For example, JPow, Sven and Stybar all rode canti bikes to US Natz and Worlds podiums respectively. If I was new to cx without bikes, wheels, brakes already in my garage I would probably (actually, brands aren't offering canti bikes anymore) buy a disk bike. Before buying anything, think long and hard as to whether purchasing the equipment serves a useful purpose or is it just vanity. Aero helmets are a good example, if you need a new helmet then maybe its a good idea to just drop money on one, but if you have a perfectly functioning helmet don't waste your money - buy your SO a massage or a fancy dinner. :)