Carbon road frames, how to sort tbe wheat from the chaff?

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  • Carbon road frames, how to sort tbe wheat from the chaff?
  • Premier Icon Onzadog
    Subscriber

    There’s been a lot of talk on here about carbon frames and a lot if opinion that broadly splits into two camps.

    The first camp rates the likes of ribble, planet x and even the cheap eBay/chinese stuff at times.

    The second camp thinks these are poor cousins to more mainstream brands.

    There’s never much said about why people are in one camp or another. What makes on carbon frame better than another? What would I notice when riding them and how couldsomeone spot the differences why buying them?

    andypaul99
    Member

    Giant make good carbon road frames, and if you believe the marketing blurb they are also the stiffest too.

    Premier Icon Onzadog
    Subscriber

    But what is it that makes it good? How can you tell if their marketing claims are real or not?

    Premier Icon muddydwarf
    Subscriber

    I bought a MEKK carbon-framed bike for £1100. Apparently designed in Italy and manufactured in the Far East which i suppose is quite standard at that price bracket. Ive no experience of other carbon frames apart from a 20 mile ride on a Colnago Ace, but i personally think the MEKK is a more comfortable frame than the Colnago on my local roads.
    Whether that is right for another rider is debatable but I’m happy with my choice, its light enough and quick enough for me and i can do 100+ mile rides without feeling like its trying to kick me up my arse.

    oldgit
    Member

    I bought a cheap carbon and it was a great bike when built up. Okay the frame flexed and the wheels rubbed it when putting down some effort, but not the end of the world. And perhaps it was a bit lacking ‘in a certain something’ during road races, but I was happy.
    Then I rode a TCR SL advanced. I said at the time it felt like cheating. I bought the frame only, it’s never flexed, the wheels have never rubbed and I swear to God I let out a little laugh when I had to use it anger during it’s first race.
    I just don’t think anyone’s having me over when they sell a £3000 frame, when I could buy something for £350. And I’m not talking about buying niche brands.

    I’ve ridden a fair few different bikes and frames. They all rode differently, they all rode fine, none of them were shit.

    I’d say most of the people who harp on about cheap carbon frames and decent alloy frames and whatnot probably just like regurgitating what’ve they’ve read on internet forums, in reality they’re just average cyclists who probably dont even race (only sportives)

    Premier Icon muddydwarf
    Subscriber

    That’s me exactly! Ive no intent of ever doing an actual race, and I’ve not yet done a sportive. I wanted a bike that was light enough and comfortable enough to ride all day without being beaten half to death and at a good price. The MEKK gives me that, not noticed any flex or chain rub either.

    Premier Icon Onzadog
    Subscriber

    Cheers guys. Very interesting. I’m looking for a bike to cover 100 or so miles as quickly as possible but still comfortable enough for me to run straight after. Then just enjoy long day rides around the peaks.

    Premier Icon muddydwarf
    Subscriber

    Onzadog – the bike i bought is the MEKK Potenza SL5.5
    Its MEKK’s endurance frame as opposed to a full race frame. A little more comfort and slightly more relaxed geometry. Love riding mine.

    If it’s a flat 100 miles then I reckon (based on no experience, but it seems sensible) that you should get a tri bike with some aero bits and pieces on it.

    And get a normal road bike.

    Just spend less on each.

    Premier Icon Onzadog
    Subscriber

    I’m only planning on doing on iron distance tri so thought I’d just get one nice bike I can use after the even. Tri bikes seem a bit “single purpose” for me.

    Premier Icon DezB
    Subscriber

    Roadie mate at work also bought one of the Mekk frames. He loves it.
    Does 100+ miles most weekends on it on the big sportives.

    His average speed impressed me over the 100 miles too. Won’t post it on here as he’s obviously nothing compared to you lot 😉

    taxi25
    Member

    I’d say most of the people who harp on about cheap carbon frames and decent alloy frames and whatnot probably just like regurgitating what’ve they’ve read on internet forums, in reality they’re just average cyclists who probably dont even race (only sportives)

    ^^^^
    This

    I’m only planning on doing on iron distance tri so thought I’d just get one nice bike I can use after the even. Tri bikes seem a bit “single purpose” for me.

    Well yeh, but 100 miles is a long way, I think you’d probably lose a far bit of time on a slower bike.

    I dunno, I guess if you fit some tri bars and some fancy wheels, maybe you wont be so far off on a normal road bike.

    Premier Icon Onzadog
    Subscriber

    I’m guessing that what I lose on the bike by having a standard drop bike, I might make back by being comfortable on the run.

    After all, I’m looking to complete rather than compete.

    I’m guessing that what I lose on the bike by having a standard drop bike, I might make back by being comfortable on the run.

    After all, I’m looking to complete rather than compete.

    Why would yo be uncomfy on a tri bike though? Just cos they’re low, I thought the geometry was totally different to allow you to get low in comfort. Also, I thought they were designed that way so that your legs arent wrecked (quite so much) when you do get off to run?

    Dunno, could be worth having an ask on the slow twitch forum?

    Premier Icon Onzadog
    Subscriber

    You’re right, that’s exactly the case for experienced triathletes but I’m not one of them. Plus, I’d not get much use out of a tri bike after the event.

    crikey
    Member

    Best way to pick a decent carbon road frame is choose one that has served its time in the pro peleton. Doesn’t have to be this years, or even last years, but it’s a good way of getting a quality product.

    This doesn’t mean that frames without such a pedigree are no good.

    TiRed
    Member

    Buy a Giant. Not the trendiest frames, but they do everything from R and D to spinning their own carbon fibre to making their frames to making everybody else’s.

    oldgit’s comments are not far off the mark. I’ve the same feeling every time I ride my Defy Advanced SL. That R&D pays off so that even their now “budget” carbon was in the peloton a few years ago. Which is pretty much what crikey says above.

    I’d say most of the people who harp on about cheap carbon frames and decent alloy frames and whatnot probably just like regurgitating what’ve they’ve read on internet forums

    Well I’ve raced decent alloy frame and my even more decent carbon frame this season and they are both good. But the decent carbon frame feels like cheating and it is hard not to laugh as you put the power down to close up a break. I have not raced a cheap carbon frame to compare.

    Premier Icon mikewsmith
    Subscriber

    If you buy a cheap frame and it has some niggles your not that bothered, if you get the premium frame and it has some niggles you get mad.

    Part of the price you pay for the expensive one is look, finish, backup etc.

    The third category is the unbranded or knock off ones sold direct via e-bay. Not commenting on quality etc. but they are the ones with not much backup and comes with the highest level of risk in terms of what you are going to get it could be anything.

    oldgit
    Member

    In many ways carbon has just taken over where steel left off. Years back you could buy a plain old steel tubed frame, say a Carlton, Dawes or Claud Butler. And you could also buy an 853 handbuilt or a Columbus tubed Colnago. No one then or now put the differences down to internet hype.
    And carbon is much the same. An engineered Giant or Cervelo is a world apart from a laid up carbon frame destined for the Ebay market.

    Premier Icon Onzadog
    Subscriber

    Interesting analogy, makes a lot of sense. I remember the early days of mountain biking when rigid bikes were reviewed and tange vs Reynolds vs Columbus was discussed in great detail.

    Premier Icon frogstomp
    Subscriber

    Tri bikes seem a bit “single purpose” for me.

    Check out the Felt AR series.. make excellent TT/Tri bikes and I’ve still found mine plenty comfortable enough for long rides. The 2014 ones even come with a reversible, aero seaport to give a more/less aggressive riding position.

    mooman
    Member

    I presently have a Ribble R872. My only other carbon framed bike to compare it against was a Giant TCR Advanced, and the Ribble is not noticeably inferior.

    Colnago Ace

    pretty sure the Ace is Colnagos “entry level” CF frame, and is a generic off-the-peg chinese factory frame and no different really to P-X or Ribble’s bottom range stuff other than the price and stickers.

    There’s never much said about why people are in one camp or another. What makes on carbon frame better than another? What would I notice when riding them and how couldsomeone spot the differences why buying them?

    same as any other material; quality of materials used and the manufacturing technique (different lay-ups and numbers of layers in different areas of the bike equivalent to butting in metal, changing thickness at key areas), quality of finish, QC, weight etc. Whether you or I would actually notice it or not is a different matter.

    Apparently Cervelo spent a lot of time making a lighter version of one of their frames (R5 IIRC?), the difference was so minimal they ended up adding thicker paint to the original to increase its weight and therefore enhance the weight difference.

    StuF
    Member

    I picked up a Quintana Roo seduza tri bike a few weeks before the bike leg of the Outlaw tri and it was loads better than the old steel frame road bike that I used the year before.

    I took about 20-25 mins off my time and felt loads better / fresher at the end.

    Was that difference just down to it being a stiffer carbon frame or a tri position, I don’t know but I’ve found the tri bike to be about 1 mph quicker for a given effort.

    IanW
    Member

    Most brands seem to market a standard and premium version of their carbon road bikes, same geometry different carbon. Toray 800 versus 600 maybe but like steel it wont be all the higher grade carbon itll just be key areas which are often undefined.

    So you have Bianchi Sempre and Oltre, TCR advanced and composite. Tarmac and Tarmac SL etc.

    Many of the no brand frames seem to claim to be made of the higher grade carbon. Brands would say you are loosing out on some R&D but how much that R&D adds in terms of improved function is up for debate and I suspect many brands are just marketing department paying the eastern manufacturers to do the design and either paying for sole rights or a generic frame.

    In my experience the difference between an average aluminum frame and just about any carbon frame is night and day, were as Im not able to feel that much difference between the different carbon frames in terms of say stiffness or vertical compliance.
    I do still however like a brand, some have specific fetures, it has to motivate you to ride, look nice and generally have the feel good factor.

    I own a Bianchi but only because it was on offer, when i last tested a load of carbon bikes the Giant TCR composite was my favourite, Geometry suited me, shaping looked well thought out, finish good and it came with some good parts for the price.

    Shibboleth
    Member

    Apparently Cervelo spent a lot of time making a lighter version of one of their frames (R5 IIRC?), the difference was so minimal they ended up adding thicker paint to the original to increase its weight and therefore enhance the weight difference.

    Nonsense. The standard R5 (which I ride) is one of the lightest framesets in the world (depending how you weigh it). The R5CA, or project California is what I imagine you’re talking about, and it was built to develop even better technology, regardless of cost. That technology has trickled down to the 2014 R5, but there’s no way Cervelo would pointlessly add weight to a frame they sell 10s of thousands of in order to bolster the reputation of a bike they sell a few hundred of!

    As has been said, you do get what you pay for with carbon frames, having ridden and owned quite a lot, I’m happy in the knowledge that my R5 is superior enough to a Ribble or Planet X to justify the additional expense.

    If you’re an occasional rider, you might not notice the differences as much, but if you race, you’ll know which frames are better suited to different disciplines.

    I also have a Scott CR1 which is a great bike for circuit racing, but if I was doing a century ride, I’d choose the Cervelo every time – the increase in comfort is incredible.

    I had a Giant TCR for a couple of years and whilst it was a solid, comfortable frame, it lacked the stiffness of the Cervelo and the Scott.

    The comment above about a really sorted frame making it feel like you’re cheating rings very true!

    cynic-al
    Member

    I simply don’t believe that there’s any 1 mainstream frame at a price point that is massively better than its peers – though there is of course variation. There may be unbranded/chinese bargains out there, but I bet there’s a lot of dross too.

    A crap frame – carbon, alu, steel,may be too stiff, too flexy, uncomfortable etc. Some of the cheaper carbons aren’t as good as their alu peers.

    I’d stick to a known brand or something that is universally well reviewed (though I have less trust of magazines, some journalists are utter idiots) unless you can test ride stuff.

    Jase
    Member

    Shibboleth – hope you’ve kept the receipt somewhere safe 😉

    I have a Ribble Evo Pro and Scott addict.
    The Scott is definitely the better frame, although they do have slightly different builds so not entirely scientific but I would have no problem using the Ribble as my only/best bike if needed.

    The Scott frame would probably cost 4x the Ribble but is not 4x better IMO.

    I have an SL3, (up for sale) which rides like a dream. Only used for sportives but is comfortable after 6 hours in the saddle. Accelerates when you power up and handles superbly at high speed, cornering is fantastic.
    I’ve ridden steel (raced and triathlon on it) and aluminium, nothing compares to carbon IMHO, and i would only ride carbon in the future, even for pleasure/sportives.

    jono84
    Member

    im in the market for a second hand tri bike, its something ive been pondering with for a while, im hopeing to get hold of a alu giant trinity for around 600 quid but I have no idea what difference the likes of a carbon planet x/ridley would be like to a alloy giant (which id like to think is classed as high standard alloy ? i’d like to think I compete rather than complete but at shorter distances to ironman/outlaw to justify the purchase im going to join the local tt club too is this a sensible option or would I be better with the lower end carbon?

    Nonsense.

    In your HO.

    The standard R5 (which I ride) is one of the lightest framesets in the world (depending how you weigh it). The R5CA, or project California is what I imagine you’re talking about, and it was built to develop even better technology, regardless of cost. That technology has trickled down to the 2014 R5, but there’s no way Cervelo would pointlessly add weight to a frame they sell 10s of thousands of in order to bolster the reputation of a bike they sell a few hundred of!

    if youre a cervelo geek you might have seen it discussed in their forums, serial frame upgraders discussing how the R5 gained weight since the release of the R5ca.

    As has been said, you do get what you pay for with carbon frames, having ridden and owned quite a lot, I’m happy in the knowledge that my R5 is superior enough to a Ribble or Planet X to justify the additional expense.

    Happy about the new R3 Dark then? Allegedly using R5 moulds, and selling at £2k for a full bike with 105.

    http://www.bikeradar.com/road/news/article/cervlo-r3-dark-2014-sneak-peek-38126/

    I thought the ‘weight gain’ stories were more around differentiating the R5 Team from the VWD from the base model? From memory, there was enough variation in production and the stated weights were close enough that it was possible to get a Team that weighed more than a VWD (or whatever way round it was).

    As for the R3 Dark, that’s just a complete bargain of a bike, intended to shift a load of old stock.

    aP
    Member

    I’m looking to buy a Sarto frame next year to replace my 05 Merlin which due to ridiculously tight chainstay clearance probably doesn’t have much life left.

    IanW
    Member

    I looked at a 2014 TCR with Tiagra @ £1099 in the lbs recently, I my opinion you will get 99% of any bike available performance gains from that.

    The rest is up to you.

    campkoala
    Member

    There’s also a third camp..

    Those who ride an old cheap road frame a lot more than your average Cervelo will ever be ridden, never grumble about it and have never once craved anything more stiff/flexy/light for a paltry 100mile ride. These people probably tend not to comment too often on such threads.

    Shibboleth
    Member

    Thank god the “third camp” aren’t in the majority then, or internet forums – indeed, conversation in general – would die a death. 🙄

    campkoala
    Member

    Thing is, shibbo, they actually are..

    Shibboleth
    Member

    They’re clearly not. Ask anyone who rides a “cheap, old road frame” if they’d prefer a modern, pro-level frameset, and I would place money on the overwhelming majority saying yes they would!

    And do you describe a 100 mile ride as “paltry” in a bid to suggest that it’s an insignificant distance? How strange…

    campkoala
    Member

    So you’re saying the 10 or so people discussing the merits of top end frames in this thread outweigh the thousands of keen cyclists who just get ion with it oblivious to fhe musings of active forum members?

    Yes, I am suggesting 100miles is a fairly insignificant distance for a seasoned cyclist, it’s 6hrs riding, hardly some sort of major achievement, especially if you’ve splashed the best part of 4k on a high end road frame.
    I’m I still mpressed by the guy who did it on his BMX with the saddle slammed though.

    campkoala
    Member

    Oh.. and I do ride an old frame and if you were to offer me a modern pro level frameset I’d sell it to someone like you

    I don’t know why, but reading campkoala’s comments puts me in mind of this…

    [video]http://youtu.be/13JK5kChbRw[/video]

    IanW
    Member

    Haha..who’d a thought a thread about fancy bikes ends up with getting half an hour before you go to bed?

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