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  1. #1
    Senior Member xleninx's Avatar
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    Reaction between carbon and aluminum in carbolite - is it structurally safe?

    Someone is selling a Carbolite frame from 1994 and said that there is bubbling under the clear coat as the result of some sort of breakdown between the carbon and the aluminum. Does anyone know about this sort of thing? I wouldn't mind getting the frame to try it out, but I am far from small and I don't want the frame to crack under me. I'd love any information that anyone has about any of this. Thank you so much!
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  2. #2
    Retro Grouch onespeedbiker's Avatar
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    There is no carbon or aluminum in Carbolite it's just an fancy name for ordinary high-carbon steel seamed and non-butted tubing, used for entry-level road bikes. Peugeot thought up the name because it looked better than Hi-Ten.
    Last edited by onespeedbiker; 12-24-12 at 01:12 PM.

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    Senior Member Shimagnolo's Avatar
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    Just to clarify for everyone, the OP is talking about a Univega Carbolite, not the Peugeot Carbolite steel tubing.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/UNIVEGA-Carb...item2a276f429c

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    S'Cruzer pierce's Avatar
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    if a univega carbolite is in fact some sort of ancient carbon fiber bike frame, run away. old carbon is inherently unsafe.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pierce View Post
    if a univega carbolite is in fact some sort of ancient carbon fiber bike frame, run away. old carbon is inherently unsafe.
    I tend to agree with this. The Univega frame linked to is made of carbon tubes glued into aluminum lugs. Done properly, the two materials at the joint are insulated from electrical contact with a layer of fiberglass and the frame can be reasonably durable. Done poorly, they are just glued together with the dissimilar materials in contact. That can, and will, cause electrolytic corrosion and eventually destroy the joint. I have no idea how well Univega did these frames 18 years ago.

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    If the reaction between internal aluminum and the carbon is extensive enough to cause a change to the clear coat on the outside, then it's through the tube, and I'd consider it toast.

    OTOH the bubbling in the clear coat may have nothing to do with what's happening within the tube. But I'd still pass. Carbon and aluminum in proximity has a long, ad history in the bike world, and many earlier frames suffered from failure to properly account for possible chemical interaction. While many people think of carbon as a non-metal, or in terms of plastic, the fact is that carbon is reactive, and very vulnerable to galvanic corrosion. After all for decades carbon and zinc where the reactive metals in batteries for decades.
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    Wow the univega guy had those too?? thought the columbus max tubing bertoni was rare but this one is equally rare. (erased some parts)... google showed up a few hits, interesting bike tho...

    To me that univega looks like something I have seen before, miyata carbon maybe?? cant remember.

    If the frame was new I would go for it, those problems in the tubes are clear coat bubbles... doesnt look to me like a problem in the tubes, the nice about that bike is that if a tube dies probably you can replace it with a stock tube you can find maybe anywhere now a days. Have some nasty oxidation problem in the BB area... the paint has a lot of bubbling. This bike is really rare from a collector point of view, it wont sale for more than 150 bucks if it sales.

    OP, this is a gamble, a lot of old carbon thecnology frames still moving around today, treks, alans, vitus and even one of my friends have a miyata carbon between his colnagos and no problems in 20 years with it. If you get it cheap enough it worth to try, but again its a gamble.

    If I had won that bid i would inspect the fork really well because is made of aluminum, or even better just put a new carbon one in place because an old aluminum fork might give you way more issues than an old carbon frame, those frames do not explode... the worse could happen is that any of the main 3 tubes could get cut like with a laser due to fatigue, in those cases you will notice because the bike will get softty and might creak but it wont explode... carbon probed to be reliable after all and those tubes are pretty thick too, no paper tubes back in the day.

    Interesting bike... gonna have to find one for myself.

    Good luck.



    Sadly is not in my size or i would try to go for it,
    Last edited by ultraman6970; 12-24-12 at 05:36 PM.

  8. #8
    S'Cruzer pierce's Avatar
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    googling univega carbolite leads to a bunch of reports of brittle epoxy failing and causing frame breakage. no thanks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ultraman6970 View Post
    To me that univega looks like something I have seen before, miyata carbon maybe?? cant remember.
    Trek made their 2300 (Ultegra components) and 2100 (105 components) bikes with carbon tubes bonded into aluminum lugs in the early to mid-90's and those may be what you are remembering. Trek was careful to insulate the carbon/aluminum joints but still had a fairly high failure rate.

  10. #10
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    NB if the Aluminum has Zinc in the alloy, 7000 series, is there real interaction problems..

    because C + Zn = a battery ..

    6000 series has no Zn

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    S'Cruzer pierce's Avatar
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    actually, in a zinc carbon battery, the carbon is inert and just serves as a conductor, the actual chemical anode is the manganese dioxide surrounding the carbon (graphite) rod. more properly it should be called a 'zinc manganese-dioxide' battery.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    NB if the Aluminum has Zinc in the alloy, 7000 series, is there real interaction problems..

    because C + Zn = a battery ..

    6000 series has no Zn
    Doesn't matter. There is an electrolytic reaction between carbon and pure aluminum too so the aluminum alloy chosen doesn't change the situation.

  13. #13
    Senior Member xleninx's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the replies everyone! I am getting an overall vibe that it is an interesting piece of history, but a sketchy frame to ride on. In a world where I have plenty of other projects, and I am prone to ruining things, I might read the writing on the wall and let this one go. Hope someone who can do a little more with it than I can gets it!
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by xleninx View Post
    Thanks for all the replies everyone! I am getting an overall vibe that it is an interesting piece of history, but a sketchy frame to ride on. In a world where I have plenty of other projects, and I am prone to ruining things, I might read the writing on the wall and let this one go. Hope someone who can do a little more with it than I can gets it!
    Good choice. Actually, it was more of a failed experiment than an interesting piece of history. Several makers tried that build combination and gave up on it rather quickly for both structural integrity and cost considerations.

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    Trek make it work, vitus aswell... some moyatas are still moving around... cannondale (or is specialized?) and BMC have mixed frames aswell.

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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I'm restating what Craig Calfee , a Custom Carbonfiber framebuilder told me..
    i was inquiring about a Carbon thread wrapped reinforcement on 7075t6 tubes of my tentpoles.

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    S'Cruzer pierce's Avatar
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    well, any two dissimilar conductive elements will set up electrolysis, but that's nothing directly to do with carbon+zinc batteries, which are really a manganese+zinc chemistry. zinc is certainly more chemically active than aluminum, and this electrolysis will tend to leach the zinc out of the aluminum, greatly weakening it.

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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Dumping the esoteric chemistry of materials drift, over the side,

    So OP, Ill Vote No.. ( given: 1994 year of production, is almost 20 years,
    and You did not buy it New, and so know nothing about how it was treated all those years.

    and the fact that I cannot see, and so physically inspect the thing, in front of Me.

  19. #19
    S'Cruzer pierce's Avatar
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    and I'll vote NO!! based on A) age, and B) stuff I read about brittle epoxy failing early on that specific series of bikes.

    www.bustedcarbon.com if you need any more reasons

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by ultraman6970 View Post
    Trek make it work, vitus aswell... some moyatas are still moving around... cannondale (or is specialized?) and BMC have mixed frames aswell.
    Trek had their joint failure problems with these frames too despite doing a better than average job of protecting the joints from electrolytic corrosion.

    Sure, some of them and their similar contemporaries are still around; the ones not ridden a lot, kept dry and never exposed to salt could have survived nicely. There was a later fad in the early to mid-2000 for various metal frames (steel, aluminum and Ti were all used) with carbon rear triangles but, there were some joint failure problems with these too and, you will notice, they are no longer being made.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
    Trek made their 2300 (Ultegra components) and 2100 (105 components) bikes with carbon tubes bonded into aluminum lugs in the early to mid-90's and those may be what you are remembering. Trek was careful to insulate the carbon/aluminum joints but still had a fairly high failure rate.
    I actually seem to remember reading discussions in a couple of the big cycling mags (possibly Bicycling IIRC and roadbike action?) of frame failures with early production Trek 2100 - 2300 road bikes due to corrosion of the internal aluminum lugs, back in the day.
    Tho will be first to admit memory is not as photographic as it once was. But still, as I was in the market for a new roadbike at the time and was seriously considering a 2100 to supplement the early 80s Trek 720 touring bike.
    Last edited by HvPnyrs; 12-26-12 at 12:46 AM. Reason: Added the Trek 720
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  22. #22
    bike whisperer Kimmo's Avatar
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    Looks a lot like the Giant CFR1 I had; similar lugs, and the tubes look identical.

    Never got any of that bubbling, but then I only had it a few years. seat cluster / seat tube joint let go, but it didn't seem like a big deal...

    Frame was a bit of a noodle.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by HvPnyrs View Post
    I actually seem to remember reading discussions in a couple of the big cycling mags (possibly Bicycling IIRC and roadbike action?) of frame failures with early production Trek 2100 - 2300 road bikes due to corrosion of the internal aluminum lugs, back in the day.
    Tho will be first to admit memory is not as photographic as it once was. But still, as I was in the market for a new roadbike at the time and was seriously considering a 2100 to supplement the early 80s Trek 720 touring bike.
    That's what I remember too. I was also considering getting a 2300 in late 1995 to replace (or actually supliment) my '92 Trek 1420 bonded aluminum frame bike but decided to go all-out and bought a Ti Litespeed Catalyst. The Catalyst is still going strong 17 years and 75,000 miles later. I seriously doubt the 2300 would still be in service.

    In fareness, the 1420 is still being ridden by my son but it didn't have the dissimilar metal problem that the 2100/2300 frames did.

  24. #24
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    Suppose you have a carbon-aluminum bike and plan to ride it in the rain, regularly. Other than wiping down the lug junctions after each ride, is there anything else you can do to slow or stop corrosion? Coat the junctions with clear nail polish, urethane, etc? Wrap the junctions with tape?
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  25. #25
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    The builder is supposed to make sure that there's enough bonding agent to make a reliable seal at the ends. If I suspected the integrity of the seal, I'd use a calking product, preferable one of the clear silicone versions since these make a very flexible seal.

    However, be sure to either ask the manufacturer, or test a dab to see if it damages the gel coat. A good place to test in under the BB where the cable guide will cover any damage.

    IMO clear silicone caulk is a must for extreme weather cyclists, I use it to weather seal all the places where water may enter, especially the seatpost slot.
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