But producing these is expensive on a smaller scale, outsourcing introduces variables and inevitable quality control issues.
To me, carbon is the best bike material on many levels but also a material very sensitive to design and process and why I personally like to stick with name brands that perform lot acceptance testing of materials and ongoing destructive testing of their products over time to determine safety factor. That isn't to say that Chinese or even perhaps more evolved Taiwanese smaller companies as Bob explained aren't making a great product. Many do and supply the big guys and some of the smaller companies will emerge and turn into bigger companies because their product is so good. I just personally don't want to buy price and find out the hard way a company without a name brand did cut corners by not buying good material or controlling their process adequately...the knock on 'some' Chinese companies.
How often has anyone seen a braking surface "wear out" on a carbon wheel? I've searched high and wide and can't really find this result. How many people buy these carbon wheels and feel it wasn't worth the cash and buy aluminum the next time? I'm going to buy a 23mm+ wheel soon, not sure what it will be made out of. CF is sexy.
Telemachus has, indeed, sneezed.
Also, the line between different brands sharing designs gets a little hazy in some cases. BH uses a lot of designs that are available from other sources. Ditec seems to be rebadged Orbeas. Frames badged Fondreist and Masi are sold under a variety of other brands. Even old designs show up occasionally here and there: Neuvation sells rebadged Blue and Cervelo designs from a few years ago. Etc. Obviously this is dependant on the specifics of the agreement.
Great vid. Nice step by step explanation of the general processes.
Now, how many steps do you think you can eliminate to save money? Lots and lots.
Of those steps, how many of those have the potential to impact quality and consistency? Lots and lots.
Was scanning Velonews tech articles which are always an interesting read and stumbled upon Giant's new foray into 27.5" mtb arena...a pretty bold step as many in the off road community now embrace 29-ers. 27.5" wheel size for those not into mtb's is 650 wheel size with tall rubber...the standing height of the tire fully inflated. As a sidebar 29 inch mtb's were slow to evolve because of the added spool up inertia of the bigger wheels...mtb tires have greater mass. But general consensus is the upside of a 29er overshadows this deficit. I own a 29er and do like the platform but no question many will embrace the 27.5" platform which will split the difference.
Since Giant has to release new CF molds for their 27.5" series of mtb, below is particularly relevant to discussion here and speaks to the complexity and cost of CF. I think the last sentence of the article is particularly telling of discussion here and largely what differentiates quality:
In a departure from the company’s usual pattern, Giant is releasing both carbon and aluminum versions of its new 27.5 models. Because of the costs associated with building the molds for composite bikes, Giant has traditionally made new models in aluminum first. It is comparatively easy to make adjustments to an aluminum bike’s geometry.
“You can make changes in aluminum,” said Justkaitis. “If you make the angles wrong, you can make minute changes to that. The tooling associated with aluminum is easy. Once you commit to composite molds, you are committed to those molds, and you can’t change it. Those are literally chiseled out of steel.”
The molds for a single size of a carbon frameset can run $75,000 to $100,000, which is part of the reason for the high retail price of the finished bikes. The process of building the frames is labor intensive, too, and Justkaitis does not expect the costs of high-end composites to come down any time soon.
“There are over 500 pieces [of carbon fiber] in an average road frame, pieces that are placed by hand,” said Justkaitis. “We have molds, and into the molds go individually shaped and cut pieces at certain angles at certain degrees. There is no way to automate the process. It’s all done by hand. It’s not like you’re pouring goo into a mold.”
The ride quality, the elusive “feel” of the bike, comes from the carbon lay-up, which is the way the pieces are set into the molds. “The secret is the math that goes into the lay-up,” said Justkaitis. “There’s an astounding amount of math that goes into this stuff.” The basic processes of building carbon bikes are the same across the industry. The way the carbon pieces are set together is not.
Last edited by Campag4life; 08-28-13 at 06:24 AM.
And the Taiwanese companies are selling stuff, see Giant and Merida. But those companies actually have bike development R&D. If one of the smaller factories started selling other people's designs they'd very quickly lose all their business to China (cheaper) or other Taiwanese factories (IP).