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Danger From Carbon Fiber Bikes

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Danger From Carbon Fiber Bikes

Old 07-22-16, 10:47 AM
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cyclintom
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Danger From Carbon Fiber Bikes

WARNING! IF YOU OWN A CARBON FIBER BICYCLE THAT IS MORE THAN TWO YEARS OLD - GET RID OF IT NOW!!! IT CAN CAUSE SERIOUS INJURY OR DEATH! THIS IS STRAIGHT FROM COLNAGO OF ITALY - a premier maker of world-class racing bikes for over 60 years.

Read on for more details....

Apparently, ALL carbon fiber bike frames, regardless of manufacturer and warranty, are good for only TWO YEARS, after that they can break and cause serious injury or even cost you your life. I know, I have experienced it and even Colnago admits that I was very lucky to have survived.


The background...

In July 2016 my wife Louise and I were on vacation in California. I rode my 14-year old Colnago C-40 (full carbon fiber racing bike) there on July 1, 2, 3, & 4. On July 5th I rode from Castro Valley to Moraga and back with friends. This ride is entirely in the Oakland Hills. On the way back to Castro Valley, my friend Tom Kunich (who was also riding a full carbon fiber Colnago C-40) crashed on the downhill. After the crash, he found what he believes to be a crack in his carbon fiber front fork. He contributes the crash to hitting a large bump in the road on the downhill. He also believes (although I do not agree) that I also hit this bump, which contributed to the catastrophic destruction of my bike frame 5 days later on July 10th.

On July 10th, I was starting out with Louise and two friends on a 45-mile ride from San Francisco to Novato, CA and back. Only one mile into the ride I made a left turn (traveling at about 5 mph) and my frame suddenly snapped underneath me WITHOUT ANY WARNING! Both the top tube and down tube simultaneously broke off the head tube. I went down hard in the road. I suffered a badly damaged right hand with a dislocated and broken finger, which required surgery within 2 weeks. I now have a metal plate in my finger to hold it together. Had this happened just 30 minutes later, I would have been on a 40+ mph downhill into Sausalito on a 2-lane road with oncoming traffic. I COULD HAVE BEEN KILLED!

I contacted Colnago-America in Chicago, Illinois (the sole wholesaler of Colnago bicycles in the USA) and spoke with Mr. Billy Kanzer, National Sales Manger for Colnago. I also sent him two emails with the story of the frame failure and photos. He said they would need to examine the frame for faults and he would get back to me. To date, I have not heard back from him.

Apparently, Tom also wrote to Colnago-America about his damaged fork and his crash on Redwood Road. Both his letter and my emails were obviously forwarded to Colnago in Italy.

On July 21, 2016 I received the below email from Mr. Gilberto Gentilli, Esq (Colnago's legal council for product liability and related matters). It is a shocking message! In the email he states that my catastrophic frame failure was due to (1) the frame's "useful life had expired", and (2) "severe punishment by frequent use on damaged roads" (my bike spent 12 of it's 14 years in California).

Mr Gentilli also goes on to explain that even the pros DO NOT ride a carbon fiber frame more that a MAXIMUM OF TWO SEASONS. After that, they are (quote) "either destroyed or sold...to private individuals with the understanding that they are purchasing them at their sole risk and responsibility". (That must explain why my bike frame only came with a 2-year warrantee.) He goes on to say (quote) "carbon is not indestructible and...when it breaks it does so catastrophically with hardly any warning. It is a price we all gladly pay for the amazing characteristics of carbon..."

WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


The proof...

Below is the verbatim text of the email from Mr. Gentilli. I have underlined the important areas of the message. Read it for yourself...
====================================================================
Delivered-To: lynchmf1@gmail.com
Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2016 23:54:59 +0200
Subject: C-40
From: Gilberto <info@contrattiinternazionali.it>
To: <lynchmf1@gmail.com>,
<cyclinton@yahoo.com>
CC: Alessandro Colnago <alex@colnago.com>,
Billy Kanzler <billy@colnago-america.com>
Thread-Topic: C-40

Gentlemen,

By way of introduction, I am Colnago’s legal counsel for product liability and related matters. In such capacity, I have been forwarded your recent correspondence with Billy Kanzler of Colnago America, Inc.. On behalf of the entire Colnago team, and particularly Mr. Ernesto Colnago himself, let me first of all express our sympathy towards you both for your July 5th and 10th incidents. I agree with you, all things considered, one can safely say that you were both quite lucky.
The main purpose of this letter is to respond to the questions you have raised, respectively, in your July 11, 2016 email (Mr. Lynch) and July 11, 2016 letter (Mr. Kunich) for which we thank you.
In your email, Mr. Lynch, you have asked: "when is a carbon frame too old to ride?”
In your letter, Mr. Kunich, you have asked us to comment on your hypothesis that: 1. Carbon frames have or should have unlimited “useful lives or life cycles”; and 2. Your two C-40’s broke as a result of “aging and the number of shocks on broken roads”.
Once again, we truly appreciate having the opportunity of interacting directly with sophisticated customers such as yourselves. It is a rare privilege. I will do my best to satisfy your curiosity to the best of my professional ability and experience. While in Europe, for example, product liability for a manufacturer ends 10 years after purchase, in the US, but for products with clear “expiration dates” (such as milk, for example) or shelf life (such as pharmaceuticals) there is no such thing as a precise "useful life” of a product. Let’s use our C-40 as an example (or any other carbon frame for hat matter). Its useful life depends on many factors such as, but not limited to, how much and under what conditions it is used; whether and to what extent it is submitted to regular maintenance checks and so on. As I see it, the best if not the only way a serious manufacturer such as Colnago - who’s been making frames for over 60 years – can protect the safety of his customers is by designing and manufacturing frames using state of the art technology and materials (yes, Mr. Kunich, I too believe Colnago’s lug system is still the best technology on the market for carbon frames manufacture. Thank you for acknowledging it) but also drafting adequate warnings and instructions whose purpose is to inform the customers on the inherent risks involved in cycling.
Having drafted Colnago’s manuals for over 20 years (since 1995 to be precise), I take particular pride in drawing your attention to the specific wording of these manuals regarding the frames’ useful lives and the need for frequent maintenance checks. An unbiased reading of such warnings must lead to the conclusion that, indeed, Mr. Kunich’s interpretation of the reasons for the failures are to be found in the frames’ ages and their having been subjected to severe punishment by frequent use on damaged roads. In other words, their useful lives had expired. In your specific situation(s), I believe that the speed bump you hit at over 35 miles/hour on July 5, 2016, was indeed the probable cause of cracks, perhaps invisible to the naked eye, but which nonetheless led to the final catastrophic event of July 10.
You are correct, Mr. Kunich, when you observe that our frames are built for racing conditions far more severe that the bumps you hit in your recent rides. Indeed, as you probably know, the C-40 and C-50 (which share the identical technology) still hold the record for most victories in the Paris-Roubaix. However frames used by professionals are used for one, or maximum two seasons after which they are either destroyed or sold (by the teams themselves) to private individuals with the understanding that they are purchasing them at their sole risk and responsibility. This is because, like any other material, carbon is not indestructible and, unlike steel, titanium or aluminum for example, when it breaks it does so catastrophically with hardly any warning. It is a price we all gladly pay for the amazing characteristics of carbon which have made it by far the most popular material in racing bicycle frames manufacture.

Gentlemen, I trust the above answers your questions but should you need any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.

Regards,

Gilberto Gentilli, Esq.
Attorney at Law


Law Offices Gentilli
Via Cesare Balbo, 36
59100 - Prato (PO) -
Italy
cell.: +39 335 667 9978
Tel.: +39 (0) 574 60 61 41
Skype: g.gentilli
info@lawofficesgentilli.com
ggentilliesq@gmail.com
home - Law Offices Gentilli
======================================================================================


It does not end there...

While in the emergency room (getting 13 stitches in my hand) after my crash, I met a technician who is an avid mountain bike rider. He owns a carbon fiber mountain bike. He told me that he gets rid of his carbon frame and replaces it every 5 years. Why? Because it can break and you can be severely injured or killed!

On July 21st I began physical therapy for my right hand at OrthoArizona Canyon Orthopaedic Surgeons on W. Thunderbird Road in Peoria, AZ. There, I met a physical therapist who is also an avid bike rider. He said he owns 3 bikes. One is carbon fiber. He told me that he not only limits the amount of miles he spends on the carbon fiber bike, he also gets rid of it and replaces it EVERY TWO YEARS! Why? Because it can break and you can be severely injured or killed! He showed us picture after picture after picture of broken carbon bikes and forks, all which he said happened catastrophically and without any warning and none of the riders struck any objects in the road. ALL THE MAJOR MANUFACTURERS WERE INVOLVED - regardless of their frame warrantees! None of the manufacturers were exempt. The photos included Pinarello, Colnago, Trek, Specialized, and many more.

My question is: If this is so prevalent, why is it that we have not heard of it before? It has not been on the news, in the papers, in the bike magazines, or on the Internet. And again, all major bike manufacturers are involved - regardless of their frame warrantees. What good is a "lifetime" warranty if you are severely injured, disabled, - OR KILLED - because your frame broke without warning and tossed you under an oncoming car?

All I can say is if you own a carbon fiber frame or fork that is more than two years old, you had better think twice about keeping it. I now have a badly scarred finger and a metal plate in my hand to prove what I am saying. Louise also owns a full carbon Colnago C-40 bike that is only one year newer than mine. She will now be getting rid of it as, after witnessing my horrific crash and aftermath and personally seeing the above information, she is scared to ride it. I don't blame her. I do not know if we will ever own a carbon fiber bike again.

IF YOU VALUE YOUR CYCLING FRIENDS, PLEASE PASS THIS MESSAGE ON.

Food for thought....Be safe out there!

Mike Lynch
Peoria, AZ
lynchmf1@gmail.com

From Tom Kunich - Mike has photos showing just how bad this can be:

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/...E0NjkyMDQ1MDY-

Inspecting my Colnago Star Fork I discovered that there is a SEAM along the outside vertical blades. This is an incredible discovery. I really should have looked at these earlier but since I also have a Colnago Force Fork that I had inspected before I assumed that the Star had the same level of workmanship. My very dangerous crash was caused by the fork slitting along this seam and the bike not steering properly forcing me off of the road at 35 mph. I am very lucky to be alive.

Remember this when you buy carbon fiber bicycles.
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Old 07-22-16, 10:54 AM
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Old 07-22-16, 10:58 AM
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There are plenty of CF bikes that are over 2 years old that aren't exploding...This thread is pointless.
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Old 07-22-16, 11:05 AM
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OP, sorry about your accident. Those pictures are harsh, I hope you heal well and fast.

Thanks for bringing this info to light.
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Old 07-22-16, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by cyclintom View Post
WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 07-22-16, 11:11 AM
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Everything comes at a price. Carbon fiber canoes are preferred by racers for their light weight, but known for their fragility. Myself, I'll stick to my built like a tank Royalex canoes and my 'Steel is Real' vintage Cromoly bikes.
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Old 07-22-16, 11:15 AM
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What will they do with the new cars that are carbon fiber construction...throw them out after two years?
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Old 07-22-16, 11:21 AM
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First of all, the Colnago warranty is 3 years if you register your purchase, and 3 years was standard for them at least as far back as 2001 when I bought my ALUMINUM Dream Plus.
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Old 07-22-16, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by 02Giant View Post
What will they do with the new cars that are carbon fiber construction...throw them out after two years?
Oh stop. Cars today are disposable, and the ones with carbon fiber frames don't get driven enough to worry about.
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Old 07-22-16, 11:29 AM
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BF classic in the making. That's my weekend plans settled.
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Old 07-22-16, 11:33 AM
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Uhhh... Oh....

I'm now riding a C-40 whenever I can get out on it.

Pro riders and casual weekend riders may have very different demands on bikes, although I suppose one risk is getting previous pro bikes into the used market. So, a pro bike might get ridden 20,000 miles a year. Also the pros like to test and display "new" stuff so the old products get sold long before their life should be over.

However, perhaps one should also keep in mind ages. Some of the C-40 bikes are pushing 20 years old, and are an early second generation design just behind the carbitubo bikes.

Everything indicates that Carbon Fiber has tremendous fatigue resistance, perhaps better than steel, aluminum, or titanium. But, it is also a plastic hybrid, so it would have many of the same faults as plastic including potentially embitterment with aging.

Slightly different issue, but here is my last post on a Chinese CF seat.
https://www.bikeforums.net/18888639-post27.html

Apparently the makers chose to just secure the parts together with a drop of unreinforced epoxy. What surprised me was how hard, and potentially brittle the epoxy was. And the seat had only been in use for a few months.
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Old 07-22-16, 11:36 AM
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Originally Posted by corrado33 View Post
Oh stop. Cars today are disposable, and the ones with carbon fiber frames don't get driven enough to worry about.
I was wondering about the new $300 Million commercial airline jets that are now being produced out of Carbon Fiber.

Of course, the previous generation aluminum jets also have a fatigue life.
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Old 07-22-16, 11:41 AM
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Anyone with a shred of common sense has known this for quite some time.
Cf is and will most likely continue to be a very viable material for high end bike frames.
Mainly because of weight and marketing and the obvious desire for many recreational cyclists to simply own what they perceive to be the latest and greatest.
That being said, it is overall considerably more fragile than other popular materials when used in the making of a bike frame.
Common sense folks.
Comparing its use as a bike frame to its uses on cars and jets is quite reedonkulous and lacking any of the aforementioned common sense though imo.
Silly analogies though are just what keeps marketing departments rolling along and 14 mph rec riders feeling groovy
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Old 07-22-16, 11:44 AM
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Old 07-22-16, 11:46 AM
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So, how about carbon forks on an aluminum bike? This is my bikes 9th year, and 8th season of riding.


Can anyone shed some rational thought on this? There are thousands of aluminum bikes with carbon forks that are way more that two years old.
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Old 07-22-16, 11:52 AM
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"A bump"... what kind of "bump" are we talking about that allegedly killed two bikes? Lots of carbon bikes get ridden over "bumps" all the time without issue for years on end.
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Old 07-22-16, 12:04 PM
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Will the carbon in my Bont shoes asplode?
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Old 07-22-16, 12:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Homebrew01 View Post
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:

Think you might need a third tub before this thread is through.
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Old 07-22-16, 12:07 PM
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Please send all 2+ year old 52-53cm carbon frames, forks, seatpost, handlebars, etc. to me for proper disposal. PM for address and FedEx account number.
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Old 07-22-16, 12:18 PM
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Originally Posted by bakes1 View Post
Anyone with a shred of common sense has known this for quite some time.
Cf is and will most likely continue to be a very viable material for high end bike frames.
Mainly because of weight and marketing and the obvious desire for many recreational cyclists to simply own what they perceive to be the latest and greatest.
That being said, it is overall considerably more fragile than other popular materials when used in the making of a bike frame.
Common sense folks.
Comparing its use as a bike frame to its uses on cars and jets is quite reedonkulous and lacking any of the aforementioned common sense though imo.
Silly analogies though are just what keeps marketing departments rolling along and 14 mph rec riders feeling groovy
The CF frame may be the difference between a 14 MPH rec rider and a 13 MPH rec rider

CF is just different than other common frame materials (steel, aluminum, titanium). Bamboo? The CF does have high fatigue resistance, but apparently cracks when other materials might dent or bend. Maybe one of the issues is that CF will return to its original shape even if damaged when steel might have a visible bend that would otherwise indicate an unridable bicycle.

I have no doubt that as more CF bikes age past 20 years old, there will be discussions of age related damage. But, this still will be highly variable because it will also be related to heat and sunlight exposure.
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Old 07-22-16, 12:23 PM
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Originally Posted by joejack951 View Post
Please send all 2+ year old 52-53cm carbon frames, forks, seatpost, handlebars, etc. to me for proper disposal. PM for address and FedEx account number.
This one didn't quite make it to the 2 year old point.

I'll hang onto it for another 18 months, then get your contact info.

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Old 07-22-16, 12:27 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
This one didn't quite make it to the 2 year old point.

I'll hang onto it for another 18 months, then get your contact info.
I should clarify my statement a bit...
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Old 07-22-16, 12:34 PM
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Carbon Fiber is not a magic material and like any other material it is subject to failure. I would be curious see the actual percentage of CF bike frames that have failed compared to the number of CF bikes over 2 years old that are still on the road. As for the photos that you saw of the broken CF bike frames, you can do an internet search for "steel bike frame failures" or "aluminum bike frame failures" and most likely see just as many photos of broken steel and aluminum frames that have failed without warning.

Having read your post got me thinking since I also own a Colnago. I read my Colnago manual and there was nothing in it that stated the Useful Life of the frame and fork were only 2 years. In fact Useful Life was never defined in the manual but only mentioned to say that not following the manual to the letter will shorten the Useful Life of the frame. The only thing I saw that had anything to do with two years is the warranty. If they consider the warranty its Useful Life, than we all should be ditching our bikes at the end of the warranty period, regardless of the material used to make them.

On page 8 of my Colnago manual, item number 9, under "Actions/Inactions that can reduce the Useful Life or your Colnago frame:

"Use of the product by anybody whose body weight is in excess of 95 kg (209 pounds). If you are in this weight category, you will need to request that Colnago fabricate a frame proper for your weight."

Maximum rider weight is emphasized again on page 17. And I think this is why most of the sudden CF failures occur. I've seen some pretty heavy riders on CF frames. I'm 150 pounds and I've ridden my 2012 Ace almost 35,000 miles. I'm guessing it's way past its Useful Life.
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Old 07-22-16, 12:38 PM
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I don't own a carbon fiber bicycle, and your post has convinced me never to get one.

However, I think you are taking something Mr. Genitalia said out of context, i.e.,

Its useful life depends on many factors such as, but not limited to, how much and under what conditions it is used; whether and to what extent it is submitted to regular maintenance checks and so on. ...
... frames used by professionals are used for one, or maximum two seasons
He's not saying that all carbon frames are no good after two years, but rather, that frames subjected to the most extreme conditions of racing for one or two years aren't considered reliable.

Incompetently welded Ti frames can fall apart catastrophically, by the way.
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Old 07-22-16, 12:41 PM
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Cannot stay in the Avant Garde with 2 year old Gear anyhow , the leading edge must always be sought.
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