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Why carbon fiber frames are anathema to Randos

Old 08-23-15, 12:31 PM
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Why carbon fiber frames are anathema to Randos

Short story, I now need to buy a new frame post PBP.

Long story, I kept hearing a loud creaking, scratching noise during about the last 700km of PBP that sounded like a louder version of carbon seatpost to carbon seat tube when friction paste is not used except it also Felt like the rear QR skewer was loose as the rear end Felt funny. I stopped and inspected many times but did not find it. The bike Felt weird yesterday on a ride. Did another inspection today and the non-drive seat stay is 2/3 cracked in circumference and bends easily with my hands. I guess my Guardian Angel was looking over me.

I wasn't really planning on a new frame but I guess I get why Randos steer clear of carbon although it seemed only a couple steel bikes were in the 80H group and mostly Americans. Now what to get. A 650 tired Waterford or Boulder? Another carbon frame?
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Old 08-23-15, 09:46 PM
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Given the large spectrum of bikes I saw at PBP, I would say that there is no right or wrong answer as far as the bike you choose and the material it is made of: carbon, steel, aluminum, titanium, etc. Same goes with wheel size as I saw quite a few Bromptons, Bike Friday's and other 20" wheel bikes.

I don't understand why a carbon frame is anathema for randonneuring. Sure, most carbon frames are not designed to carry heavy loads, but randonneuring loads are usually more along the lines of credit card touring at worst -- i.e., a couple of frame bags will do. Do you have specific reasons why you want a custom steel frame?

Is your broken frame out of warranty? If you are the original owner, some manufacturers offer lifetime warranty on their frames. Or they will send you a new frame at a low replacement cost.
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Old 08-24-15, 06:54 AM
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Have you thought about having the frame repaired. You might want to read this: Carbon repair: Options for repairing carbon bike frames - VeloNews.com

I bought a new frame two years ago. Honey Winterando Honey Bicycles Bikes For Men (made by Seven). It is their off the rack steel frame. They offered me the option of 700c or 650b. A very nice carbon fork which they will customize the trail for your preference. I have done two full series on it. Very comfortable. I also had a Boulder on my list but wanted to be able to test ride a frame before I bought it. I drove to Lexington,MA to Ride Studio Cafe where they measured my previous setup (A Litespeed Arenberg) and pretty much duplicated it. I asked them for a 30 mile route with some dirt, hills, etc. They gave me a Garmin with the route and away I went. I currently have 28C tires with fenders on it.
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Old 08-24-15, 11:50 AM
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It seems to me that a lot of the emphasis put on randonneuring bikes is based on local tradition more than anything. If you showed up for a ride with 80 people and the other 79 were all riding Surly Puggsleys, you'd likely be out looking for your own Puggsley, assuming that was what it took.

I've know of people who broke carbon fiber bikes with stories similar to yours, but then I've also heard similar stories for steel and titanium bikes, and steel components thereof.

Anyway, ride what you like, and if that's what every other rando is riding, great, if not, don't worry about it.
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Old 08-24-15, 03:48 PM
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I was being tongue in cheek with the no love for carbon title. Steel frames seem more in vogue in the USA

Thanks for the velonews link, JBithica. Maybe getting it fixed is my best option. I can't figure how I broke it. Jumping the speed bump at 48 mph definately loosened some fillings in my teeth.....maybe that cracked it.

Have not had steel in 30 years....4 carbon frames, one Alu, and one magnesium. Thought steel might be fun. Come to think of it, my Bikefriday is steel.
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Old 08-24-15, 09:01 PM
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RR3, I didn't even think about getting it fixed, but that's a good idea. My hesitation to riding carbon is two-fold. First, I build steel frames. Ok, so that's not a good reason. Second is I'm a little concerned it is going to get beat up when I'm not around.

If you decided you wanted to try something new, my thought is that you would be pretty happy with a titanium bike. Steel is great, and it's possible to build anything you want with any little feature that you want, and that's why a lot of rando-specific bikes are made of steel. But you have a successful system set up for a high performance bike, so I'm not sure a big change like that really makes sense.
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Old 08-28-15, 04:43 AM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
RR3, I didn't even think about getting it fixed, but that's a good idea. My hesitation to riding carbon is two-fold. First, I build steel frames. Ok, so that's not a good reason. Second is I'm a little concerned it is going to get beat up when I'm not around.

If you decided you wanted to try something new, my thought is that you would be pretty happy with a titanium bike. Steel is great, and it's possible to build anything you want with any little feature that you want, and that's why a lot of rando-specific bikes are made of steel. But you have a successful system set up for a high performance bike, so I'm not sure a big change like that really makes sense.
I'm leary of titanium after two long-distance friends have had titanium-frame failures. Yes, steel can fail, too. But its fatigue life is much longer than titanium, from what I've read.
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Old 08-28-15, 07:58 AM
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Guy in my cycling group also had a ti frame fail. AFAIK, that's the only frame failure in the group in the 20 years I've been riding with them. Many of us rando. I was the first and for a long time, the only carbon frame rider in the group. However, carbon frames have pretty well replaced all other materials in the group now.
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Old 08-28-15, 02:44 PM
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CFboy...true, the 80H groups at PBP were mostly carbon. I know for sure my caron bike is faster albeit less comfy than my custom Mg framed bike.

My post was probably sour grapes. Upset about a broken frame during PBP. I slowed down too much on the return. Headwind solo and witnessing a dead rider messed with my head a lot and the bugs constantly getting into my helmet was icing on the cake. I lost some focus. A broken seat stay probably matter little beyond stopping several times to check out the bike althogh the creaking noise drove me crazy.

I might get a steel bike just because. Compared to other passions I have had over the years, cycling is a relative bargain. N + 1 here we come
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Old 08-28-15, 03:19 PM
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a lightweight steel bike isn't going to slow you down much relative to a carbon bike. Randonneurs are just as susceptible to marketing as any other group of people. And it's easier to get a high performance carbon bike than it is to get a high performance bike with any other frame material. Bike weight means more for really lightweight people. My steel road bike is really pretty light before I start hanging fenders, bags, food, extra clothing, and spares on it. But I've been happy to have all of those things with me at one time or another. Is a couple of pounds of frame really going to matter?
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Old 08-29-15, 02:43 PM
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People say that steel and titanium outlast aluminium and carbon, but I've also heard about three cracked frames from about 8 people I can think of riding a titanium frame. Just because it's titanium doesn't mean it will last forever. It has to be properly designed and manufactured.
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Old 08-29-15, 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
a lightweight steel bike isn't going to slow you down much relative to a carbon bike. Randonneurs are just as susceptible to marketing as any other group of people. And it's easier to get a high performance carbon bike than it is to get a high performance bike with any other frame material. Bike weight means more for really lightweight people. My steel road bike is really pretty light before I start hanging fenders, bags, food, extra clothing, and spares on it. But I've been happy to have all of those things with me at one time or another. Is a couple of pounds of frame really going to matter?
I agree, weight doesn't matter so much. What really matters is does the frame put your power on the road? I've owned or ridden 2 bikes that were really bad that way, both steel. The revelatory aspect of my going carbon was that the bike simply kept accelerating as long as I kept pushing on the pedals. The limit was obviously my strength, nothing to do with the bike. However I have no way of figuring out w/r to a new frame in advance of going on a long day's ride in challenging terrain.
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Old 08-29-15, 04:08 PM
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An extra pound or two for a steel frame and fork is noise.

Carbon frames can be much more aerodynamic and if cruising speed is 20+ mph, the effect is significant whereas below 15 mph, it is noise. I am thinking of road frames like Felt AR1, Cervelo S5, and Parlee ESX.

Optimization depends on the rider to some extent.
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Old 08-29-15, 05:06 PM
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The best argument I have heard for metal frames for touring and rando is that you get warning and some time to ride out when some failures occur. But with carbon, if there is indication of failure, you pretty much need to quit on the spot. Not entirely true in this case.

I can't stand to ride that long myself, but I do ride a Jan Hein style rando bike, and find it substantially increases my comfort, efficiency and stability, and consequently the length and speed of my longer rides. I wouldn't attribute that much to it being steel. Most of what makes it a rando bike is the fork, with low trail, wire management, fender and front rack mounts. Those features are not available in any production carbon fork I know of.
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Old 08-29-15, 06:19 PM
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I have a custom rando bike that will become my new BF for a bit. It is magnesium with an Enve carbon fork, 69mm trail. Bit of a sit up and beg geometry. Rock solid at speed and I could take a nap hands free. I can put fenders on it if I have to. My touring bike takes racks. IMHO....a handle bar bag should be enough for randonneuring....IMO. I rode PBP with a HB bag, Revelate gas tank, and three bottle cages. A fourth bottle went into the HB bag to get me to Villaine w/o stopping at Mortagne.....it became a souvenir for a young lad. All in was 28 lbs. I had everything. I suspect some rigs went 50 plus pounds. That is punishingly slow on a hilly course. Hours of lost time.

I wonder what Jan's bike weighs all in? As I sat stuffing my face when he arrived in Loudeac, I was momentarily tempted to go lift it up or just to say hi. Food took precedent. I doubt his steel rig weighs much more than 30 lbs. The steel frame is not heavy. The junk in the bags?


I am going to send it to Calfee....thanks for the tip!!!!! I need it in February. I think am going for 400 miles plus at 24H in Saratoga Florida. I calculate 416 miles is my best case if I have support to hand me bottles. 400 miles is unlikely otherwise but what the heck.
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Old 08-29-15, 07:23 PM
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I think Jan likes lightweight bikes. My guess is the frame and fork is less than 6 pounds. Not sure about the parts though. He likes really light tires. I'm pretty sure I saw him in 2011 in Tintiniac or Fogeres, he was focused on getting in and out of the control.
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Old 08-29-15, 08:34 PM
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I would have said that steel frames are heavy, but Machka's little Marinoni which has Columbus Zona tubing is light-ish, and has been extremely durable. I have thought on more than one or two occasions that I would like the dimensions of my Shogun 400 frame and fork replicated in something like Zona or equivalent.

But as has been pointed out, the frame weight is something that diminishes in importance as the mechanicals are added. Having said that, I am aware also that the incrementals add up.

And at a robust 85 to 87kg at the moment, I can afford to lose some weight off my body before thinking about losing the incrementals off the bike and accoutrements.
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Old 08-30-15, 09:30 AM
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My rig comes to about 35 lbs loaded up for a long brevet, and the rider about 150-155, so I guess the overall weight falls into that zone where I can't brag or complain about it. Still, my rig felt hard to propel at times on PBP, and I wasn't sure whether to blame the weight, the tires (650A Col de la Vies), or the rider for not consuming enough calories when I was really dragging. I cursed the fenders plenty while packing up the bike, unpacking/assembling, disassembling/packing, and eyeing them again after the ride. That mostly-unneeded weight, aero drag, and hassle. Of course, if it had been another 2007 I would have been singing their praises, I suppose.

I'm thinking that for my next grand randonnee, or perhaps my next brevet season, I'd rather use either legit 650B wheels with fewer spokes and Grand Bois/Compass tires, or pick up a frame that will allow 700x32 tires (again, Grand Bois/Compass) and lighter-weight plastic fenders. And I'm strongly considering going to a dyno-powered headlight, too. I had just enough battery capacity to make it through the ride, but I discovered to my horror that the USB cable I packed in order to feed the headlight from a 12000mAh battery pack was the wrong one (mini vs micro or something) -- always test all of your equipment before the ride!

(Sorry to hijack your thread, @RR3. It seemed to be the most fertile ground for PBP equipment post-mortems. )
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Old 08-30-15, 09:50 AM
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I'm not a weight weenie, but you are handicapping yourself with a bike like that Bianchi. I'm sure the frame weighs 8 pounds or more, and then the other components are pretty heavy as well. To me, a randonneuse should be closer to a racing bike than any other kind of bike. Just with provisions for the peculiar demands of randonneuring. My first year of randonneuring was done on my '81 steel racing bike, and other than gearing it was perfectly suitable. Of course, there were days when I wished I had fenders, but those are available too if I had chosen to use them.
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Old 08-30-15, 10:32 AM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
I'm not a weight weenie, but you are handicapping yourself with a bike like that Bianchi. I'm sure the frame weighs 8 pounds or more, and then the other components are pretty heavy as well. To me, a randonneuse should be closer to a racing bike than any other kind of bike. Just with provisions for the peculiar demands of randonneuring. My first year of randonneuring was done on my '81 steel racing bike, and other than gearing it was perfectly suitable. Of course, there were days when I wished I had fenders, but those are available too if I had chosen to use them.
I'm well over Lon Haldeman's "bike should weigh 12% of the rider" rule, that's for sure.

Without the handlebar bag, fenders, lights, pump, and (full) water bottles, the Bianchi comes down to 25 lbs. The frame seemed decently light for mid-level (with a nice ring to the main tubes) when I was building it up, I figure it's mostly the case that I hung a bunch of heavy stuff on it. I should tear the bike apart and weigh the frameset for kicks.

BTW, I went down the big-tire path because I found myself getting really beat up on highways with a lot of frost heaves and cracks/slots in the pavement, even on 700x28 tires at Frank Berto-ish pressures. And fenders after getting soaked on a couple of early-season brevets. Perhaps what I need is to HTFU as much as anything...
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Old 08-30-15, 10:49 AM
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Maybe I misjudged the frame then, some of the Japanese bikes from that era were using lightweight tubes.

I went with 38mm tires this last season because the last few winters have left the atlantic region with really horrible roads. A couple of years ago I rode 25mm tires, and at the end of a 300 I hit a pothole and blew out my rear rim. I hit potholes bigger than that this year and nothing at all happened. Not sure what I'm going to do next year, maybe buy some better tires, these are a bit slow.

I'm building myself a disc rando frame with room for big tires and fenders, it probably isn't going to weigh much less than yours, maybe I should go for a weight weenie build

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Old 08-30-15, 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
Maybe I misjudged the frame then, some of the Japanese bikes from that era were using lightweight tubes.
The frame is an '87, described in the catalog as "Tange double-butted Chrome-moly in Superset design for Bianchi, Tange taper gauge Mangalloy stays" -- were you thinking of the lower-end gas pipe stuff?

I went with 38mm tires this last season because the last few winters have left the atlantic region with really horrible roads. A couple of years ago I rode 25mm tires, and at the end of a 300 I hit a pothole and blew out my rear rim. I hit potholes bigger than that this year and nothing at all happened. Not sure what I'm going to do next year, maybe buy some better tires, these are a bit slow.

I'm building myself a disc rando frame with room for big tires and fenders, it probably isn't going to weigh much less than yours, maybe I should go for a weight weenie build
You've planted the seed in my mind, now that I'm all conscious of my weight.

I'm sure I could lose a couple pounds from the bike by switching to 32-spoke 650B rims with GB Cypres or Lierre tires, and then I wouldn't be able to blame the tires for making me feel slow. Which 38mm tires are you using?
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Old 08-31-15, 07:55 AM
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My PBP model was not as sophisticated as Nick Bull's but I did finish within 35 minutes of my predicted time although some mid-course corrections were implemented.

For my weight and planned power output during climbing, my model for me shows an extra pound only costs 4-5 minutes over the entire 1230km. A pound or two is noise; however, I could have reduced my body weight by 10 pounds and bike weight by 10 pounds if I used support but I was not that serious.

Tires and a perfectly run-in and lubricated chain? I was very serious there.

In my opinion from my testing and experience, Compass EL, Vittoria EVO III in 25mm, and Conti GP4000 SI in 25 or 28m have the best range of characteristics. Conti probably the fastest but least durable (sidewalls blow out and tread peels off) and uncomfortable of the three but fast.....my fastest 400k and 600K were on Contis. Compass EL most comfortable and long wearing. Vittoria don't last long but are comfortable and fast....I've never flatted on one. Tires like this will subtract hours from your time on a 1200K compared to riding Gatorskins or other tires. I'll only ride the Compass EL on PA roads because how well they deal with bumpy conditions and corner well on lousy roads.

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Old 08-31-15, 12:52 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
The frame is an '87, described in the catalog as "Tange double-butted Chrome-moly in Superset design for Bianchi, Tange taper gauge Mangalloy stays" -- were you thinking of the lower-end gas pipe stuff?



You've planted the seed in my mind, now that I'm all conscious of my weight.

I'm sure I could lose a couple pounds from the bike by switching to 32-spoke 650B rims with GB Cypres or Lierre tires, and then I wouldn't be able to blame the tires for making me feel slow. Which 38mm tires are you using?
My rando bike is also a Japanese built Bianchi (1981 Bianchi Limited), also converted to 650B (well yours is 650A but close enough). My two cents: Before you make any other changes, try the Compass tires! If your bike can fit the 650A Col's then I think it should be able to fit the 38mm Loup Loup Pass. Hopefully your current brakes should have enough reach for 650B, in that case you can justify a new 650B wheelset because then your 650A becomes the spare.

I have done brevets on my Bianchi with the Cols, Soma B-Lines, and the Loup Loup pass. For me, the Loup Loups are by far the best. they are a major, major improvement over the B-Lines, and the B-Lines were a big improvement over the Cols.
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Old 08-31-15, 04:29 PM
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Originally Posted by rowebr View Post
My rando bike is also a Japanese built Bianchi (1981 Bianchi Limited), also converted to 650B (well yours is 650A but close enough). My two cents: Before you make any other changes, try the Compass tires! If your bike can fit the 650A Col's then I think it should be able to fit the 38mm Loup Loup Pass. Hopefully your current brakes should have enough reach for 650B, in that case you can justify a new 650B wheelset because then your 650A becomes the spare.

I have done brevets on my Bianchi with the Cols, Soma B-Lines, and the Loup Loup pass. For me, the Loup Loups are by far the best. they are a major, major improvement over the B-Lines, and the B-Lines were a big improvement over the Cols.
So perhaps it's not all in my head! And the 650A wheels merely becoming the backup wheels -- I like the way you think, sir! Will keep the group posted once my finances recover from PBP and allow me to upgrade to nicer things.
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