Carbon is the material of choice for most high-quality road bike frames and forks from the past decade. But many cyclists are concerned about safety, especially when buying a second-hand bike. The material, however, poses hardly more risks than others if you consider a few things. This is also confirmed by Dirk Zedler who has pursued the development as tester, material tester and bicycle expert over decades. “Carbon has changed radically over the past ten years”. Latest models of renowned brands are safe, even in crash tests.” Sudden failure after previous damage has also become rare; in most cases there are early indications for a fracture. And handlebars and seat posts have also become safer. Nevertheless, graduate engineer Zedler calls for caution and provides the following tips for buyers.
Be sure to only buy well-known, renowned brands! With them safety standards are observed and consistent quality offered.
Take a close look! When something breaks down, it’s often a clamp. In these areas seat post, handlebars and fork steerer tube should be inspected thoroughly (see “Cracking points"). The frame can also be damaged, e.g. due to improper transport on a roof track or an accident.
Pay attention to warning signs! Longitudinal cracks and crushed carbon indicate clamping damage and can be felt. A fuzzy rag is also a good thing, its fibres stick to such areas. For a visual inspection the frame must be completely clean.
Damage to the paint? Can be signs of deeper damage; they can easier be identified on frames with a coloured paint than on black ones.