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I am about to get my first carbon bike next spring, it's a MTB with a carbon frame with some aluminium components.

What are the things I should do and should not do, to avoid damaging it by improper maintenance? I see other threads here about people having problems with stuck seatposts an other, a compilation of all this knowledge plus additional tips would be welcome.

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3 Answers 3

Carbon is incredibly strong in the direction for which is has been designed to withstand stress and pressure, but can be susceptible to damage that might seem innocuous if received on say an Alloy bike. Your frame for example is incredibly rigid and strong for impact travelling vertically up through your wheels, into your forks and stays, and through the frame. But if you were to hit the frame from the side, maybe take a careless knock horizontally say for example from a fall onto a hard object, it could break more easily than other materials. This isn't to say it's weak, it isn't, but it can mean you might want to pay more attention when racking your bike not to whack your frame on the pedals of the next bike along etc.

One area that I think is key, is your chainstay. If there is one thing I would advise anyone with a carbon bike to do, it's protect the chainstay. The one area I have seen damaged multiple times across bikes in my team is on the chainstay, usually after a high speed chain drop where the chain has managed to fold itself at an unlikely angle to one side of the stay and then grind all down the side as the rider initially keeps pedalling. Get a chainstay protector on that part, and keep it on. You can get great ones made from neoprene and velcro with a rubber stripe over the top, or you can google how to make one from an old inntertube.

Other than that, treat it like any other bike, but if you ever knock it just pay attention for cracks developing. Looking at the obvious places like the joins, headtube etc when cleaning it as part of your maintenance ritual should let you spot any issues early should you have any.

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Whilst carbon fibre is fantastic for bike frames; it is light and strong and can be formed into interesting shapes - one of the problems is that if the surface is damaged then it can affect the structural rigidity of the component, e.g. frame.

Wear and Tear So, it is vitally important to protect the frame as much as you can - especially if you live in a wet & muddy climate like I do. The best solution is to use techniques like "helicopter tape". 3M make a clear but quite thick tape that you can cut out and stick to any area where there could be damage or wear - e.g.

  • where the brake and gear cables touch the frame
  • if you have a dropper, then where the dropper cable touches the seat tube
  • on the chain stays where shoes/boots can rub against the stays
  • on the chain stays where the chain can slap
  • round the down tube (if you use a bike rack for your car)
  • lower part of frame and BB where stones are kicked up.

check the frame for any score marks.

Heat You don;t say what type of bike frame this is. Some of the older bike frames used to bond aluminum sections onto carbon "tunes". In the early days I saw these melt due to the use of small (140mm) disk brakes getting way too hot and melting the epoxy glue holding it all together where the heat was transferred into the frame.

This is very rare nowadays - but follow the manufacturers instructions for which types of brakes you should use.

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Does this tape come off easily without damaging the finish or leaving sticky gunk? –  Carey Gregory Oct 20 '13 at 16:44
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Yes it does. You may get a little glue residue, but that can easily be rubbed off with a little alcohol. Warning! Don't use acetone or lighter fuel! –  arne Oct 21 '13 at 5:52
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Always - Always! Follow the instructions regarding torque - otherwise you could snap your frame/post etc..

As for everything else, I think it's the same, I treat my carbon roadie as I would my aluminium.

Clean it etc, but with carbon, if you have a crash or such, it would be an idea to check for cracks, and get them looked at!

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