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In another bicycle discussion forum I encountered a thread about possibility to damage carbon frame by sitting on top tube while stopped.

I see some sense in it, as generally tube walls are a lot thinner in the middle to save weight and are not designed for this kind of load. The problem is, I have not seen any warnings from manufacturers about this habit, nor there are stickers on the frame suggesting to not do it.

So the question is - Is this a real problem, should I change my habits?

Trash talk before start

UPDATED: There is one local person who does carbon repairs, he claims that he has repaired multiple frames which had been damaged this way.

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  • 3
    My wild guess is the soft tissue of a human in that region is less robust than the lightest carbon frame.
    – mattnz
    Apr 11 '14 at 9:10
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    In the position shown, not all of your weight goes on the top tube. Some is on your arms, and there is still one foot on the ground. So I don't think it would cause any damage.
    – Kibbee
    Apr 11 '14 at 10:28
  • Yeah, don't stop!
    – PeteH
    Apr 11 '14 at 17:42
  • I asked a very similar question about standing on the top tube. I got two answers that said yes and two that said no. bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/28758/…
    – bdsl
    Feb 14 '15 at 23:30
  • If you're still worried, there are some alternatives. Apr 15 '17 at 12:51
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I have never had or heard of a problem.

Over at www.velominati.com, one of the rules is

Rule #80 // Always be Casually Deliberate.

Waiting for others pre-ride or at the start line pre-race, you must be tranquilo, resting on your top tube thusly. This may be extended to any time one is aboard the bike, but not riding it, such as at stop lights.

While some of what they say is tongue in cheek, this one is not. Most people I know do it, and have done for years.

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    +1 for the Velominati link. I forgot all about them and had a good laugh re-reading The Rules
    – arne
    Apr 11 '14 at 12:18
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You need to seat at right spot of your but. There is a big vein on back side of the upper leg can be squeezed. It can cause a problem with blood circulation before race or workout.

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You correctly stated that the carbon layup (i.e. the number and orientation of plies of carbon used) is likely to be lighter in areas where the frame isn’t typically as heavily loaded. You also correctly identified that CF is anisotropic, meaning that its material properties can be made to vary by direction, unlike metal tubes.

I heard on one of the podcasts I frequent that at least one carbon frame model was made so light that the manufacturer explicitly warned against sitting on the top tube. I don’t recall which model, nor even which podcast or which episode (for reference, it would have been Marginal Gains by Josh Poertner, or the Cyclingtips podcast, or the Nerd Alert podcast which is a separate podcast under Cyclingtips’ umbrella). I also believe it isn’t a general practice to warn against sitting on the TT. Consider that we aren’t putting our full weight on the tube, we are typically sitting on it while stopped with one leg on the ground.

I don’t repair carbon, and I don’t wish to discount the experience of your local carbon fiber repair person. That said, be aware that he experiences what statisticians would call survivorship bias: people come to him because their bikes are broken. He doesn’t observe all the CF bikes where the owner did sit on the top tube, but the bike didn’t explode. I think you would generally be justified in sitting on your top tube. If you have a really light CF frame, I would use more caution, perhaps a lot more. I would also use more caution if you’re heavier than average.

This is a digression for interested parties: here’s the Wikipedia page, which has a story that’s relevant to my description. In World War II, the US Air Force was examining bullet holes on returning B-17 bombers. They initially added more armor to the areas that got hit the most. However, Abraham Wald and colleagues told them to add armor to the parts that did not have bullet holes on the surviving planes. Here, the areas were the engines and cockpit. In hindsight, it seems obvious that hits there would disable the bomber entirely, and the USAF would not be seeing many bombers that took cockpit or engine hits and survived to tell the tale.

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  • Under 900 grams frame weight or so, I’d be careful. Definitely wouldn’t do it on a ~750g climbing/XC race frame.
    – MaplePanda
    Jun 1 at 7:34
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Carbon fiber is strong. Really strong. The kinds of loads that your frame sees when you hit a pothole is far bigger than what you would get sitting on the bike.

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    This might not be entirely true. Carbon fiber is strong in certain directions.
    – Papuass
    Apr 14 '14 at 8:02

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