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I am wondering if in carbon (or any other material, for that matter) manufacturers explicitly choose the better crafted frames to pair with higher tier components. By better crafted I mean of all frames that pass quality control there is still diferentiation within QC parameters, such as tolerances, weigth, air gaps in carbon. I do not mean use of higher grade grade material or manufacturing techniques.

I am asking because we see manufacturers offer the exact same frame type with different equipment grades at very different price points, and I (knowing they make much less Profit on the cheaper ones) was wondering if I would get a "worse" bike (e.g. higher probability of PF bottom bracket squeaking) if I bougth the cheaper Version?

I suspect the answer is yes, so the next, and more important question is: does it matter? Will I, as a weekend, sub 200W ridder notice a diference in the frames first 20k km?

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    If you've seen any Hambini videos, then price doesn't seem to correlate with quality, though he's seeing mostly the bad ones and thus there is a bias.
    – Criggie
    Jul 4 at 22:34
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    It's a very good question and I'd be amazed if anyone could come up with a concrete answer. Measure enough randomly chosen frames and you could come up with an answer that way, but I don't know who's in a position to do that. I think that by and large in the case of BB tolerance issues, the real story is that some manufacturers have their processes better dialed than others, i.e. if you want to be free of those issues you can't reliably get there by choosing a high end model from a manufacturer known to make creaky bikes. Jul 5 at 2:46
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    I wonder how this extends to warranty frames. Are they cherry picked as to minimize the reoccurrence of a problem? From personal experience, the one warranty frame I’ve had appeared to have extra QC check stickers on it.
    – MaplePanda
    Jul 5 at 6:59
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Short answer: No.

Bike manufacturers are certainly aware of the QC issues inherent in the carbon fiber manufacturing process and ways to both test for and mitigate them, and it is also true that for VIP's (i.e. flagship athletes) and during product development, a very small selection of VIP frames will receive additional scrutiny beyond the normal QC process to ensure particularly high level of quality is achieved. Likewise, frame families are often broken down into multiple levels which use the same geometry and visual appearance, but different internal layups, and in theory the more expensive levels will be produced in lower volumes but with greater care. It is common, for example, for the top one or two levels to be produced in-house while lower tier framesets are contracted out to be manufactured by third party production facilities.

These caveats aside, frame QC is still a pass/fail process and, for many manufacturers, it's way less complex than you're envisioning. The frame will be visually inspected for defects and some basic load testing will be done to address safety concerns, but that may be all the scrutiny a given frame gets. Beyond that, one or two frames from each batch may get additional testing done to ensure manufacturing specs are being followed, but even that is done only as a check on the batch as a whole. Nobody is checking tolerances or doing NDT to identify voids on every single frameset they produce, never mind bothering to sort them by which ones are the "best". Even if they did, the QC process would still be pass/fail - if a frame is "good enough", it's going to go down the assembly line to be built up, and if it's not it'll be scrapped. That's the bottom line.

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  • +1. Great answer, It would be even better if you could provide references that verify it.
    – mattnz
    Jul 6 at 0:02
  • I'm in quality control (albeit it in a different industry). What he/she seems to be referring to is "form, fit, and function" of sampled parts. Not every frame would be fully tested, but every sample could be. The sample rates and tiers of testing are based on AQL, which you can read more about here: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acceptable_quality_limit
    – dhaupin
    Jul 8 at 15:56
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I'm not really familiar with the bicycle production process, but in the case of motorhome manufacturing (Winnebago), two identical bare chassis come in the door on one end, and by the time they reach the exit door, one may be a $100,000 plain Jane, while the other chassis has been adorned such that the asking price has reached 175k or more. I suspect this happens with bikes as well. The manufacturing of the frames happens in the same area, on the same machine, with identical tolerances, and several are created from the same roll of raw material.

One thing with bikes is to note what a sub model is made from compared to a higher cost sub model. By sub model, I refer to the differing tags added on to the same models name. Words like Expert, Pro, Elite, etc, such as Specialized Rockhopper Expert vs the Specialized Rockhopper Sport. Obviously there are carbon fiber and alloy versions. But even say with carbon, there may be 2 differing materials or lay up techniques used. For instance, Stumpjumper FSR Carbon Elite with a FACT9 carbon frame vs. An S-works FSR carbon Elite having a frame of FACT11 carbon (same model year). That would infer two different levels of quality perhaps.

The same goes for aluminum. You may note the same model name but one sub model is "A1 aluminum" while the other sub model is made from M4 aluminum. They share the same geometry but use different alloys or produce using two different methods of production. So watching the material specs between sub models as well as any geometry differences (I'm talking more the seat tube and head tube angles of the same size bike rather than comparing head tube length between two different sizes which will differ at some point in the size range) is what I do to determine if there are large differences in overall quality.

Thus if you find two of the same size and model bikes but with different sub model names and a large discrepancy in price, and these bikes share both the same material and the same geometry, I feel that they both started life coming off the same production machine as equals yet ended up at two price points with differing sub model names due to the spec'd components as opposed to differing quality levels of the base frame.

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  • e.g. Scott do MTB's ranges (I presume road and all the other flavors) in three different types of carbon frames (and an aluminum one). The rear triangle is alloy on carbon front end for some models, so there is already 5 models of say Scott Spark, without playing with bolt on components. This leaves little scope for using QC outcome to differentiate models carbonexperts.scott-sports.com/en/index.html#.YOObL7viuUk
    – mattnz
    Jul 5 at 23:55

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