Drop by our shop and hold carbon bicycle parts (a carbon handlebars, seatpost or fork, or better, lift one of our full-carbon dream machines), and you'll be startled at how little they weigh. The real surprise, though, comes on rides, when the featherweight and beautiful miracle material transfers more of your effort to the ground, dazzling you with acceleration, climbing, control and even comfort, superior to anything you've pedaled before.
Carbon fiber is so light and tough that Boeing picked it for their 787 "Dreamliner" jet. It's over 80% carbon, including the fuselage, which seats 300-plus passengers. And, perhaps the ultimate carbon creation ever, is the 197-foot-wide wing. With the Dreamliner's 360,000-pound takeoff weight and Mach 0.85 cruising speed, this amazing and gossamer carbon structure must withstand a lift force of some 450,000 pounds.
Yet, even with incredible strength and toughness like this, with a single indiscriminate act like clamping your carbon wonder wrong in your repair stand, over torquing with an Allen wrench, or letting the handlebars swing around and smash into the top tube, you can do some serious damage.
It's possible because carbon has very different qualities than steel, aluminum and titanium, which you've probably ridden before. Unlike these metals, carbon is a synthetic composite material comprised of fibers soaked in epoxy resin and then compressed, heated and cured. Essentially, your carbon jewel is made up of a super-strong fabric, which requires a little new know-how on your part. The foremost being that while metal shows signs of damage, typically bends, dents or bulges, carbon may appear normal, yet, if compromised enough, even though you can't see the defect, the component could fail without warning. Another issue is notch sensitivity, which means that deep cuts, gouges or scratches can cause carbon to break and should be inspected by a pro immediately (and avoided!).
Now that we've got your attention, there's really no reason for concern as long as you treat your carbon gear correctly. To help, we asked our mechanics for their best tips, picked the brains of every industry carbon guru we know, and culled information from the major carbon bike and component leaders' websites to bring you this guide to caring for and maintaining your carbon bicycles and components.
Reading, understanding and following the guidelines, instructions and recommendations here will greatly increase the chances that you never have any problems. And, if you ever have a question or are unsure how to proceed, please contact us first, and we'll be happy to help!
There's a lot to know about carbon and many insider tips and tricks. So, for easy navigation, we've organized our guide into sections covering the issues, and tips for the individual components of a bicycle, too — frame, fork, handlebars, seatposts, etc. Use the links below to quickly jump to any section. First, be sure to read the Basic Carbon Care section as it explains things pertinent to all carbon bicycles and components.