Carbon fiber has become the star material in the manufacture of bicycle frames in a few years—a light, rigid, and very resistant material that prevents damage. We list ten tips to protect and keep your bike’s carbon frame looking new and thus prolong its life.
You are a lucky rider if you have a bike with a carbon fiber frame. You will be able to benefit from all its advantages: lightweight, rigidity, better transmission of pedaling energy, absorption of vibrations at fatigue points. There are many and varied benefits of having a carbon bicycle.
But enjoying all these benefits for a long time also requires specific care of the material. Although carbon is much more resistant to bumps or deformations than aluminum, a crack or breaks in the frame can be very expensive to repair (from € 200 to € 500 in many cases). To avoid problems and make the painting look like the first day, we invite you to do these ten simple but very effective maintenance tasks or tricks.
- 1. 1. Cleaning: water, soap and a soft cloth
- 2. 2. Keep the bike away from radiators and stoves.
- 3. 3. Avoid exposure to the sun or rain.
- 4. 4. Eliminate cable chafing
- 5. 5. Use carbon paste for assembly.
- 6. 6. Respect the recommended tightening torque
- 7. 7. Use the right tools.
- 8. 8. Use specific protectors
- 9. 9. Avoid friction between pieces during transport.
- 10. 10. Don’t do home repairs.
1. Cleaning: water, soap and a soft cloth
There are no secrets or miracle products to cleaning carbon fiber frames. They usually have the same paint finishes as aluminum. Therefore, they have cleaned in the same way: water (avoiding pressure hoses), neutral soap, and soft cleaning tools (cloths or clothes), usually made of microfiber not to scratch the surface.
On the other hand, there are specific products on the market for cleaning and protecting carbon frames. Products that, however, are not exempt from general cleaning with soap and water. Brands such as Morgan Blue have them in their catalog: they clean, polish and protect the tubes from the action of external agents, such as mud or dust.
2. Keep the bike away from radiators and stoves.
Please do not leave it next to metal or pointed objects when leaving the bike parked or storing it in the garage. For example, on a wall, support it on two points: grips and tires (turning the bike) to prevent it from falling. Also, avoid putting it next to a radiator or stove to protect the finish.
3. Avoid exposure to the sun or rain.
If you are not going to ride a bike in a while, you can cover it with a specific protective cover, a blanket, or a large plastic, to prevent the entry of dust and protect it from moisture. If you are going to store a carbon bike for a season, always do it indoors. Never leave it in the sun for a long time or in places exposed to humidity. In addition to deteriorating the components, the frame’s finish could lose its properties (color, gloss).
4. Eliminate cable chafing
It is quite common that the bicycle does not guide the cables properly on the outside and rubs its covers on the frame. This can eventually erode the paint and the surface layers of the painting, exposing the structure. Avoid this by placing a protective adhesive (they are sold in any bicycle store at a great price) in the area of friction to separate both elements.
5. Use carbon paste for assembly.
Friction or friction between carbon and aluminum components and the frame itself can end up degrading the carbon over time, increasing the risk of cracks or fissures. Or that it breaks in the event of a fall or strong blow.
Using a specific carbon paste, whose composition and texture are non-slip, prevents both parts from friction. Only use this paste for mounting fixed parts of the bike: seat post-tube or handlebar-stem. And remember to clean the surface well before applying it.
6. Respect the recommended tightening torque
It is very important to apply just enough force to the bolts when mounting a seat post, a handlebar, or other component or accessory. The recommended torque is usually stamped on each component. It must be respected for all components and materials, but especially for carbon since it needs a lower torque. Otherwise, the excessive pressure could damage or chip it as soon as it receives a strong impact. In case of having a different value for each component, always apply the lower one.
7. Use the right tools.
In the case of the tightening torque, and to ensure that we apply the correct one without going overboard, it is convenient to get hold of a dynamometric lead that marks or limits that torque. There are many of them on the market recommended for bicycles or components. However, from 10 euros, you can get a laptop with the Nm (the measure used for torque) recommended for mounting components.
On the other hand, we have already mentioned that it is advisable to use soft rags and brushes for cleaning. If you do not want to risk, there are cleaning products available in both physical and online cycling stores designed to respect and protect the paint of the frames and materials such as carbon.
8. Use specific protectors
In addition to the adhesives and tapes to prevent the cables from rubbing on the carbon frame, you can also protect other sensitive parts with a larger surface area with hard protectors, such as those on chainstays or down tubes. Both areas are the most exposed to mud, dust, or grease from the chain.
The classic foam pod protectors that were wrapped around the tube with Velcro are now gone. The bicycle or component brands themselves offer almost customized hard plastic and rubber protectors that are lighter, better finished, and more effectively protect these parts of the bicycle. If you are very suspicious of dirt and the condition of the frame, consider installing one of these protectors.
9. Avoid friction between pieces during transport.
If you are going to carry the bike inside the car or on a bike rack, pay special attention to protecting the frame or carbon parts. If you think they can rub against some other element, put a clean cloth or some plastic element in between to prevent them from rubbing. Also, don’t go overboard with tightening the zip ties or clamps to secure the wheels to the bike rack if the rims are carbon.
10. Don’t do home repairs.
Finally, if you see any crack in the finish or a small crack or blow in the frame, it is advisable to go to the mechanic to assess the damage. Carbon frame repairs generally require specific products and a complex and expensive process, so these are not problems that can be easily solved at home.
On the other hand, after suffering a strong fall, even if you do not notice any damage to the frame with the naked eye, it is always advisable to take it to your trusted mechanic for a general review of the bike and the frame. A check by a professional will be much more complete and reliable and will prevent further damage in the future.