Monday, October 13, 2014

Repairing carbon frame mountain bikes: Ruckus Composites vs. Cyclocarbon

With this post I'll finish my 3 week journey from carbon frame naivete to bloodied veteran (see below for related posts). It began when a bike shop refused to repair my newly acquired used Cannnodale Scalpel because of this frame finding:

Yes, the strange irregular line where the end of an aluminum seat insert meets a carbon frame top tube. The bike shop and everyone else who looked at it was certain the frame was dangerously unride-able, whereas the previous owner felt it was fine. (As it turned out, it's not clear who was right [2], only that there was no way to service the bike.)

After a bit of research guided by local bike shops and mountain biking friends, I learned about the hierarchy of carbon frame repairs. There are roughly 3 levels of carbon frame repair:
  • Elite: often with a national market, may use ultrasound to inspect frame, usually need to strip bike and ship frame, repairs take 4-6 weeks but look like new.
  • Regional "race ready": services a metro area or geographic region, mostly hand delivered bikes, focuses on fast turnaround rather than fine finish. Often used by racers, who own the majority of broken frames.
  • Hobbyists who do a small number of frames, often for friends.
I ended up comparing an elite option from Ruckus Composites with a "race-ready" option from Drew at Cyclocarbon. This is what I heard back from Ruckus after they reviewed my blog post:
Ruckus Composites 
... First we will do a full inspection for structural integrity on the frame and hunt out all of the damage. once that is complete we will contact you with a quote and report our findings. 
After that we’ll machine out the damaged carbon fiber because (like a crack in a windshield or a tear in your jeans) all of the damage needs to be removed or it’ll keep propagating under the patch. 
Once we have that taken care of, we can go in and structurally rebuild it with fresh carbon fiber. When that’s done, we can repaint and clearcoat your frame so it’ll be just like new. 
For a repair like this I would estimate around $400-500 and about 3 weeks of in-house labor to complete. I suggest the next step you take is to take your bike to your local friendly bike shop and have them tear it down and box it up. Tearing the bike down to just a frame makes shipping a lot cheaper...
Cyclocarbon (Cyclocarbon on Facebook is more active) doesn't do this "like new" kind of repair. They do "race ready" for $150-$200, typically in about 3-5 days. That means no repainting of the original decals, no clearcoat, and a functional rather than "like new" shape. Repair warranty is informal.

I ended up going with Cyclocarbon, in large part because of turnaround time and because Emily was willing to drive my bike 1.5 hours from St Paul to Rochester MN [1]. Cyclocarbon has a strong local reputation, so I felt their repair would be reliable. For me the cost and hassle of tear down, shipping, and reassembly outweighed the aesthetics of a Ruckus repair. Once I factored in shipping and assembly costs Cyclocarbon was also significantly less expensive.

I think Ruckus would have been an excellent choice too however. I do miss the Scalpel graphics, and my top tube now has a bit of pudge. If I'd gone the Ruckus route I'd have invested in tools to do my own disassembly and reassembly.

It's good to have choices.

[1] If she'd known who lousy the drive would be that day I'm sure I'd have done local shipping rather than driving. I was able to pickup the bike during a trip to Rochester for my son's High School mountain biking race.

[2] Cyclocarbon's Drew tells me that despite the worrying artifact the carbon seemed strong. He's not sure whether the frame was truly weakened.

See also:

No comments: