Posted by: Bill | November 7, 2009

The No-Name Chinese Carbon Fiber Winter Build-up Blog Final Report

Final Report – On the road!

By William Clarke

After a full day running and adjusting cables on Oct. 30, I finally took the carbon out for a shakeout ride Halloween. Satisfied it supported my weight (!!!), I wanted to slowly stress the frame and stretch the cables with a very light pedal around the town – okay, across the causeway (Which would be an excellent course for a no-holds-barred road kilometer TT…).


A few shots of the recent build

As it was very gusty that Saturday, the ZIPP 440 wheels forced me to use a little muscle as they did an outstanding job of catching the crosswinds! In addition to the base frame size being 54cm instead of the 56cm of my GT, the sloping top tube really played tricks with my saddle height so it wasn’t set properly. Pedaling in my Salomon approach shoes, I couldn’t get enough stretch in my legs – and that made my bars feel like I was reaching up. I also discovered a stiff chain link when I decided to see what would happen if I stomped on the pedals. As expected, there was no softness in the BB and my energy went into turning the wheels.
(Of course, I made mental notes of all of these adjustable issues, and the ZIPP wheels are plenty light and super stiff so they probably had an impact on that little ride!)
It’s balance was spot on as well, executing low speed turns with aplomb both in the saddle and up on the pedals.

Slow steering?

Now, during my research I read two reports about “slow” steering. Exactly what is that supposed to mean? Doesn’t the wheel change direction everytime you nudge the bars? How can those simple physics be quantified in that manner, especially when there’s nothing between the action and reaction? In my mind, you turn the bars and the bike goes with it – turn a little or turn a lot, I don’t see where that action can realistically be termed fast or slow.
(Okay, here are the details for you engineers; 72.5 degree head tube, 73.5 degree seat tube, and the Kinesis fork has a 45 degree rake. The OEM fork would be 43.)
I found I was able to slide through turns as easily as thought and so far, the Chinese no name is feeling like an exceptional value!
After I re-tuned the derailleurs and brakes, in between visits from Halloween ghouls and goblins, I put the Titec seatpost / Ponza saddle combo onto the bike to get the leg extension I like to have. Again, the frame is about an inch smaller than the GT and subtracting another inch for the top tube drop means a longer seatpost is a must. The Titec measures 350mm uncut so there’s plenty of post showing as well as in the tube. I also sanded the head tube bur I mentioned in a pre-report first photo, added spacers above the stem to compress the Kinesis steerer and went for a real ride on a wet Sunday morning.

Roadwork

Wow. Okay, to say this buildy is light is really re-stating the obvious!
I put on my cycling clothes and shoes for a real road test. I went the 50k to Bridgetown and back at various speeds over relatively flat terrain, finishing healthily sweat-dampened. The ride, even on the ZIPP tubeys, was so s-m-o-o-o-th I felt like I could sit on that bike forever. The frame absorbed road shock very nicely, but I didn’t attempt to hit every hole fully weighted on the saddle either – it wasn’t necessary to sit those as traffic was light enough to move around most.
Tracking a straight line, at speed, was no problem either. The bike performed as it should riding no hands and using weight shifts to steer (Yes! I wear a helmet EVERY ride). I also jammed hard both in and out of the saddle, on the hoods and the drops, with the bike responding with no hesitation, sway or noise. In fact, the only sounds were a low hum (frame harmonic) and a click as that (still) stiff link passed through the cage!
And I think I’m gonna like hills next year because climbing was waaaaay too easy. The combination of frame stiffness and 175mm crankarms made sitting hills stupid easy even rolling into a stiff headwind. I don’t know if I’m that much fitter or what, but I hate hills and for the first time in my life felt like I wasn’t mashing to get over the top. I think it makes a statement about frame design when you don’t feel you need to stand to keep up the pace – all of that energy going directly into the drivetrain is a pleasing sensation.

Conclusion

Well, my non-scientific appraisal of this particular carbon frame is that, so far, it has been money wisely spent for my cycling goals. It has opened the door to the world of carbon bicycles so much so that I don’t think I’ll be buying anymore aluminum frames! I also have to say riding my no-name makes me wonder what riding one of the super name-brand, lifetime warrantied frames would be like.
Is there really a significant value or performance gain at anywhere from six to 10 times the price – and more?
At a sport/club riding level, I don’t see how that’s possible – and when you look at how much you could save without a brand name and/or lifetime warranty, I think it’d be pretty easy to keep an extra frame hanging around for when you might need it – again, without the heavy premium price.
On the other side of that, you can have any colour you want; as long as it’s black.
That means if you opt for fancy custom paint, you’re on your own and you’ll need to account for whatever that may cost.
In closing, I hope my experience as a non-professional, non-world class and non-compensated enthusiast helps you with making your decision to purchase this or any other carbon frame. Remember; carbon, by its nature, is a risk anyway.
Just don’t expect this, or any other frame, to magically make up for a lack of miles in your legs.
About these ads

Responses

  1. love the writeup and review.. glad to see someone can give an honest opinion without worrying about what brand they’re flashing in everyone’s face. just bought mine, looking forward to it!

    • Glad you found it helpful. I didn’t want to rag on the brand names, but also wanted to do something that provided decent information about the risks and possible pitfalls of any carbon frame – not just the low-priced OEM frames.
      Oh!
      Hopefully you noticed the photos are probably the best on the net for showing what these frames look like when built up. Being a photographer, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up!!

      • Oh for sure, I loved the photos, they certainly assisted in my purchase decision. My frame arrived 3 days ago, I know carbon is light, but I can’t believe the difference in weight compared to my aluminium Giant frame.

        I opted to buy the frame (54cm 3k weave), forks, seat post and handlebars together. I’m looking at fitting Shimano 105 or Ultegra gear to the frame depending on how generous my wallet is feeling.. Unfortunately I haven’t noticed much of a market for good condition 2nd hand components in Australia.

        I noticed on busted carbon there is a broken ‘Pinarello Style’ chinese frame, but the guy crashed it. As you mentioned though, no big deal, just buy a spare frame they’re not that expensive.

      • See? It’s mind-boggling how light Carbon is! I just mentioned to Anton that I’m about to put my GT back together for the winter, but I want to take my carbon out for at least one more ride. And I’m thinking about grabbing one of the TT frames in the new year.
        I hope you enjoy your ride and here’s a thought; join the community at pinkbike.com and take a look at some of the gear for sale. Don’t forget to check out my Atlantic Canadian cohorts at pedaltrout.com as well as some sellers in the same area could help you out by pooling purchases into a single package – if you ask. Put together a wish list and post a WTB.
        (Of course, we all know how friendly cyclists are!)
        You could also get together with some friends and pool your resources that way – or start a trading blog. One of the problems where I live is we just don’t know who has what and a trading blog would be a great way to start making those connections.

  2. Hi Bill. Just found the final report. I’m glad to hear it’s performing well. I can’t way for mine to arrive. Cheers. Scott.

    • Still no problems – hacksawed my kinesis steerer so that fork is now married to this frame! It’s a sweet ride for sure and I’m thinking on snagging a TT frame next year.
      Oh! The OEM carbon headset. I have to edit part 3 but it has a double-expanding star nut fixed in place with a hollow 8mm hex bolt. The carbon cap then uses a 4mm hex bolt that threads into the hollow bolt. That is waaaay cool!!!

  3. Hi Bill. Thanks a lot from Germany for this wonderful review. There is really not very much information about these “noname” frames. My worry was that these were rejected frames which did not pass the quality inspection. However after reeding your review I’m feeling much better about it. I also will probably order one, but I’m not sure about the frame size. I’m veering between 54 and 56 (the same type as yours). I’m pretty comfortable on the conventional road frame with 560mm top tube. But its not sloped and actually my next frame could be a little bit smaller. I would be grateful for an advice.
    With best regards,
    Anton.

    • Howdy, Anton!
      In the old days, when we were kids, someone thought the proper frame size was the tallest you could standover. Hence the use of frames that were actually too large! I’m from the school of the smallest frame that will fit and because its target use is club riding/racing, I felt I could go smaller.
      The thing is, I do have a 350mm seatpost – accounting for the difference in frame size and top tube drop, that’s about 2 inches you’d need to match your leg extension from a standard 56. At the other end is stem length – which would be a bit longer than what you’re comfortable using already IF you’re going for the same stretch over the top.
      Check out this sizing guide Canyon Perfect Position for a pretty good approximation.
      Thus far, it’s a really tight, compact road machine that I enjoy riding, but will use my 56 through the remainder of winter.

  4. Short answer for frame source is 88bikefun on ebay, see also cargogoods99. I’m working on an update but I’m super happy with the bike. I purchased from Chain Reaction Cycles (AWESOME customer service!!!) and from used posts at pinkbike.com. Lotsa great deals to be had – but the Zipp 440 wheels came from a tri guy 24/20 16g titanium bladed spokes on Hope hubs for CDN$200. YEs, I’ve been asked to sell these wheels but even though I’m not racing – they are nice!!!!!!! My advice on used gear? WAIT. Make a list of what you want and wait wait wait until it comes up at a price you like.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: