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How much a carbon picture really lasts?

How much a carbon picture really lasts?

Do carbon fiber boxes have an expiration date? This question was recently asked by a cyclist who was interested in buying a carbon bicycle. I had read in a forum that the paintings of this material have a maximum useful life of 10 years but it caught the attention that some brands offer life guarantee in some carbon bicycles models. The truth is that it is not the first time that someone asks us about this issue. So we will try to answer one of the most frequent questions among cyclists: how much does a carbon picture really last? Before entering into detail it is important to know that carbon paintings are no longer reserved exclusively to the top of the range. The manufacture of bicycles with this material has become popular and there are medium ranges and even access ranges in certain brands and models whose paintings are made of carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is an artificial material. Unlike aluminum, which is extracted by mining for transformation, carbon is made from very thin and resistant fine ones that are intertwined to form a rigid and light structure. These fibers are an oil derivative and its elaboration process is more expensive and requires a greater amount of energy than that necessary to make aluminum frames. On the other hand, carbon is very versatile and can be molded in complex forms and adapt to different geometries and picture designs. Aluminum bicycles are built with solid tubes that are welded in the joints between them. Carbon boxes, on the other hand, are manufactured from molds whose pieces are later assembled with resin. If you want to know more about the properties, differences and qualities of the different materials with which bicycle frames are manufactured we recommend reading our Definitive guide of bicycle boxes, what material is it better?

Factors that affect the useful life of a carbon picture

[Captation id = "Attachment_6968" Align = "Alignnone" Width = "900"]Carbon fiber Image: Boggy[/caption] Do carbon tables have an expiration date? The answer is not as simple as saying "last x years" or "your useful life is so many kilometers." The longevity of a carbon box can vary depending on several factors. We highlight mainly three:

The quality of the materials

As in any other product, the quality of the raw material with which it is elaborated fundamentally determines its resistance and durability. The better the quality of the carbon fibers and the resin used in the manufacture of the picture, the longer its useful life will be. And no, not all carbon paintings are the same. There are different types of carbon used in bicycle frames:
  • High module carbon
  • Intermediate module carbon
  • Low module carbon
  • Unidirectional carbon
  • Multidirectional carbon
  • Braided carbon
High module carbon bicycles are lighter and lighter and, therefore, more resistant and durable than those of intermediate module and low module, which is used in lower ranges. Hence the phrase that you have surely heard on more than one occasion of "a picture of good aluminum is better than one of bad carbon". Unidirectional carbon fiber, on the other hand, is used in the elaboration of high -ranges. This type of carbon consists of carbon fibers oriented in one direction, which provides great resistance to traction and flexion in that direction. Unidirectional carbon paintings are extremely rigid and efficient in the transmission of pedaling energy. Multidirectional carbon is a type of carbon that is used in the manufacture of bicycle frames that need to be flexible and absorb the vibrations of the terrain, it is commonly common in mountain bicycles. As for braided carbon, it is very resistant to torsion, because of the way their fibers are intertwined, and is usually used in counterreloj bicycles and long distance triathlons.

The maintenance that is performed

Performing proper maintenance is essential to prolong the useful life of a bicycle. What happens is that we generally focus on the maintenance of components, transmissions and mechanical parts and forget about the picture. Carbon paintings require a series of basic care. It is also important to learn to wash them and clean them correctly. You can learn it in our article about How to properly clean the carbon picture of your bicycle.

The intensity and frequency of use

Intense and frequent use of a bicycle can download the carbon from the picture faster than occasional use. This is because carbon is a material that degrades over time and exposure to high temperatures and radiation. Other factors such as the type of cycling that are practiced or the weight and strength of the cyclist also influence. Some modalities such as the enduro provide greater tension and torsion to bicycles than other more relaxed practices such as simply rolling by flat paths or with the little rugged terrain.

Main problems of carbon fiber

[Captation id = "Attachment_6541" Align = "Alignnone" Width = "900"]Specialized bike (Image: Nick Rickert - UNSPLASH)[/caption] Carbon is a material with excellent properties for the practice of cycling. But it still has the stigma of being more fragile than aluminum and degrading more over time. What are the main problems we can find in the expiration of a carbon box? We highlight three:

The aging of the fibers

Carbon fiber is a compound material that has a chain molecular structure. When this molecular chain is modified by internal causes (due to variations in the polymeric structure), there is an aging of the material, which becomes less resistant and more fragile, that is, it tends to emphasize the break without prior notice or deformation. Aging is therefore reflected in a deterioration of fiber performance, which is no longer the original at the molecular level and, in essence, can no longer support the loads of cycling. There are three types of factors that cause the aging of carbon fibers:
  • Molecular split: It occurs in situations in which the picture receives a very high energy contribution, for example in a fall or a strong blow. The chain rings are divided and thus created weaknesses in the carbon structure.
  • Free radicals: I enter the molecular structure of the fiber there are external elements that are not linked to any other molecule, since they are residues of manufacturing processes or thermal treatments. These elements, called free radicals, can join the fiber molecules, creating a new structure that no longer has the characteristics of the previous one.
  • Cross links: It is the most feared circumstance. It happens when two fragments that were combined bind to each other.

Carbon degradation

Unlike aging, which is essentially due to internal variations in the molecular structure of the compound, degradation is caused by external agents that, when combined or exposed prolonged, reduce their resistance. The main causes of degradation are three: temperature, radiation and humidity. Exposing carbon fiber at too high temperatures results in thermal dilations that over time weakens carbon. The sun, in addition to heat, also does not bring anything good to carbon: ultraviolet rays can penetrate inside and be absorbed, creating changes at the molecular level that reduce the resistance of the compound. But don't worry, your carbon bike is not going to spoil for going out to make routes under the sun. Manufacturers often use special paintings that protect the picture of solar radiation. That is why the painting process of a picture is a fundamental part that goes beyond the color or design chosen. And that is why when repainting a picture it is essential to go to a professional and use the right products. A good painting also protects from moisture, which is another element with which carbon paintings do not get along.

The break

Carbon is a material that has a very low elastic limit, much lower than steel or aluminum. And what is the elastic limit? The elastic limit is the maximum point to which a material can deform and return to its initial state without deform or break. In other words: carbon paintings are not abolished, they are directly splinted. Sometimes it is a small crack that over time weakens the material and ends up translating itself into a fissure. And sometimes it is directly a fracture as a result of a blow or an excess of tension. That is why it is crucial to be attentive to the growth signs of a possible crack or breakage, such as a change in color, a strange sound or a loss of stiffness. If a problem is detected, it is essential to take it to a professional who can evaluate the situation and repair carbon fiber safely and effectively.

Conclusion: How long does a carbon picture last?

In summary, the useful life of a carbon box can vary depending on several factors, such as material quality, proper maintenance and type of use. It is an extraordinary material, but its complexity and the need for attention and care can intimidate some. If you have the patience and knowledge necessary to take care of it properly, this material can offer incredibly satisfactory and lasting cycling experience. A well maintained and used carbon box can last between 10 and 15 years. However, most likely it begins to lose its properties and show some sign of wear between 7 and 10 years.
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