Defects and quality control

For a potential buyer the risks involved with buying a no-name bicycle frame are generally related to physical harm and/or financial loss. Nobody wants to hit their face on the ground riding 80kph down a mountain if the bike fails. Willingness to accept the financial risk on the other hand is really down to the of the individual’s relative wealth. To reduce the perception of risk manufacturers have quality control and warranty measures.

These are also the two things that brand-name manufacturers always state as their advantage. To some degree they are right. The big companies generally have facilities and resources dedicated purely for testing and quality assurance purposes. On the other hand so do the chinese players in the market. The key is what is the difference and how meaningful is it to your average buyer. To form an educated opinion on the subject let’s delve into the differences little bit deeper.

First how do the chinese frame manufacturers test their products and handle problems that arise in use? There are several videos published that show charbon frames undergoing strenuous testing. Basically frames are rigged to a pedestal and tested for impact with different forces applied by free moving weights. So you could expect that at least the frame designs are tested, if not each individual frame. Generally returns are possible, but often the reseller wants you to send the frame back on your own cost (~90€). You take on the risk that the manufacturer decides there is nothing wrong with the frame or the issue was caused by an accident.

Secondly how does this experience compare with a brand name manufacturers? Generally the vendors make you believe there are hundreds of engineers running fluid simulations for new models all the time and if something brakes a team investigates how could the problem be fixed for the next model. Warranty department is supposed to send out replacements no questions asked. In practice the harsh financial realities don’t allow for such folly. Sure there is R&D and people responsible for QA, but it is all much more down to earth that you are led to believe. One thing is clear – from the customer point the beginning of the process is supposed to be much more convenient.

Essentially when you buy a bike from your local bike shop (LBS) warranty process is as simple as popping by the store and the local dealer is supposed to handle the matter with the importer. In practice you may not have your favorite brand’s dealership in the same town or they may have gone belly up/ended selling the brand. The Internet is full of stories of people waiting for a reply for months from the importer and ending up buying another bike or receiving some lame response referring to “not intended use”. Of course that may not be the norm, but it still happens.

In the catastrophic event that the frame spectacularly fails and the disintegrating bike sends you flying to the ditch no amount of warranty or insurance is going to help. Essentially you need to look at it from the probability point of view. This far there have been very few reports of such incidents. There are no statistics, but based on information on the Internet it would be safe to argue that in most cases the fault has been caused by poor maintenance or user error. In the buyer is responsible for making the choices.

Safe buying and riding!

6 thoughts on “Defects and quality control

  1. I don’t own a complete Chinarello frame, but I trust my life to an ebay fork and Light-Bicycle rims. My rear rim (clincher) developed a bulge after a 20 mile ride with a wee bit of brake rub. I know that’s a big issue with folks in mountainous areas, but I’m not usually on the brakes very long. Now they have Quartz impregnated brake tracks, and I may order one soon. I never asked Light-Bicycle to honor the warranty, as the shipping would be more than the rim cost. I must practice better brake adjustment and cable routing…

    One of my pals has a Chinarello frameset ($500 US) and he’s perfectly happy with it. He’s had it a year or so and he snickers at chaps on branded high end framesets.

  2. Yeah,
    Warranty is pretty much useless when the cost of shipping is prohibitive. The good thing about chinese carbon is that it is easier to justify just licking your wounds and carry on. I’ve been lucky I have been able to do something about the issues (pop rivet in the frame and tight brake bolt hole in the fork) myself.

  3. No doubt there is the chance of a frame disintegrating beneath you. Occasionally you see a recall from the major brands that would lead you to believe that this may have happened. My personal experience as a former bike shop owner I saw a catastrophic failure on a name brand frame and several swing-arm failures. Neither had a recall perse,but the swing arm issue did have a dealer bulletin to watch for potential problems.
    The frame came to me in pieces with the customer carrying it. It had come apart at the welds after he had just completed a pretty speedy downhill. I immediately upgraded the customer to the next available bike I had in the store with no questions asked, as he was a regular customer and I was familiar with the type of riding he did.(rails to trails ans some road riding). I figure I saved the bike manufacturer plenty of money but I had the hardest time getting credit for the bike from my sales rep.

  4. I just had bad warranty-experience with HongFu. My frame set is 20 months “old” and I had a crack in the seat-tube. After 2 months (6weeks shipping … DHL is still using stagecoaches & 2 weeks examining) they made up their mind to repair it. Actually I don´t like the idea to riding a repaired carbon-frame, so I asked for a retail for a new one … 50,-$ was the offer 😦

  5. Sorry to hear that. What happened? I would assume the seat tube actually might not be the most dangerous spot to damage, but I do get it why you would want to have it replaced instead of fixed. The good news here is that they at least are willing to do something. I think fixing carbon is lot different from lot of other materials (like steel) in the sense that it is not totally hopeless. In all reality after two (?) seasons of riding you can’t really blame them for being at least little hesitant to blindly remunerate.

  6. I ride three different Chinarellos, and would recommend them to anybody. Riding at over 70kph downhill on not a particularly good surface caused vibrating that would reveal any defects in the frame . No problems arised. I was at the Sky training hotel this year (won’t say where) ….the mechanic could not see the difference between my F8 and the F8s Sky were using!!!In fact ALL my bikes have Asian components and I have never had problems with them.I spoke to the LBC mechanic in Mallorca …he told me that 9 Pinarellos that the shop used for rental had to be returned , as the frames had fractured !!!!…….very strange that Pinarello doesn’t say anything about this on their webside!!!!….Another thing is that despite warning not to purchase Chinarellos , Pinarello doesn’t show any video of them stress testing a Chinarello, despite them claiming that fatal injuries can be sustained !…Also …where are the Youtube videos of faulty Chinarellos ? I can’t find any ,,,,can anybody else see one ???

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