Danger from carbon fiber bikes

Discussion in 'Bike buying advice' started by cyclintom, Jul 22, 2016.

  1. cyclintom

    cyclintom Active Member

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    WARNING! IF YOU OWN A CARBON FIBER BICYCLE THAT IS MORE THAN TWO YEARS OLD - GET RID OF IT NOW!!! IT CAN CAUSE SERIOUS INJURY OR DEATH! THIS IS STRAIGHT FROM COLNAGO OF ITALY - a premier maker of world-class racing bikes for over 60 years.

    Read on for more details....

    Apparently, ALL carbon fiber bike frames, regardless of manufacturer and warranty, are good for only TWO YEARS, after that they can break and cause serious injury or even cost you your life. I know, I have experienced it and even Colnago admits that I was very lucky to have survived.


    The background...

    In July 2016 my wife Louise and I were on vacation in California. I rode my 14-year old Colnago C-40 (full carbon fiber racing bike) there on July 1, 2, 3, & 4. On July 5th I rode from Castro Valley to Moraga and back with friends. This ride is entirely in the Oakland Hills. On the way back to Castro Valley, my friend Tom Kunich (who was also riding a full carbon fiber Colnago C-40) crashed on the downhill. After the crash, he found what he believes to be a crack in his carbon fiber front fork. He contributes the crash to hitting a large bump in the road on the downhill. He also believes (although I do not agree) that I also hit this bump, which contributed to the catastrophic destruction of my bike frame 5 days later on July 10th.

    On July 10th, I was starting out with Louise and two friends on a 45-mile ride from San Francisco to Novato, CA and back. Only one mile into the ride I made a left turn (traveling at about 5 mph) and my frame suddenly snapped underneath me WITHOUT ANY WARNING! Both the top tube and down tube simultaneously broke off the head tube. I went down hard in the road. I suffered a badly damaged right hand with a dislocated and broken finger, which required surgery within 2 weeks. I now have a metal plate in my finger to hold it together. Had this happened just 30 minutes later, I would have been on a 40+ mph downhill into Sausalito on a 2-lane road with oncoming traffic. I COULD HAVE BEEN KILLED!

    I contacted Colnago-America in Chicago, Illinois (the sole wholesaler of Colnago bicycles in the USA) and spoke with Mr. Billy Kanzer, National Sales Manger for Colnago. I also sent him two emails with the story of the frame failure and photos. He said they would need to examine the frame for faults and he would get back to me. To date, I have not heard back from him.

    Apparently, Tom also wrote to Colnago-America about his damaged fork and his crash on Redwood Road. Both his letter and my emails were obviously forwarded to Colnago in Italy.

    On July 21, 2016 I received the below email from Mr. Gilberto Gentilli, Esq (Colnago's legal council for product liability and related matters). It is a shocking message! In the email he states that my catastrophic frame failure was due to (1) the frame's "useful life had expired", and (2) "severe punishment by frequent use on damaged roads" (my bike spent 12 of it's 14 years in California).

    Mr Gentilli also goes on to explain that even the pros DO NOT ride a carbon fiber frame more that a MAXIMUM OF TWO SEASONS. After that, they are (quote) "either destroyed or sold...to private individuals with the understanding that they are purchasing them at their sole risk and responsibility". (That must explain why my bike frame only came with a 2-year warrantee.) He goes on to say (quote) "carbon is not indestructible and...when it breaks it does so catastrophically with hardly any warning. It is a price we all gladly pay for the amazing characteristics of carbon..."

    WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    The proof... (To Be Continued)
     
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  2. cyclintom

    cyclintom Active Member

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    Below is the verbatim text of the email from Mr. Gentilli. I have underlined the important areas of the message. Read it for yourself...
    ====================================================================
    Delivered-To: lynchmf1@gmail.com
    Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2016 23:54:59 +0200
    Subject: C-40
    From: Gilberto <info@contrattiinternazionali.it>
    To: <lynchmf1@gmail.com>,
    <cyclinton@yahoo.com>
    CC: Alessandro Colnago <alex@colnago.com>,
    Billy Kanzler <billy@colnago-america.com>
    Thread-Topic: C-40

    Gentlemen,

    By way of introduction, I am Colnago’s legal counsel for product liability and related matters. In such capacity, I have been forwarded your recent correspondence with Billy Kanzler of Colnago America, Inc.. On behalf of the entire Colnago team, and particularly Mr. Ernesto Colnago himself, let me first of all express our sympathy towards you both for your July 5th and 10th incidents. I agree with you, all things considered, one can safely say that you were both quite lucky.
    The main purpose of this letter is to respond to the questions you have raised, respectively, in your July 11, 2016 email (Mr. Lynch) and July 11, 2016 letter (Mr. Kunich) for which we thank you.
    In your email, Mr. Lynch, you have asked: "when is a carbon frame too old to ride?”
    In your letter, Mr. Kunich, you have asked us to comment on your hypothesis that: 1. Carbon frames have or should have unlimited “useful lives or life cycles”; and 2. Your two C-40’s broke as a result of “aging and the number of shocks on broken roads”.
    Once again, we truly appreciate having the opportunity of interacting directly with sophisticated customers such as yourselves. It is a rare privilege. I will do my best to satisfy your curiosity to the best of my professional ability and experience. While in Europe, for example, product liability for a manufacturer ends 10 years after purchase, in the US, but for products with clear “expiration dates” (such as milk, for example) or shelf life (such as pharmaceuticals) there is no such thing as a precise "useful life” of a product. Let’s use our C-40 as an example (or any other carbon frame for hat matter). Its useful life depends on many factors such as, but not limited to, how much and under what conditions it is used; whether and to what extent it is submitted to regular maintenance checks and so on. As I see it, the best if not the only way a serious manufacturer such as Colnago - who’s been making frames for over 60 years – can protect the safety of his customers is by designing and manufacturing frames using state of the art technology and materials (yes, Mr. Kunich, I too believe Colnago’s lug system is still the best technology on the market for carbon frames manufacture. Thank you for acknowledging it) but also drafting adequate warnings and instructions whose purpose is to inform the customers on the inherent risks involved in cycling.
    Having drafted Colnago’s manuals for over 20 years (since 1995 to be precise), I take particular pride in drawing your attention to the specific wording of these manuals regarding the frames’ useful lives and the need for frequent maintenance checks. An unbiased reading of such warnings must lead to the conclusion that, indeed, Mr. Kunich’s interpretation of the reasons for the failures are to be found in the frames’ ages and their having been subjected to severe punishment by frequent use on damaged roads. In other words, their useful lives had expired. In your specific situation(s), I believe that the speed bump you hit at over 35 miles/hour on July 5, 2016, was indeed the probable cause of cracks, perhaps invisible to the naked eye, but which nonetheless led to the final catastrophic event of July 10.
    You are correct, Mr. Kunich, when you observe that our frames are built for racing conditions far more severe that the bumps you hit in your recent rides. Indeed, as you probably know, the C-40 and C-50 (which share the identical technology) still hold the record for most victories in the Paris-Roubaix. However frames used by professionals are used for one, or maximum two seasons after which they are either destroyed or sold (by the teams themselves) to private individuals with the understanding that they are purchasing them at their sole risk and responsibility. This is because, like any other material, carbon is not indestructible and, unlike steel, titanium or aluminum for example, when it breaks it does so catastrophically with hardly any warning. It is a price we all gladly pay for the amazing characteristics of carbon which have made it by far the most popular material in racing bicycle frames manufacture.

    Gentlemen, I trust the above answers your questions but should you need any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.

    Regards,

    Gilberto Gentilli, Esq.
    Attorney at Law


    Law Offices Gentilli
    Via Cesare Balbo, 36
    59100 - Prato (PO) -
    Italy
    cell.: +39 335 667 9978
    Tel.: +39 (0) 574 60 61 41
    Skype: g.gentilli
    info@lawofficesgentilli.com
    ggentilliesq@gmail.com
    www.lawofficesgentilli.com
    ======================================================================================


    It does not end there...

    While in the emergency room (getting 13 stitches in my hand) after my crash, I met a technician who is an avid mountain bike rider. He owns a carbon fiber mountain bike. He told me that he gets rid of his carbon frame and replaces it every 5 years. Why? Because it can break and you can be severely injured or killed!

    On July 21st I began physical therapy for my right hand at OrthoArizona Canyon Orthopaedic Surgeons on W. Thunderbird Road in Peoria, AZ. There, I met a physical therapist who is also an avid bike rider. He said he owns 3 bikes. One is carbon fiber. He told me that he not only limits the amount of miles he spends on the carbon fiber bike, he also gets rid of it and replaces it EVERY TWO YEARS! Why? Because it can break and you can be severely injured or killed! He showed us picture after picture after picture of broken carbon bikes and forks, all which he said happened catastrophically and without any warning and none of the riders struck any objects in the road. ALL THE MAJOR MANUFACTURERS WERE INVOLVED - regardless of their frame warrantees! None of the manufacturers were exempt. The photos included Pinarello, Colnago, Trek, Specialized, and many more.

    My question is: If this is so prevalent, why is it that we have not heard of it before? It has not been on the news, in the papers, in the bike magazines, or on the Internet. And again, all major bike manufacturers are involved - regardless of their frame warrantees. What good is a "lifetime" warranty if you are severely injured, disabled, - OR KILLED - because your frame broke without warning and tossed you under an oncoming car?

    All I can say is if you own a carbon fiber frame or fork that is more than two years old, you had better think twice about keeping it. I now have a badly scarred finger and a metal plate in my hand to prove what I am saying. Louise also owns a full carbon Colnago C-40 bike that is only one year newer than mine. She will now be getting rid of it as, after witnessing my horrific crash and aftermath and personally seeing the above information, she is scared to ride it. I don't blame her. I do not know if we will ever own a carbon fiber bike again.

    IF YOU VALUE YOUR CYCLING FRIENDS, PLEASE PASS THIS MESSAGE ON.

    Food for thought....Be safe out there!

    Mike Lynch
    Peoria, AZ
    lynchmf1@gmail.com

    From Tom Kunich - Mike has photos showing just how bad this can be:

    https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups...udARzbGsDdmlld09uV2ViBHN0aW1lAzE0NjkyMDQ1MDY-

    Inspecting my Colnago Star Fork I discovered that there is a SEAM along the outside vertical blades. This is an incredible discovery. I really should have looked at these earlier but since I also have a Colnago Force Fork that I had inspected before I assumed that the Star had the same level of workmanship. My very dangerous crash was caused by the fork slitting along this seam and the bike not steering properly forcing me off of the road at 35 mph. I am very lucky to be alive.

    Remember this when you buy carbon fiber bicycles.
     
  3. cyclintom

    cyclintom Active Member

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    I have PERSONALLY had three forks break on me.


    The first one I noted the break at the brake insert and threw the fork away assuming that I had over-tightened the brake or something of that nature.


    And the second was from IRD. One fork leg just fell off and the opposite side broke in half. That dropped me on my head and gave me a severe concussion. That gave me no short term memory for two and a half years until I found a competent neurologist that knows how to treat these injuries. My weight dropped 42% since I wasn't remembering to eat. I was also having seizures that caused me to get into FOUR wrecks in which the cars were totaled. Luckily only one caused some minor injuries to the other party. I am now required to take medications for the rest of my life that causes me to have no feeling in the front half of my feet so that I cannot walk in a straight line. Also my fingerprint area is also deadened so that I cannot hold a pic and so cannot play a guitar anymore. But since I'm very lucky to be alive I can put up with the side effects of the medication.


    I have EXTREMELY strong bones. This failure on the Colnago fork caused me to lose fine control over my steering in a high speed twisting descent. I lost control and went off of the road. I tried to reduce speed as best I could by dragging my body against the hillside and putting on what brakes I could until the bike fell into a stone lined culvert at perhaps 20 to 25 mph. I was down so low on the bike at this time that I went under a spiderweb that stretched from the hillside to a reflective warning sign that marked the culvert.


    My entire right side was covered in gravel rash and I hit the back of that culvert so hard that it broke my Campy control levers. My right shoulder and right ribs hurt so badly I thought that they were broken but getting up and walking showed that nothing was moving about unbidden. I had Campy Neutron wheels on it and they held together.


    I have also seen several manufacturer's frames fail though these were in the V between the down-tube and seat-tube and were plainly seen when washing the bike. I have personally seen these on Trek and a Gary Fisher but have had people tell me about many other brands. Though I can't be sure I think that I recently saw a Specialized with the same sort of damage.


    So PLEASE do no think that your experience with someone's fork or frame in any way indicates that it is safe.


    I am switching back to metal.





    Tom Kunich
     
  4. CAMPYBOB

    CAMPYBOB Well-Known Member

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    I had a steel fork fail as I accelerated away from a stop light. I was maybe 10 to 15 miles into a fast training ride. The left blade collapsed and buckled jest below the brazed crown. The effect was to lock up the front brake as the wheel went to one side and the bike rotated about the front axle and I did a face plant onto the brick street.

    I was far more lucky than you. Travelling forward at close to zero MPH I only needed three stitches to my right eyebrow. No long term injury was sustained.

    Now, the rest of the story.

    The day before the fork collapsed I was trying to out-run an approaching thunder storm and was flying when a Newfoundland dog the size of a calf jumped a roadside hedge and planted himself in front of me. I braked hard in the split second before the impact and hit him squarely. I went down as easily as possible and the only visible damage to myself or the bike was some scuffed handlebar vinyl tape.

    No big deal, right? I mean only an N-Ray inspection of the fork 'might' have revealed the damage to the metallurgical structure. The entirely chrome plated fork showed no wrinkling, no cracking (it was not cracked even after the catastrophic failure the next day) and no sign of any sort that an experience eye could have detected.

    I have always maintained carbon failure can be much more sudden and explosive than steel, even though many of them (probably most of them) are not. I had a Wilier frame crack at the right rear seatstay/dropout junction. I rode it for several days after spotting the crack just to see if it would fail or at least propagate. It did neither. The manufacturer gave me a freebie replacement frame. I'm still riding that one.

    And speaking of Colnago's...back in the 1980's I was racing and training on a steel Colnago. I managed to crack the right rear dropout. It was a Colnago marked and not a Campy 1010B dropout. Colnago used some outsourced dropouts marked with their name and some Campy dropouts as supply and stock dictated. I rode that one home...slowly.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that all bicycle frame and fork materials can and do fail. You can submit pictures of your busted fork and injuries to the http://www.bustedcarbon.com/ website. It does not appear to have been updated since 2011, but in the early years of carbon bikes...and a 14-year old carbon frameset does qualify as being 'early')...the failures were epic and very likely far more numerous than today.

    I hope you recover from your injuries with time.
     
    cyclintom likes this.
  5. dhk2

    dhk2 Well-Known Member

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    Sorry for your crashes and injuries cyclintom. But I agree with CB that any material can fail if ridden long and hard enough, or subject to just a few "inelastic loads", or just one catastrophic overload. It's not age, but load cycles, impacts and storage conditions that degrade CF. As a result, I think his point is about inspecting the fork and frame after a crash or serious road impacts is the real key to safety. A blanket time interval replacement really won't insure safety, but it will guaranty you discard a lot of useful life.

    And of course not all CF components are designed and manufactured with the same strength, life and quality. I recall discussing fork choices back in 2003 with the builder of my custom bike . The Reynolds Ouzo Pro fork he selected for my 58cm frame was out-of-stock, but he assured me to wait for it because of the strength and quality. I took his advice, and rode that aluminum/cf rear frame with the Reynolds fork for 13 years and 40K miles without a problem. But I'm easy on the bike in general, rarely hit road impacts, never crashed on it, stored carefully inside.

    I'd say what we really need in cycling to minimize these failures is two things. First, more awareness on the part of riders on the issue of failures and fatigue damage, as well as how to maximize the life of their equipment. The notion of "lifetime frames/forks" needs t be replaced with customer education. C'dale had a pretty good explanation of this stuff in their owner's manual last time I looked, but I think a lot of LBS salesman try to confuse the buyer with the "lifetime warranty"......which generally covers only manufacturing defects, not "wearout" or fatigue damage.

    Second would be better instructions to customers on how to inspect the frame/fork, and when to bring the bike in for a better inspection by the LBS or other experts. I know the aerospace industry has invested a lot of time and money into development of procedures and instruments for CF parts but don't see that any of this has filtered down to the retail bike industry.
     
  6. Weatherby

    Weatherby Active Member

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    Carbon handle bars break fairly often. I have no idea whether inspection helps or not
     
  7. cyclintom

    cyclintom Active Member

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    Thanks for that information Bob. I've never had any steel bikes fail but for the old junk like the Peugeots before I got a PX-10. And these were all failures at braze joints which were obvious as the bike began twisting about the weakened section. I can't remember a steel fork breaking at the moment.

    But I've never had a high quality steel bike fail in any way. Perhaps that's because I was always rotating them through my collection. I just bought an older Basso Lotto and will keep a close eye on that now that you've had problems. But I had an Eddy Merckx Corsa OS that was very similar that was the best handling bike I ever had. I can kick myself for selling it in order to buy the C40.

    The permanent problem is from the IRD fork. I'm mostly recovered from the Colango fork problem with just a few sore muscles left. And they don't keep me from riding.
     
    #7 cyclintom, Jul 25, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2016
  8. cyclintom

    cyclintom Active Member

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    A friend had one of those $200 one piece stem and bar combos and it started showing cracks and I talked him out of continuing to use it. The aluminum bar and stem were actually lighter and put him in a better position. I have one of those combos that I got new from China for $40 and am keeping a VERY close eye on that. But even though I ride carefully riding into shadow out of bright sunlight hides cracks and potholes. So that will probably stop me from continuing to use the bar after I saw that one trying to fail.
     
  9. kaarbble

    kaarbble New Member

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    Hello,

    I am Dr on carbon fibre I was supprised by your post. Cabon is much better in fatigue than aluminium and will last much longer. But the problem is impact damage on carbon it is often unseen by the naked eyes... the plies can have delaminated without possibly noticing it. Bike manufacturers put safety factor in place so even with a small delamination it will keep holding together. But the idea is to avoid impact damage at all cost and will last forever. It has impact damage either the area should be grinded of and laminated again or just laminated above with the right ply orientation. To check delamination is not growing you can try tap coin.

    Impact is so bad for carbon, if you fall is not good and then delamination can grow slowly during normal use.

    If you take very good care is fine for ages.

    I sell mini carbon bikes my self.



    http://www.kaarbble.eu/fr/27-velos-carbon

    I can make different size.
     
  10. kaarbble

    kaarbble New Member

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    just to add +-45 loaded in the 0 or 90 degrees directions will stretch a lot and damage not come back in initial positions...

    May be some bikes are badly designed in the ply sequences i don t know so well i just make mini bike and have cannondale trail 4 for trail and small downhill.
     
  11. cyclintom

    cyclintom Active Member

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    Dr., it is true that when they ran fatigue tests on all bike materials and that aluminum came out the best, carbon second best and steel failed most often.

    But this is because the fatigue test was from old engineering manuals that put large loads at low repetitive frequencies. This puts the two newer materials at an advantage because they both are most sensitive to even moderate forces at much higher frequencies as would occur on bad roads with unsuspended bicycles.

    Aluminum can work harden at joints from these sorts of loads and fail. The resins that hold carbon fiber together can slowly break apart under these high frequency loads and fail catastrophically without any way of detecting these failures ahead of time.

    The full suspension CF mountain bikes that fail I haven't seen, but probably die because of pure overload since they are being made super light to climb as well as hard tails. And the insane tricks they do with them spell "OVERLOAD" with a capital O.

    I suspect that you'd never have any problems with the miniature bikes you sell since they are not designed for high performance descents and the like. We have two 8 year old twins that ride on our slow group and they climb with the fast group. But with their weight they simply cannot descend even sharp downhills above about 20 mph.
     
  12. CAMPYBOB

    CAMPYBOB Well-Known Member

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    Fantastic. Even minor crashes can be life changing events.
     
  13. kaarbble

    kaarbble New Member

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    Hi, no need to call me Dr i just like carbon a lot, I am not bike specialist i just started downhill in Tignes but I choose aluminuim frame and use a trail bike mainly for cost and safety. But i have done a lot of carbon work.

    Carbon also depends on ply orientations and sequences... UD layup are very different from 0/90 or +-45. In fatigue on sample carbon is much better than metals such as aluminium or steel and it is used in plane wings and fuselage that inflate deflate with pressure at each flight. For bike frame i think it will be same as for specimens but I am not sure.

    But if your bike hit a rock... ur better off with metals... impact is so bad it delaminates the plies they dont stick together anymore... and this can grow over time.

    If you don t hit anything is fine.

    Mini bikes are just for fun. This just my opinion i am not bike specialist only carbon.
     
  14. zipp2001

    zipp2001 Active Member

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    WARNING! IF YOU OWN A CARBON FIBER BICYCLE THAT IS MORE THAN TWO YEARS OLD - GET RID OF IT NOW!!!

    Sorry to hear about your injuries, but that statement is a little over the top in my opinion.

    Do you know anyone who will want my old carbon bikes ?

    I presently own 3 carbon bikes with 2 of them being 23 years old, and one with over 63,000 miles. I've also been running carbon tri-spoke wheels since the where introduced in the early 90.s

    Over all my years of racing and riding I've had only one equipment failure, and that was a aluminum bullhorn handle bar that snapped.

    Like I said sorry for your injuries, and it looks as if you've recovered and are riding again.

    But I wouldn't go yell FIRE in a movie theater.
     
  15. dhk2

    dhk2 Well-Known Member

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    After all you've been through, you're using a $40 CF stem/bar combo from China? Maybe I'm not understanding that correctly. I'd never use a no-name cheap part anywhere near the front of my bike, certainly can't believe you would either. Forks, stems, bars should all be top-brand and as heavy-duty as possible IMO. Buy the best quality stuff you can afford, and forget about saving grams.....long, failure-free life is the only thing that matters. Exception would be a pro or elite racer maintaining a low bodyfat % and racing on hills where 100 grams could translate into a few seconds at the finish of the event.

    I'm currently riding a Lynskey Ti frame with their own branded fork. It's got a 1-1/2 tapered headtube and seems very solid. The bike is certainly stiff and wobble-free, passed the downhill at speed no-hands test just fine. I thought about upgrading to an ENVE fork, which they offered, but decided to trust their house-brand fork because I wanted the Lynskey decal and crest on it rather then the big fat ENVE logo. I also like the fact that they don't list weight of their frames, forks, or bikes....
     
  16. Cyberbike

    Cyberbike New Member

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    I'm really surprised that Colnago consider Mr. Gentilli a Legal counsel. Colnago management (Italy and USA) and Colnago customers should be informed that:

    Gilberto Gentilli in the USA is a suspended lawyer (ineligible to practice law)
    https://www.mywsba.org/LawyerDirectory/LawyerProfile.aspx?Usr_ID=18042

    Gilberto Gentilli in Italy was condamned for misconduct against customers (ineligible to practice law and banned)
    http://www.agcm.it/consumatore/cons...0291394/0E6D713F023B4C46C125798F0041B7EC.html

    I suggest you to contact Colnago about their legal counsel. Then if you want, ask your "real" lawyer to drop two lines to Mr. Gentilli.
     
  17. CAMPYBOB

    CAMPYBOB Well-Known Member

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    Wow! Good info, Cyberbike.

    The first instinct of an Italian product manufacturer...ANY Italian manufacturer of ANY product...in a warranty claim discussion is to blame the consumer/customer/user. No way in Hell did they, the elite, half drunk on lunch break vino, manufacturer ever possibly build a faulty product!

    I've seen that BS many times over the years.

    A real attorney and U.S. law will slice and dice his or her way through a product liability suit or personal injury suit like Peter Sagan sprints through a field of also ran's.
     
  18. ambal

    ambal Active Member

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    I've seen carbon bits fail without warning, care needs to be taken.
     
  19. rajababa

    rajababa New Member

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    But I agree with CB that any material can fail if ridden long
     
  20. Froze

    Froze Well-Known Member

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    Most of those parts fail due to poor torqueing limits applied. However I have seen CF bottle cages snap for no known reason. I saw a guy's CF handlebar break right in two and it wasn't at the stem, he claimed he never crashed with that bike. I've seen seat rails break, but not sure if that was from improper torqueing or they just broke. I've seen forks break, but not sure if there was a prior incident that went unnoticed. I saw rear stays snap, and the riders claim the bikes had never been in an accident. I saw a three spoke rear wheel break. I knew a guy who's 5 year old child went into the garage and accidently made his bike slide and the top tube hit a heavy steel vise that gouged the CF and the frame was toast (this was before CF repair places came along).
     
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