With nice weather becoming more of a regular occurrence in Oregon many of us are taking fenders off of our bikes or, even better, breaking out that nice road bike. In either case there’s the matter of maintenance and that includes more than just making sure your shifting works smoothly. We’ve seen the nice bikes rolling at our events so we turned to Shawn Small of Portland-based Ruckus Composites to give us their best advice on how you can make sure your carbon fiber bike is in top shape. Founded in 2008, Ruckus has examined and repaired over 13,000 carbon bikes and you’d be amazed at how just-like-new they can bring back a bike from crash damage. Check out their Featured Repairs page to see their technical wizardry. But not every repair is crash related, some are the result of a lack of maintenance or an incorrect maintenance technique.
“We love to explore Oregon on our bikes and have some tips on how to keep your carbon bicycle running smoothly for years to come. My name is Shawn Small, founder and Lead Engineer at Ruckus Composites, and we have been repairing, inspecting, and testing carbon fiber bikes since 2008. Every year carbon fiber bikes become lighter, faster, and more technologically advanced so I want to share three recommendations that will help keep your bike rolling at its best all over Oregon.”
Go by the numbers, not by “feel”
A multi-tool is an essential just-in-case tool to have when you are on the road, but we recommend you always use a torque wrench when adjusting any component that clamps to carbon fiber. A torque wrench is generally in the form of a socket wrench and has a special mechanism to measure force applied to a nut or bolt. Multi-tools held simply in hand can over tighten the bolt and crush the carbon fiber layers, losing all structural strength of the tube. Each component (stem, seat post and handlebar) that clamps to carbon fiber has a recommended torque value that the manufacturer has set and needs to be followed; it is printed on the component and will be listed in Newton-Meters (N*M). We recommend getting a list of all the torque specifications and printing them out, so you always have them handy when you adjust your bike. Just to be on the safe side we recommend checking each bolt with a torque wrench before a big ride or epic adventure. This will ensure that you have a great ride and don’t have to worry about your bike’s components. My favorite is the mini-torque wrench tool from Silca. It has all the bits for most bicycle components and comes with this nifty ratchet tool to work on those hard to reach areas. (ed.- Another good option is the Feedback Sports torque ratchet set available at Bike Gallery)
Get a Grip
If you have a carbon fiber bike, carbon seat post, carbon fiber stem, or carbon fiber handlebars, always use a carbon fiber paste for the clamping surfaces. Carbon paste has a gritty texture, which helps keep the components from slipping. Carbon assembly paste increases the holding strength of your parts through increased friction between the mating surfaces. We recommend you reapply new paste every time you remove and replace your components. (Finish Line Fiber Grip is available at Bike Gallery).
Check For Wear
Each year we keep a watchful eye on new bikes and riding trends; lately we have noticed an increase in bikes needing repairs from fenders, large tires, and bags rubbing against the frame. This repetitive movement added with grit from the road acts like sandpaper and over time can severely damage your frame. We recommend you check your bike every month if you ride in the rain, as the off-spray from water and debris will have a similar degradation effect. If you install larger tires check the inside of your chain stays (the horizontal tubes of your bike frame by the rear wheel) and seat stays (the diagonal tubes of your bike frame by the rear wheel) for any signs of wear after each ride.
Some key places to check are any place where a component or accessory is in contact with the frame, and in areas close to your tires. Cleaning your bike often not only helps it run better it aids in spotting wear or damage early on.
Silica is the most abundant mineral found in the crust of the earth. Silica has a Mohs scale hardness of about 7. Silicon Carbide (a version of sandpaper) has a Mohs scale hardness of 13. For reference check out the hardness of these common bicycle frame materials:
- Carbon fiber is a 2 on Mohs scale of hardness
- Aluminum is between 2-3 on Mohs scale of hardness
- Steel is between 4-7 on Mohs scale of hardness
- Titanium is a 6 on Mohs scale of hardness
We hope these tips keep you rolling along Oregon’s many beautiful roads and we can’t wait to be out there with you. For more technical questions, check out the Ruckus “Process” page and give us a call.
Thank you, Shawn, we are happy to have you and Ruckus Composites here in Oregon.