In diesem Beitrag
Cheap products directly from a superfactory, imported straight from the gigantic production lines to the end consumer. Modern communication channels make it possible: good products at a rock-bottom price. But how good are these products really? And how safe? In this article I’ll build such a carbon road bike and address the safety aspects. In my latest experiment: with a budget of 2,500 euros, can I rebuild a bike worth over 5,000 euros?
The frame – a basic structure
Starting off from my first post on the subject(China brands on the rise – cheap products overrun the bicycle market), it now becomes more concrete. I have now a full bike completely specced with all components. Everything comes to the consumer through the known portals for products directly from the factory. The usual suspects with “Express” or “Podium” in their names. That’s all the advertising I want to do.
Here’s how I put the bike together. Carbon “Aero” frame with integrated cockpit, 11-speed gears and drivetrain from L-TWOO, high profile aero wheels, hydraulic disc brakes and a dual sided power meter from Magene. Complemented by carbon high profile rims from EXAR and a full carbon saddle.
So nothing of a brand that you would find in a bike magazine. Let alone a test in TOUR magazine.
Here are the prices of each part:
- Carbon frame “Triaero” by ICAN Cycling: 724,59 EUR
- Integrated cockpit and steering bearing (same manufacturer/brand): 181,61 EUR
- Magene EXAR DB58 Pro 2022: 888,77 EUR
- L-TWOO R9 Disc 2x11s hydraulic brake, mech. shifting: 265,07 EUR
- Magene P325 CS Lite Power crank with double sided power meter and 52-36 chainring: 347,62 EUR
- Saddle, brake cables, brake discs, sprocket set: I had pulled from my private stock and will take it with 100 EUR in the bill;
I’ll go into more detail about the individual components like the powermeter, wheelset and frame in future blogposts. Today we are talking about the complete package.
This results in a total of 2,507.66 EUR. Not cheap or budget exactly, a price that stands quite for itself! So we need to address that briefly as well…. What is “cheap” or “value for money” these days?
Over the last 3 years (since 2020 with the beginning of Corona and related turbulent development of the economy as a whole and in the bicycle industry in particular), prices for bicycles have exploded. E-bikes are booming as are high-priced “high-end” road bikes. Prices at 20,000 euros for racing bikes have arrived in everyday life:
TOUR Magazine tests the new TREK Madon SLR9 and rates it “only” with a 2.0 grade (“good”) – a bike for over 15,000 euros. Just as exciting to see a Colnago C68 in (german) Road Bike Magazine, where the price just seems out of this world. It really blows my mind. Let’s stick to “comprehensible” prices.
A good entry level bike should be expected for 2,000 euros, a top racing bike can also cost 5,000 euros. That’s about the thought I could relate to and agree with today.
Objective of this post
The goal of the whole experiment here is not to get the absolute dumping price and really push the limits of what is possible. No, I don’t want to completely risk my health and just order anything on Wish. That’s how I ended up with the idea of achieving a balanced price-performance ratio. Brands that are already established and exhibit at a Eurobike, for example, are also eligible. Magene (Chinese brand, direct-to-consumer) with EXAR and the Powermeter cranks, because these are inexpensive and are in direct competition with ZIPP wheels or Shimano and other component manufacturers.
Theoretically, you can easily lower the price of my experiement from 2,500 Euros to 1,500 Euros. For the frame you would have to use e.g. set on a cheaper model (in question would be eg a Trifox X18 carbon frame) and just as with the wheels you can find something for less than half the price.
More comparisons with other cheaper / more expensive branded wheels can be found in the conclusion at the bottom.
Guarantees, securities and quality controls of renowned manufacturers
Before I set about assembling the bike I have to address a very large elephant in the room. Safety. What are we actually doing here? This is my small point of view on the subject of guarantees and accordingly “felt” security perception.
With the construct of local development and design and an offshore factory, there is, as you might imagine, the greatest friction at the transitions. When the finished piece is shipped off the assembly line to its destination. In between, the quality control takes place, from which the liability passes. A neuralgic point in the chain.
If you’re considering handling inexpensive products straight from the factory (as I do in this blog post), the first crucial point when weighing the risk is: who checks the quality? In the end, you’re left to your own devices because there’s very little trust.
But is the quality automatically better when a well-known logo is stuck on the carbon parts? I would like to examine this briefly with a few examples. Anyone who deals a lot with bicycle components and technology will follow the one or other podcast and perhaps a few “experts” on relevant video portals. Here you can find a lot of examples that raise doubts as to whether one should not always approach the matter with a certain skepticism.
Example – Hambini
Hambini is a well-known name with over 100,000 subscribers. A very toxic figure with an engineering background who “disassembles” products from well-known manufacturers. He saws up carbon bicycle frames, shines cameras through them from the inside and even takes X-ray pictures of the frames. To find voids and signs of delamination in the carbon fibers or epoxy.
Particularly impressive for me was what he came across in a BMC frame of the Swiss brand:
Inside the frame of the BMC, you can see that two nuts or inserts are touching. Which makes your hair stand on end, because that’s not a quality control error but the design of the frame. One can imagine that this is a found food for the critic.
Whether you want to swear about the brands and manufacturers in a YT video is another question. Nevertheless, here and in very many videos of the aforementioned video blogger does not remain a good picture of the brands Cannondale, Cervelo, BMC, and many more.
At the same time, you can find videos of the same reviewer putting noname carbon frames through his critical review. A coincidence? So at the very least it’s contrived, because of course all cases are just one-offs that have been well selected beforehand. I don’t want to go on with the points for and against such videos.
I take with me: Skepticism is appropriate, with all manufacturers and names.
More examples – Shimano, Canyon, Zipp,…
There are quite a few manufacturers who have not launched a recall in recent years. For example, my ROSE XLite was affected by a recall of the carbon fork. Insiders report that during the years of the Corona-related boom, quality assurance had to turn a blind eye to the fact that more parts could be shipped quickly in the crumbling supply chains. Says one. Here, too, skepticism is very much in order.
Shimano is the next example – the world’s largest manufacturer of bicycle components. Just as large is the number of over 2 million cranks, which are affected by a recall. The Japanese manufacturer has kept quiet about a long known problem for over a decade. There has long been the known problem that the glued cranks can dissolve under circumstances. In connection with this, there have been so many accidents to date that the authorities in the USA have intervened and the manufacturer has been forced to pull the ripcord. Pretty late – because the products were produced like this for a whole 8 years (affected batches were manufactured from 2012 to 2019). It’s hair-raising; after all, we especially want to trust established brands, don’t we?
Also the aforementioned Hambini has already drawn attention in a video over a year ago about the problem of Shimano cranks and has gone into the gluing of the crank arms. One thing you have to hand it to him: he certainly seems to be addressing the right points that will blow up sooner or later. And make many of the established manufacturer look just unprofessional.
Other and more examples can be found in communities such as. Fault in the laminate of ZIPP wheels on Reddit. Just one example I stumbled across.
Or back when Mathieu van der Poels handlebars broke in a sprint (02.03.2021 on the last kilometers of the Tour Le Samyn). CANYON immediately stopped the sale and ordered the sold handlebars back. Although it was never clarified whether it was actually material and or a techs fault, which would have to be blamed rather as a user error? But something like that also remains in the memory.
Safety – Just a feeling?
So what remains of all the anecdotes and stories? Actually, the only question for me is: is carbon itself safe? It is really difficult to decide whether this should be done on the basis of individual manufacturers and brands. Trust is good, and you have to remain very careful. Skepticism is also a good idea, because you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the Internet either. Whether for or against the established names.
For me, at least, it’s helpful to continue to decide what risks I want to take and what I’m comfortable with and what I’m not. What then remains in the shopping cart or not. And what is assembled here in the end convinced me at least for an experiment. But can it hold up in truth?
Building a carbon frame road bike
In the following I will give a short overview of the structure. Here, I’ll mainly go into detail about the frame and the trappings. For the main other components I will bring out individual posts: Magene EXAR wheelset, L-TWOO R9 circuit and the Magene cranks with power. Let’s start with the frame and work our way forward.
ICAN Triaero Frameset
As the name suggests, the frame is supposed to be an “Aero” model. I don’t have a wind tunnel to test the aerodynamics, so that will remain at least vague.
The frame comes neatly and securely packed. The integrated or proprietary parts fit perfectly. The seat post has its own shape and clamp. Likewise, the handlebar-stem combo is fully integrated. Since I have a mechanical shifting the integrated cockpit must hold a total of 4 cables. A horror show – what was I thinking?
The shift and brake cables can theoretically be easily brought through the frame thanks to the given cable guides. But the devil is in the details. It can sometimes really take all the nerves to run all cables through the frame and handlebars. Especially if you want to lead 4 cables past the stem in the narrow angles of the handlebars.
After hours of work, the result is really something to be proud of.
The fully integrated cockpit comes with some spacers. The steerer must of course be shortened. I opt for a very aggressive position for this bike, because the main topic of this project is aerodynamics. And most of the wind resistance comes from my body and hence the seating position. So low the handlebars go.
The next step is to press in the individual bearings. For the headset, the bearing at the head of the frame that holds the fork and stem comes without measurable error. As far as I know, the measured values are completely within the manufacturing tolerance range.
Before pressing in, the receptacles on the frame are degreased and cleaned with rubbing alcohol. Special tools for this installations are not needed – just the same as with Shimano. The bearings on the head can be easily inserted with your fingers, special tools for pressing in is not necessary on modern bikes (is the same with my TREK Checkpoint and ROSE XLite, there the bearings are also “loosely” inserted in the head tube).
Components and final build up
On the frame itself I was through with it, all bearings are in, the cables laid and cockpit adjusted. Now we moved on to the external components.
To install the brake hoods and levers and drivetrain components of L-TWOO R9 is, except for minor imperfections, hardly worth mentioning. However, I will once again go into detail about this relatively new player in the component market in the separate review of the L-TWOO R9 group set. The mechanical shifting was easy to adjust. The hydraulic brake lines came bled, I just had to get rid of the last air bubbles with a quick bleed.
It only remains to assemble the wheels, saddle and chain. Ready is the “cheap” China racing bike.
Ride reports and result of the construction
From the ordered parts in June to the finished road bike in August, some time has passed, which is simply due to my private time management. The complete build from unpacking all the components to the finished bike took about 8-12 hours. Most of the time is lost in running the internally routed cables. Bleeding the brakes and fine tuning the shifting also takes some time. So it is the same with test rides and polishing and setting each component up until it fits perfectly.
The front wheel is set up tubeless, rear I have installed a TPU inner tube. Simply because the used Schwalbe tire has resisted partout the tubeless conversion and was not mountable without an inner tube. So by all means did not want to stretch so far that he let set correctly around the rim on the rim shoulder. After an hour I gave up and put in the inner tube where it was then no problem.
Total weight: 8.0kg (size Large, with power meter cranks and pedals). Which is a very good value for this price range and the subcategory “aero road bike”. For comparison: Canyon Aeroad CF SLX 7 (4999€) comes at 8.39kg (size medium, without pedals).
Aero-“ness”: How exactly can you evaluate aeorodynamics on a road bike? It is almost impossible. Because it always depends on the system of driver and machine to determine the CdA value. “Cd” represents the drag coefficient (aerodynamic drag coefficient) and “A” represents the effective frontal area. The product of Cd and A gives the total aerodynamic drag commonly used in cycling and vehicle aerodynamic analysis.
Means for my bike here: I can only illuminate theoretical values that speak for improved aerodynamics. These include the lowered seatstays, the deep profile of the fork and down tube on the frame, the closed area on the rear wheel and seat tube and completely internally routed cables. Everything speaks for the fact that this bike is not a ball and chain. Especially since I have chosen the geometry and seating position very aggressive. Uncomfortable but “fast” (that is, I hope).
Riding experience: This road aero bike is very stiff and passes the ground contact to the rider directly. Although I ride 28mm tires, they only compensate for the unevenness to a small extent. The frame and the seat mast belong to the more sturdy camp. Although it is still at least as comfortable to ride as my aluminum road bike (a Stevens Aspin from 2016). Especially since I also drove through a longer marathon of just under 180km and had nothing to complain about on the bike itself.
- Weight: ★★☆ – Good value for what it is
- Aero: ★★★ – Very good, There is little to optimize here.
- Ride feel: ★★☆ – Good, if a bit hard, stiff and not very forgiving, it is fun to ride at speed.
Conclusion on the construction of the frame
I am very happy with the Triaero race bike and overall result. The frame comes completely without any visible defects. Cable guides fit, the individual parts have no play, all bearings can be pressed in neatly. There is also nothing to complain about the carbon interior at the fork mount, steerer tube or bottom bracket. Likewise with the dropouts for mounting the wheels, the thru axles all run straight and here too everything makes a solid impression.
In total, the wheel has now run just under 700km (August + September). And I like driving it very much. So far I see no reason not to trust the wheels, frame and components. The shifting is smooth, the powermeter records correct values (detail review and comparison to other powermeters coming) and it’s especially fun at high speed.
I do not see any doubts about the safety of the components, but that would not be directly expected at this price. Especially since I expect a warranty from all manufacturers in this build and other examples from the net testify the same. None of these brands from this set-up is a flash in the pan, but will also stand in in the event of a defect, I would assume so far.
Now the question to you – what do you think about such projects? Are you open to such experiments, or is that too hot after all?