Can You Repair A Carbon Fibre Bike?

– [Narrator] Cracking or
breaking your carbon bike frame is every cyclist’s worst nightmare. In fact, some even lose sleep over it. And the prospect of
smashing your pride and joy is even worse to a cyclist than the prospect of bungee jumping through an open air
rusty razor blade museum. So, to find out bout carbon bike repair, I’ve come to visit Carbon
Bike Repair in Leatherhead. I want to find out what can be repaired, how is it repaired, how much does it cost, and how safe is it once it’s repaired? So many questions. So let’s go inside and find out more. Although I’ve just
found out they also have a franchise in Johannesburg. Well why didn’t we go to that one? (laughs) (catchy music) I’m here with Rob Granvile
who set up Carbon Bike Repair. So, Rob, I want to find out what – how did you come to set it up? What was your background? – Well, I’m an industrial designer back in the 90s. I was just trying to
understand a bit more about carbon fibers and was
it a space age material, was it difficult to repair,
was it repairable indeed? And so I repaired my own bike and then the word spread
and local bike shops said there’s a guy locally in Dorking that can fix your bikes, and
then, it kind of was a hobby. So my garage turned out
to be Carbon Bike Repair which was full of bicycles. I didn’t realize there
were that many people who had problems… – Right.
– … with their bikes. – So it’s a passion that’s now turned into a business of repairing bikes. – Yeah. – So I want to find out what happens when someone brings their bike here, the process of how they find
out it’s broken, whatever, so, and then, the whole
thing of going through and getting it fixed, if it can be fixed. – Sure. – And the rest of it, so…
– Yeah. – Should we go and have a look? – Let’s do it. – See how it works.
– Yeah, yeah. – Alright. (catchy music) – In most cases, because
carbon’s pretty robust, we can find out that
there’s just a scratch and they might want it restored, so this is a very useful
part of the process. But, as I say again, if your
bike is definitely fractured, we’ll just confirm it
here because other areas of the bicycle can be
damaged too based on the the type of impact that’s
occurred on that bike. Prior to your bike being
assessed and potentially fixed, it needs to be a completely clean and stripped frame like
the one we have here. But, you can either send in your frame, either pre-cleaned, stripped down already, or you can send in your complete bike and they’ll strip it down for you. And it can also be returned
as a complete bike as well. The first step in the process is to actually ascertain
what the damage is and perform an assessment, because sometimes the
damage is quite obvious if there’s big cracks and
holes in your carbon frame. But other times, it’s less obvious. It might just be a hairline
crack in the lacquer and the guys need to check
that this is just the lacquer or whether it’s actually
in the carbon fiber itself. So to do this, they have some fancy kit, and they have here thermographic x-ray. How cool is that? So Paul is going to show us it
in action on this frame here. – So what we’ve got here
is a relatively obvious fracture from the outside, but it just makes it easier
to see on the camera. Whether it’s actually damaged or not. Because sometimes, if they’re
a little more intricate, it’s going to be a
little while to actually discern whether there’s damage or not. – I can see it on the
screen, how about that? – So you can just about
see it on the screen here. But when you apply a little
bit of kind of heat to it, then as the heat dissipates
throughout the weave, it then highlights a little more so you can then see it
becoming white here. A little white line. So white is cool, black is hot. So as it cools down quicker
than the surrounding carbon, it’s whiter, and therefore
you know that you got the fracture. – Yeah.
– That cool? – So that’s quite an obvious
piece of damage there on the chainstay, there’s also quite an obvious
bit on the seat stay there. But, there’s also just a very, very slight hairline crack in the lacquer there. Is that also a piece of damage? – So, yeah, so this is one of the more kind of contentious issues where we need to probably
go to microscopic imaging rather than the thermographic imaging. – Now it’s really hard
for you see on the camera, but believe me, it’s there. Now this is the kind of piece of damage where its hard to say
just by looking at it if it is just a scratch in the paint, in which case it’s quite easy to repair, or whether it’s something
more serious and actually extends as a crack into
the carbon fiber itself. So the guys are going
to show us how they can actually determine the
state of this damage. – Well, there’s a distinct
difference between carbon fibers breaking, which causes a really jagged
tooth-like edge to it, whereas the fractures you can see, it’s almost like a fountain pen mark. As you apply the scratch,
whatever’s scratching it, starts thin and then
fattens up around that area. And then it sort of
just narrows itself down the same way as it started. It’s generally a case where it’s very rare of any fractures
to be as straight as that. So, when you’re looking out for fractures, you really want to look for a jagged edge, very jagged edge, where the paint might also be flaking off whereas
this is a depression, not nick – – It’s all splinters. – Correct. In other words, if it’s a fracture, generally what happens is
the fracture will pop out and like a piece of
timber, if you broke it and then tried to stick it back together, and it sits proud where the fracture is. This is clearly a depression. You can see the shadow line there. – Yep. – Shows that something
has gone on and dented, and that’s not to say it
couldn’t be fractured in there, but generally you would be able to analyze by doing a stress test on that. Whether there’s any
movements in that area. – We’ve just seen what
a scratch looks like when it’s being analyzed, but here, you got to show us what an
actual fracture looks like, and also a stress test
was performed on that. – Yeah. – So.
– So, similar to the initial
imaging we were just seeing, there’s this always
kind of thin jagged line such as Rob said, normally
indicates a fracture. But just to confirm it,
is that not the paint? We then stress test it. So this is on a drive side – seat stay, so you can get a little
bit of the stress going. And as you apply the force, it opens up. – That is awe – well, it’s not awesome, it’s terrifying for whoever’s bike it is. – That’s really cool to see. – Yeah. Right, so we’ve now ascertained that this bike needs repairing. – Yep. – I think we need to
go on to the next stage and show what happens next. (catchy music) On the basis now, we’ve found some damage that needs repairing, and the person who owns
the bike or the insurer, is decided that they want
to go ahead with the repair. We head to the workshop, I guess. – We get to go to the theater. – Right, the theater. – Yes, see all what happens.
– Alright. – We treat this room dust-free, room very well lit, carbon fiber is a
nightmare for electronics so we have to dust extract everything. So the rooms are normally pretty clean. I mean, we’re talking
about a difference of – it’s as close to a theater
– operating theater – as you will get. Or a dentist’s chair with all
the dremels and so and so. So come in, come in. – Right, Rob, so what’s the
first step that happens? – The bikes are labeled up so the repairer knows what he has to do. The bike is then put on the rack in order of priority. And put into the stands to do the repairs. So they’re fully briefed
before they even start on the bike – what’s wrong with it. – [Interviewer] So,
what’s the repair process that’s happening with
this chainstay here, Rob? – The first thing is to
remove the damaged carbon. To go into this, to see what
the extent of the damage is. In some cases, you can get delamination through a fracture. Which means that the parts, the layers, hae actually separated which in this case, has extended beyond just the fracture. The second thing is to know what bike brand they’re working on so that they can replicate
and reconstitute the carbon that’s required for that area. Specifically because if you
throw carbon at the problem and you wrap it with carbon fiber, which anyone can do, you can cause an imbalance
in certain areas of the frame which causes a problem. – That was my next question. – Yeah.
– So, we’re not just wrapping
sort of a carbon fiber bandage on the affected area
hoping that will fix it? – Well, are you?
– Yeah, no. Well, we certainly don’t do that. I don’t think there’s any
point in being able to repair a bicycle when you can’t give the bike back in the
state that it was in before. Because carbon fiber’s a
really friendly material too, we weld, you may as well do it properly. And it’s not that difficult
if you know how to do that. But you end up with a
bicycle that has the same wall thickness, the same tensile strength, the same flexibility and
the same modulus of carbon that was in that frame originally. – What about the resins and things? Are the resins replicated
so as they were before and things like that? – Well, resins are, I mean,
you get different types of resins, and people will
argue with me on this point, but once the resin cures,
it’s an innate material. Its only job is to bind
the carbon fibers together but keep them locked, right? So as far as resins are
concerned, it’s not a big deal. But that, again, that depends on which area of the bicycle
you’re working on. – A big question that I have, and I’m sure a lot of other people have is that when you do a repair like this, is the result stronger or weaker than what was there before? – No, it’s exactly the
same as it should be The original design is – the thicknesses, wall thicknesses, for a particular reason. They might want the bike to
flex in a particular area, which takes the pressure off
other parts of the frame. If you strengthened up that area because you were concerned
it might crack again, you’re actually doing it a disservice to A) the quality of the ride, but also potentially putting at risk other areas of the bike. For example, if you
strengthen up this stay, more than that side, this stay is certainly
under a lot more pressure. Yes, they will be exactly
the same as it was before. – I’m just rubbing my fingers along this and it’s amazing how smooth it is and how it’s seamless into – impressive, impressive work. It’s good. So this frame has been cured now – And profiled.
– And profiled, so the next step is to paint it to make it look as it
looked before, I guess? – Correct. It does go through Q.C. process where it’s stress tested to ensure that the repair is successful. There’s no point in painting
something if it’s not – if it’s not right. – Right. – That… I mean you can’t feel this at home. But take it from me, that’s impressive. (catchy music) So on this wall, we’ve got all the frames that you currently have that
have been prepared and repaired and they’re now ready for repainting. And making them look new again. So, what do we have to do to
get them ready for painting? – We’re going to go to
the preparation area where once the repairs – if
the profile passes Q.C. – the sprayer shouldn’t have any trouble getting the first base coats on. But what they have to do first, mask areas on the frame,
so you can see here. – So when you repaint the bikes, is there a like a slightly different shade or is there a patch of paint or can you look at it under certain light or like, is the… – Derek is the genius. – Do you have to respray
it a different color if you don’t have the color in stock that it originally was, or…? – Well, all our sprayers
are highly trained in color matching. Basically, 99% of bikes
in any color, anything, is color matched by eye. – We’ve got a frame here
that’s been repaired on the seat stays. And it’s a particularly challenging repair in terms of the surface
finish that needs to be on the final job. So the reason why is not
just because of the shape, but also the fact that there’s a decal that’s on the side, as you can see there. Now, one of these sides has been repaired and the other one is original, but, I mean, I challenge
you to spot the difference. It’s absolutely incredible. I can’t. If my life depended on
it, I wouldn’t be able to tell you which one is the original and which one’s the repair. So is it this side or is it this side? I have no idea. So the guys actually
make replacement decals for particular areas of bikes depending on where they’re
needed and what the repair is. So you can see, this is the
one that was on the bike that I just showed you. It’s pretty impressive. Repairing the carbon
fiber layer is one thing, but people often want a bike that looks as it was hen it was new. So tell us bit about the
sort of spraying process. – The idea is not to have any dust particularly when it
comes to matte finishes because you can’t polish out
any flaws in the surface. So, in order to get these
bikes through the system you need to have a dust-free area. You can’t compromise, unfortunately, you have to get proper sprayer rooms, but fortunately in the bike world, there are no such things as
bike spray rooms, per se, or at least not at the moment. So we have to modify our spray rooms. And I’ll show you a typical
spray job in process. – Nice, let’s go have a look. (catchy music) I’m here in the spray room with Santana. Now, this looks like quite a complicated spray job that you’re working on. Because it’s got – I mean, I
know nothing about spray paint, but, to my eye, this sort of
gradient fills here and stuff, where the color’s change
from yellow to red and things like that. So how are you going about doing this? – So, this one is a tiny bit
difficult restoration because basically the frame is
matte and gloss as well. So, it was like a big crack in this line, which is gloss, so we need
to match the matte as well. The matte section. So then, we fade out these
kind of red with the yellow, as seen on the other side of this, trying to match the same colors and the same kind of fade out. So… – So that’s the side
that you’re repairing. – Yeah. – And that’s the original
side on the other side. – And this is the original. – That’s, that is awesome. Along this wall here,
we’ve got all the frames that have been successfully
repaired and repainted. And they’re ready to go back to customers. And Rob’s challenged
me to a really, really, quite unfair game. Which is spot the repair. Now, even if you locked me
in a room with these frames and said you’re only let out once you’ve worked out where the repair was, I think I’d die in that room because this is absolutely impossible. You just can’t tell at all. I’ve got a frame here
and I’ve been looking for the repair and I couldn’t find it. Rob’s told me that the
repair is actually along here on this chainstay, but, I mean… You’d be hard-pressed to
spot it, to be honest. I just don’t think you can. Seriously impressive work. I am sort of lost for words, really. The question I’m sure many
people watching this will have is how much does it cost
to get your bike repaired? So, how much does it cost? – Well, the first thing
is you’ve got to make sure that it’s economically viable. We would normally assist that
by an email request anyway. So that you would know
whether it’s worth sending in. Or we would advise you otherwise. A typical chainstay fracture
here currently is about 150 plus, if that. So it’s a lot cheaper than
having to replace your bike. And that would generally, depending on what part
of the bike we repair, we generally come with a
lifetime warranty on that repair. – That’s an incredibly great option rather that replacing the whole frame. But are there any instances where you would still repair a frame even if the sort of repairs almost made it not economically viable? – Well it’d depend on two factors, whether it’s sentimental or a classic bike from a particular era. We’ll do our best to do that. – What can be repaired, and also, I guess, what can’t be repaired
with carbon fiber frames? – There are various methods of manufacture and they’re produced
different challenges for us. Injection molded parts
are probably the trickiest ones to do because you
can’t replicate them with carbon layer the way you see a tube fracture repair. – Would that be drop outs
and things like that? – Drop outs, yeah, any
areas where there’s a high tension interface. – But you guys do drop outs here as well. – We do replication –
injection mold replication – without that you shouldn’t
really go for the cost of layer repair on a drop out because they’re just too flexible. – Fascinating, right? Thanks Rob. Thanks for that. Very interesting. Its a fact of life that
accidents can happen. And unfortunately, carbon
bike frames can break, but it is great to see
that they can be repaired. And often for a price that’s much less than the cost of a
brand new bike or frame. Plus, if you’ve got insurance, then your insurer might cover the cost of the repair as well. Which is great, because it will
help keep your premium down. But, I’m sure you’ve
got loads of questions to do with carbon bike repair. I’ve got loads. I feel we’ve only just
scratched the surface. So I think this should
be an excellent topic for an Ask GCN Anything. So if you’ve any questions, let us know in the comment section below and then well put them in Ask
GCN Anything in the feature. And, if you’re looking for
another video to watch, why not check out this video where Cy went to check out how
graphine could be the new wonder material of bike
frames in the future.