Thursday, 20 September 2012

Steve Malone's take on Cheap Chinese Carbon builds

Insane in the membrane
In this article, Steve Malone explains how he went from a Stig lookalike to a "skinny" road rider. He also describes his experiences with his first ever Cheap Chinese Carbon Frame bike build.

Having been a committed XC, then enduro and downhill mountain biker for 15 years I am prepared to admit that I viewed roadies with some suspicion and a hint of fear. The shaved legs and lycra confused me (my legs never got infected by hairs despite being almost constantly wounded). Numerous visits to Alpe D'huez and Le Deux Alpes, Morzine etc over a six year period to ride the Mega, Mountain of Hell, Vijaunay Enduro etc did bring me into close proximity of the 'thin people' but we tended to view each other from afar in a North and South Korean Border Guard fashion. We were definitely the South. The closest I ever got was having to ride up the 21 hairpins on an 18kg mountain bike with 2.5" tyres, I did not see the appeal.

In 2011 I made my usual drive to Morzine after riding the Mega at Alpe D Huez. In the van, amongst the big bikes, sat a Boardman Team Pro, purchased on the Ride to Work scheme as a commuter and as way to get some miles in without driving for hours to get to some good trails. I had hidden it in a box to make sure no one saw and had covered exactly 0 miles. Morzine in 2011 became famous for it's Somme like 'vibe'. Not a hail of constant terror or gas but very wet, muddy, cold and populated by lots of spaced out looking pissed off people in similar Fox uniforms. After destroying 4 sets of brake pads and a set of bearings in 3 days, with all of my kit basically destroyed I pumped up the tyres out my Boardman. Heading out from Morzine to Avioraz in a piss pot helmet, massive downhill SPD clogs, baggy shorts and an Aldi XC top, I began to break down barriers between North and South. The thin people talked to me about 'The Tour' (it took me a while to catch on to this one), on the famous climb to Avioraz I thought my computer was broken as it said 12mph, on an 8% hill.

I'd never had a bike computer on a mountain bike (if you can check your speed your going too slow) and became a bit obsessed. After deciding road cycling was easy, I smugly cruised up the climb enjoying the novelty of 'scenery' and then got overtaken by a 75 year old French Goat Man on a bike he got for his 21st birthday. I managed 104 miles in 2 different countries that day, but; I needed a lighter bike. A year later, converted almost totally to 'the road' and even wearing lycra I sold the Boardman and began my mission.
I have always built my own bikes. My first few were shelf bikes but I soon became hooked on self builds. Often cheaper (despite what they tell you) and I get a bike exactly how I want it. My new road bike would be self built and simply must be carbon because the media says so. I have ridden Chinese Ti 29er frames and some carbon XC bikes in the past, frankly, they all feel the same as the main brands to me. I know reviewers go on about the spring of steel, the snap (literally) of alloy, lightness of carbon etc but they pay the bills supporting an industry which relies on income like any other. I'm only 75kg and have never suffered with frame flex or felt a frame to be 'harsh', that's the joy of tyres forks elbows and knees.
I looked East, researched the 3 main frame manufacturers, sent a few e mails and decided on Flyxii. I made the decision based on reviews and price. The lack of shipping costs brings them in way below E Bay and the other big two factories. Having chosen the new aero frame from their site I noticed they only went up to 56cm compact (so actual 50).
The aero post meant getting a longer post would be tricky and the 56, although long enough, was not tall enough. A quick e mail to the firm regarding seat post sizing was quickly replied to with an offer of a custom 58cm frame. Apparently they were due to lay up a new batch and could adjust the jig for me. Happy days. They sent me a schematic which looked spot on. Order placed I hit the web for the rest of my bits.
Aero smoothness
Ribble, Merlin, Bike DE and Planet X were hammered (E Bay was consistently more expensive), Novatech in Taiwan agreed to send me some 1400gm a pair hoops for not much money. Ultegra drive except for the lighter SRAM OEM (same weight as Force) cranks (I don't like the fact that a bent or dead big ring means whole new crank set on Shimano builds). SRAM brakes as they are the best, some bars form my shed and fishing kit from the above shops saw the entire build come in at £907.35. It took me about 4 hours to build and an hour to set up.
For a brand new carbon machine there isn't really a cheaper option
The bike: It's excellent, my scales tell me 7.23kg, handles well, the factory got my semi TT 74.5 deg seat angle just right (I do the occasional triathlon). It looks industrial in matt black, the carbon lay up is very visible up close but at least I know it's wrapped up thick at the seat and head tubes. I went for a 53 / 39 with 11-25 set up and find it no worries. It wound up the Long Mynd (2.2k at 20%) without much fuss and handles well up to the 51.2mph I have achieved thus far. No speed wobble or weave and solid cornering. Twitchier than the Boardman but that's the race oriented geo and shorter head tube.
His and hers carbon.

If you have the time and patience or a good mechanic at your shop I would not hesitate to recommend the Chinese frames as a basis for a self build.
Tidied up with new aero bars fitted.



  1. Thanks for sharing information on Richard Elliott's Blogspot, i have visited your blog great post..............
    industrial tyres

  2. I'm interested.. but I don't want to build something that ends up coming close to the price of a similar manufactured bike by Ribble/Dolan etc, have you got a break-down on prices for your build?

  3. I have appreciate with getting lot of good and reliable latest bike collection with your post.......
    Thanks for sharing such kind of nice and wonderful Carbon frame Road Bike . I love it very much to riding carbon bike it make me happy.Thank a lot for sharing