Words by Logan VonBokel
Photos by Brad Kaminski and Chris Case
Tagesarchiv: 8. Juli 2015
Words by Logan VonBokel
“The speed wobbles were so awful, I had to ride the brakes down the entire mountain,” California rider Mike Parsons said, recounting his experience descending on what he believed to be a close replica of a Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL4. “I squeezed the top tube with my knees, locked my ankles against the crank arms, and held the handlebars with everything I had just to make the speed wobbles manageable, still watching my front wheel wobble left-right.”
Parsons, a triathlete and former motocross racer, purchased his frame through DHGate.com, a website with the tagline, “Buy smart. Buy direct.” It insinuates that what you’re purchasing comes direct from the brands that are listed on its website.
But that $690 “Scott Foil Premium” frameset is not made by Scott. It’s not from the same mold as Scott’s Foil. The SL4 is not a real SL4. Both are fakes that have been reverse-engineered to be aesthetically similar pseudo-copies.
The assumptions made by consumers seeking a low-cost, Chinese-made copy of a frame might be laughable to people in the industry, but many buyers have rationalized those assumptions, until they, too, experience a similar issue to what Parsons experienced.
“I can’t afford a real S-Works. The replicas are just as good.” “They’re all made in the same factory in China.” “It’s the same mold.”
At Velo, we set out to ascertain how similar these counterfeit frames were to the authentic versions. Did they qualify as “replicas” — or deathtraps?
As we have in every VeloLab test, we enlisted the help of Microbac Laboratories. We asked them to examine Parsons’ counterfeit S-Works Tarmac SL4 and compare it to the genuine article — a 58cm 2014 Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL4.
The results are clear: The counterfeit is a poorly-executed, and dangerous, replica.
The counterfeit Tarmac resembles the authentic SL4. The graphics are close, and if we did not have the real SL4 on hand to compare, we would have thought the counterfeit bike had a genuine Specialized paint job. The counterfeit seatpost, too, closely resembled that of the real SL4. However, and most importantly, upon close inspection of the frames, it was clear they are not the same. They are not even close.
First, the counterfeit frame did not come from the same mold as the SL4. If it had, the two frames would have identical geometries; they do not. No tube on the counterfeit frame is the same length as the real SL4.
The weights of the two framesets — frame, fork, headset, seatpost, and seatpost collar — were comparable. The SL4 weighed in at 1,460 grams, while the counterfeit weighed in at 1,570 grams. The weight difference between the framesets alone can be considered a wash, as the counterfeit used a low-quality headset and seat collar — two components that could very easily tack on an additional 100 grams.
The construction of the headset was particularly worrisome. The genuine SL4 uses carbon cups integrated into the frame’s head tube, while the counterfeit uses alloy cups bonded into the frame. Specialized, which has its own testing facility, tested a similar counterfeit frame and found the alloy headset cups would not hold up to even the most elementary of destructive testing. It’s a claim that Velo and Microbac can confirm; the alloy cups in our counterfeit frame displayed considerable play as we secured the frame to the testing jig.
Microbac performed several tests. The first, and least destructive, was a system “stiffness” test. This was performed by vertically loading the frame and fork with 300 pounds of force at the seatpost. The results are measured in the amount of compression, or splay, that the frames demonstrated in force per inch of vertical deflection. The results showed the counterfeit to be over 11 percent less stiff than the SL4.
To some, the difference might sound negligible; however, Steve Ferry of Microbac said, “I think it is a noteworthy difference.” In this game of high performance and marginal gains, 11 percent is a substantial figure.
The next test required Microbac to cut the counterfeit frame and, yes, the brand-new SL4, into several pieces to measure the tensile strength of different parts of the bike. The results of this test were even more telling.
Each frame had sections cut out of the top and bottom of the top tube, as well as out of the top, bottom, left, and right of the down tube. The strength of each cutout was individually tested, and this is where the differences of the frames were magnified. The Tarmac is engineered to ride like a high-performance bike; the counterfeit is designed to simply look like a Tarmac.
The top of the down tube on the Specialized is measurably stronger than the bottom, while on the counterfeit, the top of the down tube is slightly weaker than the bottom. The top of the Tarmac’s down tube has a modulus of elasticity (a measure of a material’s resistance to deformation) greater than 40 million psi. The counterfeit has varying elasticity between 7 million and 10 million psi, at its weakest about a quarter of the modulus of elasticity (see chart).
Bike manufacturers love to advertise their high-modulus carbon fiber frames. They often claim to use higher-modulus carbon fiber than their competitors, though a frame has a variety of carbon fabric in it. A Tarmac’s highest-modulus area is the top of the down tube, and it is quite high. The counterfeit frame, despite the fact that Parsons paid for the “higher-end carbon,” apparently used no high-modulus carbon at all.
“In total, this indicates an engineered approach to tune the ride in the Specialized, and just a blunt force approach with the counterfeit,” Ferry said. “They’re just slapping stuff into the mold. If you look at thickness, yield strength, and modulus, the Specialized is much more varied [from tube to tube as well as within each tube] and there is little difference in the counterfeit.”
If it’s too good to be true …
The websites that sell the counterfeit frames appeal to the deal-savvy consumer. In the world of cycling, where exorbitant prices seem to become more commonplace by the season, the attraction is understandable. Unfortunately, the repercussions can be tragic.
“The [S-Works] frame I wanted was $3,500, and over there it was $700. I believed they were using the same molds,” Parsons said of the counterfeit frame he purchased. “There is no scenario [where] I could recommend a knockoff frame to anyone. They’re terrifying. At minimum, it will result in a terrible crash.”
The sellers, mostly from China, seem to be unconcerned with the safety of their product, or the customers who fall for the fakes. Parsons’ pleas to return the frame went unanswered. “I think they strung me along just long enough so that I couldn’t get my credit card [bank] to cancel the transaction, but this was after all the headaches just to get the bike in my hands,” Parsons said.
As with most things, if the price tag looks too good to be true, it likely is. Don’t be the sucker who falls for it.
Could you tell which frame was fake? Here’s a guide to the images shown above:
– Second image from the top: fake
– Third image from the top: Left is real; right is fake.
– Two head tube images: Frame on right is fake in both.
– Splintered carbon image above: fake
via Bike Rumor Leading up to next months attempt at the Tour de France, 2014 Giro winner Nairo Quintana and his Movistar teammates introduced a new grand tour road machine from consumer-direct Canyon this week at their Service Course in Pamplona, Spain. The new 4th generation Canyon Ultimate builds on the tech of the previous bike and 10 years of Canyon’s Ultimate moniker. As market demands (hype?) require, the bike gets lighter (a tiny bit), more comfortable, and more aero. But Canyon has actually done a few interesting things to hit those last two upgrades. Roll on past the break for more details, pics, starting price, and availability… While Canyon calls the bike an entirely new design, it bears many similarities to the last iteration. Their engineering team achieved what were pretty standard industry goals with the new bike: more-compliance and more-aero. But keeping the stiffness:weight that the Ultimate was known for, the R&D team ended up with a bike they claim has 15% more vertical deflection and an 8% boost in aerodynamics for the frameset (up to 14% with the newly designed Aerocockpit) versus the last model. The new design comes keeps thin flattened seatstays for comfort, but updates them with a D-shape for aero benefit. The biggest boost in comfort comes from a new trimmed down seat cluster and clamp that lets the seatpost flex more to isolate deflection at the saddle, by moving the clamping point below the seatstay juncture, extending the effective bending length of the post by up to 110mm. The frame gets more aero with the tidy hidden seatpost clamp, a completely new narrower D-shaped downtube, an updated integrated Acros headset/spacer combo, a new integrated bar/stem combo, a slightly more hour-glassed headtube (with a straight 1.25″ steerer), and an updated fork design that flows more smoothly into the frame. The new bike will come in 7 sizes, with seattubes from 43-61cm and toptubes ranging form 51-61cm. Canyon has also reworked the M and L sizes to sit a bit closer to each other to offer better fit where most of their customers fall. The new Ultimate CF SLX will be available to order direct from Canyon’s website as of the end of August (at the end of Eurobike.) 11 models will be offered starting at €3200 (most likely with a Ultegra level build) and will climb from there. Canyon also teased us with the idea that 3 models of an ultra light Ultimate CF EVO are also in the works. The 3rd gen Ultimate CF SLX frame weighed less than 800g, and every build they offered last year came in under the UCI’s 6.8kg threshold, so while the new frame is reported to be a few grams lighter, a new EVO version will probably put it up there with the lightest production bikes on the market. No word yet on the extra light one’s pricing or availability, but it will surely come at a premium from the looks of the Lightweight and THM clad EVO 10.0 SL we’ve seen.
CANYON ULTIMATE CF EVO
via Bike Rumor
Just last week, Canyon unveiled their all-new Ultimate CF SLX for Movistar to race in this year’s Tour de France. It introduced a new aerodynamic design to the already stiff, light and comfortable Ultimate heritage. Now, they’ve shown us their halo product, the Ultimate CF Evo.
Yes, the weight and the price are insane, but the madness is tempered with parts that they say makes the bike actually ridable on a daily basis with no compromise in performance or durability.
So, how can they do that and get a bike under 5kg?
The complete bike mostly as you’ll find it on showroom floors (as if one of these will ever just be sitting in your LBS) comes in at 4.85kg (10.69lb). Spec notes below explain what’s not stock here.
With a pair of steel spindle Speedplay pedals, the weight is still just 5.06kg (11.16lb).
The SLX frame weighs a claimed 780g with 295g fork. The Evo frame is substantially lighter at 665g (size medium), and 270g fork with steerer cut for a medium frame.
Even with the weight savings, they wanted to keep similar stiffness and comfort to the SLX. They saved weight by using different types of carbon, which were much more expensive.
The difference is a PAN based carbon in their regular Ultimate CE bikes versus a Pitch based high modulus fiber on the Ultimate, which has about 30% more carbon in the carbon fiber. That means it’s a more hi-mod frame, but there is other modulus fibers in there, too, so the frame won’t be too brittle.
All of Canyon’s forks and handlebars are checked in house by computer tomographic (CT) scan to ensure it’s laid up correctly, there are no gaps or delaminations. Normally, they only do it on their forks and handlebars, but since this frame pushes the limits of light weight, it also gets the CT scan check it before it goes out the door.
The seatpost clamp is completely hidden and resides about 6-7 cm below the top of the seat tube. That design allows an extra 6-7 cm of seatpost, which allows more total flex and better comfort. The threaded binder insert and bolt are titanium, which saves 4-5g over the steel parts used on the SLX. Water bottle bosses remain standard with alloy bolts.
Goal was to make a super light bike that could also be ridden everyday, hence the use of a standard SRAM chainring and cassette with KMC DLC Black chain. But they’ll have all black RED chainrings made for them to keep the stealthy look intact. The rest of the component spec mirrors that, saving weight where they can without giving up usability. Wheels are stiff, cockpit is stiff and comfy. So, you could make it a good bit lighter if you went absolutely nuts on wheels and components but you’d lose ridability.
The SLX and Evo models share the same molds, but the Evo uses a special insert to allow them to form an integrated carbon fiber front derailleur mount rather than the riveted alloy one. Savings: 6g.
Internal cable routing helps with aerodynamics even though it can sometimes add a few grams. They made up for it with the linked Jaguar cables for braking and lighter XEX housing for the shift cables.
Other parts include:
- 79g Tune saddle
- 275g THM Clavicula crank arms (without chainrings or bolts)
- Ceramic speed 60g BB that’s new and fits a Shimano pressfit 86.5 design with a 30mm axle
- Wheels have ceramic bearings to save 6g per wheel
- Tires are a special edition of Continental Podium TT with slightly less rubber to come in at 200g per tire, a bit less than regular versions. That does reduce their tread life by about 35%, but they say it doesn’t affect puncture resistance. The tires on this bike are the standard ones, so actual weight will be slightly less than what’s shown above.
- Canyon handlebar is 196g (42cm) and stem is 150g (110mm)
Things like Canyon’s flex seatpost aren’t the lightest out there, nor is their handlebar and stem (though they’re nothing to sneeze at). But using lighter, more chi-chi parts would have reduced comfort and stiffness, so they opted for the slightly heavier bits to keep the ridability theme going.
Retail will be €13,000 and it goes on pre-sale this fall, production starts in February 2016. Look for another ultralight spec concept on this frame to be announced at Eurobike, too.
For its part, the SLX is no slouch at 6.94kg (15.3lb) including Dura-Ace pedals, putting it just inside the UCI’s current legal minimum weight limit…though this one’s built with Zipp clinchers, so it’d be pretty easy to dip below that limit by swapping to tubulars.
Canyon’s one piece stem and handlebar also weigh slightly more than their individual parts because of the integrated Di2 junction box mount underneath (completely hidden from view unless you’re looking from the bottom up) and bolt holes for their out-front Garmin mount. Note the sprinter’s Di2 switches poking outta the bar tape.
The stem’s shape integrates with custom headset cap and spacers.
Check out more on the SLX and team bikes here