This article answers whether Chinese carbon frames are good and safe to ride.
I’ve been watching the Chinese carbon frames scene for multiple years already. I also discussed this topic with multiple bike builders who regularly do builds of the mountain, road, and gravel bikes based on Chinese frames. Recently, I also bought a Chinese carbon road bike frame.
So, below, I provide you with valuable tips to consider before buying a bike frame from China.
Let’s dive in!
Are Chinese Carbon Frames Worth It?
Yes. Chinese carbon frames from established manufacturers are worth it because they provide better value for the money than the frames of established brands. Their price starts at around $500. The sweet spot is around $1300, for which you can buy a high-quality carbon frame with a certification.
Of course, this does not apply to every manufacturer to the same extent. Moreover, even frames from the same manufacturer can vary in quality (usually depending on the frame price).
Based on info from insiders, many western brands outsource manufacturing of carbon frames to China (eventually Taiwan) to one city in particular – Xiamen.
Chinese brands gained a lot of expertise in carbon manufacturing throughout the years. As a result, their frames are becoming more competitive.
It’s difficult to compare their aerodynamics with frames from mainstream brands, but I assume it won’t be as optimized yet. Western companies invest heavily in R&D, and the sources they pour in are much larger than the sources of Chinese manufacturers.
Are Chinese Carbon Frames Safe to Ride?
If you did some research on Chinese carbon already, I guess you found some horror stories of frameset failures.
Yes, it’s true. Frames (eventually forks) can fail. But this happens even to frames from mainstream brands.
The question is:
How to Find Quality Chinese Carbon Frames?
Below, I summarize a few helpful tips you should consider before buying Chinese carbon frames and how to maximize the chance you purchase a quality frame you can rely on.
One of the first things I consider when looking for Chinese carbon frames is if they have a 3rd party certification or have passed other safety standards.
You can find all UCI-approved road bike frames in this document. Other certification authorities include TÜV Rheinland.
UCI-approved frames must pass the UCI approval protocol. You can read its requirements here. They are pretty extensive. So, obtaining UCI approval on a frame is more complicated than on wheels.
What if the frame has no certification, or it’s not UCI-approved?
If the frame you are interested in has no 3rd party certification or is not UCI approved, then try to find out more about the testing process of a given manufacturer. A frame without these certifications may still be safe to ride, but I recommend you do more research.
Warranty & Crash Replacement
When buying Chinese bike frames, you usually get at least a 2-year warranty. Some Chinese manufacturers may offer a more extended warranty period of 3-year or more.
However, it’s not just about the length of the warranty but also about how the manufacturer will react to a possible complaint.
I recommend reading the reviews of other customers. Keep in mind that Chinese manufacturers sometimes still have problems with English, so you have to be patient and write in simple English.
A great benefit is if a brand offers a crash replacement policy, so if you crash and damage the frame, you get a discount on your next order.
This is handy, especially when the frames are expensive, so you don’t have to be afraid of riding it in races, for example.
Reviews of other customers are also an important decision factor for me. I try to approach them objectively and unbiased. Even if the reviewer is somehow affiliated with a given brand, it doesn’t mean his review is useless and doesn’t bring me any value.
A red flag can be ‘positive only’ reviews. Every product has its flaws. Sometimes it’s just hard to find them.
Why not Buy Chinese Carbon Frames?
When talking to friends about Chinese carbon frames and why not buy them, I mostly encounter the following arguments:
“Why should I buy a frame from an unknown Chinese brand when I can buy a frame from a mainstream brand?”
Except for the lower price, there is also the social status question. It depends on what type of person you are. If you care about your social status among peers, go and buy a frame from a brand that attracts you.
“What will you do when the frame (or fork) breaks or fails?”
This is a valid argument and probably the biggest downside of Chinese carbon frames. If the brand doesn’t have a distributor in your country, you will need to discuss eventual claims over email. Then, it depends from case to case on how the brand resolves your claim.
“The delivery time takes too long.”
Yes, unless you have a local distributor, you will have to wait a few weeks (maybe months), and you won’t get the frame by the next day. But some things are worth the wait.
Chinese Carbon Frames FAQ
Chinese carbon frames from established and reliable manufacturers who test their products and have strict quality control processes are worth it.
They usually provide a better price/quality ratio than frames from mainstream brands. The only issue you may encounter is claiming a refund if the frame or fork cracks or any other damage appears.
It depends from case to case what steps the brand takes. It’s often cheaper for the brands to either provide you with a discount on your next order or send a replacement.
What is your opinion about Chinese carbon frames? Let me know in the comments below.
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