As a racer who rides a Trek Madone 6.9 with a carbon fiber fork steerer tube, I was very disturbed to read the VeloNews article “Steered wrong? Racers concerned about broken carbon steerer tubes” (pasted in its entirety below) describing a number of traumatic failures of the carbon steerer tube.
I can’t imagine anything scarier (or more dangerous!) than your handlebars coming off in your hands at high speed!
I have long worried that the carbon I love so much, may be dangerous in certain applications, like steerer tubes and handlebars because carbon is so susceptible to traumatic collapse by compressive forces. We all know how tough carbon is when longitudinal forces are applied to it but we also know that carbon is like a fragile egg shell when you apply sideward forces to the carbon tubes. If your buddy insists that carbon is super tough, ask him if you can lean his bike on its side and just softly step on the middle of his top tube.
Now don’t get me wrong, I know that this is not the type of forces a bike frame is designed to endure, but it points out why carbon may be perfectly acceptable in one application but dangerous in another. What concerns me about using carbon in applications like a steerer tube or handlebars is that you know that you are going to be subjecting that component to the exact types of compressive, sideward forces to which carbon is so susceptible.
Because of this susceptibility, Trek makes it clear that you must be very precise in the tightening of carbon components but my concern is that it is VERY foreseeable that consumers will NOT necessarily read the instructions or have the necessary equipment (precision torque wrenches).
In fact, I can tell you I have been in many bike shops where I have watched very experienced mechanics working on carbon components with traditional allen wrenches rather than the recommended torque wrenches. Geez, if we can’t count on the experienced mechanics to follow the guidelines, we sure can’t expect every consumer to do so.
So, the real question is whether using carbon in these applications is simply unreasonably dangerous? I suspect some jury will be answering that very question some day in the future after some poor bicyclist dies or is maimed when his carbon handlebars or steerer tube fails……
So let me close with a STRONG recommendation. If you have a Trek Madone or any bike with a carbon steerer tube or carbon bars or carbon stem, by all means have it checked out by a reputable bike shop with the recommended equipment. Also, periodically perform a careful examination of your components and immediately replace if you find any signs of cracking or damage. I would much rather have you have a long and happy cycling career than a good lawsuit.
Hope you have a great ride.
James B. Reed
NY & PA Bicycle Accident Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and