Podcast: Ever wondered about repair options for a Carbon Frame? – Meet Ruckus Composites

Ruckus Composites repairing carbon frames

Ever wonder what happens if you dent, ding or crack your fancy carbon frame? Our partner in podcasting, The Gravel Ride Podcast, pondered that question and decided to have a chat with the experts at Ruckus Composites. Shawn and Dan walked us through what can be done to salvage a damaged frame or component.

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Automatic Transcription by The Gravel Ride (please excuse all errors)

All right, welcome. Everybody. We’re live from the gravel ride podcast. And today we’ve got some guests from, from Ruckus talking about carbon warfare. It’s actually quite timely for me as a couple of friends that asked me about some carbon repair work they wanted to have done, and I had no idea how to approach it. So gentlemen, welcome to the show.

Thanks for, thanks for having us.

Can you guys start by introducing yourself?

Take away. All right. Yeah. As Dan said, I’m Shawn and the owner and founder, and I started ruckus over 12 and a half years ago.

Yeah. My name is Dan and I am our repair strategist and customer success person

Right on Shawn. What was the impetus behind starting Ruckus?

Okay.

Is kind of a long rambling story of, I was 24 at the time, fresh out of engineering school and really liked bikes. And didn’t really fit the traditional mold of being an engineer. I’m not an office guy per se. Um, I can’t spend all my day on a computer, so I would like working with my hands a lot, really wanted to create a business where I could work with my hands, but also kind of create the ideas that were locked up in my crazy head

Right on. And were you, did you start it off as sort of a one-man show?

Oh yeah.

Robot or two. I probably had a Roomba at the time that Rubin’s ever around, but I always try to keep a balance of one human and one robot at every time.

There you go. That’s the engineering year. Right? Exactly. So I was excited to talk to you guys about carbon bike repair, cause it is a little bit of a mystery to me, how it all works. And you know, you think about cracking a carbon frame or at least I did prior to this conversation that, you know, the thing’s hosed it’s, you know, I’m never going to be able to ride it again. Can you talk about the types of repairs that are possible for carbon frames?

Did Dan you’re good at this one?

Yeah. I mean, it’s, for us, it’s kind of the circumstance of we can repair almost anything, but it’s only really, we take it to the point where we think it’s safe to do so. A lot of times, you know, things that will decline, for example, our car and bike situations where a rider will get into an accident and, you know, bikes that have four or five visible damages. Um, technically we could repair something like that, but we don’t really deem it safe to do so. Um, that’s like the extent of things that we won’t do. Um, but for the most part, you know, we do basic tube repairs. We do dropout replacements. Uh, we can do full bottom bracket, repairs and replacements as well. Um, you know, we, we will, a lot of things that we’ve been seeing recently, uh, our tire rubbed damages on gravel bikes, for example, people, the combination of too wide of tires in a given condition that isn’t suitable, um, front derailer mounts have been coming off. Boy, am I missing anything? Sean? There’s a lot. We do. We do a, we do a lot, a lot, a lot of different types of repairs on a very regular basis.

Yeah, it’s pretty, very, but you know, at the same point, it’s just, we see the same bike over and over or same bikes over and over and over again. So it’s some days it feels a little bit not honest. And you kind of forget that. We see some of the most interesting things on the bike side. Like we already got a brand new specialized 20, 20 Shivan and it’s like, I haven’t even seen this bike online. It’s got this kind of cool, uh, course of the camera. Cool. Like vertical cross fork, and you look at it and you’re like, okay, bikes are getting crazy again. It looks just like that. It looks just like the Lotus track bike fork. Oh yeah,

Yeah. It’s that dual, that dual bladed thing. So yeah, we do. Um, it’s, it’s again, it’s like we can, we can repair almost anything, but we choose, you know, specifically based on whether it’s safe or not to do

Right. What did that poor individual with the brand new Shiv do to his bike to put it in your hands

Shipping damage hasn’t even been built for assembly yet. And it’s just getting shipped across the country. And I don’t know a lot of shipping companies that are generally fine, but you know, you throw enough probability into it and you know, there may be 10%, 5% of scenarios and you’re going to be on the losing end every now and then. So shipping insurance is always good.

So what does that process look like on your end? So let’s just say I’ve cracked my chain stay and maybe, you know, I see some damage, but I don’t see a hole. Do I send it up to you? And do I get some sort of analysis back for me to consider if the repair is something I want to move forward with?

Yeah. Where we usually start with something like this as we’ll have the customer send us pictures, um, and a variety of ways, email, we, our number also gets texts as well. So it’s, it’s an easy way to communicate with people, but we usually start with photos. Um, on the odd chance we can actually tell, um, you know, through a photo only, um, if the bike is okay, we’ll just tell the customer to monitor it. But most things start with the photo. Um, and then we take out a case and we’ll bring in the bike. And if the area is in question of if it’s broken or not, it goes through the ultrasound scan process. Um, and through that, we can determine, you know, empirically within a thousandth of an inch, whether the bike is actually damaged or not. Um, and then after that’s all said and done, we’ll communicate with the customer again, if the bike is okay, it’s, you know, ready to send home at that point, if they want, uh, if they want to paint, touch up, we can do that. Or if the bike actually needs to be repaired, they’ll get a confirmation of the original estimate at that point. A and then we can

Begin the repair process if it’s a normal tube repair, uh, at pretty much at that time. So yeah, it usually starts out with photos and a conversation of what, you know, the rider was doing at the time, what the damage looks like and kinda on top of that, like we’ve seen over 13,000 cases. So we were pretty good idea if someone says, Oh, I have this type of bike and this type of bike and they go, Oh yeah. Is your seat stay broke. Okay,

Cool. Gotcha. So when I imagine ultrasound, I’m thinking of a doctor and a pregnant woman and that little gel, what goes on when you ultrasound a bike?

I mean, that’s exactly, that’s exactly it. It’s, it’s a very, it’s a it’s that. So Sean has a couple of fluid that he puts over the area and our transducer is, is what, two and a half to 2.5, right? Shawn, 2.5 millimeters in diameter. No, it’s four it’s four. Okay. So he has a four millimeter transducer that he puts over the area and it puts a wave sound into the bike and comes back. The readout would be different from something that you would see in the hospital. Uh, it’s more of a wave form than actually an image, but Shawn is able to tune the wave based on the specific layup of the bike to gain the information that he would need to determine if something would be broken. So if I had to,

I say I had a really bad scratch, you know, from a rock. And I clearly went through the paint and into the carbon fiber. Is that analysis able to tell you, you know, from that wall thickness, you’ve gone halfway through it or three quarters of the way through it.

Yeah, exactly. So kind of how that works is the ultrasound is Dan said, it kicks out a wave the way it penetrates through the carbon bounces off the backside. And it comes back to my transducer. That’s kind of how we read it. And if we hit something that would be an air pocket or Boyd, or, you know, if there was less material, the screen’s going to show that and we have to, you know, we have to interpolate it a little bit or interpret it quite a bit to kind of convert that squiggly wave form into, you know, a bicycle, but it’s kind of the gist of it.

And is there, is there some amount of carbon kind of deep scratch that is okay and livable and you’ll message back to the customer, Hey, you know, you’re only 15% down. It’s probably safe.

Yeah, definitely. I mean, it’s, it kind of, every single bike is different. Every single rider is different. Every single location is different. Like, you know, it doesn’t matter the material per se, but almost every bike, the wall thickness of whether it’s steel or aluminum or titanium or carbon changes so much throughout a bike. You know, we have, we see some mountain bikes nowadays that are over three millimeters thick of carbon, which is insanely thick. Wow. And then we have certain seat stays that are our top tubes that are only 0.7 millimeters, which is like next to nothing. So everything’s gotta be kinda comparative or you kinda look at the whole picture of like, okay. And then, you know, we don’t like to think of like the rider too much. We like to think of just making sure everybody’s safe. So we don’t really take into account if someone’s like, well, I don’t really hit too big of jumps. And you’re like, you know, we talked to some guys up in Bellingham or Whistler and you know, to them and I don’t, I personally don’t leave the ground. So anything leaving the ground is a big job. So

Yeah, absolutely interesting. And so the, can the range of repair work go from, you know, that deep scratch that has affected structural integrity to a complete break in a tube?

Oh yeah. The entire tube could be severed off or even missing. We’ve replaced entire tubes before, you know, it’s a little more severe. Um, but really, you know, there’s not a lot of limits and that’s kinda one of the cooler things about composites as a material versus like some of the metals is, you know, your repair work is so much smaller. Um, it’s more of a localized repair versus having to replace an entire tube, you know, with a metal bike, you know, you can repair any metal bike as well. Um, but it typically takes an entire to replacement. So it’s surprisingly way more expensive. You know, most composite repairs are about 500 bucks or less on average, but you know, metal repairs, you’re closer to a thousand.

So let’s, let’s take a couple of the different scenarios. Let’s stick one on the one hand, which is just maybe a, a piercing or a scratch that is, is definitely dangerous and needs to be repaired. What does that repair look like? How do you actually address my carbon frame with the materials you’re going to use to really support it?

Good question. Um, it’s, as far as the repair goes, our process for let’s say it, you know, some something that we’ve seen a number of times is a very piercing strike on, on a down tube. Uh, but Santa’s mountain bike, especially recently, the way that all of the down tubes are being extruded from the bottom bracket with more of an exaggerated curve, we see a lot of damage to that area. So the process for our repair is repeatable, but not necessarily, not necessarily always similar if you know, we’re doing the same steps towards every bike, but every damage is different. So it’s not exactly the same process. Um, so the cost options that we provide are not tuned towards the repair. It’s all on the finishing side. So basically every normal tube repair that we do, we’ll give our customers a range of options from just a basic mat, black paint or a Mason or basic matte black vinyl wrap to a full paint match. And that customer is getting the same exact safe repair lifetime, but we’re going to give them a different option of price depending on what they want it to look like. Because some people don’t care. You know, some people are like, Hey, it’s my mountain bike. I’m going to beat the crap out of it. I’ll take the $500 repair rather than the full paint match. You know, that, that works fine for somebody they’re getting the same fix either way.

So if I’ve pierced my frame, um, is it sort of like you’re taking some carbon material and almost bonding a bandaid of carbon over top of that,

It’s a little more involved than that. It’s, you know, carbon composite repairs better on the aerospace industry for a long, long time. So there’s already proven standards written by the American society of mechanical engineers or American society of testing and materials. And we really follow up pretty similar guidelines of repairing tubes is a little more complicated, especially tubes of insane geometry that bikes have nowadays, whether they’re, you know, ovals schools, squares, or rectangles around. Um, but it all kind of starts with, you know, we evaluate that whole area and we kind of have to like map out how far the damage goes for starters. And then after we map out the damage extent, we got to kind of map out the repair extent, which is usually extents. You know, let’s call it three inches and every direction around it. And what we do is we then kind of excavate or machine out all the broken fiber and we get rid of it. You know, it’s not doing anything there’s not really much you can do with it to kind of repurpose it. So then we kind of machine out all that area and sand it all out and get rid of it. And now we apply a brand new carbon fiber on top of it and taper it out through the entire tube to make sure the entire tube is completely strong repaired, and we’re not creating any stress risers anywhere on the bike.

Gotcha. And then we add one of our listeners write in and ask about, you know, the completely broke the stay. Are you basically then sort of sawing off the, you know, the completely mangled sections and adding in an entirely new tube?

Uh, we could be, we do a lot of three D printing in house. We have a big, we’ve always had a big strap, like professional, industrial Stratasys 3d print machines. So we can pro um, or three D print and design molds and tools and inserts. And you know, and the hardest part with honestly with bikes is in maintaining the integrity of alignment. You know, if there’s a slight variation at your dropout, um, your wheel’s going to be crooked and with everybody’s running huge tires right now, which is great. But if you then have a, like a, a little bit of a dropout misalignment and then multiply that over 13 inches of a wheel radius give or take, and that exacerbates the angle so bad that it pushes your wheels straight into your chance. So the hardest part is sometimes alignment more than anything, just making sure, you know, we’re trying to align kind of thin air with certain repairs. You’re like, well, I need to put this seats.

I need to put a seat, stay back in the frame, but there’s a huge gap in between. So how do we fill that gap?

There’s a lot of puzzles involved

Frame alignment tools. Yeah. We probably have almost every tool you can, you end up having frame alignment tools to help in that process? Yeah. We have framed jigs. We’ve had a lot of custom-built tools. We have, you know, end mills for milling and mitering. We have drill presses of, you know, we have almost every tool you can think of. Repair is more about like being inventive and tool creative than anything. You’re like, how are we going to hold this shape? That’s not a shit, you know, like a wacky school goal type thing in alignment, or we have, we have two granite tables as well for alignment that are, I think they’re done to it like 10,000, no more than that 0.000001 of an inch of alignment.

So we can always plot things on there and make standoff blocks or use dial indicators. So before, before we move on from, uh, from Greg’s question of being able to repair that seed stay, this is actually a, uh, the case in point of an example of where we wouldn’t do Greg’s repair until we performed a full inspection on this bike. Um, you know, 45 mile an hour front flip that bike didn’t come to a complete stop immediately. Uh, I’ve I’ve had a crash similar to this, uh, about 10 years ago and it was really, really bad. Um, so we would basically say that this bike is going to start out at the full ultrasound inspection for the frame and fork and pending us finding damages elsewhere in the frame. Then, then we would begin to consider the other repairs on this bike because that’s the beauty of ultrasound.

And that’s why I think we shine as an organization is we’re not only fixing things that are visible, we’re actually able to impuricably discern other damages in the bike. So we’re not just guessing that one area is going to be okay. We’re able to see every other area on the bike if it’s okay or not. And you know, a lot of times we’ll find in these kinds of situations, we’ll find the fork to be broken, um, based on, you know, the bike tumbling or the steer tube getting, getting tweaked, um, and a lot of our customers, once they find out that the fork is broken, if it’s an older bike, they’ll decide not to do the repair because it’s going to be very difficult to source a, you know, proprietary fork from 2013. So not only are we keeping people safe, uh, for a low costs, we’re able to steer people in the direction of a new safe bike, you know, because now that they know that they’re not going to be able to get these parts anymore. So that’s, this is a scenario that we see all the time of there’s an visual damage, but we need to take a step back and look at everything before we commit, just to make sure that everything is safe and able to work well down the road together. So yeah, that’s something that we see almost, you know, I see this like two or three times a week talking to our customers.

Yeah. I think I would be a bit torn up if I cracked my carbon frame and I would just be grappling with, you know, do I send it to you guys for repair? Or at what point does it make sense to upgrade? It’s a tough call, but it’s, you know, many of us are riding bikes that we absolutely love and would hate to sort of send out to pasture earlier than they need to, you know, in an ideal scenario, I want to ride a bike hard, love it, and then pass it on to someone else who can love it.

Correct. And for me, one of the things that I always say is if you have bought your bike within the past five years, and aren’t dreaming of a component of a serious component upgrade, then it makes sense to fix your bike because that’s usually the thing is if you decide to replace your bike, you know, and that’s been made in the past couple of years, there’s going to be some chances are there’s going to be some kind of proprietary element that you need to also get. So you’re not just going to be in shipping repair return, shipping fee. You’re going to be in that additional cost as well. So, you know, I still, my, my personal bike is a Scott addict, rim break. It’s been broken two or three times. Luckily I work, but I don’t, you know, I it’s, it’s my good weather road bike. I don’t dream of a disc road bike for the summer. So it made a lot of sense to get it fixed because that bike serves that utility. So if you know, if it’s a bike that you want to keep for a long time and you have components you like on it, then it’s almost no question repair is usually the way to go. But if an upgrade is then your future and we can help you figure that out, Hey, then we’re happy to do that too.

So we talked a bit about the assessment process and the repair process, and you alluded to a couple of different options. You can just get the black carbon put on the frame, if you just kind of want that. You know, I don’t care what my mountain bike looks like on the down tube kind of phenomenon. But I also saw on your site, some immaculate paint matching and repair work you’ve done on some beautiful bicycles. Are you guys doing that in house? Are you working with someone local to you?

No, we do it all in house. The hard way, uh, growing our paint department was kind of a very hard and painstaking process because bike painting is it’s socks. Um, it’s super hard. Yeah, there’s no shortcuts. And you know, you could go to an auto body shop, people that can paint cars, they all think they can paint bikes. And the idea of there’s people that can paint flat things. There’s people that paint round things. And there’s two different words. And we know almost all the bike, major bike painters that are independent bike painters in the country as well. They’d say the same thing like spring a tube is so different spraying a quarter panel, a, you know, on like a card or something. And laying graphics is so hard. So we grew everything internally, painstakingly very, very painstakingly and learning how cheap paints will kind of screw you some days versus expensive paints or cheap clear codes versus expensive clear codes.

And I don’t think the average person knows how expensive paint or clear coat is, but some of our paints are, you know, if you’re talking about like half a pint, you know, it’s almost 70, 80 bucks. Uh, and our clear coats are almost $500 for a gallon. And it’s like, yeah, they last a while, but they don’t last that long. You’re maybe talking like five to 10 full bikes, maybe, um, depending how many bronze and clear you want to shoot this. Stuff’s just very expensive and the guns are expensive. You know, they’re, you’re in a thousand to 2000 bucks just for the gun air compressor. And Oh, I could go forever about this, but luckily we have a great painter in house. You could just freakishly max a match, everything under the sun, all the insane specialized, uh, glitter coats that are doing right now, the shimmer codes we’ve done all the Thermo chromic paints where they change color with different heat signature. Oh, Dan’s bike actually changes with different colors. He does. Yep. Wow. All,

I think I was looking at a picture of a [inaudible] on your site that was beautifully color match and had an intricate pin, like a pin Stripe line through the color. It was, it was insane. And from the picture it looked brand new.

Some of those coal Naga restorations are absolutely the fine are some of our painters finest work there, boy, they’re not cheap. Um, but at that point, you know, and the owners even agree with us. It’s like, you’re doing a classic car at that point. So, you know, why would you want to do it inexpensively anyway, you want it to be proper and in its pristine condition and he has the ability to do it. Um, yeah, they’re, they’re, they’re not cheap and they take a long time, but the end result is boy, if they look the third doing some of the photography around here, those are some of the best bikes to shoot. Cause it’s an endless amount of detail that we have to do to them. So yeah, we, uh, we have quite the range of, of, uh, finishing that we’re able to achieve here. Be it the most basic vinyl and, and get it out as quickly as possible to, you know, uh, hand pin striping [inaudible] but yeah, he does it all. It’s pretty, it’s pretty, pretty wild.

Yeah. I’ll put, I’ll put some photos up on, on Instagram and Facebook and I’ll obviously put your URL in the show notes so people can go over and it out before

We go tonight, do you guys have any sort of funny or outlandish stories from the over 13,000 bikes you guys have inspected, that would be fun to share on the podcast. Poof,

There’s so many, we’ve seen stuff from a lot of pro racers, so like very household names, um, from the pro tour, even we even have one in the shop right now, those from the tour de France last year. Um, so do stuff on that level. I just saw there was a repair request from today of a guy that like ended while doing a manual at 25 miles an hour to show off is to show off in front of his 11 year old. Uh, I don’t know. I mean, there’s a lot of great stories are like peop bikes have gone through forest fires and boy, I dunno, what do you got damn.

The one of our classic favorites is, uh, I think we tell this story every time, but it’s, it’s so great. Somebody dropped an industrial waffle iron on their top tube and broke it and that’s all we got. And that’s why it’s one of my favorite stories because there’s so much intrigue and mystery into the details of this story, full iron. Why, how big is it? How, how many waffles can it make? Why do you have, what were you doing? What kind of waffles did you make? Right. So that’s the mystery also, where are they? Uh, that one’s great. Um, some of boy, I mean, we’ve seen somebodies beloved house cat chew through their seat’s day sounds. I mean, the stories we see you can’t make up. Um, I’m also thinking of, um, on the inspection side, one of the thing, one time we, we, somebody brought in a damaged bike and it had some issues or in front of, uh, or excuse me, kind of like right behind the bottom bracket on the chain stay.

And Sean did the ultrasound scan and was like, this is, I don’t know about this. This is pretty bizarre. And right along the crack line, we found a piece of pre preg backing paper that wasn’t mold that was molded into the laminate. Um, and Shaun’s ultrasound readings were, were totally wild. He was like, I don’t know what to say. I’ve never seen anything like this. And it was like, I forget what brand it was, but it was an older bike, like 2010 or 2009. Uh, yeah, prepregs backing paper in the laminate. And that’s exactly where the damage occurred. Um, we’ve found tons of dirt in bikes from the factory. Those are

Inside the frame, like closed off and we poured out like, I think it was like 90 grams of dirt. And we were like, okay,

This bike is brand new. You’re like, how did all this?

And then also imagine you get the, uh, I drove my car into a parking garage.

Well, daily, weekly, yeah. At least one at least once or twice a week. Every, every, every once a week. But that one, yeah, that’s a full inspection. Those are always full inspections. So if you’re listening and you did that, don’t yeah. We know, you know, don’t think it’s going to be okay that you just hit your car into a house, even if it was only five miles an hour. Yeah. I just say you take like

Moveable object of your house and like a 4,000 pound car and then a 20 pound bike. And you’re like, alright, that’s going to stop.

But all that apparently. All right. Yeah. It’s simple. All the time we saw, we, we have seen people doing like longer descents, uh, who have hit deer who have hit deer before. Uh, also also a full inspection, definitely full inspection. Those bikes can be pretty, I don’t know, but sometimes we do the full inspection and Sean and I joke about this all the time. It’s like, sometimes they’re, there’s nothing wrong with them and you know, it’s, it’s not every time we do a full inspection, the bike is completely smoked. Um, you know, oftentimes they’re, they’re totally okay. But at least people are able to walk away with that peace of mind. And, and now that now, now they know they have the safety to do all their favorite rides again. But yeah, we’ve seen so many wild things over the years. That’s awesome.

Well, I appreciate all the information you guys, there’s a lot of fun for me to learn about carbon repair. I think one of the takeaways specifically for our listeners who are obviously the majority gravel, cyclists, is just pay attention to that tire diameter and mud damage.

I have one more for you as well. Yeah. Yeah. Uh, drops chainstays. It’s all the rage be careful.

And how do you see that playing out with the drop stays? Cause that is a design feature in a lot of these gravel bikes. I know

I was actually looking about like, I like to do a just review and analysis and thinking about drop chain stays versus res chainstays, you know, like on the Trek, uh, stash has a raised chainstay and I’m like, okay, that totally removes the chain suck issue. But with the drop chain state, it kinda like puts it more in harm’s way. And I think people are trying to run a 1x system, which I love 1x systems. But when you try to maximize your chain ring side, let’s say you go to a 38 on a drop chain, stay on a like standard road with bike. You’re playing with fire a little bit. Um, and you start to see, you know, like you’re bouncing along. And even if you have a clutch or whatever, I don’t think it really matters. Um, either way the chain kind of comes up a little bit on the bottom lower side of the chainring and it just comes right into that chance today.

So I would like to say like, give yourself

A little more room or you may not be that.

Okay.

I dunno, stoked, but maybe run a slightly smaller chainring. Like go down to six, maybe. Um, give yourself a little more room there. Just get that chain away from that drop chain state.

Yeah. This comes from being a lot of these. Yeah. Next time I’m grinding some mud through my chainstays. I’m going to have a little bit of fear in my heart after talking to you guys. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. It’s an easy fix. So just let us know Craig, you can just let us know, just keep pedaling if anything happened. Just peddle through it. That’s my alright guys. Well, I appreciate you joining me live and I appreciate the insight for our listeners take care and we’ll, we’ll talk again soon. All right. Thank you so much. See you guys. Thank you. Bye bye.

2 comments on “Podcast: Ever wondered about repair options for a Carbon Frame? – Meet Ruckus Composites

  1. Highly recommend Ruckus. I sent a Niner frame to them to punch a hole for an internal dropper. They did that and found and fixed a damaged spot that I could see. Few years out and everything is doing great.

    Closer to this site’s focus I sent them my 3T Exploro to inspect after 2 very hard years of gravel racing. The price for this piece of mind was very reasonable. Especially as they found the beginning of delamination in the steerer. This was not repairable but 3T was great to work with on a replacement. No issues in the frame and I raced it through the next season until I crashed extremely hard (season ending) and got a crash replacement for this year.

    Thanks Ruckus!

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