THE CHINA EXPERIMENT

by Atty. Fortun


Posted on September 17, 2017


tourino

Sometime in March 2017, a member of Road Bike Pilipinas (a Facebook closed group of cycling enthusiasts) had asked for feedback from those who have tried using replica China-made carbon frames.  This request for feedback was immediately deluged by highly critical comments from people who obviously had NO such prior experience in using replica frames, but were quick to make a critique based on articles and videos posted on Youtube or cycling journals.

In the Philippine cycling milieu, the sale of fake or replica products has become pretty prevalent, simply because of the available demand for the same brought about by the Filipino cyclist's general lack of financial capacity to purchase the authentic item.  In several instances, would-be buyers are vociferously warned to stay away from such purchases, usually citing poor quality control.  The doomsayers would even label these China-made replicas as deathtraps ("buwis-buhay") and warn of possible collapse of the fork ends during high-speed descents.  I had asked these opinion makers if they had personal knowledgeof the factual basis of their claim of poor quality control, but nobody gave a definitive answer.  I also asked if there has been an actual case of a Filipino rider suffering serious injuries as a result of a structural breakdown of a replica frame/fork made in China, and no information came.  Truth to tell, the only KNOWN report (in the Philippine setting) of structural failure was that of a triathlete whose carbon fork on a Cervelo frame broke into two.  This triathlete claimed that he purchased the frame in Hong Kong for the price of an original.  However, Cervelo claimed that what was purchased was a high-priced fake.

In February 2017, I was able to speak to a Chinese businessman who was looking into the possibilities of investing in the Philippines, specifically, to set up a Carbon factory in the country.  He showed me photos and videos of work that they did in various industries INCLUDING the cycling business.  I further got to exchange communications with several Filipinos who not only had first-hand knowledge about the production processes of bicycle frames in both Taiwan and China (including arrangements they have with some known bike brands!), but also those who had been using China-made replica frames for several years now.

There were conflicting reports on how the fork broke.  Some said that the cyclist had a collision; others claim that the fork broke by itself.

In light of the inputs I had obtained (which shall remain confidential to preserve the integrity of the trans-national arrangements mentioned herein), I decided that it was time to "break the myth" about the quality of China-made frames.  I would purchase and test one frame -- a replica Bianchi Oltre XR4 -- and subject the same to the stresses that would be placed by a non-competitive Filipino cyclist who would use his bicycle only during weekends.  The choice of frame was purely random; I just liked the color (Celeste Green).  I was fortunate that I was given the chance to test an ORIGINAL Bianchi Oltre XR4 as well, to enable me to make a full comparison between an original and a fake frame.

To reduce the possibility of a crash due to substandard equipment, I equipped the China-made frame (which arrived in early April 2017) with only the best parts -- a Campagnolo Super Record 11-speed groupset, Fulcrum Zero wheels on Continental GP4000 tires alternating them with Zipp 404 Firecrests with Michelin Pro tires, Cinelli Ram 2 integrated handlebars, a FizikArioneR1 saddle and Look Keo pedals.  The test runs will NOT be done in a controlled environment; instead, they were to be conducted in full view of the general public, who would be ready witnesses on the kind of terrain that the bike will go through.  I wanted the bike to be subjected to the rigors of smooth and rough roads, steep inclines and high-speed descents, in the heat and in the rain.

As the results will show, this China-madecarbon frame was used in the following rides totaling 917 kilometers, and had the following results:

  1. April 15,2017 -- Las Pinas to Tagaytay (via Aguinaldo Hiway) and back, a total of 87.98km; moving time of 24.3kph average, with a 58.8kph max descent. No problems encountered, and no bike noises observed.
  2.   April 22,2017 -- Angeles, Pampanga to Olongapo and back, a total of 150km; moving time of 25.4kph average, with a 62.7kph max descent.  No problems encountered, and no bike noises observed.
  3. April 29,2017 -- Pagbilao to General Luna (Quezon) and back, a total of 160km; moving time of 25.2kph average, with a 61.2kph max descent. No problems encountered, and no bike noises observed.
  4. May 8,2017 -- Las Pinas to Tagaytay (via Amadeo) and back, a total of 89.2 km; moving time of 25.7kph average, with a 59.8kph max descent. No problems encountered, no bike noises observed, but I noticed some seat post slippage after the ride.
  5. May 11,2017 -- Las Pinas to Tagaytay (via Aguinaldo Hiway) and back, a total of 76.57km; moving time of 25.3kph average, with a 58.1kph max descent. No problems encountered, no bike noises observed, but agains some seat post slippage noticeable after the ride.
  6. May 13,2017 -- Alabang to Nagcarlan, Laguna and back, a total of 142.9km; moving time of 21.7kph average through Laguna traffic, with a 58.3kph max descent. 1 derailment of the chain encountered, but no bike noises observed.
  7. May 20,2017 -- Olongapo to Masinloc, Zambales and back, a total of 210.4km; moving time of 25.8kph average in rainy weather, with a 60.5kph max descent. 1 derailment of the chain encountered, but no bike noises observed.

    MY CONCLUSIONS:

     

    1. Nothing beats buying an original frame, if you can afford it. Having tested the original Oltre XR4 and this replica, I can categorically state that the original frame is much more comfortable to use, with up to 80% of the road vibration dampened by the Countervail technology.  This technology was NOT present in the replica frame.  How good is the original?  I can liken the ride to walking on carpet -- you can still feel the bumps, but the same is silky smooth.  Countervail technology is THAT good.

     

    1. At least for this one frame, the allegation that a replica China-made frame is a deathtrap is a myth. I cannot make any general conclusions about the quality of China frames (in the same manner that even legitimate bike brands can give a 100% guarantee on the superior quality of authentic frame) nor do I desire to make one.  But any sweeping generalizations as to the poor quality of China-made replica frames will have to contend with the results of this test as a rebuttal.

     

    Unlike those cycling articles and YouTube videos, Filipino cyclists had a chance to see this bike up-close and could attest to how it performed.  Thousands had seen me use the replica over roads that they themselves passed through.  These thousands are the impartial judges; I am merely the test pilot.

     

    POSTSCRIPT:

    I had written this article in June 2017.  Since then, I have used the replica alternately with my original Oltre XR4, and my opinion about the 2 frames have not changed.  In fact, on 9th September 2017, I went down from Sierra Madre Hotel back to SM Masinag and attained my current land speed record of 76kph – using the replica Oltre XR4.


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