Bill Strickland recently forwarded me a message he received from a reader named James. “There are more than 2,000 used carbon bikes on Pro’s Closet,” James wrote. “My random sample indicates that 10 to 20 percent have been repaired by Broken Carbon.”

Can Carbon Be Repaired?

Every rider should know that carbon fiber, like any frame material, can break. While a cracked or broken carbon frame once meant the frame’s useful life was over, several services now specialize in repairing damaged carbon frames back into riding condition.

Each carbon repair is a unique situation. When I interviewed Shawn Small, owner of Ruckus Composites, several years ago, he explained that the repair process is almost the same as the process used to build a new carbon frame. The damaged composite is removed and replaced with layers of carbon material that are cured with heat and compression.

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It looks bad but a good repair service will make this frame look good as new.
Kei Tsuji//Getty Images

Carbon frame repairs and finish restoration can be so good that the fix may be difficult, or even impossible, to see. Just look at some of the repairs on Broken Carbon’s Instagram for proof. And although the repaired carbon frame may be just as stiff and strong as the original (albeit slightly heavier), buyers still deserve to know if the product they’re buying is original or repaired.

Unfortunately, there’s no service analogous to CarFax for bicycles where potential buyers can look up a bike’s service and repair history by its serial number (although such a service would be welcome and wonderful.) Without a database, a caveat emptor marketplace of used carbon frames exists where buyers must rely on the seller to be forthright and disclose any known or potential damage or repairs.

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Even broken carbon bikes can ride again.
Doug Pensinger//Getty Images

Though it’s proper to do, I still tip my chapeau to the Pro’s Closet (TPC) for disclosing the repairs in its listings. However, only after you click on the product do you see the repair noted in the description. There’s no way to search for repaired carbon frames or eliminate them from results using TPC’s search tool. However, a Google site search will surface more than 1,600 damaged and repaired carbon bikes for sale, or previously sold, by TPC.

That’s a lot of repaired carbon frames considering TPC’s policy states that they don’t accept “Items with issues that would deem the gear unsellable such as structural flaws in the frame or wheels; or damage that affects carbon or reusability of the item.”

However, Kevin Hemberger, TPC’s vice president of operations, told me, “In the instance that an owner/rider wasn’t aware of carbon damage that we discover during our inbound inspection process we evaluate if the carbon damage can be repaired. If so, will re-offer an amended price to the customer to account for the repair charge.” As you might expect, the amended price is lower than the original offer.

digital tap hammer
A digital tap hammer uses sound to find damage in a carbon fiber composite structure.
Courtesy The Pro's Closet

TPC’s service writers uncover suspected damage during the visual inspection upon intake of bikes, using a digital tap hammer for confirmation. Hemberger added that (although uncommon) TPC rejects some frames it deemed unrepairable and that TPC only sells repaired frames—not repaired carbon forks or wheels—out of a safety concern.

Hemberger says repaired carbon frames sell for less than non-damaged (but otherwise identical) bikes and carry a five-year warranty on the repair from Broken Carbon. Other than those differences, repaired carbon frames have the same guarantee as any other bike TPC sells.

Should You Buy a Repaired Carbon Frame?

I believe (based on my research and interviews) a repair performed by an experienced professional is safe and will last a long time. In addition to Broken Carbon, several other reputable shops like Ruckus, Calfee, and Hex make these repairs. However, I’d pay extra-close attention to the repaired area. Be on the alert for anything that looks even slightly suspicious. Check for discoloration or cracks, plus new and strange noises. I’d tap the area (gently) with a hex wrench and see if it sounds “soft.” And I’d expect to pay less for a repaired carbon frame than an intact version.

I took a quick poll of 13 coworkers, and 62 percent said they would not buy a damaged and professionally repaired frame. Features director Matt Allyn was among the nos.“It’s hard to imagine a situation where a repaired frame is a better deal than an unrepaired used frame,” he said. “I’m open to the idea but highly skeptical, and I would worry about any other hidden damage.”

Among those in the “yes” camp was photo editor John Hamilton, who said he’d purchase a repaired frame, “If it’s from a reputable repair shop and they have details of the repair, then maybe—for a good price.”

It’s easy to understand why someone would be suspicious of a repaired frame and wonder if more damage lurks. But John’s position is also understandable. If a repaired carbon frame truly can be nearly “good as new” as the repair services claim—and cheaper—then why not?

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Matt Phillips
Senior Test Editor, Bicycling

A gear editor for his entire career, Matt’s journey to becoming a leading cycling tech journalist started in 1995, and he’s been at it ever since; likely riding more cycling equipment than anyone on the planet along the way. Previous to his time with Bicycling, Matt worked in bike shops as a service manager, mechanic, and sales person. Based in Durango, Colorado, he enjoys riding and testing any and all kinds of bikes, so you’re just as likely to see him on a road bike dressed in Lycra at a Tuesday night worlds ride as you are to find him dressed in a full face helmet and pads riding a bike park on an enduro bike. He doesn’t race often, but he’s game for anything; having entered road races, criteriums, trials competitions, dual slalom, downhill races, enduros, stage races, short track, time trials, and gran fondos. Next up on his to-do list: a multi day bikepacking trip, and an e-bike race.