Mass-produced carbon-fiber frames are the polar opposite of the hand made steel bespoke world. With one you know everything about what goes into the finished product, with the other, you know nothing. The opacity that shrouds the production of carbon-fiber frames breeds cynicism. It could be anything.
Adding to the difficulty of understanding what goes into a carbon-fiber frame is the outsourced, multi-national nature of scaled production these days. Is the finished frame the result of an idea from somebody at the name on the down tube, or from the anonymous factory they used, or a third party who sold one or both a concept? Not helping is the fact that it’s impossible to tell what’s going on underneath the top coat be it clear, or woven, or painted. I remember the early days of carbon-fiber soled shoes. When my Northwave soles eventually demonstrated that the pretty weave was just a decorative top layer, I was left asking if what I was seeing was carbon-fiber or plastic.
Further muddying the waters are cheap frames coming out China. Enter the Chinarello. $634 for the Dogma coming from Great Keen Bike versus $4900 for a Dogma coming from Competitive Cyclist is an 87% discount. A steal. Further proof that the cynics are right and that big bike companies are out to scam us all. Those wise to the scam are hot to stick it to the man and get the frameset at its real price.
Maybe it was stolen or spirited out in some fashion. The few attempts to peel back the shroud covering Asian-made frames indicate there are vast factories churning out goods for many different brands; one company even claims to have made all three frames that took cyclists to the podium of the 2008 Tour. If you want to know more names of factories that produce for popular brands, the Cycling IQ article should get you started.
There are stories that these could be frames that failed quality control tests and were slated to be ground into dust but were spirited out of the factory. Or maybe disgruntled employees walked some out. Or that this is the result of entrepreneurial workers making some extra frames when the molds are otherwise unused.
We know for sure that people are buying them. Not only are there reports on Road Bike Review, but the Italian Cycling Journal has posted warnings. In two parts. (Part one, Part two.” Cycling IQ has a great piece on the matter, describing Chinarello as “the lead character in a new online fantasy world where eager players can select a favourite bicycle hero, dress him with a personalized costume – or leave him in default stealth black – then acquire tools (called ‘components’ in this game) that give their hero increasing mobility as they navigate an increasing array of obstacles enroute to rewards, status and ultimate victory.”
Gita, the US importer of Pinarello, gets calls from shops asking what’s going on with these frames. People have brought shops these frames to assemble into bikes and there are problems. Poorly-finished frames that have trouble going together, present oddities like conventional 27.2mm seat post and English-threaded bottom brackets. Not a surprise, as you can see a front derailleur tab assembled backwards on the Great Keen site.
I wrote the Chinarello people, inquiring about a 56cm Dogma. They responded quickly, informed me it was in stock, and attached an invoice that included paint, decal, seat post, headset, and shipping. Yes, I can get the Chinarello Mad Dog decals or Pinarello Dogma. It also is threaded for English bottom brackets. Should take about 10-15 days to arrive. If we prefer using PayPal, add 4% to the cost. In a follow up, I asked how to know if this is the real thing. They responded, “this is copy frame!”
The cynics will think this is another lie told to protect overpriced gear.