More stories about potentially deadly carbon bikes emerge after Stanton case

bike flaw

A hidden flaw in his $4000 bike, undetectable by mechanics, caused the death of Richard Stanton in Canberra, Australia.

After his story was published on, we received many other stories about similar accidents which could have ended in the same tragic way.

Here’s the story of Ian Johnson, a 46-year-old cyclist who had a very similar accident last December.

“I had a very similar accident last December- catastrophic failure of my fork steerer, luckily I survived receiving only sprains abrasions, damage to my neck and a period of unconsciousness.

I am an experienced cyclist 46 years old. I had owned the bike from new and it had been festidiousy cared for. It was 5 years old and never damaged. The manufacturer and dealer did not want to know. It has taken me a long time to regain my confidence. I did some searching on the internet and no one seems able to give a good answer about how long these parts last for or when they should be changed. It is a real concern people are being maimed killed and no one seems able to give a guarantee that the parts will last.”, Ian told Cycling Today.

“Whilst riding my Boardman limited edition team carbon on the 06.12.15 on the Old West Coast road my forks suddenly failed whilst I was riding at roughly 28kmh my usual cruising speed. The road was smooth and the weather conditions were good sun and a moderate headwind.

At the time of the catastrophic and unexpected failure of the forks I was seated with my hand on the brake hoods, my normal riding position. Initially following the failure I was left with the handlebars in my hands. The forks lurched forwards. At this point I realised I had no control and tried to unclip my right foot. The last thing I recall was the bike beginning to fall over to the right and putting my hands out. I can only surmise that as I ended up with my feet facing the direction of travel I completed some sort of shoulder roll on impact with the course tar seal.

The next thing I remember is coming waking up in the middle of the road and moving as quickly as I could to the grass verge having collected my bike from some way behind me and to the left of where I landed.

On closer inspection I realised that the fork stearer tube had failed above the insert in it coming up from the forks and was horrified. My cycling gloves, shorts and jersey were damaged my helmet also showed signs of contact with the road”.

This may seem alarmist, but let’s admit that there is no easy way to dismiss the risk of a catastrophic failure for any fork at the moment. While many riders will be quick to appreciate the importance of replacing an aging fork, most will be left wondering when to do it and there is no easy answer to this question.


  1. Considering the Boeing 787 is made from carbon fiber, it is much more likely that this is a design/engineering or manufacturing defect.

    Look for a company that provides a lifetime guarantee on their frame.

  2. A pity there is no edit facility here. Just to make it crystal clear, you drill only the wood to enable the brake ‘camshaft’ to go through as before to the existing holes in the fork. The wood should also be pressed in, not hammered and done by someone competent with access to a wood turning lathe. The steerer failure in question which prompted this question seems to have failed midway between the two main stress points, bottom race and the stem clamp, not at the bottom race (where most steel forks usually fail). The Stem plug does not have to be set far enough down the steerer tube to compromise much of the benefit the wood would give to support the area around the stem pinch bolts and a small blind 5mm hole at the top of the wooden shaft will not impede the expander bolt. Sods law being as it is, I strongly recommend that anyone wishing to make such an alteration take their bike to a reputable cycling dealer to complete the work.

  3. My friend and I where out riding when his fork failed resulting in he broke his hand spoke went through his hand has I was following him I hit him at30mph down hill broke my collar bone both had cuts and stuff.and the manufacturer…. boardman did not want to no or did the shop where he got form Alfords tuck 6months and he had to sign a gagging order to get a nee bike.

  4. Carbon laminates have a very long service life, but only if the structural part is used precisely as intended. Its very likely the steering tube was damaged before installation then failed catastrophically during normal use. For example if the steering tube was crushed laterally by impact with assembly tooling or during shipping, the fracture is there but not visible to the naked eye. X-ray or ultrasound will locate it. In a scenario like this the tube fatigue life is cut way short and the tube fails under normal use unexpectedly.

  5. I thought of sticking a piece of wood down my carbon steerer tube a long time ago as I once had to replace my front forks on the Colnago due to a hairline fracture on the carbon steerer tube at the bit where the stem is attachached to it. I was accused of overtightening the Allen bolts but I can assure you this was not the case!! I did eventually get it replaced under warranty….. Now my point is that steerer tube failures will happen at the stem plate interface where there is most stress especially if one uses a 46cms wide handlebar!! No block of wood from the end of a broom or rolling pin will sufficiently be of any use because you will not be able to fit a stem plug otherwise, and yes, it is at that critical area where you need the block of wood for any benefit!!! Unless you CNC a stem plug yourself and have it drilled into the block of wood, I don’t see any other way!

  6. OLD SCHOOL WISDOM The old trick that anyone who raced on Belgian cobbles learned was that fork failures were the worst nightmare on a bike and more common ‘over there’. Shit happens and always will, the trick is not to let it happen to you. What the Belgians did was to ‘friction fit’ (ie hammer in) a piece of a good wooden broomstick down the steerer tube and drill through for your front brake. Wood does not fatigue, and acts as a failsafe support. I’ve always done it to my bikes – including my carbon Whistle Creek, to be sure, to be sure.

  7. It’s not just carbon forks. The hollow shimano crank on my Trek Domano snapped as I entered a flat roundabout here in the uk. I tumbled forward and my helmet probably saved me from a severe head injury if not worse. As it was I had severe concussion and don’t remember most of my visit to the ER.

  8. It is a more probable indicator that you are pushing the life span of the materials by looking for weight savings. Unless you are riding competitions then use a sturdier design or keep buying new ones.

  9. This article could use some input from someone who really knows carbon like Leonard Zinn or Burt Hull – both of which have helped other publications when they have such questions.

    It’s much more likely that this fork was either not produced/engineered properly than it failed from age/cycles.

    • 100% chance it was either a manufacturing/engineering error or installation mistake. I rode a Kestrel EMS fork for over 50,000 miles. At that point, I contacted Kestrel and asked them if I should be concerned about the mileage. Their reply was that, as long as I had never damaged the fork that I could ride it for another 50,000 miles. Now, the EMS had an alloy steerer, and was a bit heavier than current designs, but I think the point remains.


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