I’m going to tell you the one question you should ask your favorite bike shop that will give you the best chance of having your carbon frame replaced even when there’s no visible evidence of damage after a vehicle crash.
You’ve invested in the perfect carbon bike, you added all the components you wanted, you service it regularly and take care of it. It has served you well and you thoroughly enjoy riding it. Then on a routine weekly ride at your cruising speed when some driver who said “they never saw you” pulls out in front of you and you crash into them. Hopefully you weren’t hurt, but your bike made a direct hit on the car before crashing to the pavement. You looked it over and it doesn’t seem to have any visible damage. But you’ve heard that carbon frame doesn’t always show visible damage and yet may be unsafe to ride. What do you do now? Should you replace your carbon frame?
I found that many insurance claims adjusters are unfamiliar with dealing with bicycle accident claims and have little information about carbon frames.You shouldn’t have a problem getting your frame replaced when the collision results in obvious frame damage and structure failure. Any claims adjuster will recognize that situation. It isn’t quite that simple when your bike doesn’t show visible evidence of damage. What you need is a recommendation of a qualified bike shop that the frame is unsafe to ride regardless of the absence of physical evidence of injuring.
Most knowledgeable experts will agree that when a carbon frame has a direct hit on a vehicle or some other fixed object, particularly when it’s moving at cruising speeds, there is a likelihood of frame damage which is not visible. Most bike shops I've talked to agree it’s unsafe to ride a bike that has been involved in a crash, particularly one that occurs at cruising speed and may involve not only striking the vehicle but the ground as well.
Here's what I recommend, take your bike to a qualified shop, particularly one where you have a relationship and where you most likely would purchase a replacement frame. Explain how your crash occurred, your speed at impact and the forces involved. Show them pictures of the vehicle if your impact left visible damage on it. Explain to them your concerns about riding the bike again based on your understanding that damage may occur which is invisible to a physical inspection.
Then ask them this question: if this was your bike or the bike of someone you loved, and it was involved in the crash that you just described, in their professional judgment would they consider the bike safe to ride? Would they recommend replacement of the frame because of the real concern of carbon frame damage which a visual inspection would not reveal?
I found that most knowledgeable bike dealers will agree the frame should be replaced. If so, ask them to put their conclusion, and their reasoning (it isn’t safe) on their shop letterhead with the understanding it will go to the claims adjuster for the insurance company of the driver who caused the crash.
It is always possible you may have a dealer who doesn't agree. I had that occur recently on a similar case. If that happens there's nothing to prevent you from taking the bike to another shop and seeking another opinion.
It's my personal opinion it would not be safe to ride a bike which is been involved in a crash with a car or some other fixed object raising the real concerns of damage we’re talking about.
Download and print out this double sided card “Repairing or Replacing Your Bicycle after a Crash,” and keep it in your bike kit, so you are prepared if you ever have a run in with a car.
If you do find yourself the victim of a bike accident, you need to speak with an experienced bicycle accident attorney as soon as possible. Please feel free to contact me online or call me directly at 727.446.0840 to schedule your free consultation.