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ti473

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Posts: 26
Reply with quote  #1 
Hello folks,
I never really do any reviews or anything like this, but I feel like I've been an information leach over the years, and it was time to give back. I got some good knowledge from the Carbonda thread, but since this is not a Carbonda, I figured I'd start its own.

Firstly the main purpose for which I chose this bike: I wanted a do-it-all bike that I could take with when I go visit my family in Italy once or twice a year. There's all kinds of riding there: mountains, flats, gravel, road, dirt, you name it. And since I can only bring one bike, something like this would be my best bet. An Open UP would have been amazing, but I had a much lower budget for this, as I might even end up leaving it there. So I figured... what better part to skimp on than the least important one?? So I started researching the Chinese frame route.

There were other middle ground options like some nice steel framesets, but I couldn't find any with 650B x 2.1" clearance. I may not need such a wide tire, but there's definitely a lot more rubber options when you go up to 2.1". Plus I thought this frame looked really cool, it is essentially this  http://meritbikes.com/en/gravel-plus/
Other brands/models that you may find this under are:

Workswell WCB-R-125
Faraoll GF-001
Tideace FM-CX072

There were slightly variations between all these (BB shell size, and frame bosses locations mostly), I am sure they are all made in the same factory though.

Even Smile Team had two different versions listed of this, I ordered the one with less bosses on the frame, but I received the one with more. I kind of expected it be honest, I figured that was the most updated version and probably what I'd get, no big deal really.

I ordered mine through Aliexpress, and I must say the process was super easy and quick.
No lengthy sign up procedures, and I felt like I was pretty protected if something went south.
I got it in plain matte black, no fancy custom colors, and the delivery time was outstanding. I placed the order on Jan 30th, bike shipped on the 2nd I think, arrived to the States (San Fran) on the 7th and delivered to my work near Chicago on the 9th. Mailman even made a second trip to my office in the middle of a snowstorm. Who ever said USPS was slow??

Anyway, I got home and I unpacked it, here are some pics:

IMG_20180209_202645.jpg  IMG_20180209_202731.jpg  IMG_20180209_213214.jpg 

This was the first moment of truth, so I started looking at this thing with a very scrupulous eye, as it was my first Chinese frame. Now that I think about it, my first frameset period as I normally just buy complete bikes. I was pretty excited about getting this actually, almost if it was some kind of S-Works or Titanium exotic. I think they main reason for the excitement was that, after reading so many mixed reviews,  I'd finally get to satisfy my own curiosity about generic name brand carbon. I was fully prepared that my $540 might be pissed into the wind (and that's still a possibility), but I was willing to take that chance.

Overall, my first impression was "ok/decent". It had a bit of that "cheap Chinese" feel, which I will expand on shortly, but I think it's something I can live with. Mostly it comes from the aluminum small parts and the paint job. Bear in mind that right now what you see is all there is to it, but once the bike is fully built I think the focus will shift off of these things. 
As far as the paint job, it is not terrible, nor it is great. I was expecting more of a raw finish, but it's not that; it's just painted matte black, which I feel like could hide some of the flaws.

What I am about to point out may make me sound like I was disappointed, but I assure you I am not. When you get into something like this it's all about the expectations I believe. If you go into a fancy steakhouse and they serve you a Whopper JR and charge you $80 dollar for it, you might be pissed, but if you go to Burger King and order a Whopper JR you may not think it's that bad. And If I wanted a steak I would have got an Open UP (which is also made in China btw) and paid 5 times as much.
My purpose here is simply to educate people that are looking into going this route on what they may be expecting.
Anyway, to me the real test will be the carbon itself: how the bike will ride and mostly how safe and durable will be. Remember... Italy... Alps... (if I don't report back to you by mid June it's safe to say this didn't go well by the way)

I did take some close up shots to kind or illustrate what I meant about "cheap Chinese feel". 

This was the insert for the bottom cable cover screw. It would get in the way of a sleeve type BB (which I will be using), so I dremelled it off to less than a MM. It doesn't leave many threads for the screw (which I had to grind off as well), but hopefully with some locktite it won't fall off or strip.
IMG_20180209_213246.jpg  IMG_20180211_114358.jpg  

These are the thru-axles: looks like they probably use the same axles for Boost spacing and they just change the collar, hence why it's so bulky. Not really that big of a deal though.

IMG_20180211_114416.jpg  

Speaking of axles, the rear didn't really slide very well into the dropouts (haven't even tried the front yet). The tolerances were pretty tight and the dropouts were slightly misaligned, again I can live with all that, it's not that far off. What is weird is that the collar/nut where the axle threads into has a smaller OD than the ID of the dropout where it slides into. There's a threaded hole for a set screw but it wouldn't really do you any good once you take the axle off, as the nut/collar would just fall off.
Fitting the nut backwards is not an option as the flange OD is too big, but maybe it can just be machined down to size.
Either way, another example of cheap Chinese and poorly engineered part. Again, I can live with all this though, just a matter of some fiddling.

IMG_20180211_114310.jpg  

They were kind enough to send me an extra hanger (I asked for two, which I would have gladly paid for, but hey, one is better than nothing right?). Also here's the seat clamp... Hey, thanks for pre stratching it with a drill bit to provide that needed extra friction... Not really sure what to think of that, but whatever, as long as it works and doesn't slip, I don't care, only time will tell.

IMG_20180211_114537.jpg  

Head tube: just some paint over spray, could have been worse I guess (some carbonda guys reported some carbon fraying in this area)

IMG_20180211_115654.jpg  IMG_20180211_115730.jpg  

I saved the best for last... This is my only major concern actually and would like to hear your feedback on this. I looked down the seat tube and there's some good carbon fraying where they drilled holes for the bosses.... not good. What do you think? I am not sure what the top and down tube look like, but there are bosses on those too, and I don't have a scope to look in there.

IMG_20180211_115040.jpg  seattube.jpg 




That's all I got for now. I am waiting for a few more parts or I would be building it this weekend, I didn't expect it to come in so quickly. Will report back once fully built and once ridden. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions, even if they don't pertain to this particular model but to the whole Chinese frame buying experience.

Thanks!

Bonus pic... someone is eager to route some internal cables...


IMG_20180209_213413.jpg 




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Lovetoride

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Posts: 2
Reply with quote  #2 
Hi ti473

Thanks for the info on your gravel frame purchase. I recently ordered the same frame and are still waiting for mine. Can you perhaps confirm if the frame is made for flat mount brakes or post mount? If I look at it it looks like flat mount. Do you perhaps have some more photo's of how the bike is built up with components?

Thanks!
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ti473

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Posts: 26
Reply with quote  #3 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lovetoride
Hi ti473

Thanks for the info on your gravel frame purchase. I recently ordered the same frame and are still waiting for mine. Can you perhaps confirm if the frame is made for flat mount brakes or post mount? If I look at it it looks like flat mount. Do you perhaps have some more photo's of how the bike is built up with components?

Thanks!


Hey there, yes it's a flat mount frame and fork. You can use post mount brakes on it with the adapters, just not the other way around.
And I haven't built it yet, I am waiting for a couple more parts, but I'll post pictures when it's built. Probably by this weekend
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Lovetoride

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Posts: 2
Reply with quote  #4 
Cool, thanks for the info. Just one more question. What cranks are you going to fit on them? I'm thinking of going with sram force 1 groupset but aren't sure if I must get the GXP crank with an adapter or the BB30 crank to go with the BB386 bottom bracket of the frame.
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ti473

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Posts: 26
Reply with quote  #5 
I have 2 sets of sram cranks both with bb30 spindles that I may use. They have slightly different spindle lengths, I believe the shorter one will fit better as it is exactly the same length of a set of FSA 386 specific cranks I had laying around. I may have to swap spindles though because the other set are the crank size I want to use (172.5). SRAM made a lot of crank variations in terms of spindles and spiders...
Personally I wouldn't use spindle adapters as I find they may creak or make funny noises. If you haven't got the bottom bracket yet, wheelsmfg makes 386 shell BB (46 mm OD) with bearings for either GXP or Shimano (and of course 30mm spindles). I wouldn't use the Chinese supplied BB anyway.
Did you get this frame from Smile Team? I noticed that other suppliers like WorksWell offer the same exact frame but with the smaller BB86 shell. I went with the SmileTeam because I already had the bottom bracket laying around. Either name is equally as ridiculous anyway...
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ti473

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Posts: 26
Reply with quote  #6 
IMG_20180223_234559.jpg 
Got some progress done today. Not quite there yet though, I'm still missing a couple of things.

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