The issue of counterfeit carbon frames has popped up in media a few times in the past couple years…typically along with disconcerting images of separated head tubes. Sometimes people get them from eBay, or maybe they’re searching the deep web for an impossibly good deal. Or maybe they realize the deal’s too good to be true. Maybe they just want something that looks like the object of their desire. Or even more, maybe their cynicism has assured them that brand identity or no, all carbon bikes are the same anyways. Me? I don’t think it’s any marvel of craftsmanship or industrial science to make a serviceable carbon road frame that weighs a bit more than 3.5-lbs. Maybe not a highly tuned ride, but you know…if you had the know-how, the moulds, and some acceptable carbon fabric…didn’t try to save on the resin cost by cutting it with pudding mix or something…you could make a frame that might not fall apart. But I don’t think you can make a frame like an S-Works Tarmac, tuned ride and sub-kilo weight, for a fraction of Specialized’s costs and expect it to hold together. Personally I’d rather get an open mould, no-name carbon frame rather than some cheesy, knock-off Pinarello, but I’d then again, there are so many other easily available metal frames out there, new or used, that it’s difficult for me to imagine a scenario in which I would seriously consider doing that. I don’t know…maybe I’d need a carbon frame to practice painting techniques or some shit.
You know what counterfeit carbon items I wouldn’t buy? Handlebars or stems. Even respectable companies have some difficulty making proper examples out of carbon, so I’m not about to put one on my bike. I’ve seen a fair number of bars and stems fail, and when they do the situation can go bad real fast. So I’m puzzled why fake label carbon bars and stems litter eBay. And some of them are so laughably bad at imitating premium components….like Louis Vuitton bags made from a recycled naugahyde sofa…that I cannot but wonder if people aren’t buying them as a joke.
3T and ENVE seem to be among the more common targets for counterfeiters. The item below is so obviously not ENVE, I can’t fathom how someone could simultaneously recognize the value of the ENVE brand name and yet be so unfamiliar with their actual product. Hint: ENVE doesn’t make an integrated dropbar/stem.
In the early 1990s when I joined the cycling scene, the preeminence of Italian design had already begun waning. The mountainbike boom of the 1980s brought a fresh, American perspective to function that contrasted the traditional European aesthetics. The advent of indexed shifting, which favoured integrated component groups, made Shimano the dominant drivetrain maker on the planet. Major brands in the larger markets had moved production of their bread-and-butter framesets to Asia, extending out the supply lines for OEM component manufacturers based in Italy. Unable to tap into the OEM market and slow to adapt to new trends, many smaller Italian companies quietly disappeared. By the time I woke to the scene, there were only three names, all Italian, associated with premium handlebars and stems: Cinelli, 3TTT, and Italmanubri (ITM). And actually, the first two belonged to the same parent company, the Columbo Group, which also owned Columbus tubing. This last point is pertinent when you look for the origins of Deda Elementi.
Before aluminium construction had fully taken hold, Columbus was supplying virtually all of the steel bicycle tubing for Italian-made framesets as well as a large portion of quality bikes worldwide. Then a new company formed in 1992, and it contained certain former members of the Columbo Group. That company was called Dedacciai (“acciai” is the plural form of acciaio, Italian for “steel”). Dedacciai made some good scores, supplying big producers like Bianchi and then readily exploited the aluminium trend in the high-end frame market too. And they introduced their own line cockpit components: Deda Elementi. Deda Elementi’s handlebars and stems had clean, purposeful lines. The company responded timely to newer trends like threadless stems and oversize handlebars. They quite literally put their wares in the hands of the top professional riders of the era. Less obviously, a lot of their product was made in Asia, close to the manufacturing and assembly plants of the biggest global bike brands. Holding the lusty eye of the aftermarket consumer and a generous slice of the OEM market, Deda Elementi found resounding success. Meanwhile Italmanubri was in a market death spiral, going bankrupt in the 2000s. The company once known as Tecno Tubo Turino, 3TTT, had long been the shabby step-sister to Cinelli. Suffering from inept marketing and anemic product development, the brand foundered and was eventually sold off. And Cinelli, once de rigueur for any respectable high performance road bike, was quickly losing relevance to racing.