We all know the advantages of carbon frames. They are lightweight, strong, durable, comfortable but… very expensive. But don’t worry, if you want to build a bike at an affordable price but still want a high-quality carbon frame, there are actually many brands in China who made their own carbon frames for years and they are cheaper and can be higher in quality than top western bike brand, believe it or not!
Are Chinese carbon frames safe to ride?
Almost all of the top western bike brands have their frame manufactured in China and Taiwan, including Trek, Specialized, Cannondale, and even the “Italian-made” Colnago. There is also Giant, the biggest bike company in the world, a Taiwan company.
So, carbon frames from good Chinese manufacturers are safe to ride. They definitely have the knowledge to build good-quality carbon frames.
The main reason why people have a negative impression of Chinese carbon bikes is because of their price. Oftentimes, cheap things are associated with low quality and this also goes for bicycles as well.
But China is big. While there are many good manufacturers, there are also shady ones. So, if you’re looking for a Chinese carbon frame that you can trust for tens of thousands of kilometers of riding, keep on reading.
Top 7 Chinese Carbon Frame Brands
Here are our top choices for the best carbon road bike frames made in China. We have chosen these brands based on their reputation, experience in producing high-quality products, and customer feedback. These Chinese bike companies also offer more than one frame models to fit different people’s needs with all great value-for-money price tags.
HongFu is one of the top “open mold” bike manufacturers in China. If you’re not familiar with the term, open mold means the design is not licensed so every manufacturer can build and sell frames based on that design.
HongFu is one of the biggest carbon road bike manufacturers with high quality but affordable prices. HongFu has many different models on offer, although most of them are still within reach of an average cyclist’s budget.
One good example would be the HF-FM008-SL model which is a lightweight frame, very popular among weight weenies. Another popular model would be the HF-FM169-F, an aero disc brake frame.
- They offer a wide range of bike frame types to fit your need
- A very popular manufacturer known for their great quality carbon frame
- You can choose the bottom bracket type for all of their models
- The cheapest option compared to everything else on this list
- The website looks outdated and not very user-friendly
- Price unlisted, you need to email them (but their price is generally lower than other names in this list for comparable models)
- Waiting time can be very long if the model you want is not in stock
- No models with a fully integrated cable option (coming soon, maybe?)
- Old designs are still being displayed on their website, choosing the right frame can be confusing
If you’re looking for other open mold carbon frame manufacturers in case HongFu isn’t available or the waiting time is too long, here are some of the most reputable manufacturers:
They share similar pros/cons to HongFu albeit less popular, and some of them have different frame models to choose from.
Velobuild is another well-known brand of carbon frames based in Shenzen, China, and has been building high-quality carbon frames for more than a decade.
They offer a wide range of carbon road bike frames with different models and price ranges for you to choose from. Also, you can order custom-painted frames!
One thing I don’t like about Velobuild is that they started selling replicas instead of open mold or original designs. An example is the VB-R-218, an all-arounder disc/rim brake road bike frameset with a handlebar and stem, and fully integrated cable routing that costs $499. It looks exactly like Pinarello Dogma F with the exception of the small parts.
Another example is the VB-R-168 which looks a lot similar to Specialized Tarmac SL7 other than the head tube and fork.
- A more user-friendly online shopping experience (although, no HTTPS in today’s day and age is worrying)
- Solid warranty and return policy
- Not just open mold design, but they also design their own frames
- Custom painted selection in stock
- A wide arrange of choices from lightweight rim brakes, endurance, aero, and time trial, they have it all
- Custom paint quality is not the best. It’s better to buy the frame unpainted and then bring them to a well-known local bike painter if you care about looks
- Quality control on metal parts is not good
- Cable routing on integrated barstem and steerer on replicas can be frustrating compared to the originals
3. Elves Bike
Elves is highly popular in South East Asian countries and is quickly gaining popularity in the west for their high quality yet affordable carbon road bike frames.
Two notable frames from their range are the lightweight Vanyar and the aero Falath. Both are available in disc and rim brake variations. All their frames are UCI certified and they also sponsor pro teams.
The Vanyar frame weighs around 780g unpainted, which is considered super low even if you compare it to top-level bikes. It can easily be built into a 6.8kg road bike. The Falath with its all-internal cable routing looks very aero and not at all dissimilar to aero bikes from top brands.
- Distributors all around the world
- UCI approved and proven by pro teams
- The build quality and paint job are near flawless
- 5-year warranty for frame, fork, seatpost, and components. So much better than most brands
- Never seem to run out of stocks
- More expensive than open molds, but still cheaper than branded Chinese frames. But for most people, the price difference is worth it for frames with this quality
- Sizes run small. The largest size has a 563 mm top tube
Once an unbranded carbon frame seller, they are now one of the most popular Chinese road bike brands known for the high-end carbon road bike frames with unique designs and great quality parts that you can only find in higher price brackets elsewhere. Their bikes are more expensive than other manufacturers on this list, but they are definitely still worth it.
- Great customer service with quick response time to inquiries within 24 hours
- Solid warranty and return policy if you are not happy with their products after purchase
- Their frames are UCI approved
- Their customers are generally delighted with the quality and performance of their bikes
- More expensive than other Chinese brands on this list, but not as expensive as western brands
- Not many models are available
- Should be your last choice if budget is tight
Winspace is more well-known for its Hyper wheels which offer great value for amazing rim and hubs quality. They also have their own carbon road bike frames which have been popular among people who want high quality yet affordable carbon frames. Just like Yoeleo, they are quite a bit more expensive than the other “unbranded” frames.
- Great quality and service, with free replacement for defective products
- High-end carbon road bike frames at affordable prices
- Their frames are UCI approved
- Winspace is a more well-known brand for a Chinese company even in the western market
- More expensive than other unbranded Chinese frame manufacturers
- Only offers two road models as of right now: one lightweight and one aero frame
ICAN is another brand from Shenzen, China which offers high-quality carbon road bike frames at an affordable price. Not as expensive as Yoeleo and Winspace, but still more expensive than open mold manufacturers. ICAN has been gaining popularity among customers in North America lately because of its high-quality frames. They brand their frames as Triaero, but you can order matte black paint without branding.
- Solid warranty and return policy
- According to some people, the frame finishing quality seems better than other unbranded manufacturers
- They have warehouses in NA, EU, and AU for free and fast shipping
- More expensive than unbranded frames
- Not many models too choose from, and no disc brake lightweight frame
- While the price is lower compared to Winspace and Yoeleo, ICAN’s reputation is not up there just yet
The SEKA Exceed RDC costs $2000, much more expensive than other Chinese brands listed above, but it weighs only 775g unpainted. That’s crazy low considering it’s a disc brake model with aero tubes.
For comparison, Factor Ostro VAM, a frame from an established western brand that looks
suspiciously similar to the SEKA Exceed weighs 780g unpainted and it costs a whopping $7400.
If a lightweight bike isn’t for you, then they also have SEKA Exceed (without the RDC) that costs around $1500. In line with brands like Yoeleo and Winspace.
The best part about SEKA Exceed is how beautiful it looks. The shape, the finish. It doesn’t look like a cheap bike at all. But keep in mind that this frame is very new to the market, so we can’t say much else.
What about unbranded carbon frames from AliExpress?
If you search “carbon frame road bike” on AliExpress, you’ll see so many unbranded open mold carbon road bike frames. But they are not all good quality.
When you buy frames from a random store, you’re basically playing a game of Russian Roulette. Most of them do not have any warranty or return policy at all because you bought the item from a drop shipper instead of the actual manufacturer.
Some sellers will offer a replacement for defective products if their listings say that they offer this kind of service, but it’s still a gamble because there is no guarantee that you will actually receive the replacement.
If you’re looking for unbranded carbon frames, just buy directly from reputable manufacturers like HongFu or DengFu.
Is it okay to buy counterfeit carbon road bike frames?
Just like AliExpress frames, there is no warranty if you buy counterfeit carbon frames. Also, counterfeits are most likely lower quality compared to open molds because people who buy those stuff generally only care about the decals and don’t care about where they are manufactured, so the manufacturers don’t need to spend their time on quality control.
Avoid counterfeit frames at all costs.
How do Chinese carbon frames compare to western brands?
In terms of weight alone, a $300-400 Chinese carbon frame is comparable to second-tier $3000-$4000 carbon frames from top brands like Specialized, Trek, Cannondale, etc. So if frame weight is the most important to you, Chinese frames are definitely worth it.
But weight is not everything. What about aerodynamics, stiffness, and comfort?
This is where the answer gets tricky.
One of the reasons why top brand bikes are so expensive is that they spend so much time and money on R&D (aside from marketing, of course), making sure their bikes perform great even in the highest level competition like Tour de France.
Open mold frames’ performance, on the other hand, is unproven and it’s not easy to compare their performances. So, if you prefer to buy a budget bike from trusted brands, I recommend reading this article.
That said, bicycles are bicycles. We are talking about a difference of 100 grams and probably 10 watts of aero drag at 45 km/h for a similar frame type. If you’re not competing at a high level, I highly doubt these Chinese frames will be your bottleneck.
Still, ultimately it’s your decision whether the difference is worth the price.
What are the T700, T800, and T1000 carbon?
Toray is a Japanese company that manufactures carbon fibers. Toray’s T700, T800, and T1000 are basically grades of its proprietary carbon fiber.
The higher the number is, the more tensile strength it has (how much weight can you load before it breaks). So, theoretically, a frame made of T1000 carbon can be made lighter than a T700 carbon frame because they can get the same strength and stiffness with less material.
But keep in mind that the Chinese manufacturers don’t necessarily use actual Japanese Toray carbon. To keep the price low, they might use Chinese-made carbon fiber, which might have comparable strength and stiffness to the specified Toray T series.
How to choose the right frame model for you
It depends on what kind of riding you’re doing.
If you ride on flat terrain with short hills under 5% gradients, then an aero frame like the Velobuild VB-R-099 or HongFu FM169-F might fit you best. If you like climbing, choose a light frame with thin tubes that weighs under 1000 gr.
There are also all-around frames that are combined aero and lightweight. They won’t be as aero or stiff as pure aero frames and not as light as super lightweight frames, but if you ride flat road as much as uphills, then these might be for you.