What the Hell is That

IMG_1473XC Race bike. It’s a Hongfu FM057. No that’s not a brand you’ll find at the local bike shop. Hongfu is one of a few big chinese manufacturers that sell stuff direct and through sites like ebay and aliexpress. I’ve owned lots of big brand bikes and honestly this is the best.

Lots of people ask about it because of the paint job and no stickers. Here’s some FAQ:

Q: What is it? As above. As far as I can tell it’s 95% same as a Niner Carbon. The profile of the top tubes a little different as is cable routing but mostly its just like a Niner.

Q: $$$? I bought this one direct through the Hongfu website. Just google Hongfu you’ll find it. The frame was $430 USD Plus $75 USD for custom paint. I picked the paint job by googling frame paint jobs, finding one I liked and sending them the link. Easy. They send a proof before they paint it to make sure. The rest of it was bought online, mainly through Merlin, Chain Reaction, Wiggle and ebay. Its a mix of XTR and SLX. I think the whole thing would have been maybe $3000 NZD or less.

Q: What the heck is ‘Hongfu’? Good question. I don’t get it either. As far as I can tell, it works like this: The big brands we all know, are supplied frames by a few big carbon goods manufacturers in China. I think what happens is that the Chinese uber companies make prototypes and samples for these brands, and they kind of pick and choose and modify them for different markets/ fashions etc. The moulds are used then to make unbranded stuff they sell on the secondary market. The main names you find are Hongfu, Dengfu and Flyxii. I have no idea if these are stand alone companies or just like online retailers or if they manufacture or what the hell is going on. They seem to all sell most of the same looking stuff for the same prices.I’ve bought from a_baygoods, hongfu and Dengfu and they were all fine.

Q: Aren’t you scared it will break and you will die? Not any more. 3 frames over 3 years and none have cracked or gone bad. Lots of internet research – can’t find too many issues. The big brands try to tell you that their R and D costs are higher. Well, I dunno about that. I’m staying with Chinese Carbon for now.

Q: Weight?  As pictured, 22.3 pounds (10.1KG) The frame is 1350 grams (size 19 inch) That’s about 200 grams heavier than what Niner SAY their frame weighs. Manufacturers are always squirrelly about their ACTUAL weights and from what I can tell, if there is a difference we are talking about 100 – 200 grams. I’ll keep the 2 or so grand in my pocket thanks.

Q: Wait? If you buy one off the rack it seems to take anything from 1 – 3 weeks to get to your doorstep. If you order custom paint, you’ll be waiting maybe 3 months.

Q: Why aren’t you supporting local retailers? Well actually I buy some stuff from LBS’s all the time (some clothing, lube sometimes tyres etc – anything where I want it NOW), and of course get wrenching done. The days of LBS trying to even contemplate competing on price are long gone. I literally couldn’t afford to race buying retail. Simple as that. Plus, some things really grind my gears about shops. You know, you wander in, needing something, kids are in the car, you have other places to be, and all the young usually male, retail assistant wants to do is yarn to his sponsored mate Robbo about that “awesome air they ripped out on jailbreak the other day” and “mannn car drivers are so dumb ayy mannnnn” Or when you want advice and it’s plain that 1 minute of googling on your phone would get you a better researched, and more sincere answer. Happened to me yesterday. Sorry, but that’s how it is in my experience. SOME PEOPLE AT SOME SHOPS ARE GREAT. I LOVE THEM. Lots are crap.

Seems like chinese carbon is the big new thing these days. There is a MASSIVE body of internet discussion on these things. See forums on mtbr, weighweenies, roadbikereview.

Any questions ask away

steve

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6 thoughts on “What the Hell is That

  1. Good to hear mate. Hey check out the picture underneath this post. What the hell happened? Something funny has happened so it makes it look like the crank is on the other side. Trying to figure it out and it’s hurting my brain. What the hell?!?

  2. Still happy about your FM057? I’m looking to buy me a chinese hard tail aswell, I really love the model you have, since specialized stump HT and niner air HT are way to expensive for me I would like to fill the gap with this. The chinese seem to be really focussed on happy customers and 100% satisfaction, so i’m fairly confident in their services and quality.

    Would you also buy other parts (handle bars, seatpost etc..) ?

    1. Yeah for sure it’s a great frame. Lately I transferred 90% of the parts to the new dually frame (FM036) and I’ve been riding and loving that. I’ve never been a good technical descender so the extra stability of the dually has been worth the weight trade off for me, but if you were more skilled, the hard tail would be fine. Since I stripped it down I’ve had a good chance to closely look at it in good light and check for cracks etc and it’s 100%. I Strava’d all my rides on it, so I know it’s done exactly 123 rides and 2148km over 15 months. Only couple of scuff marks and a little crack in the clear coat but that’s normal and not really the frame’s fault. I got custom paint and it’s actually really good quality. I know I sound like such a fanboy but it is actually that good and even though you wouldn’t expect a frame to break in that time at least it’s good to know it’s held up fine. As far as fit, if you are shorter than say 5 foot 7 or so, you’d probably want to go for one of their 27.5 frames (FM136). For smaller riders, the FM057 can be quite long and big feeling, then again, you might like that. A mate who is about that tall got the ’57 and he reckons it feels a bit too long for his liking and its harder to drive down the twisties. As for the service from these guys – well, I’m easily pissed off when I get sub par service but these guys have been great. They did forget to send the correct dropouts with my last 2 frames which was annoying, but I just emailed them and they sent them straight away no issues at all, which to be honest, I can live with. They replied pretty much immediately (i.e. like an hour or less), apologised and sent it out, got it maybe 3 or 4 days later. You have to accept you’re dealing with people who’s english isn’t perfect, so you want to be a little bit aware of that in the language you use, for the sake of clarity, but my experience is that they are super responsive, and answer all emails extremely promptly. I sort of get the feeling that they are aware people do all of their Chiner research online – if you frequent Chiner boards/ forums, you can see they monitor them pretty heavily – you always find one of their representatives pops up out of the blue if people post questions etc in forums. I reckon that’s a good thing because they know that just a few negative experiences will sink them. The beauty of the free market in action – I love it. If you want a really good person to go straight to, email Cherry – her details are in my latest post about the FM036 frame. Tell her I sent you and she will look after you. As far as the other carbon stuff, I’ve tried bottle cages (the Bontrager RXL ones on Aliexpress) They were fine. http://www.aliexpress.com/item/2014-Green-BONTRAGER-RXL-Race-X-Lite-Cycling-Carbon-Bottle-Cage-With-Screws-19G/1997458897.html I broke one after around 75 rides – the retaining lip at the bottom delaminated/ snapped off a bit. Also, the little rubber buttons that help retain the bottle fell off one. For the price, about $15NZD/ 18 grams I’m happy with them. I’ve used carbon rigid forks from Hongfu and another one (one was 26 the other 29er) http://www.aliexpress.com/item/Hongfu-bike-2014-new-carbon-fiber-MTB-bike-29er-mountain-bicycle-fork-finish-in-3k-UD/1545217339.html. Really hammered them and they were perfect. Climbing on a light hard tail, with one of those forks is kinda like hitting the nitrous. I rode this fork and the ’57 on record run up Climie. Also tried this: http://www.aliexpress.com/item/ASPIDE-superleggera-carbon-fiber-saddle-bike-road-saddle-Yellw-red-SAN-MARCO-bicarbonate-saddle-seat-cushion/1987302136.html It was actually fine, I won an XC race on one of these, the only reason I took it off was I was too scared of cutting my danglers off getting back off the saddle, because it is very thin but the saddle itself was great. Just make sure if you want one of these that you check the seat post is compatible with the rail diameter because you don’t want to crush carbon rails. I’m too scared to use carbon bars or stems from the chinese open mould guys, but I don’t have any logical reason for that. I pretty much like to use metal on these applications for piece of mind. In my internet trawling, I’ve never found a horror story, but I personally like the extra confidence that’s all, whether real or imagined. Wow that was a long reply hope I covered it!! steve

  3. Wow thanks for the massive reply, I also read some negative comments on other forums about the frame that they broke it, but then again all carbon bikes can break even 3000$ ones, i’m about 6.2 foot so I think a 29er so i think 21″ frame size, I have a specialized Epic size 21″ should do fine with the chinese.

    I’m alergic to cracking or creaking sounds there is none of that on any of your chinese carbon frames?

    I’m from belgium they have an anti-dumping tax for chinese products, that is the only thing that worries me as I have heard that taxes in some cases double the frame cost 😦

    Now all that I have left is to convince my girlfriend to let me buy one 😉
    Cheers!

  4. Cool! Glad I could be a help! With your height, make sure you check out the geometry charts to decide between the 19 and 21, just to make sure you end up with the right size for your BB to saddle and saddle to bar measurements. I’m 185cm which I think is maybe only an inch or so shorter than you so a 19 might be OK. If you have a hard time finding the geometry chart just email Cherry she will email them through.

    On breakage, all I can really say is I’ve never had a breakage or creaking or anything like that from any Chinese frame, let alone Hongfu. It’s possible any bike will break with the wrong treatment but, from my experience and everyone else I personally know of, I have no reason to think these type of frames are any weaker. I guess that’s all I can really go on. I personally value my front teeth quite a lot, so I wouldn’t ride it if I was scared at all.

    As for taxes, in NZ, customs charges tax 15% + fees for goods over $400 NZD, so, even if you do get the taxes applied it’s not too bad. I looked it up on the Belgium customs website and you guys have a 48% chinese bike tax!!!!! I love the Belgium bike industry but that’s bananas. If your frame gets taxed that’s gonna add maybe $250 – $300 USD!! Wow that sucks. All I can say is that you might want to hope the seller states a low value to avoid threshold.

    Let me know how you go, and if you do get one ask any questions about building it mate – happy to help!! steve

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