How do you fix a carbon frame? Should you fix a carbon frame? And why does it cost a man his skin and finger nails?
SPRAWLED on tarmac by a kerb at a busy junction in Dublin’s rush hour, people swarmed to my aid.
They picked up my rucksack, gathered fallen belongings, gave me a coat, a bottle of water, a KitKat for later.
They rang an ambulance too. But my racing bike was left, alone, in the middle of the road. I couldn’t see it. Nobody would let me get up. They just thought I was insane.
But when a bike has won a race for you, it’s no longer just a bike. That’s my first carbon fibre racing bike. The first bike I had any attachment to. So after calling my boss to tell him I wouldn’t be in, my next call was to Carbon Tec – the man who mends carbon fibre.
The man who King Kelly entrusts. The man whose craft has received worldwide acclaim in less than a year.
KEITH HOEY is a father of two girls, who lives in Palmerstown, North County Dublin.
He has a back injury that means he tends to ride bizarre soft-ride bikes, but he still took on the cobbles and bergs of Flanders this Spring, and he’s not afraid of no mountain trails either.
Back in the boom, Hoey was a panel-beater. He worked on repairing, respraying and restoring prestige motors. Most of it was in his uncle’s chauffeuring garage, but he also built up Range Rover Onyx’s in Greenogue. It was a high-end concept car made using fibreglass and carbon fibre, giving Hoey his first experience of dealing with the material that came to be bicycle manufacturers’ number one.
“I was fixing the carbon fibre parts on all these very, very fancy motors,” says Hoey. “That’s where repairing and understanding the product came from. Unfortunately it all came to a grind when everything else came to a grind. I had to close the garage and it was time to get back on the bike.”
Dan Mitchell at Snow+Rock in Dundrum gave him the shop’s inbuilt Cycle Surgery to run. It reignited Hoey’s interest in bikes. He hadn’t been that close to them for a while. He’d been busy with work, but he has always been a cyclist. He has always been a bike man.
When he moved to Rob Cummins’s Wheelworx, a bike and triathlon store closer to home, he became exposed to a higher volume of competition bikes. This workshop in Lucan had a constant flow of high-end carbon fibre machines in for services, repairs and maintenance, so it was bound to happen.
“One day a guy came in to fix a frame for us,” says Hoey. “It was a new Trek Madone, and the guy who owned it had bought a lot of nice bikes in the shop.
“He was going to live in Gibraltar and he want this bike to live over there and be a second bike. So we found this guy who said he could fix the broken top tube.
“It took us ages to get him and, no disrespect to him, but he handed us back a frame with just a wrap on it – like a bandage you’d put on a sprained wrist. It had a bulge like a snake that had swallowed a football, and he’d made no attempt to repaint it.”
A light bulb went off at that point. Hoey took it home, sanded it off, redid the repair, and painted it back to showroom condition. CarbonTec was born.
SINCE word got out about that Trek Madone, CarbonTec has swelled, to the point where Hoey has stopped working at Wheelworx and has drafted in friend and neighbour Scott Kinsella to help.
These guys have almost identical plots around the corner from each other in an estate in Palmerstown. They have both developed good-sized workshops in large sheds and have set up plenty of outdoor space, Kinsella for sanding; he’s the apprentice – so he gets assigned jobs to fit his title.
“Scott does a lot of the sanding,” says the boss. “There’s a guy in the states who’s a collector of Colnagos. He sent us a frame done up in the Team Navigators theme, but the fork was completely mismatched.
“Scott was good enough to loose a lot of skin and finger nails sanding it. It took hours. The fork then hand to be painted four times, just with lacquer, but when it was finished it was absolutely perfect. It’s the second Colnago fork we’ve done.”
CarbonTec doesn’t need to advertise. Hoey’s workshop is permanently full. From guys crashing bikes in races, to people finding long-forgotten frames in their sheds, to international customers determined to restore their beauties to their former glory, CarbonTec is in demand.
At the Tour of Flanders in Belgium, it got a namecheck on Eurosport by legendary Irish cyclist Sean Kelly, who Hoey had discovered that morning already knew what CarbonTec was. He’s since sent Hoey a bike, and thanked him with a signed jersey from his team AnPost Chain Reaction Cycles.
This success has led to Kinsella starting Velo Doc, a repairs and servicing businesses, and he has partnered this with CarbonTec. From that first top tube, they have come a long way. With new technologies their list of can’ts is shrinking.
How are they doing it? What are they using? The King’s Carbon Mender Act II.