Fake Britain programme focuses on counterfeit FSA bars

Buying parts for your bike online might seem tempting, but a BBC documentary shown last night has highlighted the dangers of counterfeit carbon parts sold bought on the internet

The Fake Britain documentary focused on the case of mountain biker Matt Phillips who bought a set of FSA carbon flat bar handlebars on eBay, which ostensibly seemed to be the real deal, having all the correct graphics and feel of FSA bars. However, while out riding a short time later, the bars failed catastrophically, snapping into three pieces while Matt was descending.

>>> Cheap Chinese carbon imports: are they worth the risk?

The result was a broken wrist in two places, which would require seven weeks in plaster and many months of physiotherapy. And even after all that Matt still hasn’t regained full movement of the wrist.

Fake FSA seat post

FSA is aware of the problem of counterfeit parts

Just as big a shock came when Matt sent the bars back to FSA headquarters in Milan, only for the Italian manufacturer to find that they weren’t made by FSA after all, and were in fact a cheap carbon copy produced in the Far East, therefore not conforming to European safety standards.

>>> Warning of fake FSA cycle components

And it turned out that this wasn’t an isolated incident, with FSA finding over 2,000 similar counterfeit parts online in just a single month. In order to combat this problem, the company puts a special FSA logo that can only be seen under ultraviolet light on all of its products.

eBay is also aware of the problem and has taken steps to protect its users, reminding them that counterfeit products are not welcome on any of its sites.

>>> Your chance to buy Bradley Wiggins’s time trial wheels on eBay

“A large community of legitimate sellers trade authentic goods on eBay in the UK every day, and we work hard to protect them through anti-counterfeit initiatives including the Verified Rights Owner Program (VeRO) which helps legitimate sellers to protect their goods.”

Bike of the Year 2016

This isn’t the first time that Fake Britain has examined the problem of counterfeit cycling equipment, having previously highlighted the issue of fake copies of Giro helmets that also fail European safety tests.

Of course our advice would be to always buy through your local bike shop or through a reputable online store, ensuring the quality of the parts that you are buying and to make sure there is a warranty option just in case the worst happens.

  • Dave Bonner

    No tosh you are not all together right. I know for a fact that a huge cost is the supply and fee off supplying of bikes. The reason I know this is because many years ago I was a pro and the team I rode for has recently told me this.

  • no the main cost is to line a fat cats pocket!

  • josh

    specialized isn’t manufactured by merida. merida just own the company . it is by another contractor . in Taiwan.

  • josh

    most FM (Frame moulds) have evolved to be their own like FM098

  • Viktoras Hulkas

    “Italian manufacturer”? You might want to check on that.

  • ShawnfromPhilly

    I have an enormous, round head. I’ve been looking for a helmet exactly like that. Where did you find it?

  • Wasmopolitan

    I have a cheap ‘giro’ helmet from China, trouble is, it doesn’t fit properly, it’s made for people with big round heads. China steals intellectual property, counterfiets products, and sells them back to us at silly prices, hitting Western companies and putting our friends and allies out of jobs. Support Western companies and jobs and buy real stuff.

  • John Lin

    Surley this would be a great excuse for FSA to blame fakes on dodgy products they dont want to recall

  • John Lin

    FSA is a Taiwan company called Tien Hsin based on the south side of Taichung Taiwan, Italy is just a warehouse they use to feed Europe products with their name on it if you know what I mean

  • John Lin

    “I own an irrefutably genuine Pinarello Prince ” haha made at Carbotech in Shenzhen China

  • John Lin

    would you care to show me a machine that can make a bike frame ???? I guess your one of those people who still think the easter bunny exists

  • John Lin

    would you care to prove that ? What facility ? where is it ? and I guarantee you that Merida and Specialized dont own it. I have never seen so much made up bullshit in all my life as on this forum. All say so and non facts, A trip to Taiwan and China might help you get your head out of the sand.

  • Jed

    Man, I can’t agree more about LBSs. Much of the bike industry is a total racket. Many years ago, in the 90s, I tried to set up an online bike shop, wanting to sell at cut rates. The major manufacturers like Shimano refuse to supply you if you don’t peg the prices at their RRPs. I have no sympathy at all for LBSs who want to survive by racketeering. If your prices are no good, then you’re not good enough and it’s your own fault if you go under. We don’t live in the Soviet Union. It’s the market economy, man. I also say that such racketeering is damaging to the growth of cycling. In the 80s when I was a teenager, I didn’t have a brass nickel and buying equipment just killed me. So I had the most rubbish gear in the club. Other kids with rich parents had all the gear but I had to compete on a K-Mart special. It made me hard but it wasn’t fun. And a big part of it was the racketeering of the bike shop fraternity. It’s much better now with the freedom of the internet – but it still gets my back up when LBSs whinge and seem to want special treatment.

  • Im sure @disqus_L0RC682wNl:disqus would love to spend another small fortune on a frame

  • Andy

    If these products are worthy then why don’t the fake companies go all legal and sell their stuff under a legit name? There is a reason why things cost what they do.

  • Prestachuck

    There are a few manufacturers who still have lifetime warranty on their carbon road frames. Trek and Specialized to name two. Pretty much nobody will warranty your frame against crash damage regardless of the material, but reputable brands will typically offer to the original purchaser a crash replacement at a significant discount as a gesture of good faith/customer service. I do agree with you that there is more to high performance than lightweight. You still have to tune the engine. 😉

  • Prestachuck

    Your Shimano wheels are made in Japan.

  • Prestachuck

    Replace it with a bike that has a lifetime warranty. Specialized, Trek, and probably a few others still have a lifetime warranty against defects in materials or workmanship. Or go the alternative route as I have done. Consider a made-to-measure custom steel or titanium frame. They can be pretty lightweight these days. My American hand-built S-3 steel framed road bike with Campy Record group and alloy wheels weighs right at 15lbs and was still quite a bit more affordable than most top end carbon framed bikes. It has a transferrable (not that I would ever sell it) lifetime warranty. I could always go with carbon wheels for a few more thousand $$, or I could just lose a few more pounds myself for free. Not willing to trust no-name frames. Who will you call when it fails, besides the paramedics?

  • Prestachuck

    Specialized Bicycles are manufactured by Merida in a facility that only manufactures Specialized products.

  • Craig Pickersgill

    I hope he checked that the stem bolts were tight and to the correct torque!!

  • Peter Prowse

    Much of the problem lies in brand snobbery that has existed in the cycling community for as long as I can remember. If you can’t or don’t want to pay for a big brand such as Specialized there are plenty of alternatives like Ribble and Decathlon who make fantastic bikes for a fraction of the price. Same goes for clothing. Lidl and Aldi make very good quality jerseys and jackets that are just as good as some of the big brands. The only thing missing is the logo. It’s true to say that the big companies spend a lot on R&D but all these advances will quickly be applied by their cheaper rivals. People love to buy into the dream that fitting things like carbon fibre bars will make them go quicker and there’s nothing wrong with that but in the end the only thing that really works is to go out training and get yourself fitter.

  • John Lin

    So just where do Specialized make their frames, and how on earth do you know for fact they pay 1 million pounds per size per mould and do you know how many mould they need per size to produce the quantity of frames they need, ??? I guess not as by your calculation they will be bankrupt as the mould costs would put them out of business

  • Jay

    I think open molds are a good option for those looking for value for money as the quality of the frames is generally inline with the price. But I have issues when they start slapping S Works or Pinarrello stickers on the frames because that’s just wrong and plain stealing, and that’s where I’m at a crossroad because some open molds are molded (aka copied) from brands who exhausted a lot of effort and resources in their frames.

  • Anthony Jackson

    I havent heard of many people getting killed because of Chinese frames…. But your analogy isnt great. I use my apple mac everyday, for work and everything in my life…. however, my bike is not my work machine, I am not a pro, I use my bike maybe 10hours a week, max. Maybe less if I had kids. My macbook air cost me £1100, where as a new Trek with Di2 would cost me around £4-6k… no it aint worth it.

  • Anthony Jackson

    Believe me, if manufacturers arent making 70%margin (manufacturers not retail bike shops) then they dont bother… They are not overpriced as such, just too much margin.

  • Anthony Jackson

    Maybe I have misunderstood something about local bike shops, if i have Im sorry. I thought they employed mechanics and staff to repair bikes, whether that is the young lad who comes in with ‘Apollo’ mountain bike, or a senior citizen with his sit up and beg three gear rider made in Thailand with a basket on the front, or fix my BMC Time Machine that I spent £5k on……Maybe thats why some bike shops struggle, snobbery and a short sited view on how the real word works.

    My local bike shop (both of them ) are great, they accept all kinds of Bikes, not just the over priced Trek Madone or my genuine Scott Addict I bought when I was earning alot more….

    I don’t understand why you say local bike shops wont be there, they are cropping up all over the place and the owners that I know are doing ok.

    Your last comment has bothered me more. Why should I consider where I spend my money…. The back of Cycling Magazine has had adverts in them for catalogue spare parts for consumers for decades, THEN came the internet….. Its called a Free Market Economy. People choose to spent their money where ever they choose……And the last sentence, about thinking before I open my mouth, for that little outburst I will be buying all of my new parts for my winter commuter not from my LBS as planned, but from a reputable online company.

    I am not too cheap to save up, I just believe in spending my money wisely. Im a 34 year old racer with a mortgage, a wife and no kids…. If I want to do my local TT on a thursday but I dont want to drop £3k on a carbon aero frame then I shall choose a model that fits my budget…. .I dont need electric gears, and I dont need to be told by a LBS how great a £6k bike is…. I know, but I live in the real world.

    If my local bike shop could be bothered to source Race-able open source frames for road or TT that were a reasonable price from a non branded eastern company then I wouldn’t hesitate to buy one from them….

    Real World businesses are not charities, if there is a demand then there is money to be made.

    You havent convinced me that I shouldnt spend my money like I am doing.

  • Boops


  • Chris Gibbons

    Very few carbon frame manufacturers give lifetime warranties, and there are plenty of stories of genuine frames and components failing after a crash; people buy carbon because it’s lighter than alloy or steel, but weight alone doesn’t guarantee performance; caveat emptor always, no such thing as a free lunch.

  • AJB

    You arent just ‘paying for a name’ the cost of a Specialized, Giant or Scott comes with there extensive research and technology to make your ride as safe as possible but also give you better performace and ride quality! Specialized alone spend at least £1m for a frame mold, for one size of one model to ensure that each frame reaches the same standard as the last. For the frames that have fallen short of this they are backed with the lifetime warranty and customer service from Specialized themselves. Having worked on the cheap Chinese carbon frames a regular occurrence is the carbon eyelets of the fame get worn bigger greating a weakness and poor performace on both brake and gear cables. The reason behind people going online and buying the cheap Chinese frames and wheels is because they are too cheap to save up and pay for the premium product! You expect the independent bike shop to fix the cheap bike you purchased online at a moments notice and refer to yourself as loyal and therefore deserve discount and instant workshop repairs… well before long you wont have anywhere to go to sort out your issues as the local bike shop would have closed down as all expenditure on bikes and kit has gone to someone in China. Then you’ll be the one complaining there arent enough local bike stores offering there knowledge, skill and product.

    Yes i know there is more than cycling to pay for in life but quality products and services do come at a price. But you are not only paying to make someone richer but also another’s living, so they are able to aford to ride their bike as well. The final bit of advice, think before you next open your mouth (and before you buy cheap product off the internet).

  • EB

    While I would agree with you on manufacturers pretending to be made by someone else, I think there is a distinction between a fake and an unbranded part.

    The only exception I can think of is Tririg. To a degree Parktools, but if the alternative is cheaper I just accept it is only temporary.

    I have done and would buy unbranded things. I don’t think most manufacturers make things that are so well made that it is always worth it. I then use them indoors on the turbo for a few months if they are ok, then good.

    Companies pretending to be other makes I avoid. I’d much prefer they spent the money on making better products than faking packaging etc. I’ve seen some abysmal Zipp fakes.

    It is to the companies’ advantage to conflate unbranded and fake.

  • Dave Bonner

    The high cost of frames has nothing to do manufacture. The main cost for the so called top bikes is the cost of the Pro teams

  • avlowe

    Genuine parts are made by manufacturers who take product liability seriously and thus both test the design, monitor the manufacture, and carry insurance for this – that costs money

  • It’s quite funny people moaning about the price of branded parts yet we all seem to accept that we have to pay full wack for a Apple product with no discounting anywhere.You get what you pay for a top bike brand will give a lifetime frame warranty/sponsor numerous professional & amateur teams,maintain a world wide distribution network,invest millions in development & marketing all this is a reflection of the retail price. Have you ever heard of any of these fake/cheap chinarello type companys having a product recall because a someones nearly been killed when their frame snapped.No that’s because they havn’t got the network to support you the custommer.

  • J1

    Are FSA parts made in Italy? or are they made in the far east like 90% of the bikes and bike parts you buy?

    Most of the stuff you buy is made in the far east, be it Taiwan, China or Malaysia, a lot of it better made than a lot of other countries could do too. The far east has moved on since the 90s, it doesn’t stand for poor quality on every product produced there anymore.

    I hate when journalists who know nothing about the subject they’re ‘reporting’ on are believed my the masses just because they have a big stage to utilize.

    I’m happy riding my Trek made in Taiwan with its Shimano wheels made in China.

  • Boops

    And just pay more at the bike-shop/manufacturer… for the piece of mind!

  • Boops

    From cycling parts to Samsung phone batteries to ‘Murano’ glass… beware the fake! Always research how to spot them and the known prevalence of fakes, check the authenticity identifyers in the manufacturer’s website.

    The world of ‘fakes’ is mindboggling when you start digging about a product.

  • Max Smith

    I offer a different perspective: I own an irrefutably genuine Pinarello Prince that has suffered 3 stress fractures which are clearly manufacturing defects. Pinarello abandoned me (and my 4500 usds) after the two year warranty period.

    I was an advocate for buying genuine for ‘ all the right reasons’ , I am no more.

  • josh

    most carbon bikes are handmade..because they are using carbon woven sheets .. however the carbon threads ones woven are made by machines

  • josh

    i owned many china open molds bikes and ive raced on them for many years . no issues. they are just painting with general broad brush

  • josh

    what bout open molds? they aren’t in the same leagues as fakes.

  • Bong Cartago

    Very true. Ironic. Too much price for a name and safety when they can actually sell for lower. Business. To make them richer richest lol.

  • Zero

    Though that is true, though some of these products have started making their way into legitimate retail channels, then the prices start reflecting slight discounts on legit products, yet you end up with a fake that will try and kill you.

  • Zero

    That is not the issue though, the issue is a product that looks exactly like the real deal and are even making their way into legitimate retail channels. If the problem was only unlabeled parts then FSA would not need to put UV logos on their products. So you want to explain how it is my fault that a store sold me a fake when even that store did not realize they got screwed?

  • Neal

    Alarm bells would have been ringing in my mind when seeing a set of Carbon FSA handlebars for £50…

  • Brian Miloscia

    No. I disagree. No one would pay at or near retail from eBay or Craigslist or one of these Asian auction sites. Otherwise you would just get it from ur local bike shop and have 0% chance of getting a knock off. No one goes to some alibaba half ass auction site and only getting 10%- 20% discount. You get what you pay for. You would do better at the after season year end clearance sale. No…according to the article in this month’s bicycling magazine, the sites offer s-works or dogma frames without logos for like $1,000. No one with a brain can possibly think that’s a genuine product.

  • Jay

    Problem is some fake items are selling at original prices so you cannot use price as a determinant factor or as telltale sign. Maybe checking for warranty and serial numbers cld be one way or avoid buying second hand on those ‘your screwed if they fail’ items like handlebars and brakes etc.

  • ummm…

    You know I’d tend to agree with you, as far as overpricing. But, are they really overpriced? And are we talking about handmade bikes, or mass produced? Is there a difference between the two anyhow?

  • DaveS

    Maybe there would be far less fake items if branded goods were not so overpriced.

  • Anthony Jackson

    I have bought blank chinese parts and genuine parts before. One cost me the price of a normal person’s wage, the other cost me about 1/3 of my annual salary. non break. Im bored of this constant justification of manufacturers and bike shops telling me how to spend my money. There is absolutely no way in hell that Pinarello or similar bikes are worth that much… Ive raced on Chinese aero frames and Ive seen people race TTs on them… they are fine… If anything Manufacturers and Bike Shop owners fear the internet and their own market share.

    I admit there are ‘some’ dangerous fakes out there, but the majority of Chinese exports are good pieces of equipment and articles like this are written by some BBC lovie, whos probably on a disgusting amount of money to make a documentary, so probably gets down his LBS and buys a nice BMC time machine with some lovely brand new Zipp Wheels and ride around hyde park……yes its generalization! Its annoying isn’t it!

    …The rest of us try to race, whilst working and paying a mortgage… Lets face it, if Ribble, Wiggle and other similar can make good solid affordable frames and parts then why cant LBSs… and its not about overheads… you think online companies and Chinese manus dont have overheads?

  • Brian Miloscia

    When you wind up with a fake…you only have urself to blame. You know you aren’t getting a genuine s works frame for $1,000. And if u didn’t know you are a fool. The people that buy them know they are getting fakes and take a risk. Except this isn’t. a handbag or watch, its a vehicle and u quite literally are putting your life in the hands of a bunch of Chinese criminals. It isn’t worth it. Go to ur bike shop.