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Modern 'Glass Boats: Can't Take A Punch?

Interesting article... was curious to see if ppl generally concurred with it:




  • hmmmm

    I know my modern fiberglass boat takes a pounding. It's 17' and 23" and weighs about 55-57lbs. A bit heavy but it survives a lot.

    Ryan L.

  • Depends on the layup, of course
    It is kind of ironic that as Americans in general have gotten bigger, and heavier, they have been increasingly reluctant to buy "heavy" boats. Given the same materials, the lighter the layup and the heavier the load it is expected to carry, the more likely the boat is to crack, or suffer more catastrophic failure.

    Old whitewater Royalex canoes used to be incredibly tough, but the sheet was quite thick, gunwales were often heavy duty aluminum, and the boats were heavy as sin. Then buyers (apparently) wanted lighter boats so manufacturers started specing thinner sheet and added less reinforcement, gunwales became vinyl covering a thin strip of aluminum, or just plastic with no metal reinforcement at all, and the boats started to wear out within a season or two of hard use such as rocky creeking.

    I recall when a 55 lb tandem canoe or kayak was considered quite light. Now many would consider a boat of that weight unacceptably heavy.

    Durability always comes down to how much you are willing to pay and how heavy you are willing to lift. If you use all expensive materials like carbon, aramid, S 'glass, and epoxy resin along with the most modern construction methods you can build a boat that is stiff, strong, and pretty light, but you will pay through the nose. If you want something light that doesn't cost too much, you have to leave something out, and the boat is going to be more fragile.
  • Options
    Skin boats
    -- Last Updated: Dec-15-12 4:48 PM EST --

    I've seen a guy wailing on a skin boat with a screwdriver
    and it simply would not puncture the boat, it bounced.

    A nylon fabric properly bonded with waterproof sealant
    is amazingly tough and puncture resistant.



  • To some degree I agree
    The old Necky boats made with no core material but solid Kevlar and strips of carbon with half round dowel were pretty durable even if gel coat cracks showed up everywhere. But the present Cobra made Necky boats are stiff and tough. The all core Chinese made Perception kayaks need more glass on the inside.
  • Again With the Bicycles
    Good bicycle frames continue to get lighter and lighter. They've had their growing pains but manufacturers keep at it. Yeah, you pay extra for the light stuff but go check out your local group ride. Most all carbon fiber. I think kayak makers who want to compete need to emulate bike frame makers.
  • Dunno
    I'd be perfectly happy with an S glass layup with painted finish.
  • I Respect That
    Some folks still ride steel frames. But the numbers keep dropping.
  • Options
    Well, actually...
    ...I am told by my hardcore bike-riding friends that steel has been achieving a mini-resurgence in bicycles in recent years. Though it's in no danger of unseating carbon fiber as the 'coveted' material, especially in high-end racing bikes.

    But if you want a commuter or 'practical' bike, there's lots of choices in steel these days.

  • Options
    I have an old Impex Susquehanna
    -- Last Updated: Dec-15-12 10:58 PM EST --

    that is the same as the Formula Diamante they currently build. Those boats are not known for being particularly heavily built but they are pretty tough.

    In the six years I have had mine, I have had a few mishaps. Once I ran it fully loaded with camping gear up onto a submerged stump with a pointed end where a tree had been knawed off by a beaver. When I got the boat off and once I saw what I had hit, I was amazed that it hadn't punch a hole through the hull. I also got caught by a wave once and slammed broadside into a piling and it only put a small crack in the gelcoat.

  • Pay through the nose unless you buy
    from Kaz. Millbrook prices are hundreds of dollars below similar layups.
  • A Gabby Hayes who never read
    Wallbridges "Boatbuilders Manual" and never paid real attention to how composite ww boats hold up with abuse that sea kayaks need ten years to accumulate. (Tsunami Rangers and heedless klutzes excepted.)

    He brings out the old water soaking into the laminate baloney. I've owned a bunch of ww composite boats, FG, S-glass, carbon, Nylon, Kevlar, and I've never had a boat gain water weight.

    It is hard to find a copy of the Boatbuilders Manual, so let me just say that quantitative tests were done on a variety of layups available in the 80s, and the best four layer layup was SS/KK, where S = S-glass and K = Kevlar. The S-glass goes on the outside of the boat. Kevlar is not an outside cloth.

    My first c-1 was made with multiple layers of FG, and a single layer of polypropylene. It weighed over 50 pounds, and it broke repeatedly, especially underneath the stern where it thumped going over ledges. Now I have an SS/KK Millbrook C-1, weighs only about 28 pounds, and it doesn't break.
  • What I've Seen...
    in my corner of the world is old steel frames put back into service. For quite a while it was popular to get an old steel Centurion or Fuji and turn it into a single speed or fixed gear. A couple weeks back I saw a Centurion on a car that had really weird handlebars; like someone had turned it into a track bike.
  • Not just the material for bikes
    Some of it is the ride. For example, when I went looking for my last bike there was still no aluminum ride that had the feeling I liked from steel, and the carbon fiber bikes were all over the ball park in that area. I got steel, the only change I would have made a couple of years later would have been to go for titanium.

    Racers would not have any use for the bike I got - frame angles all wrong for a sprint and too heavy. But compared to what it replaced, a decent bike in its own right that the local bike rescue group has made good use of, it was super light and responsive. It took me a few rides before I was no longer veering towards a tree at every turn because the balance was lighter towards the front end.

    AS to kayaks - the balance point is between time to repair and material. Someone who regularly beats the heck out of their boat on rocks is going to tolerate a different choice in materials than someone who paddles areas that are easy on the boat to start with.
  • depends
    There are manufacturers that stuck to the old ways of making boats while cutting down on resin and gelcoat. That did not have good effect on hull resistance, since in the good old days resin and gelcoat were an essential part of boat's construction.

    And then there are some, such as Necky, TideRace, that actually know what they are doing and minimizing amount of resin without sacrificing rigidity and impact resistance of their hulls.
  • Steel is still queen in bikes
    King is titanium for weight to strength, and both are very good at absorbing shock. They can be made stiffer where you want power to drive, and flexier where you want vibration absorption. Both of them wear long and hard, unlike aluminum, which isn't too shock absorbant and doesn't last all that long if run hard.

    Carbon fiber can be made to do all that and can be laid up more creatively, but manufacturers are still afraid of liability, so they overbuild them making them weigh more than the have to. And as to CF, I would not want it in my bike in the fork. Many manufacturers include warning labels on CF forks that would scare the shit out of you - and they should, IMHO.

    As to glass, CF and kevlar in kayaks, I'm reading that the kevlar, lightest of all and usually damn tough, is not as strong in this use as CF, and CF is not as strong as regular fiberglass. But if you watch the guys who do some of the toughest kayaking - whitewater and rock gardening - they almost always go for poly, because it's that much tougher and withstands damages well.

    I know well why weight is such a factor (not the only important one, BTW) in bikes. Other than for carrying, I'm not at all sure it's so critical in kayaks, even for long distances. I do understand why it could be for canoes, but that's the same carrying/portaging issue.

  • Segment of the Market
    Among road bikers who race or ride for fitness (rat-racers / club riders) steel is not queen... at least not in my corner of the world. By far the material of choice is carbon fiber. Distant 2nd would be aluminum (mostly Cannondales). I see a smattering of titanium and steel bikes. In my group steel is more like a duchess. I ride a steel frame that can't be had anymore. The maker switched to carbon because of demand.
  • I agree with SS/KK
    Best combination for weight, impact resistance and scrape resistance.

    Carbon is good as the outer layer instead of the S glass for lightweight lake paddling with heavy wallets.
  • Options
    Necky and Tiderace...
    ...aren't both their boats produced in Thailand, by Cobra?
  • Options
    And yet, steel keeps hanging around...
    There's been a number of smaller companies springing up over the past decade or two - names like Surly, SOMA, Rivendell, Jamis, Kona, Velo-Orange, Handsome, All-City, etc- and older names such as Raleigh that have been doing well with their steel bike lines.

    They don't seem to be going away. And these are *new* bikes, not used steel bikes being re-purposed as fixies by the hipsters.

    There's definitely a steel segment out there, and while most of the really big bike companies (Trek, Cannondale, Giant) aren't serving it beyond a rare steel model or two (i.e. Trek 520), a number of smaller ones are catering to it successfully.

    And why shouldn't they? Not everyone digs carbon's ride, price, or aesthetics, or they read about a 'stupid-light' carbon fork snapping on someone and they get nervous.

    Probably the only frame material that could potentially make *everyone* happy is titanium, but Ti requires a lot of skilled labor to work it, and thus will probably never be cheap enough to be mass-popular.

    It's largely a carbon-fiber market (at least above a certain price point) because CF isn't all that expensive to produce yet the big bike companies can charge more for it (i.e. nice margins), and because all the racing teams are paid to ride it (marketing). But that doesn't mean that CF is going to be the *only* frame material going forward.

    Alas, alack, and despite the hype.
  • Light, strong, inexpensive...
    Pick any two!

    That's been true in the bike world. It hasn't changed.

    It applies to the boat world equally well.
  • Therefore , Hence, Consequently,
    If the kayak industry follows the trend of the bike industry, more and more boats will get lighter and lighter. A segment, albeit a small, one will opt for heavier boats for price and strength reasons.
  • What planet do YOU live on?
    -- Last Updated: Dec-16-12 5:41 PM EST --

    Sorry, but I have to take issue here. For the record, I own steel, aluminum, titanium and carbon fiber bikes.

    Carbon Fiber (CF):
    In terms of strength/weight/stiffness, carbon fiber wins hands-down; metals simply cannot compete. Additionally, you can tailor the stiffness of a CF frame in ways that are simply impossible with metal tubing. From a pure performance standpoint carbon fiber has no equal, which is why essentially all professional racing teams, road and off-road, ride CF bikes. Recently, manufacturers have been putting a lot of emphasis in making CF bikes that are more suitable for recreational riders, for whom comfort is a key consideration. I bought my first CF frame in 1979, the second in 1995 and the third and forth at the end of last season. The evolution of CF has taken a long time, but it's been dramatic.

    That said, there are three areas where carbon is less than optimum:

    1- Carbon fiber has low abrasion resistance, so it needs to be protected against it. This doesn't seem to be a major issue with bikes, but it could be in the case of a loose/broken spoke causing tire rub on the frame.

    2- Carbon fiber has a somewhat unforgiving failure mode. It doesn't dent or bend like metals will, it cracks or breaks. While it's not an issue in normal riding, it can be problematic in accidents.

    3- It's expensive, although that seems to be improving slowly. It's likely to get better in the near future, as global carbon fiber production capacity increases.

    Titanium (Ti):
    I loved my titanium bikes and rode them for many years (I still have both frames, in case I ever want to set one up again). Ti is arguably the best of all the metals. It's impervious to rust (unlike steel) or corrosion (unlike aluminum). It doesn't fatigue the way aluminum does. It's lighter than steel, though heavier than aluminum. However, it's much stronger than aluminum, so in frames, there's little difference in weight. It can provide the same type of resilient ride that steel does, with better vibration damping.

    The major downside to Ti is the price, which is similar to CF. It can't be built as stiff as CF without being considerably heavier.

    Aluminum (Al):
    Aluminum is the lightest of the three metals and can be built into the lightest metal frames. It's also much cheaper than carbon fiber or Ti. However, aluminum has three significant issues:

    - Fatigue is a problem if Al frames are allowed to flex, which forces manufacturers to make their Al frames very stiff, in an effort to extend their fatigue life. That adds weight. I still have my '77 Klein Team Super and it's still in good shape, but it probably only has 10-12K miles on it. I have had a swingarm break on an Al mountain bike.

    - Aluminum is only 1/3 as stiff as steel. In order to make a stiff Al frame without making it heavy, you have to use large diameter tubing with thin walls, which makes them prone to denting and "beer can" failures.

    - Aluminum will corrode, particularly if it comes into contact with another material such as CF or steel (such as a seatpost). Al-Al joints can also corrode. This can be particularly problematic in coastal areas and when bikes are ridden on salt-covered roads in winter.

    Basically, the lighter you make an Al frame, the shorter its lifespan. This is why most Al frames have short warranties. However, recent developments in hydroforming Al have helped to overcome some of its shortcomings and it seems to be gaining some traction in the market again.

    Steel it relative inexpensive and has a resilient ride that many riders prefer. It's also popular among people who prefer the "classic" look of skinny tubes. I've owned steel bikes since before AL, Ti and CF hit the market. Steel suffers from some serious disadvantages:

    - Steel is the heaviest of the frame materials. In order to make an even reasonably light frame, you have to sacrifice stiffness. It's just not in the same league as the other material when it comes to stiffness-to-weight ratio and never will be.

    - Steel rusts, which means you have to paint it and maintain the finish. It also means that you have to be aware of condensation and water infiltration into the seat & chain stays, the seat tube and the bottom bracket. That means using a product like "Frame Saver", which is like automotive rustproofing in a can. The newer stainless steels can eliminate this issue, but at a significant increase in price that puts them in the range of Ti and CF.

    While steel lovers are found of claiming that it's experiencing some kind of resurgence, they've been making that claim for decades and it still hasn't happened. While steel is not going away, it's a bit-player in the market and will remain that way.

    The bottom line is that people ride whatever they like best in their price range. That often has little to do with performance comparison and everything to do with personal preference.

  • It's also apparent...
    ...that he doesn't know how to repair 'glass boats, either.
  • 2nd, 3rd and 4th that
  • You can have your CF, IMO
    I won't ever go for a CF fork, period! You gotta be kidding. You know from what you wrote that its failure is dramatic and highly dangerous. Even the manufacturers warn you to have it inspected any time it takes a bruise, whether or not you can see any evidence of damage.

    All its virtues I said the same as you. All Aluminum's vitures and Ti as well, I said the same as you. Steel is still a wonderful alternative when you want a less expensive frame (and especially a fork) that is less prone to failure, can be made stiff or a bit forgiving too. Don't count the duchess out; she's still royalty.

    Ti is best of all. What makes it expensive is more than that it's labor intensive. It requires a special atmosphere in order to weld it. So it's a slow going process with a not cheap material using expensive equipment to work it.

    CF is a wondrous material with lots of great uses in many fields. Aviation, audio, automobiles, just to name a few of hundreds at least. I'm not knocking CF, just pointing out that it is NOT the be all and end all that many bikers think it is due to clever marketing, which you also seem to recognize.

    Roadies especially worship light weight, and may sacrifice safety for that goal; road racers certainly do. What's really ironic was written up in the bike mags 20 years ago: It costs far less and is far more effective to lose weight on your body than on your bike! And the most dramatic difference on a bike is what you carry on your wheel assembly, not on your frame.

    I'm not at all sure that, other than for portaging, weight in a kayak is quite as dramatic in effect in the water as poundage on a bicycle wheelset. On that I'm willing to be corrected.
  • steel bikes
    Many many small frame fabricators are working exclusively in steel. And it isn't at the detriment to CF, but rather for the strength to weight ratio for the COST, steel wins hands down. And the resurgence of all the interest in fixies, and hand-built bikes has created a resurgence of steel frames. It's what all the cool kids in skinny jeans are buying!

    Almost every college town has 3-4 bike shops with at least two custom frame makers you've never heard of. I even have two friends who make custom bikes. Not saying this is scientific, and does it make up for all of the giant's and treks made in aluminum or cf, no... but there are lots of new bikes made in steel.

  • Please elaborate on Kaz and Millbrook
  • Mike Appel
    I have a custom Mike Appel steel road bike from the early 80s and can't bear to part with it even though I don't ride much any more. He used tubing from various makers so as to tune the bike to its purpose and rider--no tubing maker decals on his bikes. Before getting this frame, I road a Cannondale. Took several minutes off my 25 mile TT with the new frame. Have ridden a lot of off the shelf bikes over the years and never found anything I liked better probably because the Appel was perfectly set up just for me....
  • To Summarize
    I think it would be fair to say steel is nearly dead in the 'go fast multi gear' road bike market. In the rest of the market...not so much.

    Ergo... in the kayak market would it not follow that a segment will demand lighter and lighter while others... not so much?
  • Yes!
    Nothing like a bike that fits perfectly. Well maybe a kayak. And a Lumpy paddle.
  • of course
    In order to justify high tech production volume is required. Even though molds are specific to each model produced, the rest of it - vacuum pumps, autoclaves, etc. are the same.
    Necky and TideRace made conscious choice to go with the high tech manufacturer instead of relying on barnyard production methods.
  • of
    of all the production kayaks and canoes in n.america....all have about 2-3 layers of glass except two companies. and they have 12-lyers in one and i think close to that in the other.
    the kruger canoe-hybrid kayak decked canoe and the superior expedition as well. Kruger use to take a sledge hammer to his hull during demonstrations to show you how tough. they are the last boat you would need. ive lost mine off the top of my truck at 55-mph and watch it cartwheel a dozen times....only surface scratches.
    only weighs 55lbs which is nothing.
  • I think it's fair to
    say that racing doesn't use cf bikes? But cycling, like kayaking is more than racing.

    Many many people the world over don't race, and even some of us that do race aren't racing on CF.

    That said, I have 4-5 cf paddles!
  • They are not the only ones to make
    tough, composite boats. I have a Clipper whitewater canoe in Kevlar/Duraflex that has taken some wicked hits:


    I also have a Hemlock Shaman which seems very robust as well. And Kazimierczyk's Millbrook canoes seem to be near universally well-regarded by many whitewater boaters.
  • heavy vs. strong
    They author mistakenly equates strength with weight. He's confusing the sacrificial quality of a thick gelcoat with the strength of the underlying fiberglass.
    I have a 43lb Sterling reflection which has a very strong layup but relatively thin gel coat. I've taken off big pieces of gel coat rock gardening but the glass has never been damaged in lots of high speed hits. Same goes for my Tiderace Xplore. Relatively thin gel coat but very strong layup. In contrast to some older brit boats with thick gel coat but low quality chopped mat layups, I'd rather do the occasional gelcoat repair and not worry about the hull integrity.
  • Ti
    Light, strong, and lively but not too flexy, assuming you match it and the design to the rider's weight and use. Like steel, the feel can be made to vary.
  • millbrookboats.com
  • Options
    Chopped mat weaknes is matter of context
    The chopped mat I have seen is layered with woven cloth. This makes for a strong layup as chopped mat is isotropic and helps to re-enforce the weakness of bi-directional woven cloth. I have not seen cloth layers laid down at 45 degree angles to help strengthen a cloth only layup (although that layer may be hidden underneath the visible layers). Cloth is strong, but only in two directions. Pull at cloth on a 45 or even 20 degree angle and it is significantly weaker. Mat also bonds very well to other layers because its random surface strands interlace.
    I have also heard that chopped mat is more resistant to tearing after a puncture, but that is hearsay.
  • Options
    re: to summarize
    -- Last Updated: Dec-17-12 4:53 PM EST --

    "I think it would be fair to say steel is nearly dead in the 'go fast multi gear' road bike market. In the rest of the market...not so much."

    Agree that steel is far from dead in the non-racer segments of the market - in commuter/'practical' bikes, touring bikes, fixies/SS, etc., steel is alive and well.

    And even in racing bikes, there's still companies and builders churning out 'club racer' bikes in steel. If by 'nearly dead' you mean a niche that'll probably never go away, then, yup.

    "Ergo... in the kayak market would it not follow that a segment will demand lighter and lighter while others... not so much?"

    It doesn't necessarily follow, because the parallel breaks down.

    In cycling, lightness is equated with performance – even though that's really only true when going uphill (or accelerating), and to less of an extent than is commonly believed.

    For example, people look at at an 18 lb bike and a 16 lb bike and go, "Wow, the 16 lb bike is 11% lighter, so I'll probably go 11% faster!!!".

    Uh, nope. Your bike's weight matters almost not at all on the flat, and even going uphill, well, what about the RIDER? Rider weight + bike weight for many ppl is around 200 lbs.

    So, being 2 lbs lighter means you go... 1% faster. Uphill, not on the flat. Was it worth the extra $1000 you spent on the really light bike? Probably not... especially if you had any weight at all to lose off your body.

    In kayaks, it's a bit different. Lightness is generally not seen as a big huge performance enhancer, more a convenience, in terms of carrying and car-topping. But it's still important to older paddlers and female paddlers... just not quite in the same way that lightness is seen as important in bikes.

    Personally I think a lot of the lightness-need in kayaks could be obviated simply by having a nice portable cart and a good load-assist roof rack (Hullavator, etc), but for whatever reason these things don't seem to occur to many buyers in the market. Many of them focus on the boat weight, not the tools they can use to make sure the boat weight doesn't really matter.

    Truth is, lightness in kayaks may have just taken on a life of its own – some ppl really really want it, sure, but then at some point it becomes 'something to market' and an arms-race among manufacturers ensues.

    It's an easy-to-understand differentiator ("Oh, this one weighs 51 lbs, this one weights 39, so it must be much better"), so if you can make a lot of $$$ catering to lightness as a selling-point, you do, and everyone else jumps on board so as not to have marketshare/sales taken from them.

    'Life of its own', like I said. You see it in bikes all the time, over time. Back around 1990, there was an arms-race to see whose bikes could have the narrowest, lightest tires. Result was stock midrange bikes with uber-narrow 18mm tires that would pinch-flat riding over railroad tracks. o_0

    A remarkably stupid trend that soon died off as the market rejected the impracticality, but you can see how it snowballed. "Narrower is faster! Lighter is always better!!!" etc. etc.

  • Our '73 Moore has "octometric" layup,
    -- Last Updated: Dec-17-12 6:39 PM EST --

    by which they meant that some layers were at 45 degrees. Whitewater layup experts don't seem to do that, but in shorter ww canoes and kayaks, subsequent layers are unlikely to have fiber orientation absolutely parallel to earlier layers. In examining broken composite boats, I haven't seen clear evidence of breaking along the line of cloth fibers.

    Glass mat is ok for sea kayaks, because their hulls are not likely to be deformed as severely as ww kayaks. But I don't know of any ww composite boat builders over the last several decades who have incorporated glass mat. That speaks for itself. It might be used to stiffen ww canoe bottoms, but Kaz of Millbrook uses Spheretex instead, which is a cloth infiltrated with tiny polyester bubbles.

    Glass mat is typically coated with a substance to which epoxy does not adhere well. Those building or patching with glass mat should use vinylester instead.

  • I Agree
    -- Last Updated: Dec-17-12 6:58 PM EST --

    For me, a light weight kayak is not about going fast. It's about lugging the thing around. Yeah, I chuckle at the folks who whine about lifting their boats to the top of their vehicles. If your boat is long enough and your vehicle is low enough you just lift ONE END AT A TIME. Not hard at all. Toting the damn thing to the water and back into storage is where the filthy language starts... and a cart is just more STUFF. No, it may not make total sense, but we old folks with money and way closer to the grave than the crib will pay the $ to make life a bit easier.

    Yes, the light weight bike frame means a whole lot less for flatlanders and lots of them probably don't realize it. Here in piedmont, NC you are always going up and down. A short trip to the west and you're climbing frickin' mountains. The weight savings matters here.

    It may not be all logical and sensible but I think the sea kayak market will want lighter boats. I don't know nothin' about the whitewater crowd.

  • Options
    Glass mat
    has glue which dissolves in traditional resins. West says it's OK to use their epoxy, but admit that the bonding chemical is not dissolved. Patching to old mat should be fine though, because all the glue would have been dissolved already.

    Other than dedicated surf kayaks (like Mega) I didn't know any WW boats were composite. I had assumed they were all poly. I would have thought sea kayaks distort more than WW boats. With their length, sea kayaks essentially have a longer lever arm. I've certainly felt mine distort dropping off surf waves or running over rocks. But I suppose they generally take much less impact damage than a WW kayak (I really don't know, never been WW kayaking).
  • First, all ww slalom and downriver
    canoes and kayaks are composite, for lightness. And there are certain special layups that are nearly as durable as poly, and more repairable, but such boats are about as heavy as poly. Usually such boats are made of some very stretchy fabric, in multiple layers, bound by a resin that forms an unusually tenacious bond to the fibers. An example was the "Fiberlastic" layup that Phoenix used to offer. Vinylester resin, and many layers of some kind of stretchy cloth. I own one such, and in 15 years of harsh ww campaigning, it only partly broke once, in a very small area.

    I have two Millbrook ww composite boats, SS/KK with vinylester resin. They do break, but the layup would match the best composite sea kayak layups. Repairs are easy and straightforward. I have a Dagger slalom c-1, experimental S-glass outside, carbon inside, extremely stiff, but probably more susceptible to catastrophic breakage than an SS/KK layup. Heat cured epoxy.

    I'm sometimes surprised by the lack of unanimity among composite boat builders. Maybe there's a tendency to try to be different for marketing reasons. Some builders like to use only Kevlar, or to put Kevlar outside and reinforce with carbon inside. Not rational, though with enough layers or foam core reinforcement, you can get away with it.
  • three layers
    still only three layers.....just sayin
  • I don't think your info is accurate
    For example, my Kevlar/Duraflex Clipper Viper has 10 layers of cloth on the hull bottom and 4 on the sides near the gunwales.
  • It's not that simple
    Safety is only a concern with CF in the event of crashes or other impacts that cause frame damage. Up to the point of failure, it's every bit as safe as any other material. Advances in resins, nanoparticles and combining CF with other fibers have improved durability substantially, and it will continue to improve over time.

    I've got carbon forks that have been ridden for over 10 years without a problem, so even older CF technology was safe. The difference is that an impact that would bend a metal fork or frame will crack or break CF. That doesn't mean that you won't crash on a bent metal frame, so the actual difference in rider safety is debatable. In normal use, CF is perfectly safe and it's not going to spontaneously fail.

    It's not all about weight, either. Although CF can obviously be fashioned into lighter frames than other materials, the real beauty of it is the ability to customize the stiffness to a degree that isn't possible with metals. That's been the biggest breakthrough in CF frames recently. Not only can the stiffness be tailored in location and direction, the layup can be fine-tuned for every frame size. Changing the layup using the same mold can produce very different frames, both in ride characteristics and price.

    Custom frames are not only available in metals, either. There are several companies that build custom CF frames. You can have the performance of CF WITH a custom fit.

    No, composites aren't perfect, nor are they ideal for all applications. However, composites have yet to reach their full potential. Like it or not, the future for metal frames is going to consist of the low end of the market, plus small niches in other market segments. Ultimately, the future belongs to composites, which will continue to redefine performance and expand their market share as costs drop.
  • great
    great to now have three boats over 4 layers. thanks
  • To the future, then
    As it happens, I agree with you on the future of CF and similar materials. There will be so much more they can do and do it better in our lifetimes. There already is!

    However, I stand by my statement that CF is not magically superior to other materials. As with any material, it depends upon how it's deployed.

    And new materials do not always totally or permanently replace old ones. There are bikes made of bamboo and I'm told they work pretty well. That's something I'd rather hang on my wall, though.

    Over the past 26 years I've evaluated lots of bikes. I'll stick with my old steel Bridgestone MB for now, thank you. Nothing in aluminum ever felt to my taste. Ti was wonderful always, but unaffordable. My friend's CF road bike was a revelation as how good it felt - light, absorbent, stiff where desired - but that fork warning label and some horror stories and the price keep me away from CF. MTBF is more telling than YMMV... LOL
  • I'm not sure where you get info about
    the number of cloth layers in composite boats. I've owned a number of composite boats built by Phoenix, Dagger, Millbrook, Moore, Mad River, and Bluewater, and the minimum number of layers has been four. My latest Millbrook does appear to have only three layers in the upper sides, but the chines and bottom have two outer layers of S-glass, a layer of denser-than-usual Spheretex, and one to two layers of Kevlar. My Dagger, a 21 pound slalom c-1, has two S-glass outer layers, and two carbon inner layers.

    I find it very hard to get specifics from some canoe makers about layup. You must have some special source of intelligence. When I have done repairs, I have not encountered three layer layup in those areas that actually break. Woops, one exception. Slalom kayaks may have a foam core deck where the only cloth layers are inner and outer Kevlar.
  • Take horror stories with a grain of salt
    If someone claims they were just riding along (known in the bike biz as the "JRA" excuse) and they carbon fiber frame, fork or whatever failed, it's probably a load of crap. While there have been some issues with off-brand Chinese bikes that you see on Ebay and Alibaba, there have been very few issues with bikes from reputable companies, as their designs are heavily tested and even the lightest ones are designed to handle exceptional stresses. CF bikes and components only fail if they're damaged in some way and that doesn't just happen by itself.

    Frankly, compared to the other risks one faces on the road or trail, the risk of a CF bike failure is inconsequential.

    The one exception in my opinion is CF seatposts for off-road use. I have seen them break and even though it wasn't the horrific failure you might imagine (the post just bent backward, then sprung back once unweighted), it just doesn't seem like a good application for CF. I have and do use carbon seatposts on the road with no issues.

    Warning labels are there for legal protection of the manufacturer and are simply the result of our ridiculously litigious society. It's the same reason that forks all have those ridiculous "lawyer lips" on the dropouts that effectively negates the function of quick release skewers. I remove the labels and lips from all of my bikes, I'm confident that I don't need either.
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