OT Carbon Fiber bicycles?

Are they worth the cash? Does anyone who has had experience prefer them over something like a Cannondale or other oversized aluminum.

I have a 2003 Cannondale 1000 and just lately have been peddling a Schwinn Fastback Ltd but am wondering if full carbon is the way to go.

What is the opinion of those here on Pnet?

Thanks, in advance, JAWS

yes, if…

– Last Updated: Dec-06-10 7:26 PM EST –

In my experience, a good carbon frame represents the best fusion of comfort and responsivness. This obviously reflects my personal preferences. I used to ride Cannondale aluminum bikes when I was racing. When I got back into cycling after grad school in a more casual way I found the Cannondales to be kind of jarring, particularly on longer rides. I'm now on my second carbon road bike.

The answer to whether it's worth it depends on what you plan to do with the bike and your spending tolerances. Given similar components, the difference in price between carbon and other materials seems to have dropped somewhat in the past several years, but you do need to be wary -- not all carbon framesets are created equal. You probably won't go wrong with one of the major companies (Trek, Specialized, Cannondale). There are lots of other great carbon bike makers out there, you just have to do a bit more research.

Ultimately, the best answer to this question is the same as with kayaks -- go ride some different bikes. Try similar alu and carbon bikes back to back, and try to do some longer test rides if you can.

Different Strokes

– Last Updated: Dec-06-10 7:48 PM EST –

A bike frame should:

1) fit you well.
2) have a geometry you like... crit-like or century-like.
3) be stiff and not flexy at the bottom bracket.
4) be fairly light weight

Believe it or not you can get pretty much all of the above in steel, aluminum, titanium, or carbon. Carbon and titanium are noted for being light and stiff and 'shock absorbers'. Some folks feel big differences in frames and some folks don't. One of my buddies will never be without a Cannondale. Another guy cursed the rough ride and went back to steel.

In short, try before you buy and see for yourself if you're crazy for carbon.

(To get 1 and 2 above I bought steel)

Not for me
I rode a Schwinn like yours for a couple years and liked it. It was the aluminum one with a carbon rear triangle. I eventually gave in and bought a full carbon Bianchi. It’s a great bike but it really isn’t worth the money for me for what I do. When riding centuries I may be able to tell a slight difference in the way road buzz is cut down. It is lighter but that isn’t a tremendous issue either. Rotation weights are much more important than frame weight. I own all types of mountain bikes and my favorite now is a steel frame Niner. If I was buying a road bike I would look very serious at a high quality steel frame.

The advantage of carbon over any other material is they can put stiffness and flex in very specific areas. These areas can be tweeked to give the exact flex they want in every direction. That is tough to do with metals. Even so, for my riding style I would likely look at steel or Titanium.

Fit is the most important issue of all. If you feel perfect on your bike, you likely won’t like a new one any better. Except when you drive around with the bike on top of your car showing off that carbon beauty.

Just Say No

– Last Updated: Dec-06-10 11:15 PM EST –

If you dont mind being paralyzed for life by a squirrel (or other serious injuries), then they are fine.

See http://cloudbaseimaging.blogspot.com/2008/06/squirrels-and-carbon-forks-dont-mix.html

Need To Know More
The answer is not so simple as some may think. First off different peeps have different riding styles, think guys like Indurain who was a pure power rider, Pantani who was much more of a dancer who stayed out of the saddle a lot, and Armstrong who was more of a mix of the two. The Big Mig needed a real stiff bike and he was seldom out of the saddle, while Pantani was continually out of the saddle and never really generated huge power output.

There is also the type of riding you do. Straight, flat, smooth, new tar roads do not produce the jarring a cobblestone, Hell of the North, road does. Often over looked is that while a lighter bike is nice for climbing, once the climbing is over there is a descent. While a good climber will always beat a good descender there is a huge difference in how different bikes go down hill.

There is a reason guys on the Tour have a different frame for TT, flat stages, and climbs. There is also a reason different team members use different frames.

Tell us a little more about yourself and your riding may help in selecting your best choice for biking.

I am a long time road rider and
I’m still riding my 15 year-old Ti frame.

I have upgraded the components twice and the frame will probably last me for the rest of my life (I’m now in my mid 50’s). I have raced off-and-on, but I just cannot convince myself that carbon fiber is an ideal long-term bicycle frame material. Yeah the pros use carbon frames, but they get new bikes every year and their sponsors will replace any frame that breaks. In fairness many of the local club riders are on now on CF, but if I ever purchase another bike it would most likely be another Ti frame. Ti gives a great ride on our rough local roads and the material’s durability is outstanding.

Frames like Moots, Merlin, Litespeed, and Lynsky are warranted for ‘life’, carbon not so much.

Of course ymmv.

Guess I should have given a little more

I already own a Trek 715 from 1978ish. 531 reynold’s tubing, sport touring geometry, a Miyata 1100a, 1 inch aluminum tubing, glued and screwed, basically a japanese version of an old Alan, early 90’s Cannondale sr 600 with the cantilevered stays, Diamond Back master TG a crit bike made of chromoly, Cannondale 1000 from 2003 and a Schwinn Fastback Ltd from 2006.

During the warm months I ride to my sisters house and back home which is 46 miles. This I do about 3 to 4 days a week and on Sat. or Sun. I’ll ride with friends for about 50 miles. My normal ride is your average Wisconsin rolling hill terrain.

Most of my riding I try to get a nice spin going and not push myself to the point of blowing up but still putting in a decent effort. It normally takes me an hour and thirteen minutes to cover the 23 miles to my sisters house.

Here’s the thing. I have to much stuff hanging in my garage. So I was hoping to get rid of some bikes and replace it with one bike that does it all. All day comfort yet sprints or climbs without feeling like a noodle. None of my riding friends has or has ridden a full carbon bike so I was hoping they are the end all to be all of bikes. Thanks for the info. Jaws

To be the opposite of No. 3 for
century rides, I got Carbon fiber.

Jack L

Same question here
Longevity. I keep a good frame as long as it will last and still perform. How long will carbon last? Nobody really knows yet.

One thing I do know is that carbon gives you little to no warning before it fails, and depending on the layup, fails catastrophically when it does go. Metal not only warns you, but you can repair it many times.

That’s not to say that carbon frames are bad - just a fact you should know.

I just did a bunch of upgrades on my 2001 Specialized Allez (Wheels, crankset, front derailleur, cassette and chain), and I plan on keeping it for a good long time. Maybe next time it needs a major overhaul, I’ll look at composite frames again out of curiousity. I don’t race, so no need for the latest and lightest for me - I go with what I like. YMMV

Love it!
I very much enjoy my Guru Carbon frame touring bike.

Bike frame materials

– Last Updated: Dec-07-10 12:42 PM EST –

It really comes down to the ride you prefer. Personally if I were going to buy right now I'd go titanium, because I've always preferred the feel on the road of steel. If you want better road shock you can always look for a mixed fork, or a steel fork with more rake angle than has been trendy lately or longer frame angles. The last road bike I bought (or should ever buy) was a good steel Waterford with stainless steel bits where they used to use chrome to fend off rust before that process became a problem. (yes, I was riding a few years ago...)

That said, a good carbon frame made now is much hardier and better made than the ones of 20 years ago, as long as the QC on the company is good. I've heard very good things about the durability of the carbon frames from a Belgium company that specializes in racing bikes, some variable stuff about Trek.

AS above, it really depends on the ride you want. There are great arguments for either Ti or a good carbon fiber bike. Neither of these in a good bike is going to be so heavy that it'll kill you, so unless you are racing weight is not really a deciding factor once you get to the bikes around $2000 and up.

There is one item out there that is new, at least to me, in the component area that I think is really worth looking at. I don't recall if the hub and deraileur group was Campy or Shimano on the bike I saw in the last year, but it had electronic shifters. No cables to maintain, and better yet it allowed for a true granny wheel again. Indexed shifting made a true granny gear history because of the need for even drops between the chain wheels.

This may be something that you'd need to check out the reliability on, but if I were buying a road bike now I'd be looking at that hard as a way to get back the kind of hill climbing gear I had in my first good bike.

Steel for me
I have been fortunate to have owned some of the best Carbon, Ti and Steel bikes available. My two cents is that the modern lightweight steel bikes are very hard to beat and that is what I am riding. FWIW, it’s a Serotta. Agree with Kudzu regarding fit. That is the key to comfort on a bike for me. I may have spent as much on fittings and the required component changes to acheive a proper fit as I have on framesets. If I was buying off the shelf I would buy the one that fit best and then I would hope it was steel. Not sure what your budget is but take a look at Velocipede Salon on the net. Most of the reputable independent framebuilders chat on this forum and you may be surprised to find that a custom geo bike can be pretty affordable. Of course, you can break the bank if you want. Also, look at the classifieds on Velocipede and possibly the Serotta forum as well. Happy hunting.

Ti vs. Carbon
A friend who is a partner in a bike company said they switched to Carbon and dumped Ti because the cost of Ti is so close to carbon that it’s not worth the difference anymore.

Serrota bikes

– Last Updated: Dec-07-10 1:01 PM EST –

Great to keep hearing the name from riders as far away as Florida. Ben Serrota is a relatively local guy and there's a nice family story there - I played music with his father once he retired and decided to act on a lifelong dream.

The one thing that I forgot to mention above, which may not matter depending on how old you are, is that Serrota and the other high end makers as far as I know switched to fully tig-welded joints for steel/ti bikes some years ago. It turns out that the guy who did the brazing job on my last bike, brazed and butted and that's what I wanted, was the last guy doing that for Serrota. So - with any steel frame now you are likely getting tig-welded joints.

Not the End All, Be All
A local rider recently switched to a carbon frame and the shop told him he would be X mph faster on it. He wasn’t. He was pissed. I think carbon’s biggest thing is the stiff bottom bracket and dampening of the road buzz.

If you want your bike to fit and look just so… consider this:


Squirrels and BIKES don’t mix
If a squirrel gets into the front wheel on a bike with a steel fork, you’re still in for a trip over the bars. The bigger problem is actually low spoke count wheels that allow enough room for critters to get between the. It almost never happened back when 36 spoke wheels were the norm.

Same here
My primary road bike is a 12 year old Litespeed and my backup bike is a 15 year old Lemond RS Ti. Although I have done component upgrades, I can’t justify the cost of a carbon frame, as the Ti bikes ride great and they’re not going to wear out.

That said, my “new to me” (used) 'cross bike is carbon (frame, fork, seatpost and stem), but that’s only because I got a screaming deal on it that was cheaper than Ti. I have to admit that it does seem a bit odd to be riding Ti on the road and carbon off-road. I’ll be sticking some road wheels on it in the spring to see how it compares to the Litespeed. It’s definitely stiffer, but whether it rides as well still remains to be seen.

It was probably Dura Ace Di2
It’s interesting, but it’s HIDEOUSLY expensive, as in more than $2000 over the price of mechanical Dura Ace or Campy Super Record 11 and $2500 more than SRAM Red.

While the price point is correct…
…it really depends on what you want out of a bike. A more salient comment would be that carbon is the “hot” material right now and at a given price, it’s easier to sell than Ti or other materials. That may change, as companies like Cannondale come out with new designs in other materials (aluminum in their case) that provide similar weight and performance to carbon for a lot less money.