Is it just hype or is there truth to such statement?
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Carbon Fiber Bicycle Frame – Is It Worth It?
This is a tricky question as the answer largely depends on several factors. However, what I can do for you reveal is the truth behind the hype of carbon fiber bicycle frame. From there, you decide if it’s worth it in relation to your situation.
Most people would claim that a carbon fiber bicycle frame can help you go faster because it’s lighter. The truth is, the weight reduction it offers has minimal effect on speed. Shocked? Let me explain.
The truth behind all the “weight-reduction” rage is not really the weight of the bike that matters so much. It’s actually the absolute weight of the rider and bicycle together, and distribution of the weight.
Another thing that you need to keep in mind – the only areas in which weight-reduction can truly help is during acceleration and climbing. Here is another point; your wheels play a more important role during acceleration. Thus, the weight of the wheels can have a larger effect on your speed than your bike frame. So here’s a question.
Let’s say you weigh 150 pounds. When you combine the weight of the bike and your weight, you get a total of 170 pounds. Since you are thinking of a carbon fiber bicycle frame, you may reduce the total weight to 168, 166 or even 165 pounds – do you think you will have a noticeable difference in speed? The honest answer is – not really. Does this mean a carbon fiber bike frame not worth it?
The answer could be a yes, but it’s for an entirely different reason.
The Real Advantage Of Carbon Fiber Bike Frame
Despite the argument about weight-reduction, a carbon fiber bicycle frame does actually help you ride faster. However, it’s not really because of the weight-reduction.
The thing with high-quality carbon fiber bicycle frames is they can be crafted to be torsionally stiffer than steel or aluminum alloy bikes. This means that during high-torque situations, such as climbing, sprinting and accelerating will not be able to flex the frame that much. As a result, you will have a significantly higher power transfer from your body to the bike. Here is another benefit.
It can also be claimed that a carbon fiber bike frame can help you increase your overall speed because you will spend less energy in accelerating, leaving you more energy to spend for maintaining your top speed. However, someone might tell you that aluminum can also be made to be stiff.
While aluminum bikes can be made as stiff as the carbon fiber ones, but there is a big difference in terms of ride quality.
Aluminum bikes are much harsher in terms of road-feel when compared to carbon and steel bike frames. Even if you craft the aluminum bike to be as stiff as carbon fiber bike frames, it is still not the same.
This is because carbon fiber is non-isotropic. Basically, a carbon fiber structure allows greater compliancy going in a single direction, without adding flex to the opposite or another direction.
I’m All Speed With Little Regards For Comfort
Some of you may think that you only care about speed, and you have no problem sacrificing comfort. You might want to change your mindset after reading below.
The first factor is the compliancy. A bike that offers more compliancy translates to better control. And, better controls mean faster speed.
Then there is the issue of comfort. The thing with harsher bikes, your body will be significantly jiggled when you go through rough or sketchy pavements. All this jiggling around will cost you in terms of energy so you can remain in control and stable. On top of that, since you will have a smoother ride, you can have a faster descent as you won’t be “jolted” or jiggled as much.
Basically, the more comfortable the ride, the lesser energy you are going to spend, which means more energy for you to spend on maintaining your top speed.
Best Carbon Fiber Bicycle Frame Brands
This post wouldn’t be complete without brands recommendations that you can check out. However, this is not a review posts. Hence, I will just give you a short list of what I think is worth checking out.
Of course, there are a lot of other brands. These are only the brands I think that offer a generally good price to value ratio.
A note about Chinese carbon fiber bike frames – most people think of crap quality when they think about items that are made from China. This is generally true, but it doesnt mean that you can get quality bike frames from China.
There are high-quality carbon fiber bike frames that you can get from China. You just need to be smart about it. First of all, you need to understand that you are going to get what you pay.
If it’s cheap, then its probably crap.
On the other hand, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that its expensive, its automatically of high quality. Be sure to read reviews from actual users before you ship anything from China.
In terms of speed, carbon fiber bicycle frame can definitely help you increase and maintain your top speed. And, it’s not because it’s lighter, is simply because it’s more comfortable and its higher degree of “compliancy”.