Update: Nov 29
Here’s one of the most engaging articles we’ve ever published. Is it still relevant now with advances in carbon and carbon repair? Let’s hear it!
By Kurt Gensheimer
So you’re about to mosey on over to your local bike shop and drop more coin for your first genuine racing bike than most people pay for an entire motorcycle. You’re either new to the sport of cycling or you’ve been riding for a few years, learning the ropes on an old aluminum frame that’s one season away from the dumpster.
You’ve been watching all the Spring classics, the Giro, the Vuelta, and the Tour taking notes on who’s riding what. You’ve drooled over your own teammates’ high-dollar race rig that has more carbon fiber on it than the International Space Station.
You’ve done all your research, have test-ridden all of the latest, high dollar, carbon fiber machines, and you’ve picked your winner. The checkbook is in hand cocked and ready to besmirch every last dollar in your savings account, and all that’s left to do is negotiate with the shop so you at least have a little bit of cash left to buy some inner tubes.
But before your visions of grandeur run rampant and your checkbook becomes more hollow than Landis’ Maillot Jaune, are you sure carbon is the right frame material for your needs?
Don’t take it wrong, carbon indeed has its merits, but the recent carbon craze seems to be heavily tied to bandwagon mentality; whatever the pros are doing is what the masses want to do too. It was true in the ‘70s with drilled-out components, in the ‘80s with copious amounts of hair gel and Briko shades, in the ‘90s with those horrific lycra shorts designed to look like blue jeans, and today with carbon racing bikes.
And why shouldn’t carbon be popular? A frame and fork weighs less than a six-pack of brew, they’ve got terrific road damping capabilities, are stiffer than an I-beam – at least initially – and most importantly, carbon fiber has an indisputable cool factor. As a testament to the popularity of carbon, custom bike builders who made their name in steel are now crossing over to carbon. Names like Steelman, Serotta and Independent Fabrications all offer bank account-busting custom carbon frames.