Carbon fiber has taken the bike world by storm in recent years. It’s grown from an exotic material with a small, cult following, to an accepted part of cycling technology.
Carbon has two crucial qualities. First, it is stiff while being light in weight and strong. Second, it effectively absorbs vibration. Stiffness translates energy more efficiently from the pedal stroke into moving the bike forward. A flexible frame absorbs a percentage of this energy before it gets to the wheels. A stiff frame feels as if its dancing up a steep hill, while a flexible frame will make you feel like you’re walking in mud.
But, here’s where the cool factor ramp’s up…carbon absorbs vibration from the road surface, and gives a very smoothe ride. While stiffer aluminum frames make you feel like having been sucker-punched in the kidneys after fours hours in the saddle, carbon leaves you with none of that. The result? On a long ride you can maintain a faster speed without the tiredness from road-shock.
Carbon manufacturing processes are varied. Some prefer to join pre-made tubes together, others prefer laying sheets of woven carbon fiber into a mold and “baking” a single piece frame. Each process has its own merits and passionate supporters…but you can’t argue with the beauty and consistency of the final product.