Should You Purchase a Carbon Fiber Bicycle?

carbon fiber bicycle

The first carbon fiber bicycle, the Kestrel 4000, earned the nickname “the dentist’s bike” for its outsize price. In the four decades since its release, the cost of carbon fiber has come down, and more people can afford the premium that carbon fiber commands.

Does that price tag come with improved performance, or has a cloud of hype formed around carbon fiber? Do you need a carbon fiber bike if you don’t participate in competitive racing? What makes these bikes so special compared to their aluminum counterparts?

If you’re considering a carbon fiber bike, you can learn about the benefits in this article. We’ll also highlight some reasons why you might skip the purchase.

A Carbon Fiber Bicycle Will Last

Carbon fiber bikes, like most carbon fiber sports equipment, have high durability. If you’re looking for a bike that will hold up when used in rough terrain and inclement weather, carbon fiber has you covered.

Carbon fiber’s resistance to deformation matches steel’s. Its tensile strength gives it a leg up over aluminum bikes under normal riding conditions.

If you live in a rainy or muddy region, the corrosion resistance of a carbon fiber bicycle will keep it safe in wet conditions. (This can also keep the bike safer when you store it in your garage. The same traits that make it great for the oil and gas industry also protect it from cans of spilled motor oil.)

Carbon Fiber Absorbs Shocks

Competitive racing demands a bike that resists shocks without getting too heavy. A carbon fiber frame combines low weight and solid shock absorption.

That said, the frame plays only a modest role in absorbing shocks. Look at the tires and wheels to ensure they’ll enhance that strength.

Check Your Budget

While carbon fiber has come down in price in the last 40 years, it still commands a higher price than aluminum. Its precursor materials can get expensive and the production process can get complicated.

If you want a simple road bike on a middling budget, carbon fiber won’t suit you. Even if the “dentist’s bike” stereotype has started to fall away, that tensile strength still comes at a premium.

Carbon Fiber’s Weaknesses

While carbon fiber frames hold up well to the stresses designers intend them to handle, they can have difficulty with new stresses in a way aluminum or steel frames won’t. If you crash a lot or use your bike to carry heavy loads, you may do better with aluminum.

Any circumstance where you clamp the bike gets riskier with carbon fiber as well. Clamping stresses the frame in places riding doesn’t, and it may not have the reinforcement necessary to handle it.

High Performance at a Price

A carbon fiber bicycle will treat you well if you treat it well. It offers great durability and performance, so long as you have the budget and avoid putting non-riding stresses on the bike.

At SMI Composites, we specialize in producing autoclave-cured components and can find the ideal approach for both low-volume and substantial-volume projects. If hearing about carbon fiber bicycles has gotten you wondering what carbon fiber can do for another project of yours, contact us today.

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