Monday, September 29, 2014

Carbon Fiber Forever!

After more than a year of Retro-grouchy ranting against new technology like carbon fiber sweeping over the bicycle industry, I've finally seen the light. Consider me converted. Carbon fiber is AWESOME!!
If you want the best ride experience money can buy,
you can't let a little thing like a busted steerer
dissuade you. Carbon fiber RULES!
(from CyclingWeekly)

With its tremendous strength to weight ratio, carbon fiber blows away steel in virtually every kind of lab test that the industry can throw at it. And with virtually limitless possibilities in design -- from tube shape, to carbon layup and fiber orientation -- the material can be customized to enhance comfort and compliance in one direction, while remaining incredibly stiff in another, hence the familiar "laterally stiff - vertically compliant" claim heard from so many road testers. As far as customization of ride quality goes, steel has nothing on carbon fiber.

Look at some of these testimonials from the carbon fork manufacturers:

From True Temper, regarding their test of carbon fork strength: True Temper's . . . test is a ramped load, meaning the load is increased periodically until failure occurs. Starting at 180 lbs, the load is increased 45 lbs. every 5000 cycles. Every fork will eventually break. Strong forks will last more than 10,000 cycles with a load of 270 lb. But our minimum standard begins at over 15,000 at 315 lbs. for road forks and 18,000 for cross forks and tandem. But our production forks are stronger than that, often going into the 20-25K range and beyond at loads of 360-405 lbs.

See? Nothing to worry about. With test results like that, a person should have all the proof they need that a carbon fork, or frame, or other component should last darn near forever. Can't say that about steel. Don't believe me? Just ask the folks at Deda, another carbon fork maker. "Carbon lasts longer than metal. Only love is stronger than carbon." Sweet.

Over at Look, they say there should be no worries about the lifespan of a carbon fork. "There is no limitation because carbon has a natural flexibility. It can be used a hundred years while maintaining the same stiffness." A hundred years! I'm totally sold.

So when I saw this article about the Three Peaks Cyclo Cross race on Cycling Weekly site, I figure it's just a complete anomaly. Maybe even some kind of sabotage perpetrated by some steel-loving Retrogrouch -- the kind of person who would have us all riding bikes from the stone-age. When cyclocross racer Joe Moses's carbon steerer snapped off during the race, he still managed to stop without injury, and even managed 3rd place! (after a bike change, of course).

If you want the best cycling experience money can buy, you can't let a busted steerer dissuade you. Besides, riding a bike with handlebars firmly attached to the fork is vastly over-rated.

Carbon Fiber Forever!


  1. This is in fact the 100th anniversary of the first break of a carbon fork in a race, Eugene Christophe in le tour 1913 broke his carbon fork on the scent from le tourmalet and to add insult to injury was docked extra time as a village craftsman helped to spread the epoxy....

  2. The linked article is about a pro or supported rider using brand new equipment. How about cyclists who ride the same bike for 20 years or more, or used bikes? Thirty years from now, will a vintage carbon bike be as safe as a 30-year-old bike is today? I can see some nanny government organization stepping in and making it illegal to sell used bikes with carbon components, or having them pass some elaborate safety check costing more than the bike is worth. I'm surprised the government has not already jumped in. Carbon golf clubs, tennis rackets or fishing rods is one thing, but a bicycle is a vehicle.

    1. I would be very wary about buying any used carbon fiber bike. Period.

    2. I had the exact same thought about that rider being on new equipment (and having new equipment backups...), and about un-sponsored riders/regular folk out riding. Scary to think about taking a spill over a broken steerer tube, I could see somebody getting impaled.

      I don't even want a NEW carbon bike, there's no way I'd get involved with a "vintage" one, if that is something that could ever come to exist.


    3. "Vintage" carbon fiber? Is that like "dietetic candy", "military intelligence" or "business ethics"?

  3. Why stop at crabon? Aluminum bars have a long history of failure. Cino Cinelli raced on aluminum bars when on Frejus in the 1930s but didn't sell aluminum bars until 1963. Can't argue with those facts.

  4. Don't forget the three basic rules of engineering: water flows downhill, you can't pull on dirt, and you can't push a rope.

    Carbon fiber is indeed wondrous stuff. Strong, stiff, doesn't fatigue or corrode, but it's essentially a lot of tiny ropes. In compression, it's no better than the polymer matrix (I.e., plastic) that holds it together.