Just the mention of the word and watch an avid cyclist lite up. I have bikes that 90 percent of the bike is that form of plastic. Pretty much everything except the chain, cassette and chainrings. And a few other little tidbits.
Early on carbon was pretty experimental. And early on it was pretty crappy too. Many throw away bikes in those days.
But Im not going to go into the history of carbon fibre.
Im going to comment on the huge amount of its usage in the bike industry. While the cost of this stuff go’s up, the procedure cost of making a carbon bike frame is way down. You can buy off brand carbon frames from China for $300 bucks. Which just kinda takes the allure away. Bottom line is its not high end anymore.
You can buy a very nice Trek Emonda 5, full carbon frame and fork, for $1650 bucks. That same level of bike 10 years ago was $2800 or more
But nowadays, carbon is pretty mainstream. There’s now heavy carbon and lite carbon. Im not an engineer but one would have to think that the heavy carbon is cheaper to make. I think that can be assumed.
So as the carbon bikes get cheaper, they get a bit heavier. So why carbon if its heavy? You can say the ride factor. Less vibration travels thru carbon than aluminum. But that scenario does not apply as much on a MTB as it does on a road bike. You can still get a pretty nice high end MTB that aluminum. And now that thought process is heading to road bikes.
So here’s the new thing.
Trek, and I assume others will follow, is making a high end aluminum frame road bike. The cost of the bike is a bit less than a low end heavy carbon frame, only lighter. Yep, the carbon frames got so lower end and heavy they can build a lighter aluminum frame now. And do it cheaper. Lighter and cheaper in the same sentence.
Check out the Emonda ALR
Super duper aluminum $2200 bike thats lighter than a super duper carbon $2600 bike? Could very well be. Have we gone full circle? If they put all the technology back into aluminum will that get lighter than carbon? Certainly the engineers saw that the cheaper carbon was no better than the good aluminum. Does this mean we will once again see aluminum frames with carbon seat stays, like 10 years ago?
On the high end of things, carbon will continue to rule. Good, expensive carbon is light and strong. The high end frames will always be carbon. When you use the high end material with the best production procedures you will always get the best results.
But over the years the carbon production techniques improved and the different levels of carbon grew. The manufactures were so hell bent on the cheapest carbon bike they let forgot about aluminum.
And here we are, many years later, bringing high end aluminum back with yet again more updated production techniques.
Never a dull moment in this industry.