Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Carbo Loading

Well, I have been testing out the new 2010 Specialized Stumpjumper Expert Carbon lately and I have had plenty of thoughts running through my mind about this rig. It isn't a bicycle you normally think of for off roading. You know- big wheels, carbon, and all of that wrapped up in one good lookin' package. For me, the carbon part is what makes my mind go round and round.

I used to have a carbon road rocket a long time ago. Funny thing is that this mountain bike reminds me of that bike quite a bit. It's strange, but putting into words just what a carbon fiber bike feels like is not easy. For instance, they say that carbon fiber damps out vibrations. Well.....yes and no. I can still feel plenty of high frequency buzz, like the tires on pavement, but some other frequencies are deadened.

The Stumpjumper Expert Carbon was designed to have a stiff bottom bracket and torsionally stiff main frame. That it does in spades. It was also designed to have some "vertical compliance". Hmm.........well, I don't know. I mean, it doesn't stab your backside like an old school aluminum rig, but it does have a fair amount of exposed seat post and fat tires, so who really can tell? I can't say that it has compliance in the frame for rider comfort, but I do know it isn't brutal. There. Does that make any sense? I mean, from the materials/cost standpoint.

And that is the bottom line. Does carbon fiber give you what you want in a mountain bike? Yes- fantastically low weight and incredible lateral and torsional stiffness is here. That's good stuff for 29"ers, but for the price of two hydro-formed aluminum hard tail rigs? And make no mistake, aluminum these days isn't the aluminum your mtb fore bearers were riding.

In fact, I would put a couple of aluminum hardtail rigs I have ridden toe-to-toe with tis carbon rig. I bet most riders would be hard pressed to tell any difference, and the aluminum rigs would carve off hundreds- maybe even a thousand bucks- of the price tag.

But then again, you wouldn't have much of a "cool" factor with aluminum. Well, choices are good, and carbon fiber mountain bikes with big wheels are ow one of those choices.

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