Wow! I was on the internet-o-sphere again yesterday and saw where another mid-level bicycle compnay is going to offer a carbon fiber 29 inch wheel based hard tail. The news source reporting this said that some companies are being accused of being “late to the carbon 29′r HT party". Really?
This would indicate to me that the thought process is that it is all about what you make your frame out of. If that is the case, I can tell you a lot of folks are being snookered by "Carbon Fiber: The Snake Oil Of Frame Materials".
Hey! Don't get me wrong- Carbon fiber, used correctly, and of a higher quality, can be a "magic carpet ride" material. But let's face it, you can use the "best material" and still come up with a "klunker" of a bicycle. And the way things are going, it seems that it is more about having a carbon fiber hard tail, and price point, than it is about smart design, and maybe, possibly another material better for the job.
As I have said, a smart design in carbon fiber is one thing: The material and geometry working together to bring a higher level of performance, or a more enjoyable ride, or both together, ideally. Then you have the frames that are carbon fiber, but are, well.......they aren't that fun to ride, or they just stink from a handling/performance standpoint.
But hey! We have a carbon fiber 29"er hard tail for ya! Right over here! Step this way! Snake oil, I tell ya. Get on the bandwagon. Which leads me to....
Carbon Fiber: The Commodity: I've written about this before here, where I talk about how some companies are using scary-similar looking molds and charging vastly different prices. Carbon fiber is "carpet fiber", right? I mean, look at the rush to the bottom on the road bike side. Companies are fighting to bring carbon road bike frames into their lines at sub $1500.00 for completes, and next year that will go lower. The "grey market" on carbon road frames is crazy right now, and as I stated in my piece from a couple weeks ago, mountain bikes, and 29 inch hard tails in particular, are headed down this slippery slope at breakneck speed.
Meanwhile, companies like OS Bikes, Vassago, Singular, Salsa Cycles, and others are selling reasonably priced steel frames and aluminum frames that are, well.......awesome! And yes- steel and to some degree aluminum, rides great, but the deal is that these companies and others have just made use of great materials and designed a bicycle with great geometry that is fun to ride, high performance, and reasonably priced. Oh! Did I mention that these materials are proven in the field with years of use? Not that carbon fiber couldn't be, but the variables are far greater with regards to carbon fiber.
Some of these bikes have a lot of thought in the geometry and the execution of the design. Yet they are not all that fancy-pants in the marketability department, apparently, like carbon fiber is.
So, what's the point? Forget the hype maybe, I guess. It just seems to me that the hype over the carbon frames is getting a little lopsided and design, and smart materials use is being overshadowed, that's all.