|Yesterday at Ingawanis Woods|
Steel was the "springy, lively" material, but heavy, aluminum was the "dead, harsh riding" material, but had lighter weight, and titanium was the "magic carpet ride", but was very expensive and had a reputation for being flexy.
Carbon fiber, it was being said, was a material that could be all of those things, because it is man made and controllable as far as how one would want it to feel in terms of a bicycle's ride qualities. It had a "promise" of being light, like titanium and aluminum, but ride like steel, and still be stiff where you wanted it to be, but maybe not as stiff where you wanted rider comfort.
This didn't happen right away. This didn't happen in a few years after it was being said. Maybe.....just maybe, it is happening now, a full 20 years afterward. Is that not sort of weird? Maybe, maybe not. Bicycles are not at the top of the heap when it comes to getting new technology. No, that goes to defense, aero-space, and the auto industry first, and maybe that's why the promise took so long to trickle down to the lowly cyclist.
|Check out those bluebells!|
Now I am riding this 2013 model as a review bike for Twenty Nine Inches, and it is night and day different in feeling. This bike.....it rides like a steel bike. It springs and smooths out things, and all at an amazing light weight. Is this finally the fulfillment of that "carbon promise" made all those years ago? Hmm.........ya know, maybe it is.
And maybe it isn't either. I mean.....this bike is expensive! You don't get a front shock, and heck....you don't even get a front derailleur! So, there is that money factor, the price to buy in, that carbon fiber has seemed to always been at the extreme of. You also still have that specter of failure to hang over your head as well. Carbon fails catastrophically, most of the time. Not an appealing feature, and added in to this is the fact that carbon can be quite weak in resisting blows if they are applied at an angle the frame wasn't meant to deal with them at. Snap! Crack! Yeah.....
While that is getting rarer and carbon fiber frames are used in DH competitions and in other realms thought to be the exclusive place for steel, (BMX), and aluminum and titanium, (XC/Trail), it still figures into the public's consciousness.
|Carbon fat bikes? Why yes...|
But unless something can be done about these things costing $2000.00-$2500.00 for frames and forks, (at least for the "best" quality stuff), and until the public can accept this material fully and trust it wholeheartedly, the "promise" remains an elusive one in the bicycle world. A promise reserved for the well heeled and fortunate to taste? Mostly, it would seem that way. Yes, there are the direct from China offerings, but those are generally not the "latest-greatest" technology on the planet for bicycles either. The price is definitely a lot more appealing though. That's for sure!
So, I am saying that while the "promise" of a smooth riding, lively carbon frame can now be manufactured and is available, it still is a rarefied air sort of product that not many are going to be able to justify. Certainly not when you see titanium frames with outstanding features and competitive weights selling for less. And those are "metal" frames with a reputation for resiliency that resonates with consumers. So a "steel-like riding" carbon fiber frame- elusive, yes- but possible.
The saying goes that carbon is just too labor intensive to come down in price much, but you never know. Maybe manufacturers will drop all this super-stiffness nonsense. Maybe someday the promise won't be quite so elusive,(and expensive!).