Lightweight, strong, and smooth. A carbon fiber bike frame is a great choice if you can put in the time to research and maintain your ride.
Your bike frame is the most important aspect of your bicycle. It brings all the components of your two-wheeler into one, cohesive unit. Without the frame, it isn’t even a bike!
Bike frames are usually made up of either steel, aluminum, titanium, or carbon fiber. But how do you choose? The most popular options for custom bikes are titanium and steel. However, the majority of bikes are made from carbon fiber. Let’s review the basics.
What Is Carbon Fiber?
Carbon fiber is made up of strands of carbon (thinner than human hair!) woven together into a carbon cloth and set with a hard, epoxy resin. Carbon fiber is stronger than steel and it weighs less. It’s also twice as stiff. The word cloth probably makes you think of something flimsy and delicate. Think again! The aerospace industry uses carbon fiber in the fuselage of their Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane, which can carry over 335 passengers!
Carbon fiber is light but still reasonably strong and rigid. This means that carbon fiber bike frames are durable, aerodynamic, and stable. The downside is that, unlike titanium or steel, carbon fiber can shatter if it is hit by a sharp object. Not only that — if you fall on the thinner parts, you risk damage to the frame.
The Benefits Of A Carbon Fiber Bike Frame
In the past, carbon fiber bikes used were made for cyclists with a big budget. They were known as costly, high-end race bikes. Improved manufacturing techniques have made these frames less expensive. They are now ideal for the rider who wants more speed but less price.
Carbon Fiber Frames Are Smooth and Comfortable
One of the biggest benefits of a carbon fiber frame is comfort. Unlike aluminum, which transfers vibration and shock through the bike, carbon has vibration damping qualities that make for a smoother ride.
Carbon Fiber Frames Are Durable and Strong
Over the years, manufacturers have made technical improvements in the weave and epoxy. This allows bicycle designers to reinforce certain areas in the frame, which makes it very durable. Lab tests have shown that carbon fiber road bike frames can even outperform alloy!
Carbon Fiber Frames Are Easy To Care For
When they were first being used, carbon fiber bike frames were susceptible to UV damage. This is not the case anymore! Today’s frames contain UV stabilizers to help protect them from light contaminates. And when your bike gets dirty from the trails, you can wash it worry-free! Carbon is an inert material, which means you don’t need to worry about salt damage or chemical corrosion.
Carbon fiber frames have come a long way since they were first designed in 1986. There are even carbon fiber bike frames that withstand a rough ride down a mountainside. With a bit of care, your carbon fiber bike frame can last a lifetime.
Damage To Carbon Fiber Frames
Carbon fiber frames are strong and durable, but they aren’t invincible. You’ll probably experience damage at some point. But what can cause damage to such strong material?
The biggest factor that determines how long your bike lasts is the build quality. Your bike might have the strongest carbon fiber and resin, but if the manufacturer has done a poor job during the build process, your bike won’t last very long.
Carbon fiber frames are stiff. This means that, unlike metal frames, they don’t bend when force hits them. If you get in a crash, knock your bike against something, or land on a trail from a high launch point, your bike is susceptible to damage, visible or not.
Just like a car, the lifespan of a carbon fiber bike frame shortens if you don’t perform basic maintenance. If you fail to clean your bike weekly, you won’t notice small cracks or chips. It’s best to read the owner’s manual for the best tips on how to extend the life of your frame.
Carbon Fiber Bike Frame: Repair Or Replace?
A common myth among the cycling community is that carbon fiber frames cannot be repaired. And while you should always have your bike inspected by a professional before you decide which route to go, there are a few things you should consider before you make that decision.
The decision to repair your bike depends on two things — the extent of the damage and the area it’s in. To repair a carbon fiber bike frame, the damaged section is cut out. Then it’s bridged with material that’s cured, sanded, and painted to match your frame.
Simple repairs like cracks, splits, or creaks can be repaired. However, mostly all repair jobs are best left to professionals.
If your bike won’t be as strong as it was before the damage occurred, it’s time to replace your carbon fiber frame. Always err on the side of caution. You’ll be able to feel if it isn’t as safe as it did before the repair, so don’t risk it.
Another reason to consider a replacement is cost. It might make more sense economically to replace your bike rather than repair it.
And finally, a carbon fiber bike frame is not worth the repair if the alignment is off. The area around the suspension pivots where the inserts are bonded is nearly impossible to repair.
Remember, not all carbon fiber damage is visible to the naked eye. Internal damage can lead to bigger problems and is only visible with an x-ray. Before you choose to repair or replace your bike, you’ll need to have it looked at by a professional.
Replacements and Repairs Are Costly
The cost to repair your carbon fiber bike frame depends on the extent of the damage. In general, you can expect to pay around $100 to fix gouges, nicks, or worn-out areas. A small crack can run you about $200, a medium crack around $300, and major damage can cost a minimum of $400.
The best way to offset the cost of repairs and replacements is to invest in bicycle insurance. Simple Bike Insurance is here to help! Our policies cover accidental damage, spare parts — even bicycle rentals so you won’t miss a ride while your bike is in the shop. Get your instant quote online now in seconds.