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Carbon frame vs. higher end components

March 5, 2014, 9:57 a.m.
Posts: 442
Joined: Jan. 31, 2005

one's a brand and the other is a type of air-hardened steel tubing

Painted steel tubes with stickers on the outside.

There's nothing better than an Orangina after cheating death with Digger.

March 5, 2014, 10:04 a.m.
Posts: 5738
Joined: May 28, 2005

Painted steel tubes with stickers on the outside.

"Nobody really gives a shit that you don't like the thing that you have no firsthand experience with." Dave

March 5, 2014, 10:18 a.m.
Posts: 8935
Joined: Dec. 23, 2005

Painted steel tubes with stickers on the outside.

Officially the dumbest thing I've read yet today.

March 5, 2014, 11:20 a.m.
Posts: 442
Joined: Jan. 31, 2005

I think you'd be surprised how many people couldn't tell the difference but are willing to pay a huge premium nonetheless.

There's nothing better than an Orangina after cheating death with Digger.

March 5, 2014, 11:26 a.m.
Posts: 0
Joined: April 14, 2011

@craw

_I'd love to know more about how to check this.
As an example the Stumpjumper FSR frame is available in "standard" 9m FACT carbon for $3k (with a CTD Kashima shock).
The S-Works version is the fancier 11m FACT carbon and it costs $4.5k (with a Fox/Brain Kashima shock).

Does anyone know what the difference is or how you might test for it?
I guess ultimately a frame is made of whatever the sticker says it is. _

as you go up from older Fact 8 to Fact 9 through to Fact 10 and Fact 11 its basically the quality of the carbon fibre cloth (higher modulus on the higher Fact series) and layup schedule that changes, which means a lighter and stiffer frame whilst retaining strength. In addition, more recent higher spec. frames use less "parts" meaning generally 3 monocoques (head tube area, BB into chainstays, seat cluster)

As well as changes to the co-moulded frame components like BB shell, head tube, dropouts; you will see alloy parts on cheaper frames and carbon parts on more expensive frames. There has generally been a move away from alloy parts because you can get galvanic corrosion between aluminium alloy and carbon fibre over several seasons, causing cracking.

what this means to the end user? There is a subtle difference in ride quality, and reduction in weight, but you are usually paying a large premium for those differences.

In addition, fitment is different with older frames using threaded English bottom brackets, newer frames using press fitted BB30, PF30, OSBB variants.

Its much easier to understand with Specialized road bikes, because its not complicated by suspension and big knobbly tires ridden on dirt trails so you can "feel" differences in a road bike much more readily when test riding with 100psi tires on road surface.

Something many have found with the S-Works road frames is that they are not as comfortable as the less expensive "production" frames because the S-W uses a higher modulus carbon fibre cloth, which means more feedback going through to the rider from the road.

For a hardcore racer this is ideal, for a recreational cyclist, not so good!

Here's some stuff we weighed at my old store, to give an idea of real world difference in weights.

SW TARMAC SL4 FORK UNCUT 340GM

TARMAC SL4 FORK UNCUT 418GM

TARMAC SL4 FRAME 54CM 1.17KG (NO BB)

SW TARMAC SL4 FRAME 54CM 890GM (NO BB)

TARMAC SL2 FRAME 54CM THREADED BB SHELL 1.35KG

STUMPJUMPER EXPERT CARBON 29'er HARDTAIL 17.5" 1.18KG

March 5, 2014, 11:34 a.m.
Posts: 442
Joined: Jan. 31, 2005

@craw

as you go up from older Fact 8 to Fact 9 through to Fact 10 and Fact 11 its basically the quality of the carbon fibre cloth (higher modulus on the higher Fact series) and layup schedule that changes, which means a lighter and stiffer frame whilst retaining strength. In addition, more recent higher spec. frames use less "parts" meaning generally 3 monocoques (head tube area, BB into chainstays, seat cluster)

As well as changes to the co-moulded frame components like BB shell, head tube, dropouts; you will see alloy parts on cheaper frames and carbon parts on more expensive frames. There has generally been a move away from alloy parts because you can get galvanic corrosion between aluminium alloy and carbon fibre over several seasons, causing cracking.

what this means to the end user? There is a subtle difference in ride quality, and reduction in weight, but you are usually paying a large premium for those differences.

Wow thanks for that. It would be very interesting to spend time on similar bikes made of, say, Fact 9 vs Fact 11 carbon to see if you could notice the difference. I wonder if the ride quality goes up in step with the price?

There's nothing better than an Orangina after cheating death with Digger.

March 5, 2014, 11:36 a.m.
Posts: 442
Joined: Jan. 31, 2005

Officially the dumbest thing I've read yet today.

I'm being facetious, right?

There's nothing better than an Orangina after cheating death with Digger.

March 5, 2014, 11:36 a.m.
Posts: 5738
Joined: May 28, 2005

I think you'd be surprised how many people couldn't tell the difference but are willing to pay a huge premium nonetheless.

that's a total non sequitur. and if you knew me from adam you'd realize how dumb that claim is

let me break this down for you like we're chatting on the short bus. true temper is an american company that produces, among many other things, steel tubing - of many different kinds - used to build bicycle frames.

prestige is a type of air-hardened steel tubing produced by tange, a japanese company.

your earlier statement is analogous to saying "FACT 9m carbon vs. chromag, can anyone really tell the difference?" you are smugly comparing apples to gorcery stores to point out how ignorant most people are about the taste of fuit

Wow thanks for that. It would be very interesting to spend time on similar bikes made of, say, Fact 9 vs Fact 11 carbon to see if you could notice the difference. I wonder if the ride quality goes up in step with the price?

ah see now you are asking smart questions instead of making uninformed statements

http://www.bgcycles.com/frame-tubing-selection.html

"Nobody really gives a shit that you don't like the thing that you have no firsthand experience with." Dave

March 5, 2014, 11:41 a.m.
Posts: 1062
Joined: Jan. 25, 2006

I don't think you can apply the same logic between road and mountain bikes when it comes to carbon. On a road bike, there's no comparison - with a bike that requires ultimate efficiency and stiffness, a carbon road bike will provide all that plus a degree of weight savings and vibration damping that aluminum simply can't match.

With mountain frames, I think the line is slightly more blurred. Yes, a carbon frame of equivalent intention will in most cases be lighter, stiffer and provide better vibration damping than an aluminum counterpart. It will also likely be much stronger and not degrade as rapidly overtime due to a high and in some cases nearly unlimited fatigue life (no work hardening, etc). But, like other people have said here, your ability to feel the reaction of the frame to the riding surface are muted by suspension action, high volume tires, etc. Personally, I sold a Nomad Carbon for a Banshee Spitfire and don't miss the carbon one bit. Sure, the Nomad may have felt a hair stiffer in some extreme situations, but the rear suspension action is better on the Banshee. I would take better quality suspension and wheels over a carbon frame any day.

March 5, 2014, 11:54 a.m.
Posts: 442
Joined: Jan. 31, 2005

that's a total non sequitur. and if you know me from adam you'd realize how dumb that claim is

let me break this down for you like we're chatting on the short bus. true temper is an american company that produces, among many other things, steel tubing - of many different kinds - used to build bicycle frames.

prestige is a type of air-hardened steel tubing produced by tange, a japanese company.

your earlier statement is analogous to saying "FACT 9m carbon vs. chromag, can anyone really tell the difference?" you are smugly comparing apples to gorcery stores to point out how ignorant most people are about the taste of vegetables

Wow lots of anger this morning.

First, I wasn't making a claim. It's a supposition. I don't know how many people could or could not tell the difference. I know I can tell some things apart but there are lots of things I can't. My guess is that not as many people could as you think. It's _possible that even you _ might mistake one type of tubing for another.

Second, distinguishing between cheap steel and high-modulus carbon might be easy to do. But once you start comparing Fact 9 to Fact 11, or one fancy steel to another it becomes increasingly difficult and often you're paying a big premium for what can be very small differences.

This circles back to the original post: whether to pay extra for carbon or better parts. It might be worth paying more for frame material if you think you can tell the difference.

There's nothing better than an Orangina after cheating death with Digger.

March 5, 2014, 11:59 a.m.
Posts: 178
Joined: Sept. 10, 2012

I'd love to know more about how to check this.
As an example the Stumpjumper FSR frame is available in "standard" 9m FACT carbon for $3k (with a CTD Kashima shock).
The S-Works version is the fancier 11m FACT carbon and it costs $4.5k (with a Fox/Brain Kashima shock).

From the outside you can't tell a whole lot. You can run tests on the frame for stuff like stiffness if you have appropriate equipment, but as a typical customer your options are:

- gaze longingly at the lustrous finish
- weigh by lifting or with scale
- test ride [hopefully on dirt not just the parking lot]

Ultimately how it rides is what matters so if you can get a proper dirt test ride on a bike that fits and has the suspension setup well that's your best bet.

March 5, 2014, 12:03 p.m.
Posts: 0
Joined: April 14, 2011

I should throw my hat into the ring here.

I've spent the last 2 years working as workshop manager at Specialized Concept Stores dealing with lots of high end custom builds (54 S-Works road bikes in 11 months at 1 store), 100's of production 'boxed' bike builds and doing lots of warranty work and "crash replacement" (road traffic collision) claims for mainly road bikes as the stores were based in London, England.

Got very familiar with the ins and outs of the different road frames including the SL2, SL3, SL4, Venge and Shiv, and went through SBCU training

Also sold a good number of high-end mountain bikes and frames including S-Works Epic, Stumpjumper FSR and hardtail, Enduro, Fate, Camber and Demo 8.

previously my experiences were working as a manager for a company bringing Banshee, Devinci and Ellsworth into the UK, as well as retailing Specialized. Our specialty was gravity bikes mainly DH, FR, Mountain and DJ.

Whether you go for aluminium alloy frame or carbon fibre depends on your disposable income and preferences.

For a full suspension mountain bike? My own choice would be an aluminium-alloy frame with high end suspension and finishing kit, and mid level transmission and brakes. Its not so obvious on a full-suspension mountain bike…

For a hardtail mountain bike? My own choice would always be a carbon fibre frame, you can really feel the difference with a well engineered carbon fibre frame because there is no rear suspension, the frame is everything.

I've owned very similar Stumpjumper 29'er hardtail frames from Specialized in aluminium alloy and carbon fibre and the difference is night and day, especially when pushing hard.

For a road bike? My own choice would always be carbon fibre with quality wheels, high end finishing kit and high end transmission (Ultegra). You can really feel it on a road bike…

March 5, 2014, 3:40 p.m.
Posts: 8256
Joined: Nov. 21, 2002

Carbon is not solely about light weight.

true but theoretically you could build an aluminum frame that's comparable in stiffness and strength to its carbon counterpart - it would just be a tank. My last alu frame and current carbon frame are roughly the same stiffness but the carbon is 3-4 lbs lighter.

If i were on a budget, a carbon frame isn't the first place I'd invest. Its a ways down the list.

WTB Frequency i23 rim, 650b NEW - $40

March 5, 2014, 4:11 p.m.
Posts: 1042
Joined: May 30, 2004

I switched from carbon 26" to alloy 29" and can't tell the difference, especially now that both bikes are running the same quality of wheel. I still have a significant lust for a carbon frame but when push comes to shove I would still prefer better parts.

100% with you on this one. I dressed my aluminum Enduro 29 up with some better parts and I can't imagine that the carbon version with lower end parts would be as good. I'll take an aluminum frame with better parts any day. In the case of the Enduro 29, I was able to buy the complete bike, sell the parts I didn't want and dress it up with higher end parts for the cost of the carbon frame alone. Normally I would go with the carbon frame or carbon framed complete bike and do some upgrading over time but Specialized's carbon frame and carbon framed complete bike prices are astronomical.

But obviously the carbon frame with the high end parts is the way to go if you can do it.

March 5, 2014, 4:32 p.m.
Posts: 1042
Joined: May 30, 2004

My experience with going from a Santacruz blur lt 2 to a carbon version is that the carbon rides better because the frame is stiffer and therefore more accurate. Same thing going from a nomad to a nomad carbon. In road bikes a good carbon frame is far better that the aluminum ones.

This is my experience with Santa Cruz also. I believe SC does this on purpose to create a distinct line between their budget bikes and their high end bikes when they have both aluminum and carbon frames in the same models. Very smart IMO.

Not all bikes are like this though. My Enduro 29 frame is aluminum and so unbelievably stiff that it rides just about on par with the carbon version. This is in the X-Wing design of the frame. It gives up some weight and some of the magic carbon ride quality but with high end suspension the difference is negligible. Specialized differentiates their carbon models and aluminum models in a different way.

Road bike yes. I would not consider an aluminum road bike for an significant kilometers except for a commuter or winter bike.

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