The Bike List

The quick guide to carbon fibre

Carbon fibre frames are increasingly common, particularly when looking at new road and mountain bikes. The reasons are fairly simple, carbon fibre is a lightweight material that is tough and can be made into virtually any shape, making it ideal for bicycle frames and also components.

Full carbon fibre road bikes start from around £1,000, full carbon fibre hardtail mountain bikes from around £1,300 and full carbon fibre full suspension mountain bikes from around £2,500. If you're in the market for a serious bike at those price points or above then you'll probably have a number of carbon framed options open to you.

Not all carbon fibre is the same.

The key thing to remember with carbon, particularly when looking at the cheaper end of the scale is that not all carbon frames are equal, even if two bikes are priced at around the same level. Some of the larger manufacturers offer frames in up to 6 grades of carbon fibre and a lot of manufacturers use fancy marketing words to categorise their carbon fibre which makes it very difficult to compare one frame with another.

The other even more important aspect of carbon fibre frames is the design, manufacturing quality and testing carried out to ensure a frame offers all of characteristics it was designed to. Using just the right amount of carbon fibre, in the right way will produce a frame that has all the right qualities whilst still being lightweight.

The advantages and disadvantages of carbon fibre as a frame material.

The advantages

  • Lightweight material with a high strength to weigh ratio. Carbon frames tend to be lighter than their metal counterparts.
  • Frame designs can take virtually any shape - ideal for aerodynamic frame designs.
  • Can create very clean lines without join marks such as welds.
  • The cost of carbon is coming down but high quality carbon fibre frames remain relatively expensive.
  • Carbon fibre absorbs vibrations creating a natural damping effect.
  • Carbon frames can be designed to be stiff as well as comfortable if the right techniques are used.

The disadvantages

  • Carbon fibre commands a premium over most aluminium alloy frames. On average you'll pay 20% more for a carbon fibre frame over an aluminium alloy frame.
  • Carbon fibre frames can fracture or break on impact and it's very difficult to tell the extent of damage done after a crash as fractures might not always be visible.
  • A badly cracked or damaged carbon fibre frame is often not repairable.

Top Bike List Tip: check if a manufacturer offers a crash replacement warranty before buying a carbon framed bike, particularily if you're buying a mountain bike.

For peace of mind also check the length of the warranty period and what the warranty covers.

Want to know more about other frame materials?

Read our quick guide to aluminium alloy.

 

Click below to see all carbon fibre framed bikes by family.

Cyclocross Bikes

Road Bikes - Sportive / Performance / Endurance

Road Bikes - Racing / Aero

Triathlon / TT Bikes

Hybrid/ Town / Commuter Bikes

Hardtail Mountain / Cross Country Bikes

Full Suspension Mountain / Cross Country Bikes

Downhill / Freeride Mountain Bikes