Jul 27, 2014 4:13 PM GMT
Crashes in the Tour de France often send riders hurling to the road because carbon-fiber frames and wheels tend to break.
NYT: PÉRIGUEUX, France — In terms of technology, Greg LeMond, the three-time Tour de France winner, was a pioneer. In an age when steel still dominated, LeMond rode bikes made of carbon-fiber composites, then an exotic material mostly used by the military.
At this year’s Tour, carbon fiber is the only material used for bikes, and it has also replaced aluminum in wheel rims. The strength, lightness and the design flexibility offered by carbon fiber have ensured its dominance. And its most extreme form, the special aerodynamic time-trial bicycle, was on display Saturday in the 20th stage.
But there has been a catch. Unlike steel or aluminum, carbon fiber does not bend in crashes. Rather the bikes and wheels frequently shatter, often hurling riders to the road and, many fear, increasing the severity of injuries.