Bicycles Are Now Lighter and Faster--Cyclists Falling Harder

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jul 27, 2014 4:13 PM GMT
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    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.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/27/sports/cycling/as-technology-makes-bicycles-lighter-and-faster-it8217s-the-cyclists-falling-harder.html?ref=sports
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    Jul 29, 2014 6:14 AM GMT
    Of course, there's this paragraph too:

    "Greve and Perovic agreed that for consumers who are not constantly banging their bikes around on team vehicles and who are unlikely to be involved in crashes, the risks in buying a carbon bike made by a reputable company should be minimal."

    The TdF crashes this year were barbaric, but they are also riding 30-50 miles per hour, in occasionally bad weather, on unfamiliar roads, while jockeying for position in a bunch of other riders who are doing the same.

    I know a few riders who cracked frames and forks, but they crashed pretty hard, and I wouldn't say that the frame material had anything to do with the severity of the crash.

    I don't care for carbon wheels because of the difference in braking, but I've never heard of any amateur rider cracking a wheel, so material weakness wouldn't deter me from buying a set.

    My three crashes on three different bikes had nothing to do with frame material. The one aluminum and two carbon bikes held up well in all three cases.
  • roadbikeRob

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    Jul 29, 2014 7:45 PM GMT
    I was warned never to invest in a carbon frame bike for everyday transportation because the wear and tear would take its toll quickly and carbon frames are not quite as resilient as metal or aluminum frames. So I stuck to a metal framed road bike. I now have a Jamis Ventura Sport road bike and yes it does feel a little lighter than my old bianchi brava road bike. So yes these bikes are getting a little lighter in weight.
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    Jul 30, 2014 4:04 AM GMT
    I wouldn't buy a carbon bike for everyday city commuting just because of the expense. You generally don't need a bike that light and expensive for shorter distances at lower speeds.

    My "city bike" is a steel single speed. I use it for fun rides and grocery shopping. I'm doing a 40 mile micro-brew tour on it this Saturday because it will be at casual pace. If I were doing my usual Saturday morning ride, it would definitely be on the carbon bike that is worth more than one of my cars.
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    Aug 05, 2014 9:07 AM GMT
    I don't like keeping my wheels on the ground; and when they are on the ground, it's usually rough ground at medium to high speeds. Falls are just part of the game...no need to increase the frequency or intensity of them. For those reasons, I stick with aluminum everything.
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    Aug 12, 2014 7:41 AM GMT
    My last one was this

    photo c8d859e3-11eb-43e9-ad91-a5c3e88ba944.jpg

    Bought back in 2006 at Helen's in Santa Monica and sold a few months after moving back here. I bought one of their left over, but new team bikes. Saved me about a $1,000 to have a bike that said helenscycles.com

    This (Columbus) isn't the right place for bikes with 2 lane roads too narrow for a bike and cars going each direction.
  • roadbikeRob

    Posts: 14303

    Aug 16, 2014 1:54 PM GMT

    Yes bikes are getting too light in weight. Yesterday morning I rode my new road bike to work and around 7 AM or so as I tried to turn left off of one of Buffalo's major thoroughfares onto a side street I wiped out on the left turn lane due to two speeding motorists going in the opposite direction. My bike sustained very little if any damage but its owner(me) sustained some annoying, painful damage. I slammed my right knee on the asphalt and now I am struggling through a cycling injury. It is hard for me to walk and my right knee is still hurting. Hopefully I will recover during this weekend by taking it easy. But Buffalo is not all that great for cycling because of speeding, inconsiderate motorists and poorly marked streets and lack of bike lanes. I guess that I am back on the bus again for awhileicon_sad.gif
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    Aug 16, 2014 2:53 PM GMT
    I am dubious of using an expensive carbon bike in urban settings. The road conditions are too variable, the unexpected demands too great for such a frail machine. They're a thoroughbred best suited for the clean open road.

    A couple of my bikes have been long distance touring models with aluminum frames, as is my current one. Also having stouter rims with extra spokes, to carry a heavy baggage load, but also ideal for ripped-up city streets and curbs.

    Main problem with aluminum is vibration transmission through the frame, worse than steel, which is actually more pliable. There are times I do wish I had a flexier, vibration dampening carbon frame, and to shed a few pounds. But I also know my frame and rims are not likely to fail with my stout aluminum touring model.

    And once a year I strip the bike down to its minimal weight (24 lb), put Shimano clipless pedals on it, and still ride the thing 165 miles down to Key West. Which it's perfectly capable of doing, being designed for long distances and our Ride not being a race.

    But the rest of the year 98% of my mileage is urban, for which a more rugged $3000 investment seems preferable to a more easily damaged $12,000 one. I wish I lived in a house with a big garage, and the room for a stable of bikes, but I'm a condo resident. So 1 size has to fit all.

    Oh, and BTW, whether bicyclists are falling harder or not, ALWAYS wear a helmet. They've saved my head a few times. Versus being taken to the hospital with head concussions when, as a kid, I didn't even have the option of a helmet. I also wear fingerless gel gloves often, for comfort, but they work well against road scrapes, as well.