Beginner Tips for Handling a Carbon Fiber Bike
If you have found this article it’s likely you have purchased, or are in the market for your first carbon fiber bike.
With that in mind, we will briefly explain what you can expect from a carbon fiber bike with some helpful answers to frequently asked questions for handling your new bike both on and off the road.
What is Carbon Fiber?
Carbon fiber is a synthetic material valued for being strong, stiff, and lightweight, making it ideal for many different products and especially effective for bicycle frames.
The strength-to-weight ratio is what makes it perfect for cycling, as any weight decrease of the bike itself that can be made, while maintaining rider safety, translates directly into performance benefits. The performance benefits are also pronounced when it comes to enhanced responsiveness and comfort of the material.
The notable downside of carbon fiber frames is that they are quite expensive, owing to the relatively laborious manufacturing process and more limited supply/demand compared to aluminum or steel.
There is also a considerable variance between manufacturers and models, meaning poorly-made carbon fiber will not possess the same positive characteristics as its well-manufactured counterpart.
Carbon fiber is also brittle and will crack if subjected to direct and high impact stress (such as a crash) where the impact comes from the side which can be seen regularly in bike racing.
Ibis Mojo was the first carbon full-suspension mountain bike in the industry!
Questions and Considerations
Upgrading to carbon fiber raises a number of questions about its ability to handle the type of rides you plan to use it for. Below we’ve tackled your top questions.
Are carbon fiber bikes durable?
One of the most commonly asked questions when considering an upgrade to carbon fiber is: Do carbon fiber bikes break easily? With frames being so lightweight, it’s common to think of them as being brittle.
A carbon fiber frame is just as strong as its aluminum or steel counterparts, but even stiffer, and is not susceptible to oxidation (rusting), unlike steel, meaning it maintains its structural integrity over time.
Where carbon fiber is weaker than other frames is its lack of durability for heavy loads and susceptibility to compression damage during instances of lateral impact. Due to the rigid nature of the material, cracks can happen easily when an impact occurs perpendicular to the grain. It is worth noting that manufacturers recommend not over-tightening components (compressive force), as it can also result in cracks in the frame.
Restoring structural integrity to a carbon fiber frame after a crack is possible but less common and more costly (see more below). This is contrasted with steel which is especially durable and relatively easy and cheaper to fix or aluminum which is durable but more difficult to repair.
How to repair a carbon fiber bike frame?
Due to the complexity of the material, and the highly technical process required to ensure a quality repair, carbon fiber frames are best left to be repaired by an experienced professional.
There are some skilled mechanics and engineers with the ability to restore your compromised carbon frame back to its original strength (depending on the extent of the damage, of course).
Is carbon fiber good for mountain bikes?
As discussed, carbon fiber frames are quite durable and can be repaired. With better manufacturing processes in recent years, carbon fiber bikes have become perfectly suited for the mountain biking scene. Matter of fact, carbon is the most-used material among mid-range and high-end mountain bikes.
Due to the optimized weight and stiffness of the material, meaning improved control and less vibration, carbon fiber mountain bikes make for a smooth ride. With prices dropping as supply and demand increase, carbon fiber frames have become a great choice for any passionate mountain biker.
Is it ok to hang a carbon bike?
If you usually store your bicycle on a wall mount, your new carbon fiber frame should have no problem on the same mount as long as it’s handled with care when putting it up/taking it down. The only consideration may be scratches to the frame paint if the mount is made of metal.
To avoid scratches, cover the mount with a softer material like pipe insulation or even old socks.
Carbon forks on touring bikes?
As touring bicycles are intended to travel long distances which often include riding on rugged terrain, a good-quality fork plays a major role for bikepackers. Steel forks are the most common choice, followed by aluminum.
A carbon fork is quite rare in the touring disciplines as it doesn’t like direct stress & vibration from the outside (loose pannier bags, etc). So, is it a good choice? Probably not, that might be the case why most carbon forks don’t have eyelets. When you are thinking to add small racks on a carbon fork, think again!
Are carbon fiber bikes more comfortable?
Generally, carbon fiber bikes are considered comfortable due to the material’s ability to absorb shocks and lessen the vibrations transferred to the rider from the road. Compared with aluminum this difference is substantial.
Steel, however, shares carbon’s ability to dampen the vibrations transferred, but steel degenerates over time, while good-quality carbon won’t ‘age’.
Comfort levels can even differ between carbon frames as manufacturers can design to optimize for comfort – endurance style, or responsiveness and speed – performance style.
- Related: Bicycle Frame Materials 101 Guide
What should I know about caring for a carbon fiber bike?
As with any bike frame, to ensure longevity and efficiency of your new carbon fiber bike, maintain and clean it frequently and service it every 3-12 months depending on usage. If you experience a crack or hole, have it repaired by a professional as there is a high risk of further damage if ridden while compromised.
Due to the price commitment of a new carbon fiber bike and the properties of the material, extra care should be taken in storage and transport, but any well-made frame should be able to withstand general usage and handling without any issues.