Carbon Frames: A Choice For Touring?

By Peg Labiuk | 06/19/12
Carbon Frames: A Choice For Touring?

Photo © Jonathan Devich/epicimages.us, bike courtesy of http://www.neilprydebikes.com/

We’ve teamed up with Marilyn Trout, certified USA Cycling Elite Coach to answer Voler Newsletter List members’ training questions. You can view her coach profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/mountainpedalscoaching80903 Send your cycling inquiries to Marilyn, and for a limited time, if yours is selected to be answered in our Training column, Voler will send you a $20 gift certificate that can be used towards any purchase from the Voler Store at http://www.voler.com. To submit your inquiry, e-mail her at Marilyn@MountainPedals.net, and type “Voler Training Question” in the subject line of the e-mail.

The following question was answered by Peg Labiuk (nee Peggy Maass), a colleague of Marilyn Trout, and a certified NCCP level 3 coach with a career in international road and track racing. She is a World Championship medalist, World Record holder, U.S. Olympic Team member, former British national team coach and Kreb's Cycle co-founder (British Columbia, Canada).

Carbon Frames: A Choice For Touring?

Hi Coach,

I remember a comment Marilyn made about people thinking the bike makes them fast, when it's them that make the bike fast. And rather than buying a new bike, better wheels are better start. What is your experience with Carbon bikes, (can't carry much on them, not like a columbus chromor bicycle or Ti frame)?

Thanks,
Terry Walsh
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Dear Terry,

Yes, Marilyn knows that the rider makes the bike go fast.  However, a friend reminded me that sure, the bike can’t win you a race, but it can lose it for you.  It’s about making suitable choices in your equipment.  If you are considering a new bike, first establish the main purpose for it.  For example, I acquired a new carbon frame in the fall and was hoping to upgrade to use it as a winter bike.  The trouble was I couldn’t fit fenders on it.  My next thought was, ok now I have a Time Trial bike.  It is definitely good for that, but I am thinking of modifying, replacing the carbon handlebars with aluminum so I can clamp on time trial bars without worrying about damaging the carbon bars.  Some may disagree and go ahead with the carbon bars, but they are pricey enough that I don’t want to chance ruining a pair.  Plus, I won’t be using the drops as much as riding in the time trial extenders so I won’t need the carbon there as much.

When you mention how much you can carry on a bike, I picture touring and carrying racks and panniers.   You will be considering clamping onto the frame, so carbon might not be the choice for you.  I love the “dampening” effect I get from my carbon frames; they relieve so much road jarring.  The lightness of carbon is the next bonus.  The frames are still new enough that I don’t know the test of time yet, but I do know a number of people who have cracked carbon frames, so I’d choose a carbon frame with a really good warranty program.  John Allen notes that “Nobody's making carbon fiber touring bikes as far as I know, yet… Carbon fiber has great potential, but contemporary carbon fiber frames have not demonstrated the level of reliability and durability that are desired for heavy-duty touring use…Titanium, while costly, is generally the most durable material choice, but aluminum and steel are excellent.”  To compare other materials for a touring frame, read more at http://sheldonbrown.com/frame-materials.html

Coach Peg

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