Carbon Frames: A Choice For Touring?

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

Photo © Jonathan Devich/, bike courtesy of

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 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 To submit your inquiry, e-mail her at, 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)?

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

Coach Peg

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