Saturday, February 27, 2010

Spin up or spin down...

The marketing of carbon framed bikes for some companies is interesting. In a recent bike magazine, I was reading an editor's 250 words on getting the best bang for your buck. In it, it mentioned a certain company selling a complete bike for $2,600 that features the same frame that their $5,500 bike has. That's one way to spin it. Another spin would be that the person buying the $5,500 bike is getting the short end of the stick because they are getting the same frame that's on the lowly $2,600 bike. But that's not going to help sell many high-end bikes Something to think about.

Carbon is a mystery material. There's no easily understood levels of quality like there is with aluminum or steel tubes. What exactly is "High Modulus" anyway? With an aluminum or steel frame, the customer can easily identify the quality of the frame material with the tube selection. Are the tubes generic or brand name? Does the marketing person call out "double-butted" in the frame description? If there is nothing called out and the frame is just 6061, it's a safe bet the frame is plain gauge tubing. How does one quantify/qualify the quality of carbon used in the frame of a $1,500 complete bike? a $2,500 complete bike? a $5,000 complete bike? Is the fact that just because it's expensive, it has to be good?

A lot of bike companies pick a generic carbon frame made by a company in Taiwan or China and simply slap their logos and branding on the frame. Yeah, they may request a few tweaks to the tube shape of some minor geometry revisions to make it "their own," but it really is like going shopping for a dress shirt and asking for a monogram on the pocket to make it "your own."

There's nothing really wrong with that method since the factories in Asia are good and their engineers are well versed in the material. However, when the companies start talking about how they developed the frame to do this or that, what they really mean is we made the frame to look really bitchen and then we put our own spin on the douche-swoosh. I wish I had coined that term. Cracks me up every time I hear it.

(Late addition: walking to work today, I had the thought that today's carbon fiber bikes are like paint-by-number paintings. Fill in the spaces and make it your own!)

(What's playing: The Knitters Someone Like You)

10 comments:

Ben said...

That is sweet! Classic right there...

Guitar Ted said...

Funny thing this carbon stuff. You are correct about the mystery part. One company about has a hissy fit if there is a scratch in their carbon frames while another is bragging how they hand grind the carbon lugs on their bamboo frames to have a smoother transition to the bamboo. (Oh! But there is a directional fiber lay up underneath that makes the lug stronger!)

And Bamboo.......well, that's another story!

Jim said...

Wow, it really sounds familiar to me. I just don't remember why.......

CurbDestroyer Chronicles said...

Yes this carbon thing is way out of hand. Almost to the level of fraud. There is the quote, Shame is mighter than the sword. Shame being dictate by the sticker you have. The sticker that tells everybody how much money you laid down at the alter of your bike industry.

CurbDestroyer Chronicles said...

"Shame is mightier than the sword". They shame people by the stickers on bicycle frame. How much did you donate to the alter of the cycling industry. You can even take this back to the 80's. How difference was there between SL and SLX? What measurable performance difference was there, besides being $100+ lighter in the wallet? If bought a new Campy Record group at that time, were you going to hang it on a SL. or SLX frame. Maybe more important if you were fine with the SL, was how were you going to handle the question. "Gee, you forked over $1800 for your bike, but didn't go the extra $100 for the SLX?".

efuentes said...

Yet the guy you bought his carbon, 4,500 dollars Pinarello frame cant understand why I love so much my (In his opinion, lowly and old) 80s Colnago Super.

Anonymous said...

Mike, you remember when Intense Cycles *offered* a carbon road bike? LOL! -bikebldr

blackmountaincycles said...

Yep - and the model name was Phoenix, if I recall.

Anonymous said...

Ya kind of sad, but I always thought the mainstream metal frames were pretty similar. Cannondale having the same frame throughout the line is one example. Back in the day there were also lots of companies ordering a frame from Taiwan and then just putting their own decals on it, etc. You never knew how many of the tubes were Prestige, or how good the house tubing was, or if the stays were high tensile steel or double butted or what. Heck, Steve Potts doesn't offer differing levels of frame quality and the components would then determine the final build cost.

You pay more, but for carbon it'd probably be smart to stay away from the companies that don't have their own engineering dept. and just do "phone calls to Taiwan". Or better yet, get a Parlee or Calfee.

Check out Parlee's offerings, they have 5-6 differing carbon tubes to tune the ride depending on the buyer: http://www.parleecycles.com/z2z3/

blackmountaincycles said...

I'm guilty of writing "Cr-Mo Main Tube" in the frame description of a bike model. Main tube usually meant seat tube.

Absolutely, if I was in the market for a carbon frame, I would definitely go with a company who engineers their own frame and has the testing equipment to verify integrity. And among carbon frames, my favorites are also Parlee and Calfee, with a tip of the scales to Parlee. Interesting how both end in -lee.

Mike