Friday, June 28, 2013

Kinda figured this would happen...

I made a somewhat negative post about carbon water bottle cages and also posted pictures/specs of my cross bike with a carbon seat post last week.  And in doing so, I got called out for bagging on carbon, yet using it myself on my personal bike.  The first thing I want to do is say I have nothing against carbon fiber.  I actually think it is a great material.  It's light.*  It's durable.*  It doesn't really have a fatigue life.* And it makes a fine race bike.

The problem with it is most folks who buy carbon bikes or parts don't race and don't know how to keep their bike in proper working order.  However, that's not their problem because today if you go into the typical bike shop seeking to buy a nice higher-end ($2,000+) road bike, you will walk out with a carbon fiber bike.  Most shops can only sell what the companies' they buy from have to offer and well, that's carbon fiber.

Since I'm not most shops, the only frames I sell are steel.  There was no conscious effort on my part to shun carbon.  Besides the fact that my personal preference for frame material is steel, there's another reason why I don't sell other company's carbon frames - it's expensive!  I can't justify the cost to stock full size-runs of carbon bikes from company G, S, or T.  I'm actually blown away by how much inventory a shop needs to carry just to have a decent representation on the floor.  We're talking some shops with a half-million dollars in inventory just to be able to show off the whole range just so they can sell a $2,000 bike.  Crazy!

I think I've shown that a shop with a different focus can succeed outside the bike shop norm.  There are those days when someone comes in on a ride with a broken shift cable that needs fishing out and replacing and I heft their Parlee with Zipp wheels into the stand and my god that thing is light and I bet that is a rocket ship to ride.  It's got to be fun right?  I mean, it's like a Ferrari of a bike.  I'm not being sarcastic here.  But then after several hours of riding on bad roads with 23mm tires, I would be longing for my steel frame with 28mm or 30mm tires and the comfort that combination brings.  Or I would be trying to descend as fast as possible and realizing that that super-light machine's lack of mass is adversely affecting the ability to carve the descent down a pot hole strewn road.

But damn, that thing was light when I lifted it into the stand.  My back thanks you.  I've got nothing against carbon fiber.  I just don't like that it seems to be becoming the only option for the masses who want a nice bike.

Oh, and that Easton carbon seat post that's on my cross bike.  It was free to me about 7 or 8 years ago.  There's no crimps or cuts on it where it meets the seat clamp.  It makes no creaks.  While I have seen plenty of carbon seat posts break, this one is working great.  Until it breaks, but hopefully, I will have replaced it by then.  One can hope.  Everything breaks some time.  Even steel.

And I have only ever broken one carbon seat post.  I was working in a shop in Solana Beach.  I had some bike in the work stand.  Clamped by the seat post.  I needed the front wheel higher in the air, so I pulled up on the front wheel.  There was a crack and I was left holding the bike by the front wheel after the rest of the bike disengaged itself from the seat post.  The seat post had been damaged by over-tightening and it just took one little lift and *snap* that was that.  As I recall, the customer wasn't happy that I likely just saved his next ride from limping home with a broken seat post.  Oh well.  Maybe I need a Moots ti post...

My cross bike

*When designed/engineered, installed, maintained, used as intended, and operated in a tightly controlled testing environment.

(What's playing:  The Deep Dark Woods The Ballad of Frank Dupree)


Jim Bangs said...

I can feel your inventory issues, I operate a contractor lumberyard. At least for me they don't suddenly change the graphics on a 2x4 so the stock you have becomes last years model and "obsolete".
When I first got out of college (late 70's) I spent four winters teaching skiing and the same thing was going on in the ski manufacturing business. It was all being driven by the world cup skiers and the equipment they used. I can't tell you how many guys showed up for beginner lessons with super stiff high end downhill boots and skis that they could not turn if they had super powers. I see many similarities in bike shops now. Bike choices by the manufacturers driven by TdF riders. The ski business has finally figured out how to offer all skiers products, it seems like to me the bike business is starting to expand and offer choices for consumers. It took the snowboaders to turn things around for the ski business, maybe it is the fat bikes and adventure bikes that will turn it around for the bike business. Anyway....just some thoughts that your blog got moving in my head!
I recently changed my road bike tires from 25's up to 32's. It is not a carbon frame, a lower end alu frame, But because of its lower end status it had room to run the bigger tires and wow!, what a nice upgrade in ride quality. I'll never be a "fast fred" so quality of the ride is important for me. My touring bike and my mountain bike are Steel, quality of the ride is #1 priority, especially for the LHT.
Good blog! THanks for posting!!

Tim Joe Comstock said...

After posing my original question, Mike, I dove into the septic wastes of the forums. The general consensus seemed to be that mixing carbon and steel will further hasten the advent of the Zombie Apocalypse and make your bicycle explode. Carbon and titanium, however, not so much. But mostly I am surprised at the lack of response to your post. I would have expected a flood of comments comparable to a helmet or Lance topic. Maybe it's because the tour has started...


Tim said...

You def need a Moots ti post, for the sake of the chidrens.