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Old 10-13-11, 08:13 PM   #1
Rotten Bastard
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Why Is Carbon Fiber So Expensive?

Here's why.

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See, to get the carbon part of carbon fiber, half of the starting material's acrylic needs to be kicked away. "The final product will cost double what you started with because half burns off," explains Bob Norris of Oak Ridge National Laboratory's polymer matrix composites group. "Before you even account for energy and equipment, the precursor in the final product is something around $5 a pound."
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Old 10-13-11, 08:31 PM   #2
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OK so a 2 pound frame has $10 to $100 worth of carbon fiber?

It is expensive because we will pay high prices....
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Old 10-13-11, 08:36 PM   #3
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Its also much harder to work with, less availible, and the bikes that spend more time in R&D are the high end carbon fiber bikes. Its not all a big conspiracy.
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Old 10-14-11, 06:35 AM   #4
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Don't worry! In a few more years, the price of carbon will drop. It will drop and its applications in the cycling world will expand far beyond just racing and road bikes.

- Slim

Last edited by SlimRider; 10-14-11 at 09:47 AM.
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Old 10-14-11, 07:16 AM   #5
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Don't you know that carbon fiber and diamonds are made from the same material?
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Old 10-14-11, 08:47 AM   #6
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Don't you know that carbon fiber and diamonds are made from the same material?
Yeah, but then again so is charcoal and pencil lead...
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Old 10-14-11, 08:58 AM   #7
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Yeah, but then again so is charcoal and pencil lead...
Shhh... If they realize that the cost of a barbeque or a pencil will skyrocket when they get DeBeers involved.
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Old 10-14-11, 09:09 AM   #8
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It's not the cost of the material that makes bikes expensive - it's the way the material is used to form the shape and chacteristics that costs. If you don't care about the ride characteristics, there are prenty of cheap CF frames.
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Old 10-14-11, 10:09 AM   #9
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Carbon is a fad right now, and though a lot of people are riding on carbon it's still the newest and greatest thing to ride on. As soon as this fad settles down then a new material will come out in the works in other industries like building of military tanks and fighter planes etc, it's called amorphous metal or metallic glass. This stuff will make anything not only two to three times stronger then any alloy or carbon fiber but do so with at least half the weight! I expect to see this stuff on bike frames probably in 15 to 20 years...damn it!! I'll be 75 or so, a little late for me to be wanting one. There's also other stuff on the horizon like ceramics and thermoplastics, buckypaper (for those that are wondering: (http://www.fsu.edu/news/2005/10/20/steel.paper/) perhaps even a form of aerogel could be done. It's not so much being light weight and strong, because either of these materials that can be done, it's more of a question which will be cheaper to manufacture so the mass market can afford it. Some of this stuff is already being looked at as not only lighter and stronger then anything we currently use, but the possibility exist that it could be cheaper to make then CF once the technology takes hold and mass production starts.

But what's really weird is while we play around with technology there exists a component that's been around for a very long time and grows in nature that does make lightweight frames, and so far seems very resilient, more so then CF or AL, is simply bamboo...but our culture is such that we can't except something so simple. By the way, almost all bamboo frames are chemically treated to hardened the fibers, only Calfee hardens without harmful chemicals, Calfee smoke treats it instead. And Calfee says bamboo is their most crash tolerant frame! Right now their expensive, at $3000 for just the frame to $5000 complete, but if that material were to catch on mass production would lower the price significantly because the material simply grows and grows and grows thus the cost of the raw material is just harvesting it and transporting it.
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Old 10-16-11, 03:00 PM   #10
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Interesting post, and thought provoking

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Carbon is a fad right now,
I think you are mostly right on this one. Steel bikes are still being made as well as Titanium and Aluminum but it seems like in general a new material does have a limit as far as being the mainstream one.

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a new material will come out in the works in other industries like building of military tanks and fighter planes etc, it's called amorphous metal or metallic glass. This stuff will make anything not only two to three times stronger then any alloy or carbon fiber but do so with at least half the weight! I expect to see this stuff on bike frames probably in 15 to 20 years...damn it!! I'll be 75 or so
Wow, that's a new one. Sounds interesting. However, with a feudalistic organization controlling road cycling like the UCI and their opposition to innovation, it may well be 20 years or more before they lower the weight limit to not only allow these new materials but other bike geometries as well

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It's not so much being light weight and strong, because either of these materials that can be done, it's more of a question which will be cheaper to manufacture so the mass market can afford it. Some of this stuff is already being looked at as not only lighter and stronger then anything we currently use, but the possibility exist that it could be cheaper to make then CF once the technology takes hold and mass production starts.
Right. Also, since CF manufacture appears to incur so much waste, the odds are against it to remain the dominant choice.

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But what's really weird is while we play around with technology there exists a component that's been around for a very long time and grows in nature that does make lightweight frames, and so far seems very resilient, more so then CF or AL, is simply bamboo...but our culture is such that we can't except something so simple. By the way, almost all bamboo frames are chemically treated to hardened the fibers, only Calfee hardens without harmful chemicals, Calfee smoke treats it instead. And Calfee says bamboo is their most crash tolerant frame! Right now their expensive, at $3000 for just the frame to $5000 complete, but if that material were to catch on mass production would lower the price significantly because the material simply grows and grows and grows thus the cost of the raw material is just harvesting it and transporting it.
Yes, bamboo is certainly the greenest option -the Calfee way, but you can't make a bike frame of 100% bamboo, the bottom bracket and other parts are still traditional steel or other. Moreover, bamboo would only lend itself to tubular types (traditional). I'd tend to think that the future of cycling will be more practically-based than we can currently imagine. And by that I mean bikes for the purpose of mass transportation, as a replacement to cars, etc, rather than an exercise tool. These bikes would be more like the ones in this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5V2FgwN_re4

But anyway, it is nice to think about the future of cycling. We can dream, right?
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Old 10-16-11, 04:44 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by pecos View Post
Interesting post, and thought provoking


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I think you are mostly right on this one. Steel bikes are still being made as well as Titanium and Aluminum but it seems like in general a new material does have a limit as far as being the mainstream one.
This is quite true. However, as the quality of CF improves, these other frame materials will begin to fade in popularity, due primarily to their heavier masses. We are going to be seeing much more CF on cars, electrical appliances, trains, buses, and motorcycles, too. We are going to become so familiar with it, that we'll have no hesitation about purchasing a new commuter bike, completely dressed in carbon, from frame to components.

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Wow, that's a new one. Sounds interesting. However, with a feudalistic
organization controlling road cycling like the UCI and their opposition to
innovation, it may well be 20 years or more before they lower the weight limit
to not only allow these new materials but other bike geometries as well.
Unfortunately, the elements used in amorphous metallic development are all much heavier than that of carbon. The only method in which these amorphous metals can be effectively utilized under temperatures remotely close to room temperature, would be to include them into some type of a matrix where another element is chemically dispersed throughout the matrix. I see no reason why this matrix couldn't include carbon.

Otherwise, the amorphous metals, used by themselves would prove to be impractical in apllication to cycling due to their much heavier mass and the fact that amorphous metals, catastrophically fail under tensional stress, due to the fact that they are NOT ductile at room temperature, and will tend to shatter.

Most of the intial expense with regards to CF, is more related to its research and development, than its actual production. Of course, initial start-up costs can be staggering, as well. We are now, beyond the initial start-up costs stage. However, research continues as well as the further development of these CF materials. Currently, Trek and others (academicians) with environmental insight, are looking into ways to better reclaim CF material. They are also reseaching ideas about how to better implement the use of the reclaimed CF material, salvaged. This year CF conferences were held internationally concerning this and many other CF topics.


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Right. Also, since CF manufacture appears to incur so much waste, the odds are against it to remain the dominant choice.
Not true!...They realize the hazardous environmental impact of carbon fiber production. Unlike its steel and aluminum predecessors. They have therefore, already begun to implement reclamation strategies and are beginning to incorporate them into CF production.

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Yes, bamboo is certainly the greenest option -the Calfee way, but you can't make
a bike frame of 100% bamboo, the bottom bracket and other parts are still
traditional steel or other. Moreover, bamboo would only lend itself to
tubular types (traditional). I'd tend to think that the future of cycling
will be more practically-based than we can currently imagine. And by that
I mean bikes for the purpose of mass transportation, as a replacement to cars,
etc, rather than an exercise tool.
Bamboo, I'm certain, will remain in cycling for many years to come. However, I agree with you. Cycling will play a much larger role as major transportation mode for the future. E-bikes will gradually replace motorcycles, once they get up to speed. Also, many traditional cyclists will also convert to the e-bike. Since they will always have the option to either pedal when fresh, or allow their batteries to push them when they're tired, the ebike will absolutely become a sensation.

Eventually, we'll see fewer and fewer cars commuting...

These bikes would be more like the ones in this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5V2FgwN_re4

But anyway, it is nice to think about the future of cycling. We can dream, right?
Yes! That's the beauty of the human mind and how ingeniusly creative it maybe. The potential seems almost endless, until we begin to address social issues.

- Slim

Last edited by SlimRider; 10-17-11 at 10:10 AM.
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Old 10-16-11, 06:29 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by pecos View Post
Interesting post, and thought provoking


I think you are mostly right on this one. Steel bikes are still being made as well as Titanium and Aluminum but it seems like in general a new material does have a limit as far as being the mainstream one.


Wow, that's a new one. Sounds interesting. However, with a feudalistic organization controlling road cycling like the UCI and their opposition to innovation, it may well be 20 years or more before they lower the weight limit to not only allow these new materials but other bike geometries as well


Right. Also, since CF manufacture appears to incur so much waste, the odds are against it to remain the dominant choice.


Yes, bamboo is certainly the greenest option -the Calfee way, but you can't make a bike frame of 100% bamboo, the bottom bracket and other parts are still traditional steel or other. Moreover, bamboo would only lend itself to tubular types (traditional). I'd tend to think that the future of cycling will be more practically-based than we can currently imagine. And by that I mean bikes for the purpose of mass transportation, as a replacement to cars, etc, rather than an exercise tool. These bikes would be more like the ones in this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5V2FgwN_re4

But anyway, it is nice to think about the future of cycling. We can dream, right?
Thanks for sharing the You Tube, that was cool. I think that if they could make something like those that would be dependable and be able to take a cross breeze without blowing off the road, and be able to fix flats without spending 3 hours taking the thing apart. Unfortunately there's no air conditioning and going against a head wind or cross wind or up steep mountain grades will slow you down hugely. Nor can you have the thing just fall over after you're done riding it! But it definitely reviews interesting things that can be done with just mere pedal power.
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Old 10-16-11, 07:19 PM   #13
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Someone needs to put Thor Hushovd in that thing.
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Old 10-16-11, 07:51 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by pecos View Post
Wow, that's a new one. Sounds interesting. However, with a feudalistic organization controlling road cycling like the UCI and their opposition to innovation, it may well be 20 years or more before they lower the weight limit to not only allow these new materials but other bike geometries as well
Triathletes may be our savior here. Big brands are finally making non-UCI compliant bikes to appeal to triathletes. Perhaps if those sell well they will open up more and sell other non-UCI bikes?
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Old 10-17-11, 09:45 AM   #15
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The problem with that being that bamboo frames are inherently an artisanal product. Every piece of bamboo is slightly different, which is anathema to a production line. I'd love to have some purchase lines open up to Africa where they were teaching people how to build them, though. We in the English speaking wealthy world are willing to pay quite a bit more for the frames than they would be able to get locally, even after shipping, etc. was factored in; it would go a long way toward getting that part of the world outfitted with sanitation/education/transportation/communication.

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Originally Posted by rekmeyata View Post
there exists a component that's been around for a very long time and grows in nature that does make lightweight frames, and so far seems very resilient, more so then CF or AL, is simply bamboo...but our culture is such that we can't except something so simple. By the way, almost all bamboo frames are chemically treated to hardened the fibers, only Calfee hardens without harmful chemicals, Calfee smoke treats it instead. And Calfee says bamboo is their most crash tolerant frame! Right now their expensive, at $3000 for just the frame to $5000 complete, but if that material were to catch on mass production would lower the price significantly because the material simply grows and grows and grows thus the cost of the raw material is just harvesting it and transporting it.
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Old 10-17-11, 09:55 AM   #16
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.. with a feudalistic organization controlling road cycling like the UCI and their opposition to innovation, it may well be 20 years or more before they lower the weight limit to not only allow these new materials but other bike geometries as well
My wish would be for a new race to take hold and become popular. What i'd like to see would be this basic ruleset:

Distance race over varied terrain, to include some climbing and some harsh roads
No parts purely for aero
No auxiliary power beyond the cyclist
You may have a chase crew for mechanics,etc HOWEVER, all spare parts must be carried on the bike (can restock at resupply stops) - be a weight weenie at your own risk
NO limit on bike design/form

Put a bunch of engineers to work on that and get it on TV a couple of times and I think we would see some serious innovation and a change of the shape of the popularly available bicycle.
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Old 10-17-11, 12:05 PM   #17
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The problem with that being that bamboo frames are inherently an artisanal product. Every piece of bamboo is slightly different, which is anathema to a production line. I'd love to have some purchase lines open up to Africa where they were teaching people how to build them, though. We in the English speaking wealthy world are willing to pay quite a bit more for the frames than they would be able to get locally, even after shipping, etc. was factored in; it would go a long way toward getting that part of the world outfitted with sanitation/education/transportation/communication.
But are not bikes artistic in them by themselves? That's why you have different design bikes for looks, that's why a lot of people pick one bike over another because it appeals to their sense of fashion or style. And so each bamboo bike would be individualistic looking that's all.
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