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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

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Old 02-06-14, 04:02 AM   #1
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A super stiff frame - good or bad?

New frame materials will most likely be much stiffer than todays carbon fiber frames. Those who appear to have the best potential right now seems to be buckypaper and nanocellulose.

But hey.
Would a super stiff frame be a good ride?
Will it result in shorter times and/or less loss of energy?
What's your experiences or take on this?

Here is a thread about buckypaper
http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php/478326
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Old 02-06-14, 04:20 AM   #2
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Do you have any idea how long it woulda ale even a commercially viable material like this to trickle down to the lowly bicycle industry?

I'll give you a hint: decades. The bicycle industry is a tiny, minuscule blip on the radar in terms of the amounts of exotic material used.
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Old 02-06-14, 04:29 AM   #3
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Do you have any idea how long it woulda ale even a commercially viable material like this to trickle down to the lowly bicycle industry?

I'll give you a hint: decades. The bicycle industry is a tiny, minuscule blip on the radar in terms of the amounts of exotic material used.
I am fully aware of that. That's not what I asked. Read the first post again. And stop trolling
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Old 02-06-14, 04:51 AM   #4
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Do you have any idea how long it woulda ale even a commercially viable material like this to trickle down to the lowly bicycle industry?

I'll give you a hint: decades. The bicycle industry is a tiny, minuscule blip on the radar in terms of the amounts of exotic material used.
I don't see what's so "lowly" about bicycle industry. It's really all about value vs. cost. Some bike manufacturers were mixing small quantities of nanotubes into their CF composites as far back as 2005, to increase strength and stiffness. They just don't seem to be all that useful (or as useful as we hoped) in the form in which we can mass-produce them (that is, unaligned carbon nanotube dust). (And even in that form they are still very expensive, from $1000/kg and up.)

Once nanotubes, or any of those other exotic materials, are truly commercialized anywhere, if they can offer tangible advantage over CF composites at anything approaching reasonable cost (say, $5000 for a frame), people will start building those in their garages.
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Old 02-06-14, 05:05 AM   #5
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Some would say an overly stiff frame is a dead feeling frame. But if you can put out gobs of power, you likely won't say that.

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Old 02-06-14, 05:26 AM   #6
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Some would say an overly still frame is a dead feeling frame. But if you can put out gobs of power, you likely won't say that.
Exactly. Good point. Winners will not complain if a frame felt "dead".
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Old 02-06-14, 05:30 AM   #7
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I don't see what's so "lowly" about bicycle industry. It's really all about value vs. cost. Some bike manufacturers were mixing small quantities of nanotubes into their CF composites as far back as 2005, to increase strength and stiffness. They just don't seem to be all that useful (or as useful as we hoped) in the form in which we can mass-produce them (that is, unaligned carbon nanotube dust). (And even in that form they are still very expensive, from $1000/kg and up.)

Once nanotubes, or any of those other exotic materials, are truly commercialized anywhere, if they can offer tangible advantage over CF composites at anything approaching reasonable cost (say, $5000 for a frame), people will start building those in their garages.
Lowly as in puny, a non player. The amount of carbon the entire bicycle industry consumes is a fraction of a percent of next to nothing. We just done rate.

With exotic materials there is always a scarcity and the bicycle industry is pretty far down on the list of potential customers.

Then you need to have people in place who actually know how to utilize the materials. And then they need time to best apply it to bike parts. That's a lot of money and a lot of time. Very few brands have pockets that deep.
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Old 02-06-14, 06:20 AM   #8
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New frame materials will most likely be much stiffer than todays carbon fiber frames. Those who appear to have the best potential right now seems to be buckypaper and nanocellulose.

But hey.
Would a super stiff frame be a good ride?
Will it result in shorter times and/or less loss of energy?
What's your experiences or take on this?

Here is a thread about buckypaper
http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php/478326
Take some engineering classes if you want to understand.
Since your question was about ride quality and material stiffness, keep in mind that a stiffness of a given material does not have to correlate to ride quality. I know to the layperson that seems absurd, but that is the reality. Take Al. Anybody who has ridden a variety of Aluminum bikes and then a steel bike and a carbon bike, knows that 'generally' an Aluminum bike has a stiffer ride. What is the stiffness of Aluminum? Aluminum has the lowest modulus of elasticity of any of the three materials. Translation? Al is a pretty flexible material. So why do Aluminum frames ride so stiff? A couple of reasons. In order for a frame to be strong enough aka not permanently deform under load, quite a bit of Al has to be used. Why can this be permitted? Because aluminum per unit volume is quite light. So more Aluminum is used to increase strength because Al isn't very strong either and weight is still manageable and what is the result of more Al? Stiffness. Also to prevent permanent deformation aka failure, Aluminum tubes are made much wider and thinner...in fact very similar to carbon fiber. Wider tube sections increase section stiffness and resistance to failure during bending.
Any potential bicycle material has to pass the litmus test of:
1. Stiffness
2. Frameset weight
3. Strength...will it break?
4. Fatigue life?...will repetive cyclic loading cause the frame to crack.

And then there is cost of the material and cost to turn that material into a bike frame.

It is the combination of the above properties, not any individual material property, that determine a worthy material for a bicycle including Ti some like.

HTH.

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Old 02-06-14, 08:00 AM   #9
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Take some engineering classes if you want to understand.
Since your question was about ride quality and material stiffness, keep in mind that a stiffness of a given material does not have to correlate to ride quality. I know to the layperson that seems absurd, but that is the reality. Take Al. Anybody who has ridden a variety of Aluminum bikes and then a steel bike and a carbon bike, knows that 'generally' an Aluminum bike has a stiffer ride. What is the stiffness of Aluminum? Aluminum has the lowest modulus of elasticity of any of the three materials. Translation? Al is a pretty flexible material. So why do Aluminum frames ride so stiff? A couple of reasons. In order for a frame to be strong enough aka not permanently deform under load, quite a bit of Al has to be used. Why can this be permitted? Because aluminum per unit volume is quite light. So more Aluminum is used to increase strength because Al isn't very strong either and weight is still manageable and what is the result of more Al? Stiffness. Also to prevent permanent deformation aka failure, Aluminum tubes are made much wider and thinner...in fact very similar to carbon fiber. Wider tube sections increase section stiffness and resistance to failure during bending.
Any potential bicycle material has to pass the litmus test of:
1. Stiffness
2. Frameset weight
3. Strength...will it break?
4. Fatigue life?...will repetive cyclic loading cause the frame to crack.

And then there is cost of the material and cost to turn that material into a bike frame.

It is the combination of the above properties, not any individual material property, that determine a worthy material for a bicycle including Ti some like.

HTH.
Thank you for your input. And I understand what you are lecturing. But no matter of the initial costs, the next material will most most likely be much stronger, lighter and stiffer than the materials used today.
In order to get a better ride quality, the frames will be designed with flex. This is nothing new, but with harder materials it gets more difficult to design desired flex. As you don't want to get too thin and thus brittle, it's more safe to overcompensate and end up with a over stiff frame. On the other hand computers and software will also evolve and FEM analysis will also be better. So in the long run it might get easier to design a good race bicycle.

Last edited by 1987; 02-06-14 at 08:03 AM.
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Old 02-06-14, 08:22 AM   #10
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Thank you for your input. And I understand what you are lecturing. But no matter of the initial costs, the next material will most most likely be much stronger, lighter and stiffer than the materials used today.
In order to get a better ride quality, the frames will be designed with flex. This is nothing new, but with harder materials it gets more difficult to design desired flex. As you don't want to get too thin and thus brittle, it's more safe to overcompensate and end up with a over stiff frame. On the other hand computers and software will also evolve and FEM analysis will also be better. So in the long run it might get easier to design a good race bicycle.
Point is your comments above are fraught with generalities. You seem to be focused on material hardness and stiffness. Reality is if an an uber strong material which is 2x's stiffer than carbon fiber were to be developed and was 5 x's stronger, a frame made out of that material could be made less stiff than frames available today.. This is what goes over the head of somebody without a science background. Frame stiffness is about the complex relationship of cross-section, modulus of elasticity and yield strength. Considering material stiffness or modulus of elasticity and surface hardness by itself has little to do with the overall stiffness of the frame. I sited aluminum as a notable example. Flexible material can make a stiff frame and conversely a stiff material like you mention could make a flexible frame if material thickness is reduced enough provided the material has a high enough yield strength to not fail by repetitive loading.

To give you a general example, lets take a garden variety carbon fiber frameset. If a company were to take that exact frame geometry and material and reduce material thickness by 1/2 it would not only lower the weight of the frame by about that much but also dramatically make the frame much more flexible. That frame made out of the same stiff carbon would be whippy. So why don't manufacturers do that? Because the frame will fail if going over a curb with a 220 lb'er riding it. So if a material were developed even stiffer than carbon, in theory if it was strong enough, it could be made much thinner resulting in a softer and not stiffer ride. Hope that makes sense.

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Old 02-06-14, 08:30 AM   #11
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Point is your comments above are fraught with generalities.
Yes of course*. And also slightly philosophical. How about that?

*How could we otherwise discuss on a internet forum with limited time and recourses about something that does not yet exist.
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Old 02-06-14, 08:51 AM   #12
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Yes of course*. And also slightly philosophical. How about that?

*How could we otherwise discuss on a internet forum with limited time and recourses about something that does not yet exist.
But, any sort of reasonable philosophical conversation can only be had with a solid understanding of the relationships that most don't understand. A stiff material can create a flexible frame. Most will never understand that.
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Old 02-06-14, 09:00 AM   #13
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Exactly. Good point. Winners will not complain if a frame felt "dead".
Nibali complained about the Cdale EVO when he first got it because he thought it felt dead.
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Old 02-06-14, 09:01 AM   #14
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A stiff material can create a flexible frame.
But that's the whole beauty with super strong materials and that's why there is so much research on them. A strong material can always be made weaker.
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Old 02-06-14, 09:03 AM   #15
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Lowly as in puny, a non player. The amount of carbon the entire bicycle industry consumes is a fraction of a percent of next to nothing. We just done rate.

With exotic materials there is always a scarcity and the bicycle industry is pretty far down on the list of potential customers.

Then you need to have people in place who actually know how to utilize the materials. And then they need time to best apply it to bike parts. That's a lot of money and a lot of time. Very few brands have pockets that deep.
Simple example is the grade of carbon fiber used in Formula One compared to bicycles.
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Old 02-06-14, 09:07 AM   #16
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But that's the whole beauty with super strong materials and that's why there is so much research on them. A strong material can always be made weaker.
Honestly there is much more research underway on garden variety material derivatives...not space age strong materials. This is for the simple reason of cost effectiveness, resource availability and manufacturability. Derivative or incremental existing material changes always get the most resource attention in terms of R&D because they are the most feasible.
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Old 02-06-14, 09:08 AM   #17
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Simple example is the grade of carbon fiber used in Formula One compared to bicycles.
Or commercial aircraft.
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Old 02-06-14, 09:20 AM   #18
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I know this might be a very vague question, but it is often said in the cycling industry that you can have 2 of these things in a product. Light, affordable, durable. Taking affordable out of the equation. What is the best all around frameset money can buy? I mean, extremely light yet stiff enough for pro-like power outputs, aero, comfortable etc. I hope I am not opening pandoras box here. And when I mean, money no object I am not talking S Works money.. I am talking if you had $20k for a frameset +.
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Old 02-06-14, 09:26 AM   #19
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it is often said in the cycling industry that you can have 2 of these things in a product. Light, affordable, durable.
Good quote.
Don't be afraid. Feel free to say what you like.
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Old 02-06-14, 09:35 AM   #20
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Then there's always the argument that super stiff fatigues so long term power is lost
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Old 02-06-14, 09:42 AM   #21
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Would a super stiff frame be a good ride? I am inclined to think so, provided it doesn't tend to a'splode of course. It's a second order consideration I think, behind such things as durability, weight, cost etc.

Will it result in shorter times and/or less loss of energy? Probably

What's your experiences or take on this? I've got one frame that's really stiff because it's a cheap mass-produced thing made with maybe half again more lower grade aluminum and is designed with wide tubes. It feels kind of dead.

BTW, stiff can be designed into a frame. There are several material properties that go into the selection of frame material, and technology has to trickle down from other industries before we see it in cycling.
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Old 02-06-14, 11:24 AM   #22
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I know this might be a very vague question, but it is often said in the cycling industry that you can have 2 of these things in a product. Light, affordable, durable. Taking affordable out of the equation. What is the best all around frameset money can buy? I mean, extremely light yet stiff enough for pro-like power outputs, aero, comfortable etc. I hope I am not opening pandoras box here. And when I mean, money no object I am not talking S Works money.. I am talking if you had $20k for a frameset +.
S-Works Venge...
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Old 02-06-14, 11:35 AM   #23
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Or commercial aircraft.
Actually, bicycle manufacturers can afford to use expensive carbon fiber, because they need very little of it.

Here's an interesting fact. Did you notice that you almost never see carbon fiber in cars? Even though it seems like a great product for automaking? Well, car manufacturers are very interested, and they are watching the industry closely, but it's still too expensive for mass-market cars and that's why it still only goes into exotics. You need 2-3 pounds of carbon fiber and epoxy to make a bicycle frame that sells somewhere on the order of $1000. With this cost-benefit ratio you can splurge on expensive stuff. An automaker wishing to make the body of a car completely out of CF instead of aluminum needs 500 pounds of raw materials, and he can't afford to raise the price by more than a few thousand bucks. In automaking, CF is simply not competitive with aluminum above $5/lb or so.

Commercial aircraft are closer to bikes than to cars in this respect though. It takes 80,000 lbs of carbon fiber and epoxy to build a 787 and the resulting aircraft costs $200 million ($2,500 per pound of composite materials).

You can buy a linear yard of 50" wide, 300 gsm "aerospace grade" (T700) carbon fiber (that works out to about 0.77 pounds) on eBay right now for $18+shipping.
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Old 02-06-14, 12:00 PM   #24
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H'm, cyclists obsessing over stiff tubes. I wonder why?


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New frame materials will most likely be much stiffer than todays carbon fiber frames.... Will it result in shorter times and/or less loss of energy?
Actually, most high-end CF frames are already at maximum stiffness, e.g. they barely deflect at the BB. They're also very light. Even the marketing materials are starting to acknowledge this.

At the risk of blasphemy, I think today's high-end bicycles are already very close to their optimal forms. Further improvements with that über-snazzy buckyball nanotube Unobtanium-framed bike will be vanishingly small... even as they strive to make your bank account vanish faster.


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Would a super stiff frame be a good ride?
Go ride a Super Six and decide for yourself.
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Old 02-06-14, 12:15 PM   #25
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Go ride a Super Six and decide for yourself.
Or a BMC TMR01. My Giant is as stiff as the super six evo and the BMC felt wayyyy stiffer.
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