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  1. #1
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    Carbon fork for touring?

    I have a steel frame touring bike (Bianchi Volpe 2011) with cantilever brakes and mid-fork eyelets for a front rack (currently Tubus Tara). My problem: one fork dropout was damaged in air shipment after a recent bike tour. (Bummer; c'est la vie.)

    I suspect that I should replace the fork at some point in the future. I have some weight-weenie tendencies, and I'm interested in finding a carbon fiber replacement for the cromo Bianchi stock fork.

    Question 1: Will I lose that comfy steel feel with a carbon fork? Will I regret it? I know a carbon fork will cost approximately double what a good cromo fork costs, and I can handle that. But will I suffer terribly in terms of comfort and durability?

    Question 2: Does there exist somewhere the fork that meets the following requirements:
    • Carbon Fiber
    • Threadless 1 1/8
    • Cantilever brake bosses
    • Fender eyelets
    • Mid-fork rack eyelets
    • Bonus points for inside mid-fork rack eyelets to accommoade Tubus "Duo" rack
    • Under $300

  2. #2
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    Yeah they exist, and as such are about 4 -6 times more expensive, for really know known net performance increase overall.

    - Any serious one, you are not netting the weight savings you would expect from experience with the more common racing versions in carbon.

    - You shouldn't really notice much difference in the ride. Of course in metal forks there is a wide range of signatures, but carbon should be somewhere in that mix. People try to make out carbon is a better ride, or steel, neither is true, and on a touring bike with fatter tires, and front bags the difference is less.

    - After harvesting the weight savings, I can't think of a single other advantage to carbon, and a lot of disadvantages. It makes no sense to me. I know of tons of products where carbon is the bees knees, and actually makes whole worlds possible. In cycling it is not that big a deal. In some sports the product is either worlds better, or was not even possible without carbon. I just mention it because I am totally pro carbon where it works.


    Here is the one I would be tempted by:

    Carbon Forks

    2/3rd down trekking fork

    Columbus Tusk Trekking Fork

    Nashbar Carbon Cyclocross Fork

    It doesn't have the rack mounts but there are a lot of ways around that problem. Heavier though.

    The carbon version saves about 1 pound, but that is over the steel Cyclo fork which is terribly heavy. I don't see the touring fork for sale any more. Surly says their LHT fork is 1050, and while the Nash carbon is 870, and the columbus is 740. Not really enough saving to take a face plant for.
    Last edited by MassiveD; 02-26-15 at 02:20 AM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    I have an inexpensive Nashbar carbon fiber fork on the bike I used on the Southern Tier and have no complaints with it.

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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I wouldn't Hook a Rack directly to the fork blade . mid blade bosses are not expected in carbon forks..

    Someone posted a picture of a rack installation using the fork tip eyelets and the ends of the brake posts..

    But perhaps you can live out of just a bar bag and rear panniers.. pack light.

    The mass in front panniers does a lot to make the ride feel , and even negate the 'carbon ride' differences..
    then why bother?
    Last edited by fietsbob; 02-26-15 at 09:12 AM.

  5. #5
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    I agree that switching to a carbon fork is not going to provide any benefits. If you have weight weenie tendencies, why not focus on the gear you bring on your trips? I bet you could easily shed a pound or more without spending a dime.

    It's also likely that you could get your fork fixed.

  6. #6
    afraid of whales Mr IGH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by niknak View Post
    ...It's also likely that you could get your fork fixed.
    This is what I'd look into before attempting to replace the fork.
    IGH's, Dyno Hubs, LED lights and old frames

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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    If WA is Washington state, and not Western Australia

    How about have R&E in Seattle repair your fork or make a replica using some expensive High strength steel blades ..

    old style J bent right at the tip blades were made to help with the ride, when the roads were not Great.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 02-26-15 at 11:17 AM.

  8. #8
    Senior Member grolby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MassiveD View Post
    Yeah they exist, and as such are about 4 -6 times more expensive, for really know known net performance increase overall.

    - Any serious one, you are not netting the weight savings you would expect from experience with the more common racing versions in carbon.

    - You shouldn't really notice much difference in the ride. Of course in metal forks there is a wide range of signatures, but carbon should be somewhere in that mix. People try to make out carbon is a better ride, or steel, neither is true, and on a touring bike with fatter tires, and front bags the difference is less.

    - After harvesting the weight savings, I can't think of a single other advantage to carbon, and a lot of disadvantages. It makes no sense to me. I know of tons of products where carbon is the bees knees, and actually makes whole worlds possible. In cycling it is not that big a deal. In some sports the product is either worlds better, or was not even possible without carbon. I just mention it because I am totally pro carbon where it works.


    Here is the one I would be tempted by:

    Carbon Forks

    2/3rd down trekking fork

    Columbus Tusk Trekking Fork

    Nashbar Carbon Cyclocross Fork

    It doesn't have the rack mounts but there are a lot of ways around that problem. Heavier though.

    The carbon version saves about 1 pound, but that is over the steel Cyclo fork which is terribly heavy. I don't see the touring fork for sale any more. Surly says their LHT fork is 1050, and while the Nash carbon is 870, and the columbus is 740. Not really enough saving to take a face plant for.
    Just looking at that Columbus fork, I would say that's substantially lighter than a steel fork. Half a pound you can take off the bike gets everything that little bit closer to the weight you want, and half a pound is a LOT to lose with one component change. No, it's not a lot when you consider the weight of all the gear, but you end up with a light load by cutting weight wherever you can, even if it's by small amounts. I think if you're actively pursuing a lightweight touring load, it's worth doing, though there are other things I would start with. If you're just feeling anxious about bike weight but not paying attention to how much your touring load weighs, it's probably not worthwhile.

    I think carbon forks are viewed with more suspicion than they really deserve these days. I don't think there's any greater risk of a faceplant with a carbon fork these days, even for touring.
    The Workingman's Honest Bicycle Program - Heady talk about bikes, bike racing, bike racers and bike riding. standarddouble.com/whbp

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    Quote Originally Posted by MassiveD View Post
    Yeah they exist, and as such are about 4 -6 times more expensive, for really know known net performance increase overall.
    I have never seen a fork with his requirements on the market after an exhaustive search, but maybe I missed something.

  10. #10
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    I think carbon makes a lot of sense for a lightweight touring bike. The problem your going to run into finding something with mid blade eyelets, I have not found one. I know there are a few bike builders that have forks 'customized' by the likes of Enve or Whisky (and use them on their builds), but the forks are not available direct based on my research.

    I even reached out to Ruckus, who specialize in carbon fiber repair, they said they couldn't (or wouldn't) do it.

    Regardless of what our these retrogrouches here are saying, you won't have any worries about using a carbon fork. They are stiffer, offer a very nice ride and are stronger than a comparable steel fork. I was never a believer, tentatively got into carbon, crashed hard several times with no issues, so I got comfortable with the material. Carbon MTB rims for multiple seasons of racing, no truing and no breakage...can't say the same with any of my Alum wheels. With that said, I'd stick with a CX fork from a reputable manuf like Whisky, Enve, Reynolds, Etc.

    I looked into this seriously a few months back, what I'd personally do is get a carbon Canti fork with eyelets and use a Rando type front rack with a Rando bag...something like this:

    VO Pass Hunter Front Rack - Racks & Decaleurs - Accessories

    Have I made the jump.....no, I still use steel because it's what I have and have no reason to dump my stuff and upgrade. But would not hesitate to use carbon from a quality manuf.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    I have no experience touring with a carbon fork, but I have experience with carbon forks.

    Several years ago I was riding in a paceline, and ended up in a pileup at about 22 mph. I was third in line when the guy in front of me touched the rear wheel of the leader and went down. I rode right over his bike before going down. The carbon fork I went over had both fork blades snapped, hanging on by just the carbon fiber strands, and my fork was suspect.

    The point is that carbon forks are relatively fragile compared to steel. Granted, getting your fork run over by another cyclist on a tour is not very likely. However, there are situations where touring bikes get handled pretty roughly. Carbon forks would probably be OK for the actual riding on a tour, but in my experience most bike damage comes from minor accidents, fallovers, and during bike shipment. My road bikes have carbon forks, but based on my limited experience, I'd be a hesitant to use them on my touring bike. If the airlines managed to damage a steel fork's dropouts, just imagine what they could do to a carbon fork

    The Amtrak employee is picking up my bike box after it fell of the cart on the way to the baggage car


    Regardless of what our these retrogrouches here are saying, you won't have any worries about using a carbon fork.
    I'm not convinced that carbon is the "magic bullet"
    Last edited by Doug64; 02-26-15 at 01:31 PM.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
    I have no experience touring with a carbon fork, but I have experience with carbon forks.

    Several years ago I was riding in a paceline, and ended up in a pileup at about 22 mph. I was third in line when the guy in front of me touched the rear wheel of the leader and went down. I rode right over his bike before going down. The carbon fork I went over had both fork blades snapped, hanging on by just the carbon fiber strands, and my fork was suspect.

    The point is that carbon forks are relatively fragile compared to steel. Granted, getting your fork run over by another cyclist on a tour is not very likely. However, there are situations where touring bikes get handled pretty roughly. Carbon forks would probably be OK for the actual riding on a tour, but in my experience most bike damage comes from minor accidents, fallovers, and during bikes shipment. My road bikes have carbon forks, but based on my limited experience, I'd be a hesitant to use them on my touring bike. If the airlines managed to damage a steel fork's dropouts, just imagine what they could do to a carbon fork

    The Amtrak employee is picking up my bike box after it fell of the cart on the way to the baggage car
    Doug - we'll never know of course, but don't you think that the steel forks would have bent significantly too...to the point of being unusable? I'd respectfully disagree that your example shows fragility in carbon forks.

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    A nice look at Carbon vs Alum testing, it is an interesting video, I particularly like the 'test' at min 5, never would have expected that:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xreZdUBqpJs

  14. #14
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nickw View Post
    Doug - we'll never know of course, but don't you think that the steel forks would have bent significantly too...to the point of being unusable? I'd respectfully disagree that your example shows fragility in carbon forks.
    Yah, who knows. Maybe I am just a retrogrouch

  15. #15
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    No spy cams in the Pro tour trucks to know how much High tech gear they replace overnight so the guy next day

    is on a Lookalike but different carbon race Bike frame or fork every day ..

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by MassiveD View Post
    This is exactly what I was looking for. Thank you! Now I need to find out if it has enough clearance for a fender and some comfy tires.

    At $160 USD plus shipping from the UK, it's not cheap, but it's not 4x the cost of a good steel touring fork.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post

    I'm not convinced that carbon is the "magic bullet"
    What happened out of curiosity?

  18. #18
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    It came off the car's roof-top rack's wheel carrier, at highway speeds. I'm not sure exactly what it hit. I know, it was not a good example of fragility I also think that a light aluminum rim would have also been toast. It was just counter to the results the guys in the video got when they were beating the frame against the cement block. The wheel is pretty light,and depending on how it landed, it may have fared better.
    Last edited by Doug64; 02-26-15 at 01:59 PM.

  19. #19
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    I'm a big guy, not necessarily fat at around 275lbs. All I know is to stay away from carbon forks for regular riding...I can't imagine carbon fork for loaded touring bike. I would rather have 1 or 2 lbs heavier bike, but with a strong, dependable fork.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lopek77 View Post
    I'm a big guy, not necessarily fat at around 275lbs. All I know is to stay away from carbon forks for regular riding...I can't imagine carbon fork for loaded touring bike. I would rather have 1 or 2 lbs heavier bike, but with a strong, dependable fork.
    I am still firmly in the camp that carbon is stronger than steel, like for like. I know some custom builders build ultra heavy duty forks, but they are the exception to the rule.

    Whether carbon or steel, major manufacturers (as far as I know) need to adhere to ASTM standards:

    Bicycle Safety and Bicycle Standards

    Obviously the custom boutique bike builders are not.

    I think steel can be safer when it fails, it does so less dramatically (based on what I have seen) and can typically be caught before it is a safety hazard.

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    @nickw The majority of bicycle related recalls in the last 2, 3 years are...carbon fiber forks.
    Safety standards look good on a paper. IMHO, carbon fiber parts that carry weight are a big failure when it comes to safety, and there are also issues with durability. Don't expect to find many "Vintage Carbon Fiber Bikes" in the future, especially the ones that still can be safely used.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by lopek77 View Post
    @nickw The majority of bicycle related recalls in the last 2, 3 years are...carbon fiber forks.
    Safety standards look good on a paper. IMHO, carbon fiber parts that carry weight are a big failure when it comes to safety, and there are also issues with durability. Don't expect to find many "Vintage Carbon Fiber Bikes" in the future, especially the ones that still can be safely used.
    While I understand where you are coming from and why (I used to think the same thing), the experts disagree:

    Technical FAQ with Lennard Zinn: Carbon Forks - VeloNews.com

    From Easton:
    There are two failure modes that could cause a fork to fail, fatigue or impact. Questions about life span are really questions about fatigue life. How many cycles can a fork survive before it is tired and worn-out? The good news is the fatigue life of carbon fiber is immensely more than that of metals. While the writer expresses concern about his carbon fork lasting as long as a metal component, there is nothing to worry about in terms of fatigue life on a composite fork.
    Read more at Technical FAQ with Lennard Zinn: Carbon Forks - VeloNews.com

  23. #23
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    Nick,

    You build a good case backed up by data. However, this is one of the reasons I'd stick with steel for awhile longer.

    I think steel can be safer when it fails, it does so less dramatically (based on what I have seen) and can typically be caught before it is a safety hazard.

  24. #24
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    @nickw
    Velonews, Zinn and so on, are heavily sponsored by different cycling related companies. It's a sports marketing and management company. I would be surprised to see any real negative feedbacks from him and Velo. Most of the carbon forks on the market are not even mentioned in that magazine.
    Recalls are the proof of bunch of nonsense in every marketing talk. Companies are greedy, and that's a sad part of almost every business.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
    Nick,

    You build a good case backed up by data. However, this is one of the reasons I'd stick with steel for awhile longer.
    Fair enough. Just to be clear, nary a carbon fiber bit anywhere on my touring bike, not that I am opposed, it just works the way it is...

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