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To carbon fork or not to carbon fork...

Old 10-05-11, 11:26 AM
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kiltedcelt
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To carbon fork or not to carbon fork...

...that is the question. Whether tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageously rough roads or to take up arms with a carbon fiber fork and thus to soften the thousand natural shocks... (apologies to Shakespeare).


I've got an '07 Scattante R330 road bike with an XRL double-butted aluminum frame and fork. I'm running 700x32 tires which take out some of the sting, but I'm wondering if a carbon fiber fork would smooth the ride out even more. I've noticed that most bikes with aluminum frames now seem to come stock with carbon forks. I can get a Nashbar cyclocross fork for $119 which would work with my V-brakes just fine and it even has fender mounting eyelets. Your thoughts?
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Old 10-05-11, 11:33 AM
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but I'm wondering if a carbon fiber fork would smooth the ride out even more.
one way to Know, .. experience..
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Old 10-05-11, 11:40 AM
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I personally think carbon forks are fine for commuting. If you were doing loaded touring, then it would be different.
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Old 10-05-11, 11:40 AM
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i'm considering the same upgrade for my 2011 Scott SUB 10. it's a disc brake bike, so the fork would have to be disc compatible. i think that rigid aluminum forks are just a bad idea in general. i'm rolling with 700x37 conti sport contacts, and the ergon grips i slapped on the flatbar have helped big-time in the comfort department, but i can't help but think that a carbon fork would make the bike roll so much better.

my only hesitation about switching to carbon would be aesthetics. the orange fork currently on the bike matches the frame beautifully, and there's no way i'm gonna get a color match on a carbon fork for the SUB 10's flashy metallic orange paint job, so i'd have to go basic black or something, which would probably be fine, but it wouldn't be as cool.
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Old 10-05-11, 11:44 AM
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I would do it.
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Old 10-05-11, 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Steely Dan View Post
i'm considering the same upgrade for my 2011 Scott SUB 10. it's a disc brake bike, so the fork would have to be disc compatible. i think that rigid aluminum forks are just a bad idea in general. i'm rolling with 700x37 conti sport contacts, and the ergon grips i slapped on the flatbar have helped big-time in the comfort department, but i can't help but think that a carbon fork would make the bike roll so much better.

my only hesitation about switching to carbon would be aesthetics. the orange fork currently on the bike matches the frame beautifully, and there's no way i'm gonna get a color match on a carbon fork for the SUB 10's flashy metallic orange paint job, so i'd have to go basic black or something, which would probably be fine, but it wouldn't be as cool.

Steely Dan - I see you're in Chicago as well. You obviously feel my pain then in regards to how crappy these roads can be. Even when the roads aren't covered in potholes they're still criss-crossed with cracks. I also know where you're coming from on the whole color match thing. My Scattante was painted some kind of freaky pearlescent green gray color that changes color depending on the light hitting it. I pondered maybe going into a automotive painting store and seeing if they could computer color match the frame and create a spray paint that I could use on a fork or bike racks or whatever. I can't imagine it would be cheap. You should look at the Nashbar fork - it has mounts for V-brakes/cantis as well as a disc mount. I think that's the one major detraction for most people is that if you use one type of brake you still have the mounts for the other type on the fork which bothers some folks' sense of aesthetics apparently.
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Old 10-05-11, 01:08 PM
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A carbon fork will help dampen vibration, but not shock. It can make lips and small cracks in the pavement more tolerable, but won't do much/anything for a pothole.

I bet a metal fork with a J-curve at the end would give a similar effect, and might do a little more for actual shock. The curve in a fork turns it into a bit of a spring, letting it flex a little bit.

Also, cork bar tape is really nice, and, if you're suffering the slings and arrows of substandard pavement, Fizik makes gel strips that go on your handlebars, under the tape, to soften things up even more. Some people wrap their bars in two sets of tape.
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Old 10-05-11, 01:24 PM
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The first thing you should try is lowering the tire pressure (free). Then try wider tires (inexpensive option). Then, try a new fork if you are almost comfortable having already changed tires (more expensive). However, if you are not close to being comfortable, you'll probably need to look at a carbon fiber or steel frame and fork, which certainly solve your issues (most expensive). Aluminum frame and fork road bikes are pretty harsh and unforgiving on city streets.
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Old 10-05-11, 01:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
A carbon fork will help dampen vibration, but not shock. It can make lips and small cracks in the pavement more tolerable, but won't do much/anything for a pothole.

I bet a metal fork with a J-curve at the end would give a similar effect, and might do a little more for actual shock. The curve in a fork turns it into a bit of a spring, letting it flex a little bit.

Also, cork bar tape is really nice, and, if you're suffering the slings and arrows of substandard pavement, Fizik makes gel strips that go on your handlebars, under the tape, to soften things up even more. Some people wrap their bars in two sets of tape.
I've got the cork tape going on along with the 700x32s inflated to only 70-75 psi versus the max 85 psi. I generally avoid potholes because I don't want pinch flats or broken spokes. It's all the little transverse cracks and spiderwebbed asphalt that I'm seeking relief from. Before I started adding racks and fenders my bike already weighed 25lb, so when I started considering a new fork I did think about cro-moly but figured if carbon fiber could to the same thing and be lighter in weight...?
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Old 10-05-11, 01:30 PM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
Then, try a new fork if you are almost comfortable having already changed tires (more expensive). Aluminum frame and fork road bikes are pretty harsh and unforgiving on city streets.
This is where I'm at right now. I am almost comfortable, I just keep thinking maybe there's that last little thing I could do and I keep thinking about that CF fork. This bike originally started out as a flat bar road bike, but after a few weeks of suffering with that I converted it to a drop bar. Since I've gone to the drop bar it's been far more comfortable because I can ride in such a way that I more naturally absorb bumps because of my seating and hand position. Still, even with the lower pressure in the bigger tires (700x32 is about as big as I can fit with fenders), there's still a little room to take the edge off somewhere. I'm thinking the CF fork might be that extra something.
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Old 10-05-11, 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by kiltedcelt View Post
This is where I'm at right now. I am almost comfortable, I just keep thinking maybe there's that last little thing I could do and I keep thinking about that CF fork. This bike originally started out as a flat bar road bike, but after a few weeks of suffering with that I converted it to a drop bar. Since I've gone to the drop bar it's been far more comfortable because I can ride in such a way that I more naturally absorb bumps because of my seating and hand position. Still, even with the lower pressure in the bigger tires (700x32 is about as big as I can fit with fenders), there's still a little room to take the edge off somewhere. I'm thinking the CF fork might be that extra something.
A CF fork will help a little, but since you are already spending the money on a CF fork, why not bite the bullet and get a steel frame/fork that will work with your components (Cross Check or LHT come to mind, but there are lots of other options)?

I went through basically the same process with my commuter, and was truly amazed with the difference in ride quality when I finally went with a steel frame and fork.
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Old 10-05-11, 02:04 PM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
The first thing you should try is lowering the tire pressure (free). Then try wider tires (inexpensive option).
speaking for myself, i already run 700x37 conti sport contacts @ 85psi on my Scott SUB 10. i do not want to go any wider or lower-pressure on the tires. one of the reasons a carbon fork conversion is even on my radar is because i'd like to be able to downsize the tire to a higher-pressure 32 or 28.




Originally Posted by alan s View Post
A CF fork will help a little, but since you are already spending the money on a CF fork, why not bite the bullet and get a steel frame/fork that will work with your components (Cross Check or LHT come to mind, but there are lots of other options)?
again, speaking for myself:

LHT frame set - ~$400
Nashbar carbon fork - ~$120

280 bones ain't chump change to a guy like me. besides, i bought my IGH/disc brake Scott as a foul weather/winter commuter; a LHT frame won't take the disc brakes and IGH/EBB from my Scott.

i don't want a whole new bike frame; it would just be nice if i could dampen road buzz from the aluminum fork a little bit. i think that the carbon fork conversion is the proper solution to my situation, i just need to get over the aesthetic reservations i have about executing the plan.

Last edited by Steely Dan; 10-05-11 at 03:20 PM.
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Old 10-05-11, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Steely Dan View Post

LHT frame set - ~$400
Nashbar carbon fork - ~$120

280 bones ain't chump change to a guy like me.
Same here. Don't think I haven't considered a whole new frame and fork as a possibility. However, I feel as if I've finally started to get the bike dialed in. And a $120 CF fork is a whole lot less than a whole new frame and going to the trouble to build it all up. Assuming that my current stuff would all transfer over anyway, which it might not. I'd love to get a Surly some day, but financially it's not in the cards right now.
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Old 10-05-11, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by kiltedcelt View Post
Same here. Don't think I haven't considered a whole new frame and fork as a possibility. However, I feel as if I've finally started to get the bike dialed in. And a $120 CF fork is a whole lot less than a whole new frame and going to the trouble to build it all up. Assuming that my current stuff would all transfer over anyway, which it might not. I'd love to get a Surly some day, but financially it's not in the cards right now.
It's worth the extra $280.

The Disc Trucker will available sometime soon if the LHT doesn't work.
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Old 10-05-11, 03:57 PM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
It's worth the extra $280.
not to me. i love everything about my SUB 10, it's just the rigid aluminum fork that is bothersome. not terribly so, afterall i've been riding the bike as is for months now, it's just something that i have thought about upgrading.


anyway, here's a very quick photoshop i threw together to give me a rough idea of what the aesthetic ramifications might be from switching out the aluminum fork that came with my bike for a black carbon fork. it's certainly not an aesthetic improvement, but perhaps i could get used to it.



existing bike:





with a black carbon fork:


Last edited by Steely Dan; 10-05-11 at 04:04 PM.
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Old 10-05-11, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by kiltedcelt View Post
I've got the cork tape going on along with the 700x32s inflated to only 70-75 psi versus the max 85 psi. I generally avoid potholes because I don't want pinch flats or broken spokes. It's all the little transverse cracks and spiderwebbed asphalt that I'm seeking relief from. Before I started adding racks and fenders my bike already weighed 25lb, so when I started considering a new fork I did think about cro-moly but figured if carbon fiber could to the same thing and be lighter in weight...?
Well, those are the types of road surfaces that carbon can actually help on. If you're going to find out, consider going whole hog and making sure your fork has a carbon steering tube, too. ( But if you do, get the $15 Ritchey torque key. )

How fast do you typically go? As a material, carbon fiber doesn't like to vibrate at high frequencies. This is why it can help smooth out road buzz, and this is also one of the reasons photographers like carbon fiber tripods, like Gitzos. ( Vibrations don't make for sharp pictures. ) I think what happens with steel is that the metal bends a little bit to absorb the bump, but bends back to shape immediately? They aren't doing exactly the same thing.

I've had two carbon fiber bikes: an RS, which I upgraded to an R3. Carbon frame, fork, steerer, and handle bars. They're both a lot more comfortable than the metal bike I used to have, on the kind of pavement you ride. The RS was more comfortable (did a better job of getting rid of road buzz) below about 20 mph and the R3 does a better job at higher speeds. I think the reason for this is mostly that the RS designed the frame and fork for comfort, letting it flex in certain places, while the R3 mainly just relies on being carbon fiber to absorb the buzz.
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Old 10-05-11, 05:20 PM
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speaking for myself, i already run 700x37 conti sport contacts @ 85psi
Wow, that pressure seems awfully high for a tire that wide. I think you would find 65 rear, 55 front to be much more comfortable, better handling, and maybe even faster.
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Old 10-05-11, 06:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
Well, those are the types of road surfaces that carbon can actually help on. If you're going to find out, consider going whole hog and making sure your fork has a carbon steering tube, too. ( But if you do, get the $15 Ritchey torque key. )

How fast do you typically go?
Sounds like good informed advice - thanks. I typically ride an average of 15-18mph if I'm riding into the wind and the wind is not blowing too hard. If I get the tail wind going home I'm often riding an average closer to 20+ mph. Sounds like a CF fork might be just the icing on my commuter cake. Alas, I don't believe the Nashbar fork has a CF steerer - only aluminum. Still, it gets a lot of rave reviews for its apparent ability to smooth out bumps.
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Old 10-05-11, 07:14 PM
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Go for it.

When YellowBike and I were hit by that Pontiac back in 2009, I replaced its steel fork with carbon, (and a carbon steerer, very hard to find in one-inch). The new fork was transformative. It turned a bike I like, but which rode like a buckboard, into one I enjoy riding.
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Old 10-06-11, 07:50 AM
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Originally Posted by DG Going Uphill View Post
Wow, that pressure seems awfully high for a tire that wide.
85psi is the max recommended pressure on the tire, and i'm used to riding on my road bike with 23's @ 130psi, so i like to keep as much air in the sport contacts as they'll safely take. as i said before, one of the reasons i'm contemplating a carbon fork is so that i can hopefully drop down to a 32 or 28 with a 100+psi rating.




Originally Posted by DG Going Uphill View Post
I think you would find 65 rear, 55 front to be much more comfortable, better handling, and maybe even faster.
perhaps it would be more comfortable, but i have found that, for any given tire, on a reasonably well-paved surface, that keeping the tire at max pressure is always faster than going with a lower psi. spongy tires are an energy suck on smooth paved surfaces.

Last edited by Steely Dan; 10-06-11 at 08:41 AM.
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Old 10-06-11, 08:19 AM
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Originally Posted by DG Going Uphill View Post
Wow, that pressure seems awfully high for a tire that wide. I think you would find 65 rear, 55 front to be much more comfortable, better handling, and maybe even faster.
I believe simple physics would dictate otherwise....
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Old 10-06-11, 08:43 AM
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Do it.

I replaced a mediocre magnilite fork on my '89 cr-mo bike with a CF Nashbar road fork - huge difference. The ride improved in all aspects. As tsl said, it went from a bike that was a chore to ride to pure *****.

Lesson learned, adopt a zero tolerance attitude for an underperforming fork - dump it.
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Old 10-06-11, 12:24 PM
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Originally Posted by mgw189 View Post
I believe simple physics would dictate otherwise....
On a perfectly smooth service, yes, but most of us don't have those. Steely Dan seems to live in such a wonderful place, so if the lower comfort doesn't sap too much energy, then I'd agree that he'll be faster with the higher pressure. If he rode on my bumpy roads, he'd be slower with the high pressure.
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Old 10-06-11, 01:12 PM
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Originally Posted by DG Going Uphill View Post
On a perfectly smooth service, yes, but most of us don't have those. Steely Dan seems to live in such a wonderful place.
the roads i ride aren't "perfectly smooth", but they're absolutely smooth enough to make it advantageous to ride with a high psi tire.
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Old 10-06-11, 04:15 PM
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Well Steely Dan and I both ride in Chicago, so we're both dealing with the same types of road surfaces. However, with that being said, I would NOT want to ride 700x20 tires in this environment. I did that when I first moved up here and it SUCKED! That's why I have my current bike with its 700x32 tires and the old 700x20 racer road bike is long gone.
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