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Longevity versus performance, kind of...

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Longevity versus performance, kind of...

Old 03-18-17, 10:32 AM
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Kindaslow
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Longevity versus performance, kind of...

I keep reading posts in which people are concerned about how long a CF bike will last.

Let's take all of the other arguments off the table for a few minutes, the arguments about whether or not this is actually true.

Let's, for a few minutes take the fact that virtually world class racers use CF bikes as evidence they perform at a higher level.

If these things are true, that means that the CF bikes have higher performance and the steel bikes last longer.

What are you willing to give up to gain something else?

For example, if the CF bike lasted 20 years and the steel bike lasted 50 years ( both ridden hard and worn out), but the CF bike performed better the whole time, what would you choose?

Or, the CF bike lasted 40 years and the steel bike 60 years, but the CF bikes always performed better, what would you choose?

Please stick to the actual OP. I am very curious to hear the what, but more curious to hear the why! The other CF, Ti, Alum, and steel arguments can be saved for other threads, please.
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Old 03-18-17, 11:03 AM
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It's all about how happy you are with the bike, right? Happy for 20 years on the CF vs unhappy on the steel for 50, I chose the CF.
Also, it's a mixture of components, so for example, heavy wheels on a CF bike vs light, responsive wheels on a steel bike, I chose the steel bike.

However, to answer your question and taking materials and components out of the equation, I chose a better performing bike that lasts 10 years vs a less performing bike for 50 years. Life is short, try to get the most enjoyment out of it.
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Old 03-18-17, 11:21 AM
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CF by nature lends itself to a more optimized design - easier to vary wall thickness - than on metal frames. This means a design that might be very appropriate for even decades of riding, might not be so suited to survive decades of everyday handling. A nick here, a scratch there. Maybe the occasional pinch or bend.

Most of my ride hours are commutes. Speed is largely set by traffic conditions.
A CF bike might not provide much actual improvement.
Material as such is not a showstopper for me.
Reasonable pace, low bling value, ease of upkeep and ride comfort, those are selling points for me.
I'll happily trade some weight, aero, top speed, gearing range for those.
CF could easily provide all but low bling value.
I am slightly concerned by CF's more sudden failure mode.
If there was a "utility line" of CF parts and bikes - and they weren't prohibitively expensive - I'd happily consider those.
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Old 03-18-17, 11:22 AM
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Great responses!

Thanks!
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Old 03-18-17, 11:35 AM
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Not really sure what your premise and question is?
If the higher performance of the CF is offset by the shorter presumed life of the CF?
If the lower performance of a steel frame is offset by the longer life of steel?
Seems to be the wrong question to be asking in the over 50 forum?

I'm 64 in a few months, I doubt the useful life of a bike is going to be a limiting factor. Probably dying is.

My body and lack of fitness is my limiting factor on my rides.
I like the look of a steel frame more than CF.
I'm cheap. I can buy a world class vintage steel framed bike for less than the cheapest CF bike.
I could buy a room full of world class vintage steel framed bikes for the price of a world class CF bike.

One problem I see emerging for high end CF is the components. I already see posts about my version 1 electronic components are incompatible with version 2. I can't buy version 1 components anymore. Do you want to buy a used bike when you can't buy compatible components anymore - or a replacement CPU could be $800?

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Old 03-18-17, 11:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Slash5 View Post
Seems to be the wrong question to be asking in the over 50 forum?

I'm 64 in a few months, I doubt the useful life of a bike is going to be a limiting factor. Probably dying is.
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Old 03-18-17, 11:47 AM
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Two issues related to this.

1- it's not about the material per se, but about how and why it's used. These days CF is used primarily by those designers seeking minimal weight. That means they're likely to use it consistent with that objective. So, while it's possible to build more durable (longer lived) CF frames, that's not what we see so much.

2- the question as posed is very hypothetical and academic because the long term life of CF frames and components is still something of an unknown.

However, since asked on the 50+ forum, then there's no need to look out 50 years, and I'll gladly trade any life expectancy beyond my own for other benefits.

OTOH - I still prefer metal frames, not because they'll outlive me, but they are tougher and I don't have to baby them or worry that something may damage or compromise them to easily. IMO being able to ride worry free is also a performance feature.
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Old 03-18-17, 11:52 AM
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How many people are riding their bikes hard for 50 years?

I bought my old bike when I was 16, and it was probably a dozen years old at the time. It has had a lot of hard use over the years, and quickly approaching its "50th birthday".

I am both surprised at people who have regularly ridden bikes for a very long time, as well as those who trade in their bikes every few years.

I'm not sure a manufacturer should be that concerned with the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th owners of a bike.

I do foresee prices on CF bikes crashing very shortly.
  • Glut of used "performance" bikes in the used market as manufacturers continue to churn out new models.
  • Cheaper building and more future automation will drive prices down. CF strands and fiber is coming down in price now. It is, after all, just reinforced plastic.
  • Quality of generics is increasing as the no-name Chinese are searching for a niche in the "performance" market.
  • And, of course, the ever questions about the future of CF.
  • Relative ease for 3rd parties such as Ribble to make "house brands", and small brands at deep discounts.
Currently I'm riding a bare frame build of an about 20 year old CF frame. It does have some advantages that CF doesn't rust. Obsolete by most CF standards, it still makes a great riding bike. In fact, I do wonder if a 20 year old CF bikes is more solid than some of the new bikes.


High end components. Ultegra, Dura Ace, Campy Record/Super Record, etc all have features like good bearings/races. Sometimes bearings when lesser models have bushings, etc. And many of the components will last a very long time, perhaps only being made obsolete by the new model coming around the corner.


How long did Campagnolo make Nuovo Record derailleurs? Strada cranksets? The latest is to release a "new model" every year or two.
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Old 03-18-17, 11:55 AM
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My CF "race bike" is a '99 and perfect. I'm sure it will last me the remainder of my riding life. I just love the feel of a CF bike, ridden hard. Nothing else like it. I have an aluminum rain bike, largely because the clearances are too tight on the CF bike for fenders. I also have a 2003 steel tandem, so newer than the CF bike, steel because CF wasn't an option when I bought the bike. I doubt it will last my whole riding life because it'll probably rust out, so maybe there is a used CF tandem in my distant future.

CF bikes have become a lot less expensive. There's a much wider range of prices for CF than there used to be: ~$!,000 - $10,000. Carbon is now the same price as steel at comparable component levels and will last much longer.
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Old 03-18-17, 12:18 PM
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One thing that I dislike.

I'm wondering if some consumables are wearing out quicker.

I have increased my riding somewhat lately, but I can only remember wearing out a single cog on a single freewheel in my life.

I've been having a lot of troubles with chains and cassettes lately.

I do believe the thin, small, shaped teeth on the cassettes do wear quicker than the old chunky freewheel teeth.

It used to be that a good cable housing could last years or decades. And cables a very long time too.

I'm now hearing about much shorter cable lifetimes. Annually replacing them?

It is hard to say with wheels and spokes. I think the new rims are better than the old ones. But, I am still trying to figure out whether reducing the number of spokes is a good thing or a bad thing.

I do like the new kevlar and armored tires

The jury is still out on all the plastic pieces vs cast aluminum. Brake Lever bodies? Will we be able to buy maintenance parts in the future? Brake hoods?

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Old 03-18-17, 12:45 PM
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This implies that bike technology and/or the rider don't really change over a long time period. Even 20 years is a long time.

I spent a little more to get "the last bike I'll ever need" in 2006. That was two bikes ago, and my bike usage is quite a bit different now. I'm doing longer rides at a slower pace, and more varied surfaces, too.

I have both carbon and Ti bikes now, and love riding both of them, at their best use.
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Old 03-18-17, 01:30 PM
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If you're looking for strictly subjective priorities, I'd have to say that my own concern regarding durability has a window of 5-10 years at the most. Since any material frame can be reasonably expected to last that time frame or longer, other things being equal I would choose the bike with better performance.
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Old 03-18-17, 02:06 PM
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In theory, carbon fiber could outlast other materials. Carbon fiber is used in advanced aircraft, subject to huge stresses and environmental extremes.

However, Carbon Fiber construction in most bicycles are not produced to Aerospace standards. Carbon fiber production in the bicycle industry can be inconsistent. Some will last 100 years, most will not.

I have a number of steel bikes, two of which are 45 years old. These could be preserved for 100 years, if they are kept dry and clean.

I also have 3 Carbon Fiber bikes. I expect to use them until I retire from faster road cycling in 20 years. No reason to think that they will fail from normal use. I actually expect them to need less protection from moisture than my steel bikes. However, it's less likely that ordinary Carbon Fiber bikes will be preserved as timeless treasures the way that better steel bikes are. The bicycle industry is fixated on premature obsolescence and bicycles are not seen as long-term investments today.
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Old 03-18-17, 02:17 PM
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Great thoughts, thanks!

I posted this in 50+ for two simple reasons. First, I am 50+. Second, my perception has been that our group has a lot of folks who love steel, and argue that CF will not last (my perception). However, if a CF bike gives 20+ years of hard riding enjoyment we might be the ones enjoying some of those years.

I do not keep bikes long enough to worry about longevity. Yet, I love talking about bikes and this has me curious.
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Old 03-18-17, 03:01 PM
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The Total number of my framesets that have failed in service in the last 45 years: Zero

An Answer to Question that I never asked.

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Old 03-18-17, 03:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Kindaslow View Post
Great thoughts, thanks!

I posted this in 50+ for two simple reasons. First, I am 50+. Second, my perception has been that our group has a lot of folks who love steel, and argue that CF will not last (my perception). However, if a CF bike gives 20+ years of hard riding enjoyment we might be the ones enjoying some of those years.

I do not keep bikes long enough to worry about longevity. Yet, I love talking about bikes and this has me curious.
Respectfully, I don't know if that is it. I think it is more like, I have used steel for 50 years and see no reason to change now. I have been riding for about 20 years as an adult, and that is sort of my sentiment. My current bike is 5 years old and from my perspective, is barely broken in. It does everything I need it to do, and I doubt I would get more enjoyment from a carbon fiber bike, and in some respects, I might get less out of a carbon fiber bike.

But I would not say I will never go to carbon fiber. It is coming down in price and as it gets less exotic it might just replace aluminum as the default frame material in a few years. And as it does, I am sure they will find ways to make what was an exotic material more utilitarian.
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Old 03-18-17, 03:44 PM
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I love my carbon bike and have little doubt that it will last another 20 years or more.
I also love my steel bikes, but having retired a few steel frames in the past due to crashes and rust, I'm under no illusions about their longevity.
As for performance, I get a slight benefit from the carbon as it is light and stiff, but really the motor is the most important component and as far as I know those are all still made of meat.
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Old 03-18-17, 03:45 PM
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Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
Respectfully, I don't know if that is it. I think it is more like, I have used steel for 50 years and see no reason to change now. I have been riding for about 20 years as an adult, and that is sort of my sentiment. My current bike is 5 years old and from my perspective, is barely broken in. It does everything I need it to do, and I doubt I would get more enjoyment from a carbon fiber bike, and in some respects, I might get less out of a carbon fiber bike.

But I would not say I will never go to carbon fiber. It is coming down in price and as it gets less exotic it might just replace aluminum as the default frame material in a few years. And as it does, I am sure they will find ways to make what was an exotic material more utilitarian.
Thanks. I enjoy the discussion and perspectives.
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Old 03-18-17, 03:46 PM
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Originally Posted by mercator View Post
....but really the motor is the most important component and as far as I know those are all still made of meat.

aka carbon fiber, in another form.
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Old 03-18-17, 03:50 PM
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15 years ago this would be a thread about steel vs aluminum...
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Old 03-18-17, 03:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Bandera View Post
The Total number of my framesets that have failed in service in the last 45 years: Zero
Same here.

Although, I would say the paint has completely failed on my old steel bike, to the point the frame would be at significant risk if used as a winter bike. Even so, it takes a while to chew through steel.

It may not look it, but I am careful with my bikes. No hard crashes. Careful on the bumps.

Some plastics such as vinyl suffer from embrittlement over the years.
There have been reported issues with CF to metal bonding, as well as aluminum to aluminum bonding.

What is unclear is whether CF will suffer from the same age embrittlement. UV embrittlement? Heat? Bonding? So far it seems to be faring quite well long-term. At least for the 10, or even 20 year "lifespan" of bikes.

So, looking at material characteristics (subjective notes from my observations)

Embrittlement (age, UV, Heat)
Steel: Good resistance
Aluminum: Moderate to good
CF: So far most resins are holding up well, but this is a wildcard.
Abrasion resistance:
Steel: Good
Aluminum: Moderate
CF: Low
Impact resistance:
Steel: Good (may dent, especially with thin walls)
Aluminum: Moderate (denting with thin walls)
CF: Low (See fatigue. Good up to a point. Biggest risk is hidden damage).

Fatigue:
Steel: Moderate to good
Aluminum: Moderate
CF: Good (as long as low impact, significantly below breaking point).
The bottom line is that with the exception of bonding failures, CF may well last a very long time if well cared for and not crashed, but unfortunately time will tell if new problems should arise.

One of the issues may be engineering. Too much? Too little? I passed up a pair of Spinergy wheels on E-Bay a few minutes ago. Nice idea, but just didn't fit my needs.
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Old 03-18-17, 03:54 PM
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Originally Posted by LiquorLad View Post
15 years ago this would be a thread about steel vs aluminum...
Or longer???

And, the aluminum of the 80's had its issues. Less frequent issues today, but still not without problems. There have been a couple of major aluminum folding bike recalls due to welding and design issues.
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Old 03-18-17, 04:01 PM
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Please don't let the discussion devolve into a material qualities discussion. Those go on forever, and nobody ever convinces anybody of anything.
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Old 03-18-17, 04:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Kindaslow View Post
Please don't let the discussion devolve into a material qualities discussion. Those go on forever, and nobody ever convinces anybody of anything.
Probably, but asking your admittedly "kind of" question about the reliability of frame set materials construction over a period of 50 years from those who been there and already done that while excluding the two two most important alternative materials between steel & CF, AL and TI, is pointless in my opinion.

Through no fault of my own and with considerable enthusiasm pushing race pace on lousy road/trail surfaces, lugging more stuff than necessary on tours in hilly terrain, commuting day after year and riding fixed gear for long distances on a variety of frame materials for >45 years Zero have failed.

The question I never ask: "Will this flavor of frame-set Fail me in service?"

So far, so good.

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Old 03-18-17, 04:59 PM
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There are people such as randonneurs who ride CF and steel and Ti bikes longer distances in a year than most in these forum... in fact most recreational riders... would in a lifetime. Then there are the pros who ride CF bikes much longer distances in a year than most would in a lifetime.

It is very rare that there are bike failures JRA as randonneurs and racers would*. The dramatic breakages always seem to occur in crashes, and even steel is not immune to damage in those circumstances.

As far as I can see, you can indeed have performance** and longevity, but it does some down to whether you can afford it.

* The one proviso here is that generally, randonneurs who do the LD stuff and the pro know how to handle their bikes. They are less inclined to abuse their bikes -- the randos because being stuck miles from nowhere is not very pleasant, and the pros because their livelihoods depend on finishing races.

** Performance in this context does not mean outright speed because that is down to the person riding it and their strength and endurance. But rather is in the quality of the shifting, braking, ride, handling through corners and over rough surfaces, aerodynamics and (dare I say it) comfort.
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