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Are Carbon Road frames really worth the extra cost?

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Are Carbon Road frames really worth the extra cost?

Old 02-02-22, 05:15 PM
  #126  
Camilo
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
Guess we can just throw out the adage about a fool and his money.
Originally Posted by Kapusta View Post
Does not apply to bikes.
Or any other sports or hobby equipment. How about cameras? Guitars? Skis? you name it. People love to use equipment and love to get the best (that they can afford) regardless of if they "need" it or if they are "worthy" of it. They are not "fools" who are parted from their money. They are smart people who spend their own money on stuff they like. I know it applies to me, and I figured out years ago that anyone can buy whatever turns them on and I admire the stuff they have and complement them on it. I love lightweight and/or high-zoot sports gear for the hobbies I spend a lot of time on. It does work better and is more fun to use. I have pro-quality stuff nowadays because I can afford it. In the old days I had just as much fun with very cheap stuff which is what I could afford, and took a lot of pride in it. I have no patience for people (usually younger) who brag about being faster or better than someone who uses more expensive gear. They don't get it at all.
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Old 02-02-22, 05:28 PM
  #127  
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Originally Posted by badger1 View Post
I like my crabon bicycle. It fits me well, and is suited to the riding I do.

It's very light; I'm old. I find it easy to haul up/down stairs, or in/out of the car on rare occasions.

I am not askeered of it asploding.

It was worth the extra cost ... to me.

The End.
Emphasizing the "I find it easy to haul up/down stairs, or in/out of the car on rare occasions." Everyone thinks actual riding performance is the only valid criterion for selecting a bike (here I'm including frame, wheels, components.... all adding up to overall weight). I like my lightweight bikes because, first and foremost they're fun to ride - and I don't give a rodent's patootey about actual speed because I'm old and riding is about exercise and fun, not competition.

But they're also great to lift in and out of the car, which I do regularly, and up and down off the ceiling hooks in the garage. I did a weight weenie thing a few years ago where I played the game of buying bits and parts in order to get a bike down to an arbitrary 15 pounds. Everything was selected to save ounces (within a not-ridiculous expense). It was a fun project researching small components and finding bargains. I made it and have a spreadsheet about the quest. I gave up weighing bikes soon thereafter and just buy stuff I need without comparing grams. However, I do know that my road bikes are in the 15-21 pound range (CF...Ti...Aluminum...vintage steel) and that these bikes are much better for lifting and schlepping than my steel mountain bike.

Oh, I'm old too. Interesting that affordability and strength were inversely related and hit a sweet spot a few years ago.

Last edited by Camilo; 02-02-22 at 05:36 PM.
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Old 02-03-22, 12:32 AM
  #128  
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Originally Posted by Camilo View Post
I have pro-quality stuff nowadays because I can afford it. I have no patience for people (usually younger) who brag about being faster or better than someone who uses more expensive gear. They don't get it at all.
^ This. I love cool bike stuff. I can afford cool bike stuff. So I buy cool bike stuff.

If I didn't spend my money on cool bike stuff I'd just waste it all on boring stuff like food... 😅
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Old 02-03-22, 12:57 AM
  #129  
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Old 02-03-22, 03:15 AM
  #130  
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Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
Cost of carbon isn't an issue for me. I just like steel and I believe that steel is superior to carbon and nobody will convince me otherwise.
That is your preference to prefer steel and nobody should try to convince you otherwise of that choice - if steel works for you, great! Where you go wrong is stating steel is superior. It just isn't and has been proven so - you are basically having a flat Earth argument and trying to state that the Earth being spherical is hogwash and that it is flat despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

I've posted it before on these Forums I think but to repeat, Battaglin are making some truly beautiful steel frames. Lightweight too, they can give you a complete bike under 7kg. They are married to in-house carbon forks and you choose your groupset and wheels. Basically my dream bike at the moment - Battaglin with full Campagnolo.

I would never race it though. It would purely be for recreational rides so that it was less at risk of damage, plus, carbon is still a little better for the rigours of racing.

I see a lot of World Tour and Continental Pro teams in my region and obviously, all use carbon. Quick Step Alpha Vinyl had their Winter camp last week in my small town so I saw them most days. I trained with one of the ladies from Human Powered Health's team and her Continental Pro boyfriend over the last 10 days or so.

Both very much preferred carbon bikes as does every single Pro they know for the same reasons I do - it is an inescapable fact that carbon has a greater strength to weight ratio than steel. Fact. This alone negates any argument that steel is 'superior'. Carbon also can be made stiffer - it is easier to work with in this respect to make for a highly stiff frame and fork that more directly transfers your power, therefore less wasted energy than steel. This makes carbon superior for those who race and need to make maximum use of every watt of energy. Carbon can also be tuned to be more comfortable too. But all this is marginal for the recreational cyclist or commuter, which makes steel, aluminium etc all viable choices for most cyclists for a variety of reasons. As stated above, my 'dream' bike is actually steel for nostalgic (I raced steel in the 80's) and aesthetic reasons. I'd just not use it as a race bike.
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Old 02-03-22, 04:05 AM
  #131  
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Originally Posted by AlgarveCycling View Post
it is an inescapable fact that carbon has a greater strength to weight ratio than steel. Fact.
Not only that, a carbon layup can be optimised for directional stiffness, weight, comfort, aero in a way that no other material can hope to achieve. It is a fact, but whether or not you care is another matter. Steel frames are good for a cheap beater bike that is likely to get knocked around a lot. Still a very popular choice for tourers who can't afford a Ti frame, lol. As for aluminium frames, I think those would be my lowest ranking preference. They are prone to fatigue cracking and not particularly resilient to knocks. Aluminium is the cheap alternative to carbon, particularly as you can shape it to look like much like a carbon frame. But it has none of the optimised stiffness/weight/comfort properties of a carbon frame.

I agree about the Battaglin being a beautiful looking bike. It would be interesting to see how it rides compared to a carbon bike. I notice a lot of steel and Ti bike makers concede defeat to carbon when it comes to forks and wheels. Making the whole frame out of carbon is the next logical step!
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Old 02-03-22, 05:57 AM
  #132  
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Originally Posted by Camilo View Post
Or any other sports or hobby equipment. How about cameras? Guitars? Skis? you name it. People love to use equipment and love to get the best (that they can afford) regardless of if they "need" it or if they are "worthy" of it. They are not "fools" who are parted from their money. They are smart people who spend their own money on stuff they like. I know it applies to me, and I figured out years ago that anyone can buy whatever turns them on and I admire the stuff they have and complement them on it. I love lightweight and/or high-zoot sports gear for the hobbies I spend a lot of time on. It does work better and is more fun to use. I have pro-quality stuff nowadays because I can afford it. In the old days I had just as much fun with very cheap stuff which is what I could afford, and took a lot of pride in it. I have no patience for people (usually younger) who brag about being faster or better than someone who uses more expensive gear. They don't get it at all.



Well, if you're quoting me, at least get the context right. I was reacting to an assertion that high price always equals better quality. Are you actually claiming that no one in those activities have ever paid too much for equipment that either isn't very good or is ill-suited for the purchaser's actual use? I'm not talking about people who ride high-tech bikes slowly, I'm talking about people who spend a bunch of money on equipment they use once and hate or don't use at all.

​​​​​​There's also a problem with early adoption of a new technology in that it's a good way to overpay for something before the bugs have been worked out. Some of these will turn out to be complete dead ends, never functioning quite right.

I'm not saying carbon frames are bad and overpriced, but I'm sure some of them are, just as I'm sure there's some bad overpriced steel bikes, cameras, guitars, skis, etc.

Last edited by livedarklions; 02-03-22 at 06:08 AM.
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Old 02-03-22, 09:39 AM
  #133  
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Originally Posted by PeteHski View Post
Steel frames are good for a cheap beater bike that is likely to get knocked around a lot.
Thatís my riding situation and a main reason I ride old steel frames. My rides are all dirty, muddy and there are rocks, sticks and other debris being kicked up throughout every ride. And my bikes are usually dirty or muddy, so minor cracks wouldnít be easy to see.

Otto
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Old 02-03-22, 11:13 AM
  #134  
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Given my choice and unlimited funds I would go with titanium every time.
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Old 02-03-22, 12:01 PM
  #135  
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Brand new Colnago (2021) in steel. The latest bicycle in my collection. Does it ride as good as modern high-end carbon? Nope. Looks really cool though.
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Old 02-04-22, 09:23 AM
  #136  
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Originally Posted by Erzulis Boat View Post

Brand new Colnago (2021) in steel. The latest bicycle in my collection. Does it ride as good as modern high-end carbon? Nope. Looks really cool though.
In what ways does it not ride as good as modern high-end carbon?

Not doubting you, just want your insights.
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Old 02-04-22, 10:05 AM
  #137  
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Originally Posted by AlgarveCycling View Post
That is your preference to prefer steel and nobody should try to convince you otherwise of that choice - if steel works for you, great! Where you go wrong is stating steel is superior. It just isn't and has been proven so - you are basically having a flat Earth argument and trying to state that the Earth being spherical is hogwash and that it is flat despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

I've posted it before on these Forums I think but to repeat, Battaglin are making some truly beautiful steel frames. Lightweight too, they can give you a complete bike under 7kg. They are married to in-house carbon forks and you choose your groupset and wheels. Basically my dream bike at the moment - Battaglin with full Campagnolo.

I would never race it though. It would purely be for recreational rides so that it was less at risk of damage, plus, carbon is still a little better for the rigours of racing.

I see a lot of World Tour and Continental Pro teams in my region and obviously, all use carbon. Quick Step Alpha Vinyl had their Winter camp last week in my small town so I saw them most days. I trained with one of the ladies from Human Powered Health's team and her Continental Pro boyfriend over the last 10 days or so.

Both very much preferred carbon bikes as does every single Pro they know for the same reasons I do - it is an inescapable fact that carbon has a greater strength to weight ratio than steel. Fact. This alone negates any argument that steel is 'superior'. Carbon also can be made stiffer - it is easier to work with in this respect to make for a highly stiff frame and fork that more directly transfers your power, therefore less wasted energy than steel. This makes carbon superior for those who race and need to make maximum use of every watt of energy. Carbon can also be tuned to be more comfortable too. But all this is marginal for the recreational cyclist or commuter, which makes steel, aluminium etc all viable choices for most cyclists for a variety of reasons. As stated above, my 'dream' bike is actually steel for nostalgic (I raced steel in the 80's) and aesthetic reasons. I'd just not use it as a race bike.

I think this is a reasonable argument, but I think it does negate the value-laden meaning of the word "superior". By my lights, a material that is slightly better for factors in ways that I'm not likely to detect with my use and comes at a much higher cost is not a "superior" choice. Being inexpensive is a valid and important virtue in a material, and this has been presented by many as being a question of whether "you can afford" carbon versus a perfectly rational decision that one does not want to spend the extra money for virtues one won't appreciate.

I agree that you need to acknowledge that carbon has greater strength to weight ratio and other obviously objective facts for your opinion to be credible to other people. Opinions based on false premises are not ones I will listen to.
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Old 02-04-22, 12:11 PM
  #138  
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Originally Posted by ColonelSanders View Post
In what ways does it not ride as good as modern high-end carbon?

Not doubting you, just want your insights.
Top shelf carbon has this "super fast" feel that steel doesn't. It has an odd detachment sensation for me though, and perhaps this feature is the secret to the difference in feel (steel vs. carbon).

I like a stiff bike, and the steel Colnago is very stiff, not only as steel goes, but comparatively to carbon and aluminum. It's very close to apples/apples as I have modern wheels and components on the Colnago Master.

My Sunday cruiser and century bike is the steel Colnago because at heart I love steel, but I cannot deny how good carbon rides nowadays. I started cycling in the early 1980's so steel has a romantic attachment for me.
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Old 02-05-22, 08:42 AM
  #139  
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Even now, if I go for 2nd tier bike brands, I can get a full CF bike with Shimano 105 for about 2000 to 2500 Eur. Before the pandemic and the attendant inflation I paid less than 2000 Eur for an aero CF bike with 105.

​Alloy is cheaper for sure and will remain as a cheaper option, but I would struggle to put together a quality steel or Ti bike for less than a CF one. When looking at entry level CF frames, which are still really really good, there just isn't much extra cost to speak of.

Last edited by Branko D; 02-05-22 at 08:48 AM.
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Old 02-05-22, 09:58 AM
  #140  
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Originally Posted by Erzulis Boat View Post
Top shelf carbon has this "super fast" feel that steel doesn't. It has an odd detachment sensation for me though, and perhaps this feature is the secret to the difference in feel (steel vs. carbon).

I like a stiff bike, and the steel Colnago is very stiff, not only as steel goes, but comparatively to carbon and aluminum. It's very close to apples/apples as I have modern wheels and components on the Colnago Master.

My Sunday cruiser and century bike is the steel Colnago because at heart I love steel, but I cannot deny how good carbon rides nowadays. I started cycling in the early 1980's so steel has a romantic attachment for me.
Though I wonder, since this thread is technically about frames, and acknowledging that CF does have good damping prowess, to what degree your Colnago's ride would be changed with a CF fork, stem and bars. I can't tell your tire width also, but since most CF bikes are now sold stock with 28mm+ tires -- that would all likely feed into a feel change.
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Old 02-05-22, 04:46 PM
  #141  
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Originally Posted by Sy Reene View Post
Though I wonder, since this thread is technically about frames, and acknowledging that CF does have good damping prowess, to what degree your Colnago's ride would be changed with a CF fork, stem and bars. I can't tell your tire width also, but since most CF bikes are now sold stock with 28mm+ tires -- that would all likely feed into a feel change.
It's funny that you mention that, because even having a CF fork would change the ride by a huge degree. I have steel bikes with CF forks, and they definitely ride "better" than my steel fork vintage stuff. The Colnago steel forks have large diameter blades, and they really translate any buzziness (word?) from the road directly into the bars.

Why I said that "it was funny" that you mentioned it, is because just this morning on my ride, I was thinking that anybody that states that "steel is real" and uses a carbon fork is 98% full of it.

That being said, steel frames done properly are awesome, but definitely different than good carbon.
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Old 02-06-22, 10:07 AM
  #142  
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Wow! This thread really went on! rickster1 , I hope you sifted out pertinent and got your answer on the ISOSPEED system vs non-ISOSPEED Alu bikes. 😂
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Old 02-08-22, 12:37 AM
  #143  
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I just bought a Trek Domane AL5 and really love it. I couldn't see the point of spending an additional $1+K to get a carbon frame. I test drove both- the difference was not noticeable on my short ride. The bike has an aluminum frame but the front fork is carbon and supposedly has the ISO system but I haven't really noticed it in use. Even the aluminum version is pretty light.

I have two other bikes to compare it to...an older Steel and Aluminum Montague MX (which feels like riding a Crown Vic next to the Trek). The Trek feels very lively by comparison. My other bike is a custom Titanium Firefly and it feels much smoother over bumps and ruts....but it is more of a gravel bike than the Trek. I bought the Trek primarily for city riding on pavement and paved trails and for those applications, it feels great. No regrets. I plan to ride it primarily for morning cardio. So far I'm really enjoying it but when the riding gets rougher I will be taking something else from my stable.
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Old 02-08-22, 06:47 AM
  #144  
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Originally Posted by dadbar View Post
I just bought a Trek Domane AL5 and really love it. I couldn't see the point of spending an additional $1+K to get a carbon frame. I test drove both- the difference was not noticeable on my short ride. The bike has an aluminum frame but the front fork is carbon and supposedly has the ISO system but I haven't really noticed it in use. Even the aluminum version is pretty light.
Point of information - the AL Domane has what they call an "IsoSpeed fork" - the carbon absorbs some of the road buzz.

It is distinctly different from the IsoSpeed decouplers found on (some of) the carbon frames, and there are two styles of rear decoupler, with the SLR frames having some adjustability.

Trek could do a better job of clarifying the differences.
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Old 02-08-22, 07:16 AM
  #145  
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Originally Posted by gpburdell View Post
Point of information - the AL Domane has what they call an "IsoSpeed fork" - the carbon absorbs some of the road buzz.

It is distinctly different from the IsoSpeed decouplers found on (some of) the carbon frames, and there are two styles of rear decoupler, with the SLR frames having some adjustability.

Trek could do a better job of clarifying the differences.
I would imagine it's intentional that they don't clarify the differences. "IsoSpeed" has now become a marketing buzzword for Trek. I think their original concept of frame decouplers is unique enough to warrant a specific name, but I think they are scraping the barrel applying this label to what appears to be a bog-standard carbon fork. It seems obvious that their marketing department was keen to use the IsoSpeed tag across their full range of Domane bikes, even if they didn't really have the actual unique feature!
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Old 02-08-22, 08:48 AM
  #146  
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Originally Posted by PeteHski View Post
I would imagine it's intentional that they don't clarify the differences. "IsoSpeed" has now become a marketing buzzword for Trek. I think their original concept of frame decouplers is unique enough to warrant a specific name, but I think they are scraping the barrel applying this label to what appears to be a bog-standard carbon fork. It seems obvious that their marketing department was keen to use the IsoSpeed tag across their full range of Domane bikes, even if they didn't really have the actual unique feature!

Iso confused.

Trek uses the "Iso" label for a bunch of stuff, there's also "IsoZone" handlebars and IsoSpeed handlebars. I don't know the history here, but I suspect the Iso label probably predates the decouplers, and that they grafted "speed" onto "Iso" when they wanted to add comfort features to the Domane line..
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Old 02-08-22, 02:37 PM
  #147  
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The more expensive bikes use carbon frames and you are paying in large part for the groupset and wheels and tires on the bike. Prices for a top of the line Trek CF road bike are now 5 times what it was in 2000. If that spilled over to cars a Mazda Miata would be selling for $150,000. On the other hand it makes it more appealing to buy one of the bikes from Canyon.

The Canyon Endurace CF SL7 with its carbon frame sells for $2600 and uses midrange Shimano R7000 components and weighs less than 19 pounds. Literally right out of the shipping box you get an excellent bike in every respect except bragging rights (very important to many guys).
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Old 02-08-22, 03:13 PM
  #148  
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Originally Posted by rickster1 View Post
Hi everyone, I'm new to the site and was wondering are carbon road frames really worth the extra cost (sometimes as much as $1400 more)? I'm looking to buy my first road bike and after digging around I guess I'm looking of either 105 or Tiagra components, I have test rode Trek's Domane AL5 and SL5, Emonda SL5 and ALR5 as well as the Specialized Roubaix (I'm open to other brands and models).


I know the Domane is classed as an endurance bike and understand the difference between that and the Emonda's but when I test rode them, I really didn't feel any difference between them. This will probably be my first and only road bike since I tend to keep my gear in good shape, I currently ride an older Trek 830 on the roads that I have swapped the tires out to more of a road type tire. I also have a full suspension MTB for the trails.


I'm having a hard time trying to justify the extra cost of carbon over aluminum. For those that have a Trek with the ISO system does it really make a difference in aiding in a smoother ride?


A little bit about me- I'm 53 and in average shape, I recently lost about 80 lbs this past year (gained some back over the holidays), did my first bike challenge for kids' cancer back in Oct. (rode 410 miles), mostly ride on surfaced trails and country roads, I ride about 35-40 miles each time I ride and average 14 MPH on the old Trek.


I appreciate any comments and recommends that you may have for me as I try to decide what to purchase.


My wife asked me why I need another bike? So, I said you need one for the different type of road material (dirt, crushed limestone, asphalt/concrete, etc.) but I don't think she's buying it


Thanks,

Rick
If you buy a carbon bike please do not use Tiagra groupset or low end wheels, unless you wanna upgrade them in the future. The most sensible parts in a bike are those in movement, if you have a limited budget I'd go for better wheels instead of a carbon frame, It's like driving a Ferrari with wooden wheels
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Old 02-08-22, 03:32 PM
  #149  
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When Iím ready to downgrade Iíll go from my custom ti to CF.
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Old 02-09-22, 05:35 AM
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PeteHski
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Originally Posted by Calsun View Post
The more expensive bikes use carbon frames and you are paying in large part for the groupset and wheels and tires on the bike. Prices for a top of the line Trek CF road bike are now 5 times what it was in 2000. If that spilled over to cars a Mazda Miata would be selling for $150,000. On the other hand it makes it more appealing to buy one of the bikes from Canyon.

The Canyon Endurace CF SL7 with its carbon frame sells for $2600 and uses midrange Shimano R7000 components and weighs less than 19 pounds. Literally right out of the shipping box you get an excellent bike in every respect except bragging rights (very important to many guys).
I actually find Canyon more attractive as a "brand" than Trek, Specialized, Cannondale, Giant etc. If they are good enough for MVdP then they are good enough for me!
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