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Yet another try at "Is carbon faster?"

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Yet another try at "Is carbon faster?"

Old 07-12-14, 06:07 PM
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Thulsadoom
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Yet another try at "Is carbon faster?"

There's a lot of people who have steel or aluminum bikes that would like to know if they would be faster on a good cf bike. Most bike shops won't let you take a bike out for any substantial distance to really try it out. There's also way too much bs discussions and opinions online concerning the subject.

What I'm looking for are testimonials from experienced riders who know how fast they can go on particular rides, on frames other than cf, and have changed to cf bikes and what their experiences were. Faster? If so, how much? Slower? No change?

I don't care about opinions, I'm talking about actual experiences. Say Joe Schmoe does his normal weekend hard 50 mile ride on his steel race bike. He always goes "all out" on this ride. He always tries to beat his personal best time. He buys a nice cf bike, say a Madone or something, with similar components and wheels to his steel bike. Does easily beat his personal best? By how much? Or is there virtually no change? Is he slower? Again: actual experiences only please.
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Old 07-12-14, 06:17 PM
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I'd guess that any real differences in speed between comparable bikes are small enough to the point where personal reports of "actual experiences" are too subjective or confounded by other factors to really mean much.
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Old 07-12-14, 06:28 PM
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A recreational cyclist will probably never reach the full potential of a modern alloy/steel frame, so if your only concern is outright speed then CF will not make you any faster...unless you are an elite level athlete cranking out 6w/kg-in that case, you can probably take advantage of the extra stiffness and few hundred grams of weight savings.

Of course, there are other reasons to buy CF besides outright speed....comfort and compliance are big advantages, not to mention overall bling factor.
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Old 07-12-14, 07:07 PM
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I have light CF, light Ti, and old-time steel built up relatively light. Not a milli-smidgen of difference among the three. The lighter the bike, the more I enjoy riding it, but my speed on all three is the same. I average about 16 MPH for a 30 mile flat ride. Before my heart attack I often rode a flat 50 miles in 2.5 hours solo. I assure you in either time period the frame material would have made no difference. Buy carbon because you like it, but not because it will make you faster. If you already have a competent bike, it won't.
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Old 07-12-14, 07:32 PM
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Originally Posted by rpenmanparker View Post
I have light CF, light Ti, and old-time steel built up relatively light. Not a milli-smidgen of difference among the three. The lighter the bike, the more I enjoy riding it, but my speed on all three is the same. I average about 16 MPH for a 30 mile flat ride. Before my heart attack I often rode a flat 50 miles in 2.5 hours solo. I assure you in either time period the frame material would have made no difference. Buy carbon because you like it, but not because it will make you faster. If you already have a competent bike, it won't.
What a great answer! Thanks for your input, you put my mind at rest as well. I thought carbon would make me faster. Thanks again for a helpful answer.
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Old 07-12-14, 07:55 PM
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Carbon makes negligible difference.
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Old 07-12-14, 08:00 PM
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Originally Posted by link0 View Post
Carbon makes negligible difference.
Don't underestimate the placebo effect.
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Old 07-12-14, 08:03 PM
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Originally Posted by ckFoxTrot View Post
I'd guess that any real differences in speed between comparable bikes are small enough to the point where personal reports of "actual experiences" are too subjective or confounded by other factors to really mean much.
You hit the nail on the head. /thread
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Old 07-12-14, 08:27 PM
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Carbon isn't faster per se but an aero bike shape takes measurably less power than a steel bike with round tubes. It's much easier to reduce the drag of a bike by building up with carbon. On a 50 mile ride a Cervelo S5 (or other aero frame) could easily save a minute or two compared to a non-aero bike. Can't see how it would make much difference to the enjoyment of a rider out for a group ride though.
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Old 07-12-14, 08:36 PM
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my bikes run from 11 to 19 lbs. all singlespeeds. on the lightest (cf) i can run 80 gear inches on the nearby seven mile 5 percent grade. on the 19 pounder (steel) i use about 70 gear inches. i don't have a computer, so i don't know my elapsed time, but i'm pretty sure i'm faster, despite the gearing, on the CF.

it's a toss-up as to how miserable i am on either.
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Old 07-12-14, 08:48 PM
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Buy carbon for a longer, more comfortable ride.
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Old 07-12-14, 08:50 PM
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Why do you ask?
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People here don't get it.
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Old 07-12-14, 08:55 PM
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I have a mate riding an aluminum frame with 23 mm deep clinchers that regularly struggles on group rides and often gets dropped. He upgraded to a nice carbon frame with a deep aero wheelset and still gets dropped on group rides.

Did it make him faster? You be the judge.
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Old 07-12-14, 10:00 PM
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I have a 50 mile loop I do quite often. Elevation gain is about 2500 feet. On my Steel bike the fastest average I have clocked is 18.9. On my (much) lighter carbon frame the fastest is 20.7. I think its mostly the weight and the better wheels on the carbon bike. I also like the carbon bike more so that probably plays a big part in it.
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Old 07-12-14, 10:26 PM
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Mass vs wind resistance also plays an effect. Equation should follow as Mass x Power / Aerodynamics x Wind Resistance = Top Speed. Acceleration vise, the lighter it is the better. I took some Power & Performance classes, but for cars at higher speeds, however, I'm sure it plays the same game.
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Old 07-12-14, 10:52 PM
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Originally Posted by rpenmanparker View Post
Not a milli-smidgen of difference among the three.
I think your smidgeometer is busted.

Buy the bike that makes you want to go ride the heck out of it every day - that will make you faster.
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Old 07-12-14, 11:15 PM
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Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
I think your smidgeometer is busted.
Well, my three bikes are set up as identically as I can manage dimensionally speaking. They steer a bit differently, but if it were possible to ride them blindfolded, I wouldn't know which was which. YMMV
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Old 07-12-14, 11:47 PM
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Originally Posted by timmbo View Post
Buy carbon for a longer, more comfortable ride.
I just told this to a guy today. I said I don't even think Cannondale needs to make a Synapse because the EVO CF frame is so friggin' "cush" that it almost makes my hybrid feel bone-jarring.

CF for comfort.

Speed?......Looks to the legs!
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Old 07-12-14, 11:51 PM
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Weight becomes a significant factor when the road points up and if all else was equal this would be the only edge you'd get from a lighter carbon fibre bicycle... or a bicycle that was lighter than the last one.

Road bicycles are aerodynamic vehicles... it is the rider that causes most of the drag so addressing that makes more of a difference than does the slight edge one might get with a modern carbon frame vs Al or steel.
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Old 07-12-14, 11:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver View Post
Weight becomes a significant factor when the road points up and if all else was equal this would be the only edge you'd get from a lighter carbon fibre bicycle... or a bicycle that was lighter than the last one.

Road bicycles are aerodynamic vehicles... it is the rider that causes most of the drag so addressing that makes more of a difference than does the slight edge one might get with a modern carbon frame vs Al or steel.
Don't forget about the stiffness influence on power transfer aspect of developing speed. I just don't think it matters in the 10ths of an MPH. I don't need to look any further than that.
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Old 07-13-14, 01:02 AM
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Is Carbon faster? Yes and No. I have been running MyTracks for 6 months commuting 5 miles each way to work with an almost 800 foot hill in the middle. Yes up hill both ways. I'm sure I got faster but here are my numbers for each ride.

Specialized Stumpjumper FSR, once 42 minutes
Trek 8.3ds, average of 38 minutes
Specialized Secteur, average of 28 minutes
Giant Anyroad 2, average of 30 minutes
Specialized Tarmac, average of 24 minutes.

Yeah the carbon is faster for me, stiffer and better high frequency bump absorption. Better cornering and better components makes shifting faster and braking better. Is it faster top speed? So far on my downhill top speed is still only 42mph.
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Old 07-13-14, 06:13 AM
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In my search for a new road bike I had my radar locked on a carbon frame because that's what everyone was recommending, why buy an aluminum bike when you can get a carbon bike like the pro's, right? Upon road testing several different carbon bikes I noticed that when I was standing and putting some real power down that I could feel the bikes bounce like a spring. I know some manufacturers design a certain amount of give to make the ride more compliant but I started wondering if forward energy was being lost? I then rode a Cannondale CAAD10 which is an aluminum framed bike that shares the same geometry as the supersix and there was a night and day difference in ride quality for me, it felt strong and fast so I researched some more about the carbon used by different manufacturers and found that all of the entry level bikes were made of a lower grade carbon which makes them softer and heavier than a premium hi-mod frame that was twice the price. I then started getting caught up in the weight weenie aspect of the bikes I was considering and to my surprise found some carbon bikes to exceed 20lbs where the CAAD10 was right at 17lbs. Keep in mind that there's absolutely no scientific data to prove my claims and I base my response on my personal experience alone, and me weighing 225lbs may be more sensitive to the spring effect compared to a lighter cyclist. That being said, my next purchase could go either way depending on what's available and my budget? I don't completely disregard carbon bikes as a whole, I just can't afford a good one.
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Old 07-13-14, 06:30 AM
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Originally Posted by e_guevara View Post
I have a mate riding an aluminum frame with 23 mm deep clinchers that regularly struggles on group rides and often gets dropped. He upgraded to a nice carbon frame with a deep aero wheelset and still gets dropped on group rides.

Did it make him faster? You be the judge.
Spending a lot of money on a new bike makes everyone faster. You want the investment to make a difference so you ride faster and harder. That puts in in better shape so the motivation continues.

Couple good points here - CF can be specifically built to improve speed like aerodynamic shape and stiffer bb, and a lighter bike makes you feel faster. It can also be made more comfortable so that helps on long training rides to go longer and harder.
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Old 07-13-14, 06:36 AM
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Originally Posted by bikefoo View Post
Is Carbon faster? Yes and No. I have been running MyTracks for 6 months commuting 5 miles each way to work with an almost 800 foot hill in the middle. Yes up hill both ways. I'm sure I got faster but here are my numbers for each ride.

Specialized Stumpjumper FSR, once 42 minutes
Trek 8.3ds, average of 38 minutes
Specialized Secteur, average of 28 minutes
Giant Anyroad 2, average of 30 minutes
Specialized Tarmac, average of 24 minutes.

Yeah the carbon is faster for me, stiffer and better high frequency bump absorption. Better cornering and better components makes shifting faster and braking better. Is it faster top speed? So far on my downhill top speed is still only 42mph.
Differences in speed of a magnitude you are reporting have not been claimed for any difference of material by manufacturers, technologists, scientists, pro riders, etc. You have much more going on in your "experiments" than simple construction material differences. You are looking at so many variables at once that no valid conclusion about the effect of frame material can possibly be made on the basis of your uncontrolled experiments.
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Old 07-13-14, 06:54 AM
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Originally Posted by timmbo View Post
Buy carbon for a longer, more comfortable ride.
Wrong.
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