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Why Carbon Fiber Is Used In Manufacturing Bikes – Its Pros And Cons

The market is flooded with seemingly endless variations of bikes. This is why it is extremely impossible to select the type of frames as the available options create significant confusion in the overall selection process.

Each material and components used while manufacturing bikes has its pros and cons. One substance that is pretty extensively used in manufacturing bikes is carbon fiber. Carbon fiber composites certainly have unique propositions such as lightweight, additional strength, minimal thermal expansion, and most importantly, a prestigious appearance.

This material is also recognized as emerging and feature-rich in the automobile manufacturing industry. The ultimate objective of this article is to draw an understanding of different aspects of carbon fiber parts manufacturing. It is inclusive of its characteristic features, advantages, and disadvantages.

Evolution of Carbon Fibre Fabrication

Do you want to know who has produced the first carbon fiber frame? It was the French bike manufacturer named Look, who produced this frame in 1986 and have gained a huge popularity globally. When the frame was produced in a huge volume by Trek 5000, there are various issues that are faced after its release. The company immediately stopped its production. However, Trek did not stop enhancing on the model. After learning where they have gone wrong, they released another mode of the carbon fiber bike in 1992 with the help of Optimum Compaction Low Void technology, which turned to be a massive hit. There are other bike manufacturers in the market who started using the same carbon fiber process and started to sell parts and bikes that are made using this material but at a whopping price.

In 2000, carbon fiber usage has become superior in various industries, including race bikes and mountain bikes. Various components that are made using carbon fiber such as handlebars and front forks are available at reasonable prices.

There are a few mechanisms that are developed to trace the quality of used carbon fiber bikes. One such mechanism that came into force is white glove test. In this type of test, you must wipe the parts that are made of carbon fiber using the cotton glove. In case, the glove snags, it is a clear indication of damage in the carbon fiber material. If you want to test the quality of carbon fiber, you can embrace an ultrasonic scan, which costs USD 350. Many buyers are ready to get the test done before buying to avoid expensive repairs of the bikes later.

Carbon fiber, as one of the lightest materials, is widely used in manufacturing bike frames. These fibers are finely woven into fabric/sheet sand these sheets are combined with a glue-like substance that results in material, so-called pre-preg, which can be shaped into any form.

Cutting carbon fiber prepreg usually proceeds on automatic plotters that cut as many layers as needed for production.

When the aim is to achieve as a light a frame as possible, most often it is produced as carbon fiber components using so-called high module prepreg and unidirectional fabrics. The carbon fiber panels are incredibly popular in automobiles or aerospace manufacturing because of their lightweight, high stiffness as well as attractive and prestigious look.

Carbon Fiber Components Are Used For Manufacturing Racing Bikes

Racing bikes are undoubtedly fast and are known for their acceleration and traction. To manufacture these bikes one needs to combine the cutting-edge technology and structural know-how of the latest engineering materials. No other material than the carbon fiber components is fit to meet this purpose.

Carbon fiber was first used in practice sport in 1981 for manufacturing an F1 car. Since then it has been continuously upgraded by engineers. Well, nowadays high module carbon fiber fabric can be four times stiffer than material that was used 40 years ago. Carbon fiber components have the highest strength to weight ratio (specific strength) out of all available materials dedicated to manufacturing parts like bike frames. This material is also chemically stable and it has corrosion resistance properties.

Are you willing to discover why any other metal did not superimpose carbon fiber? Let us walk you through the wonders that carbon fiber components are capable of doing:

  • The Safety Of Cars/Bikes And Carbon Autoclave Composites

Most often people think that carbon fiber is used in manufacturing cars and bikes due to its unmatched ratio of weight to stiffness. But this material is popular because of its energy management, safety measures and durability. Over the years, devastating accidents have forced automobile designers to find the material that can provide high energy absorption. Hence, carbon fiber sheets with honecomb cores is the element that efficiently contributes to the safety of cars. This fiber can be easily transformed into a monocoque design.

In case of bikes, energy managent is used differently than in cars. Well, vibrations get damped by carbon fiber frame more than aluminium one. This is especially evident in case of mountain frames. Ride quality is a benefit that carbon frames enjoy over aluminium or steel ones.

  • Lightweight And Highly Stiff

The carbon fiber composite material is extremely important for safety and it is stiff and lightweight. This material provides optimal stiffness and weight ratio, equally available for the metals of composites. This material is almost five times lighter than steel and it leads to a reduction in the weight of racing cars and bikes. Carbon fiber composites have a density of 1.55 g/cm3 (epoxy resin 30%, carbon fiber 70%), that is 2.7g/cm3 in the case of aluminium. Hence, in a component of the same dimensions, replacing aluminium with carbon fiber will reduce its weight by ~42%. This material facilitates manufacturing supreme quality cars, wheelchairs, and many other products using the carbon prepreg composites technology.

The Most Critical Disadvantages Of Carbon Fiber Composites

Carbon fiber composite material has some shortcomings as well. Not everyone in the industry is aware of its disadvantages which is also the reason for its rare usage.

  • High Manufacturing Cost- The manufacturing cost of any carbon fiber parts is much more than other materials, which eventually makes the bike costly.
  • Repairing Limitations- Cracking is the most obvious damage in carbon fiber products and its repair is much more complex and costlier. Sometimes it is not possible to repair the cracked carbon fiber frame.
  • Compromising Thermal Resistance- The carbon fiber composites provide moderate thermal resistance when compared with metals. The maximum thermal resistance that can be obtained in carbon fiber composites is around 300 – 400° degrees.
  • Inflammability- Carbon fiber composites are highly flammable which means that when exposed to flames they ignite easily. However, using a special technology the desired flame resistance can be made available but it is costly.

The carbon fiber material has lot of fibers that are bind together using epoxy. It is flimsy in one direction and strong in the other direction. These properties are used by engineers to manufacture the bicycle frames. This helps them make the tubes lighter and thinner while keeping up its sturdiness and strength. The main problem when it comes to using carbon fiber is that it is more fragile than aluminum. Aluminum has a quality that it starts showing signs of damage such as denting before it cracks. However, this is not the case with carbon fiber. If carbon fiber fails, you will not get any indication it is going to crack pretty soon.  As a result, it would crack without giving you any hint and by the time you will get to know that material has been damaged, it will be pretty late.

How Carbon Fiber Is Used In Manufacturing The Bike Frames?

Whether it is a high-end drive or a normal road trip, carbon fiber is an incredible choice for bikes. The basic advantage of this material is that it provides stiffness and it is lighter in weight as compared to steel or any other metal. The low density of this material makes it a perfect choice for absorbing road vibration (absorbing rather than transmitting) which translates into a highly comfortable ride.

The lower density of cutting carbon fiber is excellent in absorbing the road vibration. The carbon fiber components can be transformed into various complex shapes that give an opportunity to bike manufacturers to create specific designs with great latitude. This feature is really useful for manufacturers who are willing to maximize the aerodynamic efficiency of their products. With carbon fiber components manufacturers can easily carve the shapes which might not be possible to achieve with any other metals.

Wrapping up!

Due to their unique properties, carbon fiber components are extensively used in manufacturing bikes and cars. They offer a number of advantages over traditional manufacturing materials like steel, aluminum, and many others. These advantages are inclusive of high stiffness and strength, chemical resistivity, corrosion resistance. The industry – leading carbon fiber manufacturing service providers are integrating specially designed carbon fiber products with a unique approach. These platforms are using emerging technologies such as resin infusion, custom, hand lay-up, prepreg (cured in autoclave), etc., for preparing carbon fiber products.