In this month's retail comment Mark Sutton talks about downhill bikes and whether or not carbon is better than metal for "going big"...

COMMENT: Carbon or metal? You decide…

Weight weenies
I’ve just read the words ‘carbon fibre’ and ‘downhill bike’ in the same sentence. Now there’s a bold move. But don’t the properties of metal better serve the purpose of going big?

Carbon composites have a much lower density than any metal, and while the tensile strength is immensely high, if it’s going to break, it’s going to shatter rather than bend. It’s not this product that’s of concern, it’s the copycat products that may follow from less-experienced manufacturers.

This leads me to ask: when will this obsession with bulimic bike parts come to an end? Any bike that will inevitably leave the ground should surely boast strength above weight on its spec-sheet.

A few weeks back I handed two halves of a handlebar carrying a lifetime warranty to my local IBD. I almost felt guilty for the breakage. I feel for the distributors and stores who have to deal with the hassle of warranty claims like mine. It wasn’t their fault the bars gave way (after just three months of light use, I should add).

Do dealers really want to deal with warranty issues on product that has the potential to haunt them for a ‘lifetime’? Product cannot become lighter without sacrificing something. I’m starting to wonder if we’ll add the ‘high-end bicycle shaped object’ abbreviation to forum slang soon. HEBSO?

I welcome responses via the letters page, should anyone disagree that making things lighter may no longer be progress. In my opinion, the strength to weight ratio has reached a plateau not to be crossed. Will shaving a gram or two from an already lightweight bike mean the end-user enjoys cycling more? No. Will it increase product recalls and accidents? Very possibly.

I fear that soon enough we’ll see victims of ‘progress’ and, since the precedent has been set to sue, (ATB vs Ide) smaller manufacturers may join that casualty list. Those familiar with the case will know that ATB was not to blame for Ide’s misfortune. Nonetheless, even on appeal, the claimant was awarded damages. CEN standards may still need work, it seems.

On that topic, don’t forget to clear stocks of all product marked with the old BS6102 standard before January. It will soon be worth very little. (additional note: there has now been an additonal grace period granted to BS6102 product, so although wise to shift the product soon, the deadline is no longer January.)

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