The marketers have already won over many of us that carbon fiber must be the better material for bike frames. But...how many of you have actually tested this assumption. The benefits of carbon fiber are undeniable in theory. Carbon fiber offers the same strength as an aluminum bike at less weight. Carbon fiber offers, at least in theory, more tunable ride characteristics.
I did a subjective test at the Interbike Dirt Demo of how carbon fiber suspension bike frames feel versus aluminum frames. I rode several bikes that were similar in intent and suspension travel. The first test subject was the Specialized Stumpjumper EVO in carbon which honestly did not feel great at either climbing or descending. I also had a chance to ride both the Devinci Troy in both carbon and aluminum back-to-back. As I expected, the aluminum Troy felt more sluggish than the carbon Troy. Case closed, right? Not so fast. The last bike of the day was the Transition Patrol in aluminum. Carbon fiber or no carbon fiber, the aluminum Transition Patrol was one of the best riding and best feeling bikes that I rode at Dirt Demo.
Two lessons learned from this year's Dirt Demo:
1. You can't generalize as to how carbon or aluminum will feel. Geometry and ride tuning are factors that will likely be more important than frame material in affecting how a bike rides.
2. I need to spend two days at Dirt Demo to answer any questions that come up for me on the first day & answer any questions/requests from all of you!
Thoughts on carbon vs aluminum?