Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Should I buy a carbon fibre road bike?

Boardman Comp
Carbon Fibre.  Strong and light, it's the material of choice for the pro-peloton and hundreds of thousands of road cyclists due to it's amazing properties.

When buying your first road bike, you'll get lots of advice from people about what sort of bike to buy, how much to spend etc etc.

You'll hear the word carbon fibre pop up regularly in those chats, whilst they recount the best nikes around for your hard earned money to be spent on.

However, for many buyers, they are operating on a Cycle to Work budget (around £999) or less and they are faced with a more limited choice of carbon road bikes to buy.  Boardman cleaned up when they hit £999 in Halfords, their latest models went up to £1299, just outside of the Cycle to Work limit.

So, it begs the question, do you hunt out a carbon bike or will aluminium/steel do with a set of carbon forks?

My advice would be to forget getting too excited about a Carbon bike for your first bike.  Any experience cyclist will tell you (and I've been dropped by enough of them on my expensive carbon bikes) that it's your engine that will make you go fast, not a carbon bike.  Work on your fitness and lose some weight to improve your power to weight ratio before you get too excited about carbon, it will be cheaper!

I've previously written a buyers guide, which details the various options I think you should look at when buying your first steed.  I recommend to buy as good as bike as you can, aluminium is OK.

Get the right components on it and get riding it.  Increase your fitness over a season before you consider to buy another bike, then take a look at a carbon bike.  That way you'll get to appreciate it and it will give you that little bit of extra something.

Moral of the story.  Carbon is cool, don't worry too much about it for your first bike but definitely consider for your second.


  1. have you had a look at Ribble. very affordable. i agree with what you say about losing the weight though. i got a halfords apollo mtb, not ideal for the road at all, but i pretend its a road bike until i can afford it. i work hard on spinning at 90rpm, and i've passed a few carbon bikes on my rides, which gives them a shock! i've lot 3 stone in a year btw.

  2. Hi Phil

    Interesting to read your thoughts, as always.

    Thought I’d share my experiences after looking into carbon bikes/cycle to work last year. It’s worth noting that although the cycle to work limit is £999, many places will allow you to use that £999 towards a more expensive overall package. I had a good look around last summer and found that, of the five or six shops I spoke too, at least three suggested this. I don’t think it’s strictly ‘legal’ under the scheme, but from the conversations I had it seems many people use the £999 as a starting point towards a £1000+ bike. Seems a reasonable idea but perhaps a practice confined to the LBS’s on the scheme - not sure how Halfords would work with it.

    As for carbon/alu/steel – all my bikes are steel. I’d love a full carbon one day but two things hold me back for now – the cost and the fact that I don’t cycle competitively at all, so any effect the weight of my bike has on my average speed/performance etc. is irrelevant to me. I like to ride regularly and I can feel it when my fitness is up and I’m feeling strong, and that’s all I’m after – as long as I can cruise up a few long, steep hills in the sunshine I’m happy!

    Final note: A friend once told me they’d been advised to buy a carbon bike by a shop because ‘Carbon makes you fitter.’ Not sure what angle they were trying to work with there.



  3. carbon makes you fitter - that's a joke. Steel in that case makes you go down hill quicker...the weight. Steel though is quite a bit in demand, and less bikes made from it. I am led to understand that you can't get the rigidity from aluminium or CB, but I can't see the problem with aluminium and have never tried CB to test! however, if there is a degree of flex in the frame then it's all lost energy. I remember the days of steel machines...