Bicycle companies offer carbon fiber frames frequently, but many manufacturers offer carbon rims, hubs, spokes, stems,handlebars, seat posts and saddles. No one machine shines as the best; however, the best available machines offer quality built carbon components translating to lightweight cycling machines. Carbon fiber, essentially a plastic form of graphite, bicycle technology exists as a fairly new science still experiencing growing pains, according to bicycle mechanic and industry cataloguer Sheldon Brown.
Many carbon fiber bicycles feature hand-layered carbon components. This means someone in a factory literally places carbon fibers in a particular direction before applying epoxy to hold the fibers in place. By predetermining the direction these fibers lay, carbon manufacturing companies create frames with strengths and weaknesses designed specifically to counter normal bicycle stresses. Hand-layered frame companies can utilize full designs, such as Scott, De Rosa and Battaglin, or utilize frame lugs to join hand layered tubes, like Trek, Colnago and Cervelo, according to online publication Bike Cycling Reviews. These traditional designs utilize a framework similar to traditional double diamond bicycle designs.
Monocoque carbon bicycle frames utilize the technology first developed for aircraft and racing automotive applications. Monocoque designs use the external surface of a structure to support load, verses traditional internal frames covered with a protective skin. Monocoque carbon bicycle companies, including Kestrel and auto giant Ferrari, typically utilize long sweeping lines far different than the traditional double diamond carbon frames. Often monocoque frames offer superior stiffness but weigh more than traditionally built machines. Monocoque frames often work best for triathletes and sprinters looking for exceptional strength-to-weight ratios.
Many companies produce lightweight carbon machines, typically costing between $1000 and $5000 for a complete bike. Exotic carbon frame companies often charge exorbitant prices for individual frames due to engineering and design costs. For example, according to Discover online magazine, lattice style Delta 7 bicycle frames offer superior strength with decreased weight when compared to more traditional machines, but the frame only $7000 price tag exceeds many cyclist budgets. As carbon fiber technology matures, such exotic frame styles become more affordable and widespread throughout the cycling industry.