|Great NYTimes article on CF bikes at INTERBIKE||ohmk1|
Oct 20, 2003 9:42 AM
October 20, 2003
Aerospace on 2 Wheels: Lightweight and Strong
By JOHN MARKOFF
AS VEGAS, Oct. 20 - When the American bicycle racer Tyler Hamilton took a tumble and broke his collarbone last summer on the second day of the Tour de France, it turned into a publicity windfall for the bicycle maker who was one of his sponsors.
During the remaining three weeks of the race Mr. Hamilton nursed his injured shoulder to a fourth-place finish riding a bike from the Toronto company Cervelo Cycles that was made almost entirely from carbon fiber, an aerospace industry material that is remarkably light and strong. Carbon fiber, a composite material created by chemists in the United States early in the 1960's, is now used extensively in aerospace applications and increasingly in sports equipment like racing cars and sailboats.
The material also has shock absorbing qualities that reduced the potential bone-rattling vibrations that might have forced the injured Mr. Hamilton out of the race.
From the evidence at this year's Interbike - a trade show that ended here last Wednesday - it is clear that the $4.5 billion United States bicycle industry is racing to embrace carbon fiber as never before. On the sprawling show floor here, virtually every company had a carbon fiber bike or component to flaunt.
Although carbon fiber is still confined largely to more costly racing and mountain bikes, it is quickly falling in price. This year, for example, Giant, the Taiwanese bike maker, introduced an $1,800 carbon fiber bike - well below the $5,000 or more that exotic bicycles can often cost.
The material is being used in most bicycle components and accessories, including frames, wheels, handlebar stems, seat posts, shoes, helmets - even chain rings, the large gears that power bicycles.
"The second, more sophisticated generation of carbon fiber has arrived," said Eric Hjertberg, the new technology manager at Full Speed Ahead, a Taiwanese bicycling equipment maker with offices in Woodinville, Wash. The company introduced a new type of carbon fiber wheel at this year's show.
As with many technical innovations in the bicycle industry, the surging interest in carbon fiber has been accompanied by its share of controversy.
Several industry experts said they were concerned about possibly uneven quality in the manufacturing of a material about which they use terms like "explosive" and "catastrophic'' to describe its potential to abruptly splinter or fracture.
"Not all carbon fiber is created equally," said Josh Deetz, an American industrial designer based in Taiwan. "We see lots of low-tech carbon fiber, and very few people have the expertise to make really high-tech carbon fiber."
There was also debate at the bike show this year over whether the shift to ultralight carbon fiber would strengthen the hand of Chinese companies, which already dominate global bicycle manufacturing, because they are rapidly becoming the leading makers of the labor-intensive material. And there was intrigue at the show as the industry's two dominant equipment makers - Shimano of Japan and Campagnolo of Italy - took different positions on the material.
Campagnolo is increasingly using carbon fiber in its products, and this year the company introduced carbon fiber wheels and cranks that are striking in appearance. The company is using a secret manufacturing injection process that it will not discuss publicly.
In contrast, Shimano has continued to shy away from carbon fiber for bicycle products. At Interbike, Shimano, which is the industry's largest equipment maker, was highlighting a largely aluminum 10-speed shifting system.
A Shimano executive, Robert Bush, said that while the company made more carbon fiber than any other Japanese maker except for military manufacturers,
|Please post the rest! n/m||Bonked|
Oct 20, 2003 10:02 AM
|Please post the rest! - here ya' go!||Live Steam|
Oct 20, 2003 10:14 AM
|A Shimano executive, Robert Bush, said that while the company made more carbon fiber than any other Japanese maker except for military manufacturers, it used the material for other products like fishing rods. Shimano has too many reservations about the manufacturing consistency of carbon fiber, he said.
Despite the scattered skepticism, there were few limits on the enthusiasm of many bicycle executives, who see carbon fiber as reigniting an industry that has generally had a flat year.
"Now everyone has a carbon fiber seat post, while two years ago there were only a handful," said Scott Doniger, the owner of Cyclepath, a bicycle shop in San Mateo, Calif. But Mr. Doniger said he was carefully screening products this year. "You have to talk to the racers," he said. "They know what works and what breaks."
For some bicycle makers, like tiny Calfee Designs, a frame builder in Santa Cruz, Calif., that has 15 years experience with carbon fiber, the material's trendiness has been a boon.
The company, which now has 30 employees, has been growing at a 20 percent annual rate in recent years, said Craig Calfee, the company's founder, who studied sculpture and design at the Pratt Institute before becoming a bicycle builder.
"I feel like I'm a great indicator of the popularity of carbon fiber," Mr. Calfee said, noting that the material had evolved rapidly in a relatively short period. "Metal bikes are drawing on 3,000 years of experience," he said, "while carbon fiber has only been around for 40 years."
The rapid rate at which the bicycle industry is evolving has led some designers to predict that it will quickly move on to even more exotic materials.
Some, like beryllium, which is highly toxic without special treatment, have already been tried and are generally regarded as failures. Some other superlight materials, including magnesium, are thought to be leading candidates for the future.
Mr. Deetz, the Taiwanese designer, is completing the construction of a magnesium factory in South Africa that he said would extrude the material 35 times faster than is possible with existing techniques. Magnesium has wonderful vibration-damping properties, Mr. Deetz said, and it is environmentally friendly to make.
"The real strength of magnesium is in its failure mode," he added. "Magnesium bends, compared to carbon fiber, where the failure mode is explosion."
Oct 21, 2003 5:01 AM
|Why, and under exactly what circumstances, can carbon fiber "explode" on failure? Has anyone had any interesting experiences, like just riding along on 5200, and kaboom?|| |