looking at uprgading my race bike to provide some added MOTIVATION for training stints.
Where can I obtain a comprehensive comparative review of the latest 2009 TOP END carbon bikes ?
I can't give you a comprehensive review but i can point you in the direction of the '09 bikes we have tested... here's everything Carbon over 2 grand...
Bianchi 928: http://road.cc/content/review/1084-bianchi-928-carbon-t-cube-b4p
Merida Scultura: http://road.cc/content/review/1061-merida-scultura-evo-team-20
Cervelo R3 SL: http://road.cc/content/review/789-cervelo-r3-sl-2009-frame-package
Conlago CLX: http://road.cc/content/review/3819-colnago-clx-centaur
BMC SLC01: http://road.cc/content/review/3023-bmc-slc01-pro-machine
Focus Cayo Expert: http://road.cc/content/review/2724-test-report-focus-cayo-expert-sram
Orbea ONix: http://road.cc/content/review/2406-test-report-orbea-onix-tour
Trek Madone 5.2: http://road.cc/content/review/1671-trek-madone-52-and-52-pro
Orbea Orca Evo: http://road.cc/content/review/1100-orbea-orca-evo-tde-2009
Is carbon really the think to buy? I have a looked a few times at carbon frames but never got round to putting my hand in my pocket. My Principia RSL is similar in weight to most of the carbon offerings and stiff. Robert Millar was impressed with the range ~10 years ago (mine is a 2000 model but still looks great)
Is it marketing? titanium was all the rage a few years ago.
The Rapha Condor team manage OK on aluminium although the big pro teams are on carbon.
A serious question is this, I don't know the answer as I have never ridden carbon so not in a position to comment.
is carbon the best? In a pure race situation i think it undoubtedly is, and that's borne out by the preponderance of carbon machines whizzing their way round france over the last three weeks. you can make a super stiff frame that's really, really light: job done.
however, carbon took over from aluminium before anyone had a chance to really test the limits of that material. blackhound: your principia was a pretty ground breaking bike in its day but there's stuff you can do now with alu (hydroforming is the obvious example) that you couldn't do back then. there's plenty of people working hard to improve alu frames: some of cervelo's test team riders are using aluminium s1 bikes this year. new processes like superplastic forming that kinesis are using now can do even more: their KR510 frameset that we tested is a proper race-ready frame - it'll build into a 16lb bike - for less than 700 notes.
titanium's taken longer to get to the same point as alu because it's much, much harder to work. but even as we speak we've got a hydroformed ti bike on test - the van nicholas astraeus - and first impressions are very good. still very expensive but it outdoes carbon and aluminium in terms of longevity, so if you're not getting a frame off your sponsor every season it's worth factoring that in
steel's still holding in there too: we've ridden some lovely steel road bikes of late, and 853 and 953 tubing has the capability to build into a very light frameset if used properly.
as to ride, i've ridden good and bad bikes made out of all four materials. bad alu and steel bikes are more common than bad carbon or ti bikes, but bad bikes generally are becoming less and less common. the materials, used to their strengths, really do have their own properties that are genuinely noticable. jumping off a BMC and hopping on a Ti Charge Skewer earlier in the year was proof enough of that: both great bikes, but massively different in feel and approach.
but again, in general the differences get smaller as everyone works towards a common goal: bikes that are stiff where they need to be (putting the power down) with a bit of compliance where it's needed. put a carbon fork, seatpost and bars, 25c tyres and your favourite saddle on any good frame and those components will often have a greater effect on the ride experience than the frame will.