As a concept, I like carbon fiber bikes. Super light, agile, responsive, shock absorbing, extremely strong. Yes, sure, I’ve seen lots of pictures of busted up frames in millions of pieces, because when carbon fails it’s not pretty. But if you hit something hard enough to shatter your carbon frame, I kinda think the bike is going to be the least of your problems.
On my quest for a new “fast bike,” a rode a lot of carbon bikes. Generally I was looking in the $2000-$2500 range, which, believe it or not, is on the lower end for carbon bikes. But the bikes ranged in price from $1,600 to almost $5,000. I stuck with the “endurance” category, which is more for the type of riding I do, commuting and the occasional all-day super long ride. The geometry is less aggressive than your all-out race bikes, which is great for me. I’m not a racer, and don’t plan on racing anyone, unless it’s to the bathroom.
There are tons of bikes in this category now, and I rode a lot of them. Specialized, Trek, Felt (several types), Cannondale, Giant, Bianchi.
Out of that bunch, I liked the Felt Z4 the best. It came in at a lower price than most of the others, and had a supple ride quality that I found intriguing. I didn’t test it, but the new Z4 for 2015 comes with disc brakes, which are starting to be more common on road bikes.
The Bianchi wasn’t bad, although I didn’t much like how the brakes felt, same with the Cannondale. And I just have a thing about Specialized and Trek, seems like they cost more just for the labels.
But here’s the thing I discovered. Carbon doesn’t make me happy. The performance gain is indisputable, but I just don’t like how the frames feel on anything but a perfect road surface. And we don’t get a lot of that around here. When the bumps come, the carbon bikes just feel plasticky and a little cheap, kinda like when you were a kid, riding a Big Wheel on your neighbor’s crappy driveway. I know all the specs are better, but when I’m plunking down 2-3k, I don’t want it to feel like a Big Wheel.
Which is too bad, really. Because I like the idea of a super light, modern, zippy bike. I just don’t like riding any of them all that much. Turns out I’m pretty much a straight-up steel guy. It’s taken me about five years to realize this, but there you have it.