The Best Carbon Fiber Road Bikes

by Max Roman Dilthey

Master craftsman can create a carbon bicycle frame worthy of an art museum.

Oli Scarff/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Carbon Fiber is the newest and most advanced material in bicycle frames and components. Carbon fiber bicycles are ubiquitous at the top level of cycling competition for road bikes because no other material can match the ratio it has between low weight, stiffness, and durability. The best carbon fiber bicycles are built using advanced manufacturing techniques by expert framebuilders, and can provide years of service before they need to be replaced. You can expect to pay a high premium for the best carbon fiber road bikes, but the investment pays off in performance if you're looking for the biggest advantage in your next race.

Manufactured for Speed

Carbon fiber is a unique material made up of individual carbon strands that are woven together and sealed with glue. This glue forms a ply, which can be combined with other plies and heated to form a laminate that can be bent and shaped around a mold. This process is expensive, and the best frames use a tight weave of high-quality carbon fiber that is manufactured using high-precision equipment. The precision of the design allows each piece of the frame to fit together seamlessly, giving the carbon frame its fluid, continuous appearance.

Life In The Slipstream

Carbon fiber is unique among bicycle frame materials since it can be shaped for aerodynamics in ways that steel, aluminum, and titanium cannot. Carbon fiber can be molded into a frame with advanced aerodynamics, with tapered tubes and streamlined shaping that minimizes the profile of the bike. The best carbon fiber frames are pinnacles of design, and can shave precious seconds off of your race time just by minimizing air resistance. Some of the top carbon fiber frames are designed with a curve in the seat tube that allows a continuous flow of air past the seat tube and over the rear wheel. The best carbon fiber bicycles use carbon fiber in the production of the bicycle rims as well, since they play an important role in the aerodynamics of the bike.

Strong Under Pressure

Carbon fiber is brittle and cannot be repaired when it breaks, so the best carbon fiber frames and rims are overbuilt for long-term strength. This makes them exceptionally stiff, which increases the efficiency of the bike as it transfers power from the drivetrain to the rear wheel. The best carbon fiber road bike will have a stiff top tube that doesn't bend during high-intensity climbing or sprinting. This stiffness makes carbon fiber the best material for the strongest cyclists in the professional circuit.

Precision Components

The best carbon fiber road bikes have high-quality components that match the engineering and performance of the carbon frame and wheels. Derailleurs, brake levers, and cables are all made from lightweight metals like aluminum and titanium, reducing the weight of the bicycle without sacrificing reliability. The handlebars and seatpost of the bike are usually crafted from carbon fiber as well, since the properties that make it ideal for the frame also make it perfect for smaller components. Special brake pads designed for carbon fiber rims let riders carefully control their speed.

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Photo Credits

  • Oli Scarff/Getty Images News/Getty Images

About the Author

Max Roman Dilthey is a science, health and culture writer currently pursuing a master's of sustainability science. Based in Massachusetts, he blogs about cycling at MaxTheCyclist.com.