Carbon fiber built bicycles have been growing in popularity, and lowering in price, even to the point that Walmart now offers a mountain bike made with the material. That in conjunction with the gravel bike growing in popularity, may give the false impression that gravel bikes may only be made with carbon fiber as well.
So are gravel bikes made just with carbon fiber? Gravel bikes are by no means made with carbon fiber. Sure, they can be, but just like every other type of bicycle on the market today they are able to be made with any material! This can range from aluminum, to steel, to even carbon fiber.
Why would you want a carbon fiber gravel bike?
A carbon gravel bicycle comes with two huge upsides, a lightweight design and the fact that carbon soaks up normal road impacts better than the aluminum alternative. Let’s dig a little bit into that!
Making your bicycle lighter, without removing structural integrity or important components is the name of the game when it comes to making every stride more effective.
A carbon fiber framed gravel bike can make a huge impact on that! It is considerably lighter than aluminum, and especially steel. These frames may be lightweight, but they also are extremely strong, resulting in a win-win for most cyclists on the road today.
Making a gravel bike not only makes you a better cyclist, but it also makes it considerably easier to transport it from place to place, as it is easier on your body to lift a lighter bicycle. It’s the small things in life right?
It absorbs more of the road
Carbon fiber is a much more forgiving material, and soaks up the small impacts and imperfections in the road better than any other material. When it comes to gravel bikes, where you are regularly riding your bicycle on gravel paths, or even single tracks, this new composite material can make your ride a much better experience.
One of the big things about gravel bicycles, is the fact that to save weight, they don’t have any form of suspension, which means any small thing to smooth out the ride is going to be an important aspect of buying a new bike.
Why wouldn’t you want a carbon fiber gravel bicycle?
Of course, just like anything else on the market, there are always downsides to utilizing a material! In this case it comes down to cost, and damage.
Expensive to buy still
While carbon fiber is quickly becoming a much more affordable material, it still isn’t quite there yet! Carbon fiber gravel bikes are still considerably more expensive than their aluminum brethren.
If you are someone who isn’t 100% dedicated to cycling, this likely will mean you opt for the aluminum frame! Hopefully (and I think it will happen soon) carbon bicycles will become just as affordable as their aluminum versions, making it a great alternative to people at any budget.
It can get damaged
Carbon fiber is heavily debated in the industry as to whether it truly is a better solution than aluminum due to the fact it can get damaged on impact.
Aluminum frames have multiple components, but generally speaking each component is one piece, meaning it can bend but will take longer to do so, which gives time for it to be noticed and repaired.
However carbon fiber is just that, a fiber, which means thousands of weaves brought together. This means that those weaves technically can fail all at one time resulting in components snapping under heavy impact or pressure.
Again, this is debated, and I don’t think anyone has come to a sure determination on this, but is worth thinking about.
Thankfully, with gravel bikes, you don’t do a ton of jumping, or true downhill riding like you would on a mountain bikes, so this likely won’t be nearly a concern like it would be for mountain bikes.
What are some great carbon fiber gravel bicycles?
If you are just wanting to dip your toes into the carbon fiber gravel bike market, then this Co-Op Cycles ADV 2.1 is an awesome option. While it doesn’t utilize a carbon frame, it does have a carbon fork!
Alternatively, if you are ready to go all out, this Cannondale Topstone Carbon Ultegra RX 2 Bike is an awesome option, yet still a relatively good price for what you get.
Essentially, you are going to want to weigh out how much you are willing to spend, what bicycles are out there on the market today, and figure out what is actually important to your ride.
As I like to tell everyone, draw a line with your budget and be willing to walk away if it doesn’t fit in that.
Frequently Asked Questions
Generally speaking, most people that have a carbon fiber bike will already know this. That said, the easiest way is to knock on the frame like you would a door. Carbon fiber bikes have a very hollow sound which is very distinctive, as it doesn’t sound anything like metal. You can also tell, as the bike will be considerably lighter.
Carbon fiber gravel bikes really don’t have an expiration date to speak of. Just like other bikes, if you take care of it and do the maintenance that is needed, it could last you a lifetime!
At the moment, due to the cost of a carbon bicycle, I have a hard time justifying it if you are a new bicyclist. However if you are ready to up your game, then a carbon bike is definitely worth the upgrade!
Gravel bicycles are by no means only made of carbon fiber! However it can be a great solution for people that are ready to become intermediate or expert riders. Having a carbon gravel bike may allow you to ride much longer distances while being more comfortable and maximizing the amount of energy from each stride.