With Lance Armstrong winning his 7th Tour de France this week, I started to think again about bicycle frame technology. You may already know that carbon fiber frames are very common in the bicycle industry. At least, for higher end bikes, and certainly for race bikes used in the Tour de France.
Bicycle engineers choose carbon fiber when they want the ultimate combination of light weight and strength. Why don’t we see carbon fiber road bikes manufactured any where near the scale of carbon fiber bicycles, which are available at your local bike shop? Cost is a factor, of course, but bicycle manufacturers have found enough customers willing to pay the premium for this frame technology.
Another important factor is the weight of the frame as a percentage of the entire vehicle. The weight of a bicycle frame is a much higher percentage of the weight of the entire bike than the weight of a motorcycle frame is of an entire motorcycle. This may be why carbon fiber has been used on a few of the lightest production motorcycles, i.e., motocross bikes and supermoto bikes. On those types of motorcycles, frame weight can make a significant difference.
In the end, cost has to be the biggest factor. If motorcycle manufacturers ever find an efficient, cost effective way to incorporate carbon fiber frames in production motorcycles, we will see more motorcycles with this feature.