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Carbon forks...

TheDudeisnotinTheDudeisnotin Posts: 16
edited August 2009 in Road beginners
...what's the point? Why are they beneficial? Serious question :(

Is it strength or weight? Or the combination of both?

I'm really into my Hi-fi and I build up and combine separates over the years. If necessary I see my bike in the same way and may want to upgrade components as and when I see fit. I understand the benefits of upgrading wheels and gears but not sure why the forks are so important.

Excuse a noob...

Posts

  • neebneeb Posts: 4,445
    Mainly ride quality, with weight as a significant secondary advantage. Carbon is just extremely well suited as a material for making forks as it can be tuned for the right balance between stiffness and shock absorption and can be made to flex more in certain directions.
  • cougiecougie Posts: 22,512
    Mainly for the ride qualities. A good carbon fork takes away the road buzz.
  • volvicsparvolvicspar Posts: 208
    It takes away the road buzz and seems make the handling much sharper.. Plus the weight benefits. No doubt about it carbon is superior :D
  • balthazarbalthazar Posts: 1,565
    Richard Sachs had this to say on forks:

    Most people don't think of it the way a framebuilder would, but a fork is a pretty important part of a frame, and it's not supposed to be considered an accessory (like a handlebar set or a saddle) that you buy once your frame is complete. The reason people now buy forks from fork factories is because it is cheaper and more efficient to make them in a mold than it is to have the framebuilder continue the tradition or making them to mate with the frame. I think that is a sad thing. That is the way the market has gone and I don't try to fight it. I continue to make my forks and each fork is made for the frame that it is stuck into.

    (fromthis article)

    I always regretted that I bought my Roberts with carbon forks, rather than asking them to build me a matching steel pair. I don't care about the nominal weight saving, and it probably wouldn't have cost much more. The carbon ones just don't really honour the frame.
  • neebneeb Posts: 4,445
    I always regretted that I bought my Roberts with carbon forks, rather than asking them to build me a matching steel pair. I don't care about the nominal weight saving, and it probably wouldn't have cost much more. The carbon ones just don't really honour the frame.
    Actually, I am in the opposite situation. I have a second/third bike which I built up on a lovely steel Mercian frame which came with matching steel forks. I'm living outside the UK at the moment but I keep this bike in Britain to ride when I am there. The steel forks look great, especially coupled to a threaded headset and old style cinelli stem, but the ride just can't compare with a decent set of carbon forks, and the extra weight of the steel forks + quill stem & threaded headset is really substantial (it makes as much difference to the total bike weight as the steel frame itself does). Can't wait to swap it for a modern CF fork and threadless stem setup...
  • bill57bill57 Posts: 454
    cougie wrote:
    Mainly for the ride qualities. A good carbon fork takes away the road buzz.

    This is a complete myth perpetuated by fork manufacturers, and rather sadly, the testers in magazines.
  • neebneeb Posts: 4,445
    This is a complete myth perpetuated by fork manufacturers
    Really? That's not my experience or that of most other people. I'd say that next to the wheels, the forks make the biggest difference to the ride quality and the decent carbon forks I have ridden are just a world apart from any steel or aluminium ones I've used. Don't know about Ti.
  • softladsoftlad Posts: 3,513
    bill57 wrote:
    cougie wrote:
    Mainly for the ride qualities. A good carbon fork takes away the road buzz.

    This is a complete myth perpetuated by fork manufacturers, and rather sadly, the testers in magazines.

    ok, I'll bite. If that is a 'myth' - what is the truth..?
  • Harry182Harry182 Posts: 1,162
    edited July 2009
    I switched the original chromoly double-butted forks on my 20 year-old steel commuting frame for carbon-blade, threadless alloy steerer forks a couple of years ago.

    The difference it made was immediately and appreciably noticable. The ride was smoother while the steering felt much more planted/direct/responsive. I reckon I also shaved at least a 1/2 pound of weight off the bike.

    I remember absolutely flying up Pentonville Rd on that first ride. Too bad that hasn't happened every time since. But still, for me, it was a great change and I'll never look back.
  • Surf-MattSurf-Matt Posts: 5,952
    My bike has them - no point but it scores bragging points...

    I have carbon bars on my MTB - they definitely take a bit of buzz/high frequency shocks out of the ride - the difference is quite marked. Not sure about the forks but they look nice... :lol:
  • neebneeb Posts: 4,445
    While we're on the subject, and in a probably fruitless attempt to diffuse a steel vs. CF slanging match, does anyone have experience of these? Are they any good?

    http://www.chainreactioncycles.com/Mode ... elID=21555
  • Smokin JoeSmokin Joe Posts: 2,706
    balthazar wrote:
    Richard Sachs had this to say on forks:

    Most people don't think of it the way a framebuilder would, but a fork is a pretty important part of a frame, and it's not supposed to be considered an accessory (like a handlebar set or a saddle) that you buy once your frame is complete. The reason people now buy forks from fork factories is because it is cheaper and more efficient to make them in a mold than it is to have the framebuilder continue the tradition or making them to mate with the frame. I think that is a sad thing. That is the way the market has gone and I don't try to fight it. I continue to make my forks and each fork is made for the frame that it is stuck into.

    (fromthis article)

    I always regretted that I bought my Roberts with carbon forks, rather than asking them to build me a matching steel pair. I don't care about the nominal weight saving, and it probably wouldn't have cost much more. The carbon ones just don't really honour the frame.
    So what are the qualities that a "Matching" set of forks can bring?

    Or in other words, how do they match in a way that aftermarket forks don't?
  • balthazarbalthazar Posts: 1,565
    Smokin Joe wrote:
    So what are the qualities that a "Matching" set of forks can bring?

    Or in other words, how do they match in a way that aftermarket forks don't?
    Matching matters to me in two – related – ways. Firstly, aesthetics: they should look like part of the frame, in proportions, detailing, and paint finish and colour. Secondly, I think it is respectful to the framebuilder to let him decide how to built every part of a bike frame, according to his own experience and judgment. There are dimensional variations between forks – rake, length, brake type and drop, and so on. I think they're the concern of the framebuilder, not the customer.

    There are other matters, too: for instance, framebuilders used to make the frames in such a way that the forks would bend first in a front impact, saving the frame. Such considerations are forgotten now.
  • Smokin JoeSmokin Joe Posts: 2,706
    Aesthetics are a personal thing. If you are happy with aero bladed black carbon forks that is your business, not the frame builders. Brake drop is a standard dimension, and unless you want discs or cantilevers so is brake type. Rake is also pretty standard depending on whether you want a race, audax or touring frame and you just buy appropriate forks.

    All forks bend in a front impact if it is hard enough, there is no built in crumple zone.
  • gkerr4gkerr4 Posts: 3,408
    balthazar wrote:
    Richard Sachs had this to say on forks:

    Most people don't think of it the way a framebuilder would, but a fork is a pretty important part of a frame, and it's not supposed to be considered an accessory (like a handlebar set or a saddle) that you buy once your frame is complete. The reason people now buy forks from fork factories is because it is cheaper and more efficient to make them in a mold than it is to have the framebuilder continue the tradition or making them to mate with the frame. I think that is a sad thing. That is the way the market has gone and I don't try to fight it. I continue to make my forks and each fork is made for the frame that it is stuck into.

    (fromthis article)

    I always regretted that I bought my Roberts with carbon forks, rather than asking them to build me a matching steel pair. I don't care about the nominal weight saving, and it probably wouldn't have cost much more. The carbon ones just don't really honour the frame.

    Each to their own and all that - and I don;t know who richard sachs is, but this clearly just hanging on to old-times surely? - it's like saying "they don't make black and white telly's like they used to do they"?
  • balthazarbalthazar Posts: 1,565
    edited July 2009
    Smokin Joe wrote:
    Aesthetics are a personal thing. If you are happy with aero bladed black carbon forks that is your business, not the frame builders. Brake drop is a standard dimension, and unless you want discs or cantilevers so is brake type. Rake is also pretty standard depending on whether you want a race, audax or touring frame and you just buy appropriate forks.

    All forks bend in a front impact if it is hard enough, there is no built in crumple zone.
    Fork proportions – such as brake drop and rake – vary between different types of bicycle. I think it is immaterial that the customer is capable of selecting and sourcing the appropriate fork for the frame they have. It is reasonable to consider a bike frame as a chassis that can have wheels attached. Why leave the business of locating and fixing the rear wheel to your framebuilder, but keep responsibility for the front wheel to yourself?

    I don't particularly dispute that aesthetics are a personal matter – but my claim for their importance was clearly phrased as such.

    re. gkerr4 – monochrome TV's have been superceded by slim high resolution colour TV's which are much better, in all respects. I don't see what makes carbon composite bicycle forks much better than steel ones. They are a bit lighter, but I can't imagine what more a bike fork can do.

    Richard Sachs is an American framebuilder, widely regarded as among the very best at it.
  • freehubfreehub Posts: 4,257
    My forks that come with my CAAD9 must be censored cause I've not really noticed much difference in the terms of feling less from the road service, maybe this road buzz or whatever but my Carrera bike with alu forks seems I cant tell the difference.
  • rally200rally200 Posts: 646
    Balthazars point may be right for high end, craftsman built bikes - I couldn't sa. I have two entry level bikes one with cro-mo & one with carbon fork - and the cromo is a bone-shaking pig.
  • Smokin JoeSmokin Joe Posts: 2,706
    Forks are an addition to the frame like wheels, not part of it. That is why many frames are supplied without any. As long as you fit race forks to a race frame, touring specific forks to a tourer etc choice is down to you and the quality you or your pocket desire. The wheel will still be in exactly the same place and turn the same no matter what you use.

    The comparison with the rear triangle is meaningless as it is not a detatchable item.
  • EscargotEscargot Posts: 361
    balthazar wrote:
    Smokin Joe wrote:
    So what are the qualities that a "Matching" set of forks can bring?

    Or in other words, how do they match in a way that aftermarket forks don't?
    Matching matters to me in two – related – ways. Firstly, aesthetics: they should look like part of the frame, in proportions, detailing, and paint finish and colour. Secondly, I think it is respectful to the framebuilder to let him decide how to built every part of a bike frame, according to his own experience and judgment. There are dimensional variations between forks – rake, length, brake type and drop, and so on. I think they're the concern of the framebuilder, not the customer.

    There are other matters, too: for instance, framebuilders used to make the frames in such a way that the forks would bend first in a front impact, saving the frame. Such considerations are forgotten now.

    Interesting article. The guy is a true enthusiast and seems to have turned away from mass sales in order to remain a bespoke manufacturer. Very admirable but business is business and you can't really blame other manufacturers for wanting to mass produce frames that are of a high quality but will also make good financial returns e.g. as with Chris Boardman.

    From reading the article I do feel as if the things he criticises are what he's used/needed to gain the experience/knowledge he currently has and whilst it's fine to be able to design a frame without need of calculation/analysis to say you don't understand stiffness is a bit ridiculous imho. Putting my engineering hat on stiffness is generally what defines how a bike rides and will ultimately make a bike comfortable or less so (depending on whether it is for sportives or racing). To talk in terms of comfort and stability is pretty much the same thing imho but just sounds more touchy feely and probably more appealing to the market he's targeting.

    I'm not sure about the whole fork thing though. Without doubt a designer will match a fork to a frame but to say it's not the concern of the customer is not entirely fair.

    As with cars we are able to specify all manner of options when we buy a new one. Most manufacturers will often have half a dozen wheel packages ranging from small/narrow to large/wide and I very much doubt that all variations have been designed to match the car yet all will have a dramatic effect on handling. The same goes with suspension upgrades but that is not to say that joe public shouldn't go and play with the options list.

    I'm sure a fork is not that much different so it should be possible to tailor the handling of a bike whether with aftermarket or manufacturer options. After all a frame builder, like most engineers, can only design what he 'perceives' to be the right product. By Richard's own admission he builds a picture in his mind of what he believes is required but whether this then suits the customer is a different matter. Thus it's then down to the owner to decide what and how he would like to improve the ride.

    Personally its not so much about respecting the frame builder but how close he/she has got to understanding and then meeting the needs of the customer.
  • AidanRAidanR Posts: 1,142
    Personally I'm not interested in arguments about aesthetics or respecting the frame builder. I feel it comes down to the fit of the bike. This isn't an issue with taller riders - if you're 6'+ you're not going to be riding a frame with a short enough top tube to give you issues with toe overlap. However, if you're 5'5" it's a different matter. So how do you design this issue out? Well, you can increase the seat tube angle to 74 degrees or more, but this will put the rider too far over the bottom bracket so in order to feel comfortable the rider will put the saddle further back on the seat post. This effectively increases the top tube length and you're back to square one. The proper way of dealing with this is to decrease the head tube angle and increase the rake. Both of these things will push the front wheel further away from the rider whilst maintaining the correct trail (which influences how sharp the steering is). Unfortunately almost all carbon forks come with either 43 or 45 degrees of rake, so frames are designed around this, and the smaller sizes are very compromised.

    Touring bikes often come with steel forks. This is firstly because weight doesn't matter so much, secondly because front racks can be mounted, but thirdly because by using steel they can get the correct rake as toe overlap issues are much worse when you start to add mudguards.
    Bike lover and part-time cyclist.
  • neebneeb Posts: 4,445
    I have a theory about the "feel" of CF forks compared to steel, which I''ve just come up with this minute and it would be good to get some opinions on.

    Obviously the flex of a fork will be important to how it feels, and the material it is made out of will influence not just the amount it flexes, but how it flexes.

    BUT the idea I have is this - the weight of the fork itself may also be very important to how it feels on rough road surfaces, as this weight is right at the front end and more or less in line with the forces transmitted through the front wheel to your hands on the bars. A steel fork, especially if it is combined with a relatively heavy quill stem, could add up to 1.5 lbs to the front end of the bike specifically, and right under where your hands are on the bars. Could this heavy front end be largely responsible for the experience that many people have of a steel fork jarring more?
  • Wow, thanks for the response. Cheers guys/gals. Going to have a read and get back to you.

    I'm sure I'll be looking to upgrade my forks at some point. Which manufacturers should I be looking at/avoiding? Bearing in mind my bike's only £500....didn't want to spend too much.
  • neebneeb Posts: 4,445
    I'm sure I'll be looking to upgrade my forks at some point. Which manufacturers should I be looking at/avoiding? Bearing in mind my bike's only £500....didn't want to spend too much.
    As Balthazar pointed out, don't forget that rake is very important to how a fork feels and that this should be matched to head tube angle. Probably if your bike is a modern road bike of a medium-ish size the headtube angle is around 73 degrees and the "standard" carbon forks with about 43 or 44mm rake will be fine, but a small difference in HT angle makes a big difference in the amount of rake you need, e.g. if your HT is 74 degrees you would ideally want less rake, e.g. 38mm.

    I've been thinking about getting a new fork myself and have noticed that there aren't actually that many options at the moment. Reynolds seem to have stopped making them, Look now only seem to do the high-end HSC5SL (according to their websites anyway), and the range of options offered by the other manufacturers is rather limited. Ritchey and Easton seem to be your best bets, and Wiggle is now selling Alpha Q forks which get good reviews in the U.S.

    If your budget is limited you are probably looking at a carbon fork with an alloy steerer tube, with extra weight being the main disadvantage.
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