How carbon fiber bike frames are made

Carbon fiber bike frames are some of the most highly advanced lightweight materials on the global market. There are many methods and manufacturers, so it can often be difficult to know how they're all made. In this article we'll explain how carbon fiber bike frames are made, what different methods can do and if there's a right way of doing it.

Carbon fiber bike frames are made from strands of carbon that have been woven into a fabric and coated in plastic.

Carbon fiber bike frames are made from strands of carbon that have been woven into a fabric and coated in plastic. These frames are extremely light, stiff, and durable. They can be built into bikes that are lighter than most aluminum bikes, yet stiff enough to rival the stiffness of a steel frame.

Carbon fiber is gaining popularity as a material for bicycle frames. The process of building a carbon frame has changed dramatically in the last several years. In the beginning, carbon frames were built by laminating sheets of carbon fiber into molds using epoxy resin. In order to get the layers to adhere to one another, it was necessary to heat the resin and apply pressure during the curing process. This required special ovens called autoclaves that could evenly distribute heat around the entire frame while applying pressure at the same time.

Building a complete bicycle out of carbon can be difficult because it requires many steps. A good comparison is that building a carbon bike frame is like putting together an elaborate jigsaw puzzle with hundreds or thousands of pieces.

The frame is made by layering the carbon sheets, cutting them to shape, then bonding them together.

The frame is made by layering the carbon sheets, cutting them to shape, then bonding them together.

"The carbon process is pretty simple," says Steve. "You grab a sheet of carbon, cut it to the shape you need and then put some resin on it. When you put more sheets on top, you can leave a little bit of air between them and that means that when you add heat and pressure, the resin flows in and fills all the gaps."

The mould is then taken out of the oven and the frame left to cool. Once the resin has set, Steve can remove the frame from its mould and start smoothing off any excess material before adding in the cable guides, reinforcing tubes for bottle cages and other fittings.

Unlike many bike frames, which start with steel or aluminium tubing as a base, carbon frames are moulded around an internal skeleton. This gives Steve complete control over every detail of the design — everything from shaping the tubes to ensure they flex in exactly the right way under load to ensuring they look good while doing so.

"It's not just about making things stiffer or lighter," says Steve. "There are other things going on too — how it looks, how it feels when you ride it."

The carbon fabric sheets are layered up and glued around a mold.

The carbon fabric sheets are layered up and glued around a mold. This can be done by hand or using a machine called an autoclave, which applies heated air and pressure to the layers of fabric and glue. The aim is to ensure that the glue permeates all the layers of fabric in order to create a homogenous material.

The process of laying up fiberglass or carbon fiber over a mold is very similar. The main difference lies in the way the fibers are woven together.

Most companies will use a mixture of carbon fiber (CF) and glass fiber (GF), with the ratio varying depending on how much strength or stiffness is desired.

A higher percentage of CF will give you stronger, stiffer parts at the cost of weight.

The front triangle and rear triangle are often cured separately, then bonded together.

The front triangle and rear triangle are often cured separately, then bonded together. Some composite frames are one piece with a monocoque design. This means the entire frame is made in one process, so there is no joint at the front or rear triangle.

Composite frames have several advantages over aluminum frames. The most obvious is weight: composites are lighter than aluminum, which makes it easier to handle on the trail and accelerate while climbing.

Composite frames can also be made stiffer than aluminum without adding weight, which improves power transfer and handling. However, this stiffness isn’t always desirable — a bike that’s too stiff will transmit more vibration and shocks to the rider, which can lead to discomfort on long rides.

While composite frames generally offer better vibration damping than aluminum, there are also differences in how various composites perform. For example, carbon fiber has a reputation for being especially smooth, while less-expensive composites may not dampen shock as well.

Composite frames can be molded into shapes that aren’t possible with metal, which means each model of bicycle can have very specific performance characteristics built into its design by varying the mold used to create it. However, these differences are often very subtle.

Carbon fiber bike frames can be made in hours, whereas aluminum frames could take weeks to make by hand.

Carbon fiber bikes are rare, but still a bit of a niche in the bike market. Carbon fiber is a material that’s often used in racing bikes, because it’s extremely light, strong, and stiff. It’s also often more expensive than other types of bikes, making it prohibitive for many people to buy.

But carbon fiber has several advantages over other materials. First off, carbon fiber bike frames can be made in hours, whereas aluminum frames could take weeks to make by hand. This allows manufacturers to sell carbon fiber bikes at lower prices than their competitors, which makes them more accessible to everyone.

Carbon fiber is also a “smart” material that adapts to how you ride. For example, if you ride fast and hard on your bike all day long, the frame will bend slightly to accommodate your weight. This helps prevent fatigue and allows you to ride longer without getting tired as quickly as you would on other types of bikes.

But perhaps the biggest advantage of carbon fiber is that it absorbs shock better than aluminum or steel frames do. So if you’re riding over rough terrain like gravel or cobblestones and hit an unexpected bump in the road, carbon fiber will absorb much more of the impact.