Carbon mountain bikes are becoming more and more popular but despite the fact that they are a lot more expensive than aluminum ones and many riders find out that they aren’t much better. So are they worth the money?
As a general rule, buying a carbon mountain bike will be worth the big investment if you are at the top of your fitness level and you can push the bike to its limits and want to enjoy long rides over very rough terrain, but if you are a casual mountain biker you will be better off opting in for an aluminum MTB.
Still, to be sure you make the right decision, in this article, I will tell you what are the main advantages and disadvantages of carbon mountain bikes. In the end, we will analyze in which mountain biking discipline will a carbon MTB make a difference.
Advantages of Carbon Over Alloy Mountain Bikes
The first step in determining if a carbon mountain bike is worth buying is to know what advantages it has over its alloy counterpart. Now let us examine these advantages:
Carbon will have a dampening effect which will result in softer shocks transferred from riding harsh trails to the contact points between your body and the bike. As a result, you will have more comfortable rides.
While this dampening effect is quite small it is felt on longer rides on very technical trails. Your joints will have to absorb smaller shocks and so the chance that you feel joint pain or numbness in your hands or feet is slightly smaller while riding a carbon mountain bike.
Better Torsional Stiffness
Carbon is extremely resistant to compression and has a torsional stiffness bigger than aluminum, this will make you lose less of your pedaling power on tough climbs when you need to apply great force to move forward.
Some riders consider this to be a great advantage while others will say it is barely felt. Practically your bottom bracket will have less twist in relation to your chainstay on a carbon frame when you pedal harder, keep in mind that this is barely noticeable, don’t expect a night and day difference.
Carbon is a lighter material than aluminum, carbon mountain bikes are a couple of pounds lighter making them better at sprinting and climbing.
The weight of the bike is especially important for cross country riding and has less of an impact on enduro and downhill riding.
For mountain bikers competing in events, the bike weight is very important but if you are just casually riding a couple of seconds lost here and there will not diminish the fun you will have on the trails.
More visually appealing
Carbon mountain bikes are more visually appealing to the eye because the frames don’t have welds, practically you will have perfect frame joints. Alloy frames are made from a number of tubes welded together, more expensive bikes will have the welds sanded but still, you can’t get the smooth effect as on carbon frame joints.
What Are the Disadvantages of a Carbon Fiber Mountain Bike?
Carbon mountain bikes have two major disadvantages, one of them is the increased price tag and the second one is that carbon is sensible to shocks (if you hit it). Practically if you hit a carbon part with a tough object such as a rock it is a big chance it will crack.
The main way a carbon MTB ends up damaged is if you are unlucky on a crush and the frame or other carbon parts get in contact with rocks or other tough trail obstacles or if you don’t use a torque ranch when you tighten screws.
Whenever you service a carbon MTB if you tighten too much up the screws that need to hold together 2 carbon components you may end up damaging them.
If you want to know if carbon MTB frames break easily, check out this article!
Does a Carbon Bike Make a Difference?
If you want to race in cross country events a carbon mountain bike will make a big difference but in enduro or downhill the weight of your bike will make little to no difference so a carbon mountain bike will perform almost like an alloy one.
Riding for hours on very rough trails is where a carbon MTB will truly shine and in this situation, it will really make a difference because you won’t get as fatigued as with an alloy MTB.
When you need to sprint or on long and painful climbs a carbon MTB will make a difference but it will not compensate for the fact that you are out of shape or undertrained for the task at hand.
If you are a beginner then a carbon MTB will not make a noticeable difference but if you are a very experienced rider that can push the bike to its limits then most definitely it will.
Now let us examine how big of a difference a carbon MTB will make in regard to your riding style (if you want to read the description of every mountain biking style, check out this article):
|MTB riding style||How big of a difference|
a carbon MTB will make
Are Carbon Mountain Bikes Worth the Extra Money?
Carbon mountain bikes are worth the money if you want to compete in mountain biking events or if you are a very experienced mountain biker who can ride the roughest of trails, riding very technical terrain over long periods of time is where the extra price of a carbon MTB is totally justified.
If you are a beginner or intermediate mountain biker a carbon mountain bike will be worth it only if you have deep pockets and the extra money doesn’t mean too much for you but keep in mind that you will have almost the same amount of fun with an aluminum MTB.
One more thing to consider, if you aren’t in your top physical shape it will be better to lose some weight and not spend 1000 $ or more to save a few pounds from the weight of the bike.
For enduro and downhill riders, a mountain bike with better suspension and a tougher frame will be more worth it than investing in a carbon frame MTB.
I started mountain biking many years ago to improve my overall health state. After my first ride, I fell in love with the sport. Now I spend dozens of hours a week researching and training to compete in local XC and Enduro events.