Carbon offers no benefit over steel according to a study of one

The British Medical Journal has published  on December 9, 2010 a rather interesting study (of one) riding a steel bike versus a carbon one on a regular commute.  The paper is authored by Dr Jeremy Groves, a British doctor and cyclist.  Dr Groves concluded …

A lighter bicycle did not lead to a detectable difference in commuting time. Cyclists may find it more cost effective to reduce their own weight rather than to purchase a lighter bicycle.

The full article is available in PDF format here and in text format at the British Medical Journal website.  I think it is worth a full read as it is an interesting paper, even if the results may not match your own. I know in my case particularly over the  summer riding into the Fremantle Doctor that my averages on the Look 555 are noticeably faster than on my Surly Long Haul Trucker.

Here is a little taste of the paper to wet your appetite …

The results show that there was no measurable difference in commuting time over 27 miles (43 km) on the carbon frame bicycle compared with the steel frame bicycle. This is at variance to the intuitive assumption that less weight means more speed. Why might this be the case?

Though a 30% reduction in bicycle weight may seem large, the reduction in total weight (bicycle + rider) of 4% is much less impressive. The effect this weight reduction has on the forces acting against the cyclist (gravity, friction (rolling resistance), drag (wind resistance), and the force to accelerate bicycle and rider), as well as the effect of the road conditions, need to be considered….

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