Wednesday, February 11, 2009

the carbon fibre bidon cage effect

The weight of a bicycle is perhaps the most widely understood measure of "quality". The first thing anybody ever does when they see a racing bike is lift it up to gauge its weight. Even if they know nothing else about bicycles, they will know that a light bike is expensive and desirable. Now that bikes are often in the 6 or 7 kilogram range it is becoming increasingly difficult to save weight. A new frame weighs less than 1 kg, a gruppo around 2, a set of lightweight wheels less than 1.5 kgs... add bars, stem, saddle, tyres and pedals that have all been shaved to within an inch of their warranty periods and there aren't many places left to save weight. Bar tape is pretty light stuff. Enter the humble bidon cage (water bottle cage for the uninitiated)...

Special thing 1 about the bidon cage (henceforth referred to as a BC) is that it doesn't do very much. It holds bidons. That's it. It doesn't make the bike go any faster, stop any faster, shift gears any smoother, stick better to a bumpy road or corner in the wet. It just holds bidons. Special thing 2 about BCs is that good quality steel or aluminium cages will set you back less than $40 for a pair and they will hold onto full bidons even on the cobbles. Between them they might weigh about 85 grams.

Have a look around at your local "Café Racer" and you won't see too many steel cages. You might naively think that's because if you spend $200 on a pair of carbon fibre Campagnolo Record BCs you can save a massive 40 grams on the weight of your bicycle! Indeed, for some this may well be the clinching factor. After you've replaced all your steel bolts with titanium ones to save a total of 20 grams on your bike, nothing remains apart from the BCs.

You'd be wrong. This is where special thing 3 about BCs comes into play... they are visible and have logos on them. An anonymous steel BC on a carbon fibre bike is just not on! It looks silly, a bit like putting a sheepskin car seat cover in your Lamboughini. Of course carbon fiber doesn't hold bidons any better than steel – irrelevant for the Beach Rd. crew since there are no cobbles between St. Kilda's cafés and Oliver's Hill ;-) enjoy your Campy Record carbon cage... maybe save to upgrade it to an "11 speed Super Record cage". Just don't pretend you have it to offset the weight of the dribble of water left at the bottom of your bottle or I shall choke on my Gatorade!

No comments:

Post a Comment