Carbon fiber, sometimes referred to as graphite fiber, is an ultra-strong material used to construct eBikes, but more regularly used by the aerospace and automotive industries in their associated constructions. Although carbon fiber was developed in the US in 1958, it was a British researcher who discovered how strong it was a few years after its invention. Used to make aircraft, sporting gear, and racecars, carbon fiber quite literally starts out as a fiber that is roughly 10 micrometers across—sometimes less. The fibers are wound or woven into sheets that can be used for various constructions.
Carbon fiber’s high tensile strength, light weight, and optimum stiffness make it an incredibly useful material, but it’s also quite expensive. In fact, adding more carbon fiber to a bike’s construction, or any product for that matter, can result in substantially costlier price tags. To fashion carbon fiber into a workable construction material, it is often woven as mentioned, but it is then formed into a composite material with the addition of other materials such as plastic resin. It may even be molded into shape using carbon fiber reinforced polymer. Now a billion-dollar industry, the manufacture of carbon fiber is even helping to support the wind energy industry and is transforming products that once relied almost exclusively on metals like steel for their composition.
Carbon Fiber Bicycles and eBikes
Manufacturers of carbon fiber bicycles and eBikes typically purchase carbon fiber on rolls dubbed prepeg. In essence, these are rolls of pre-impregnated carbon fiber fabric that have already been saturated with composite material like resin. The type and amount of resin used in this fabric will inform its grade. The better the tensile strength, invariably results in a better grade of carbon fiber—and a higher cost. The weave of the carbon fibers, known in the industry as “tow”, can also impact the cost of the fabric and ultimately the cost of the eBike. Weaves that are more intricate and complex will enhance the durability of the bike frame. To create high-performance eBikes and bicycles, manufacturers use multiple layers of carbon fiber with varying degrees of stiffness to achieve products that are durable as well as safe.
Common Misconceptions about Carbon Fiber Bicycles
Among those who don’t understand the ins and outs of carbon fiber, there may be some misconceptions still floating around about this material and whether or not it’s ideally suited to bike manufacturing. After all, you aren’t driving your eBike to the moon—do you really need to use the same sort of material that NASA is paying top-dollar for? Of course, the fact that the aerospace industry is increasingly turning to carbon fiber should tell you something. This material is incredibly strong and durable, but also uber lightweight—lighter than aluminum and certainly other metals.
The most enduring myth is that carbon fiber bikes are more fragile than steel bikes, when in reality they are engineered to be very strong. For instance, when you hit a pothole, you have the peace of mind of knowing that your eBike has been engineered with this type of force in mind. On the other hand, if you run your bike into a tree, something your high-end bike or eBike has not been designed to encounter, you can expect the material to rupture.
Another myth that has plagued carbon fiber is that sunshine can somehow damage your bike frame. The reality is that your frame is protected against potentially harmful UV rays by paint and wax coatings. Once consumers recognize the reality associated with these myths, they can begin to understand why this material has become some of the highest-grade material used to manufacture bicycles and eBikes today.
Carbon Fiber and eBikes are a Go
Carbon fiber eBikes are as durable and tough as you would want any bike to be, but they are also lightweight—an extremely important aspect of construction as the frame’s reduced weight helps to offset the added weight of the eBike’s motor and battery. When you understand how carbon fiber is used in eBike construction, you’ll be poised to ask the right questions about any carbon fiber bikes you’re considering. In most instances, a higher-priced bike will mean that more carbon fiber is used in the construction than other composite materials, there are varying types of carbon fiber used to engineer a certain type or level of performance, or that the weave of the carbon fiber is at a superior level. Knowing this about the eBikes you’re considering will ultimately help you select one that’s ideal for you.