Carbon fiber, carbon fiber, carbon fiber…These days, carbon fiber is ubiquitous. Everything from the wings of Boeing’s famed 787 Dreamliner to that iPhone case in your pocket utilize the material.
And with good reason.
Carbon fiber allows manufacturers to produce high-strength parts that are extremely lightweight and durable. It’s also the ultimate material for bicycle frame construction. That’s why we produce each full suspension all mountain bike with carbon fiber.
Carbon Fiber: Lightweight and High Strength
When Boeing set out to design the Dreamliner, they had lofty goals. They wanted the airplane to achieve much higher fuel efficiency standards, while carrying the same number of passengers and going even further distances.
They realized quickly the solution was to make the plane much, much lighter. But reducing weight typically means using less material. When flying at 40 thousand feet with 300 plus passengers, it’s no time to throw caution to the proverbial wind.
The solution Boeing landed on was carbon fiber. Now, over 50% of a Dreamliner uses carbon composites.
Carbon Fiber Mountain Bike Designs
Like the Boeing’s engineers, Alchemy’s designers also have lofty goals. Reducing weight improves a full suspension all mountain bike’s efficiency. But we can’t only consider weight, as reducing strength in our design would mean disastrous results for the rider.
Getting a high strength-to-weight ratio is the key, and carbon fiber delivers that magic formula. It’s 70% stronger than steel, and 40% stronger than aluminum at the same weights.
How We Use Carbon Fiber in Our Design
How Alchemy uses carbon fiber to build a full suspension all mountain bike is equally important. Alchemy Bicycles has over ten years of experience hand-building carbon bikes in Denver, Colorado, and it’s given us a leg up on the competition.
Take a close look at our mountain bike frames, and you’ll see the fibers orientated in a specific direction. We use a bi-directional technique to optimize the carbon’s strength without excess material and added extra weight. And our experience and proprietary lay-up techniques have earned us accolades from riders and industry alike.
Each Alchemy frame starts with the base carbon material, in the case of a full suspension carbon fiber all mountain bike like the Arktos, something commonly called prepreg. Prepreg is a sheet of carbon that is impregnated with a resin that acts as a curing agent during the molding process.
Alchemy is unique in that each new mountain bike we create is prototyped in the US, and we determine the process by which we cut and apply the prepreg material to make the frame (called the lay up schedule). This is one of the key steps in optimizing stiffness and strength.
The Cost of Carbon Fiber
Mountain Bike Hall of Famer Keith Bontrager is famously quoted as saying, “Cheap, light, strong…pick two.”
This maxim applies to building a full suspension carbon fiber all mountain bike. With the Alchemy mountain bikes as an example, we’re able to produce one of the lightest, strongest frames on the market.
But like all carbon bike frames, it comes with a price. The base carbon material can be as much as 10 times the price of other materials.
And it’s not just the material. There are no magic robots tossing together carbon frames in split seconds.
Every full suspension carbon all mountain bike is handmade, by real people in our warehouse laboriously taking CNC-cut pieces of prepreg material to make a frame.
We also start with only the best high-modulus prepreg sheets, made by Mitsubishi in Japan. Using quality carbon ensures that the resin and carbon are consistent through the base carbon sheets.
Today, it’s hard to imagine not having a full suspension all mountain bike made with carbon. The benefits are too numerous, and the sport and riders are evolving at the same clip as the bicycles themselves.
Carbon allows Alchemy to optimize the strength, weight, stiffness, and durability of our designs, and produce a bike that is capable of pulling off things that that would have been unimaginable even 10 years ago.