Carbon vs Mo-Cr fork
September 8, 2006 6:06 PM   Subscribe

BikeFilter: Carbon vs Mo-Cr fork on a road bike for a newbie? How much difference does it make?

(I have seen this thread.) I am looking into getting my first road bike, and I believe it will have to be a junior size bike, since even the smallest women's (Terry, Trek WSD, whatever) bikes have too high a standover height. Obviously the selection is narrow, and one problem I have noticed is that most of them -- even the new ones -- don't have carbon forks. I am looking at a used 2005 Felt f24 bike and it has Mo-Cr fork, while the new 2006 model has a carbon fork (the only youth size bike I've seen with carbon fork). Buying it new will probably cost me $200-300 more. Nevermind the fit (I know that's important, but I'll figure that out), if I intend to use this bike for weekend longer road rides, not races, should I worry about the fork?

I have never ridden a road bike, nevermind a ___ fork one, so any comments/advice in that area will be much appreciated. My bike for the summer was a really old Norco MTB with a Mo-Cr frame with no suspension and I rode it for 30-40 km rides.

Oh, and I do have a limited budget, but I'd rather spend wisely than spend little. Thanks.
posted by bread-eater to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total)
Should you worry about the fork? Nah.

I find Cro-moly more comfortable, and leaving some carbon off of it for now gives you something to upgrade to later - if you feel like it. Really, these things don't matter so much. I've riden carbon, cro-moly, aluminum and steel, and while you can feel the difference it's really not anything to worry about. Hell, I like squishy steel and fairly heavy bikes for road riding. You can worry about weight if you ever start to race.
posted by metaculpa at 6:13 PM on September 8, 2006

I wouldn't lose a lot of sleep worrying about the fork. Make sure the bike fits, that you can reach the hoods, bar tops and drops comfortably.
posted by fixedgear at 6:34 PM on September 8, 2006

Best answer: Carbon forks have one real advantage, and it isn't weight. They flex correctly, and they soak a lot of road vibration. This is a huge win if your going for distance.

However, carbon has this failure mode called "Is that a crackohshitowowowowowo." So you have two choices.

1) Be religous about checking your fork for damage, and if there is any, you don't ride the bike until the fork is replaced.

2) Be religous and replace the fork every year.

You're call. Note racers don't do this -- because hardcore racers *replace the bike at least twice a year*. They don't care about reliability. That's why we call them weight weenies.

Cro-moly steel forks will be a bit heavier, and will transmit more vibration. They'll also last forever, and can handle things like racks and disc brakes trivially. If you see a crack in a cro-moly fork, you can often ride the bike home.

There's the advantage people keep touting carbon for -- weight. The heaviest thing on the bike is the rider. Unless you are in race form, it's far easier to take pounds off the rider than ounces off the bike.

Since you're new, I'd go with steel. Metacupla's dead right -- if you're a racer, in race form, you start worrying about ounces on the bike. I'm all about steel, but the few times I've ridden a carbon fork, it's been very tempting. But the steel gets you home, every time.
posted by eriko at 7:34 PM on September 8, 2006

One more vote for cro-moly.

When I got my first road bike I picked one with a carbon fork and I now recognize that as a dangerous waste of money. I was coming from only riding a mountain bike, so losing a few ounces was a very seductive idea. But I regret it.

I'm currently building up a touring bike, no carbon fiber anywhere. I'm going with clunky and reliable steel. However I am a stocky guy and a beat up my gear. You sound much smaller, so you situation may be very different.

One big factor was seeing a bike-on-bike accident. Two road bikes met head-on: the cro-moly fork on one bike destroyed the carbon fork on the other. The guy with the carbon fork just keep looking at the broken fork trying to figure out what happened and how he was getting home. The guy with the steel fork was fine to ride on.

Finally, comfort is most important. The carbon forks are a little more indulgent- lighter and more shock absorbent. If you are willing to pay the premium for this to get a bike that you are more comfortable on, go for it. If you have the money to make sure you have a comfortable ride that you will enjoy, do it.
posted by peeedro at 9:18 PM on September 8, 2006

Carbon will absorb bumps and vibration better than steel (and lighten the bike somewhat too...) as some have pointed out above. Then again seeing as how you're a smaller (and I assume lighter) rider the difference you perceive once you're riding maybe nil.

My big consideration: Do you see yourself installing fenders or a front rack on the bike? In other words is the bike going to see rainy days and/or loaded touring? Will you use it for your commute? If so a steel fork will have useful eyelets for installing a rack and fenders that you will have a really hard time finding in carbon.

Since you're already having problems finding a carbon fork in the bikes you're looking at I wouldn't worry about it. A steel fork only weighs a little more, does a fine job absorbing bumps, and will last longer and offer more commuting options. If you decide you really want the carbon you could always have one installed in the future when your budget allows...

[Also if you find your ride harsh on a steel fork (doubtful) there is a lot you can do to soften it - like changing to a wider tire.]
posted by wfrgms at 8:10 AM on September 9, 2006

Best answer: OK, I don't think you're putting things in perspective here. According to a bit of googling, MSRP on a new '06 Felt F24 is $699, so I'm guessing you're paying less than $500 for the used '05 model. At that price, $200 is a lot to upgrade just the fork, when everything else on the bike is low-end.

Your money would be much better spent on a used bike with better parts everywhere -- not just the fork, or a new bike that comes with the warranty, free servicing, and no wear/tear.
posted by randomstriker at 11:03 AM on September 9, 2006

I have a bike with a big carbon fork and I like it because it absorbs a lot of shock.

But I agree that if the price differential is really $500 to $700, you'd be better off spending the money elsewhere, as steel is quite forgiving of road vibration too.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:40 AM on September 9, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the opinions. Good that everyone pretty much agrees on the fork issue so I can really trust this consensus, and randomstriker you kind of struck upon what I was thinking about as well. The servicing and peace of mind are pushing me towards buying a new bike instead of used, but the new ones definitely have carbon forks, and now I worry a bit after reading the horror bike-bike crash story above. But since carbon is so common these days I guess it can't be too bad. And anyway, spending the money on "better parts everywhere" isn't much of an option as 99.9% of the bikes out there will not fit me.

Again, thanks to all for putting the factors -- carbon/steel/mo-cr/price/servince/whatever -- into perspective for me.
posted by bread-eater at 12:15 PM on September 9, 2006

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