Blog: skinning cats and bicycle design

The many different methods employed by bicycle designers to achieve their ends


Of the four material choices – carbon, titanium, aluminium and steel – marketing departments would have us believe that we should all be on super lightweight, composite steeds. The truth, however, is a little more subtle. Companies such as Lynskey and Genesis, to name but two, are making some fantastic bikes in titanium and steel that have fabulous comfort and longevity for a minimal weight penalty that most of us could recoup elsewhere (and I’m no longer talking about components).

Specialized’s S-Works Allez and its Smartweld-ed headtube is evidence that aluminium remains a viable material for high-end racing bikes

Aluminium is on the comeback trail, whether it be with £1,000-ish, Cycle To Work Scheme-friendly steeds now with superior specifications to similarly priced carbon bikes, mid-range framesets, such as those from Kinesis, that offer the consumer an intelligent use of budget for custom builds more satisfying than stock carbon offerings at the same price, or cutting edge, top-tier framesets with a weight and performance to match the most sophisticated chassis.

Carbon is the choice of the peloton and cycling is no different to the automotive industry in using the top tier of the sport as a technical showcase (for Formula 1, read the WorldTour). Recently, however, the cry among designers has been for a loosening of the UCI’s technical restrictions, specifically the minimum weight limit of 6.8kg, which many believe is no longer required to guarantee the safety of a carbon racing bike. Aero road bikes, where tube profiles are shaped by wind tunnel research, are now standard fare. Most manufacturers have an aero bike in the portfolio (Cervelo’s ground breaking S-series, Scott’s Foil, and Specialized’s Venge, for example) while others have been modified to accommodate the trend (see Trek’s Madone).

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