Sunday, July 10, 2005

More on the Bikes of the Tour

Today's New York Times featured an interesting article on the growing prevalence of American-made bikes and their use in the Tour de France, territory that only years ago was dominated by European manufacturers. The article highlighted Cannondale, a Connecticut-based bicycle manufacturer who since 1995 has been producing bicycles for Tour de France teams, first Team Saeco, and now Team Lampre-Caffita.

Cannondale's Six13 has a carbon/aluminum frame, weighs a pinch more than 15 pounds, and retails for $8000. I've always been a fan of Cannondale bikes, though, as the price of this particular model might indicate, they're not often priced for people with my salary. This bike is especially interesting because -- heads up, dorky bike-related tech talk coming -- it blends both aluminum and carbon in the frame. This isn't anything new, really, but considering that most bicycles for competitive cycling are made completely of carbon, it is different. Carbon is well known for being the lightest material around, and dampens road vibrations better than aluminum, titanium, or steel. Of course, carbon is less stiff than the other materials, which means that it works less well in transfering a rider's power directly into the pedals and onto the road -- hence Cannondale's use of aluminum for the bike's down tube, seat stays, chain stays, bottom bracket, and headset (I would bother explaining what each of these parts are, but I'll just assume that most people either don't really care or already know).

These are the days I really wish I had actually studied engineering in college.


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