Great article on carbon and what it means to smaller bike brands http://www.bikerumor.com/2012/07/18...nds-survive-with-just-alloy-bikes/#more-46258 GO CARBON OR GO HOME CAN SMALL BRANDS SURVIVE WITH JUST ALLOY BIKES? posted by Tyler (Editor) - July 18, 2012 - 11am EDT Over the last year weve seen small brands like Intense and Transition join mid-sized companies like Niner and Pivot in offering carbon fiber bikes. As we spoke to them about it, the discussion turned to the challenges of small brands scaling up in todays marketplace that they need to go beyond alloy bikes and offer a carbon fiber model in order to grow. The challenge is one of scale and resources. And by resources, were not just talking about the costs of production, theres a finite number of quality manufacturers willing to do small runs, and the R&D process becomes much more involved with carbon. That means more people, new skills and lots of time. So we spoke to these brands about the process. We also spoke to Turner and Foes, two small, storied brands that are facing the reality that consumers are less and less likely to spend more than $2,500 on an alloy mountain bike frameset. Yet, thats often what it costs if you want the latest and greatest hydroformed, fully modern alloy frame, particularly if you want it made in America. We also spoke to Moots, who only produces titanium bikes, for a different perspective. With Cannondales CAAD10 aluminum road bike flying off the shelves, and Specialized revamping their Allez, is Alloy making a comeback? Or, do you really need to go carbon to go big? See what everyone has to say after the break Transition's first carbon fiber bike, the 160mm Covert, is coming soon. BIKERUMOR: Do you think a brand today can grow or remain relevant in the mainstream without offering a carbon fiber bike? NINER: I think that it is increasingly difficult to do this. Carbon has so much unexplored potential as a material this is where companies are investing their development time and funding. To maintain relevance without a carbon product will be tough. FOES: Our company is different than a lot of big companies. Big companies can experiment more because they have the budget and a lot of their stuff is made overseas. We dont make anything overseas, I like to hand fabricate our stuff, so if I did decide to do something in carbon, wed have to go overseas, and thats just not an option for us, so wed look to do something else. For us, not having a carbon fiber bike hasnt been an issue. If we had them, we could probably sell more stuff, but Im just not interested in going overseas. TURNER: No. Im basing that answer on the verbatim question in the mainstream. Not a high end brand. A brand like Turner Bikes, or any other niche brand, can because its a higher end item thats aimed at a different segment. The big advertising budgets of the big companies have conditioned riders to think that carbon is the pinnacle. A small brand, particularly those in the dirt jump/downhill segment could grow for quite a while on just metal frames. TRANSITION: I think they can in certain categories, and in other categories, no. There are certain price points and genres that without carbon you could probably exist but you wouldnt be growing your market share. If we look at our first bike, a 6″ all-mountain enduro bike, we could have kept the Covert alloy only, but itll do better with the new carbon version. I feel like were one of the smaller brands doing it, but were doing our own thing, not rebranding some off the shelf crap. Were at that size where were right on the cusp, but we definitely see some benefits to doing it. INTENSE: Carbon is so widely accepted now, and it offers so many advantages over aluminum, having said that there is still a place for aluminum, and there are some people that really do not like the idea of carbon used in mountain bike frames. If you dont offer carbon as a company, you are limiting how many customers will want your product. I would say that it would be very difficult to grow a company without offering carbon. PIVOT: I think it would be difficult to make a go of it without carbon. Many customers simply want carbon fiber and its part of their check list of features they want or think they want in a bike. MOOTS: Absolutely. A securely niched, well respected non-carbon fiber brand with a long history of designing and building performance titanium bikes can be very relevant in the high-end bike market today, and going forward. For Moots, with the introduction three years ago of our RSL line road, mountain and cross bikes which have ride qualities similar to high-end carbon bikes with the important addition of lifetime durability and increased comfort, we have seen significant growth in our business worldwide, especially in the U.S. and Europe. We are continuing to see more and more customers make the switch from carbon to titanium as they realize the ride quality in terms of stiffness and responsiveness is really not that different. And, many times the weight differences are minimal or non-existent. On top of that there is a lot of cyclist frustration with the lack of durability in carbon bikes, even at the high-end. So, the combination of those three things have certainly benefitted us. Its also been interesting to see more interest in Moots and titanium from young male riders and women. This is encouraging. For the younger cyclists, some are choosing titanium on their own and some have some parental influence. Weve had a couple very recent stories of young cyclists (early 20s) purchasing Moots road bikes for racing because they have broken too many carbon frames and the costs are becoming too prohibitive to continue to pay the crash-replacement prices, not to mention the inconvenience of not having ones bike for a period of time while waiting for the replacement. For Ti to be relevant in the mainstream (high-end mainstream), wed likely need to have a top tier road team riding Ti bikes and some more top world cup mountain bikers riding Ti. We believe todays titanium technology is there on the product side, but because it occupies such a niche space, there is no company and/or marketing scale to make that financial equation work. On the mountain biking side, the product is clearly there and its a bit more doable from an athlete support standpoint. But, still to really justify the investment in the top tier rider sponsorship, titanium as a whole would need to achieve some level of market critical mass first. And to truly be mainstream, price points need to be at the mid-level to appeal to that broader audience. A properly US-made Ti bike will not hit those lower price points. BIKERUMOR: Do you think riders are still interested in high end alloy frames? NINER: Yes, but the customer base has become more specific than in the past we still see strong interest in longer travel alloy trail/all mountain bikes. I suspect that this is due to two things. One, there are still people out there who worry about carbon durability, particularly in the long travel market. As carbon continues to prove itself on the trail, I believe some of this distrust will dissipate. The second issue is driven by market size. The more frames within particular model you produce, the less expensive you can make it for the customer. While the longer travel market is growing, it has not reached the same economies of scale that you see in cross country or road bike markets. This means that there is still a good argument for comparison shopping between alloy and carbon trail bike models, unlike what has happened in road bikes, where you can get a very nice carbon option for what used to be an alloy-only price. FOES: Were still selling frames, and we have customers that have had our frames for a long time. So yes, I think people are still interested. TURNER: Absolutely. It keeps us, and others like us, in business. Its small volume, and the number is shrinking as the lightweight lure of carbon attracts more customers. Part of aluminums draw is the durability. A dented alloy frame can be ridden for years, but impact a carbon frame and its expensive, usually not warrantied and needs immediate replacement. TRANSITION: I think some. There are people out there, even experienced, skilled riders, that prefer alloy. It comes down to personal preference. Theres definitely still a market for it. The size of that market is the question mark. INTENSE: There is a certain customer that still loves that high end aluminum, which to some people is a contradiction in terms, and there is a certain customer that is dedicated to buying Made in USA. There is a lot of value in buying a frame where you know it was crafted by a human, and you can get a custom color. PIVOT: Absolutely. Our alloy models sell very strongly. MOOTS: We believe there is a growing slice of the high-end customer who is becoming more interested than ever in modern titanium bikes. There are several factors driving this: More cyclists are discovering the stiff and responsive ride quality of todays well built titanium bikes, like our RSL models that incorporate leading edge design and technology and offer similar performance levels to high-end bikes made from other non-titanium materials. A rapidly growing number of high-end carbon bikes have become more expensive than high-end titanium bikes. This was not the case five years ago. So, when you look at the true value equation; cost performance durability pride of ownership, titanium offers unique and compelling value. The commoditization of carbon is making it more and more challenging for cycling consumers to understand what they are really getting for the prices they are paying. The lifetime nature of a well built titanium bike is appealing to many cyclists, especially as the struggles with the breakage issues of carbon frames continues. Socio-culturally, since the economy crashed in 2008/2009, more and more people are valuing hand-built, U.S. based brands that have values similar to their own. In the bike world specifically, the whole notion of Asian-made, non-durable disposable bikes is not feeling real good to a growing percentage of high-end cycling customers, especially as carbon frame and bike prices continue to rise. For us at Moots, all of these factors lead to a much more personal and emotional experience and relationship between our owners, their bikes and the Moots brand. Its pretty special.