Gear
Gear Guy
Q:

Should I get a carbon fork for my road bike?

I thinking of upgrading my steel fre road bike to a carbon fork. I have tried a carbon fork in the past, and found it to be somewhat unsteady at high-speed (40 plus mph) descents. I weigh 185 pounds-does weight have a lot to do with the choice of a fork? Any suggestions? Should I just save the money and stay with my tried-and-true steel fork? Steve Weinberger Spokane, Washington

A: Hmmm. It's plausible that the carbon fork contributed to the instability you mention. Certainly, carbon is not as stiff as steel or aluminum, so can feel a little twitchy under some circumstances. You may be on the margins for carbon fiber, weight wise-I have a carbon fork on a Cannondale I ride and have never had any high-speed problems, but I also weight 35 pounds less than you do.

Anyway, I think these days the carbon fork makers have dialed in what it takes to make a fork that's light and responsive yet stable. Try a Profile BRC Road Form ($199) with either an alloy or carbon fiber steerer. Light, but should be fine for fast downhills. So should the Kestrel EMS pro fork, a great buy from Nashbar (www.bikenashbar.com) right now at $179. Either way, here's a trick to try if you don't already know it: On fast descents, clamp the top tube between your knees. That will really help settle down the frame and leads to a more stable high-speed run.

The other question is whether the weight savings are worth it. Steel has some heft to it, but is such a nice-riding material that it almost negates the weight penalty. Maybe the thing to do is set aside the almost $200 a carbon fork would cost and use it as a starting point for a new-bike fund, aiming for something that's aluminum, so you shave weight across the entire frame rather than just the fork. One possibility: Trek's 1200, which has a super-lightweight frame that weighs a mere 2.85 pounds in 56cm, yet costs just over $1,000 for a built-up bike.

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