Gear Guy

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

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 ( 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.