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Let's fly!
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I'm planning to get a fat bike and am wondering if it is worth it to upgrade to a carbon frame. I'm planning mostly winter riding, mostly flat or slightly rolling trails during the week at night, with occasional weekend forays into technical singletrack with multiple friends who mostly have carbon framed bikes. Of course, the weekend rides are much higher priority for performance/fun, so they are weighted about 90% for decision-making purposes.

According to the Salsa web page, a carbon frame on the Beargrease saves 474g or a little more than a pound. They don't specify, but that's probably for a medium and I ride a Large, so it would be slightly more.

Many people say "carbon is about the ride, not the weight", but I'm wondering if a carbon frame will ride any better on a bike with 4.5" tires and a Bluto fork. Not a lot of "buzz" to kill, tires probably do most of the flexing and bump absorption rather than the frame, right?

And yet I don't want to be out on my new fat bike thinking "should have stepped up to the carbon!"

It is a little difficult to compare prices because the carbon framed bikes come with better components, but it looks like about $1000 difference. Seems like a lot up front, but over 5 years, that's about $200 per year.

In addition to which, brakes are very important and the aluminum bikes I've looked at have budget brakes. I'd probably end up spending $300 or so to swap them for Shimano XTs since that's what I have on my Stumpjumper. Probably best to have the same brakes so I'm used to the engagement/action all the time.

I'm leaning towards carbon, but would like feedback. Or at least reassurance along the lines of "yeah, go for it, you will regret going low-budget, you won't regret stepping up!"
 

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Carbon is not an upgrade, it's just more expensive, usually with a worse warranty and it's more easily damaged. I won't own a carbon frame...but go for it!

...and thank you for another one of these threads too! We really haven't discussed this subject much around here. This will be refreshing.
 

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Sounds like you want a carbon bike and can afford one, too. If it's a matter of choice, go for the one you feel is better. No need to rationalize it for us.

If you couldn't drop the extra grand on the higher grade bike, I'd say you will be every bit as happy riding the Al version as well.
 

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I have a carbon fatbike.

The frame is only 400grams lighter than my alloy fatbike frame.

IMO the low pressure tyres make the frame material immaterial so long as the frame is stiff enough.

At the price of a decent carbon frame you can buy a good alloy frame and pay for carbon rims, and seeing as it's more important to save weight at the wheel circumference, it's a no brainer.

(Obviously if you have a very large budget then obviously going all carbon will be lighter overall including your wallet)
 

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Money is spent everywhere else on a fat bike in regards to your question. Rims, tires, components.

But if you have the money, then go ahead. Ride wise you won't notice the weight or ride quality in frames. The tires pretty much filter everything even on dirt.

If you can make a 6 to 8 lbs. Difference then that is more noticeable. I try to make my bikes as light as possible and still ride good due to the fact I re-add weight with tools, food, drink, clothes, etc.....
 

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I went from an aluminum Mukluk and 907 to my current Beargrease. Carbon is worth every penny to me, it's lighter and significantly stiffer. Winter riding involves a lot of crashing, I've had no issues with the frame, just put some helicopter tape on the top tube where the shifter hits it.
 

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It is somewhat lighter (by the time you get enough material to be strong enough) and stiff enough just as aluminum and steel are stiff enough when built correctly.
There is also too stiff if built incorrectly, which renders the "it's stiffer!!) argument with regard to carbon moot.

Also generally anyone who forks out the money for carbon and later experiences buyers remorse doesn't admit it here on the forum.

I think carbon frames are great for race day, especially if you're sponsored. I think their appropriatness for the general consumer market is up for debate - the limited warranty associated much of the time speaks volumes in this regard.

That said, it's your money.
 

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Elitest thrill junkie
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Carbon frame is significantly lighter, with as much metal as a fatbike frame takes, a pound is pretty significant, but as many have pointed out, it's not rotating mass and if the difference in cost can buy you carbon wheels, that's where to spend the money. Some carbon frames don't have all the rack mounts that you might want as well. And that said, at the fatbike headquarters of Chain Reaction (907) and Speedway (Fatback), the carbon bikes are in stock and making up a big part of what they have on hand. There's little to worry about when winter biking as far as impacts and damage, and even in the summer with a simple downtube/BB protector you can ride pretty much worry free. The carbon frames are stiff, but most of the alloy frames are as well, save for a few that are trying to be too light. For my riding, there's no disadvantage and it contributes to the overall light weight of the bike, but again, there are better places to make up that weight. You can easily save a pound of rotating weight, more like 2lbs, between a normal alloy-rim setup and a nice carbon one...
 

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IMO the low pressure tyres make the frame material immaterial so long as the frame is stiff enough.
Agreed. No offense, but if you're asking the question, then you are in the same category as the vast majority of riders who, if blindfolded, would likely never be able to tell the difference in frame material, given all the other variables that affect "ride quality."

Aluminum doesn't necessarily equate to "budget" at all - keep in mind there are some pretty crappy carbon-framed bikes out there. Nor do all aluminum-framed bikes come with low-end components, by any means. There are many aluminum-framed bikes out there (9zero7, Salsa, Trek....) that are spec'd just as well as their carbon counterparts.

And here we go again...
 

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I don't trust carbon fiber. It is too easy to scratch or damage. If you only ride on snow in the winter, it should be fine, but for year-round use, I'd never go carbon again.
 

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Agreed. No offense, but if you're asking the question, then you are in the same category as the vast majority of riders who, if blindfolded, would likely never be able to tell the difference in frame material, given all the other variables that affect "ride quality."...
I'd never qualify for any job that required the Princess and the Pea type of sensitivity. :)

However I currently have a carbon fatbike, an alloy fatbike, and a steel fatbike. I have raced (24 hour) on all 3 of them, and there's nothing to choose between them other than weight IMO.

While I was considering doing a cull to save some space I came to the conclusion that the alloy bike with carbon rims (which I have) would be the best outcome.

The alloy largely because it has all the mounts I want for racks and fenders, rather than any other quality. Then I decided I needed to keep the steel bike as well because I often have to get over 7' high deer fences and that involves an undignified climb up the fence with bike on shoulder and then chucking it over. Steel is the only thing I trust for that out of my current crop, but lightness is an advantage.

That then lead to the thinking that to get that sort of ruggedness and reduce my flock to 1 bike, I should get a custom titanium frame to combine the virtues of the steel frame and lightness of the alloy, and no worries about scratching a paint job.

Obviously I'd have to get that up and running before disposing of the other bikes just in case I didn't like it.

And that, my friend, is how you get on to the slippery slope of the N+1 bike... :)
 

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I'd rather crash hard and dent an aluminum frame (get bummed out until I get used to the dent) than crash hard and do unknown damage to carbon (get bummed out but never stop worrying about what is going on beneath the paint).
 

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I have a carbon Beargrease & a steel Ice Cream Truck. The BG is nearly 10lbs lighter than the ICT, so obviously noticeable. and it shows in how fast I can go with less effort and I use it for group rides and races. Obviously the tires and rims and more frame make a majority of the extra weight but I certainly don't regret having the CF ride when it matters.
My ICT is for all intents & purposes, my "beater bike". It is strong, beefy, badass. I don't worry about it getting bashed by some doofus on a bike rack at the pub or cry at every scratch it gets on a ride. It gets washed when it happens to rain or I ride thru puddles. I jump off stoopid things and take risks that I never would with my CF ride. You don't take a Ferrari offroading in the bush, you take a jeep, KWIM? I mean, sure I do singletrack and gravel with my BG, so it does see some sketchy action but if things gets questionable, I take the ICT. Better safe than sorry.

**** breaks, don't kid yourself. CF is rad but one bad unlucky hit and you're ****, but I guess so is aluminum. That was why I went with fixable steel.

I love having both. I am not sure I could choose. But I guess if I did, it'd be ICT. Less worry, more fun. Fast is relative. Light is cool to a point.
 

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I snapped a set of carbon bars over a jump this year, and not even a very big one. So I shy away from carbon for a Mtn bike. Road bike is another story. On a fat bike rotating mass seems to be the killer.... the 4.5" tires really level the playing field when it comes to ride/vibration differences in frame material. On a road bike material is everything for a frame/fork and I still like steel the best followed by carbon or Ti. My road bike is alloy, and not by my choice, the wife had it first then it was mine after she got a steel bianchi with carbon fork... it weighs more, but man, does it ride nice! (compared to the alloy)

Steel nearly disappeared some years back in the mainstream market, thank god it made a comeback. It really does round out the market for frame material options
 

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I think it's funny that everybody still regards carbon as unfixable.
A dented top or bottom tube on an aluminum bike means your toast. Fixing that in CF is $400. It comes out just as strong.
Now, depending on the frame the AL might take more impact to crack, it depends.

For an example, my ibis tranny has been repaired in 3 different places and is still going strong after many, many, years.
 

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I'd rather have a frame that was a pound lighter, but I doubt there's be any difference in how the bike actually feels based on material. A fat bike has large low-pressure tires that flex way more than any "rigid" frame will flex.

If money is an issue, spend more on the components and go with a slightly heavier frame. If it's not an issue, get the lighter frame with the nicer components. :)
 

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I'll chime in with a totally different perspective...

First of all, I am a roadie / triathlete with about 20 years of amateur racing experience. I only recently got into mountain biking just to expand my skillset and for cross training purposes. Believe it or not, prior to Dec 2014, I have never even sat on a Mountain Bike.

My first observation about MTBs is that they are quite heavy. I bought a Cannondale Scalpel (full suspension carbon) that weighs around 27 lbs. This thing is a beast of a bike compared to my 16 lbs road bikes. But the weight didn't matter once I started riding on the trails. I stopped noticing the weight after day 1 of riding trails. It really didn't matter if the bike was 27 or 30 lbs as I don't ride the MTB competitively anyway. Its all for fun and cross training and in this regard, I would frankly prefer a beefy and heavy MTB because it would only strengthen my legs for my road races.

The second observation I made was that this thing was being trashed big time. Like the bikes of the guys I rode with on the trails, we all had awfully dirty and muddy bikes after each ride. I was surprised on how "bad and hard" this thing gets ridden - especially compared to my road bikes which are constantly maintained and cleaned. In the last 9 months, I crashed my MTB more than I can count and it is now all chipped and scratched. If I had just known this, I would have bought a cheaper alum model Scalpel instead of this expensive carbon frame. I am not surprised why many prefer the XT model components over the XTR because MTB components are constantly replaced - at least compared to road bike components.

Third observation is that, compared to my road bikes (I have Titanium, Carbon, Alum and Steel), I would not have been able to tell the distinct major differences between a carbon framed MTB versus an alum framed MTB. Unlike a road bike where the difference between frame materials are obvious to me, in an MTB they really matter less than the kind of trails I ride, or my tire pressures, or the pressure I put on both the front and rear suspensions.

Mind you, these observations are not from a long time MTBer, nor from someone who races MTBs. They are specific to my background, which perhaps applies to a good majority of MTBers out there.

Good luck.
 

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I guess the point I was making above is that there are much more variables that affect your MTB riding experience over the material of the frame you are using. Applying this observation to frame materials of FAT bikes makes it even all the more relevant. If I can barely tell the difference between a regular 29er carbon vs alum frameset, then I am certain that I will NOT BE ABLE to tell the difference between a carbon Fat bike versus an alum fat bike. Those large and cushy wheels will just diffuse everything. If ever I can tell the difference at some point (given more MTB riding) then those differences won't really be all that important or significant.
 
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