5 Reasons For Carbon In Bike Shorts


Carbon, carbon, who’s got the carbon?

From my perspective, the rush toward carbon in the cycling world rivals the stampede to the gold fields of California back when I was a youth. I fondly recall strapping my sluice box onto the back of my ass and traveling through the foothills of the Sierras. Ah, he was a noble steed.

Butt, back to the subject at hand…

I have a full carbon road bike frame, a carbon-enhanced Campy Record rear derailleur, carbon handlebars, carbon water bottle cages (saved a gram or two), and the list goes on and on. But when carbon started showing up in bike shorts (bib shorts too), I was befuddled.

That’s an extremely long lead-in just to use the word ‘befuddled’.

Are the bicycle shorts manufacturers merely trying to be popular by jumping onto the carbon bandwagon? Could it be that these are the same guys who’d smoke, chew, and wear uncomfortable trousers (love that word) just to be part of the ‘in crowd’? Or is there a valid reason to include carbon in bike shorts?

I’ll let those who include carbon fibers in their shorts speak for themselves and let you decide.

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Carbon Bike Short Talk From Assos

1). ‘A carbon fiber mesh panel, inserted between the back Lycra bib straps, improves the fit and enhances ventilation.’

I’ve heard it argued that carbon fiber in fabrics adds enough strength to allow the fabric to be thinner without sacrificing its integrity.

If the purpose of the mesh panel is to hold the straps in place without inhibiting heat transfer, then making the fabric as unobtrusive as possible makes good sense. So I can buy that. Maybe I can’t (or won’t) buy it to the tune of $359.99 for the Assos T FI.13_S5 Bib Short, but I’ve been kind of a tightwad ever since my efforts in the gold fields yielded only an ever-increasing stubbornness in my ass.

Let me point out that should Assos want to increase the number of reviews of their products, they may want to dial back the number of unintelligible digits in the names of their products. The extreme difficulty in typing out the names of the Assos models makes it too tempting to move on to reviewing bib shorts named something that makes sense, like ‘Campagnolo Racing Bib Shorts’.

It’s not even good for ‘word of mouth’ advertising.


‘Hey, Albert, those are some sharp bibs you’re wearing!’

‘Glad you noticed, Mortimer. They’re the latest Assos Capital Tee F Eye Dot Thirteen Underscore S Five’s (T FI.13_S5’s).’

That’s just not going to happen.

Carbon Cycling Shorts Talk From Giordana

Giordana uses carbon in its top of the line Ametista fabric.

2). ‘The carbon element controls the stretch of the fabric, enabling muscle isolation to delay the onset of fatigue.’

So say the folks at Giordana. I suppose this is the compression clothing concept that’s sweeping the athletic performance world.

3). ‘Reinforces the material strength so that the fabric can be lighter while still stronger.’

I’m on board with this idea.

4). ‘The carbon repels electronic interference from cell phone towers and power lines that can interfere with performance on the bike.’

I don’t know, I don’t know!

Too Much For Carbon Enhanced Shorts?

We recently suffered through a massive winter storm which resulted in power lines being down everywhere. Had I been foolish enough to have crashed into them while wearing bibs without carbon fibers, I can see how my performance on the bike would have been interfered with.

But on the other hand, I’m not sure I’d have had enough confidence in carbon enhanced bib shorts to give the ‘jump the downed power lines’ stunt a try.

And Finally…Pearl Izumi Contributes To The Carbon In Bike Shorts Dialogue

5). ‘Integrated carbon yarns reduce odor-causing bacteria and improve thermoregulation’.

This one’s had me baffled for a little while. On one hand it sounds overstated, but on the other hand it’s been ringing strangely familiar.

I finally remembered what it is with carbon and odor-causing bacteria.

In my other life as a stealthy bow-hunter there’s a real need for scent containment. This is both because animals have a keen sense of smell, and hunters have an enhanced ability to emit fowl odors.

Enter carbon.

Carbon-embedded hunting clothing traps odors before they can reach the air because carbon is extremely porous and the stink molecules get trapped in the little chunks of carbon.

It’s a clever trick, but I guess that’s one of the reasons Homo sapiens are at the top of the food chain.

So I suppose having carbon in the threads of cycling shorts may absorb the stink molecules of that guy in front of you in the pace line.

And that’s just one more reason to not discount the use of carbon in cycling shorts too quickly.

You guys have any other ideas?


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