Heading into the summer of 2010 I posted on Giant’s strategy of offering entry-level carbon road bikes, the same price or cheaper than butted alloy models. Also see the followup post for the response of some other local companies to this.
This was a Taiwan-only experiment. If it showed promise, the offering would be extended to other markets. It seems that this will happen.
Over the 2010 summer the TCR Comp 1 did ok in Taiwan, gaining some visibility on the roads. It was most noticeable in cycling events with quite a few cyclists doing some of the most challenging climbs on it. It’s held its position over this 2011 summer season- you can see them around.
For a consumer who is upgrading to carbon or getting a first high(er) end bike, it’s probably an easy choice.
Although a good quality butted alloy frame might be a bit more expensive, it will be similar weight, or lighter, and importantly stiffer. The cheap carbon choice also seems to rely on a very basic wheelset. Upgrading to a better performing wheel set will add considerably to the cost.
Another issue is that you can crash an alloy frame and not really have to worry about it. Carbon, of course, has the issue of potential structural damage that can remain unseen and very hard to detect. To be really sure, you have to have it examined by X-ray.
High end alloy frames, in Taiwan anyway, are becoming stuck in a hole between the cheap carbon and the higher modulus offerings. For paying around a 30% premium for high quality butted alloy or cheap carbon, a cyclist can get themselves a branded higher quality—(probably) lighter and (probably) stiffer—frame supplied with a decent wheelset (assuming Shimano 105/Ultegra or SRAM Apex/Rival groupsets).
Not so long ago a local racer sponsored by a very big brand mentioned that if he did not get his carbon bikes for free, he would personally not buy one, being very satisfied with the performance of alloy alternatives. That’s a view that I also share . But we are probably in the minority when it comes to the mass market as a whole.