Carbon fibre is both a science and an art – and the result is black magic. We built our first carbon frames in 2003, and well over a decade of hardwon specialist knowledge sets us apart. We still build them by hand. One piece may look like another, but carbon is incredibly adaptable. It can bend and absorb vibration, be extremely stiff, or anything in between. Think of an F1 car’s wings withstanding tonnes in aerodynamic load without flex, then shattering like glass in a crash. Compare that with an airliner on take off. See its wingtips flex by feet, over and over, never failing. Both very different. Both carbon fibre.
The secret is building it right.
HOW DO LAPIERRE DO IT
Carbon’s nature is partly created by the layup – how the fibres are arranged – and partly by the fibres themselves. We use four types at Lapierre, and we know how to get the best of each one. They’re rated by how many tonnes they resist before snapping. The ‘modulus’ bit simply means ‘measure,’ and refers to Young’s modulus. It’s a measure of elastic, or non-permanent, stretch.
- High Resistance (24 tonnes)
- Intermediate Modulus (30 tonnes)
- High Modulus (40 tonnes)
- Very High Modulus (46 tonnes)
By combining these (using science, art and long experience) we engineer flex, strength and stiffness into the exact areas they’re needed. High Resistance fibre is great for absorption and damping – something you may want in seatposts, seatstays or entire frames – while Very High Modulus is very stiff for pedalling efficiency. Yet that ‘Very High Modulus’ tag is no joke. It’s incredibly stiff. It’s so stiff, in fact, only the Xelius road racer can use it.
The Aircode doesn't use anything beyond the already very stiff High Modulus, because rider fatigue is a higher priority for them.
As vital as the layup is, it’s only part of the challenge. The mould is absolutely key – the quality of the frame is dictated by the quality of the mould. Just building it is hard. It’s a huge investment, and it has to be perfect. It takes several prototypes. As the first frames emerge, so do the tests. The quality is tested on the surfaces, the structure, the resin, fibre cohesion, joints, geometry and more… and even after that, we’re not done. Prototypes instead go off to be tested – principally by Team FDJ on the road, and downhill legend Nico Vouilloz on dirt. Only then are the final tweaks made, the process perfected, and production ready to roll.