I was just about to take over Steve's comment box with the story of how I compared and chose carbon, when I thought, why not start another blog? After all, that's just what I'm short of now. Don't expect regular updates, just occasional ones. But I often want to say things, frequently that' about bikes, and so....
Anyway, Steve is doing a fascinating series of articles about carbon composite structures, ultimately leaving aside the hype there is still an easy way to understand the difference.
It was just over a year ago, I wanted to replace my Bianchi Reparto Corse. That was an interesting bike, with a 124" top gear (!) it was fast, and liked to go fast like an Italian sportscar. But, it was a little too small for me (I'll explain why another time) and after 50 miles or so I would begin to feel it.
In the UK, we have a marvellous scheme that allows you to buy bikes with gross earnings before tax, effectively halving the cost. The year before I had bought my commuting bike, now I thought a road bike upgrade was on the cards.
So, I rode over to Two Wheels Good, an independent bike shop that - apart from being excellent - is also located at the base of a decent hill. We don't have too many of those in London - decent shops or hills. It's about 10 miles away from my home, so I was nicely warmed up. I first tried a top-of-the-range ally Trek, and very nice it was, too. Up and over that hill, great. Then I tried a Madone. Similar geometry, similar componentry. And, it felt like I was turbocharged. All of a sudden, the power at my feet was going straight on the road. That's one way to tell the difference, and I recommend it. However I was sold.
As it happens, and as a matter of some regret I didn't end up buying that bike there. Instead I came across the end of the Trek LeMonde fire sale, and picked up effectively the same bike for half the cost, ending up with the equivalent of the Madone for £600.