But like titanium, carbon fiber frames cost more to make. Some companies will skimp on the type of carbon used, opting for a cheaper material to lower the price point, which can be a dangerous gamble during construction and can result in an inferior product. If you are in the market for a carbon frame, make sure the frame is high modulus, which is a key indicator that you're getting a quality product.
So don't be fooled by the carbon-frame era—the price may not be worth the product depending on what kind of riding you'll be doing. For those of you who don't have a limit on price when it comes to your bike, carbon might just be the answer for a well rounded frame that is light, comfortable and responsive enough for serious racing.
Other than your legs, this is your bikes engine. Don't buy an expensive frame and go cheap on the components. It just isn't smart. While I'm sure there are others, here are the major three drive train systems for road bikes.
- Campagnolo: Athena, Chorus, Record, Super Record
- Shimano: Tiagra, 105, Ultegra, Dura Ace
- SRAM: Apex, Rival, Force, Red
Which drivetrain you choose will likely come down to preference, though most prebuilt bike's in shops will have already chosen a drivetrain for you to make the price more appealing to customer who don't know what they're paying for. If you don't like a particular drivetrain, ask if you can swap it out and pay the price difference (if it's more expensive). Some bike shops may even give a discount.
When deciding between the different levels of componentry, there are several factors to consider. As far as price is concerned, the list above goes from cheapest to most expensive (for Campagnolo, Athena costs the least and Super Record costs the most, etc.). Which level you choose will likely be based on what you can afford, while which brand you buy usually depending on personal preference, as the shifting especially can vary quite drastically between the different options (Campagnolo, for example, uses thumb triggers for down-shifting as opposed to levers).
A common mistake is to go on the low end for componentry and buy the best frame you can afford. Avoid this. While you may not want to go on the high end of the spectrum and shell out what it takes to buy Super Record, Dura Ace or Red unless you've got the money or are a serious racer, it is important to get the best you can afford by finding a good balance between quality frame and components.