When painted matte finishes first appeared on bikes in the mid-1990s, I found the look novel. Then I tired of it, the way we all tired of florescent colors. The lack of a clearcoat over the decals made bikes look rather third-rate, cheap.
I have a different opinion of matte finishes in carbon fiber. When I see a matte finish on a carbon fiber bike, I see a frame that the manufacturer has optimized for weight and performance. At some point, someone will probably produce something of questionable quality that will make a lie of my assumption, but currently, the frames I see in matte finishes tend to be plenty stiff while weighing less than a kilogram (2.2 pounds).
Paint, as it turns out can mean the difference between breaking the 1kg barrier and not. Even on small frames paint weighs at least 2 ounces (56 grams), often more. Think about it: Paint can add 3 oz. to a 56cm frame with no increase in stiffness whatsoever.
So I’ve been disappointed that it has been hard to find matte-finishes on bars, stems, seatposts and bottle cages. Matte finishes could reduce the weight of these components, sure, but more importantly, they would look more harmonious with the frame. And while it would seem to make sense to want matte finishes on the carbon fiber components of Campy groups and aftermarket cranks, I’ll give those a pass given the beating they can take.
But my prayers have been answered on one front for the first time. Blackburn offers a carbon fiber water bottle cage, the Camber CF, in either glossy or matte finish. I tried the matte finish, which matches my frame and found the advertised weight of 32g to be accurate; if the glossy finish weighs more, I can’t say. The topmost layer of carbon is a 3k weave, which is still the most popular top (cosmetic) layer of carbon for road frames, further helping to match the appearance of many bikes.
Last year I tried a set of handmade carbon fiber cages that weighed 14g apiece. The bottom tab broke on one, bottles bounced out and they scratched up the bottles, making them look like they’d rolled around on the road.
I’ve been using the Camber CFs for more than six months and they haven’t broken, hold bottles securely, and leave the appearance of said bottles unscathed. I’ll admit, a water bottle cage isn’t really worth writing home about, but it should never, ever detract from the look of a bike. Ideally, it should complement the look of a bike, underscoring what a cool ride you have.
The Camber CF retails for $39.99. Learn more at http://www.blackburndesign.com/.