The most obvious application for a composite material like graphene is in frames, wheels and other components currently made from carbon fibre. As Musgrove explains, “Frames are becoming extremely lightweight, and there is not a lot of weight to be shed in the current crop of high-end frames, many of which come with maximum rider weight limits. With graphene, you could take that sub 700g frame, produce it without a rider weight limit and confidently offer a lifetime warranty or even possibly go lighter. There is a potential for it, but I reckon it will come at a substantial cost.”
While graphene is still in its formative years, the high strength, low weight and bondability could make graphene an ideal composite material. Despite these mechanical characteristics, it’s graphene’s other properties that create the most exciting possibilities.
Carbon clinchers have been plagued with horror stories of catastrophic wheel failure caused by resin overheating, resulting in the tyre bead folding out like a wet taco.
“Another thing that graphene could be used for is heat dissipation. With (carbon) clinchers you have that brake pressure from the calipers. That resistance generates a lot of heat, and the epoxy starts to degrade. Graphene may be a way you could move the heat away from the brake track,” Turner said.
Let’s not forget that graphene is also a phenomenal electrical conductor. With recreational cyclist running electronic drivetrains, power meters, computers, lights, and in some cases motors, there is an increasing dependence on batteries. While friction and hub based generators have been around for quite some time, graphene could potentially allow for a different power source.
“I am being pie in the sky here, but a graphene frame could potentially be a super-capacitor which gets charged by a solar panel somewhere on the bike, constantly keeping your Di2 and lights charged,” said Luescher.