Back in the day racing bikes, and by ‘bikes’ I mean bicycles, were made of steel. Shock-repellent, built to withstand the elements, the rocks that were inevitably to strike, the falls, the crashes and collisions. Steel is strong, rigid and unbending. Built to take a blow.
But steel is heavy and hard to maneuver. Due to its weight it takes effort to move it. It will take a lickin and keep on tickin but at the cost of a lot of expended energy to move it.
Subsequent designs brought to us aluminum. Much lighter and more maneuverable, still a bit rigid but definitely getting better. Certainly it will not take a blow like steel but it is getting lighter. Perhaps a period of sacrificing a bit of 'strength' as a trade for offloading some of the weight and therefore requiring less energy to drag it up those hills.
With the advent of carbon fiber the construction really starts to change, little by little. The concept of what is strong, what is tough begins to evolve. We are moving from heavy and rigid construction designed to repel that which hits it (imagine if you will bullets bouncing off Superman’s chest) to construction that is built to absorb the blows and protect the posterior area of the rider (think crumple zones in cars).
Carbon Fiber and Titanium. Light and maneuverable. Shock absorbing rather than shock repelling. Built to absorb the blows and protect the rider. Very light so it requires much less energy to operate.
A new, different and more gentle concept of what it means to be tough.