The markets: Sports and recreation (2015)

Composites are found in products used in 7 of the 10 most popular outdoor sports and recreational activities. Carbon fiber's strong position in this market is strong, but its growth rate will slow.

Composites are found in products used in 7 of the 10 most popular outdoor sports and recreational activities. Glass- and carbon-fiber-reinforced composites (alone or in hybrids with other fibers) continue to replace wood and metal in skis, fishing rods, bowling balls, tennis racquets, spars/shafts for kayak paddles, windsurfing masts and boards, hockey sticks, kites and bicycle handlebars, as well as in niche applications, such as fairings for recumbent bikes. Market research firm Lucintel (Dallas, TX, US) estimates that the global sporting goods industry, at retail, is worth US$5 trillion and brings in US $110 billion/yr in the US alone.

            Although carbon fiber has a strong position in this segment, Lucintel maintains that use of carbon fiber in the worldwide sporting goods market could see its lowest growth rate during the next 5 years, in terms of dollar shipment. That said, this market is expected to reach US$3 billion in 2018, up from US$1.8 billion in 2013. Notably, the sporting goods segment in China, which is projected by Lucintel in Growth Opportunities in China Carbon Fiber Market 2013-2018 to reach US$408 million by 2018, will consume more carbon fiber (51% of the total) than China’s aerospace and industrial segments combined.

And for more than two decades, carbon fiber has been the choice for lightweight bike frames in the bicycle-racing world. But carbon composites also have migrated into the consumer market. Kestrel USA (Philadelphia, PA, US) minted the first-ever production carbon-fiber bike frame (1986) and the first all-carbon mountain bike frame in 1988. In 2004, the company unveiled a new version of its Talon SL road bike. At $3,699, it isn’t cheap, but its frame weighs in at an astonishingly low 1.09 kg, light even by carbon fiber standards.

Among recent entries was Kemo Bikes’ (Zug, Switzerland) new range of road bikes. The top-of-the-line frame, model KE-R8 5KS, is built using TeXtreme Spread Tow carbon fabrics, supplied by Oxeon (Boras, Sweden). By using spread-tow technology, Kemo has produced a frame that reportedly weighs a mere 759g. And Grenchen, Switzerland-based Bicycle Manufacturing Co. produces a carbon fiber frame, the impec, with a uniquely high level of automation and process control, using a unique radial braiding technology developed by August Herzog Maschinenfabrik GmbH & Co. KG (Oldenburg, Germany).

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Composites in sporting goods: Been there, done that?

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