Would you ride bike park trails on a carbon bike? It wasn't all that long ago when the overwhelming answer would have been, "Hell no!" If you were then pressed to answer: "What if the frame were stronger and more durable than the aluminum one you are riding now?" The most probable reply would be, "You'll never convince me that a carbon frame could be trusted."
The first "carbon" frames were basically aluminum or titanium frames with the straight sections replaced by carbon tubes. Unsurprisingly, they cost more and often weighed more than an unmolested aluminum or titanium frame did at the time. Component makers followed suit, replacing aluminum with carbon tubes for stems, fork sliders, and cockpit items, and after those over-hyped products underwhelmed, carbon was downgraded by its detractors (especially, by the cycling media) as "black aluminum" and the proponents of the material are still fighting their way out of that corner.
Carbon wasn't at fault. The pathetic debut of carbon fiber as a frame material fell upon the shoulders of bicycle industry designers and manufacturers, who were locked into the vision that a bicycle frame was nine sticks of pipe, joined together with molten metal and could not create outside of that box. Carbon fiber's promise of greater strength and stiffness at significantly lower weights would not be realized until the manufacturing process was re-tooled, from conception through final product, to take advantage of pre-impregnated materials and molded monocoque-style construction techniques. It was a steep learning curve, but the end result was that carbon became the performance material of choice.
The take-away here is that the material was the same. It was the adoption of technology and manufacturing techniques, new to the cycling industry that turned failure into success. Few remember that it took almost 20 years to develop high-performance aluminum frames that could withstand the test of time – a feat largely made possible by FEA software, newly modified alloys, and innovations in butting and shaping tubes. There have been many inventions in cycling that have left riders with sour tastes because they failed initially or were rejected as a fantasy. Later, a number of them became viable products due to the introduction of a new material, a manufacturing technique, or a new design standard. So, the question for today's poll is simply: "What if..."