September 05, 2015

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Aluminium Vs Carbon Vs Steel Framesets

Most of the bike frames today are made from aluminium alloy, carbon fibre or steel. Yes we do have the occasional bike made from bamboo, or high end downhill bikes made from titanium, but predominantly its these three materials that dominate the cycling industry.

So you may ask, how do we decide on what should my frame be made up of while buying a bicycle?

Aluminium alloy

The 6061 aluminium alloy is the standard grade of aluminium used to make bicycle framesets. What defers from one manufacturer to the other is the welding and manufacturing technology used to make the frames using this material. Eg - Specialized bicycles uses their revolutionary Smartweld technology to manufacture some of the best aluminium bicycle frames in the industry. With advancements in material technology and manufacturing techniques, frames are getting lighter and stiffer day by day. All in all, a worthy cost effective option for bikes that can be used for daily commutes, weekend road/trail rides and your local city bicycle races.

Pros

  • Light
  • Strong
  • Stiff
  • Moulded easily
  • Won’t rust or corrode
  • Less expensive than carbon fibre

Cons

  • Harsh on rough roads
  • Can fatigue over time
  • Not easily repaired
  • Weak joints on the bikes at the lower end of the price spectrum.

Carbon Fibre

Most of the high end bikes are made from this material, and for a good reason. Be it the fact that carbon can be layered to make some of the stiffest frames that make them very race worthy, or the fact that it is the lightest of the three materials when it comes to making bikes that can accelerate out of the blocks with ease and help you climb up those steep gradients with lesser effort than on an aluminium or steel bike. For someone looking at getting the very best out of their ride experience, carbon fibre framesets are the way to go.

Pros

  • Lightest material
  • Strongest material
  • Stiffest material
  • Best shock absorption
  • Infinitely mouldable to any design
  • Flexible where it needs to be
  • Won’t rust or corrode like steel

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not all carbon is created equal (steer clear from cheap replicas and
  • Can crack/fracture
  • Strength and stiffness depend on design

Steel Frames

Steel has been available as an options for bicycle frame builders since time immemorial. The ease of availability and low costs associated with manufacturing and procuring this metal made it the preferred choice. The steel used for bicycles has undergone a lot of change over the course of time. Now a days one has the option to choose from the economical but sturdy high tensile steel option or go for higher end chromoly steel options. The better the grade of steel used, the smoother the ride, and in some cases, the bike ends up being lighter too. These bikes are also the easiest to repair and are ideal for touring.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Strong
  • Flexes enough for a soft ride
  • Most durable of all the materials
  • Lively feel
  • Easy to work with and repair

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Rust/corrosion
  • Flexes too much for racing

 


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