Best Bike Frame Material

When choosing a bike frame there are 4 main types of material. Steel, aluminium, carbon fibre, and titanium. In truth, there is a big difference between ‘cheap’ steel frames and new types of steel frames. There is greater homogeneity amongst carbon fibre frames. Nevertheless, these are some of the pros and cons of different material types.

Carbon Fibre frames

Carbon fibre has been one of the most important developments in bike technology. It is the choice of material for jet engines and formula one cars. Carbon fibre hit the headlines when Chris Boardman rode to an Olympic gold on the Lotus ‘Superbike’ in the 1992 Olympics.

Chris Boardman used Carbon fibre Lotus superbike

The benefits of Carbon fibre frames

  • Lightweight with no compromise in strength or stiffness.
  • Has a certain cool factor (although diminishing now it is becoming more popular)
  • Carbon fibre is four times stronger than steel for the same weight
  • Rust proof
  • This quality of stiffness which enables you to absorb shocks in the road,= means that it is a particularly good material for forks.

Drawbacks of Carbon fibre frames.

  • Most expensive type of frame (although coming down in price)
  • Tends to come in limited colours black and grey.
  • Difficult to repair once crashed.

Titanium Frames

Titanium frames shares some similarities with carbon fibre.

  • They are light, but strong and stiff giving a comfortable ride.
  • It is rust proof.

Drawbacks of titanium

  • More expensive than carbon fibre
  • Difficult to repair
  • Tends to come in limited colours (grey)

Aluminium Frames

Aluminium is used in most entry level and mid level bikes. Aluminium is one of the best value materials for a bike frame. It has been used in many pro teams during the 1990s. It is both lightweight and rigid (but heavier than carbon fibre)

Drawbacks of Aluminium

  • Lower life expectancy, can suffer from metal fatigue

Steel Frames

Steel is the most traditional material for making frames. In the post war period, steel frames dominated the market for a long time. In particular, the industry standard was the steel Reynolds tubing such as Reynolds 501, 531, 631 e.t.c

Recently new steel frames have added a new dimension, in particular they have reduced the weight of steel frames quite considerably. New steel frames include: Columbus and Dedacci. (my time trial bike is a Columbus steel frame and is quite light)

Advantages of Steel

  • Steel frames can be easily repaired
  • Looks Good.
  • Classic feel – pleases the traditionalist

Drawbacks of Steel

  • Rusts easily.
  • Steel frames can be quite heavy (common for cheap bikes on the market)

My Frames

  • Scandium Ribble Dedacciai SC61.10A on hill climb bike
  • Deddachi on winter training bike
  • Steel Columbus on Time trial bike
  • Aluminium on Trek 1000
  • Trek Madone 6.9

Road Bikes at Evans Cycles

9 Responses to Best Bike Frame Material

  1. Maryam October 30, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

    Thanks very much for the information. I am 10 years old and in Year 6, we do homework about tricky subjects sometimes. For this homework, we had to design a bicycle, using our knowledge on gravity and friction. Do you know what the cheapest and the best material for bicycle wheels are? I am a tad bit!…

  2. paul September 22, 2010 at 9:04 pm #

    Sorry that should have read Klein not klrin!

  3. paul September 22, 2010 at 9:00 pm #

    Gt used some thermoplastic frames on their lts full sus models in the 1990′s. I never rode one but some people said it cracked easily. Anyone had any experience? I have a litespeed ti and its awesome more comfy as my old klrin but nearly as responsive. A spirited ride.

  4. ptg March 24, 2010 at 6:09 am #

    One of the drawbacks of carbon fiber frames. as stated here and elsewhere, is that it is the most expensive type of frame. Yet they are _much less expensive_ to actually build, both wrt to materials and actual construction, than steel frames. If someone can prove differently, I’d like to see that proof. So why are we paying so much for CF frames?

  5. wassim December 29, 2009 at 5:04 pm #

    Dear all,
    Is there a specific material we could use to repair a scott carbon dropout system frame that has a slight scratch-fissure.

  6. shuffer July 24, 2009 at 3:10 pm #

    I am surprised that cheap plastic lightweight frames have never been developed. I used to work with engineers as part of my job and they used what looked to me like equivalent ABS and industrial plastic tubes in very stressful and hard-wearing circumstances (turbines).

    Has this ever been tried?

  7. hoopla November 11, 2008 at 1:28 pm #

    There is an absolutely brilliant material that (as far as I know) has never been used for bike frames. It is called biphasic stainless steel. It is used to make submarines and quality razor blades. It is immensely strong, rustproof and flexible. However it is quite difficult to work and weld. This means it would be quite expensive for making bike frames.


  1. Aluminium vs Carbon Fibre Frames — Cycling Review - July 6, 2009

    [...] Best Bike frame material [...]

  2. Bike Frame Design — Cycling Review - August 11, 2008

    [...] Best bike frame materials [...]

Leave a Reply

8 + 7 =