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 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 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 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)
- 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