Which is the best bike frame material?
You’ve decided it’s time to buy a new bike, that’s the easy bit. Now you’ve got plenty more decisions to make in terms of size, material, price and more. Our guide to the best bike frame material will help you make the hard choices easier.
Mainly, there are four options you’ll come across time and time again when looking for a bike: aluminium, titanium, steel and carbon fibre. Here we take a look at each of them and weigh up the pros and cons of each so you can make an informed decision about the best bike frame material for you.
Aluminium is the most common and usually, most affordable bike frame material that you’ll come across. Aluminium bike frames are corrosion-resistant, lightweight, and have a decent strength-to-weight ratio. This material comes in different grades which have different properties, but it’s also important to consider tube diameter and butting too.
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Aluminium won’t necessarily have as long a lifespan as other bike frame materials, however. Typically, an aluminium road bike can be expected to last anywhere between five and ten years, but this is also heavily dependent on the way you use it.
Titanium makes for an excellent bike frame material simply because it is lightweight and durable. Highly resistant to corrosion, titanium also has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of all metals. It’s a favoured choice of material for custom road bikes as well as mountain and touring bikes as it makes the ride incredibly smooth.
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It is also relatively easy to fix, compared to aluminium or carbon fibre, so if it were ever to break you can usually get it repaired more easily. The biggest downside to a titanium metal bike frame is that it is a rarer material, which makes it more expensive than other options. Plus, it’s quite hard to work with, which drives up labour costs that go into making bikes.
Steel for a bike frame is another excellent option, as it’s incredibly strong and stiff. As it’s easy to work with and relatively cheap to produce, it means you get a bike that is more affordable. However, steel tends to be a lot denser, which means bike frames made from it are typically heavier when compared to aluminium or titanium bikes.
Steel used to be the prevalent choice for most bike frames, however, it’s less popular nowadays due to the added weight and cost. It’s more expensive than aluminium and heavier than both aluminium and carbon fibre. But with this in mind, it’s important to note that steel is durable, can be easily repaired and is greatly resistant to fatigue.
Carbon fibre is a highly popular material for performance road bikes at the moment, simply because it’s incredibly lightweight, is stiff in areas where you need power transfer and is flexible in other areas for comfort. These bikes are designed for all riding aspects.
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Carbon fibre is around six times less dense than steel, however, it’s just as strong and stiffer compared to it. It’s also moldable, which means that manufacturers can manipulate the material to whatever shape is needed. Compared with other bike frames, carbon fibre bikes are more aerodynamically shaped, making them the go-to choice for cyclists who are focused on performance.
However, as you can imagine this makes carbon fibre frames the most expensive ones. It’s also recommended to invest in insurance for any carbon fibre bike as even a small crack can cause a lot of issues with the frame.