If you want to know which is the best material for frame building, Carbon, Alloy, Titanium or Steel, then I look at the pros and cons of all the different materials and what our choice would be. Although if you are a regular reader, you probably already know what that is!
Question: I’m having some confusion over what frame material is preferable for a good quality road-bike. The ideal price for the frame would be in the $1500-2000 range. But I’ve seen newer steel, carbon and titanium frames at this price.
Aside from test-riding, are there any suggestions that come to mind for specific frames/manufacturers? Also, do you know anything about the newer steel tubing (S3, Reynold 900-series) and whether those are a good option? Thank you.
Hey! This question keeps coming up and will reoccur until the end of time, I’m sure. OK, we will run through the materials.
Aluminum Bike Frames
Alloy is great, cheap, and responsive. But to make it better, it should be mated with a set of carbon forks, and if money allowing, carbon chainstays or/and seat stays. If you look back even as little as five years ago, you will see nearly all race frames were built like this.
Is alloy the same thing as aluminum?
The English language can be a bit tricky for non-native English speakers, like me… So I usually use Google and other sources to find the correct answer for trivial-like questions…As far as I read at yahoo answers: “Alloy is a mix of metals, aluminum is just aluminum.” This looks a vague answer for me. However, it seems to be pretty straightforward.
Looking for a good aluminum road bike? Then look no further to Trek. The Domane 2 series includes and shares much of the technology from the Domane 6. Thus, this isn’t so bad. Head over roadcyclinguk.com and check out their Trek Domane 2-Series review.
Another great choice would be the Canyon Ultimate AL 9.0 Di2. This is an “excellent spec for the price, and although it’s aluminum, it rides as well as a carbon bike.” As bikeradar says.
Titanium Bike Frames
Titanium, if built properly, it will last forever. It’s said if a titanium frame doesn’t break in the first month, then it never will. It’s light and stiff, but expensive, again if matched to carbon front and rear ends make for a very nice ride without much harshness.
Many people say titanium/carbon mix is the top choice for the road, but I’ve also spoken to riders who have found titanium feeling dead, not giving a lively ride, so maybe it’s not so good, especially at a price. Check out our Litespeed bikes review, a titanium dream.
Carbon Frames and more…
As you will have realized, if you have read some, or hopefully all, of our articles, is that we prefer carbon frames. Carbon is comfortable, handles well in most conditions, and looks good.
You can pick up carbon frames at a reasonable price, but you get what you pay for, there are different processes and qualities to consider. At the moment, carbon is most riders’ choice, and we go along with that.
Steel was the only choice of frame materials not that long ago. It was heavy but, usually reliable, stiff for many years and could be any color you wanted, now though you don’t see much of it around.
The new steels you mention are very light. This lightness is achieved by making the walls of the tubes thinner where it is not needed and also with the mix of metals used to make the tubes. This all makes it more difficult to braze the tubes together. Temperatures have to be watched very carefully, or the steel can become brittle and weak. Only an expert can use these materials, so this can be expensive.
This is our opinion… based on our experience and experience of the many riders we have spoken to about their bikes. The trouble is that if you ask ten cyclists about frames/bikes, you will get ten different thoughts.