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Difference Between Aluminum and Carbon Road Bike

Aluminum vs Carbon Road Bike

Whenever it’s time for a new bike, we all get faced with the dilemma of choosing between aluminum and carbon fiber road bikes. One thing to note is that for almost the same price, you could get a high-end aluminum bike or a low-end carbon fiber bike but knowing the pros and cons that comes with each is the most important thing in picking the right choice.

Fact is that both carbon and aluminum have their advantages and disadvantages due to varying properties of the materials, and within their limits, the manufacturers can use their properties to build a bike that will suit specific tastes of riders.

There seems to be a general preference of aluminum for mountain bikes while carbon is preferred for road bikes. Aluminum, if made well, will be a bit harsh for road usage, unless it is made with lighter finishing comparable to carbon. Aluminum frames tend to be stiffer and will feel harsh riding on roads. Often, entry level road bikes are made with aluminum but finished with carbon forks and rear triangles to provide comfort.

Although engineers may manipulate carbon fiber to give minimum flex in the wrong areas while allowing enough compliance for a comfortable road feel, its main disadvantage comes with it fragility. Should the resin be damaged beyond surface scratches, then the bike is almost always rendered useless because even though repairing is possible, it is so expensive that it will not be worth the trouble. As for aluminum, it can be repaired repetitively,, but the quality of the frame will degrade with each fix.

Carbon fiber is advantageous in a way that it can be manipulated to give stiffness where it is required, at the same time absorbing the vibrations (damping) and allowing compliance where required, unlike aluminum. The way carbon fibers are laid can be managed for a particular portion of a frame thus, the material can be made to be very directional. However, aluminum will do better in transmitting power and vibrations.

One thing worth noting is that it is not very possible to predict all the loads and stresses that will be subjected to a bike, even with advanced technology. And although carbon fiber has been seen to have great potential, carbon frames are yet to be proven to be able to sustain heavy loads and stresses over time without being degrading over time. On the other hand, the durability of aluminum and other metal frames has been studied and proven over time.

Aluminum frame bikes are better suited for mountain bikes while carbon fiber is preferred for road bikes.
Carbon fiber is easily manipulated to give stiffness in required areas while aluminum is not.
While carbon is better at damping vibrations, aluminum is better at transmitting them as well as power.
Carbon is not easily repairable when damaged while aluminum can easily be repaired again and again.

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