In a world of almost endless bike choices - encompassing road bikes, electric bikes, mountain bikes, gravel bikes and hybrid bikes there are so many different choices and options to choose from. One of the biggest and most important choices to make when purchasing a new bike - is what material you want the frame to be constructed from.
Depending upon who you ask, and what bike they ride - there will be a number of different suggestions as to what frame material to choose. It’s true that different materials have a range of advantages and disadvantages.
In this post, we look through different frame materials and weigh up the pro’s and con’s for each type.
What did Bikes used to be made from?
The earliest bikes were made with wooden frames - which was quickly replaced with iron and steel. During the twentieth century, steel frames were the most popular frame choice for all types of bikes - and it was not until the 1970’s where lighter, aluminium and alloy bike frames were introduced. Cannondale were the biggest early adopters of aluminium bike frames, which would become mass market.
Carbon Fibre was introduced towards the end of the twentieth century, with some disastrous results - including total frame failures. Carbon Fibre has been mastered in recent years as a frame material, and it sits alongside alloy/aluminium, steel and titanium as the main four choices.
Carbon Fibre Bike Pros & Cons
Carbon Fibre is the ultimate lightweight material for bikes. It’s incredibly strong for its weight - making it the lightest material to make bike frames from. Carbon fibre will never corrode like metal frames do - and thanks to incredibly advanced manufacturing technology and techniques - carbon fibre can be altered during the manufacturing process to provide different performance characteristics. It can also be moulded into any shape, meaning bike manufacturers can push their designs to the limits of what is possible.
Carbon fibre is expensive, and can show minor scratches. If a frame is weakened by a crash, it can fail but it can be repaired. Different grades of carbon fibre are also available, with a cheap carbon fibre bike providing relatively poor performance.
Steel Bike Pros & Cons
The biggest advantage of using steel as your frame material, is how cheap Steel is to manufacture and work with. Steel also provides excellent levels of ride comfort and ride quality. It’s also incredibly tough and can be repaired if damaged.
Steel however, is the heaviest of all bike frame materials. Steel tubing is also round so cannot be forged into aerodynamic shapes, and it can rust over time - requiring treatment and in some cases, repainting.
Aluminium Bike Pros & Cons
Aluminium is an incredibly lightweight frame material, it’s easy and cheap to work with. On the bike it’s a tough material, standing up to wear and tear well, it’s also a very stiff material, making it an efficient choice.
Aluminium can feel like a hard ride compared to other materials, passing lumps, bumps and uneven surfaces to the body. It’s also difficult to repair and can weaken over time.
Titanium Bike Pros & Cons
Titanium is an incredibly strong material to use. It’s rustproof and almost impossible to damage whilst providing steel like ride quality.
Titanium is an expensive material to use, and the creation of a Titanium bike is labour intensive. It’s also difficult to repair.
Online Bike Shop Westbrook Cycles
At Westbrook Cycles, we stock and supply an excellent range of bikes - designed and manufactured with the complete range of frame materials, encompassing lightweight carbon fibre and titanium - as well as more traditional frame materials such as steel and alloy.
You can view the complete range across our site, and please do get in touch if you have any questions about which frame material is best for your requirements.