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Advantages and disadvantages of different materials bike frame

01-May-2020

There is a large effect on ride quality and ride feel by the different materials of your bicycle frame. Also there maybe make up a large portion of the bicycle's price by the type and quality of material. Today aluminum alloys and carbon fiber are the most common frame materials,but steel and titanium frames are highly popular. All frame materials have different levels of quality, and each material has its advantages and disadvantages.

Before we get into each material, it will help to go over some basic terms:

Fatigue: The weakening of a material when subjected to repeated stress or cyclic loading.
Fatigue life: The number of load cycles required for a material fail.
 

Aluminum Frames


Because aluminum frames can be more affordable than counterparts,and high quality alloys are easier to procure and manipulate into a quality bike frame,so most of the larger companies use their proprietary alloys (mixture of aluminum and other metals) to build their bike frames, and each manufacturer touts their specific brand and the way they use it.

Density is the main advantage of Aluminum as a frame material,that meaning for the same volume of material, aluminum weighs less than steel or titanium. With this manufacturers can build bike frame fatter, stiffer tubes that weigh the same or less than their steel counterparts. Corrosion resistance is another big advantage of aluminum over steel. Aluminum bikes can be rided  in rain and snow even forget about it when you get home, while steel bikes take a bit more nurturing. About the disadvantage,Fatigue life. As aluminum flexes and shifts, it fatigues and eventually hits its limit.

Carbon Fiber frames


Carbon fiber is composite laminate made up of tiny fibers suspended into a resin. Bike racers and many recreational riders would choose the frame material of carbon fiber . Carbon bike frames have many advantages and two real disadvantages.
 
A well-made carbon bike can be built stiffer, stronger and lighter than an aluminum, steel or titanium counterpart,and carbon fiber is nearly half as dense as aluminum and much stronger for the weight.Carbon fiber is extremely customizable. It can offer different characteristics when carbon tubing is made many plies, or layers, of fibers that are placed in different orientations. Stiffness and flexibility can be manipulated on different planes of the same tube to offer huge advantages over all other materials.
 
Flexible strength and fatigue life is the biggest disadvantage with carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is a very rigid material that doesn't like to be flexed and bent. As well much flexing causes cracks and fissures in the structure and exposes the individual fibers which aren't so strong by themselves. The failure of the base structure can cause sudden, catastrophic failure of the bicycle frame. For these same reasons, carbon's fatigue life is rather low, giving a much shorter lifespan to a carbon fiber bicycle.
 
Price is the other disadvantage to carbon. Carbon is the latest addition to the bicycle industry and is the subject of much research and development. While this RD spits out shiny new products and features, it also comes with the price tag needed to recoup those expenses.
 

Steel Frames


Because of the widespread availability and the long history of use in industry,steel was no doubt that originally used in bicycle frames. "Steel is real" is the mantra of every boutique bicycle builder and hardcore vintage and classic bike enthusiast in the US.  Steel has been used in the manufacturing of bicycles longer than any other materials. Through the early days of solid steel handlebars and Rene Herse to boutique builders today like Vanilla, Seven, and Serotta Cycles to name a few, the history is long and beautiful. While some incredible racing bicycles are still built out of steel today, it has lost a lot of popularity in that mainstream venue since the surge of aluminum and, more recently, carbon fiber.

Strength and comfor is the big advantage of steel today. Lack of stiffness is the disadvantage in the racing world that goes along with the comfort of steel. Steel frames tubes are usually smaller in diameter than aluminum,and being denser than aluminum.The thinner tubes flex more and are more comfortable to ride, but they are less responsive in race situations. Using steel tubes that are as fat as many aluminum tubes used on bicycles would be too heavy for practical use. Fatigue life of a steel tube is nearly twice that of aluminum, so steel bikes can last much longer under heavy use. As with aluminum, steel comes in varied qualities, from heavy core steel that has no place in the bike world (but is used in many big box store brands) to high-quality steel tubing designed for high-end bicycles. Price tags vary greatly throughout the range.


Titanium Frames


People has enjoyed an titanium frames even smaller cult following than steel. Titanium is twice as dense as aluminum but almost half as dense as steel. Fatigue life and tensile strength are Ti's big strong points.
 
Titanium offers big advantages over steel in many ways, but it also has its disadvantages. Ti as bike materials are also more labor intensive. that requires more care and more time to cut and weld Ti tubing in a safe, lasting manor. There is practically no method to build a budget Ti bike. You won't see these on the floor of your local department store. Titanium can be extruded into long, thin tubes that are lighter, more comfortable and stronger than steel. Butted and swaged tubes offer a lot of customization in ride quality and responsiveness, making Ti an optimal choice for a custom-built bicycle frame. Price is the main disadvantage of titanium. The process of extracting the metal is expensive and power intensive.

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