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Biking 101: Frames Materials Compared

Once upon a time, all bike frames were made out of steel. Consequently, all the newer materials used for constructing frames of compared to grand daddy steel. The newer materials are lighter than steel, but are not as strong.

To adjust for the differences in material, the tubes that make the frame are larger, which changes the geometry of the bike. The materials feel differently to different folks, depending on what they want out of bike — speed versus comfort. If you're shopping for a road bike, it is important to ride a bunch of bikes from different manufacturers and different frames. Consider it research. As Renée Gaumond of Left Coast Cyclery puts it "There is a bike out there for everyone. You got to get out there and ride different bikes and see what feels right. Trust your instincts. "

To see a thumbnail comparison of the materials, just


Frame materiall Pros Cons
Aluminum Lighter than steel frames 1/3
Doesn't rust
Large tube size
Can feel harsh on long rides
Makes for a bumpier ride
Steel Rigid decreasing energy wasted with bike flexing
Long lasting
Some say they can't feel the road
when riding
Can rust
Harder to find these days
Carbon Fiber Light weight
Makes for a smoother ride
Can be manipulated into exotic shapes
Can break easily
More expensive than aluminum
Titanium Lighter than steel by 1/2
Strong as steel
Super expensive
More flexible than steel
Can be difficult to repair

What do you ride?


Join The Conversation
thousandfold thousandfold 8 years
Steel is real. I have two steel Bianchi frames (Castro Valley & Campione d'Italia). Neither are particularly heavy, and I definitely appreciate their shock absorption when commuting on bumpy San Francisco streets!
sparklestar sparklestar 8 years
I have a beachcruiser. No idea what kind of frame it is. It's heavy ?!
SillyGirl SillyGirl 8 years
1. Steel Trek Fixed Conversion 2. Carbon Trek Madone 4.7 WSD 3. Aluminum Trek Mountain Bike Hardtail Three very different bikes for three very different styles of riding.
sassymolassy sassymolassy 8 years
I ride the Trek Madone 4.5 and love it! Just bought it last week. It is full carbon with 105 front derailer and ultegra back derailer. And it's made for women so being petite (5'3"), it fits me way better than some of the other brands of women's bikes I tried.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 8 years
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