When browsing for bike frames, you’ll notice that manufacturers use many different materials in their construction. Each element has its pros and cons, and these attributes can affect how you use the bike and the terrain on which you want to ride it.
One material that manufacturers have relied on for years is aluminum; the use of this metal dates back to the late 19th century! You can probably infer from this timeframe that aluminum – or aluminum alloys, as this metal is used today – is a dependable material. But what are the advantages, and when should you choose an aluminum alloy bike?
Aluminum Alloy Frames Are Light
Of all the materials available to manufacturers, aluminum is one of the more abundant options, but this isn’t the only reason it’s so desirable: many cyclists choose aluminum alloy frames because they are incredibly light, especially compared to other metals. For example, steel weighs almost three times as much as aluminum!
The naturally low weight makes aluminum an ideal choice for riders looking for a good racing or mountain bike frame. Compared to heavier materials, the handling of an aluminum alloy bike is better; because the rider doesn’t have to work as hard getting the bike under control, it increases the ease of use for less-experienced cyclists.
Aluminum Alloy Bikes Are Strong
If you’re looking for a low-maintenance, regular-use ride, an aluminum alloy bike might be your best option. Despite being low-weight, frames made from aluminum are very durable and stable, making them suitable for a wide range of riders. Aluminum is also resistant to rust, making these bikes ideal for mountain bikers, touring cyclists, or for anyone who can’t resist a ride in wet conditions.
Aluminum alloy does have lower strength compared with steel, titanium and carbon fibre; to compensate, bike frame tubes made from this material will have thicker walls in a process called “butting.” Butting gives the aluminum alloy a higher strength-to-weight ratio, and for many cyclists, thicker butting makes the ride more versatile.
Despite the butting making aluminum alloy tubes thicker than other types of materials, manufacturers can still make bike frames that aren’t as heavy. The thicker tubing can make aluminum alloy frames stiffer than those made using other materials, and this reduced give may make for an uncomfortable ride on rough terrain. However, the technology developing these alloys is progressing enough that high-quality aluminum will still feel better than cheap carbon. Other parts, like higher-quality dampers, absorb more of the shocks and reduce the stiff feeling.
Aluminum Alloy Is An Inexpensive Material
Even with the thicker butted material, frames made with aluminum are much less expensive than most titanium and carbon fibre bikes. It’s not just upfront cost: the durability and rust resistance of aluminum alloy frames can save riders money on maintenance and repair expenses over a long period.
Over the years, aluminum alloy has gained a negative reputation, mostly in contrast with innovations in materials like carbon fibre. However, the aluminum frames you’ll find at Outspokin aren’t the ones your great-great-grandparents rode in the 1800s! Technology has also helped improve aluminum alloy, and you’ll find that aluminum has shed its reputation!