Carbon vs. Aluminum Mountain Bike Frames Compared in Detail

We cover the advantages and drawbacks of each material and compare them side by side.
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Last updatedLast updated: September 09, 2022
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Bicycles are one of the most used modes of transports around the world, the advent of bicycles started way back in the early 1900s before the introduction of cars and other more advanced methods of transportation.

Despite the advancement of technology and the introduction of way better forms of technology, bicycles are still used everywhere, and for more than just transportation. There are various types of bikes, and they can differ in terms of the material used in making them.

This article is going to discuss bikes made from different materials, carbon vs. aluminum mountain bikes. The materials used in making a bike greatly affect the performance and property of the bike. This article is going to clear up the carbon fiber vs aluminum mountain bike comparison, they are both materials to make a bike with, but there are still differences between them.

Choosing the Right Material Quick Comparison

Carbon vs. Aluminum Mountain Bike Frames Compared in DetailMountain bikes are one of the best types of bikes, their sturdy build, multiple gears, and ribbed tires give them a toughness that is better than most other types. Choosing a mountain bike can be difficult, especially when they are of different materials. So we are going to compare different properties between carbon vs aluminum mtb.

  Carbon frames Aluminum frames
Strength and durability In terms of durability, carbon frames are not as reliable as aluminum frames. Carbon frames as the name suggests, are made with amorphous forms of carbon. While the carbon material is very light, it is also very brittle and can’t take a lot of heavy impacts. Carbon frames are more prone to damage than aluminum frames, and they are difficult to repair. Bikes with aluminum frames are one of the most popular types of bikes on the market. Most producers make use of aluminum to design their frames because of its toughness. Aluminum frames are one of the strongest types of frames, they don’t damage easily even upon heavy impact. With an aluminum frame, you can e joy more rigorous forms of riding, and your bike frame will last you a long time before replacement will be needed.
Stiffness Carbon frames offer a high degree of stiffness. Although carbon frames are light and somewhat brittle, they still have a relatively rigid build that makes it easy for you to steer the direction of your bike. Aluminum frames are without question one of the stiffest frames. Due to the tough and compact nature of aluminum, frames made from the material are usually very stiff, and even stiffer than carbon frames. With an aluminum frame, you can remain confident in steering your bike with ease.
Weight In terms of weight, the points go to carbon frames. We mentioned earlier that carbon frames are made from amorphous forms of carbon. This carbon material gives the bike a very light feel, and bikes made with this material are among the lightest bikes on the market. For a mountain bike, carbon frames are at an advantage if you want something light and easy to handle. You can navigate easily without added load and less effort. Aluminum frames are also relatively lightweight, but they are not as light as carbon frames. Aluminum frames are more compact, have more density, and weigh more than carbon frames. While the aluminum frames add extra weight to the bike, they still give the bike a certain amount of stability. Some people prefer this frame to the carbon frame because it gives a more sturdy ride.
Damping Damping refers to the amount of disturbance that moves from your bike to your body. In terms of damping, carbon frames are better designed to offer this effect. A mountain bike made from carbon will absorb most of the vibrations coming from rough tracks, paths, mountain trails, and other uneven surfaces. Aluminum frames on the other hand are not as gentle as carbon frames. Aluminum frames don’t offer as much damping as carbon frames, meaning you will the vibrations generated by your tires bouncing off the road more. The advantage aluminum frames have is that your bike won’t get damaged upon heavy impact, but you will feel a slight or major discomfort.
Resistance to rust Points go to the carbon frame for resistance to rust. Carbon is not the typical type of metal, it is a special compound with unique characteristics, and one of these characteristics is its resistance to water and rust. You can use your carbon frame mountain bike in damp regions without fear of rust or water damage to your frame. Aluminum is metal, so bikes with aluminum frames are very prone to rust and water damage. Rust damage to aluminum frames is not immediate but they still happen after a certain amount of exposure to water.
Ease of repair In terms of ease of repair, carbon frames are not the top choice. It proves quite difficult to repair carbon frames for different reasons, one of which is the scarceness of the material. Carbon frames are not easy to come by and in most cases, a damaged carbon frame has to be replaced entirely because they have no replacement parts. Also, it will cost you quite a lot to get your carbon frame fixed. We mentioned earlier that aluminum frames are more commonly used than carbon frames. Therefore, it is expected that aluminum frames will be easier to fix than carbon frames. You can easily get replacement parts for aluminum bike frames, and the cost is very low. You can get replacements or new parts for your aluminum frame from almost anywhere without any added cost.
Price It is expected that the scarcer a product is, the more expensive it will be. Carbon frames are not common, they are used in making high-quality bikes that are used mostly by professionals, so you can understand why the bike is costly. However, the cost of the bike is worth it because it leads other bikes in several areas including weight, damping, and more. In terms of price, we have to give points to bikes made with aluminum frames. Bikes with aluminum frames are very common hence it is expected that will be less costly than bikes with carbon frames. However, the cheap price of aluminum bikes also comes with some drawbacks some of which include, the weight of the bike, the damping, the speed, and others.

Carbon Bike Frames

We’ve shown you a quick preview of the carbon vs aluminum mountain bike frame, now we want to look more into the carbon bike frame. Many questions are going on about which material makes a better bike, there is no right answer to that question. Each bike frame has its advantages and disadvantages; this review will present these facts to you, and then you can decide for yourself which one suits your needs more.

Carbon bike frames are among the top choices, especially for professional bikes, a good example is the SAVADECK Carbon Mountain Bike. The carbon material used in making the frame gives the bike an edge in some areas, and demand for it keeps increasing, let’s look into it.

Advantages

Carbon vs. Aluminum Mountain Bike Frames Compared in DetailSeveral advantages come with using mountain bikes with carbon frames.

  • The first advantage of the carbon frame is the weight. Bikes with carbon frames are some of the lightest bikes on the market. With a carbon frame bike, you can ride for hours, or over difficult terrain without feeling any extra weight from your bike. This advantage is important especially, for those that are into professional bike racing, you can put more effort into pedaling your bike and also receive better output since your bike isn’t adding any dragging weight.
  • The second advantage and it goes hand in hand with the first one, is speed. Carbon frame bikes are among the fastest types of bikes. Of course, the speed of a bike is greatly dependent on the rider’s ability as well, but the weight of the bike also adds a great deal to how fast and easy it will be to ride the bike to full speed. For bikes with carbon frames, the lightweight nature of the frame gives the bike an edge over other bikes. If you’re into professional racing or you want a really fast bike, carbon frame bikes are the way to go.
  • Another advantage the carbon frame has over the aluminum frame is the degree of comfortability. It has been tested and observed that bikes with carbon frames offer a more comfortable ride than bikes with aluminum frames. Damping refers to the ability and degree to which the bike can absorb the shock and vibration that is transferred from the road to the body of the rider. When riding a carbon-framed bike you will hardly feel any jolt or shock that comes from riding on rough roads, the frame has a very strong cushioning effect. With this feature, you can ride for a long time without feeling sore, or body aches.
  • Furthermore, carbon frames are better in the sense that they are more resistant to water. One major issue that other bikes with alloy frames face is rust. After a certain exposure to water, most frames start to show signs of rust, however, carbon frames don’t have this problem.

Drawbacks

Although carbon frame bikes seem to be the ideal bike, or people make it out to be the ideal bike, there are still a few drawbacks that affect them.

  • The first and most recognized drawback is the price. Bikes with carbon frames are not your everyday regular bikes, they are high-quality bikes, and they are not too many on the market. Also, the cost of producing a bike with a carbon frame is high and this contributes to the high price tag on the bike. You can get two aluminum frame bikes at the same price as one carbon frame bike.
  • Another drawback is the scarcity of the material. It is hard to come by carbon frame parts and accessories, so in the event of damage, it will be very difficult to get your bike fixed. Also, most times when a carbon frame gets damaged, it is impossible to repair and will need replacement. Carbon frames are not as sturdy as aluminum frames, they are brittle, and instead of bending or cracking, they break immediately.

Aluminum Bike Frames

Carbon vs. Aluminum Mountain Bike Frames Compared in DetailHaving looked at some of the advantages and disadvantages of bikes with carbon frames, we now want to look at aluminum frames. We are going to see some of the advantages that you can enjoy from using a bike with an aluminum frame like the Schwinn S29 mountain bike, and also the disadvantages that come with it.

Advantages

Just like bikes with carbon frames, aluminum frame bikes also have strong points that make them good choices.

  • The first advantage is durability. Aluminum is an alloy with high tensile strength and density, it is one of the strongest materials that can be used to make a bike, and it is also one of the most used materials. With an aluminum frame bike, you can navigate tougher paths without fearing further damage to your bike. Aluminum isn’t brittle like carbon, instead, it is tough and even in the event of damage, it will either bend first or crack. If you want something that will last you a long time, aluminum frame bikes are the way to go.
  • Another huge advantage is the price. Unlike carbon frame bikes, aluminum bikes are not as scarce, and the cost of producing them is not as high. You can get a very high-quality bike with an aluminum frame for almost half the price that a carbon frame mountain bike will go for.
  • Also, due to the worldwide use of aluminum frames, it is as scarce as the carbon frame, and it is, therefore, easier to repair. Unlike the carbon frame bike that is difficult to repair, or hard to find extra parts for, aluminum frames are easy to acquire. You can go to almost any bicycle store and you’ll the parts you need for your aluminum frame. In terms of repair, another advantage the aluminum frame has is the degree of damage. Aluminum frames don’t get destroyed outrightly, instead they bend or crack, and you can easily replace the damaged part instead of having to change the entire frame.

Drawbacks

Aluminum frame bikes also have their disadvantages.

  • The first drawback can be seen in the weight. There have been a lot of complaints about the weight that comes with using bikes with aluminum frames. We stated earlier that aluminum frames have more density and are thicker than carbon frames, all these contribute to the overall weight of the bike. It can be quite tasking making use of a bike with an aluminum frame, especially if you’re riding for a long time, or over rough terrain. The weight of the frame adds to the amount of work the rider has to do.
  • Another disadvantage is that aluminum frame bikes are not as comfortable as carbon frame bikes. Bikes with aluminum frames don’t have as much damping effect, and the rider tends to feel the bumps and irregularities on the road more actively, this can affect the posture of the rider and even the comfort of the bike. If you want to go riding on rough terrains, or over a long period, aluminum bikes shouldn’t be your first choice.
  • Another major issue that bikes with aluminum frames face is their susceptibility to the weather. The composition of the materials used to make aluminum are majorly metals, and these metals have the property of reacting with water to form rust. You can imagine how much of a rust problem a bike with an aluminum frame will face. If you plan to go riding in an area where rainfall is consistent, an aluminum frame might not be the best choice for you.
  • Also, the speed of the bike is another thing to take note of. Bikes with aluminum frames are not necessarily slow, but the extra weight of the frame makes it slower than other bikes with lighter frames. It will take more work on a bike with an aluminum frame to achieve the same speed on a bike with carbon frames. Aluminum bikes are fit for those that are riding for unprofessional reasons, maybe recreation or simple competitions.

Side-by-Side Comparison

So far, we’ve looked at the different frames, their properties, and their advantages and disadvantages. Now, we want to compare them against each other.

Ride Quality

Carbon vs. Aluminum Mountain Bike Frames Compared in DetailRide quality refers to how smooth of a ride you can enjoy on the bike. Comparing bikes with aluminum frames and carbon frames in terms of ride quality, it is safe to say that you can get a smoother ride on a bike with a carbon frame.

Carbon frame bikes have a nimble and comfortable structure that eases the pressure of the rider and distributes weight around.

The carbon frame also has a better-cushioning effect than that of the aluminum frame. It is not like the aluminum frame bike doesn’t serve as a cushion, the carbon frame just has a better effect and gives a better ride quality.

Weight

Carbon vs aluminum mountain bike frame weight is one of the major topics of debate. Aluminum bikes weigh more than carbon frame bikes, now the question is which one is better? Using an aluminum bike will give you more stability especially if you’re riding downhill, the extra weight will give you more control over your bike as you pedal or coast down a hill. However, if you’re riding up a path or trail, the extra weight of the aluminum frame will be a burden, and the lightweight of the carbon frame will be just perfect.

Stiffness

Stiffness refers to how firm your bike is, and how easy it is to control. Aluminum frame bikes have a high degree of stiffness, but it still requires a bit of work to get that delicate touch that is apparent in bikes with carbon frames. Carbon frame bikes are very stiff and are very easy to control. The responsiveness of carbon frame bikes to the pedal and handle is very high, higher than that of aluminum frame bikes.

Damping

Carbon vs. Aluminum Mountain Bike Frames Compared in DetailDamping is the ability of the bike to absorb shock and vibrations from the ground and prevent it from getting to the ridder. The damping ability of the bike goes a long way in determining how smooth your ride will be.

For bikes with carbon frames, they offer a more damping effect than bikes with aluminum frames. If you’re riding on a rough path, you will feel less of it on a carbon frame bike.

Speed

Carbon bikes are considered being faster than aluminum ones when you go uphill, since the former are much lighter. However, there are some serious considerations to take into account. Just check the testing video below.

Durability

In terms of durability, we have to give it to the aluminum frame bike. Bikes made from aluminum have been observed to last way longer than the ones made with carbon. Carbon fiber is not as tough as aluminum frames, they are brittle and tend to break after some time.

Price

This is where the largest difference occurs between the two frames. It is without question that carbon frame bikes are more expensive than aluminum frame bikes. Carbon frame bikes range between $400 to $4000 while aluminum frame bikes have a price range of between $200 and $3600.you can even get some mountain bikes for lesser than the price earlier stated.

Due to the improved nature of carbon frame bikes, and also the high cost of producing them, they have a higher price on the market than others.

Other Mountain Bike Frame Materials Worth Considering

In case you’re wondering, carbon and aluminum are not the only materials that are used in the production of mountain bicycles. Other materials are of good quality such as steel and titanium.

Steel is one of the earliest materials that was used in making bike frames, it is also one of the strongest materials. A bike made from steel is sure to last for a long time, and it is also easy to repair. You can get steel frames or components from most bike stores.

Titanium, on the other hand, is one of the most recent advancements in the world of bikes. This material is also strong and still surprisingly lightweight. Titanium bikes are the bikes of the future.

Final Thoughts

We’ve looked at and compared two different frames for mountain bikes. The best between the two is hard to say, but you can make your judgment off this review.

Other things you should know about are the wheels of your mountain bike, carbon vs aluminum mountain bike wheel, and also how to take care of the wheel of whatever mountain bike you buy, knowing when to replace the wheel, and also how to clean your bike.

Having gone through this carbon vs aluminum mountain bike review, making your choice should be easier.

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