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Aluminum Bicycle Frames
Forever a fan of bicycle riding, it was precisely my experience riding a variety of different types of bikes that really led me to do some research into the pros and cons of each specific type of bicycle frame. From titanium to carbon fibre, to steel and aluminum, rest assured that most bike shops will offer a new entrant or customer access to an assortment of each different type of bicycle frame material. Likewise, any rider from veteran bicycle riding enthusiasts, to those who only occasionally ride, may find that they end up preferring one specific type of bicycle frame material over another.
Personally, I consider myself to fall somewhere right in the middle of "bicycle riding enthusiast" and an "occasional rider".
This article is all about aluminum bike frames, their rival bike material alternatives, and the advantages and disadvantages of choosing to use an aluminum bike frame over those competitors.
Aluminum bicycle frames have been a popular choice of material for the last few decades, and it remains one of the lightest and strongest options for anyone looking for a road bike or otherwise. There are a ton of advantages to this tough and plentiful metal, and if you're an avid cyclist researching frame materials, this is one to think about for sure.
Aluminum is an ecologically and economically friendly material to work with, and it's found in abundance all over the world. With many options now available when choosing a bike, what sets an aluminum bike frame apart from some of its competitors?
Bicycle Frame Materials: Aluminum Bike Frame Alternatives
Ok, so other than aluminum bicycle frames, what's out there? In today's market, you can step into most bike shops and be presented with a variety of frame material options. Steel is the old standby, and most bikes still sport steel frames. Carbon fiber is getting more popular as it becomes cheaper, so you'll see that more often. Titanium is an extremely durable material, but the metal is rare and difficult to weld, so you'll see a higher price. Finally, of course, you should find an abundance of aluminum bicycle frame options.
Steel is actually surprisingly light and durable. Most steel frames these days consist of metal less than a millimeter thick. Of course in less expensive bikes you're bound to find cheaper, heavier, and less durable steel.
Carbon fiber is light and ten times stronger than steel. It can be molded into almost any shape. However it's brittle and tends to splinter when broken, and it can be expensive.
Titanium is light and almost indestructible, but if you should get a crack in it, be prepared for an expensive welding job. Of course welding an aluminum bicycle frame isn't cheap either.
Aluminum Pros: Advantages of Aluminum Bicycle Frames
Aluminum bicycle frames are in truth not entirely aluminum. Obviously the metal you find in soda cans is soft and pliable. Aluminum bike frames are actually created with alloy materials, with a popular choice being 6061 alloy.
Aluminum alloy bike frames possess a much better strength-to-weight ratio than steel, meaning that it is light yet durable. Breakthroughs in welding technology and alloy quality have allowed aluminum frames to become extremely light and strong in recent years.
Aluminum bike frames tend to be gorgeous and streamlined, because their optimal strength is achieved with larger tubing and aerodynamic shape. Also, aluminum will shine very readily, and you don't have to paint an aluminum bicycle frame: they oxidize, but they do not rust.
Aluminum Cons: Reasons You Might Avoid An Aluminum Bicycle Frame
Like all bicycle materials, aluminum has some trade-offs in a bicycle frame. First off, it is not as strong as steel. The metal is more pliable, even in alloy form. This is counteracted by using aerodynamic frame construction and over-sized tubing, and probably isn't a detail you'll ever notice.
Aluminum bicycle frames will be more brittle than steel, and technically speaking will transmit more vibrations than a comparable steel frame. You probably won't notice the difference that much, but it's worth considering.
An aluminum bicycle frame is more difficult to repair than a steel one. Aluminum welding is trickier than steel, and requires a TIG welding apparatus. Expect any repairs to be a little costlier.
Aluminum is also marginally more expensive than steel, though not as drastically as a carbon fibre or titanium alternative.
Regardless of your preferred bicycle frame material, few experiences on earth beat a wonderful bike ride as one gracefully cuts through the air in pursuit of a destination, or no destination at all.