When shopping for that next bike you have a few options as far as frame materials go. For the most part the market has settled on two main options: aluminum or carbon fiber. However, you will also see the occasional steel or titanium frame. In this article we're going to break down the options for you.
Historically, frames were made of steel. This is still the benchmark material by which other frames are measured. Steel gives a great ride and it has a lively yet smooth feel when gliding down the road or trail. However, steel is a fairly heavy material. While it is true that there are lighter steel alloys the price skyrockets as you get into a competitively lightweight option. Also, steel is prone to rusting.
Aluminum addressed many of the shortcomings of steel. Manufacturers were able to produce a lightweight yet stiff frame for much less money than a steel option. Aluminum doesn't rust like steel. Aluminum is not without its issues; most noticeably the ride of aluminum is not quite as smooth as steel. Aluminum has almost entirely replaced steel for alloy frame production.
There are a handful of smaller manufacturers who produce titanium bikes. Titanium is lightweight, corrosion resistant, and provides a very smooth ride. However, titanium is very flexible, resulting in a loss of pedaling efficiency. Parts like seat posts and bottom brackets are prone to permanently seizing into a titanium frame. Titanium can also prohibitively expensive due to material costs and the relatively complex welding process.
Last but not least is carbon fiber. Carbon has become the wonder material for a variety of applications from race cars, to helicopter rotors, to bicycle frames. It is extremely strong, lightweight, doesn't corrode, and provides a buttery smooth ride. Carbon fiber has almost completely taken over the competitive bike world and is slowly working its way down into recreational bikes as well. You will often see it used on the fork of even entry level road bikes to provide a lightweight yet smooth riding front end.
Here at Agee's we are proud to sell the best carbon fiber bikes in production. Trek Bicycles was an early developer of carbon fiber frames. Their first full carbon frame was produced in 1989 and their professional team pioneered bringing carbon fiber into the Tour de France and its podium.. Trek offered lifetime warranties on their carbon frames while other manufacturers were only offering that protection on alloy frames. Trek is also the only major manufacturer producing their carbon by hand in the United States of America.
Nathan Loop--Agee's W. Broad Location