Carbon Vs Aluminium Bikes | What’s The Difference On The Road?

Carbon Vs Aluminium Bikes | What’s The Difference On The Road?


when buying a new bike for many of us that comes a point where we make the leap to our first carbon frame the leap that is often accompanied by a slight scream as our credit cards wither away to dust in our fingers yeah and we often make that leap because carbon is generally considered a better material for frames than aluminium but is it really how does a carbon bike feel out on the open road in real life versus an aluminium one we are going to find out next to it here we have to trek in Mondas they both got a full Shimano all type of group set and they’ve both got Bontrager finishing kit just as you’d find in fact if you popped in to your local trek dealer yeah they are almost identical almost over because one is an SL 6 may have tracks OC LV carbon fiber and the other is an ALR six made up alpha series aluminium we’re going to go take them up for a ride around our local loop and then we’re going to swap and repeat who’s going to ride what first though rock paper scissors okay we told you wanna ride first this one I want to ride this one first come on let’s get me you let’s start with that first one shall we price and you are spending a lot of your hard-earned money here so what’s the actual difference in this case is between about eight hundred to a thousand dollars or about seven hundred pounds and that is for an identically spec byte remember the difference in price is due to the fact that carbon manufacture is much more labor-intensive and also more expensive generally though I would imagine that when you walk into your local bike shop you’ll be looking at two different bikes of similar prices and so in that case your carbon frame one is likely to have componentry at least one or two levels below that of its aluminium counterpart so everything’s getting a little bit heavier and also you probably have a lower grade of carbon fiber you might otherwise want we haven’t done that in this case though because you want to be able to directly compare how these two different materials right this is a really big subject when you’re chatting about things down at your local bike shop carbon is more comfortable in aluminium isn’t it well actually this is a really tricky subject and I was talking to an engineer friend of mine recently who specializes in this kind of thing and he’s done some analyses out on the open road tried to come up with some differences and failed he’s basically said it’s almost impossible to quantify differences in comfort between two frames due to other things like your tires how wide they are what pressure you’ve got the map well how much flex you’ve got in your saddle or your seat post that’s all well and good for him but can we spot any differences but I’ve been riding both bikes around about an hour each so far with the tires exactly the same pressure and I mean the same pressure because we’ve been swapping wheels between the two bikes at the moment from my point of view the answer that question is no yeah I think you can ever so slightly carbon frame or good carbon frame should I say has a very slightly muted feel on the road in a good way but I suppose the truth about comfort and bikes is if you actually want more of it you just need to put wider tires on and drop the pressure the next thing to talk about then is stiffness which is really important for power transfer so for things like sprints or accelerating out the corners ie responsive your bike feels but it’s also very important when it comes to bike handling which is not talked about quite so much so if your front end is not very stiff it’s going to make your bike slightly harder to handle around corners and over rough ground now stiffness it can be measured in a lab but what about the here-and-now well I think it’s more expensive carbon frame is more responsive and when pushing really hard and corners on rough roads I think it’s also more composed but that is only in a direct comparison and that is a really really important point yeah the differences are subtle enough that you really only feel them in the first five minutes immediately after swapping bikes after that you notice the difference is far less but the difference is still there on the left okay so this is the big one apart from looks obviously apart from the looks obviously let’s put these two bikes on the scales so the carbon bike comes at seven point five nine kilograms this aluminium one comes in at seven point eight seven so a difference of two hundred and eighty grams not a huge surprise really given that in general carbon frames that can be made around about four hundred grams lighter and it’s acquitted an aluminium one yeah but what do those weight savings actually mean in the real world then what on our little Tesla which is about thirty grams as long with five hundred meters of ascent this carbon bike was 25 seconds faster and that’s broadly speaking with the same power output doesn’t sound like a lot does it no and actually it’s not really a lot does I mean it’s not significant well that just depends as I said it is faster that’s a fact whether or not that means it’s significant depends on you and what you want to get out of your bike so let’s finish with the most important subject of all which is of course looks now modern aluminium frame sets are often indistinguishable at a distance from their carbon counterparts take the trek alpha series and example the wording on that frame is almost completely seamless and the hydroformed tubes every bit as graceful and beautiful and shapely as any carbon frames them get up close though and you can of course tell the difference and if it is any confusion just go do the tap test see are we saying then that carbon frames aren’t worth the money no no we are not saying that in pure performance terms Carbon does have the edge is the difference though as big as some people make it out to be well no it’s not especially if you’re comparing to cracking little bikes from the same manufacturer alright then tan here’s a question mate do you get an aluminium frame bike or a carbon frame bike with cheap and componentry I would go for the aluminium with better componentry yeah I would as well but in this instance with the same component tree on an aluminium frame will come frame I would go for carbon frame yeah I think I would as well we agree on both things hey fist bump nice okay now if you want to see a little bit more information about the materials that we’re talking about here then if you click just up there we’ve got a video about things that you didn’t know a carbon fiber and conveniently up here five things that you didn’t know about aluminium make sure you subscribe to GCN before going to either those there to do that just click on the globe