I'm a mature cyclist. I watched Klein and Cannondale introduced aluminum-framed bicycles to world cyclists, many years ago. At first, I was enthusiastic about the introduction of a new light weight material used for bikes. However, back in the 80's, I soon began to hear of the frequent development of frame cracks. I also heard that frames could not be repaired as easily as steel frames. Next, I began to hear about aluminum giving cyclists rough rides.
However, each year either Klein or Cannondale were announcing new advances in aluminum bike frame technology. Each year seemed to offer a better frame with more properties that would rival that of steel.
Finally, Cannondale would introduce their CAAD series of bikes. They began to sell their CAAD framed bikes like hotcakes! Cannondale had a banner year in 1996. They even developed a cult of CAAD fans, soon afterwards! Next thing you know, most other bike manufacturers began to produce their own aluminum version of various bikes.
Suddenly it began to appear as though aluminum was beginning to supplant steel in bicycle frames. Later, carbon would begin to command on a sizeable place in percent bike sales within the United States.
So why did these changes take place within the bicycle industry? Did bicycle industrialists intend to offer the world cyclist a better ride or product? I think not!
I think that what started out as the development of a lighter bike frame for racing, soon became a industrialist plot for profit. Of course, the venerable pioneers of the aluminum bike frame were not involved this conspiracy. I believe that they had genuine altruistic cycling goals in mind. On the other hand, the bicycle profiteering industrialists couldn't care any less about the comfort and riding efficiency of bicycles. Their primary concern was the bottomline, profit.
IMHO the bicycle industry has played a hoax upon the world cyclist. Aluminum requires less energy to produce the final bicycle product, thanks to its recycling process. More energy is required to extract aluminum from its bauxite ore, than that of iron. However, the production of steel requires more labor intensive steps in its recycling process and is more cost prohibitive than aluminum, overall. Additionally, steel weighs more than aluminum and therefore, costs more to transport.
The most logical and versatile material for bicycle frames for the world cyclist has always been steel. Unless you're racing and weight is of essence, a steel frame and fork will give you a much better ride and feel of the road, than aluminum. Steel will also outlast aluminum, in terms of the longevity of operational service. It therefore, becomes more of an investment than a disposable cycling machine. Aluminum should never have been able to displace steel as the primary material for bicycle frames.
While carbon shows much promise and is most probably the future frame of cycling, it does not overshadow the virtues of a steel bicycle frame. This is primarily due to its lack of multi-directional strength factors which are clearly exhibited in steel. This weakness in carbon accounts for its quirky propensity to fail in unexpected areas. This is the reason that carbon had not been present in DH MTN racing or DJ MTN biking for decades. It has just recently made progress in DH MTN racing this past year. Santa Cruz, one of the world's foremost leaders in DH MTN racing, produced the V-10. Only the first half of its frame is made of carbon. Most racing DH MTN bikes are made of aluminum. It would appear that the problem lies in the subtlety of frame damage with carbon. It's often times, impossible to actually detect frame damage with carbon without the use of high tech instrumentation.
Therefore with carbon, your last jump ever, just might be due to catastrophic failure!
In this regard, even aluminum would be a better choice for jumping, than carbon.
Subsequently, if you're not racing, steel should remain the all 'round favored material for bicycles. This fact has been proven time and time again in scientific laboratories using stress tests. The tests always conclude that aluminum has a much lower stress threshold than that of steel. The same is true for all of its alloys. Why? Because the alloys of aluminum, contain aluminum. A low threshold for stress is just one of its identifying properties.
Could this be the reason that Cannondale has a frame exchange program?
Whatever the case may be, when one assesses the inventory of the world's junkyards, you can plainly see why most bicycles of today are the reincarnations of their forefathers, thanks to the advent of recycling.
What ever happened to steel?
This is not to say that aluminum does not deserve a place in the bicycle market for the world's cyclists. All that I ask, is for the bicycle industry to admit the truth about aluminum and sell its aluminum-framed bicycles at a much reduced price and pass some of their savings in production (profits), to the world cycling consumer. This goes exponentially for all carbon frames!