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WDH74 03-26-14 10:27 PM

Aluminum vs Carbon forks
So, I'm considering a new Trek FX, and am trying to choose between the 7.3 and 7.4. According to Trek's website the main difference is a different model of geartrain (same speeds), and an aluminum fork on the 3 vs. a carbon fork on the 4. The guy at the shop recommended the carbon fork, saying it's better at shock absorption than the aluminum, but I also don't doubt he was just trying to sell a $150 more expensive bike.

I ride mostly on pavement, with some crushed limestone types of paths, though this being the upper Midwest we get some bumps and frost heaves, so I'm not exactly riding on a pool table. Am I going to really feel a difference between the carbon and ally forks? Is one going to be longer lasting than the other? Enquiring minds and whatnot.



hueyhoolihan 03-26-14 10:50 PM

i'm looking at my five SS road bikes as i write this. i've got an oldschool Reynolds 531 chrome-moly fork, one has a unicrown MTB cro-mo fork, one an aluminum Kinesis fork, the rest have various carbon fiber forks.

IMO, i don't think there's much of a difference really.

no1mad 03-26-14 10:58 PM

Take them both for a test ride and judge for yourself.

spdracr39 03-27-14 07:15 AM

I have a road bike with carbon fork and a trek 7.1 with a steel fork. They both feel about the same. I would pick the one you like best as far as drive train and paint scheme 1st and worry about how important the fork is second.

chaadster 03-27-14 07:44 AM

Yeah, you'd have to be parsing ride quality awfully carefully to be able to discern much of a difference between the alu and carbon forks, I think, though I'd be surprised if, in testing, the alu came anywhere near the vibration damping abilities of the carbon. This is generally accepted knowledge, so it wasn't just a vulgar sales pitch.

Riding the two and comparing, as suggested above, is the best approach, although I'd say that if you're just trying to get the most refined ride quality, your $150 would be better spent on a nice set of tires for the alu fork equipped bike. Tires make a huge, easily noticeable difference in ride quality, much more so than fork material.

walrus1 03-27-14 09:39 AM

Ok so first a disclaimer. I've never ridden a bike with a carbon fiber fork. I do, however, have a bike with a steel and an aluminum fork. On torn up uneven city pavement the steel fork does dampen vibrations more than the aluminum. However any discomfort is neutralized by wearing a good par of gel cycling gloves. For what it's worth I'd get the 7.3 just because I don't like the blue of the 7.4.

JerrySTL 03-27-14 09:49 AM

There's more than the fork different between those two bikes. The shifters and rear derailleur are also better on the 7.4. Personally I'd go with the 7.4 if I was looking for something in that category. I might even consider the 7.4 with disc brakes.

fietsbob 03-27-14 10:21 AM


Am I going to really feel a difference between the carbon and alloy forks?
a Princess and the Pea kind of question . (acute sensitivity, or go with the flow)
(gel padded gloves can cover the vibration issues, well enough)

only a discussion point. Its more about the tires really
light supple expensive, vs sturdy and puncture resistant.

A expensive steel fork made with the finest thin-wall heat treated tube blades can ride quite nice..

a cheap one made with better safe than pricy thick wall fork blades is a different product.

ponying up the extra $ also gets a bit more expensive component pick too .
like As I see , the crankset.
7.4 disc is alloy fork again, the its the 7.4 rim brake that is carbon, you pick .

Dave Mayer 03-27-14 10:33 AM


Originally Posted by WDH74 (Post 16615416)
So, I'm considering a new Trek FX, and am trying to choose between the 7.3 and 7.4. According to Trek's website the main difference is a different model of geartrain (same speeds), and an aluminum fork on the 3 vs. a carbon fork on the 4.

I have steel, carbon and alu forks on my road bikes. I cannot tell much difference between them. Same as with steel, carbon or alu frames. They do make different sounds sometimes. And the carbon weighs a lot less than the alu, which weighs a lot less than the steel.

So if you have the money, go for carbon.

Nevertheless, I was riding a bike with a Kinesis alu fork this AM. Works fine.

achoo 03-27-14 10:49 AM

AFAICT both bikes come with 32s for tires. Even if you assume the carbon fork is better at damping road buzz, tires that big make that pretty much a moot point. If you plan on putting thinner tires on it? Maybe you'll feel a difference, maybe you won't.

And the shifters? I doubt there's a $150 difference in those.

When you go on a test ride, make sure the tires on both bikes are similar and are pumped to the same pressure. Not saying the LBS is doing something nefarious, but it is a possibility, and tires and tire pressure can make a huge difference to the feel of a bike...

dynaryder 03-27-14 05:44 PM


Originally Posted by fietsbob (Post 16616601)
a Princess and the Pea kind of question .

That's insulting.


Originally Posted by fietsbob (Post 16616601)
only a discussion point.


WDH74: how are your wrists? I have mild carpel tunnel,and I would have no trouble picking an alloy fork out of a blind test. I've actually returned two bikes(REI) because of the harshness of an alloy fork. I had a Fuji hybrid with an alloy fork and skinny,high pressure tires. Swapped the fork for a CF cross fork and the difference was night and day.

If your wrists and good and your roads are decent,the alloy fork will be fine. If you have any wrist issues,or your roads suck,you'll want the CF.

wphamilton 03-27-14 06:09 PM

I'm not sure I can discern the difference, cheap Nashbar carbon fork on my main ride vs cheap chromoly on my other, because of other differences particularly the tires.

The carbon fork was cheaper than a nice fork of other materials, lighter than a comparably priced fork, and looks better. I think that's about all we can realistically hope for, for just carbon vs something else. $150 more for the nicer bike with carbon, surely that's worth it, isn't it?

WonderMonkey 03-27-14 08:21 PM

I think there is a large difference. I have one bike with and bike without a carbon fork. They are different types of bikes but running the same tires. The carbon fork eats up the normal chatter on the road FAR better than my aluminum fork one does. The aluminum fork is on a hybrid and carbon fork is on a road style bike so take that into account.

NJgreyhead 03-29-14 04:18 AM

What about a curb-hop (curb drop, actually) encountered daily on a commuter bike? Will a carbon-fiber fork hold up to that?

Ray Dockrey 03-29-14 04:41 AM

Yes it will hold up just fine.

lenny866 03-29-14 08:05 AM

I can tell the difference and prefer the carbon.

WestPablo 03-29-14 08:18 AM

IMHO, aluminum could never compare to King Carbon when it comes to either forks or frames on bikes! :thumb:

dynaryder 03-29-14 04:09 PM


Originally Posted by NJgreyhead (Post 16622149)
What about a curb-hop (curb drop, actually) encountered daily on a commuter bike? Will a carbon-fiber fork hold up to that?

Yup. Your wheels are what you need to worry about.

WDH74 03-30-14 06:57 PM

Thanks for the replies, all. For what it's worth, riding both and comparing them is pretty much impossible, so I kind of have to buy blind. There isn't a single bike shop within about 100 miles of here that has one of each to test drive, and unfortunately I don't have the time to drive all over creation to try and ride bikes. Hell, only one shop even sort of local to me has a 7.4, and it's two sizes too small, so judging whether or not the fork feels good is going to (for me at least) be very difficult since I'd be dealing with not being able to ride even slightly comfortably on a 15" frame (I really need a 22"). Anything I end up buying will probably have to be ordered in (my shop only had one FX in a 22, and it was the base model. Honestly, this is just like trying to buy a car sometimes!).

Anyway, just judging from the replies here, I don't think that the carbon fork and different derailleur on the 4 is worth the premium - it sounds like it's more vibration rather than shock that the carbon helps with, and I've never really felt that vibes are causing any real issue with my arms or wrists. Between that and the derailleur, I don't think I'd get $150 worth of benefit out of the 4. I might go for it if there's a discount (or I find an old model) but it really sounds like I'd just be paying for the fact that I can say I have a carbon fork and a Deora, and I've never bought anything just for bragging rights.

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