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  1. #1
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    Mountain Bike Frame Grade

    Guys,

    I'm just curious about the quality of mountain bike. So I listed them below from the best to the worse materials to make bike frame. I'm assuming the best material would be in super light weight and strong. I could be completely wrong, please correct.

    1) Carbon Fiber?
    2) Titanium
    3) Aluminum
    4) Steel

  2. #2
    on by skijor's Avatar
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    There is no correct or incorrect, only what's preferred to suit your needs. Just because a frame is made with a particular material doesn't mean it's better or worse than the others with regard to quality.
    There are pros and cons to all materials.

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    I dont see any cons if a bike frame made of something very strong and super light. I'm assuming the carbon bikes are so expensive because their frame material.

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    one less horse cryptid01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Discusman View Post
    I'm assuming the carbon bikes are so expensive because their frame material.
    I suspect that higher price of carbon frames is not due to material cost as much as production cost.

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    Senior Member IthaDan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Discusman View Post
    I dont see any cons if a bike frame made of something very strong and super light. I'm assuming the carbon bikes are so expensive because their frame material.
    Strong and durable are not the same thing. I like carbon bikes as much as the next guy, but unless I got sponsored or had a pantload of money, I wouldn't buy a cf mountain bike. One decent crash leading to a dent/ding/scratch and you're either out a frame worth a grand or riddled with anxiety every time you toss a leg over it? No thanks. Carbon bikes have their place, and they do ride amazingly well, but they will always be reserved for race days, special occasions or the toys of the wealthy (or fiscally foolish).

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    Steel is more flexible but tends to be heavy when used in lower end frames. Aluminum tends to be the material of choice, but the reason is lower manufacturing costs combined with lower weight, not just lower weight compared to steel. CF is light, flexible but lots of luck if you wreck and have damage to the frame.
    When I upgraded this year, I went for a better model of a brand that I liked riding and went to a smaller frame size with better components. It made a big difference. Honestly, I never thought about the frame material.
    In case your interested, I went from an 05 Rockhopper (with XT 8 speed/Fox F100 and discs) to an 08 Stumpy Comp with a few upgrades on it as well. For my dually I went from a 05 FSR XC Comp (with Fox F100) to a 07 small frame Stumpy FSR with Mavic rims and Xt hubs.
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    Carbon frames are getting cheaper all the time, look at road frames for this, were carbon dominates the market. The cost for carbon is the tooling, once this has been done, the more that are made, the cheaper they get. If you have a crash that will break a CF frame, it would have broken the frame regardless of material check this for frame destruction http://www.pinkbike.com/video/243228/

    For what is best, as others have said, each have their pros and cons, cheap steel will be heavy, expensive (like Reynolds 953) can be very light, generally, steel is also probably the easiest to work with, Alu is cheap for mass production, Ti is more boutique, as it is harder to work that Alu or steel. whatever you are looking at, fit is as important as material, if the frame doesn't fit, the best material won't give a good ride.

  8. #8
    Pedals, Paddles and Poles Daspydyr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IthaDan View Post
    Strong and durable are not the same thing. I like carbon bikes as much as the next guy, but unless I got sponsored or had a pantload of money, I wouldn't buy a cf mountain bike. One decent crash leading to a dent/ding/scratch and you're either out a frame worth a grand or riddled with anxiety every time you toss a leg over it? No thanks. Carbon bikes have their place, and they do ride amazingly well, but they will always be reserved for race days, special occasions or the toys of the wealthy (or fiscally foolish).
    I'm just a run of the mill XC kinda rider. I have put some dings in my CF Scott and am surprised about its durability. I could be wrong about its ability to survivewith some of the dings I am riding with. I have tried to armour some of the more vulnerable tubing. But I trust my CF bike. I did buy it used so the pricing wasn't as steep as the guy who got it new.

    The only things that have broken on it has been the bolts on the rear shock. Kinda freaks me out that a bolt can snap in a CF housing. What is up with that.
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    You can't really put them in a numbered list. I don't think titanium is any lower than carbon. A BMXer or DJer will most certainly not agree with you that steel would be last. And aluminum is so versatile that you see it on everything from the most entry level of entry level bikes to top of the line downhill and freeride bikes.

    My bike has a carbon swingarm. I've dropped it more than a few times. It hasn't exploded on me yet.

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    Aluminium is my least favorite material, but it is a jack of all trades, and cheaper than the others (except cheap steel).

    I personally went with steel over CF because it is hard for me to get over the worry of fracturing the CF (and Ti was out of my price range). Everyone always says CF is quite durable, but it is vulnerable to certain types of crashes (like sharp edged rock hits). I don't want to worry about breaking my frame at all for the next 3 or 4 years. Good steel is tried and true, offers the ride characteristics that I am looking for, and I know how long I can expect the frame to last.

    As an example of how steel can be pretty bad ass:


    There are quite a few beautiful steel frames out there like the Cotic BFe, Transition TransAm, and quite a few custom fabrications.

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    1. Ti
    2. High End Steel
    3. Nice Al
    4. Carbon
    5 Cheap Al
    6. Cheap Steel
    That's the definitive list taking cost and quality into consideration. The last two are cheap but the poor ride quality/weight outweigh the cost benefit.

    ...That or what everyone else said about it being personal preference.

    As for the video posted about the strength of carbon, there's always that promotional video trying to convince you to buy carbon, and then there are the people who say their carbon chain stay snapped just from looking at it funny. I suspect the general truth is somewhere in between. I've also wrecked an aluminum and steel frames multiple times, and I've also had an aluminum frame that was cracked. For the fun of it, I hit the cracked frame with a hammer. I didn't even hit it that hard at first because I was wondering what it would take but it was dented badly/deeply from that light hit. I hit it harder and it folded like a noodle. I'm quite sure my current Al bike wouldn't do that. I suspect you'd find similar results with carbon frames and perhaps even some Ti or steel frames(though I'd think less). It depends on the material and the particular frame. But in general, my opinion is what I stated above.
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    Quote Originally Posted by scyclops View Post
    Oh yeah, sure, what if everyone thought that way? Then internet forums would merely be places where rational people exchange useful information and ideas - instead of the chaotic, emotionally-charged circuses that they are.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Discusman View Post
    I dont see any cons if a bike frame made of something very strong and super light. I'm assuming the carbon bikes are so expensive because their frame material.
    Before being bought out by Trek , Keith Bontrager put his famous aphorism: "Strong. Light. Cheap. Pick Two." on his stem caps. That axiom still holds true today.

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    Quote Originally Posted by skijor View Post
    There is no correct or incorrect, only what's preferred to suit your needs. Just because a frame is made with a particular material doesn't mean it's better or worse than the others with regard to quality.
    There are pros and cons to all materials.
    +1 your list the best to the worse materials to make bike frame seems with price standards

  14. #14
    Quirky Grifter LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cryptid01 View Post
    I suspect that higher price of carbon frames is not due to material cost as much as production cost.
    I'm thinkin' they must be getting good enough to do it fairly efficiently nowadays, and most of the cost is due to what people will pay for it
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    Totally application driven.

    A full suspension frame could be made out of concrete and not feel much different than Al or steel or whatever. You've got pretty huge shock absortion so the subtleties of frame material are almost completely masked. That's why you see most full suspension frames made out of aluminum, it's cheap, strong and light. Carbon won't make the bike feel much different but will make it lighter.

    As for hardtails, unless you're concerned about weight I would go with Ti or Steel over Aluminum and carbon. Aluminum won't give the small bump absorption of the other two materials and carbon is pricey and more vulnerable to crash damage.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
    I'm thinkin' they must be getting good enough to do it fairly efficiently nowadays, and most of the cost is due to what people will pay for it
    Exactly what he said.
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    Quote Originally Posted by scyclops View Post
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    Quote Originally Posted by Discusman View Post
    Guys,

    I'm just curious about the quality of mountain bike. So I listed them below from the best to the worse materials to make bike frame. I'm assuming the best material would be in super light weight and strong. I could be completely wrong, please correct.

    1) Carbon Fiber?
    2) Titanium
    3) Aluminum
    4) Steel
    Quote Originally Posted by skijor View Post
    There is no correct or incorrect, only what's preferred to suit your needs. Just because a frame is made with a particular material doesn't mean it's better or worse than the others with regard to quality.
    There are pros and cons to all materials.
    Quote Originally Posted by Discusman View Post
    I dont see any cons if a bike frame made of something very strong and super light. I'm assuming the carbon bikes are so expensive because their frame material.
    I won't get into rating the frame materials, skijor has it right. I just want to add the following:

    Carbon:
    PRO -- light, tuneable ride, no "fatigue life"
    CON -- doesn't bend when overstressed, fails catastrophically, expensive (manufacturing process)

    Ti:
    PRO -- VERY durable, long fatigue life, good ride (been told)
    CON -- expensive(!), flexy, not suitable for all applications (forks, disc rotors)

    alu:
    PRO -- lightweight, stiff, easily shaped for its use, cheap to acquire
    CON -- shorter fatigue life, does not take flex very well (most alloys), can be an uncomfortable ride

    steel:
    PRO -- durable, can be easily re-welded if damaged, "classic" ride quality, adaptable to many shapes
    CON -- rusts, heavier than aluminum, more expensive than alu to use in bikes

    EVERYTHING in life has pro/con.

    Since there are a thousand factors along with frame material that determine the quality of a mountain bike, what you ask is a bit vague. Are you looking at a particular kind of MTB, or srtyle of riding? Where are you going with this?

  18. #18
    one less horse cryptid01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
    I'm thinkin' they must be getting good enough to do it fairly efficiently nowadays
    No doubt they're getting better at it. I don't profess to be an expert on manufacturing with CF, but as I understand it, each frame must be hand laid (expensive) in a mold (expensive) that can only be used for one bike at a time (expensive). Compare that to precut tubesets rolling assembly line style through robotic welders by the thousands and I imagine that accounts for a good chunk of the current price differential.

    Quote Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
    and most of the cost is due to what people will pay for it
    I know your game But seriously, you're right, that's certainly a factor as well. If it weren't economically sound, they wouldn't be producing them. Remember that Beryllium frame from years ago? Might have been the best frame ever but at 20K or whatever it was, there's not enough market share to warrant full scale production.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cryptid01 View Post
    Remember that Beryllium frame from years ago? Might have been the best frame ever but at 20K or whatever it was, there's not enough market share to warrant full scale production.
    Beryllium is also poisonous, and explosive. Kind of hard to work with. I know some machinists who are quite talented at dealing with it, but it is not for the average factory worker.

    Are you sure it wasn't magnesium?
    Last edited by corvuscorvax; 04-06-12 at 04:19 PM.
    My speculation was that it applies to some degree in cycling, and I used the previous proof as my reasoning, but I can't prove how exactly it applies to it and to what degree. That, I have admitted, is speculation based on reasoning, but not at this point provable.

  20. #20
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    Remember that Beryllium frame from years ago? Might have been the best frame ever but at 20K or whatever it was, there's not enough market share to warrant full scale production.

    Beryllium was just one of several unobtaniums that were supposed to be the "latest and greatest" for everyone (kind of like the Boron fishing rods and bike frames that came to nothing ... funny how Huffy was the only one who made a boron alloy (boron and aluminum?) bike frame.

    Given a choice I'll stick with the vintage lugged steel frame, or perhaps a good aluminum frame. Since I don't race, always have at a minimum a trailer hooked to the bike (and rear rack on the vintage lugged steel bike), I don't really need a bike that is lighter than a fart. Besides, CF and Ti are WAY out of my price range (unless Desert Industries et-al has one for around $10 - $15 ...)
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    I agree with Skijor in that there really is no correct or incorrect material as long as it is high quality, then worksmanship is more important than which material, and from there I agree with 3speed here for the most part:

    1. Any Titanium
    2. High End Steel
    3. High End Al
    4. High End Carbon
    5. Low End Carbon
    6. Low End Al
    7. Low End Steel

    Titanium and high end steel will last virtually "forever" and are fairly easily repaired, and high end aluminum and carbon will fatigue over time and are subject to "catastrophic degradation", beyond that the skills of the framebuilder matter more.
    Just your average 'high-functioning' lunatic, capable of passing as 'normal' for short periods of time.....

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  22. #22
    one less horse cryptid01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by corvuscorvax View Post
    Beryllium is also poisonous, and explosive. Kind of hard to work with. I know some machinists who are quite talented at dealing with it, but it is not for the average factory worker.

    Are you sure it wasn't magnesium?
    yep

    http://mombat.org/1992AmericanBe1.jpg

    http://mombat.org/1992AmericanBe2.jpg

  23. #23
    To be continued Dannihilator's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zephyr11 View Post
    You can't really put them in a numbered list. I don't think titanium is any lower than carbon. A BMXer or DJer will most certainly not agree with you that steel would be last. And aluminum is so versatile that you see it on everything from the most entry level of entry level bikes to top of the line downhill and freeride bikes.

    My bike has a carbon swingarm. I've dropped it more than a few times. It hasn't exploded on me yet.
    This DJer disagrees that Steel is last. I've had aluminum dj hardtails in the past that have weighed in more than my current dj bike and not ride nearly a well as what I have now. While cheap steel is indeed terrible, good steel is great.
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    Quirky Grifter LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    I've been on plenty of 90s rigid aluminium bikes that weighed more than my steel Mongoose AND rode crappier.

    OTOH

    Riding this olde Al Trek hardtail kinda gave me wood a few times. I was tempted to buy it as I was working on it.


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