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Recreational Cyclocross and Gravelbiking This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like :The Dirty Kanza". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

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Old 03-23-12, 09:00 AM   #1
mrfizzed
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Why are there more alum as opposed to carbon cx bikes??

anyone know why companies (such as specialized) make their cx bikes, even higher end ones in aluminum as opposed to carbon fiber? is aluminum better for winter/weather?
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Old 03-23-12, 09:09 AM   #2
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I dont know if it is winter/weather or more of a durability/terrain issue? I'm shooting from the hip here..I dont really know.
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Old 03-23-12, 09:12 AM   #3
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Impact strength. While carbon may provide better strength in transfer than Alum. the alloy can take impact better. CX is not a sport of babying your bike. I think it's also MUCH easier to mount disc brakes, Canti brakes on alloy stays and forks as apposed to carbon, but I really don't know about that.

Edit: I should note all of this is because of price point. At this point in time, Alloys are still much cheaper than proper cf molds.
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Old 03-23-12, 09:49 AM   #4
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I'm with X-Linked on this one. Price point and durability.
I was initially looking at getting a PedalForce CX1 carbon frame. Direct from the company I even got a very well written response when I asked about rider weight limits, and they discussed how the "marketing" vs. the actual "engineering" tolerances were very different such that the 250 pound claimed limit was still far under the engineering fault limit, etc. So at 210, it's not like the frame wouldn't hold me...
But then I started asking around the forum and with friends and was warned against it. I dumped my ride in 3 races last year, 2 were multi-bike tangles in slippy corners. An alloy frame, even at a slight disadvantage of vibration dampening that carbon offers over aluminium, was definitely a better choice even though the cost wasn't too far different to go with carbon.
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Old 03-23-12, 01:26 PM   #5
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As it has been said, "What you See, depends on where you look".

Racing or using them as a wide tire commuter?

China made Carbon forks have gained a big market share ..

Fitted in both CF and Alum and even Steel bike frames.

mostly because they cost less, not many want to drop 2.5K$.
to try a sport, for a couple months in the Autumn..

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Old 03-23-12, 01:39 PM   #6
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Well aluminum takes shock better than carbon. Aluminum is much "harder" and "stiff" and of course heavier than Carbon frames, but they can take a punch. Let's say "Aluminum lasts longer".

They are usually cheaper too. And good aluminum frame can be pretty light. I think Aluminum Frame with Carbon Fork works the best in CX IMO. Kona Jake The Snake had Aluminum Frame and Carbon Fork and I think it won some major competition.
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Old 03-23-12, 02:01 PM   #7
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You crash a lot riding 'cross.
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Old 03-23-12, 02:32 PM   #8
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It seemed to me that a lot more carbon CX bikes started showing up in the last two years. Most CX manufacturers offer a carbon frame on their top of the line bikes now. It's curious that Specialized, which used to offer a carbon Crux, has reversed direction on this.
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Old 03-23-12, 03:50 PM   #9
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I don't think it has anything to do with impact strength or durability or whatever. There are plenty of carbon mtb frames on the market. It probably has to do with the fact that cx racing is still a niche market, altho it is gaining popularity in the US. Manufacturers aren't going to put a lot of time, money, and R+D into making multiple models of high-end cross bikes if people aren't going to buy them. Most people buying 'cross bikes are already mtb-ers or road racers or just casual riders looking to try something new. It's unlikely they'll buy a $3000+ carbon cross bike as their first cross bike just to see if they like racing cross.

That being said, given the increase in popularity of cross racing, gravel grinder events, etc, there have been a lot more carbon cross bikes coming out in the past few years.
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Old 03-23-12, 09:02 PM   #10
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I agree with FKMTB07. There was no pressure for manufacturers to come up with CF CX frames. Riders were happy with Al. I brought one last year and the CF choices were slim. When you consider what CX consists of, the overall weight of the bikes where frame material doesn't make much impact, and the low price of Al, it just makes sense
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Old 03-23-12, 09:21 PM   #11
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Cx is only recently becoming a primary race spot for a lot of guys, as opposed to being what you do in the offseason from road or mtb. That, plus the fact that it lends itself to having a pit bike maybe, led to less of an ability to sell a carbon bike to joe racer. I think that's changed in the last couple years, as mentioned above. Carbon is strong enough, we just haven't been in the bike companies' crosshairs as a target for the plastic stuff.
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Old 03-26-12, 07:38 AM   #12
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I'm not sure that it's a simple matter. Primarily, there's the money issue. You race what you can afford to lose. A $2k carbon frame or a $1k aluminum frame is quite a price different, esp. when the weights are fairly similar, and you know you're going to add ~10lbs of mud while racing anyway. Most of the guys I ride with are very conscious of this matter. even though cross is their primary discipline. If you get your bike from a sponsor or are independently wealthy, it's one thing. If you're working and self sponsored, its totally different.

Second is the matter of the perception of carbon's strength, safety and longevity. An aluminum frame will likely bend, crack or kink before it breaks, whereas a carbon frame typically gives little overt notice of failure. Sure sometimes soft spots my develop in a carbon frame telling you that it is toast, but from (admittedly) anecdotal evidence, carbon typically shatters with all sorts of nasty sharp edges. The perception is that the warning signs that aluminum frames give make people more willing to believe aluminum is stronger & safer and thus willing put up with the harsher ride of aluminum. This might be more psychological than fact, but it is an issue.

I'm sure that there are more reasons, but these two alone make enough people shy away from carbon for cross and thus show too little demand for the big guys to want to offer an all carbon cross frame. When carbon frames come down in price, and get better PR, I'm sure you'll be seeing them more.

An interesting tidbit: Edwin Bull, the owner of Van Dessel usually rides the Gin & Trombones which is a hybrid frame with an aluminum main frame & chainstays with carbon seat stays rather than the full carbon Full Tilt Boogie.
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Old 03-26-12, 09:35 AM   #13
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2 years ago I could count on one hand the amount of carbon CX bikes at our races (of 300 racers or so?)

last year probably 30% of the cat1, 2, 3 had carbon.

Next year Ill assume more.

Last year seemed to be the first for many or the popular frames here to go carbon.... Kona, Redline.

Crashing and durability I dont think is as much of an issue. Yes, I see some crashes, but at the level where people are dishing out that much for their bike its not as frequent. I see much more spectacular crashes on the road, where 95% are on carbon.
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Old 03-27-12, 06:03 AM   #14
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Short answer - cost. When you buy an AL bike you are pretty much paying for the components and wheelset & getting the frame for free. To make the AL frames, you pick the tubes you want, cut to size, place in a jig and weld.
The cost of designing a mold for a CF bike is phenominal - Say, $10-20k per size. Now you have to make a mold for each size frame you want to offer. With a bare minimum of 5 sizes, you have a significant investment in tooling alone.

Factor in the popularity of CX vs. MTB or Road and CX is a pretty small part of the overal cycling purchases.

So mfgs. have to decide if it's worth it to work up the tooling to offer a CX rig. If so, mfgs. have to offset the cost of the tooling with higher cost to the consumer and hope there's enough of a percieved improvement in CF vs. AL to justify the cost difference.
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Old 04-03-12, 10:29 PM   #15
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Why aren't there more steel options? It seems like many CX bikes are used for general purpose (with dirt, gravel, etc) and not just racing. Wouldn't a steel frame be a better ride than aluminum in situations like that?
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Old 04-04-12, 10:26 AM   #16
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Steel vs. Al vs. CF vs. the world

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Originally Posted by Moonnerd View Post
Why aren't there more steel options? It seems like many CX bikes are used for general purpose (with dirt, gravel, etc) and not just racing. Wouldn't a steel frame be a better ride than aluminum in situations like that?
Make sense? Yep. But weight of steel is a perception that it's too heavy. As well, the big 4 or 5 plants that make the vast majority of all the bike frames are knocking out aluminum cheaply enough that it cost them next to nothing. So with aluminum you have the benefit of weight (real or percieved) and a lot less cost than carbon fiber (actually, composite but I won't argue that now...).

That said, you have Salsa and Surley and several others knocking out some great steel rides. And I have an aluminum frame that's great BUT it weighs more than most steel frames.

ALSO: Your ride quality is MUCH more influenced by the inflation of your tires than frame material. Really. And with Schwalbe, Bicycle Quarterly, Velo News, et al printing different studies that all conclude that fatter tires are faster and more comfortable.
I ride Clement Strada's in a 28c on the road and at 180 lbs, I go with 75/80psi and I'm just as fast, can stick the windy corners and have a better ride.
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Old 04-04-12, 02:24 PM   #17
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Quote:
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Why aren't there more steel options? It seems like many CX bikes are used for general purpose (with dirt, gravel, etc) and not just racing. Wouldn't a steel frame be a better ride than aluminum in situations like that?
There's actually a fairly clear, if not explicitly stated, difference between CX bikes designed for general purposes and CX bikes designed for racing. I would say that a lot, if not most, of the ones designed for general purposes are steel. The Surly Cross Check, All City Macho Man, Soma Double Cross, Trek/Gary Fisher Lane, Redline Metro Classic, Raleigh Roper and Jamis Bossanova come to mind. Note that a few of these aren't listed as CX bikes on the manufacturers web sites even though they blatantly are, which I think will be a growing trend as the general utility of CX bikes becomes more broadly recognized.

That said, I have a Cross Check (4130) and a Kona Jake (7005 aluminum) and I think the Jake rides a bit better than the Cross Check, though it's close enough that it probably comes down to fit.
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Old 04-06-12, 08:58 AM   #18
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Also, here's a good primer (and a warning on the low dollar Chinese carbon bikes):
http://cowbell.cxmagazine.com/forum/...-carbon-frames
Rick Vosper is pretty knowledgeable on this; he's spent over 7 years at Specialized, and recently helped launch Airborne.

Also, if you go to Craig Calfree's web site you can see some white papers on carbon - interesting, technical reading.
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Old 04-06-12, 12:51 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrtornadohead View Post
Also, here's a good primer (and a warning on the low dollar Chinese carbon bikes):
http://cowbell.cxmagazine.com/forum/...-carbon-frames
Rick Vosper is pretty knowledgeable on this; he's spent over 7 years at Specialized, and recently helped launch Airborne.
Interesting, I realize we are getting a bit off topic, this response is probably better suited to the link you provided but here this is the only cycling forum I frequent so... here's a good example of what happens when "tier 1" companies (managers more specifically) try to hire employees of the "tier 2/3" caliber when they move production away from their experience base:
http://www.avweb.com/avwebflash/news..._205442-1.html
I spent a lot of years working for Cessna but it's hard not to cheer against them after seeing what their leadership did to the company in such a short amount of time (with a gentle shove from its parent company). This could quickly get into a political discussion but regardless it is sickening to see America's aviation manufacturing industry being sold off with such little examination. The excuse is that it is economic but a LOT of manufacturers are not able to show the numbers to prove it. Sure they have speadsheets galore that will tell them the metrics they choose to cherry pick validate poor decisions of the past but when the quarterly earnings statements are due, the best response seems to be to counter the bad news with more layoffs.
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Old 04-06-12, 01:08 PM   #20
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Quote:
To make the AL frames, you pick the tubes you want, cut to size, place in a jig and weld.
some one obviously is blowing smoke up some orifice..
if they will note there has been a big investment in Hydro-form tooling,
where the Aluminum tubes are made to be reshaped
to be able to handle the local stresses of the joint, without adding a lot more metal
in gussets and braces.
Or at least in the bike frames from companies like Trek
the make it cheap as possible wally world bikes may not use that engineering.
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Old 04-07-12, 07:55 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
some one obviously is blowing smoke up some orifice..
if they will note there has been a big investment in Hydro-form tooling,
where the Aluminum tubes are made to be reshaped
to be able to handle the local stresses of the joint, without adding a lot more metal
in gussets and braces....
OK, It's an admitted over-simplification. Several of my bikes use hyro-formed AL. But still a lot less work/tooling/cost goes in to the engineering of Al bikes than good CF bikes.
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Old 04-27-12, 03:32 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Moonnerd View Post
Why aren't there more steel options? It seems like many CX bikes are used for general purpose (with dirt, gravel, etc) and not just racing. Wouldn't a steel frame be a better ride than aluminum in situations like that?
Also once you get into the steel general purpose CX bikes they start to edge towards touring frames re: ride and utility; so the manufacturers must ask themselves why not just make an Al CX bike and a steel touring bike?

Al's weight and cost will keep it in the forefront of CX as long as it's cheaper than carbon, and Al will likely always have a good share of the CX market, just as it still does for road.
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Old 04-27-12, 04:04 PM   #23
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Some people are more sensitive to the differences. People told me I would not like an aluminum bike if I was used to steel. They were wrong. I think it would be fun and interesting to try steel, aluminum and CF versions of the same bike.
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Old 05-28-12, 10:20 PM   #24
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I'm not going to get into why or all of the pluses and minuses of carbon because I'm really not an expert, but cyclocross is still a little nichey if you will. The people I've met that race it are even more excentric (not necessarily in a bad way) and as far as equipment,are completely unconventional meaning they would race a banana seat steel bike from sears.

What little I know of the specifics has told me its an anything goes, ride what you got kinda sport. It's not taken over by matching outfit, beer bellies yuppie types on $8k bikes.... I think carbon hasn't taken over because cyclocross doesn't attract people that spend 3-4k on bikes, and this party can be accounted by it remaining an off season sport for roadies in which they race their beater bikes. Maybe? At least that is my perception.

I recently purchased Kona Major Jake which was lighter than my Madone 4.7 (not by much) but I got a crazy deal and don't plan on racing cyclocross just yet. I was looking specifically for carbon to keep a similar feel and weight. I wanted a bike to take the dirt roads of the Midwest but have the ability to keep up with roadies after a simple wheel/tire change with little to no difference than what I was used to. So far it's worked out but it's only been a few days on the Jake! I've just been running the cross tires on the street and it really doesn't bother me. I think carbon will catch on. Carbon is not weaker than other materials, just more expensive and different in feel. When more people will drop 4k on a cross bike, they will make more carbon options. If demand calls for it, Fuji will have an affordable cx carbon with 105 sub $2000 price range assuming they don't already.

Last edited by ArchEtech; 05-29-12 at 07:55 AM.
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Old 05-29-12, 08:09 AM   #25
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Quote:
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some one obviously is blowing smoke up some orifice..
if they will note there has been a big investment in Hydro-form tooling,
Bad logic. Jigs for CF are per model and per size, so they add hugely to the cost of a frame that is made in small numbers. The capital cost of hydro-forming tooling is PER FACTORY - if you have it, you might as well use it on all your bikes. It might add a fixed per frame cost for more time on the production line, but that's independent of the number of frames made in a style. What a small run design can't take is a high fixed cost that has to be paid off over a much smaller number of frames than usual.

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