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  1. #1
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    aluminum vs. carbon?

    I am in the market for my first road bike. I borrowed on old one from a friend for my first triathlon. Now I want my own so I can continue to ride. I was all set to order a 2014 Diamondback Podium Etape in part due to the fact I can get it for around $1200, and because of positive reviews I have read on Diamondback bikes. That is a full carbon bike with Shimano 105 components. I have not found anywhere around me that has this bike to test ride though.

    I then received some advice to look into a light aluminum bike (ie: Fuji Roubaix RC) with carbon fork and stay that has higher grade components. Now I'm a little confused.

    I feel like I get more bang for my buck on the frame with the Diamondback and I'm not sure I could find a deal on an upgraded aluminum bike for the $1200 I have... but am I giving too much emphasis to the full carbon frame. Would it we a good idea to go aluminum?

    I am looking at doing a couple triathlons (sprint and olympic distance) a year (eventually doing a half ironman) as well as riding throughout the year.

    Now I am a little confused what might be the best option.

    any advice?

  2. #2
    got the climbing bug jsigone's Avatar
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    Tris are short. Nothing wrong with a higher end alum bike over entry level carbon. Plus it might be lighter too...the alum I mean.

    Ride as many different brand bikes u can. You'll know what you do and don't like

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    There is also the Kestrel Talon which can go into a somewhat Tri mode by flipping the seatpost and adding aero bars and can be had within your budget.

    http://www.kestrelbicycles.com/road/...imano-105-road

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    the truth is that you'll never know until you try them both for a long period, which probably won't happen.

    but IMO, you'll be fine with either.

    knowing what works for you takes time and experience and to make it more difficult, your personal preferences (if they are anything like mine) and the technology they address, are a constantly moving target.

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  6. #6
    Senior Member datlas's Avatar
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    Both are fine. Try to test ride if possible. Proper fit matters most.
    Quote Originally Posted by RUOkie View Post
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    Senior Member thehammerdog's Avatar
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    Look in your wallet. Thats will dictate the answer. All things being equal good Alm bike is a better deal. However, if you have the coin go big go carbon. But if it is value cannot beat Alm.

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    Try riding both at a LBS. If you're not in a large metro area of Georgia, you might have to drive some. Several companies make both including Fuji so ride and compare.
    You're just trying to start an argument to show how smart you are.

  9. #9
    Senior Member seymour1910's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gus6464 View Post
    There is also the Kestrel Talon which can go into a somewhat Tri mode by flipping the seatpost and adding aero bars and can be had within your budget.

    http://www.kestrelbicycles.com/road/...imano-105-road
    I agree with this....I think the Talon would suit your needs well. I'm not saying it's your only option but it is a really goos option. They usually sell for a couple hundred below retail also.

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    Normally I would say buy the carbon as it will be the more appropriate frame on which to upgrade parts over time. In this case, the aluminum frame may come with 11 speed Ultegra or even electronic Ultegra, either of which represents the future in road biking. So you may actually be wanting to buy for those components and upgrade the frame in future. Surely a tough call. I hear so much good about Diamondback's ride and value, I say go with the carbon Diamondback. You can bring in better components as you feel the need all at once or little by little, whichever suits you. And by the way, that may be never. So there is a starting point. But test riding and fit are key. That is how to make the final choice.

  11. #11
    Senior Member lsberrios1's Avatar
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    Hey Gad,

    I'd be glad to help you find a bike. Not sure where you are located in Georgia but I am up in Roswell and I know several shops around town that may have bikes you are looking for. For your budget I'd stick to aluminum and 5700 105. Eventually you will find what you like and start upgrading accordingly. You can also go to the used market and find some really nice bikes for 1200 bucks. That is a really good budget to start with. I would not go carbon at that price since ride quality and weight will probably be worse than a comparable aluminum frame but then again I don't know much about Diamondback bikes.

    The Kestrel mentioned above would probably be my choice if I were to be a sole triathlete.

    Send me PM if you need anything or have any questions about shops near Atlanta or types of bikes.

    This is quite a nice bike. Although it may be a little on the expensive side, if it is well tuned up and taken care of makes for a solid piece. Handmade in the US of A!

    http://atlanta.craigslist.org/nat/bik/4231249157.html

    If you are a little on the taller side 6ft.+ this one seems pretty good. You can probably get it close to 1.2k budget and it comes with a garmin edge 500 which is something everybody is bound to buy sooner or later.

    http://atlanta.craigslist.org/nat/bik/4269853691.html
    Last edited by lsberrios1; 01-03-14 at 07:31 AM.
    Cat 6 going on PRO....

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    I know this is kind of an abstract answer...but anymore I'd go with carbon.

    Now...with that said, it's not the reason many give. It's not due to weight, or strength...or even cool factor.

    Anymore...the main factor to go with carbon (in my opinion) is R&D efforts. Carbon is where it's at in the industry. Right, wrong...it doesn't matter, it is what it is. Most major companies are putting the majority of their R&D $$ into carbon...not aluminum. If you want their best, most efficient, most current frame, most of the time it will be a carbon frame (again...don't taze me on this statement...i said MOST, not all). There are manufacturers making aero frames from aluminum and titanium...but you will often drop a good chunk of $$ on one.

    I'm not hammering aluminum at all...I'd gladly own another alu bike...and I'm obsessed with titanium (man, I want a Ti bike BAD)...

    I just think you're going to get the best bang for your buck with carbon.

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    Thanks for all of the feedback. This give me a lot to think about!

    I am actually headed to Asheville, NC this weekend (watching the Orange Bowl with some college buddy's... GO TIGERS!) and my buddy has a LBS up there that he like a lot. We are going to spend some time there so hopefully I will have some clarity by the end of the weekend.

    I really want to get the best bang for my buck, obviously. Looking down the road I do not see myself having the funds to upgrade a frame anytime in the distant future so that leads me to think I should look carbon, planning to upgrade components piece by piece as I can. But, I also heard from another friend who has rode high-end carbon tri-bikes and other carbon road bikes and he has since switched back to his aluminum CAAD10 because it works better for him.

    Decisions! Decisions!

    And why do all these bikes have to look so good. If I was going on looks alone I don't think I could make up my mind.


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    Senior Member grolby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smokehouse View Post
    I know this is kind of an abstract answer...but anymore I'd go with carbon.

    Now...with that said, it's not the reason many give. It's not due to weight, or strength...or even cool factor.

    Anymore...the main factor to go with carbon (in my opinion) is R&D efforts. Carbon is where it's at in the industry. Right, wrong...it doesn't matter, it is what it is. Most major companies are putting the majority of their R&D $$ into carbon...not aluminum. If you want their best, most efficient, most current frame, most of the time it will be a carbon frame (again...don't taze me on this statement...i said MOST, not all). There are manufacturers making aero frames from aluminum and titanium...but you will often drop a good chunk of $$ on one.

    I'm not hammering aluminum at all...I'd gladly own another alu bike...and I'm obsessed with titanium (man, I want a Ti bike BAD)...

    I just think you're going to get the best bang for your buck with carbon.
    The CF bike you get for $1200 is pretty far from the latest-and-greatest. At that price point, I think aluminum is generally the better buy, in terms of value for dollar. Contrary to what you think, development on aluminum has not stood still, most R&D on materials is not driven by the bike industry, and aluminum is still very important in manufacturing at large. And we benefit from that. Aluminum is having a bit of a comeback in the industry at the moment, and for good reason. The quality of the aluminum frame you get on a $1200 bike these days would have been astonishing 10 years ago.

    That doesn't mean that the answer to the OP's question is as simple as "buy aluminum," because that would take some more careful research. But at that price, chances are pretty good that you end up with a higher level of components and a lighter machine by going with aluminum. I would check that out. In general, though, I wouldn't worry too much about making the wrong decision. It's almost impossible to buy a bad bike at that price these days.

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    Senior Member MagicHour's Avatar
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    Not sure about the triathlon aspect or if it's the right match for your situation, but I would get that Diamondback podium in a heartbeat for that price. 105 stuff is pretty good these days, stepping up to Ultegra will move you up a level in "bling" and save a couple grams for each component, but won't gain you much in performance.

    Also look the fits for the bikes you're looking at; IMO great fit > components and everything else.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jgadd View Post


    Thanks for all of the feedback. This give me a lot to think about!

    I am actually headed to Asheville, NC this weekend (watching the Orange Bowl with some college buddy's... GO TIGERS!) and my buddy has a LBS up there that he like a lot. We are going to spend some time there so hopefully I will have some clarity by the end of the weekend.

    I really want to get the best bang for my buck, obviously. Looking down the road I do not see myself having the funds to upgrade a frame anytime in the distant future so that leads me to think I should look carbon, planning to upgrade components piece by piece as I can. But, I also heard from another friend who has rode high-end carbon tri-bikes and other carbon road bikes and he has since switched back to his aluminum CAAD10 because it works better for him.

    Decisions! Decisions!

    And why do all these bikes have to look so good. If I was going on looks alone I don't think I could make up my mind.

    If you don't necessarily want a designated Tri bike...your possibilities open up quite a bit.

    The CAAD10 and Specialized Allez are both great bikes that a well known for being great riding aluminum frames. The CAAD10 5 105 and Alez Race M2 are pretty darn close in terms of specs. These are obviously not the only option on the market...but a good example of what's out there.

    I would strongly advise against buying a tri only bike as a first purchase. While they fill a very distinct purpose, if you're not 100% devoted to that kind of riding, they really aren't great for touring riding. I have a good friend and riding buddy who had an Allez, got into tri racing, sold the Allez and got a Felt tri bike. While he loves the Felt for the purpose of his tri events...he doesn't like it at all for touring and riding with me. I don;t think he regrets getting it...I think he regrets shedding the Allez.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grolby View Post
    The CF bike you get for $1200 is pretty far from the latest-and-greatest. At that price point, I think aluminum is generally the better buy, in terms of value for dollar. Contrary to what you think, development on aluminum has not stood still, most R&D on materials is not driven by the bike industry, and aluminum is still very important in manufacturing at large. And we benefit from that. Aluminum is having a bit of a comeback in the industry at the moment, and for good reason. The quality of the aluminum frame you get on a $1200 bike these days would have been astonishing 10 years ago.

    That doesn't mean that the answer to the OP's question is as simple as "buy aluminum," because that would take some more careful research. But at that price, chances are pretty good that you end up with a higher level of components and a lighter machine by going with aluminum. I would check that out. In general, though, I wouldn't worry too much about making the wrong decision. It's almost impossible to buy a bad bike at that price these days.
    Everything is relative though, a $1200 bike wont get you the latest and greatest in any bike. You'll get a "trickle down" technology either way. Many large companies put their efforts in their carbon line: Cervelo, Trek, Specialized, Cannondale, Giant and other large scale manufacturers have all moved a majority of their development efforts to carbon frames. Again, I'm not saying this is because "carbon>aluminum" but its where the industry has moved. So...in brands like these, a trickle down frame be it aluminum or carbon...the carbon frame often has more R&D behind it than the aluminum line does.

  18. #18
    Senior Member cellery's Avatar
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    One thing that has always been a concern of mine is what to do when you crash out. Both AL and carbon frames are difficult, expensive and sometimes impossible to safely repair. So With this in mind it can be a lot cheaper to replace a modern aluminum frame than even a mid to entry level carbon frame. I am not an aluminum fanboy but my budget at the time dictated I buy AL and have not had bad experiences riding with my buddies on their more expensive carbon bikes and in some local 'fun races'. Again as some others have stated, you will not be getting a very high quality carbon bike for $1200. However, there are some decent aluminum offerings at that price level with at least 105/mix components - often touted as the minimum desirable for any type of racing.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cellery View Post
    One thing that has always been a concern of mine is what to do when you crash out. Both AL and carbon frames are difficult, expensive and sometimes impossible to safely repair. So With this in mind it can be a lot cheaper to replace a modern aluminum frame than even a mid to entry level carbon frame. I am not an aluminum fanboy but my budget at the time dictated I buy AL and have not had bad experiences riding with my buddies on their more expensive carbon bikes and in some local 'fun races'. Again as some others have stated, you will not be getting a very high quality carbon bike for $1200. However, there are some decent aluminum offerings at that price level with at least 105/mix components - often touted as the minimum desirable for any type of racing.
    If racing were my goal (Crit)...I would 100% NOT buy a carbon frame. I'm not made of $$, I'd rather not replace a carbon frame when I biff racing it (which is pretty common while crit racing). For my rec rides...I guess I roll the dice. I'm not saying it will never happen, but I've yet to bust a frame...ever. Even when I used to race.

    It is also my understanding that many companies offer pretty good crash replacement options, I've often heard where some guy trashed a frame and was offered to have it replaced for $600 or so. Not cheap...but a far cry from $1500+ or something like that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cellery View Post
    One thing that has always been a concern of mine is what to do when you crash out. Both AL and carbon frames are difficult, expensive and sometimes impossible to safely repair. So With this in mind it can be a lot cheaper to replace a modern aluminum frame than even a mid to entry level carbon frame. I am not an aluminum fanboy but my budget at the time dictated I buy AL and have not had bad experiences riding with my buddies on their more expensive carbon bikes and in some local 'fun races'. Again as some others have stated, you will not be getting a very high quality carbon bike for $1200. However, there are some decent aluminum offerings at that price level with at least 105/mix components - often touted as the minimum desirable for any type of racing.
    I don't feel like you are leading OP astray with your comments, but you are not IMO being entirely fair to inexpensive carbon. Carbon is so far along the development curve that five-year old trickled down technology is still fantastic stuff. Carbon keeps getting stiffer without losing comfort at the top end sure, but it has never been a source of serious complaint regarding comfort at the mid and lower ranges. With Al you risk getting an older design that is just plain unpleasant to ride. Just sayin' with Al you have to be more careful about what you buy if you hope to avoid wholesale teeth loosening. Not so with carbon. And not that it is hard to find fairly comfortable Al frames these days. It just isn't automatic like with carbon.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpenmanparker View Post
    I don't feel like you are leading OP astray with your comments, but you are not IMO being entirely fair to inexpensive carbon. Carbon is so far along the development curve that five-year old trickled down technology is still fantastic stuff. Carbon keeps getting stiffer without losing comfort at the top end sure, but it has never been a source of serious complaint regarding comfort at the mid and lower ranges. With Al you risk getting an older design that is just plain unpleasant to ride. Just sayin' with Al you have to be more careful about what you buy if you hope to avoid wholesale teeth loosening. Not so with carbon. And not that it is hard to find fairly comfortable Al frames these days. It just isn't automatic like with carbon.
    I can vouch for this...

    I ride a 2012 Sl2 Tarmac (yeah...I know...loser Specialized lawsuit bla, bla, bla). It has been replaced by not only the Sl3...but also the SL4. Technically it is a 3-4 year old design and is 2 models back...

    But the bike is a rocket and easily the best handling, stiffest and fastest bike I have ever owned.

  22. #22
    Senior Member grolby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smokehouse View Post
    If racing were my goal (Crit)...I would 100% NOT buy a carbon frame. I'm not made of $$, I'd rather not replace a carbon frame when I biff racing it (which is pretty common while crit racing). For my rec rides...I guess I roll the dice. I'm not saying it will never happen, but I've yet to bust a frame...ever. Even when I used to race.

    It is also my understanding that many companies offer pretty good crash replacement options, I've often heard where some guy trashed a frame and was offered to have it replaced for $600 or so. Not cheap...but a far cry from $1500+ or something like that.
    Actually, carbon fiber is probably a better bet in the event of a crash - unlike aluminum, carbon fiber can be affordably repaired by people like Calfee or Predator. By affordable, I mean for less money than the cost of a replacement aluminum frame. I don't think there's any reason to let repairability keep someone away from carbon.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpenmanparker View Post
    I don't feel like you are leading OP astray with your comments, but you are not IMO being entirely fair to inexpensive carbon. Carbon is so far along the development curve that five-year old trickled down technology is still fantastic stuff. Carbon keeps getting stiffer without losing comfort at the top end sure, but it has never been a source of serious complaint regarding comfort at the mid and lower ranges. With Al you risk getting an older design that is just plain unpleasant to ride. Just sayin' with Al you have to be more careful about what you buy if you hope to avoid wholesale teeth loosening. Not so with carbon. And not that it is hard to find fairly comfortable Al frames these days. It just isn't automatic like with carbon.
    Have to say, I'm pretty comfortable in my aluminum Orbea bike; and that's even before I've really worked on fitting it correctly.

  24. #24
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    Quite by accident I ended up with a used Colnago Dream (Al frame, CF fork) in the right size (55) and have enjoyed it immensely. Bike + add ones = take off seat ($40), wheels (used Colnago branded, but excellent shape), new rear free hub & cluster, interim rear complete spare wheel new tires, cadence meter, a new chain, & etc set me back just south of $800. I looked for deals on everything. All things considered, I'm riding a sweet Italian ride at a very good price..though not a bike I'd likely ever buy new (ie a new "equivalent high end road bike Al frame and CF fork") because...given where I live (coastal Wa State)...I'd go Ti if I was going to drop many $$$'s. But after talking with my buddies who ride mostly MTB and Cross...they are buying high quality new steel (with CF forks) and Ti.

    Now if I had money to burn I would have a full CF bike just to experience it..& make my own judgements. If you've an experienced cyclist to help you, by all means take them up on the offer of assistance, JMHO.
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    I have not treated my Fuji carbon frame in the nicest of ways. Mind you this thing is I guess considered bottom of the barrel when it comes to carbon frames but it's a damn tank. I have left it out in the sun, rain, cold, you name it and other than being pretty damn dirty it feels just like the day I got it. Carbon is not something that's just going to explode into a million pieces for no reason. I have seen people race Cat 5 crits on Hong Fu and they've had the same frame for a couple seasons.

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