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Why are aluminum bikes so cheap?

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Why are aluminum bikes so cheap?

Old 01-27-13, 01:40 PM
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Why are aluminum bikes so cheap?

Just to get it out of the way - I only titled the thread what I did to create a stir - and more importantly, get an answer to my question... Why are high-end aluminum-framed bikes from just a few years ago priced so much lower than steel or carbon models from the same manufacturers?

Specifically I'm talking Merkcx, Colnago, Pinarello, DeRosa, etc. It seems like these manufacturers (I'm sure there are lots of others) new carbon products are priced at $3k and above, and their vintage steel bikes in great shape can command many thousands of dollars as well. Meanwhile you can pick up a gently-used aluminum frame from any of the above companies for three of four hundred bucks.

I'm hoping folks who've been around bikes for the past few decades can provide their thoughts about why a high-end product from the mid 2000's could be devalued so rapidly. Did aluminum just turn out to be that far an inferior material to carbon? Was there not enough time between steel and carbon for there to be a hardcore following? Is there any aspect of an aluminum frame that's still considered superior to other materials?

Lastly, I'm relatively new to biking, so be nice. I'm just genuinely interested in why a product that was used by professional cyclists just six or eight years ago could be so easily forgotten.
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Old 01-27-13, 01:42 PM
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marley mission
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i like aluminum
in fact if you come across any that says KLEIN on it
i'll take it off your hands
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Old 01-27-13, 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by marley mission View Post
i like aluminum
in fact if you come across any that says KLEIN on it
i'll take it off your hands
Right. Thanks for answering my questions Marley...
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Old 01-27-13, 01:45 PM
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Carbon is light and stiff, steel is classy as hell, and no one likes aluminum except for this guy ^^
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Old 01-27-13, 01:48 PM
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Oh, and don't forget me! All my roadies are alu, and I'm always looking for that special alu MTB.
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Old 01-27-13, 01:54 PM
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I don't think you are going to find a definitive answer to your question, but supply and demand is probably a good start. Personally most of the bikes that appeal to me are either old steel or new carbon with a small mix of aluminum in somewhere.
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Old 01-27-13, 01:57 PM
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Alu is in the 'twilight zone': not old enough to be C&V, too old for the guys who want a newish bike.
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Old 01-27-13, 01:57 PM
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Most aluminum frames by the fancy Italian name brands are just Taiwan junk. They aren't as nifty as space age carbon. That being said I really like the good old USA aluminum Cannondale bikes. They are really nice. The old Kleins are also quite nice. Considering a bike built by Klein himself can often be had cheap.

I like aluminum but I wish they made vintage aluminum bikes with 35C tire clearance.
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Old 01-27-13, 01:58 PM
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Aluminum has a drastically shorter fatigue life then both steel and carbon, so you have to be more a little more weary of how hard its been used.
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Old 01-27-13, 02:06 PM
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Originally Posted by SoreFeet View Post
Most aluminum frames by the fancy Italian name brands are just Taiwan junk. They aren't as nifty as space age carbon. .
I'm pretty sure my 2013 Felt DA was made in Taiwan...
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Old 01-27-13, 02:12 PM
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this one is really cheap-free!
note the fine black line near the bottle boss.
it is only a few years old.

my plan is to completly remove the DT and weld in a used tube from a TREK CX frame that has frost damage
(the chain stay filled with water from the small hole, they are foolish enough not to have drains built it.



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Old 01-27-13, 02:14 PM
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1). Aluminum is cheaper than steel.

2). Aluminum is lighter than steel, and thus cheaper to ship (on a bulk scale).

3). The Tiawanese, and now the Chinese (where 99% of these bikes come from, inlcudiung Felt, Colnago, et al) have effectively automated the TIG frame building process. About the only hand work done on most bikes is the actual assembly (wheels are automated too).
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Old 01-27-13, 02:20 PM
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Just so you know...........everything that comes out of Taiwan is not junk. They produce
to specs, and are quite capable of producing higher end stuff. They get no respect because
the majority of what they contract to build for importers here is mass market stuff.

I don't have an answer to your question, other than the two above that put alloy frames in
the red headed stepchild category and the issues with product lifespan compared to steel.


I have at least one Cannondale touring frame that I sorta like ( with very fat tires on it ),
and an alloy frame MTB that is fun to ride sometimes, and owes me very little.


I just repaired a TREK 3700 beer can mountain bike, donated to the coop that
was fun to test ride. It's old enough to be from the 7 speed rear era, but is very light
overall, and pretty solid in terms of flex........the tubes are large diameter.
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Old 01-27-13, 03:18 PM
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Originally Posted by ShoreCyclist View Post
Right. Thanks for answering my questions Marley...
sorry man i usually do better than that
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Old 01-27-13, 03:37 PM
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Now is the time to buy aluminum frames and keep them until they are vintage.
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Old 01-27-13, 04:00 PM
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Because aluminum is cheap & easy to work with, and they were getting pretty good at it -then CF came out and stole their thunder. They are still geared-up to make the AL frames in bulk but now the demand is low -thus the price comes way down.

It's like last year's cell phone. Why is the iPhone 4s selling for nothing compared to the iPhone 5? Same difference. If someone invented some totally different frame tech that was all of a sudden hot and people abandoned CF in droves the CF makers would be forced to drastically lower prices too.
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Old 01-27-13, 04:08 PM
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Originally Posted by marley mission View Post
sorry man i usually do better than that
I was only kidding, champ...
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Old 01-27-13, 04:10 PM
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Originally Posted by owenmyers View Post
Now is the time to buy aluminum frames and keep them until they are vintage.
According to most other posters, they'll probably all disintegrate long before that happens
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Old 01-27-13, 04:13 PM
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Oooo, this is so borderline on becoming an aluminum bashing thread.
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Old 01-27-13, 04:13 PM
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Originally Posted by owenmyers View Post
Now is the time to buy aluminum frames and keep them until they are vintage.
I agree... That's sort of where the thought process started.
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Old 01-27-13, 04:21 PM
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I think aluminum frames get an undeserved bad rap.

Most C&V riders that seem to hate them must never have ridden them. If they had, they wouldn't be so down on them. It seem's that aluminum has suffered through a real urban myth that won't go away. You know, they're uncomfortable, to stiff, bound to catastrophically fail, fatigue,cracks, etc. etc.. A good quality alu frame has everything, besides fancy lugs, that a rider can want, to make for a nice, fast, quick handling bike. They can be quite comfortable to.

Let them remain the best bargain in cycling, because a Colnago Dream might be in my future!
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Old 01-27-13, 04:41 PM
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I have two aluminum bikes, and like them both well enough. One is an 88 Cannondale SM1000, the other is an 08 Schwinn SS. The C'dale is a mtb, so it has fat tires. The SS has 32 tires, inflated to 20 psi less than max. If I put anywhere near the 100 psi max on those 32's, the SS rides VERY badly. It will beat you to death, after your eye teeth fall out. I just put an aero carbon tri seatpost in it before I rode home yesterday, and it rode even nicer. Almost steel like, actually.

The C'dale mtb has 2.1 tires running at 45-50 psi, so nothing like a road bike. Rides okay to me. The C'dale CAAD3 I owned though, stiffest, worst riding bike I've ever had the displeasure of owning. It was a rocketship, but rode like a buckboard that needs batteries(yes, that was an off color joke, lol) I am not saying all aluminum rides badly, but a good 50% I've ridden, do. Two exceptions, were a Trek 1200, and a Raleigh Technium. Neither one rode badly at all, and absorbed bumps rather well.,,,,BD
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Old 01-27-13, 04:47 PM
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I am currently looking at three new aluminum cross frames. New only because I can rarely find a frame in my size let alone a vintage aluminum cross frame. I would prefer they stay cheap as mentioned.
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Old 01-27-13, 04:48 PM
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They just aren't interesting enough for most people. Steel is usually considered something classic and strong. Carbon is considered new, sleek, and fast. Aluminum is probably the most common material for non-Walmart bikes, and it just doesn't have the same appeal for people.

I do think that aluminum offers a stiffer ride than steel or carbon. It's also a harder material to work with than steel should you need something welded. That being said, I have all three and put plenty of miles on my aluminum Trek 1000 (not a C&V one though).
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Old 01-27-13, 05:20 PM
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I've ridden (mostly as owning) dozens of them. I've had aluminum frames with carbon stays and found the ride to be the right mix of stiff and compliant (even with 23's). Not quite steel, but much much better than just aluminum. The ride for all aluminum frames is pretty jaring (with just about any pure roadie tire size).

For me the real sweet spot for aluminum frames is on touring bikes where you have larger tires to absorb the road shock. Cannondale tourers are (maybe not so) hidden gems.

The fact that department stores sell millions of haphazardly created aluminum BSO's pretty much forms the opinion, with Kleins, Cannondales, and some other choice 80's stuff (nishiki altrons, vitus, miyata) being the exceptions.

Part of it is that different can be charged more for. When Ti and CF were in their relative infancy, they were the high $ bikes. As costs come down, more people are afforded entry to the "better technology".
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