Go Back  Bike Forums > Bike Forums > Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational)
Reload this Page >

Is aluminum horrible frame material for gravel bike??

Notices
Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) 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 : "Unbound Gravel". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

Is aluminum horrible frame material for gravel bike??

Old 10-16-21, 12:15 AM
  #1  
cubewheels
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: Manila, Philippines
Posts: 2,432

Bikes: A really old BMX bike, Jackal Mio Gravel Bike

Mentioned: 8 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1139 Post(s)
Liked 484 Times in 394 Posts
Is aluminum horrible frame material for gravel bike??

The best names in the game seem to only go with carbon, titanium, and steel.

On the other hand, all entry-level or bottom end / wally gravel bikes are aluminum. Is aluminum that bad for gravel, like how long do we expect the frame to last if the bike is to be used mostly on gravel roads?
cubewheels is offline  
Old 10-16-21, 12:33 AM
  #2  
Badger6
Obsessed with Eddington
 
Badger6's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Brussels (BE) 🇧🇪
Posts: 1,164

Bikes: '16 Spesh Diverge, '14 Spesh Fatboy, '18 Spesh Epic, '18 Spesh SL6, '21 Spesh SL7, '21 Spesh Diverge...and maybe n+1?

Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 450 Post(s)
Liked 521 Times in 318 Posts
I don't think it is a durability issue.
Badger6 is offline  
Likes For Badger6:
Old 10-16-21, 01:24 AM
  #3  
Lazyass
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Minas Ithil
Posts: 9,330
Mentioned: 66 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2421 Post(s)
Liked 604 Times in 376 Posts
I don't know how a gravel road would stress an aluminum frame. I have countless thousands of singletrack miles on aluminum hardtail MTB's, I raced them for years and never broke one.
Lazyass is offline  
Old 10-16-21, 02:24 AM
  #4  
HTupolev
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Seattle
Posts: 3,985
Mentioned: 40 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1825 Post(s)
Liked 1,037 Times in 505 Posts
Originally Posted by cubewheels View Post
The best names in the game seem to only go with carbon, titanium, and steel.
Entry-level models from major brands are often aluminum, like the Checkpoint ALR or the Topstone Alloy. I think the distribution of frame material in gravel has a lot more to do with what market segments the bikes exist within, than considerations of intrinsic material properties.

how long do we expect the frame to last if the bike is to be used mostly on gravel roads?
As with all bikes in all frame materials, it'll last however long it's been designed and manufactured to last within the use case.
HTupolev is online now  
Likes For HTupolev:
Old 10-16-21, 06:30 AM
  #5  
Dino_Sore
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2020
Posts: 31
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 8 Post(s)
Liked 15 Times in 12 Posts
I currently own two gravel bikes: one is full carbon and one is steel with a carbon fork. Past gravel bikes have included a full steel and a full aluminum.. As others have pointed out, so long as the bike is designed and manufactured properly, the frame material shouldn't matter with regard to longevity. My full aluminum gravel bike was a Specialized Tri-Cross, and I beat the snot out of it for eight years. It also doubled as my winter bike and was subjected to all kinds of chemicals used to clear the roads of ice (to which I don't want to expose my steel bike to).

When purchasing a new gravel bike this year, I actually had my eye on the Trek Checkpoint ALR5; alum. with a carbon fork. Unfortunately, due to supply chain issues I couldn't find one anywhere, so I went with a much more expensive carbon bike that was available.

With regard to ride comfort, I prefer steel. However, this aluminum bike rode perfectly fine with 40mm tubeless tires. I never found it uncomfortable or fatiguing. I only got rid of it because I wanted thru-axles, hydraulic disc brakes and lower gearing.
Dino_Sore is offline  
Likes For Dino_Sore:
Old 10-16-21, 07:00 AM
  #6  
dwmckee
Senior Member
 
dwmckee's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Posts: 2,332

Bikes: Co-Motion Cappuccino Tandem,'88 Bob Jackson Touring, Co-Motion Cascadia Touring, Open U.P., Ritchie Titanium Breakaway, Frances Cycles SmallHaul cargo bike. Those are the permanent ones; others wander in and out of the stable occasionally as well.

Mentioned: 7 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 355 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 275 Times in 182 Posts
Aluminum tends to make very stiff frames that have little dampening. It is not a BAD material for a gravel bike, but there are better choices in many cases. You CAN make a compliant aluminum frame but doing so can push the cost up to that approaching other materials. A good example of this is the Merckx Strasbourg gravel bike. It was an excellent gravel bike with a well-made aluminum frame but cost almost as much as a comparable bike with a carbon frame. They made the Strasbourg in Aluminum for about two years then switched over to a carbon frame with only a modest price increase. No doubt good wide tires and wheels can offset the stiffness of Aluminum quite a bit, but many gravel riders tend to prefer Steel or Carbon.

Aluminum tends to be used most often for entry level gravel bikes, Steel for mid range and Carbon for higher end, though there are some good mid-range Aluminum gravel bikes out there as well...
dwmckee is offline  
Likes For dwmckee:
Old 10-16-21, 08:58 AM
  #7  
wolfchild
Senior Member
 
wolfchild's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Mississauga/Toronto, Ontario canada
Posts: 7,076

Bikes: I have 3 singlespeed/fixed gear bikes

Mentioned: 22 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2466 Post(s)
Liked 1,353 Times in 662 Posts
How long an aluminum frame will last depends on the manufacturing process, the type pf aluminum used and quality control ..I have a 14 year old aluminum framed MTB with a rigid steel fork. I have used it for gravel riding, singletrack riding, winter riding, commuting and everything else in between. The frame is as solid as new. It was an expensive bike when I purchased it way back in 2007 and it was made by a very reputable company here in Canada.
wolfchild is offline  
Likes For wolfchild:
Old 10-16-21, 10:06 AM
  #8  
cubewheels
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: Manila, Philippines
Posts: 2,432

Bikes: A really old BMX bike, Jackal Mio Gravel Bike

Mentioned: 8 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1139 Post(s)
Liked 484 Times in 394 Posts
Thanks everyone. I've been looking around and saw brand new aluminum gravel / tour bikes for under $800 with really good specs including thru-axle and Tiagra or SRAM group sets.

It looked very tempting, just the aluminum put me off a bit.
cubewheels is offline  
Old 10-16-21, 11:34 AM
  #9  
Darth Lefty 
Disco Infiltrator
 
Darth Lefty's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2013
Location: Folsom CA
Posts: 12,498

Bikes: Stormchaser, Paramount, Timberjack, Expert TG, Samba tandem

Mentioned: 67 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2575 Post(s)
Liked 1,362 Times in 890 Posts
Mine exploded and killed me.
__________________
Genesis 49:16-17
Darth Lefty is offline  
Likes For Darth Lefty:
Old 10-16-21, 12:44 PM
  #10  
Rolla
Gyro Captain
 
Rolla's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2020
Posts: 1,472

Bikes: 4 Singlespeeds, 2 Gearies

Mentioned: 6 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 618 Post(s)
Liked 1,573 Times in 702 Posts
IMO, durability isn't the issue; ride quality is. But with a carbon fork and tubeless tires, you can mitigate a lot of the harshness.
Rolla is offline  
Likes For Rolla:
Old 10-16-21, 03:53 PM
  #11  
dwmckee
Senior Member
 
dwmckee's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Posts: 2,332

Bikes: Co-Motion Cappuccino Tandem,'88 Bob Jackson Touring, Co-Motion Cascadia Touring, Open U.P., Ritchie Titanium Breakaway, Frances Cycles SmallHaul cargo bike. Those are the permanent ones; others wander in and out of the stable occasionally as well.

Mentioned: 7 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 355 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 275 Times in 182 Posts
If your budget is less than $1,000 then Aluminum frames will be your only option for a new bike. As said above, good tires, low pressure, a good seat, etc. will go a long way to improve ride quality. Just a heads up that at that price the tires are likely very inexpensive and will offer poor ride quality. If you get that bike I'd say get a really good set of supple tires as soon as you can on it and it will make a load of difference; that is the best place to spend some extra money to make it a much more enjoyable bike.
dwmckee is offline  
Likes For dwmckee:
Old 10-16-21, 04:10 PM
  #12  
Bonzo Banana
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2017
Location: Merry Old England
Posts: 755

Bikes: Muddyfox Evolve 200, Bicycles4u Paris Explorer, Raleigh Twenty Stowaway, Bickerton California, Saracen Xile, Kona Hoss Deluxe, Vertigo Carnaby, Exodus Havoc, Kona Lanai, Revolution Cuillin Sport, Dawes Kingpin, Bickerton, NSU & Elswick Cosmopolitan

Mentioned: 4 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 285 Post(s)
Liked 25 Times in 20 Posts
Originally Posted by Rolla View Post
IMO, durability isn't the issue; ride quality is. But with a carbon fork and tubeless tires, you can mitigate a lot of the harshness.
This is pretty much the same as my reply would be except I would also mention a steel fork with an aluminium frame as a good combination. I would also point out you can make an aluminium frame last a long time by making it as rigid as possible to reduce fatigue to a minimum or you can make it more flexy and more comfortable but increase the fatigue rate. I believe 6061 and 6000 series aluminium often hydro or air formed can make a more optimised frame with thicker aluminium where required. Ultimately though with thick tyres properly inflated to give a suspension effect with your weight makes frame material far less important.

I definitely feel that a very rigid 7005 road bike frame with thin 700x23 tyres and maybe even aluminum forks is a pretty horrible riding bike generally unless you have a sprung saddle and perhaps double wrap your bar tape.

You can normally customise any bike to be comfortable even if you end up with a suspension seat post on a road bike.
Bonzo Banana is offline  
Likes For Bonzo Banana:
Old 10-16-21, 06:05 PM
  #13  
unterhausen
Randomhead
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Happy Valley, Pennsylvania
Posts: 22,344
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 4 Post(s)
Liked 1,905 Times in 1,357 Posts
Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
Mine exploded and killed me.
I assume you got better?

I am pretty sure I would be happy with an aluminum gravel bike if I was in the market. Carbon is getting cheaper though, so the selection of good aluminum is getting worse.
unterhausen is offline  
Likes For unterhausen:
Old 10-16-21, 08:41 PM
  #14  
cubewheels
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: Manila, Philippines
Posts: 2,432

Bikes: A really old BMX bike, Jackal Mio Gravel Bike

Mentioned: 8 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1139 Post(s)
Liked 484 Times in 394 Posts
Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
I assume you got better?

I am pretty sure I would be happy with an aluminum gravel bike if I was in the market. Carbon is getting cheaper though, so the selection of good aluminum is getting worse.
A carbon bike at the same price point also came to my attention but not surprisingly, the parts on the aluminum bike is of better quality. The aluminum bike is more tempting offer, only having doubts about the aluminum frame.
cubewheels is offline  
Old 10-16-21, 09:45 PM
  #15  
mstateglfr 
Sunshine
 
mstateglfr's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2014
Location: Des Moines, IA
Posts: 13,786

Bikes: '18 class built steel roadbike, '19 Fairlight Secan, '88 Schwinn Premis , Black Mountain Cycles Monstercross V4, '89 Novara Trionfo

Mentioned: 111 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 7137 Post(s)
Liked 4,131 Times in 2,386 Posts
Originally Posted by cubewheels View Post
The best names in the game seem to only go with carbon, titanium, and steel.

On the other hand, all entry-level or bottom end / wally gravel bikes are aluminum. Is aluminum that bad for gravel, like how long do we expect the frame to last if the bike is to be used mostly on gravel roads?
Your current bike is an aluminum gravel frame and you ride unpaved roads all the time. You've been riding it for however long and however many miles- you know the answer to your question- no it isn't a horrible material.

What an odd thread to start when you already ride aluminum.

Last edited by BillyD; 10-17-21 at 02:21 PM. Reason: OP request
mstateglfr is offline  
Likes For mstateglfr:
Old 10-16-21, 10:10 PM
  #16  
cubewheels
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: Manila, Philippines
Posts: 2,432

Bikes: A really old BMX bike, Jackal Mio Gravel Bike

Mentioned: 8 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1139 Post(s)
Liked 484 Times in 394 Posts
Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Your current bike is an aluminum gravel frame and you ride unpaved roads all the time. You've been riding it for however long and however many miles- you know the answer to your question- no it isn't a horrible material.

What an odd thread to start when you already ride aluminum.
I only had them for 2 years. Not long enough to say aluminum is good. I had steel bikes for much longer like 20 years and they're perfect. But nowadays, steel frame is more expensive so there's always a temptation to give aluminum another chance.

I'm on the market for new plus gravel bike or plus gravel frame.
cubewheels is offline  
Old 10-17-21, 01:53 AM
  #17  
Lazyass
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Minas Ithil
Posts: 9,330
Mentioned: 66 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2421 Post(s)
Liked 604 Times in 376 Posts
The ride quality of these modern hydroformed aluminum frames are very nice. You'll notice more difference with tires/pressures than frame material. I'd rather have a good alu bike than mid range steel. Most average priced mass produced in asia steel bikes everyone is buying are not super light high end steel and those are expensive.
Lazyass is offline  
Likes For Lazyass:
Old 10-17-21, 03:37 AM
  #18  
Trakhak
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Baltimore, MD
Posts: 2,996
Mentioned: 9 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1054 Post(s)
Liked 883 Times in 517 Posts
Sheldon Brown dismissed the myth of harsh-riding aluminum on his site many years ago:

Did you know that:

  • Aluminum frames have a harsh ride?
  • Titanium frames are soft and whippy?
  • Steel frames go soft with age, but they have a nicer ride quality?
  • England's Queen Elizabeth is a kingpin of the international drug trade?
All of the above statements are equally false.

____________________________________________

I agree completely with Sheldon on this topic. I rode many of the best steel frames from the mid=1960s to 2005, when I switched to aluminum frames for all my on-road and off-road riding. I liked my steel bikes, but I love my aluminum bikes. I haven't ridden any of my steel bikes in years. In fact, my favorite bike is an aluminum track bike with a straight-blade aluminum fork. I've ridden it, or one of my other aluminum bikes, an average of 20 hours/week for the last 6 months. No complaints about how those bikes ride, obviously.
Trakhak is offline  
Likes For Trakhak:
Old 10-17-21, 05:17 AM
  #19  
cb400bill
Forum Moderator
 
cb400bill's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Kalamazoo MI
Posts: 20,052

Bikes: Fuji SL2.1 Carbon Di2 Cannondale Synapse Alloy 4 Trek Checkpoint ALR gravel Viscount Aerospace Pro Schwinn Paramount PDG 5

Mentioned: 51 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2645 Post(s)
Liked 3,905 Times in 2,332 Posts
My 20,000 mile aluminum 2006 Cannondale Synapse road bike has been very comfortable and durable. My recently purchased 2021 Trek ALR gravel bike is very comfortable and I expect its durability will be great, as well.
__________________
Life is good






cb400bill is offline  
Likes For cb400bill:
Old 10-17-21, 06:15 AM
  #20  
cubewheels
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: Manila, Philippines
Posts: 2,432

Bikes: A really old BMX bike, Jackal Mio Gravel Bike

Mentioned: 8 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1139 Post(s)
Liked 484 Times in 394 Posts
Originally Posted by Lazyass View Post
Most average priced mass produced in asia steel bikes everyone is buying are not super light high end steel and those are expensive.
I'm on the market for cheap frames indeed.

We do have local custom frame builder and they do make affordable very light thin wall chromoly frames. The only doubt I have with them is they braze the tubes together instead of welding. Can anyone confirm brazed chromoly frames are OK as lightweight gravel steel bike frames??
cubewheels is offline  
Old 10-17-21, 06:20 AM
  #21  
cubewheels
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: Manila, Philippines
Posts: 2,432

Bikes: A really old BMX bike, Jackal Mio Gravel Bike

Mentioned: 8 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1139 Post(s)
Liked 484 Times in 394 Posts
Originally Posted by dwmckee View Post
If your budget is less than $1,000 then Aluminum frames will be your only option for a new bike. As said above, good tires, low pressure, a good seat, etc. will go a long way to improve ride quality. Just a heads up that at that price the tires are likely very inexpensive and will offer poor ride quality. If you get that bike I'd say get a really good set of supple tires as soon as you can on it and it will make a load of difference; that is the best place to spend some extra money to make it a much more enjoyable bike.
I do worry they might be bad but the ones on my $100 bike, the weld joints look impressive almost as neat and consistent looking as the one on a $800 bike. I can only guess they are welded by robot.
cubewheels is offline  
Old 10-17-21, 06:28 AM
  #22  
DorkDisk
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 2013
Location: Kips Bay, NY
Posts: 2,014

Bikes: Ritchey Swiss Cross | Teesdale Kona Hot | Haro Extreme | Specialized Stumpjumper Comp | Cannondale F1000 | Shogun 1000 | Cannondale M500 | Norco Charger | Marin Muirwoods 29er | Shogun Kaze | Breezer Lightning

Mentioned: 8 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 505 Post(s)
Liked 721 Times in 381 Posts
Originally Posted by cubewheels View Post
I'm on the market for cheap frames indeed.

We do have local custom frame builder and they do make affordable very light thin wall chromoly frames. The only doubt I have with them is they braze the tubes together instead of welding. Can anyone confirm brazed chromoly frames are OK as lightweight gravel steel bike frames??
People asked the same question but reversed when welding became the norm.
DorkDisk is offline  
Old 10-17-21, 06:37 AM
  #23  
cubewheels
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: Manila, Philippines
Posts: 2,432

Bikes: A really old BMX bike, Jackal Mio Gravel Bike

Mentioned: 8 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1139 Post(s)
Liked 484 Times in 394 Posts
Originally Posted by DorkDisk View Post
People asked the same question but reversed when welding became the norm.
Would brazed steel frame good for gravel though?
cubewheels is offline  
Old 10-17-21, 06:52 AM
  #24  
Jeff Neese
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
Posts: 490
Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 212 Post(s)
Liked 110 Times in 77 Posts
Yes, aluminum is a horrible frame material.
Jeff Neese is offline  
Likes For Jeff Neese:
Old 10-17-21, 07:51 AM
  #25  
Steve B.
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: South shore, L.I., NY
Posts: 5,322

Bikes: Flyxii FR322, Cannondale Topstone, Miyata City Liner, Specialized Chisel

Mentioned: 16 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2100 Post(s)
Liked 867 Times in 513 Posts
By the time you get 40-50 psi into the 44mm tires, frame materiel will be irrelevant.
Steve B. is offline  
Likes For Steve B.:

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service - Do Not Sell My Personal Information -

Copyright 2021 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.