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Carbon vs. Al

Old 09-03-22, 07:44 PM
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Darylb23
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Carbon vs. Al

Iíve been away from cycling for a while, coming back by dipping my toe in the gravel world. I tend to over research things but itís part of the fun.

So I heard someone say when comparing carbon and aluminum, good aluminum is better, or can be better than low end carbon. Makes sense. So Iím looking at a Giant Revolt Advance because it seems like a great price for a carbon bike. So is that low end carbon? Or is it worth buying?

And if I were to look at aluminum frames, which are considered ďgoodĒ? I like the looks of the Orbea Terra and Iíd assume it is pretty good aluminum as it is about the same price as the giant. But what about all of the other readily available bikes like Giant, Cannondale, Specialized, etc.? Should they be considered good aluminum frames?
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Old 09-03-22, 08:41 PM
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Are you able to test ride any of these? Fit and geometry matters so much more than material.
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Old 09-03-22, 09:01 PM
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Originally Posted by rosefarts View Post
Are you able to test ride any of these? Fit and geometry matters so much more than material.

I agree and Iíll be able to check out most of the typically available locally. Itís probably going to be a month or 2 before Iím able to start shopping so just getting it all straight in my head.
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Old 09-03-22, 11:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Darylb23 View Post
So I heard someone say when comparing carbon and aluminum, good aluminum is better, or can be better than low end carbon.
If it doesn't "fit" you, it won't matter if it's made of unobtanium. Fit is critical. The geometry is the next bit, and that's where things get tough because each frame maker interprets differently what gravel geometry should be. Fortunately, the major manufacturers now have many years and cycles of frame development and racing under their belts and even if their geometries are different, they are selling frames that have the benefit of R&D along with real world testing and feedback, so I wouldn't stress too much on that...other than test riding bikes and finding what you prefer.

I'd offer that after fit and geometry, the most important aspect of the bike is its components, particularly gearing and brakes. The explosion of popularity and interest in gravel cycling pretty much guarantees that a frame from a major manufacturer is going to be "good" and will meet (and probably exceed) your needs and ability as you re-enter the cycling world with an orientation to the fun(ner) side of it. What you are willing/able to spend to be focused on get the best components you can on a frame that meets your needs and wants.
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Old 09-04-22, 10:05 AM
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I understand and agree with both of you. I was a road cyclist for a number of years so I’m somewhat familiar with fit and varying geometries. I haven’t been in the sport for a while but that part is constant. I have also obsessed about components like a proper cyclist should and although better is always better but I know I am pretty happy with anything at the 105 equivalent and above. I bought a cheap mountain bike a couple years ago just to have a bike in the garage but didn’t ride it. Never felt comfortable or inspired.

From my previous experience in cycling I tend to like something a little longer in the top tube. I’m 6’0” and have a longer torso so the only bikes I didn’t get along with were the really tight ones. I’m not a spring chicken anymore and have never been a climber body type so I prefer not to slam the stem either. And I will obviously take all of that into account when I go out shopping.

So maybe I’ll ask the question different. It appears there are a number of aluminum bikes out there at the component spec I am comfortable with in the $1500-2000 range. The Giant is attractive at $2500-2700 for a carbon frame. I am trying to get comfortable with what makes the most sense. Save a grand or get a carbon bike. Sometimes questions on forums are helpful because I can get a feel for what is going on. I realize it is not an exact science and that there are several factors. I’m really just trying to get a feel for what people think about the aluminum versus carbon frames from the main manufacturers. I have seen plenty of cool bikes searching the Internet but I think I am better off buying something that I can put my hands on first.

so I guess my rephrase the question then would be, what is the smartest way to spend between $1500 and $2500 on a new gravel bike four baby larger, older guy who is primarily going to ride flat gravel roads in South Florida. Once I get a fitness base under me and decide that I like it I would love to do some group events and even travel around a bit. At this point I’m not completely sure what my options are although I do know there are a number of Shell rock roads around here.
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Old 09-04-22, 04:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Darylb23 View Post
... I am trying to get comfortable with what makes the most sense. Save a grand or get a carbon bike.
For the riding you're planning on doing, an aluminum bike should be completely adequate. You don't need to spend the money to get carbon. But in my case, I wanted a carbon bike and knew if I bought aluminum, I'd be thinking that I really would like a carbon bike, so I got one. I have no doubt that an aluminum bike would work just as well for my rides, but I knew that if I bought an aluminum bike, I'd be lusting to "move up" to carbon. I'm not even trying to argue that carbon is a move up from aluminum. I'm saying it's nice to get exactly what you want. So, if your question is whether you'd really be noticeably better off with a carbon bike, probably not. But if your question is that you'd really like a carbon bike and should you spend the extra money (which was my question), I'd say spend the money to get the bike you want rather than riding one bike while thinking about moving on to another.
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Old 09-04-22, 06:45 PM
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carbon vs aluminum frame alone additional $1000 - 1500 ?

are there also component differences ?
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Old 09-04-22, 07:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Random11 View Post
For the riding you're planning on doing, an aluminum bike should be completely adequate. You don't need to spend the money to get carbon. But in my case, I wanted a carbon bike and knew if I bought aluminum, I'd be thinking that I really would like a carbon bike, so I got one. I have no doubt that an aluminum bike would work just as well for my rides, but I knew that if I bought an aluminum bike, I'd be lusting to "move up" to carbon. I'm not even trying to argue that carbon is a move up from aluminum. I'm saying it's nice to get exactly what you want. So, if your question is whether you'd really be noticeably better off with a carbon bike, probably not. But if your question is that you'd really like a carbon bike and should you spend the extra money (which was my question), I'd say spend the money to get the bike you want rather than riding one bike while thinking about moving on to another.

That is a great answer. And you are probably right. Iím likely trying to justify having a carbon bike, just because I want one. All of my previous bikes were steel. Two of them were very nice steel. I still wish I had held on to the Serotta. Amazing steel bike. Good stuff. Thank you.
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Old 09-06-22, 11:02 AM
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I propose that long-term owner happiness is actually not about the material at all, but more about "enduring confidence that you did the cool thing." Stay with me here... Gosh, we get questions like this every week, right? Should I spend up for this or that, can I save some dough on that or the other. But all the questions seem to be about avoiding a potential regret. I think there are two kinds of buyers out there - one type gets greater satisfaction in buying-up on technology, the other type gets greater satisfaction in saving money while meeting the objective. "I love my bike because it has really cool stuff like CF frame and Di2." "I love my bike because I go just as fast as those cats and have an extra $1000 in my pocket." Both are happy campers, both should have fun on the group ride, whether A ride or C ride. The only answer to this is "what is going to make you happy? get that and go enjoy it." The only consistent source of regret I see around here is when the budget doesn't match the aspirations, then the difficulties start to spiral.
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Old 09-06-22, 02:44 PM
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The Giant Revolt Advanced is not low end carbon. I've been riding one for just over a year and it's been joy & smiles to ride. Super fun on gravel & off-road whether you're bike packing or racing. I've done both and with the right tires it's not bad on pavement either.

Re: Carbon vs aluminum, I've owned a Giant Defy in both AL and CF. Same wheels, tires, components. The CF was barely 1lb lighter so no huge difference there. But the difference in ride quality was noticeable. CF has less buzz on chip seal & feels smoother.
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Old 09-07-22, 10:02 AM
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Originally Posted by blacknbluebikes View Post
potential regret. .

This is always big with me. And I know this is one of "those" forum questions and I apologize for that. Thank you for your insight. It is very helpful.
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Old 09-07-22, 10:02 AM
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Originally Posted by veloz View Post
The Giant Revolt Advanced is not low end carbon. I've been riding one for just over a year and it's been joy & smiles to ride. Super fun on gravel & off-road whether you're bike packing or racing. I've done both and with the right tires it's not bad on pavement either.

Re: Carbon vs aluminum, I've owned a Giant Defy in both AL and CF. Same wheels, tires, components. The CF was barely 1lb lighter so no huge difference there. But the difference in ride quality was noticeable. CF has less buzz on chip seal & feels smoother.


Great information. Thank you.
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Old 09-07-22, 12:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Darylb23 View Post

so I guess my rephrase the question then would be, what is the smartest way to spend between $1500 and $2500 on a new gravel bike four baby larger, older guy who is primarily going to ride flat gravel roads in South Florida. Once I get a fitness base under me and decide that I like it I would love to do some group events and even travel around a bit. At this point Iím not completely sure what my options are although I do know there are a number of Shell rock roads around here.
All things being equal, a high-end carbon frame will weigh about a pound less than a high-end alu frame. On the road, alu and carbon frames sure sound different, but fitted with the same components, particularly tires and saddle, the ride will be indistinguishable. There is a lot of arm waving and extolling about the 'ride' of this frame material or that, but the bottom line is it all comes down to the saddle and tires. And tire pressure of course. I own multiple bikes in each of Ti, Alu, carbon and steel, and if kitted out similarly, I cannot tell the difference.

Best bang for the buck: a 5-year old team-level cyclocross bike, without disc brakes. Formerly sponsored riders are selling these for nothing, and these bikes will give you 2-3 component levels higher than a new disc-equipped gravel or 'cross-style bike. And without the useless fussy ballast of discs, will come in several pounds lighter. So between the lighter rim brake frame, fork and wheels, and the high-end component set, you should come in at 4+ pounds lighter than a new disc setup.

With the vast amount of money saved, you'll upgrade the rim brakes to TRP 8.4 mini-Vs, which are super easy to set up, maintain, and have great modulation and stopping power.
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Old 09-07-22, 01:36 PM
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One issue you may want to consider is whether or not you might want to mount some kind of rack to carry stuff on your bike. Rack attachment points are somewhat rare on many carbon frames, but more plentiful on aluminum. With tires sufficiently sized, and appropriately inflated (lower pressure), ride quality need not be compromised when riding an aluminum bike on rough surfaces.
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Old 09-07-22, 04:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Darylb23 View Post
so I guess my rephrase the question then would be, what is the smartest way to spend between $1500 and $2500 on a new gravel bike four baby larger, older guy who is primarily going to ride flat gravel roads in South Florida. Once I get a fitness base under me and decide that I like it I would love to do some group events and even travel around a bit. At this point I’m not completely sure what my options are although I do know there are a number of Shell rock roads around here.
It depends on so many things.

How the carbon is layed up is critical. I've ridden (older) high end carbon bikes that I considered unrideable because they were way way too stiff (ever ridden a carbon bike from ~2005?). that was the fashion. Similarly, if ya get a bike from china or a no name brand, how is it gonna ride? Impossible to tell by looking at specs.

I've ridden high end Aluminum for years (again, older stuff). I find that a good stiff frame can be a nice ride with a good seat post and some cush tires. The stiff frame ensures good power delivery, while the tires & seat post give me comfort.

Ultimately you'll only know by trying it out. By trying out the same bike in carbon vs Aluminum I have found the aluminum bike to be stiffer and more buzzy feeling. Good carbon can give very efficient power transfer, while still being relatively compliant where it counts.

What is good aluminum? This would be shaped and hydroformed aluminum (not the basic round tubes). about 10 years ago, Salsa designed their aluminum bike to be more compliant than the titanium bike it replaced. That is pretty impressive.

For you specifically, it depends on how often you ride and your price sensitivity.
My carbon bike is stupid fast. Yet that only matters when I am accelerating, sprinting, or race conditions (say 500-1000watts). For cruising around at a steady state (say 150 watts) it makes no difference at all. For a steady mile pace, I'm as fast on a new carbon as a 30 year old steel bike. The steel bike is noodly, and feels like its gonna bend in half if I try to do a hard sprint, but at normal power levels, its quite fine.

for you, I don't think speed or weight will make that much of a difference (unless you become a sprinter). The comfort might. Keep in mind that carbon abrades pretty easily. I'm not gonna hand mine off the back of my car where it can wobble around and get too much rubbing - even frame bags can be an issue, but don't hesitate to do those things with a metal bike.
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Old 09-09-22, 09:34 AM
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Can someone please post an example of "high end aluminum" gravel/CX bike? I'm super confused about what kind of bike this is. Outside of a few rare exceptions, every manufacturer I'm aware of who sells aluminum frame bikes does so only at the lower end of the price spectrum. The only reason I would specifically seek out aluminum over carbon is price. Conversely, there aren't many examples of low vs high end carbon anyomre, at least for gravel/CX bikes. They all use the same frames across the board. The days of "hi-modulus" framesets being sold at the upper end for these types of bikes seem to be over.

I own an older rim brake CX bike (Cannondale CAADX) that is aluminum - no idea if this qualifies as "high end" or not, but it was a mid-level 105 equipped bike when I bought it. I've since upgraded the drivetrain to SRAM Force 1x, Avid Shorty Ultimate brakes and I also have carbon and tubular wheelsets for it. It's a 17lb bike that has served me well for many years of recreational CX racing. I just ran it this week for a weeknight CX practice clinic and it's a solid bike that gets the job done.

I also have a newer carbon CX bike (Cannondale SuperX) that has GRX800, carbon wheels, carbon handlebar. The two bikes weigh nearly the same, have similar geometry, and I've matched the fit on the two bikes exactly and frequently switch between them. Even ignoring the differences in braking (disc is far superior), my carbon bike is better in every aspect. It's smooth, fast and feels like it responds to accelerations better, seems to have more traction when climbing, feels more stable when descending, and is generally just more pleasant to ride. The only advantage the aluminum bike has is that I have a tubular wheelset for it, and tubular is still better than the best tubeless. (This is obviously a problem I could solve for my SuperX, but I've gotta draw the line somewhere... )

Y'all can question my reasoning I suppose, but with two very similarly equipped bikes that have similar geometry and specs, I choose the carbon bike 100% of the time.
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Old 09-09-22, 09:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Darylb23 View Post
I know I am pretty happy with anything at the 105 equivalent and above.
Originally Posted by Darylb23 View Post
So maybe I’ll ask the question different. It appears there are a number of aluminum bikes out there at the component spec I am comfortable with in the $1500-2000 range. The Giant is attractive at $2500-2700 for a carbon frame. I am trying to get comfortable with what makes the most sense. Save a grand or get a carbon bike.
If you can get a 105 bike for $1500, that would be my first choice. There's a lot of value there, even if the frame is aluminum and not carbon. Assuming all other things are equal, spending another $1000 just to get a carbon frame is probably not a great bang for your buck.

I also think there's an argument to be made that a $1500 aluminum bike with $1000 aftermarket wheelset might actually be better than a $2500 carbon bike with OEM stock wheels, but that's probably a discussion for another thread.
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Old 09-09-22, 09:48 AM
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Cannondale Aluminum Topstone 1 is near high end, priced at $2300. GRX 11 spd group.
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Old 09-09-22, 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post
Cannondale Aluminum Topstone 1 is near high end, priced at $2300. GRX 11 spd group.
Yeah, this is probably the top end of the market for an aluminum frame - a mix of GRX 600/800.
I guess my point was more that this frame is identical to the $1300 Topstone 4. Cannondale isn't making a higher-end aluminum frame to go along with a higher spec build, and they also aren't selling an Ultegra or full GRX800 (or any electronic shifting) alloy topstone, nor do they appear to have builds with upgraded wheels, etc, so if you want those things you'd be looking at the carbon frame models.
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Old 09-09-22, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Darylb23 View Post
...I was a road cyclist for a number of years so I’m somewhat familiar with fit and varying geometries. I haven’t been in the sport for a while...
Well... Welcome back! It's gonna be fun!

Finding the right bicycle and fit can be as hard as finding that holy grail, "The Comfortable Saddle".

I would suggest buying a cheap quasi road bike and ridding for a while to see where your at. Road biking may not even be your thing any more. You can always go for an economical, light gravel, vintage conversion. Ride it till you decide what you need. Then keep it for a back up when the other vehicles fail...

Purchasing a new well made bicycle is a considerable investment for sure!

As to the OP: Carbon v/s Aluminum? Scratching my head... Duh!
(as a frequent other poster has stated "steel is real"...
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Old 09-09-22, 12:41 PM
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Originally Posted by zandoval View Post

As to the OP: Carbon v/s Aluminum? Scratching my head... Duh!
(as a frequent other poster has stated "steel is real"...

No doubt! Actually all of my previous road bikes were steel. I certainly have no aversion to a steel bike but what I learned today is there are very few actual physical bikes of any material to put your hands on. I called and drove around some today and I saw and heard of maybe 4 gravel bikes in stock around here. I haven't checked everywhere yet but same story everywhere. they can't get them.

Of all the bikes from today, the only one near my size was a BMC. I'm assuming that is what we mean by higher end aluminum because it was quite nice. Runs $2600 with Apex so definitely not budget aluminum. If I can't find something else to look at, I will consider it for sure. I have no doubt it is a quality bike, just would prefer to have options.
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Old 09-16-22, 01:30 PM
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So at this point I'm finding the BMC, the Giant Revolt Advanced seems to be available but I have yet to be able to confidently confirm what size I need. I also have been told there is a Fuji Jari 1.3 and a Marin Headlands 2 at a shop in size 56, which in theory would fit. I'm trying to be able to get to the shops to try them but would love input on any of those if anyone is bored.
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Old 09-16-22, 02:31 PM
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Get a custom titanium and it’s guaranteed to fit.
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Old 09-16-22, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Ghazmh View Post
Get a custom titanium and itís guaranteed to fit.


I believe you are correct. I would need to pass the hat to make that happen though. I would actually love to go through the process of a custom bike but not able to justify the cost at this point.
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Old 09-16-22, 03:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Ghazmh View Post
Get a custom titanium and itís guaranteed to fit.
Why I love these forums!
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