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Carbon vs. Aluminum Frame

Old 07-09-13, 07:12 PM
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Carbon vs. Aluminum Frame

I figured this has been posted before but a quick search didn't find anything I thought was relevant, so I apologize if this is redundant. I'm looking to get my first cyclocross bike and race 'cross this season. I've been racing on the road and mtb for the past three years and want to give 'cross a try. For my first year racing, will there be a noticeable difference between a carbon frame and an aluminum frame? Specifically, I've been looking at the 2014 Specialized Crux Elite Rival Disc (carbon with Rival rear derailleur) versus the Crux Sport Apex Disc (alum. with apex rear derailleur). There's a $750 retail price difference, with the main difference being a carbon frame and Rival rear derailleur. Is it worth spending the extra money for carbon and rival or should I save the money and get some tubular wheels? Thanks!
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Old 07-10-13, 09:58 AM
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I think that a good hydro-formed aluminum frame CX bike will perform as good as carbon with only a slightly (not noticable) weight disadvantage. The older Cannondale CAAD9 CX frames are my personal favorite.
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Old 07-10-13, 11:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Erik_A
I think that a good hydro-formed aluminum frame CX bike will perform as good as carbon with only a slightly (not noticable) weight disadvantage. The older Cannondale CAAD9 CX frames are my personal favorite.
Thank you for the response. Currently I'm leaning towards aluminum. Final price and availability, along with research into other brands, will likely be the deciding factor. I wanted to make sure there wasn't going to be a big noticable difference between the two.
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Old 07-10-13, 03:14 PM
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Unless you are in good enough shape to EXPECT a podium finish, the carbon frame and tubular wheels are likely overkill on your first CX bike. The weight might make some small difference in your time, but IMO, you are better off putting the cost difference of aluminum and clinchers towards the bike you purchase after this one. The one you purchase after a couple of podium, or near podium finishes. The current bike will be your pit bike by then.
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Old 07-10-13, 03:23 PM
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I've never raced on anything but aluminum. The possible advantages of carbon are weight and stiffness. As Erik said, the weight difference between carbon and a well-made aluminum frame (which I'd say the aluminum Crux has) is pretty minimal.

Stiffness is very dependent on frame design. There are things you can do with carbon that you can't do with aluminum, but if the designer hasn't done those things the benefit is just baked in. You can only judge that by riding both models hard. Even then, I think you'd have to be more sensitive to that sort of thing than I am to feel it.

One of the biggest benefits of carbon on the road is that it absorbs road buzz. My experience with that, however, is that the kind of vibrations that carbon smooths out are of the sort that you get from riding on chip seal. Bigger bumps like rocks and roots are going to transfer pretty directly regardless of frame material and only the air in your tires will help. Consequently, I'd say this particular carbon benefit doesn't apply to cyclocross bikes.
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Old 07-10-13, 05:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Breathegood
Unless you are in good enough shape to EXPECT a podium finish, the carbon frame and tubular wheels are likely overkill on your first CX bike. The weight might make some small difference in your time, but IMO, you are better off putting the cost difference of aluminum and clinchers towards the bike you purchase after this one. The one you purchase after a couple of podium, or near podium finishes. The current bike will be your pit bike by then.
Thanks. This will be my first season racing CX, but I have been racing mtbs for several years and doing well this season on the road, so I hope that I'll be on some podiums but agree aluminum will probably be my best bet.

Originally Posted by Andy_K
I've never raced on anything but aluminum. The possible advantages of carbon are weight and stiffness. As Erik said, the weight difference between carbon and a well-made aluminum frame (which I'd say the aluminum Crux has) is pretty minimal.

Stiffness is very dependent on frame design. There are things you can do with carbon that you can't do with aluminum, but if the designer hasn't done those things the benefit is just baked in. You can only judge that by riding both models hard. Even then, I think you'd have to be more sensitive to that sort of thing than I am to feel it.

One of the biggest benefits of carbon on the road is that it absorbs road buzz. My experience with that, however, is that the kind of vibrations that carbon smooths out are of the sort that you get from riding on chip seal. Bigger bumps like rocks and roots are going to transfer pretty directly regardless of frame material and only the air in your tires will help. Consequently, I'd say this particular carbon benefit doesn't apply to cyclocross bikes.
Thanks for the insight. I'm thinking aluminum will be the way to go. Does either of you have any experience with tubeless wheels/tires for CX as an alternative to tubulars?
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Old 07-10-13, 06:48 PM
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Thanks for the insight. I'm thinking aluminum will be the way to go. Does either of you have any experience with tubeless wheels/tires for CX as an alternative to tubulars?[/QUOTE]

I don't hear of many using tubeless for racing. Tubulars are getting cheaper - I just bought a pair of Velocity Major Toms laced to 105 hubs for next season. That being said, the wider road rims like Velocity A23s work pretty great with good CX clinchers (I like the Challenge lineup: Grifo and Limus).
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Old 07-10-13, 07:06 PM
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I don't hear of many using tubeless for racing. Tubulars are getting cheaper - I just bought a pair of Velocity Major Toms laced to 105 hubs for next season. That being said, the wider road rims like Velocity A23s work pretty great with good CX clinchers (I like the Challenge lineup: Grifo and Limus).
Thanks for the advice. I'll check out the Velocity rims.
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Old 07-10-13, 07:18 PM
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Originally Posted by ttusomeone
Thanks for the advice. I'll check out the Velocity rims.
Check:
Front: https://www.treefortbikes.com/product...ont-Wheel.html
Rear: https://www.treefortbikes.com/product...ear-Wheel.html
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Old 07-10-13, 07:24 PM
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I raced cross for the first time last season on a 2012 Specialized alloy Crux, the one with canti brakes and apex group. Was never near the podium, but it wasn't the bike that was holding me back. Only change that I'm making this season is to upgrade to tubular wheels. Haven't ordered any yet, but leaning towards either the Williams cross-specific wheels https://www.williamscycling.com/CYCLO...Tubular-_p_48. or having my LBS lace up some Major Toms.
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Old 07-10-13, 07:30 PM
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I bought aluminum for my first cyclocross race bike (well, first in a couple of decades, anyway) simply because A) I doubt a few hundred grams are going to negatively affect me during what will likely be a steep learning curve, B) as I learn more about what I like and don't like from a 'cross bike I'll almost certainly end up replacing whatever frame I start out with anyway, and C) showing up on a $5000 bike and getting my ass kicked in the Cs would be pretty embarrassing.
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Old 07-10-13, 08:59 PM
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I just picked up a fairly clean 2006 Bianchi Cross Concept.

Nice gruppo upgrade with 09 Centaur.

The wheels were shot, so we are going with a budget build of A 23s and Velocity hubs.

Will run a set of Grifo CXs that I already had on the shelf.

I decided to not go with a new bike, as everything I was looking at was $500 more than my used build.

I will run four races this fall in Minnesota and it will be fun to see how the old man holds up.
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Old 07-11-13, 12:52 AM
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If you go the build-your-own route, this is a good place to start: https://pedalforce.com/online/product...9cbb8ef2c507b6

CX2 Carbon Cyclocross Frameset

$550 for frame and fork.

Use coupon code CX207042013
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