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Aluminum is the new carbon fiber?

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Aluminum is the new carbon fiber?

Old 09-05-12, 10:37 PM
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Aluminum is the new carbon fiber?

Some pricey aluminum bikes are gonna be hitting the streets...

Cannondale CAAD10 racing edition $2800 Force equipped
Jamis Icon Pro $2600 Ultegra equipped
Specialized Allez S-Works $? ???

Custom Spooky or Tsunami looking like a steal...
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Old 09-05-12, 11:16 PM
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The CAAD10 weighs as much as a mid range carbon frame (1150 grams)
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Old 09-06-12, 12:11 AM
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And I'm sure it feels just as crappy as all other aluminum frames
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Old 09-06-12, 12:12 AM
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Yeah, but it's not all about the weight; there's always things like road buzz, comfort, and responsiveness.

I often find myself wondering why bicycle companies decide to push the performance limits of aluminum up to the level of carbon, rather than making carbon more affordable for the masses. (Oh wait, they have...haven't they?) I mean, there's always the idea that they're going to take innovations from this year and make them more available in future builds, but I just can't see a rider who wants to graduate up to a carbon bike sticking with aluminum. Carbon certainly doesn't have the stigma for catastrophic failure that it did ten years ago.

Maybe those prices are due to the component sets, I don't know.
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Old 09-06-12, 02:20 AM
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They're doing it because a lot of riders have gotten over the "gotta have carbon" mentality and realized that at these price points well designed aluminum rides better.
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Old 09-06-12, 02:24 AM
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Is it possible that they have to make the price high for people to buy it? I suspect too low a price tag would make some people Leary.
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Old 09-06-12, 05:02 AM
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Aluminum is a wondrous material for making all kinds of complicated things, and was the go to material for 3/4 of a century for aircraft, rockets, race cars, and far too late, TdF winning bicycles. It's hardly surprising that aluminum frames can still get the job done for all of us because whatever performance edge CF brings is small compared the edge had by even a slightly better engine..
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Old 09-06-12, 05:13 AM
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Rich people have irrational fears of asploding crabon too.
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Old 09-06-12, 05:25 AM
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Originally Posted by AK404
I often find myself wondering why bicycle companies decide to push the performance limits of aluminum up to the level of carbon, rather than making carbon more affordable for the masses.
• They're doing both. E.g. the lowest-end Specialized Tarmac is now under $2000.
• The price difference is still significant, while the ride feel and weight savings isn't that significant.
• Aluminum is still a very popular frame material, with a lot of competition.
• Some of it is for an "anchoring" effect. E.g. that $1500 aluminum bike with Apex seems like a better deal when it's compared to that $2400 aluminum bike with Rival.



Originally Posted by AK404
I mean, there's always the idea that they're going to take innovations from this year and make them more available in future builds, but I just can't see a rider who wants to graduate up to a carbon bike sticking with aluminum.
CF is still more expensive, and the price difference can be significant for many riders.


Originally Posted by AK404
Carbon certainly doesn't have the stigma for catastrophic failure that it did ten years ago.
Yeah, it kinda does. Lots of myths about frame material still persist.
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Old 09-06-12, 05:39 AM
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Wait till WOOD beats em all. New technology with wood fibers results in products stronger than carbon fiber and much less expensive.
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Old 09-06-12, 05:58 AM
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Go back ten years, substitute "steel" for "aluminum", and you have the same thread
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Old 09-06-12, 06:19 AM
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The manufacturers are just capitalizing on the myth that it is better to race on aluminum than carbon. There is an undeserved perception that aluminum is more durable and cheaper to replace than carbon.

The fact is, however, that to get these ultralight aluminum frames, the wall tubes have been made remarkably thin, and even a minor crash can result in a dent. And once aluminum is dented, it tends to crack. Oh, and aluminum can't be repaired like carbon. I have a friend who has had his carbon frame repaired twice, and each repair cost less than a discounted Caad.

And the myth is perpetuated on forums like this - note the increasingly long "Cult of Caad" thread and the continued suggestions that anybody looking for an entry level bike buy a Caad 10. Sure, it is a nice bike, but it isn't magical. But ultimately, few of those bikes will ever line up for any races.

(Disclaimer: I race a Caad 9. It replaced an older S-Works aluminum frame that cost $100 on CL and that I dented in a crash. It soon after cracked. I got a great deal on the Caad 9 frame through my team sponsor and at the time did not want to race my System 6.)
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Old 09-06-12, 07:15 AM
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If it rides as well or better than carbon, is as light as carbon, why not? Some of the lightweight AL can be fragile, that would worry me a bit, I guess. I would probably trust carbon to be more durable, but I dont think carbon is some kind of magical material that is automatically better than everything else regardless of design. I think its entirely possible that a really well-designed AL bike could be better than a mediocre CF bike selling at the same price. I think its going to be a hard sell though.
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Old 09-06-12, 07:45 AM
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The problem is these frames are relatively costly, don't ride as well as CF, and weigh more.
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Old 09-06-12, 07:50 AM
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Sounds like a lot of people are missing that bike companies (like all companies) are in business to make money. Aluminum frames (even the nice ones) are cheaper to make than carbon frames. If people will buy them they would be foolish not to push them.
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Old 09-06-12, 07:56 AM
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Originally Posted by StanSeven
The problem is these frames are relatively costly, don't ride as well as CF, and weigh more.
They are not relatively costly compared to CF; they are less expensive. Differences in ride can be very minimal (my base all-Al frame Secteur rides at least 95% as well as my CF S-Works Roubaix -- I have to ride them back-to-back to detect any difference) and the weight difference between the two bikes (both Ultegra 6700 equipped) is around 1 lb.

So, all in all the aluminum bike can offer very nearly the same performance at a lower cost and a weight penalty. Seems like a reasonable option to me.
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Old 09-06-12, 08:44 AM
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If you're comparing top of the line Al frames to top of the line carbon there is a significant weight difference. There's also at least a $2,000 price difference for the frameset alone. If we compare Al and Carbon frames on complete builds in the same price range there is no predictable weight difference. Some of the carbon frames might be lighter, but many will not be since cheap carbon typically has a lot more resin in it.

Another thing I like about aluminum (and steel and Ti) frames is that if they are damaged beyond repair you can recycle them. Carbon fiber, as far as I know, is landfill food.
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Old 09-06-12, 09:09 AM
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Originally Posted by canam73
Sounds like a lot of people are missing that bike companies (like all companies) are in business to make money. Aluminum frames (even the nice ones) are cheaper to make than carbon frames. If people will buy them they would be foolish not to push them.
I'm not sure that's universally true. I would bet that a very thin walled, butted, shaped, hand welded aluminum frame would be more costly to produce, than a mass produced, generic, CF frame like you see coming out of China on EBay.
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Old 09-06-12, 09:19 AM
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Originally Posted by StanSeven
The problem is these frames are relatively costly, don't ride as well as CF, and weigh more.
You have to take listed weights of carbon frames with a grain of salt. The published weights are usually those of frames fresh out of the mold, sans paint, clear, F & RD hangers etc. In the smallest sizes. The costly ~700gm Evo frame is more like 850gms in the flesh.
The appeal of premium aluminum is a "liveliness" lacking in lower end carbon frames. Which have a plastic feel. That might be a good thing if you ride on crappy roads. I realize this is unquantifiable.
Light alloy frames are fragile compared to carbon and the manipulation of the material is limited though.
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Old 09-06-12, 09:25 AM
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Companies that make bike frames want to sell them. There's a market for alu. (It's mostly people with an irrational fear of carbon.)
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Old 09-06-12, 09:26 AM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh
I'm not sure that's universally true. I would bet that a very thin walled, butted, shaped, hand welded aluminum frame would be more costly to produce, than a mass produced, generic, CF frame like you see coming out of China on EBay.
You would think so. I can't picture high end aluminum frames coming from China selling for $350 on eBay. Even if there was a market for them. I'd also have more faith in the integrity of a cheap carbon frame than a cheap 1100gm aluminum one.
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Old 09-06-12, 09:37 AM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh
I'm not sure that's universally true. I would bet that a very thin walled, butted, shaped, hand welded aluminum frame would be more costly to produce, than a mass produced, generic, CF frame like you see coming out of China on EBay.
Personally I'd need to see some numbers on that before I believed it.

But even if true, Cannondale isn't selling a Caad instead of a no-warranty ebay carbon frame. They are selling you a Caad in lieu of a CF frame that goes through whatever processes they need to do before they put their name on it.
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Old 09-06-12, 09:53 AM
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I think this is just common sense. There aren't all that many mass production AL bikes out there with groups above 105. Cannondale currently has this market pretty much to themselves amongst big name makers. It looks to me that Jamis and Specialized are just taking a crack at it. I think it's a good move aimed at those riders who place the components in front of the frame material.
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Old 09-06-12, 09:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest
Companies that make bike frames want to sell them. There's a market for alu. (It's mostly people with an irrational fear of carbon.)
or for those without the budget for carbon. I would love to have an apex/rival equip'd carbon bike, but sadly I don't have the cash for either. my $750 apex AL bike will have to do until then. from the folks i know, that irrational fear of carbon has nearly nothing to do with it, its all about cost of entry. even a sora equipped tarmac retails at 1750, a sora equppied allez is nearly half the price.
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Old 09-06-12, 09:56 AM
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I don't know personally if I'd feel comfortable spending a ton of money on an aluminum frame. Carbon can be repaired. Aluminum, not so much.
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