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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
It seems like the gap between a quality aluminum bike and a quality carbon bike is closing on the price front. Most major bike manufacturers have invested significant resources into developing "new and improved" alloy bikes in the last two years. It also seems like less people are married to carbon than there were a few years ago and like more people are willing to acknowledge that a quality aluminum frame can make a great all around performer if it is built up with the right components and wheels.

Is this just a figment of my imagination or is aluminum truly experiencing a new glory era? If so, are any of you ready to call them just as good as carbon bikes or is there still a frame material hierarchy in your minds?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Here's a few aluminum models that have impressed some folks:

Trek Emonda ALR 6 review - Cycling Weekly

Road Bike Action | First Ride: Specialized Allez DSW Sprint X2

Cannondale CAAD12 105 review - BikeRadar USA

Review: Giant Contend SL 1 | road.cc

FIRST LOOK: Fuji's New Adventure Bike, 2017 Roubaix & Ultra Light SL 2.1 Disc - Bicycling Australia

I guess the other side of the argument is that carbon bikes have never been more affordable. With some brands like Giant or Fuji, the price difference between a high end aluminum bike and a low to middle of the road carbon bike is so close that you might as well choose carbon. But is that assumption always accurate? Even with big brands, is the carbon bike always the best option today?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
There is. And neither of those is in my top two.
Let me guess, titanium and steel? How do they truly and objectively outpace the modern aluminum and carbon bike though? Is it just assumptions and marketing lines or are there real value differences today that will matter when we throw our legs over a bike with 25-30mm tires for a 2-4 hour ride that includes climbs, descents, and a few sprints?
 

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My aluminum BMC with a carbon fork/steerer is awesome. No downsides over carbon at all for me until a weld or something cracks. The weight isn't much of a problem at all, I still have several climbing KOMs on it.

When it does eventually die it'll be replaced with another aluminum BMC.
 

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Fair enough. The subjective preference thing is always legit. My bad on the misinterpretation.
No problem.

Durability probably does objectively go to ti and steel (extreme weight weenie tubing aside) and that is one of the reason they are my favorite. But you asked about sprinting, climbing, basically riding and yeah, nothing objective I can say there.

Of the bikes I've tried for any length of time, the Ti ones have been the best followed by steel. But I know that's probably just coincidence that I tried a Ti and steel bikes that suites my preferences perfectly.

I had a carbon bike for about 50,000 miles. That would be my favorite if short all out rides was my 'thing' but it's aint. Stiff as fck, light and great for sprinting. But sprinting makes up about .000001 of my miles so I look at other traits more.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
My aluminum BMC with a carbon fork/steerer is awesome. No downsides over carbon at all for me until a weld or something cracks. The weight isn't much of a problem at all, I still have several climbing KOMs on it.

When it does eventually die it'll be replaced with another aluminum BMC.
Cool. Which model is it? I like BMC bikes in general.

I guess that does bring up one strength that titanium has though, it doesn't rust and is really tough to dent or bend, so it tends to last a lot longer. It comes at a hefty price increase though and unless you want a bike you can can ride for a really long time and you aren't the type that enjoys getting something new every 3-5 years, is it really worth it. I guess the answer to that one is subjective as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
No problem.

Durability probably does objectively go to ti and steel (extreme weight weenie tubing aside) and that is one of the reason they are my favorite. But you asked about sprinting, climbing, basically riding and yeah, nothing objective I can say there.

Of the bikes I've tried for any length of time, the Ti ones have been the best followed by steel. But I know that's probably just coincidence that I tried a Ti and steel bikes that suites my preferences perfectly.

I had a carbon bike for about 50,000 miles. That would be my favorite if short all out rides was my 'thing' but it's aint. Stiff as fck, light and great for sprinting. But sprinting makes up about .000001 of my miles so I look at other traits more.
I can live with that. Makes sense.
 

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Another nod for the BMC GF-02 Aluminum here. It was my first 'nice' bike, and I still have it. It has excellent compliance in the rear end (chain stays and seatpost). Stiff in all the right places, compliant in the others.

I think I paid $900 for it slightly used with 105 5800 on it, which I consider an excellent value.

I think the GF-02 Aluminum has been replaced by the RoadMachine RM-03 aluminum. I remember seeing them in the shop when they first came out and if I recall had a decent tire clearance (more than the carbon versions). They probably don't qualify as a value at two grand for the Tiagra version, but if you could get a frameset in good condition used and build it with some Ultegra 6800 it would be a sweet bike.
 

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Of the bikes I've tried for any length of time, the Ti ones have been the best followed by steel. But I know that's probably just coincidence that I tried a Ti and steel bikes that suites my preferences perfectly.
Other than liking Ti and steel the best, what is it you like about these? Comfort and less fatigue on long rides?
 

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I think aluminum's renaissance, if there is one, is a combination of mfrs pricing themselves out of the market and people realizing that once they moved beyond 23c tires @ 110psi they got a much nicer ride regardless of material. I have a plebeian aluminum bike. I say without exaggerating that when I put GP4000s on it, it felt like a new bike. If only they flatted less.
 

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Other than liking Ti and steel the best, what is it you like about these? Comfort and less fatigue on long rides?
There is that but more specifically that not at the expense of feeling good sprinting and standing on climbs.
When putting down the hammer they feel more "springy" than the carbon good sprinting bikes I've used which do it with pure stiffness. I prefer the springy over the outright stiffness.

Comfort is no big deal. Big tires and soft frames can do that. But doing it not at the expense of sprinting feel is where I think steel and Ti excel compared to carbon and alloy. And I fully realize that could be in my head and or unique to the specific individual frames of each material that I'd tried.
 

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There is that but more specifically that not at the expense of feeling good sprinting and standing on climbs.
When putting down the hammer they feel more "springy" than the carbon good sprinting bikes I've used which do it with pure stiffness. I prefer the springy over the outright stiffness.

Comfort is no big deal. Big tires and soft frames can do that. But doing it not at the expense of sprinting feel is where I think steel and Ti excel compared to carbon and alloy. And I fully realize that could be in my head and or unique to the specific individual frames of each material that I'd tried.
Interesting. I know there is plenty of info out there which claims to debunk one frame material being superior or having a better feel than another.

The takeaway I get is that while these so called "myths" about "aluminum is harsh" or "Ti is whippy" or "carbon feels dead" or "steel is great on long rides" are myth only in theory. In other words; and this is just my gut feeling, nothing else; while it may be theoretically possible to make a bike with an aluminum frame as comfy as a steel or Ti bike, this generally doesn't happen.
 

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The only way aluminum can compete with carbon fiber is on price. Carbon frames are just lighter, stronger, and stiffer, plus carbon fiber has a much longer fatigue life. Carbon frames can be tuned by putting more or less material in individual locations on the frame that need more or less strength or stiffness.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
The only way aluminum can compete with carbon fiber is on price. Carbon frames are just lighter, stronger, and stiffer, plus carbon fiber has a much longer fatigue life. Carbon frames can be tuned by putting more or less material in individual locations on the frame that need more or less strength or stiffness.
I think we all know that these are the arguments that have been made for years, but is this still truly the case with everything that is being done with aluminum, steel, and titanium (if it is to be believed)? For instance, I have seen plenty of sub 16lb aluminum bikes and a number of carbon ones that 17+lbs in the same size similarly spec'd. In addition, the work Specialized did on the Allez Sprint bob shell is pretty amazing and very similar to carbon in stiffness and tube shapes. The Caad12 reportedly is as comfortable as any carbon bike. So, maybe this is a gap that actually no longer exists? I am not convinced one way or the other yet, but I am wondering.

The flip side of the coin is that you can now get a nice carbon Fuji SL, Fuji Transonic, Giant TCR Advanced or Giant Defy for pretty much the same price as an alloy bike.
 

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There is that but more specifically that not at the expense of feeling good sprinting and standing on climbs.
When putting down the hammer they feel more "springy" than the carbon good sprinting bikes I've used which do it with pure stiffness. I prefer the springy over the outright stiffness.

Comfort is no big deal. Big tires and soft frames can do that. But doing it not at the expense of sprinting feel is where I think steel and Ti excel compared to carbon and alloy. And I fully realize that could be in my head and or unique to the specific individual frames of each material that I'd tried.
I'm with you there. The (very subjective) feel of a good Ti frame is hard to beat. I recently went shopping to replace my straight-gauge Ti road bike. I did extended rides on an Emonda ALR 6 Pro, an older Madone 5.2, a new Madone 9.2, and my bike. All of this was on the same route. In the end, I kept my Ti bike and upgraded the drivetrain to 6800, as that was really the only thing that I liked more about the newer bikes. I will say that the difference in comfort between all of them was noticeable, even when 3 out of 4 had 25s (23s on the 9.2) at the same 90 psi. Obviously, the 9.2 was the least comfy but most responsive to power. The others? Stereotypes applied a little bit to these particular options, to be honest. Frame material isn't the sole determining factor when it comes to ride comfort, but tires also aren't everything. There are lots of factors, and everything has a compromise.

If I had pulled the trigger, the ALR 6 Pro would have won, hands down, over any of the carbon offerings. I like how aluminum is making a bit of a comeback in the mid-level market. The cost advantage with that particular bike was pretty significant when compared to a similarly-specced carbon bike. There was a little compromise in comfort in certain conditions (mostly fast, broken pavement) and it may have weighed a slight bit more, but the carbon equivalent certainly wasn't $1000 or whatever nicer to ride. I was not a huge fan of the carbon rim brake wheels though... aluminum there as well please.

Also, while carbon has the potential to last forever and all of that, the assembly process seems like it can introduce more problems than it can in a metal frame. I also don't like having to worry about paint or my bike falling over on some rocks, so Ti wins there too.
 
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