What Material Should Your Next Bike Be Made Out Of?

man and bike

The four common materials that bike frames are made of include steel, carbon, aluminum and titanium. While there are pros and cons for each, the bike that is ultimately best for you will be based on what type of riding you plan on doing. Do you plan on biking as a hobby, go into competitive cycling or enjoy leisure rides around the neighborhood?

Steel-Framed Bikes

Once upon a time, all bikes had steel frames. Up until the 1970s, steel was the most durable material from which to build a bike on.

While steel may be hardy and stiff, it is also heavy. In fact, steel is the heaviest bike frame option.

Over the years, techniques have been invented to take away some of the weight from steel’s natural heaviness, including the process of “butting” where parts of the pipes that make up the frame have thinner or thicker walls.

Another way manufacturers make steel bikes lighter is combining the steel with a lighter, more flexible metal to create an alloy.

While steel-framed bikes are known to have a springy, comfortable ride, they are heavy, making them more ideal for touring than in competitive cycling.

Carbon-Framed Bikes

Carbon has become a popular bike frame material in recent years. Many major bike brands have carbon-fiber frame models available.

Carbon-framed bikes have become a favorite for bike club and trendy riders.

Raw carbon-fiber is hard to come by as it is only manufactured by a small number of companies. On top of that, most of the raw carbon-fiber gets designated to the aerospace industry.

Carbon-fiber by itself is brittle and insufficient to be used in the frame of a bike. To improve its strength and stiffness, the carbon is mixed with resin.

Carbon-framed bikes are lighter than steel-framed bikes and provide a stiff ride, which is preferable for some riders.

Carbon-framed bikes, however, can still be weak and collapse under stress. The weakness of carbon-framed bikes are worsened when the frame is damaged (something that can be easily done). A damaged carbon-framed bike may not show outward signs of damage until bike failure occurs.

Aluminum-Framed Bikes

Before the carbon bike frame craze hit, aluminum was the desired bike frame material.

Aluminum is lightweight, stiff and durable, making it still one of the most popular bike frame materials.

Aluminum is also more readily available than carbon, making it cheaper and more affordable.

Bikes with aluminum frames are made from an alloy, not pure aluminum, with tubes and pipes having been “butted” to lighten the weight and produce a more desirable strength to weight ratio.

Aluminum-framed bikes aren’t as light and stiff as those with carbon frames. These bikes, however, deliver a rougher ride and dent easily. Aluminum-framed bikes will also wear out and corrode over time.

Titanium-Frame Bikes

When you think of titanium, you probably think of airplanes, biomedical implants, and golf clubs.

Titanium, has, however, come to be a premier material for bike frames.

Bike frames made of titanium have a distinct silver look to them.

Titanium-framed bikes feature all one desires in a quality bike: light weight, stiffness, a comfortable, springy ride and long-lasting durability.

Like aluminum and carbon, titanium is combined with another metal to create a strong, sturdy alloy for the bike frame.

Titanium is strong as steel, but weighs a fraction of the weight. It is very durable, resistant to denting, corrosion and rusting.

Titanium-framed bikes have a more comfortable ride, better performance, longer durability and continue to look good over a longer period of time than the other bike frame metals. Titanium can also handle a beating due to rough, prolonged use.

As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. Titanium bikes are the most expensive  of the options, but the quality, dependability, durability, performance and comfort of a titanium-framed bike will be well-worth it and will give you many years of enjoyable riding.

Titanium’s unique properties make it ideal for a variety of uses, including bike frames.

While we at Titanium Processing Center don’t have pre-made titanium bike frames, we have a variety of titanium grades in different shapes and sizes that can be used to produce high-quality bike frames.

If you have a project that requires titanium tubing, contact us today to learn about our inventory of titanium products.