ASK MBA: SHOULD I BUY A CARBON OR ALUMINUM FRAME?

Competing materials.

Trek’s Fuel EX 8 is a good option if you’re looking for value, performance, and versatility.

COMPETING MATERIALS

Q: Hello! I’m looking to buy a new bike and am having a hard time deciding between an alloy or carbon frame. I’m kinda on a budget and would like to get the best bike I can for the money I spend. What are your thoughts on the matter?
Greg Lyst
Bozeman, Montana

A: That is an excellent question. There are a lot of bike manufacturers that make carbon and aluminum options for many of their bikes, especially trail bikes. Kona makes alloy versions of their Process 134 and 153 models that are heavier, but excellent bikes all the same. Ibis also makes alloy versions of some of their bikes, including the Ripmo AF and the Ripley AF, both of which we think are great bikes. So, why would you go alloy over carbon? Well, for some people, it’s the “bang for your buck” aspect where you look at the components on similarly priced bikes in aluminum and carbon, and choose the bike with the higher-end componentry, which is typically the alloy bike. Carbon frames are obviously more expensive to produce and thus can’t be sold for the same amount as an alloy frame. However, if they’re treated well, they tend to last a really long time.

Ibis Ripley AF

If you’re looking for a frame you’ll have for a long time and would like to build up as you go, replacing parts as you get the money or as other parts wear out, we think the carbon option is better. Carbon bikes are lighter, sure, but they also have a lot of ride characteristics we like. Things like damping trail chatter, tuned tubes for better power transfer and the like, but they are susceptible to impact damage, which can mean one rock could end your frame’s life. Alloy frames tend to dent before cracking and can often take several dents before needing to be replaced. They’re more resistant to sharp impacts, which make them ideal for riders who like to try things that might end in their frame slamming down on a rock. Our advice is to deeply consider a few things: How long you’re planning to keep the bike, what type of riding you’re planning on doing, and how good of a build you’d like to start off with.

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