Carbon Fibre vs Aluminium vs Steel vs Titanium

What is the real difference between carbon fibre vs aluminium vs steel vs titanium…

What are the pros and cons of each material?

Carbon Fibre

Most high-end bikes are made from this material and for good reason:

Pros

  • Lightest, strongest, stiffest material
  • Best shock absorption
  • Infinitely mouldable to any design
  • Flexible where it needs to be
  • Won’t rust or corrode like steel

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not all carbon is created equal
  • Can crack/fracture
  • Strength and stiffness depend on design

Aluminiun

Many entry level bikes are made from aluminium because it can be made stiff and light enough for a great ride.

Pros

  • Light
  • Strong
  • Stiff
  • Mouldable
  • Great for climbing and sprinting
  • Won’t rust or corrode
  • Less expensive than carbon fibre

Cons:

  • Harsh on rough roads
  • Can fatigue over time (Leads to overbuilding which adds to weight)
  • Not easily repaired
  • Weak joints

Steel

Steel will last a life time. It is also the easiest to repair, making it a great bike for touring.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Strong
  • Flexes enough for a soft ride
  • Most durable of all the materials
  • Lively feel
  • Easy to work with and repair

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Prone to rust/corrosion
  • Flexes too much for racing

Titanium

Titanium is a metal that takes aspects from aluminium and steel. It has better shock absorption that aluminium but is not quite as light.

Pros

  • Its density is between that of steel and aluminum which makes it stiff but shock absorbing
  • Lively feel
  • Shock absorbing
  • Does not corrode

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Difficult to make aero shapes due to welding considerations
  • Difficult to repair
  • Stiffness is traded for reduced weight

In summary: Each material has different qualities that you should keep in mind when you go to purchase your next ride.