Need a Road Bike? Ride Aluminum

Ignore what the shophands, old men straddling Dogma F8’s and those dastardly bike reviewers tell you — aluminum is not harsh, not weak, not heavy, not terrible. Not anymore, not for a long while. The use of aluminum, which first rose to cycling eminence in the ’80s and ’90s, has evolved in the past three decades with ginormous strides from major manufacturers and custom builders. Shaping by hydroforming (Cannondale calls this “Smartformed”; Specialized calls it “Smartweld”) now makes joints stronger, tube shapes more compliant, and bottom brackets even stiffer. So while those fancy carbon bikes are extremely, fantastically good, aluminum gives riders all of the same perks at a quarter of the cost.

If you’re in the market for an aluminum bike, inevitably, people will point out that you should buy a carbon fiber bike, if you have the money. They’ll say: “carbon fiber is lighter, stiffer and more compliant,” implying that it is, therefore, better. But this argument is flawed. The best carbon fiber layups and designs can achieve better strength to weight and stiffness to weight ratios than aluminum, but that doesn’t mean a carbon fiber bike is inherently lighter, stiffer and more compliant than an aluminum bicycle. And, neither means that it’ll make a difference to most riders.

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Matthew Ankeny