Does aluminium still have a place in a market dominated by
It has been nearly 20 years since Marco Pantani became the last
man to win the Tour de France on an aluminium bike (a Bianchi Mega
Pro XL) and since then the peloton, along with the consumer market,
has come to be dominated by carbon fibre.
There are four main frame materials of choice but it's aluminium
that has unfairly been relegated to the cheaper end of the road
bike market because it's easy to mass produce cheaply. Titanium and
steel remain expensive materials to work and don't lend themselves
to mass production, while carbon fibre, once extremely expensive
when it was new and exciting, has become a lot more affordable over
But there are many good reasons for making a high-end frame from
aluminium and in the two decades since Pantani's victory, a number
of bicycle manufacturers have been keeping the aluminium flame
alive. Despite investing millions in carbon fibre development and
manufacturing, they've continued to develop aluminium, pushing it
ever closer to its limit.
That means you can buy an aluminium frame that's nearly as light
(in some cases lighter) as many carbon frames, provides an
excellent strength to weight ratio, has more compliance than you'd
expect and it's a heck of a lot cheaper. It's notable that carbon
has become a lot more affordable but the frame still commands a
large part of the price tag in an off-the-shelf build, and that's
where aluminium provides a good alternative.
Aluminium frames are also tough, making them ideal for racing.
Carbon may be strong but it is brittle and can fail under the right
circumstances. Aluminium will dent or bend long before it fails.
And don't believe the line about aluminium frames being harsh and
uncomfortable to ride. The latest aluminium developments have made
big progress in the comfort department.