Carbon Fiber Mountain Bikes: Carbon, Titanium or Aluminum?

Looking for the proper material for your frame depends on the biking involved. Many factors play a part in choosing the right frame material for you. Different alloys means different properties in strength or weakness so choosing the stead for your ride depends on a culmination of budget, style and landscape.

Ongoing progress in light weight and ultra-durable materials have continued to keep up with the curve and the growing number of mountain bikers throughout the world. It will be interesting to see the evolution of current materials into other synthetic or combined alloys that will push the limit with strength, consistent maneuverability and featherweight design. Typically the three major compounds riders deal with are carbon fiber, aluminum and titanium. These metals make up most of bicycles on the market, but vary in prices and attributes.

Titanium is among the more expensive but it has powerful corrosion resistant properties that rival even platinum. Titanium can be guaranteed to last past expectations and continue to maintain the same durability and appearance it did the day you bought it. This kind of high density metal provides support in those sweet spots on the bike that absorb the bunt of the impact. Light weight coupled with strength makes titanium a favorite among bikers. Titanium actually has the "highest strength-to-weight ratio of any metal." There are also no known health risks with titanium. Since the alloy is almost always pure, lead and other contaminants are taken care of. These traits together make titanium a smarter choice for all terrain riders.

Aluminum is vital for any bike, especially for those who intend to ride at night. It reflects light better than most metals and can help in safety. Chemical or physical vapor deposition is a process that can add a coating of aluminum to any metal to reflect light, so even if you don't want the entire frame made out of it, you can add a good shine to any other alloy or metal. The bike may not end up being as immortal as a titanium frame but aluminum holds its own as a decent alternative. The problem with this material is that the quality is never a sure deal and the purity changes from place to place. Aluminum will likely deteriorate faster than titanium and will be more prone to dents or contortions in the frame.

Carbon fiber is light weight and resilient to rain, weight and long term use. It is also malleable and able to move or bow according to suspension needs. The material is often found in shoes and helmets because of it's dexterity and flexibility. Carbon fiber frames do fail on being consistent with managing stress and the compound needs more studying before it is used to its best ability. This compound has the possibility of becoming an essential for long term cyclists, but as of right now has little success in the bike frame industry. It is simply not strong enough to conduct the large amounts of pressure put on a bicycle frame. A reinforcing composite material can be added to other materials, though, for added support and impact absorption. This has had solid success in skateboards, motorcycles and some mountain bikes.

Choosing the right compound for a bike frame can often take trial and error. Weight, density and stiffness all play important roles in the way the bike operates and responds to the rider. Titanium is the most dependable choice, but the other two should not be exempt from brainstorming for improvements in ergonomics and handling. There is an exciting future in store for riders and entrepreneurs in the bicycle world. Breakthroughs in materials and manufacturing will likely continue to be faster, cheaper and more durable than ever before. As of right now, I'd recommend going to your local skate park to ask around and maybe test ride a few frames.

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