If you`re looking to buy a new bike, you`ll be spoilt with a plethora of options, which can make choosing the right bike a challenging feat.
There`re plenty of factors you can use to filter your choice, from price, style, bike type, specifications, brand allegiance or even color.
But sometimes, your choice can come down to the material. The importance of material on any bike cannot be overlooked. Beyond aesthetic purposes and cost, the material also plays a significant role in the overall performance.
Four of the distinct options to choose from include carbon, titanium, aluminum, and steel.
While the first two are great options, the modern-day trends are inclined towards the latter two option.
So, between the aluminum and steel bicycle, which one is the best?
There`s no one "best" material but there`s certainly a best for you, based on your riding purpose, style, requirement, and budget.
Therefore, it`s good to know the difference and similarities between these two bike material before making a decision.
And in this article, we shall explore the how`s and why`s, and help you navigate the materials market.
- 1 Similarities Between Steel and Aluminum Bicycles
- 2 Differences Between Steel and Aluminum Bikes
- 3 Why Should I Choose a Steel Bike?
- 4 Why Should I Buy an Aluminum Bike?
- 5 Conclusion: Which Material is Best for Me?
Similarities Between Steel and Aluminum Bicycles
A similarity between these two materials is that they are both metals. Unlike, other materials such as carbon, steel and aluminum are often classified as metallic substances.
However, it should be noted that aluminum is an element, which is opposed to steel, which is an alloy of iron and chromium. Regardless, they`re both metals.
Differences Between Steel and Aluminum Bikes
More fatigue life
Less fatigue life
Results in case of failure
When choosing a bike material, you would want to go with a material that is lightweight.
Lightweight material makes handling a bike a lot easier, and increase on the ease of use.
Between the two, steel bikes are heavier than aluminum bikes. This is not surprising, though proponents of the steel often say that the modern-day steel is only a fraction heavier that aluminum.
The effects of weight on a bike are manifested in two major ways. The first one is that you`ll notice you`ll have a tough time riding into the wind, and you`ll need to work extra harder on a steel bike compared to an aluminum bike.
Conversely, you`ll also find out that the heavy steel bikes will tend to go faster on the downhills and steel slopes compared to the light aluminum bikes.
A major benefit of having a light material on your bike is that it will improve on speed.
An aluminum bike is lighter than steel, and this makes it a great option for racing bikes that benefit from greater speeds.
So, if you`re looking to compete, I would bet my money on an aluminum bike.
Comfort: Road Vibrations and Bumps
Has anyone ever told you that steel bikes are more comfortable and that aluminum bikes usually result in a rough ride?
Believe or not, the frame material on your bike accounts for the overall vibration damping, especially when it`s loaded. These road vibrations are mostly absorbed through the tires, seat post, and saddle.
Aluminum is generally stiffer than steel, and will often result in a harsher ride. However, when the time is of the essence and fractions of a second count, many cyclers usually prefer the stiffness and rigidity.
But for those looking to get to the store over city street prefer the steel bike as it more forgiving.
But come to think about it. Before the actual shock hits, you, it must have passed through various components including the tires, the rims, spokes, and hub.
The hub later transfers the shock via the frame seat stay up to the seat post, before it reaches you.
What I`m I try to say?
Regardless of the material, you`re using; you can enjoy a comfortable ride, provided you tour with good tires and a seat post that is designed to flex plus a cushioned saddle.
Steel is renowned for its durability.
Steel can ding, scratch, dent, and even dent, and still retain its structural integrity. And when you take care of it, you can expect it to last for a lifetime.
What`s more? While under extreme pressure, steel will not break, but rather bend.
The same is not true for aluminum. First, it`s brittle, meaning when subjected to extreme pressure, it`s likely to break rather than bend.
A single dent on an aluminum bike will render your bike unsafe for use.
A perfect analogy would be to compare aluminum and glass. Glass will break before bending, and so will aluminum.
On the contrary, steel is designed for those looking for a sturdy and robust material that can handle anything you throw at it.
Strength to Weight
Ever wondered why bridges are constructed from the so-called "heavy" steel, while soda cans are made from aluminum?
While it`s true that aluminum is lighter by volume, that property does not tell us the whole story.
Here is why:
Aluminum is less dense than steel, and to make it achieve greater strength to weight ratio; quality aluminum frames are butted. Butting means making the aluminum larger and thicker than steel.
It entails adding extra material, and this extra material adds on weight, and quickly an aluminum bike can weigh as much more or more than a steel bike.
The aluminum bike will use thicker walls in the bike to make up for the reduction in durability. Still, aluminum`s low density makes it a superb choice for a high-performance racing bike and even rivals carbon as a material for competitive bikes.
Why Should I Choose a Steel Bike?
Are you looking for a sturdy bike? A bike that does not compromise on speed? A bike that allows you to throw anything and tackle any rugged terrain without worrying about its structural integrity? Then go for a steel bike.
Steel material is an ideal choice for mountain bikes or high-performance bikes that will meet the demands any users looking for an all-around bike.
The Great Compromise with Steel Bikes
A major downside to the steel bike is on their weight. Steel is generally heavier than aluminum, meaning you`ll most likely have to get inconvenienced by the weight.
A weighty bike also means that you`ll have a harder time propelling it forward, and this means you`ll have to bear with a sluggish pace.
Why Should I Buy an Aluminum Bike?
An aluminum bike is tailored to satisfy individuals with high adrenaline needs.
Lightweight, and easy to use, an aluminum bike makes a great option for speed racers.
The lightweight nature also means that the aluminum bikes are awesome options for a variety of people and age groups including kids, seniors and those who are not physically fit.
The Great Compromise with Aluminum Bikes
While lightness is a desirable feature in any bike, it comes at a price.
Contrary to the heavy and robust steel, aluminum is relatively flimsy and is prone to damage when subjected to the slightest pressure.
Ideally, aluminum bikes are excellent options for road bikes, which can only be used in paved roads.
Conclusion: Which Material is Best for Me?
Between weight and speed, durability and comfort, versatility and ease of use?
Which one do you prioritize?
Your cycling needs should form the basis of your selection.