Should I get an aluminium bike? Steel? Titanium Etc?
First off, let's be clear about "steel". There are cheap bikes made of "steel" or "high-tensile steel". Avoid these; they're outrageously heavy and not particularly durable.
When bike shops talk about "steel", they're usually talking about an alloy of steel, chromium, and molybdenum (and probably some other metals in small quantities). It may also be called "cro-mo", or "cro-moly". These bikes tend to be quite tough, though they might be a bit heavier than aluminum at the low-end. Cro-mo bikes are known for a "plush" ride, i.e. they absorb some of the vibrations of riding on rough trials. They can also be welded if they crack. Light rust can be a minor problem, but cro-mo bikes certainly don't rust like car fenders!
Aluminum has become the standard for mid-range and high-end bikes. They tend to be relatively light, and a lot stronger than one might expect (given that most people's experience with aluminum is Coke cans). They probably do bend more easily than cro-mo, so make sure you get a good warranty (good brands should have lifetime warranties). If they crack, special equipment is needed to weld them. Traditionally, aluminum bikes have been considered "stiff", and don't absorb the vibration of rough trails, but they seem to have gotten better in this regard. Some aluminum tubes bend rather easily, so take this into consideration of you ride in rocks a lot.
Titanium bikes have come down in price, to where they are now somewhat reasonable for a high-end recreational bike. They combine the plushness and durability of cro-mo with the lightness of aluminum. Titanium is extremely difficult to bond; take effort to ensure the builder is a good one.
Carbon-fiber mountain bikes are also light and extremely plush. They are tougher than one might expect; if they are solid material, they can stand up to a pounding with a sledgehammer. Some full-suspension bikes have hollow carbon-fiber bodies, and can break or have a hole punched in them by a sharp rock. When carbon-fiber fails, it fails suddenly and spectacularly. It may not be a good choice for heavier riders, or anyone who rides frequently in rocks.
Dec 16, 2010 |