Bikes come in all shapes and sizes, and with different brands and makes, they can also come in different designs and can be made with different materials. Sometimes, certain design choices are specific to certain types of bikes, as they will be there to serve a certain purpose, such as how road bikes have thin wheels for speed, or mountain bikes have suspension systems to withstand the bouncing from the rough terrains. But other times, the different design or material choices are down to preference, and the different options all have their pros and cons.
One of the main things to look at, when getting a bike, is the frame. The frame keeps the bike together, but it can also be made with different materials, and the different options can affect the bike’s performance in different ways. The two main materials used for bike frames are aluminum and steel. But which one is better?
As we mentioned, each option has its pros and cons, so let’s take a closer look at both the aluminum frame, and then the steel frame!
- It’s lightweight:
One of the best things about aluminum is that it is very lightweight, making your bike a lot lighter without compromising much of the overall strength.
This is also great if you want to be able to cycle faster, thanks to the lighter weight, and is overall an advantage.
- Cheaper price:
Aluminum frames are a lot cheaper than steel frames, which is one of the reasons why they are way more popular and a lot more common nowadays. But for you, it means that the overall price of the bike will likely be slightly cheaper, and there will be many more bike options in aluminum frames than in steel ones.
- Highly efficient:
Aluminum frames are stiffer than steel ones, and as such, they end up being more efficient when you pedal, as none of the energy is lost within the frame, and everything goes into pushing the bike forward at a higher speed.
- Doesn’t rust:
As aluminum doesn’t rust, it is an excellent option for your bike’s frame, as it will not be weakened over time, meaning your bike might last a little longer.
- It’s aerodynamic:
Aluminum frames don’t necessarily have to be made out of round tubes, giving them a lot more versatility in regards to their shape and design. This means that they can be designed to be a lot more aerodynamic, which will further add to the advantage of speed when cycling.
- Modern appealing look:
The greater versatility in design that aluminum frames have gives them a more modern and advanced look, which overall makes them more visually appealing and preferred nowadays.
- Hard to repair:
If a steel frame cracks, it can easily be welded back together. Aluminum frames, however, aren’t that easy to repair. So if it does crack or break, you will most likely have to fully replace the frame rather than just fixing it.
- Not the most durable:
Aluminum is pretty durable and long-lasting, but it’s not as durable as steel frames, so it loses out in that regard.
- Not as comfortable:
Because aluminum frames are stiffer, (which makes them more effective), they don’t protect from shocks or vibrations as you cycle and are therefore slightly more uncomfortable to ride. However, this might depend more on each cyclist rather than being a general thing.
- No hub spacing adjustment possible:
The rigidness of aluminum means you can’t bend it to adjust the hub spacing, as the alteration would weaken or crack the frame, meaning you would then need to replace it completely.
- Easier to repair:
The steel frame can be easily repaired by a welder, without having to be completely replaced. This means that if your frame suffers some damage or cracks anywhere, you can fix it up instead of having to buy an entirely new frame.
- More comfortable to use:
Although steel is sturdy, it isn’t completely rigid, meaning it has some flexibility and leeway to it. This means that the frame will absorb some of the shocks and vibrations while cycling, making the bike more comfortable to ride.
- More durable:
Steel is incredibly durable and long-lasting, a lot more than aluminum. Therefore, this will be a frame with a longer lifespan, and it will also be a lot more resistant to impact, able to take a hit or two with no problem.
- Safe to use:
If your steel frame breaks, it will do so slowly, giving you enough warning and time to get it fixed up or replaced. It won’t just suddenly crack and bend on you, leaving you without a frame in the middle of your cycling!
- Adjustable hub spacing:
Steel is more flexible and less rigid than aluminum, and so it is easier to bend so that you can adjust the hub spacing.
- It’s the original bike frame:
Traditionally, bike frames were made out of steel, as aluminum has only been introduced in recent years. It’s the original bike design and a trust option!
- It’s heavier:
One of the main drawbacks of a steel frame is that they are very heavy, and therefore not suited for speed or for being easy to carry around.
- Not as efficient:
As steel isn’t as rigid as aluminum, some of the effort will be absorbed by the steel frame, and less energy will reach the actual advancing forward as you pedal.
- Steel rusts over time:
Steel frames require a lot more maintenance, especially so that you avoid any rusting, or else the frame will weaken over time and become a liability.
- More expensive:
Steel frames are slightly more expensive, so they might not be within your budget! Plus, there are also fewer options, as they aren’t as popular anymore.
- Old-fashioned appeal:
Steel frames are a thing of the past, and modern bikes tend to favor the use of aluminum.
Do aluminum or steel bikes last longer?
Steel bikes are a lot more durable and long-lasting, as long as they are well-maintained and you avoid any rusting of the structure.