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  1. #1
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    Carbon or aluminum?

    It's time for a new bike. I recently sold my Nomad 2, which I liked a lot, but I foolishly bought a medium when I should have been on a large. My mistake. If someone said that I HAD to buy another Nomad I wouldn't be too sad but I am curious by nature and I want to try something different. I think I've narrowed it down to two DW link bikes, the Mojo HD or the Pivot Firebird. My riding is probably 70/30% trail/bike park. I ride local CT trails and head up to Highland bike park in New Hampshire several time a season. I have never ridden a carbon bike. I am not hard on my bikes, I'm not as aggressive as I was in my younger years but I want something that I can take to the bike park and have some fun with. Any input would be appreciated.

  2. #2
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    aluminum is tougher typically, you dont make a carbon frame to be tough, you make it be lighter, thats what people pay for. you CAN make a tougher carbon bike, but they wont.
    that said, carbon is repairable in your garage, aluminum is not repairable at all. but, typically with a long travel bike, you will break before the frame does.

  3. #3
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    The above reply is completely wrong. A carbon frame will be stiffer, stronger, better fatigue life, and lighter than a comparable Al frame. No real drawbacks if you can afford it, especially if you're not planning on slamming into rocks all the time.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dichotomous View Post
    aluminum is tougher typically, you dont make a carbon frame to be tough, you make it be lighter, thats what people pay for. you CAN make a tougher carbon bike, but they wont.
    that said, carbon is repairable in your garage, aluminum is not repairable at all. but, typically with a long travel bike, you will break before the frame does.
    Probably the most inaccurate statement I've read on MTBR. It's completely opposite of the truth.

    To the OP: You should post on the Pivot and Ibis site (I have the OG Mojo). You're going to get biased reviews but if you keep that in mind, there is still good info there. Obviously try demoing if you can.

    If you're going by specs and opinions alone, I would say the FB is more "DH" oriented than the HD. IMO, the carbon vs. AL debate shouldn't be a debate or rather, shouldn't be a concern to you. I'd toss out that difference and concentrate on which bike in terms of ride, sizing, cost, aesthetics (yes, it matters ), customer service makes more sense to you.

  5. #5
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    depending on how carbon is built there can be plenty of drawbacks. but I guess I am sorry to be the one to post something other than carbon is the greatest creation ever and everyone should buy carbon everything.

    as the owner of several carbon item, all of which have started getting brittle and cracking and also knowing that typically the reason for carbon is weight (otherwise you'd use chromoly for even better stiffness and stength) then the bike will be built to weight.

    notice how in my post I referance how carbon CAN be tougher? CAN but rarely is in this application.

    you will pay considerably more for the same bike in carbon, and it will be lighter, but I would be suprised if tests showed it stiffer or stronger.

    go ahead and refute my statements, the "everything carbon" people always do. I am a fan of it myself, but there are times when its not needed, is worse, and its always more expensive.

  6. #6
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    Agree- I use to think that carbon was light and weak- after one ride on a mojo hd it changed my mind- the only drawback with carbon is that you may not notice the damage till it fails- other than that it's better in nearly every way to alu- oh and Price- lol

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dichotomous View Post
    aluminum is tougher typically, you dont make a carbon frame to be tough, you make it be lighter, thats what people pay for. you CAN make a tougher carbon bike, but they wont.
    that said, carbon is repairable in your garage, aluminum is not repairable at all. but, typically with a long travel bike, you will break before the frame does.
    This post might have been accurate if it were made 8-10 years ago.

    The HD is in fact made to be strong rather than light, even the SL and SL-R are made with strength as the number one priority, weight savings second. Same with the Nomad Carbon and most of the newer carbon frames out there. It's incredibly stiff and strong. The main problems(and the bad reputation) come from replacing aluminum bits with carbon and using the same exact design. You have to design carbon fiber parts differently.

    OP, you wont go wrong with either bike. I'd test ride them both and see which one fits better.

  8. #8
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    On my MTBR I have broken every carbon part I have purchased except for my carbon steering tube spacers.
    There....Are... Four...Lights!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dichotomous View Post
    you will pay considerably more for the same bike in carbon, and it will be lighter, but I would be suprised if tests showed it stiffer or stronger.
    Prepare for surprise!

    When it was released, the Santa Cruz Blur LTC was not only stiffer & stronger than the AL version, it was stiffer & stronger than their AL V10. IN SC's own words it's, "The strongest bike we have ever built, bar none."

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dichotomous View Post
    depending on how carbon is built there can be plenty of drawbacks. but I guess I am sorry to be the one to post something other than carbon is the greatest creation ever and everyone should buy carbon everything.

    as the owner of several carbon item, all of which have started getting brittle and cracking and also knowing that typically the reason for carbon is weight (otherwise you'd use chromoly for even better stiffness and stength) then the bike will be built to weight.

    notice how in my post I referance how carbon CAN be tougher? CAN but rarely is in this application.

    you will pay considerably more for the same bike in carbon, and it will be lighter, but I would be suprised if tests showed it stiffer or stronger.

    go ahead and refute my statements, the "everything carbon" people always do. I am a fan of it myself, but there are times when its not needed, is worse, and its always more expensive.
    Think about what you're saying and go re-read your OG message.

    you dont make a carbon frame to be tough, you make it be lighter, thats what people pay for. you CAN make a tougher carbon bike, but they wont.
    How you qualify that is beyond me. Physically, carbon is lighter. Doesn't mean that bike manufacturers sacrifice strength for weight. There are plenty of bikes that are built using carbon with the exact goal of being stronger than the same AL frame. You may argue that they aren't physically stronger but you don't even acknowledge the fact that manufacturers are able to manipulate carbon is such a way to make it stronger and lighter than AL.

    carbon is repairable in your garage,
    Ridiculous

    as the owner of several carbon item, all of which have started getting brittle and cracking and also knowing that typically the reason for carbon is weight (otherwise you'd use chromoly for even better stiffness and stength) then the bike will be built to weight.
    Which items? I call BS.

    you will pay considerably more for the same bike in carbon, and it will be lighter, but I would be suprised if tests showed it stiffer or stronger.
    Carbon is stronger and stiffer than AL (all else being equal). That is it's physical property. The manufacturing process will affect the strength, weight, durability of the finished product. Not all carbon bikes are built the same just like not all AL bikes are built the same. Either can be "bad" depending on how it's manufactured/engineered. Blanket statements like "Carbon is bad" is just as ignorant as saying "AL is bad".

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dichotomous View Post
    aluminum is tougher typically, you dont make a carbon frame to be tough, you make it be lighter, thats what people pay for. you CAN make a tougher carbon bike, but they wont.
    I totally disagree. For quite a few years now, CF has been proving itself at least as strong as AL counterparts for similar applications, be it frames, rigid forks, bars, and seatposts. I've had an Easton Monkeylite CF bar get twisted so hard it bent a DH stem (fell off a car on the highways), but the bar did not break. Plenty of CF "AM" frames have been proving perfectly tough over the past few years.

    I generally do not pay the price difference for CF, but I would not worry about the toughness as long as it is the appropriate application for the part (just like with Al).

    To the OP: I would not worry much about the CF vs AL aspect of your decision, there are other, more important factors. Having demoed some Pivots, I want one so bad I might have to sell a kidney to get one.
    15mm is a second-best solution to a problem that was already solved.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eh-ron View Post
    Prepare for surprise!

    When it was released, the Santa Cruz Blur LTC was not only stiffer & stronger than the AL version, it was stiffer & stronger than their AL V10. IN SC's own words it's, "The strongest bike we have ever built, bar none."
    would SC come out and tell you that its anything but? how many bikes would they then sell. pull your head out of the sand. plus, if weight was NOT the main issue, they would have made it stronger out of aluminum, just more of it, they wanted to use a more expensive material with more hype than plain old boring aluminum. as far as price, show me the same bike in carbon and aluminum where the carbon is cheeper, stronger, lighter......

    again, I am NOT against carbon, I love it, even though it has failed me on many items, and failed others too. I am still going to homebrew myself a full squish MTB out of it. I am not saying carbon is worse. my goodness people dont read posts. I LIKE CARBON. I just dont think its the end all and be all and final word for everything, there are alternatives and sometimes they are better.

  13. #13
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    Barring getting hit by a truck, attacking it with a power tool or having a massive crash, the carbon frame will be much tougher. In five years time a carbon bike will be as strong as it was when new, an alloy frame will not.

    I ave no experience at all of Pivot bikes (hard to get in the UK), but Mojos are built tough more than they are built light. You would have to try quite hard to snap one.

    Although, if it was my money I'd be giving Doc at Superco a call, steel FS bikes are marvellous things

    Quote Originally Posted by Dichotomous View Post
    aluminum is tougher typically, you dont make a carbon frame to be tough,.
    Please stop talking rubbish.

  14. #14
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    as many above have already mentioned, carbon fiber provides much more strength compared to aluminum without having to add on more weight. and, i don't know what kind of shop dichotomus has in his garage...but, it must be awesome since he can repair carbon fiber frames. haha.

    actually, the major drawbacks of carbon fiber is when it fails, it's typically catastrophic and unrepairable. just like your typical thread, once carbon fiber is "cut," it's hard to put them back together. still, there are plenty of shops who specializes in carbon fiber repair...or you can visit dichotomus's garage.

    other than strength, one of the mechanics from lbs said that over time, aluminum will stretch and fatigue, while carbon will maintain its core structure and strength. i think his statement has some merit, but i don't think you really have to worry about fatiguing your aluminum frame over the lifetime of the frame.

    personally, i am leaning towards a carbon bike for strength and looks. good luck!

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by saki2mi View Post
    i don't know what kind of shop dichotomus has in his garage...but, it must be awesome since he can repair carbon fiber frames. haha.
    It's much easier to repair Carbon than most people think, a small hole or crack can be patched at home provided you buy the right kit to do it.

    If you're feeling really ambitious, you can weld and heat treat (small) alu parts like linkages and swingarms at home too. You just need a tig welder, an oven, a bath tub and a really understanding wife!

  16. #16
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    carbon itself is not what they make frames from, if it were they would be brittle and shatter easily. its a cloth, which only has tensile strength. combined with a resin or plastic or epoxy (or concrete on buildings and bridges, but we wont go there for now).
    so saying carbon is stronger is just silly. saying anything is stronger is just silly. carbon can be MADE stronger, and sometimes is. Al is a metal and uniform(ish) in its density, and has similar properties all around, carbon is a composite, built of several items. its basically strong strings oriented in plastic or resin. the strings keep the resin from pulling itself apart. you cannot ever say a blanket statement of "carbon is stronger" because it very much depends on the design, the materials used, if there is fiberglass and kevlar in there as well.

    things they make out of carbon that are better than aluminum in many ways: sailing ship masts, gold clubs (technicall steel alloy is their competeition), tennis rackets, airplanes now.

    gosh, my post said that most aluminum frames are stronger, I still stand by this, there are a few they make now at very large price increases that are stronger in carbon, but the majority of carbon out there is not built to be as impact resistant.

    carbon does have a "small" problem of UV resistance, it has none, and will fade and get brittle, like the very expensive hood of my car, which after subjected to snow and summer sun and wind decided to crack in half. thats a non structural part even. so paint it you say, good, now you can't see if that rock you hit with your bike (these are bikes that get ridden and people try to progress on right? rock garden impacts should be expected) that left a small scratch, but would have left a small dent in a metal frame, well is that a structural issue with the fibers under the paint that you cant see, will it fail completely next time? did you know that most composite structural items are considered done after severe impacts? also, carbon doesnt often fail catastrophically, it takes a more effort to fully break if its even reasonably built. I've seen aluminum snap like a twig before, carbon usually rips and tears, it doesnt bend break though.

    also, carbon sucks for abrasion resistance, cables will eat through it, chainsuck will eat it fast.

    carbon IS easy to make, comparitively. a foam form or better yet a half mould and a guy with gloves to lay cloth is cheeper and less skilled than a skilled welder to work with AL. and used correctly can be very good, if not the best.

    I'm sure the santa cruz vp10 carbon and ibis mojo hd are great bikes. the frames cost what now?

    you 13lovers will have to forgive me inserting reasonable doubts and explainations of a materials disadvantages. you all forgot to see where I wrote lots of nice things about how good carbon is, oops, I said something bad about it.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fix the Spade View Post
    It's much easier to repair Carbon than most people think, a small hole or crack can be patched at home provided you buy the right kit to do it.

    If you're feeling really ambitious, you can weld and heat treat (small) alu parts like linkages and swingarms at home too. You just need a tig welder, an oven, a bath tub and a really understanding wife!
    yeah, at worst you can throw a few more layers on top to shore it up, epoxy and carbon fabric, wet it and lay it and squeeze it, let it cure. all done.

  18. #18
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    question, do you see many carbon fiber bike park bikes? dirt jumpers, BMW freestyle?

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dichotomous View Post
    question, do you see many carbon fiber bike park bikes? dirt jumpers, BMW freestyle?
    Not yet...
    The simple mater of the fact is carbon is being targeted at much higher price point than that found on DJer and "park bikes" because at the moment, the process does cost quite a bit higher than welding and heat treating extruded Al tubes. Once the process of dealing w/ carbon becomes more affordable, you will. And, considering the application of carbon/resin which is indeed softer than aluminium oxide, in a mostly dirt environment a carbon DJer would be quite ideal since there isn't the sharp impact of large rocks to deal with.

    The UV caused brittleness has been addressed in the resin... I'm thinking your car hood must be either a few years old, or you went and cheaped out and bought one that didn't have the correct resin, but this is purely speculation on my part.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dichotomous View Post
    yeah, at worst you can throw a few more layers on top to shore it up, epoxy and carbon fabric, wet it and lay it and squeeze it, let it cure. all done.
    Yeah right...
    Prob good enough for your car hood, but it sure as hell won't be enough to be taken back out on a WC DH course gain. Once the fiber is cut, the part has no more strength because the fiber/resin matrix sole purpose is to transform compression forces into tension forces. So, unless you have some top secret military nano-tech where you can rejoin the fibers on the molecular level, you're not going to repair anything structural "in your garage". BTW, do you realized that "few sheets" results in milometers of thickness, where as in the SC V10, the head tube region is damn near 1/2" thick of carbon/resin?
    Naysayers never apologize. Critics go to their grave thinking everyone else is wrong.
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  21. #21
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    uv resistance CAN be fixed in the resin. often it is not. it NEVER needs to be addressed with aluminum.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pau11y View Post
    Yeah right...
    Prob good enough for your car hood, but it sure as hell won't be enough to be taken back out on a WC DH course gain. Once the fiber is cut, the part has no more strength because the fiber/resin matrix sole purpose is to transform compression forces into tension forces. So, unless you have some top secret military nano-tech where you can rejoin the fibers on the molecular level, you're not going to repair anything structural "in your garage". BTW, do you realized that "few sheets" results in milometers of thickness, where as in the SC V10, the head tube region is damn near 1/2" thick of carbon/resin?
    do some searching please. and they DO have nanofibers that you can add into your epoxy. the specific fibers cut wont regain their strength. but a minor cut can but gone over with about that much carbon, roughed up along the frame and since those fibers were only pulling, the new fibers pulling is the same thing. if you cut through or break through 1/2" thick, that frame is done.

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    my frame is a carbon frame with a couple of aluminum pieces. I have broken the aluminum parts of the frame. but not the carbon. don't be afraid of carbon. and i am a bigger guy who is hard on stuff.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dichotomous View Post
    question, do you see many carbon fiber bike park bikes? dirt jumpers, BMW freestyle?
    I notice that you did not include DH bikes in your question Why would that be?
    15mm is a second-best solution to a problem that was already solved.

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    Interview with Joe Graney of Santa Cruz bikes:

    T-HOFFonline – Joe Graney- Santa Cruz Bicycles engineer- Carbon fiber & the V-10

    Seems convincing to me. Yes, I realize he wants to sell bikes for his company, but what motivation would Santa Cruz have for selling people weak, dangerous products -- the ruin of their company's reputation (at the least) and the risk of losing millions in personal injury lawsuits? I'm pretty sure they're confident in the strength of this product.

    If it were me and money were no object, I'd give CF a try. I believe the product is just going to get better and cheaper in the future, too, just as aluminum frames are better and cheaper than they were 15 years ago. Maybe in time it will become the industry standard, as well. Who knows?

    Oh, and chromoly frames are not stiffer than aluminum or carbon, as was mentioned somewhere above. Every BMXer knows a chromoly frame is pretty flexy compared to aluminum.

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