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  1. #1
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    Carbon vs Aluminum Hartail

    Thinking of buying a hardtail mountain bike and wondering if there are any big benefits in looking at carbon bikes. I have been told the weight difference is really not a factor however the ride is very different.

    Would like to hear from some members who have experience regarding these two frame types.

  2. #2
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    I love my carbon hard tail stache (first carbon bike after 20 years of aluminum). But honestly I'd rather put money into components than the frame. I don't think it's better enough for the money

    If money is no object, carbon is maybe less jittery?

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  3. #3
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    Steel is real, or ti


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  4. #4
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    I have a Carbon HT, a Ti HT and a alum HT,
    Each feel different and do different things
    my Carbon HT is a 20lb XC race bike
    my Ti HT is my SS
    my alum is a 27.5+ fun bike.. I only have it due to the deal I got on the frame that was sent as a replacement for a cracked frame and they sent the wrong size for the person.
    If the deal wasn't there, I wouldn't have bought it
    Too Many .

  5. #5
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    I have a Stanton Switchback, chromoly, by far one of the best bikes Iíve ridden, itís my go to, only thing I would think to replace it with is their ti version, definitely check them out, or production privy, Cotic, BTR fabrication, chromag. Canfield and kona also have some nice steel frames


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  6. #6
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    I love my Carbon 20 lb HT XC bike. I like it better than previous aluminum bikes.
    That said, just this year, there have been some pretty amazing aluminum HTs released.
    Still, I love my Carbon 20 lb HT XC bike.

  7. #7
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    It's easy to look at material, but material is basically meaningless- design determines ride. The funny thing is that frames will be designed to meet the expectations of riders; alloy bikes will be excessively stiff, steel isn't optimized for weight, ti will be a bit flexy, and carbon is the new hotness and we try to do our best. It's hard to make a durable flexy alloy frame and it's hard to make a 3.5lb steel frame, but really nobody wants those extremes anyway.

    It's unusual to under build a steel bike and it's easy to tune the ride, so that's where i look first.
    Alloy frames are often the 'budget model,' and cost concerns make an inferior frame, so i look at them when the brand is invested in alloy and it's not a budget-afterthought.
    Ti and carbon are a safe bet when you're looking at a brand that hangs its hat on quality. That said, design determines ride.



    Geometry, cockpit, suspension, and tires determine how a bike rides. This is all academic.
    "Things that are complex are not useful, Things that are useful are simple."
    Mikhail Kalashnikov

  8. #8
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    I rode a custom steel hardtail for the past decade, but ran across a great deal on a Pivot Les carbon frame and decided it was time to upgrade. And yes, I'd call it an upgrade. Now my ByStickel was an awesome bike, but between some of the changes in frame building (tapered headset, relaxed geometry, press fit BB, etc.) and a quality, well designed carbon frame, the new frame is like cheating. Had a friend with an XTC borrow it for a lap and he had a Les within a couple of weeks. That said, there are a lot of great bikes out there, and honestly, if I hadn't scored such a great deal on the carbon frame, I'd probably be riding something other than carbon as I can be a bit of a penny pincher at times.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChvleSS956c View Post
    Steel is real, ti is real expensive
    fixed that for ya....
    Guerrilla Gravity BAMF
    Smash

  10. #10
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    Ha!


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  11. #11
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    Highlights what scottg started. When it comes to a hardtail, geometry is everything. Material only helps with weight, stiffness, and Ďforgivenessí. But Iíd take a tank aluminum hardtail with good geometry over a 15lb carbon wonder wiTh crap geometry.... look at the companies I mention earlier, they all have very dialed geo


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  12. #12
    Anytime. Anywhere.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChvleSS956c View Post
    Steel is real, or ti


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    Give your head a crack with an aluminum tube, its real.
    I got some bad ideas in my head.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Travis Bickle View Post
    Give your head a crack with an aluminum tube, its real.
    Perhaps, but it doesn't rhyme.

  14. #14
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    Judging by the various responses, I am to conclude there is no significant ride and handeling difference between a carbon or an aluminum frame so I will focus on various bike models not limited by frame material.

  15. #15
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    Any material can be built compliant or stiff. Steel is stereotypically compliant and aluminum is not, but it is not always the case. All 3 can be good, or bad.
    I got some bad ideas in my head.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Travis Bickle View Post
    Any material can be built compliant or stiff. Steel is stereotypically compliant and aluminum is not, but it is not always the case. All 3 can be good, or bad.
    Agreed, and I will focus more on the components that I should prefer, thanks for your response!

  17. #17
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    Research the individual frame.
    I got some bad ideas in my head.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Travis Bickle View Post
    Research the individual frame.
    I wouldn't even know how to do the comparisons. I just look at what is sold locally, name frauds, Niner, Specialized, Zona and Trek. I would also prefer having a SRAM single crank and that is the extent of my non technical knowledge!

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChvleSS956c View Post
    Steel is real, or ti


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    I have to admit for AM duty steel (assuming it high quality) would be perfect. I have 2 XC HT. One geared carbon and other singlespeed steel. The carbon bike is lighter and slightly stiffer. The steel 95% as stiff in pedaling, but more muted than the carbon bike. Hits seem never have any sharp edges on the steel bike.

    Neither a slack AM style, but as think about it more AM HT are not supposed to be super XC Race light and so why not go high quality steel. Reasonable price and super nice ride in the rough stuff. For HT of course.

    However steel bikes are rare in general, but AM geomety are even more so. I do know of a few Ti AM HT, but not many in steel.

    spot Rocker is one of them.
    https://spotbrand.com/collections/mo...er-geared-27-5

    67 deg HA
    Reynolds 853 tubing.
    Can be geared or SS

    My Vassago Verhauen rides like a dream, but with a 71 deg HA not really an AM HT machine.
    Joe
    '18 Specialized Epic 29", Vassago Verhauen SS 29", '13 Santa Cruz Solo 27.5", XC, AM, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

  20. #20
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    From what I've read and seen, it's more about design than material when it comes to weight, stiffness, etc. Carbon can be lighter depending on how it is designed. It can theoretically be more compliant and vibration damped. But there can also be almost no discernible difference between a good aluminum frame and a good carbon frame.

    Case in point, I test drove a Santa Cruz in both Aluminum and their Carbon C model. The Carbon C was about 1/2 pound lighter but I couldn't tell the difference in any other way. If you spring for the CC model, I think it saves a full pound, maybe more.

    As with everything, test drive both and see for yourself. Personally, I decided that carbon wasn't worth $600 extra for the C (and the CC was even more expensive). But then I was going for a full sus, and I think suspension is way more important than frame material when it comes to vibration dampening on a full sus bike.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by kpdemello View Post
    From what I've read and seen, it's more about design than material when it comes to weight, stiffness, etc. Carbon can be lighter depending on how it is designed. It can theoretically be more compliant and vibration damped. But there can also be almost no discernible difference between a good aluminum frame and a good carbon frame.

    Case in point, I test drove a Santa Cruz in both Aluminum and their Carbon C model. The Carbon C was about 1/2 pound lighter but I couldn't tell the difference in any other way. If you spring for the CC model, I think it saves a full pound, maybe more.

    As with everything, test drive both and see for yourself. Personally, I decided that carbon wasn't worth $600 extra for the C (and the CC was even more expensive).
    Pretty funny what you mentioned regarding test riding! I have bought 3 new bikes in the last ten years and never once could I find even one of the bikes I was interested in purchasing. They were never available and that's not even considering the right size. And, I'm talking about Trek, Know and Cannonade bikes, nothing that unusual. Excluding my first mountain bike, all three others were ordered, unseen and un- ridden.

    Am I the only one???

  22. #22
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    As others have said, really boils down down to design and quality of frame. I prefer carbon myself but several of my buds love their Ti frames. Canfield just dropped the price on their EPO frames, worth a look: SHOP EPO CARBON | Canfield Brothers Online Store

    I am a long time FS guy and decided to build an EPO this past spring to have something different. Ride quality is excellent, good balance of stiffness and rear compliance. Do not get beat up on at all on it which was my fear. Now my Hightower mostly sits, ride the EPO 80% of the time.

  23. #23
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    An current example of the best the materials have to offer would be:

    2018 Specialized Chisel Expert (awesome cutting edge alloy/weld tech)
    2018 Specialized Epic HT (great carbon lightweight frame)
    2018 Specialized Epic HT S-WORKS (killer Carbon even lighter frame)

    These are a good example of 3 current bikes with almost identical geometry, but very different materials (the SWORKS frame is close to the non SWORKS frame, but has a better, lighter carbon layup).

    One would have to outfit all 3 bikes with the same exact wheels, components etc, but these are very close to each other. They ride quite different too, at least the first 2 do. My guess is the SWORKS is primarily weight diff (a little under a lb diff from std carbon).

    I preferred the carbon Epic (and bought one) to the alloy Chisel. I could feel the slight flex in the frame and had just got done with another alloy HT and wanted a change. Can not describe how awesome the Epic HT rides. Precision, solid, razor sharp feel in comparison. Thereís definitely a stiffness to it, but not necessarily in a bad way. Very rigid, torsionally.

  24. #24
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    ^^ All that said I donít buy that the design is the only thing that matters. Perfect example of where the design is the same, yet big diffs in ride/feel/rigidity etc.

  25. #25
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    lol comtbr you're gonna drown yourself in that koolaid.
    "Things that are complex are not useful, Things that are useful are simple."
    Mikhail Kalashnikov

  26. #26
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    Koolaids SO good though. I just canít help myself..

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by rickcin View Post
    Pretty funny what you mentioned regarding test riding! I have bought 3 new bikes in the last ten years and never once could I find even one of the bikes I was interested in purchasing. They were never available and that's not even considering the right size. And, I'm talking about Trek, Know and Cannonade bikes, nothing that unusual. Excluding my first mountain bike, all three others were ordered, unseen and un- ridden.

    Am I the only one???
    I went to the Santa Cruz web site, and they had a demo tour going. I was lucky in that the tour came through my area within a few weeks of me checking. They had the full line of Santa Cruz bikes available for testing, which was really great.

    Check on the manufacturer web sites and you can probably find something similar. Unfortunately, you might have to wait a while or travel some to make it work. For me, it was a $3500 investment for a bike I plan to keep for a long time, so I thought it was worth driving an hour and waiting a few weeks. If you're the type that keeps a bike for a year or two and then flips it, I can see a demo being less important.

  28. #28
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    Basically I started this thread after thinking I should trade in my FS Trek for a hardtail in order to get a lighter bike and also because my days of riding challenging single track are gone.

    After discussing this with two bike shops the thinking was there would not be a significant difference in weight with a new bike in the $1800 to $2000 price range.

    Bottom line is that I should just keep my Trek Superfly 100 AL Elite but it would be nice to have a light single crank hardtail as well!

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by rickcin View Post
    Basically I started this thread after thinking I should trade in my FS Trek for a hardtail in order to get a lighter bike and also because my days of riding challenging single track are gone.

    After discussing this with two bike shops the thinking was there would not be a significant difference in weight with a new bike in the $1800 to $2000 price range.

    Bottom line is that I should just keep my Trek Superfly 100 AL Elite but it would be nice to have a light single crank hardtail as well!
    You are posting the "All Mountain" forum. To me that means you want a tough slack hard tail for technically difficult trails. That means something quite different from wanting a light XC hardtail. If you want light XC hardtail then carbon is the ONLY way to go. Carbon frames will be the lightest of all the HT frames and will cost alot. Aluminium is inferior for XC HT due to it weight and stiffness. Titanium can be an equal to carbon, but with a slight weight penalty. Some folks love the way Ti rides, but good frames are not cheap ($1600 to $2k frame only). Steel can be great material, but will be heavier than carbon. So you will have more weight in the frame, but overall the ride can be really good. As for cost they cheaper than Ti and cheaper than most high end carbon. New high end carbon bikes will be 5k. The $2k on new carbon bike will bottom of range. At $3k you can a 24lbs carbon HT. High end 5k ones are 21-22lbs.
    Joe
    '18 Specialized Epic 29", Vassago Verhauen SS 29", '13 Santa Cruz Solo 27.5", XC, AM, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoePAz View Post
    You are posting the "All Mountain" forum. To me that means you want a tough slack hard tail for technically difficult trails. That means something quite different from wanting a light XC hardtail. If you want light XC hardtail then carbon is the ONLY way to go. Carbon frames will be the lightest of all the HT frames and will cost alot. Aluminium is inferior for XC HT due to it weight and stiffness. Titanium can be an equal to carbon, but with a slight weight penalty. Some folks love the way Ti rides, but good frames are not cheap ($1600 to $2k frame only). Steel can be great material, but will be heavier than carbon. So you will have more weight in the frame, but overall the ride can be really good. As for cost they cheaper than Ti and cheaper than most high end carbon. New high end carbon bikes will be 5k. The $2k on new carbon bike will bottom of range. At $3k you can a 24lbs carbon HT. High end 5k ones are 21-22lbs.
    Great information and I believe your numbers are accurate. Not sure though how one would define XC? In my mind, and I might be mistaken, I think it's long flowing singletrack with gradual ups and downs where trail is always technical single track?

    N NY, I was near Stewart Forest which was long glowing trails with virtually no long steep climbs or descents. That was perfect gorgeous my ability level and enjoyment. Now we live in Virginia and although there are way more places to bike, there is nothing similar to Stewart with the flowing singletrack and I really miss that place. So basically, I would need to spend about $3K to get a really nice carbon hardtail. Might just have to stick with what I have for now unless something changes. Thanks for the response!

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by rickcin View Post
    Great information and I believe your numbers are accurate. Not sure though how one would define XC? In my mind, and I might be mistaken, I think it's long flowing singletrack with gradual ups and downs where trail is always technical single track?
    XC is cross county and need not be flowing single track. I ride plenty of technical single track on my XC bike. XC is more of a riding style and certain bikes work better for it. XC riding is about covering all kinds of terrain, but with an emphasis on climbing. Some people race XC as I do on occasion. Racing XC is about climbing fast and cornering fast. Descending is one part of the course and most XC courses are not that rough.

    AM = All Mountain has come to mean riding with the goal of going down a mountain fast and/or finding and riding very tough lines. Climbing is necissary evil that is only there to get you to the good stuff. By contrast most people that ride XC actually like to climb as well as decend. AM bikes are made to go downhill, but with enough up hill capablity that you can climb on them. Downhill bikes are intented to shuttled up to the top of a climb rather than ridden.

    XC bikes tend to be less forgiving and capable on nasty downhill runs, but a skilled XC rider can still ride quite alot on these bikes. A very skilled XC pro is very fast due to their skill levels.



    Generally speaking the slacker the bike (head angle) and the more travel it has the poor it will climb and corner, but the better it will descend. The bigger the bike (slacker, more travel) the less flowing trails will be fun. The bikes take the fun out of riding these trails since they are so easy for them and don't pedal as well. The more XC a bike (steeper HA and less travel) the more responsive it and fun it will be on easier single track. However these bikes can be handfull on steep rocky descents and big drops.

    You need to judge the bike you need based on the terrain you want to ride. my 2 XC Hardtail 29ers are great bikes for most of my rides. Light, responsive and will handle just about anything I toss at them. One is geared and one is singlespeed. My 5" 27.5 Full suspension bike is great fun on the downhill chunk and for riding bigger stuff at speed. However it does not climb as well as my 2 HT bikes. Not even close and takes more effort to pedal and corner. Technically is more of a "trail" bike than an AM bike (trail is supposed to be a bit in between AM and XC), but I use it for tougher terrain or when I don't care about climbing fast.


    What do you ride now? 3k will get you a very nice bike, but you don't have to spend that much either. Depends on what you want.
    Joe
    '18 Specialized Epic 29", Vassago Verhauen SS 29", '13 Santa Cruz Solo 27.5", XC, AM, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

  32. #32
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    It all boils down to $$$$ If I had unlimited money I would go for a Ti bike. Next would be Carbon if I were racing and Steel if I were cruising. Aluminum is great if you are on a budget.
    Some recommendations
    Ti-Litespeed
    Steel-Revolution but I build those so I am biased
    Carbon-Santa Cruz Highball
    Aluminum-Santa Cruz Chamaeleon
    Hope that helps

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by ggamster View Post
    It all boils down to $$$$ If I had unlimited money I would go for a Ti bike. Next would be Carbon if I were racing and Steel if I were cruising. Aluminum is great if you are on a budget.
    Some recommendations
    Ti-Litespeed
    Steel-Revolution but I build those so I am biased
    Carbon-Santa Cruz Highball
    Aluminum-Santa Cruz Chamaeleon
    Hope that helps
    What about the Niner Air 9 RDO Carbon, who doesn't love orange colored bikes??

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    I don't love how short they are and they have a 30% fail rate but other than that I love them lol

    Quote Originally Posted by rickcin View Post
    What about the Niner Air 9 RDO Carbon, who doesn't love orange colored bikes??

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by ggamster View Post
    I don't love how short they are and they have a 30% fail rate but other than that I love them lol
    I assume you are referring to the carbon frame failing??

    I really can't spend that much and would be fine with aluminum and I do love, the Green Chamaleon, great looking bike.

  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by rickcin View Post
    I assume you are referring to the carbon frame failing??

    I really can't spend that much and would be fine with aluminum and I do love, the Green Chamaleon, great looking bike.
    Absolutely correct. We have guys frequently converting from Niner. I love their steel bikes however.

  37. #37
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    Canfield EPO frames are on clearance for $800 right now. Carbon, threaded BB, steep seat tube, long reach("modern geo").
    The Yelli Screamy frame(aluminum, only S and M left) is now $420, and the Nimble 9(steel, Boost rear end) is $600.
    The new Santa Cruz Chameleon looks great(well, I don't like the color, but the bike...), too.
    I can't compare frame materials for you, since I've only had aluminum. Have a Yelli Screamy, and Canfield's full-suspension Riot frame(clearance prices on FS frames, too) on the way. These bikes all have very short chainstays, so may sacrifice stability at some point on fast downhill runs, but the handling...I've yet to get on any bike since getting my Yelli Screamy and not have it feel like a slug in comparison. Coming from a fairly typical entry level Trek Cobia, the difference was nothing short of phenomenal.

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