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  1. #1
    Fat Skis/Fat Tires
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    I need advice, Carbon or Aluminum?

    So, as I enter my 3rd year of riding, I have finally learned that biting the bullet up front and buying the bike you really want is more prudent than going for the smaller sticker up front and upgrading as you go.

    As a result of this epiphany, I find myself faced with a new dilemma: I have decided to build a trail bike from scratch, so should I opt for a carbon or aluminum frame?

    It's a 6" travel frame.

    Factoring in the weight savings, the increased stiffness, and the better dampening of carbon, it seems to be the clear winner in every category save one: impact resistance. I'm actually pretty concerned about this since I seem to crash more frequently than most of the people I ride with.

    Should I stay with aluminum?

  2. #2
    aka dan51
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    Quote Originally Posted by El Castigador
    So, as I enter my 3rd year of riding, I have finally learned that biting the bullet up front and buying the bike you really want is more prudent than going for the smaller sticker up front and upgrading as you go.

    As a result of this epiphany, I find myself faced with a new dilemma: I have decided to build a trail bike from scratch, so should I opt for a carbon or aluminum frame?

    It's a 6" travel frame.

    Factoring in the weight savings, the increased stiffness, and the better dampening of carbon, it seems to be the clear winner in every category save one: impact resistance. I'm actually pretty concerned about this since I seem to crash more frequently than most of the people I ride with.

    Should I stay with aluminum?
    Carbon is fine. I've been on my plastic bike to 1.5 years, have tossed it down a rock face at Whistler, have had countless rocks fly up and hit the downtube and it is in perfect shape. I have total faith in a carbon frame. Everything eventually breaks. If an impact is big enough to break a carbon frame, it will most likely destroy an aluminum one too.

    The dampening of carbon is pretty nice too. Makes my bike feel solid to me.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    ...People thought they were getting a good fork because it was a "fox".

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by El Castigador
    So, as I enter my 3rd year of riding, I have finally learned that biting the bullet up front and buying the bike you really want is more prudent than going for the smaller sticker up front and upgrading as you go.

    As a result of this epiphany, I find myself faced with a new dilemma: I have decided to build a trail bike from scratch, so should I opt for a carbon or aluminum frame?

    It's a 6" travel frame.

    Factoring in the weight savings, the increased stiffness, and the better dampening of carbon, it seems to be the clear winner in every category save one: impact resistance. I'm actually pretty concerned about this since I seem to crash more frequently than most of the people I ride with.

    Should I stay with aluminum?
    Stay with aluminum.

    How many aluminum bikes do you have to cover with "frameskin" to avoid chips and cracks?

    The ding resistance of carbon relegates it to XC only.
    Stupid, but sometimes witty. Occasionally brilliant. Slow and fat though.

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  4. #4
    bike buster
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    Quote Originally Posted by iheartbicycles
    Stay with aluminum.

    How many aluminum bikes do you have to cover with "frameskin" to avoid chips and cracks?

    The ding resistance of carbon relegates it to XC only.
    I agree. I personally don't see the reason for a 6" carbon fiber bike, but that's just me. OK, less flexy. It's a 6" bike. It's only going to pedal so well. It costs a hell of a lot more than aluminum and then there's the impact resistance issue.

    I got doored on a night ride and rode away with a large-ish dent in the downtube. I bet I would be calling a cab and throwing my two-piece carbon fiber frame in the trunk had it not been aluminum.

    Even if it's just as strong, something tells me carbon will fail in a bigger, badder and more dramatic way. Then again, MichiganMat's entire headtube/handlebars flew off at Boggs. It was aluminum -- even if a cheapie off-brand...

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by iheartbicycles
    Stay with aluminum.

    How many aluminum bikes do you have to cover with "frameskin" to avoid chips and cracks?

    The ding resistance of carbon relegates it to XC only.
    there are many who would disagree....
    carbon is used extensively in; professional race cars, military applications, nasa and other applications where rigorous stress and impact resistance is required

    imo, its simply a matter of personal preference.
    Racerick
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  6. #6
    dude with orange car
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    I could try to reach into the depths of my memory to my engineering days and come up with a well-reasoned answer backed up with solid facts and logic. But that would be hard. So I won't.

    Instead I'll go with the "get the one you want" answer propounded by racerick. If you'll always be stressin' about crackin' a carbon frame while you ride, that would suck. Get aluminum if that's the case. If you'll be pining for the low weight, stiffness and damping of carbon and have regrets every time you throw a leg over an aluminum steed, that would suck. So get carbon if that's the case.

    Either way, right now you should have a beer. Then another.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by jdubsl2
    I agree. I personally don't see the reason for a 6" carbon fiber bike, but that's just me. OK, less flexy. It's a 6" bike. It's only going to pedal so well. It costs a hell of a lot more than aluminum and then there's the impact resistance issue.

    I got doored on a night ride and rode away with a large-ish dent in the downtube. I bet I would be calling a cab and throwing my two-piece carbon fiber frame in the trunk had it not been aluminum.

    Even if it's just as strong, something tells me carbon will fail in a bigger, badder and more dramatic way. Then again, MichiganMat's entire headtube/handlebars flew off at Boggs. It was aluminum -- even if a cheapie off-brand...
    I've owned 1/2 a dozen carbon MTB's and all of them took a beating and it showed.

    people are going to have a hard time convincing me otherwise, since I've owned so many different carbon bikes, and without fail, they show dings, chips and stress fractures much more readily than aluminum.

    Remember that el castigator is looking for a new 6" travel bike, and that he crashes lots.
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  8. #8
    aka dan51
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    Quote Originally Posted by jdubsl2
    I agree. I personally don't see the reason for a 6" carbon fiber bike, but that's just me. OK, less flexy. It's a 6" bike. It's only going to pedal so well. It costs a hell of a lot more than aluminum and then there's the impact resistance issue.

    I got doored on a night ride and rode away with a large-ish dent in the downtube. I bet I would be calling a cab and throwing my two-piece carbon fiber frame in the trunk had it not been aluminum.

    Even if it's just as strong, something tells me carbon will fail in a bigger, badder and more dramatic way. Then again, MichiganMat's entire headtube/handlebars flew off at Boggs. It was aluminum -- even if a cheapie off-brand...
    How many aluminum frames have you broken?
    Remember walking 2 miles at Saratoga Gap when your aluminum Stumpy failed?

    In the end everything will fail given the right circumstances, everything.

    Get what you want, it's all personal preference. I was a carbon hater until I got one, and I absolutely love it. My carbon frame fear is over.
    If carbon was truly an inferior material I don't think Santa Cruz, Trek, and Specialized (three of the biggest bike manufacturers) would be building 6" travel bikes out of it. That being said, I will never run a carbon seatpost or handlebar on a MTB. It's just in my head to think that they are inferior and will fail in a major way.

    I wonder how many people that say never get a carbon frame are running carbon seatposts or handlebars.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    ...People thought they were getting a good fork because it was a "fox".

  9. #9
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  10. #10
    bike buster
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    Quote Originally Posted by racerick
    there are many who would disagree....
    carbon is used extensively in; professional race cars, military applications, nasa and other applications where rigorous stress and impact resistance is required
    ... and budgets are unlimited.

    Quote Originally Posted by dan51
    I don't think Santa Cruz, Trek, and Specialized (three of the biggest bike manufacturers) would be building 6" travel bikes out of it.
    They are building with carbon because they can charge people $8000 for one. Right out of the box, there is an obvious concern over impact resistance. Trek's new "Carbon Armor" shows there is an obvious need for protecting the stuff from impacts. Or maybe it's like those rubberized orange seals that come with Enduro bearings -- just to make people feel better.

    Is the Mojo's magic in the fact that it is carbon fiber or the linkage design? It's not like you're riding down the autobahn and the carbon fiber is soaking up all the imperfections in the road which turn into vibration so you never notice them. You're ripping down Braille and still feeling a lot of the sensations provided by the trail through the bike (hopefully). I don't see what advantages it offers other than being the next cool thing at a premium price in the MTB application.

    I do remember the walk back to 9x35. It sucked. I never said aluminum was indestructible, as I have proven several times it isn't. My fear is that when carbon fiber does fail, it will be in a much more spectacular way resulting in greater injury. While MTBing is risky in general, I'd rather fail at a jump and get hurt than have my bike implode on it's own plastic seams while JRA and send me face first into the ground.

    Sorry, I just don't see the need for carbon fiber when you have six inches of suspension travel to absorb bumps, hits and drops while out on the trail. On a road bike, I'm sure it provides a much stiffer (again, how well can a 6" bike pedal?), smoother ride all in a lighter package... but give me metal for riding in the dirt.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan51
    How many aluminum frames have you broken?
    Remember walking 2 miles at Saratoga Gap when your aluminum Stumpy failed?

    In the end everything will fail given the right circumstances, everything.

    Get what you want, it's all personal preference. I was a carbon hater until I got one, and I absolutely love it. My carbon frame fear is over.
    If carbon was truly an inferior material I don't think Santa Cruz, Trek, and Specialized (three of the biggest bike manufacturers) would be building 6" travel bikes out of it. That being said, I will never run a carbon seatpost or handlebar on a MTB. It's just in my head to think that they are inferior and will fail in a major way.
    Carbon is great as a structural element. The issue is with impacts, dings etc. How much "frameskin" are you running on your Mojo? If you don't slather the bike with rubberized tape, any impact is going to really mess up the paint/clear coat and possibly top layer of carbon.

    The way I treat my bikes (read abuse) I decided I'd rather have aluminum. This after having owned a couple Kestrel carbon MTB's, GT carbon, Giant carbon and even an Ibis Mojo.

    Quote Originally Posted by dan51
    I wonder how many people that say never get a carbon frame are running carbon seatposts or handlebars.
    A) carbon bars to make me a little nervous - but B) they don't take rocks like chainstays and downtubes do, so they aren't as likely to get the stress fractures - unless you crash on them or overtighten your stem bolts.
    Stupid, but sometimes witty. Occasionally brilliant. Slow and fat though.

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  12. #12
    aka dan51
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    Quote Originally Posted by iheartbicycles
    How much "frameskin" are you running on your Mojo? If you don't slather the bike with rubberized tape, any impact is going to really mess up the paint/clear coat and possibly top layer of carbon.
    I'm probably running the same amount as most other people.
    I chose to put frameskin on because the bike is so beautiful I didn't want to get it dinged and scratched, not because I thought it would make it a stronger bike. I use the stuff on aluminum frames as well to prevent scratching and cable rub marks. The only paint advantage aluminum has is if it gets anodized. Paint is going to chip no matter what, whether it's on steel, carbon, or aluminum. Take a look at Shiloh's painted Stumpjumper. It's been chipped so bad it's practically raw now.

    I can understand the question of reliability when it comes to impacts. Every time I have a rock hit it hard I immediately pull over and check it out. I'm constantly going over the frame looking for cracks and am always disappointed (yet also impressed) to never find any.

    The point is, I like my bike and it has changed my view on carbon. And my views were exactly like jdub's.

    Maybe we should get a 7 hour spot on CSPAN so we can have pro and anti carbon sides debate it...in the end nothing will change.

    I'd love to see Trek or Specialized do an impact test. Put an aluminum and carbon Remedy/Enduro side by side and have them each take the same hits in the same spots, then throw them in their stress test machines to see which fails first. That would probably be the only way to fairly compare the two materials.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    ...People thought they were getting a good fork because it was a "fox".

  13. #13
    Urban Ninja
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    Trek runs an extra layer of material through the tubes of their Remdy called "Caron Armor" that is supposed to guard against blunt strikes. They also use a plastic guard right under the down tube for even more protection.

    http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes...medy/remedy99/

    Plus if the carbon does fail on a Trek, they're gonna take care of you

  14. #14
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    just my opinion, but I look at it this way. If $$$ is an issue,

    AL bike + really good fork and wheels >>> carbon bike with average wheels & fork for the same price. You might even have more left over for other better components.

    carbon is nice and probably better (but not by a whole lot). Its a very expensive premium cost for what you get. dan is right about whatever can break a carbon frame will probably also break an AL frame.

  15. #15
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    Here is a video from niner http://www.ninerbikes.com/fly.aspx?l...true&taxid=281 takes a while to load. The Carbon fork was actual hit more times that the Steel. You can pick it apart if you like. But I found it interesting. BTW thin XC (AL) frames dent very easily too!

    Someone made a good point about riding a squishy 6" bike already - so I'll agree. All thing being equal; I don't think I would notice a difference switching out my (M5 AL) frame on my 5.5" SJ to carbon.

    But my S-works Epic (2010 carbon) gets a huge headset and BB area and the diff between that and the (AL) model is noticeable.
    Last edited by diver160651; 02-28-2010 at 08:42 AM.
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  16. #16
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    Another bike demo season has started. Go check the bikes out yourself. I didn't think many 6" travel bikes offer a carbon version though. If you are willing to consider 5.5" travel bikes, that will open a lot of carbon doors for you. With some trail bikes, I can feel the drastic differences in riding between carbon and AL. I don't pay much attention to the robustness of the material though. (Not saying others shouldn't.)

    A few shops that I know who do demos include:
    - Passion Trail Bikes (March 6/7)
    - Trailhead
    - Calmar
    - Sunshine Bicycles
    - Mike's Bikes
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by jdubsl2
    On a road bike, I'm sure it provides a much stiffer (again, how well can a 6" bike pedal?), smoother ride all in a lighter package... but give me metal for riding in the dirt.
    Check out bustedcarbon.com. That site should be enough to scare anyone away from carbon road bikes and handlebars. Those 2 items take up about 90% of the posts. About 90% of the posts seem to be from people driving their bikes into garage doors or getting run over by cars.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    ...People thought they were getting a good fork because it was a "fox".

  18. #18
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    I ride aluminum, but I've ridden carbon in the past, and I've test rode the Ibis. Not all carbon seems to be created equally. For me, I like the strength and stiffness of aluminum, and I felt too much flex under me on a carbon bike.

    Carbon seems to be very expensive too.. with the upwards of $7k for a lot of nice carbon bikes, where you can get a nice equivalent AL bike for $4k.

    You can also try steel too.
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  19. #19
    bike buster
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan51
    Check out bustedcarbon.com. That site should be enough to scare anyone away from carbon road bikes and handlebars. Those 2 items take up about 90% of the posts. About 90% of the posts seem to be from people driving their bikes into garage doors or getting run over by cars.

    holy !@!@#!@#





    This guy could've made it out.


  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by jdubsl2
    Trek's new "Carbon Armor" shows there is an obvious need for protecting the stuff from impacts.
    Or it shows that the cycling community has a fear of something which may or may not be real, and Trek's marketing department found a way to profit from it.

    Why not go with an Al front triangle and CF rear triangle? Something like a Yeti 575 maybe? Jenson has some frames on sale right now. Although, I agree with the previous posters about the need for CF on a big travel bike. I only have an XC bike, but think if I bought a bigger travel bike, I'd want a stiff frame with very little flex, since the suspension is going to soak up the bumps.

  21. #21
    Urban Ninja
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    Quote Originally Posted by maleonardphi
    Or it shows that the cycling community has a fear of something which may or may not be real, and Trek's marketing department found a way to profit from it.

    Very possible. However I can tell you first hand that when carbon meets a rock bad things can happen even with the best carbon manufacturers...
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  22. #22
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    i can't speak for everyone, but i love my carbon s works stumpjumper...i find it to be as advertised--light, stiff, good handling and good looking. only problem is expense, and there's just no way around that one. the frame is warranted for life from specialized so i'm not concerned about it breaking, and i'm sort of a wimp anyway. i upgraded from an aluminum s works stumpy and noticed the difference immediately....it was just better in every way, at least for me.

  23. #23
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    My 2005 Enduro is aluminum and I've put it through some mean ****. Still not broke. Sure, it weighs 29 pounds.

  24. #24
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    Looking at the applications for carbon composite materials, there are basically two variants: Either it is a highly stressed structural component, like in a F1 car, a racing yacht or David Copperfield's flying harness, or it is supposed to take some abuse, like a bullet proof vest or skid plates for dirt bikes or rally racing cars. It's never both at the same time, which is why I have a no-carbon policy for my bikes.

    C>

  25. #25
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    I apologize in advance for this general statement, but I think a lot of people who haven't tried carbon frames are afraid/biased to do so. I've seen dozens of threads on here where people post pics of their broken carbon bars or seatpost. Well, that's just what happens when carbon fails, it breaks. However, when you take a spill and bend an aluminum handlebar or seatpost, isn't it 'broken' or in need of replacement?. Granted, the thought of handlebars (specifically carbon) breaking, while ripping down something like repack, is pretty darn scary.

    The reason I'm using handlebars/seatposts as an example here is because there really aren't too many threads that are overwhelmingly in support of carbon mtb frames failing prematurely [yet?]. Personally, I own a mojo and I love it for what it's intended to be used for (not a DH/DJ bike). I can't justly say that I won't ever break it but I do know that in the past (bmx days) I have broken aluminum, 4130 cromoly and steel. The frames always broke at the welds and I've snapped cranks and stems clean in half. That's in addition to the many parts that got bent.

    I'm not an advocate of carbon or aluminum but I'm just saying that one shouldn't be so quick to rule out a carbon frame until they've tried it.

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