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  1. #1
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    Carbon vs. Aluminum Frame

    I figured this has been posted before but a quick search didn't find anything, so I apologize if this is redundant. I'm looking to get my first cyclocross bike and race 'cross this season. I've been racing on the road and mtb for the past three years and want to give 'cross a try. For my first year racing, will there be a noticeable difference between a carbon frame and an aluminum frame? Specifically, I've been looking at the 2014 Specialized Crux Elite Rival Disc (carbon with Rival rear derailleur) versus the Crux Sport Apex Disc (alum. with apex rear derailleur). There's a $750 retail price difference, with the main difference being a carbon frame and Rival rear derailleur. Is it worth spending the extra money for carbon and rival or should I save the money and get some tubular wheels? Thanks!

  2. #2
    TXTony
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    I started on a aluminum frame cross bike...it was kind of a harsh ride on some of the gravel grinders I did with it..switched to a Cannondale Carbon Super X and it was night and day difference..at least to me...smoothed out things a lot..I really notice the difference when I swap out tires to ride it on the road...the Cannondale has Rival on it..pretty decent group IMO..I imagine Apex is just as good.....I guess they both have their pros and cons..I like the ride of the carbon better over the aluminum..but my aluminum bike was a good bike..just the frame seemed to amplify the rough stuff more to me

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the reply. That's what I had assumed - aluminum would be a rougher ride which for riding 'cross I would think you would want to smooth out the ride as much as possible.

  4. #4
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    personally i've had 3 aluminum frames in the past (jake the snake, giant tcx, blue), one carbon and one titanium. i really like the brash connected feeling i get from aluminum for a race bike. low psi tubies will smooth out the cross course but like TXTony said, it would be harsh for endurance riding. BTW the ti bike was a lynsky pro-cross and it was a wet noodle. the carbon bike was a carroll composites, great all around racing or on forrest service roads but i am selling it on ebay now because i am having a custom rock lobster made in aluminum.

  5. #5
    Daniel the Dog
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    All cross bikes are hard on tiny tires. I rode a Moots on a cross bike and it was brutal just like an alloy bike. Carbon can be really rough depending on the manipulation of the carbon and lay up.

  6. #6
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    Cx races are pretty short, especially in the c4s, so I doubt you'll have time to get much more beat up by an aluminum bike vs a similar carbon bike. That being said, I have an older tricross sworks carbon, and I love it. It's very smooth as best I can compare it to my carbon/aluminum road bike. I did swap with my friend for his Jake for a bit on a trail ride, but it was hard to tell, -other than I liked my tricross much better. I really like the higher front end of the tricross, I assume the crux is a similar Roubaix type design. Around here, mtn bikes are legal to race so long as they don't have 'forward pointing bar extensions', I raced my old hardtail twice last season, so you could probably just ride your mtb, since you're just giving it a try. Can you test ride both?

  7. #7
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    I don't think I'll be able to test ride both, and if I would be able to it would be on the road which may not tell me much. Right now I don't plan on using it for long gravel endurance rides, but mainly just 'cross races and the occasional road ride if the weather is bad. Aluminum is appealing because of the lower cost, but my concern is that since my road bike and mtb are both carbon, I won't like the feel of aluminum. It's been about 4 years since I've rode an aluminum road bike so I don't remember how it feels compared to carbon.

  8. #8
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    I'd go with aluminum until you're willing to go with a higher end carbon bike.
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  9. #9
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    I just did a 50 mile road ride with my aluminum Ridley, and I was comfortable. I try to avoid the larger bumps, but I didn't find it disagreeable to spend almost 3.5 hours on the bike.

    Then again, I've never ridden a carbon bike, so I can't compare.

    Hopefully the Ridley stays comfy feeling, as I'm gearing up to do a century on it soon!

    As far as Rival vs. Apex, I have both on my bike...it's spec'd as having all Rival, but for some reason it's got Rival shifters & front derailleur with a Apex rear derailleur. The rear shifts great, you'll have no problems with it. I really like the way it shifts actually.

    The front, not so much. It seems to have a long throw and doesn't easily shift up 100% of the time.
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  10. #10
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    I've got a carbon Cannondale Super X. It blows away everything else I've ridden. I'd say it's worth the money to get carbon IF you still have money left to buy awesome wheels.

    Racing is all about the wheels.

  11. #11
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    Thanks for all the advice everyone. I just found a great deal on a set of Velocity Pro Elite alloy tubular wheels and Challenge Grifo tubular tires - a lot less than I was expecting to pay which makes the carbon bike more of a possibility.

  12. #12
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    I ended up getting a great deal on a 2013 Cannondale CAADX Ultegra with disc brakes. I got the bike yesterday and took it for a short ride. So far it's great. The only thing I'm not crazy about so far are the Cannondale house brand brakes, but I'm going to give them some time to see if they improve once they are worn in. If not I may replace them with some Avids.

  13. #13
    Creepy tooth fairy
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    Keep it simple and...

    ...cheap. I am now into my fourth year of CX. My first year I raced a steel single speed (against geared Masters 3/4) and still managed to finish mid pack in most races. I spent approximately $350 on that bike. I raced on a geared aluminum rig for the last two seasons and did slightly better even scoring a top twenty result. I am not that fast and my bikes are not super light. I did however beat guys riding $6K plus Colnagos, mainly due to my bike handling abilities and devil-may-care aggression.

    I don't believe it makes a difference at the Cat 4 and most of the Cat 3 levels. More important is familiarity with the bike and it's handling. In addition, unless you have money to burn, why bother dumping it into a fancy carbon bike that you will literally beat the crap out of? If you get completely hooked and a plastic bike will make you feel better about your racing experience then get one. Remember that your skills, desire and a simple reliable bike that won't fold up like a cheap suit is far superior to any overpriced flavors of the week
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    the going won't get good 'til I'm good and gone

  14. #14
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    There can be junky aluminum and good aluminum and that also goes for carbon. I believe general consensus is that tubular wheels are more important than the frame. Plus low PSI generally is a bigger comfort factor than the frame.

    I would say get a bike you like and fits you. If $ is an issue like it is for most, go cheaper. You definitely will not ride twice as good on a 2k bike compared to a 1K.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by ttusomeone View Post
    I ended up getting a great deal on a 2013 Cannondale CAADX Ultegra with disc brakes. I got the bike yesterday and took it for a short ride. So far it's great. The only thing I'm not crazy about so far are the Cannondale house brand brakes, but I'm going to give them some time to see if they improve once they are worn in. If not I may replace them with some Avids.
    I wanted to point out that I'm the OP and I ended up getting this Cannondale. With the Ultegra components, if I decide after this season that I want carbon I can just upgrade the frame and swap the components over. We can keep this thread going because it may help others who are facing the same decision this upcoming cross season. Thanks everyone for all the advice!

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by ttusomeone View Post
    I ended up getting a great deal on a 2013 Cannondale CAADX Ultegra with disc brakes. I got the bike yesterday and took it for a short ride. So far it's great. The only thing I'm not crazy about so far are the Cannondale house brand brakes, but I'm going to give them some time to see if they improve once they are worn in. If not I may replace them with some Avids.

    Replace the stock brakes with TRP mini-v's and thank me later.
    the going won't get good 'til I'm good and gone

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by HELLBELLY View Post

    Replace the stock brakes with TRP mini-v's and thank me later.
    Um, I specifically wanted disc brakes. If anything I'll change the stock brakes to some Avid BB7s.

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