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  1. #1
    mtbr member
    Reputation: jazzanova's Avatar
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    Jun 2008

    Carbon vs Aluminum wheels stiffness

    Few of my friends went back to aluminum. I am trying to find out if there are more of you guys who prefer it over the carbon.
    Let's leave out the question of price and concentrate on the other differences.

    Not all carbon as well as aluminum wheels are created equal. Different strength, weight, width, stiffness, etc...
    Spokes, nipple choice and how they are laced play an important role too.
    But if we generalize a bit, what is your take on the subject?

    Many feel the carbon wheels can be under certain circumstances too stiff. Especially on DH where some compliance can be desired. Stiffness of carbon is directly translated to handlebars, where aluminum can be less tiring on long DH runs.
    The stiff carbon wheels accelerates faster and the transfer of energy is more direct, which is appreciated on uphills and flats.

    Is there a specific wheel set you find overly stiff?

  2. #2
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    Reputation: watts888's Avatar
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    Oct 2012
    I haven't really tried carbon at great lengths other than demo rides. For those demo rides, they were OK, but a well built alloy rim works fine for me. No matter what, it has to be firm though. Proper tire pressure and suspension should resolve the "too stiff" carbon rim issue. I've never had a problem with "too stiff" of wheel, but I've had issues with too lazy of an alloy wheel before. If the wheel is built right, it should be stiff.
    "a hundred travel books isn't worth one real trip"

  3. #3
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    Jul 2011
    I personally am hard on my rims. I know from experience than I'll beat up aluminum rims pretty easily. I've found that for me and my clumsy aggressive riding, budget carbon rims (Light-Bicycle in my case) hold up better than quality aluminum rims. So far I've gotten about ~3x the life out of carbon that I would out of a comparable aluminum rim, which pretty much negates the cost (not to mention the trouble of relacing). Given that the carbon's 100g lighter per wheel, it's a no-brainer.

    I love how stiff they are. It gives a really nice "point and shoot" feel, knowing that the wheels will just hold their line in a way aluminum rims don't. I don't find them "too stiff", but they're narrow by today's standards - only 24mm internal. I can't say how I'd feel about something in the 30mm or 35mm range without some substantial riding time. And though I like to go fast, I'm not hitting World Cup terrain at World Cup speeds.

  4. #4
    Reputation: The Squeaky Wheel's Avatar
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    Dec 2003
    I have never thought that my carbon rims (Light bikes, Enve) are too stiff . That entire concept sounds silly to me. Trail feel is primarily dictated by suspension and tires. Not rim vertical stiffness. I do not want my wheels flexing in this matter under any circumstance, and my local trails are plenty chunky.

    as for lateral stiffness, gram for gram, I've yet to ride an alloy rim that compares to carbon in terms of corning precision and the ability to hold a line in the rough. My bikes have carbon wheels exclusively now for 3 years. When I try a bike with alloy wheels, they feel like noodles. And I'm only 165 lbs.

    and while carbon can crack, they are virtually maintenance free in terms of truing and maintenance.

    Cost aside, I see zero reason to run alloy rims

  5. #5
    Reputation: changingleaf's Avatar
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    Apr 2010
    Aluminum rims are usually stiff enough, but carbon rims are better. It depends on your budget.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by The Squeaky Wheel View Post

    Cost aside, I see zero reason to run alloy rims
    color choices in alum

  7. #7
    Reputation:'s Avatar
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    Nov 2013
    if it wasn't for pricepoints firesale on carbon rims, I never would have gotten any...1200 bucks on a rear wheel 'hoping for improvement' was not an option

    but 200 bucks for a 1200 buck wheel, I got me some

    anyhow...yeah they are worth 1200 bucks (I would have paid full boat
    knowing what I now know)

    having installed, and been using, an easton carbon rear, I can say without
    any friggin doubt, carbon on rear is what I will be using till I'd ded

  8. #8
    Reputation: evasive's Avatar
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    Feb 2005
    While there are a lot of carbon wheels around here, I've seen a few of the local rippers move back to aluminum. (And they've tried and moved on from Easton.) We have fast trails that are generally smooth but with some really nasty square edged rock gardens scattered around. There's one locally famous one that Enve's warranty department must hate. I know of 4 people offhand who have cracked both rims in one pass on that rock: Derbys and M70s. I only know one person who's never broken a carbon rim.

    I'm sure I'll get carbon rims at some point, but my next wheel build is using aluminum. It's partly from a cost saving perspective, but also from counting the dings in my Stan's FR rims. Maybe some of them wouldn't have left a mark on a carbon rim, but I'm confident that a few of them would have broken one. I wouldn't save any weight with extra layup Derbys, so it's mostly stiffness that I'm missing out on, but I've been content with what I've had so I won't feel I'm missing anything.

  9. #9
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    Feb 2017
    Aluminum rims are the biz ! And they can be stiff too, just ride some mavic xa pro's ! They are light and perfect stiffness/ compliance/ durability. I currently ride Dt Swiss Spline One's and friggin' love them, they are quite stiff ,lightweight (~1600g) and hold a line very well. Now Stan's are light but they are very compliant... Mavic for stiffness, weight, and racing?/ Dt Swiss for solo, competitive trail, and light gravity?/ Stans for weight, fun, and all day comfort?

  10. #10
    mtbr member
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    Oct 2007
    Here are 2 opposing points of view that Iíve read in recent times

    First is from this

    why, if you race to win, you shouldnít use carbon wheels.
    Aluminium vs. Carbon wheels: (2 : 0)

    Carbon wheels are not only very expensive, but also usually very stiff despite their low weight. This allows razor-sharp handling and fast acceleration, but on long descents, they also rob you of strength and are less forgiving than their cheaper aluminium counterparts. In our test, we managed to write off an E*Thirteen TRS SL carbon rim. We made contact with a sharp rock, audibly slamming the rim through the tire and cracking the rim despite 1.9 bar air pressure. Fortunately, the wheel didnít break completely. On top of that, the only pinch flat we had (despite being set up tubeless) was on the Santa Cruz Reserve carbon wheels. On long enduro stages, bikes with carbon rims not only strip the rider of potentially important energy reserves, but can also lead to a premature race end due to mechanical failure. But beware: there is no absolute safety with an aluminium rim either
    From another perspective I read an interesting forum post somewhere about how a guy had done back to back testing carbon vs alu rims. The opportunity had come up to have 2 sets of wheels (carbon & alu) with the same tyres on 2 different frame versions of the same bike (carbon & alu)

    One of the most noticeable differences was how the carbon wheels seemed to run quieter. This was put down to the carbon being a better damper of vibrations.

    Iíve seen this in camera tripods too. Carbon tripods demonstrably reduce vibrations significantly quicker. There was a neat slo mo video I saw that was really interesting.

    For me Iím still on alu. I havenít summoned up the courage yet. Iím hard on wheels. My Spline Ones need some love and the new Spank Oozzy 345ís have several significant rock scars after just a couple of weeks (inc a tough on wheels race)

    Iíd love to be able to take advantage of the increased stiffness and reduced weight but the cost and my perception of more likely catastrophic failure keep stopping me taking the leap

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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