What Materials are used for the bike frame

  Not all bike frames are created equal. Since the backbone of any bike is its frame, it can be enlightening to understand how it’s made and what that means for you, the cyclist. The goal of any frame is to offer extraordinary strength with minimum weight. However, frame strength is determined by many factors. Whether the frame is aluminum or chromoly is only part of the equation. The way those materials are used is equally important.

  Which Material Is Right for You?

  It depends. Many factors—your style of riding, your weight, your sense of adventure—all play a role in your choice of material. The following paragraphs explain the different types of material commonly used on bikes. A few bikes out there are made of exotic metals, but that’s another discussion entirely.

  Carbon (High-Tensile) Steel

  Steel is the most commonly used material in bike frames. Carbon or high-tensile steel is a good, strong, long-lasting steel, but it isn’t as light as its more high-tech brother, the steel known as chromoly.

  Chromoly (Chrome Molybdenum) Steel

  A workhorse of the industry, chromoly is a light, strong steel. When it is butted and shaped to take off excess weight, it can deliver a fairly light frame that will last through years of hard use. Chromoly is responsive and offers good flex while maintaining its form.


  Having come a long way from the oversized tubes of old, aluminum is now less expensive and very widely used on today’s bikes. It’s light, strong and stiff. With proper design it can give a solid ride for climbing, or lively handling in tight situations.


  Lighter than steel but just as strong, this more-expensive metal is found on high-end road or cross-country mountain bikes. It flexes so well while maintaining its shape that some very high-end bikes use the metal itself as a shock absorber.

  Carbon Fiber

  Take a bundle of parallel continuous fibers and bind them together with glue. This creates a ply. Several plies are made up to form a laminate (just like plywood). And the laminate, if designed right, can be very tough. It’s also light. So why aren’t all bikes made out of carbon fiber? It tends to be brittle. The fact that metal can bend and regain its shape is what makes it last. Because of this, carbon fiber bikes are built even stronger than needed.

  What to Look For in a Frame

  Manufacturing processes and market trends continue to literally shape the bicycle frame. While not as common as it used to be, the process of butting is still used in the manufacture of bicycle frames. Meanwhile, steel, the long-running workhorse, is being replaced more and more by aluminum—its hardy cousin that grows less expensive every year. So what do you look for in a frame? Is next year’s frame necessarily better than this year’s?


  Striving to shave precious grams from frame designs, manufacturers have employed all sorts of exotic metals and methods. Essentially, though, what you pay for is inversely proportional to the weight of your bike. The more you pay, the less it weighs.


  In theory, aggressive angles lead to aggressive ride characteristics. Relaxed angles lead to more casual ride characteristics. Which is best for you? The answer really depends on how much time you spend in the saddle. If you ride a lot and aren’t interested in attacking the road or trail, go for a relaxed geometry of about 70 or 71 degrees on the head tube. More aggressive bikes have a head-tube angle of 72 or 73 degrees.

  Plain-Gauge Tubing

  Even with advances in materials, manufacturing processes and design, the best frame tubing for the buck is plain-gauge. These are tubes that don’t rely on butting (see below) or oversizing or exotic blends, but are straight and strong and easy to manufacture. As a consequence they are cheaper. Those who are “serious” about cycling may point out that plain-gauge tubes weigh more than butted tubes. This is true, but the difference is sometimes only a matter of three or four pounds. If you’re just out enjoying the town or trail and not attacking mountains, then this weight difference is of no consequence.


  The goal of any good bike manufacturer is to put the material where you need it. And you need the material where the bike frame undergoes the most stress—at each end of the various tubes. This process is known as butting.

  Internal Butting—Looking at the tube, you won’t notice butting because it’s hidden within the tube. So how do you know if the bike is butted? Bike manufacturers will certainly tell you, as it’s a big selling point.

  External Butting—The older, more expensive way is to add material onto the outside of the tube. This is rarely done anymore. However, you sometimes will see an extended weld. (See below.)

  There are two methods used to butt a frame tube.

  Double Butting—As the tube is shaped, extra material is allowed internally at each end of the tube. By increasing these areas of the tube, the overall tube wall thickness can be reduced, thus saving weight.

  Triple Butting—To save even more weight, the double butting process is refined by stepping down the material at the ends of the tube. This means the butting starts out in the standard, double-butted manner but then is thinned before stepping down again to the normal tube wall thickness. In a cutaway, the inside of the tube looks like three terraced rice paddies on a hillside.


  There are essentially 3 ways to join frame tubes:

  •   Weld them using the same material as the tube (TIG welding).
  •   Braze the tubes together using silver or brass.
  •   Use lugs to join the tubes.

  Each method has its proponents, yet nearly all but the very high-end bikes use the TIG welding method. This approach is relatively inexpensive and creates a good, solid weld. However, look closely at a bike’s welds. You’ll see that quality bikes offer a thick, even weld that goes around the entire tube. On department store bikes the welds are thin and spotty, dabbed down generally on the top, bottom and sides, but leaving open areas in between.

  Extended Welds—One inexpensive way of adding material to the end of a tube is to simply add welding material. Generally, this is an elliptical circle or a double line extending from the joint to about an inch or so down the tube where it fades out. What’s the problem with this method? The heat used in this process can actually weaken the tube. After welding, manufacturers will again heat-treat the entire tube—baking it, essentially—to bring the metal back up to par. While effective, this is a less substantial method than actually building the butting while the tube is being drawn out.

  What Other Factors Should I Consider?

  How Long Are You Going to Keep Your Bike?

  Steel will oxidize (rust) faster than aluminum. However, steel can take more stress over the long run than aluminum. Which is better? If you live in a wet climate, aluminum may be the better choice. Dry climate? You can do well with steel.

  How Much Do You Weigh?

  If you go much above the 170-pound mark, you’ll want a bike with a higher strength. This may take an added pound of frame weight to achieve, but it’s worth it in the long run. Also, steel and titanium are generally better for bigger riders due to something called elongation. They can flex more without breaking.

  Is Money a Factor?

  Though aluminum and titanium have come down in price, steel is still the least expensive metal. But since most cyclists like the lighter weight of aluminum or carbon fiber, manufacturers are creating bikes that are aluminum or carbon fiber and more affordable. Titanium? Still expensive.



  Bikes using steel—specifically chromoly rather than its cheaper high-tensile counterpart used in low-end department store bikes—are quite strong. And their strength-to-weight ratio can be adjusted during the manufacturing process through what’s known as “butting.”

  Whereas straight gauge tubes have uniform thickness, single-, double-, or triple-butted tubes do not. Their welded ends are thicker than their centers, reinforcing or lightening them as necessary. The result is a muscular piece of equipment.

  Improves Suspension

  It also leads to a smooth ride. Steel’s springy quality mitigates the roughness of bumpy roads, making long rides more comfortable for your hands and legs. This also makes it easier to find a nice climbing rhythm when pedaling through hilly areas.


  Hand in hand with strength is steel’s durability. You can knock these guys around and they’ll keep coming back for more. Combine this with the inexpensive price tag relative to some other materials and easier repairs over the long haul and you can get some great value out of steel-framed bikes.


  Steel frames have an inexpensive price tag relative to some other materials and easier repairs over the long haul. You can get some great value out of steel-framed bikes.



  Compared to other materials, steel is heavy. This might not be an issue for everyone, but weight may come into play for others as it requires a higher level of fitness, stamina and strength. It’s certainly a factor in any sort of competitive racing as well.


  The other thing to keep in mind is corrosion. Wet or wintry climates in particular could rust steel frames more quickly than drier ones. This is not to say you can’t clean and take care of your bike, but you do typically need to pay more attention to regular maintenance with this option.


  If we take a brief detour from the metal family, we run straight into carbon fiber. Without going all engineer on you, carbon fibers are thinner than strands of hair. Once woven into hundreds of layered sheets, resin is added to glue everything together. This gives you a reinforced, inflexible composite material.


  Professional Strength-to-Weight Ratio for Racing

  Of our four frame types, carbon fiber is the lightest and stiffest (even more than aluminum). Because of its slight flex followed by progressive tightening, this is the preferred material for many sprinters and climbers. In fact, every Tour de France winner in the last 20 years has sported a carbon fiber bike. From the pro peloton to top-tier triathlons, this is the stuff you’re going to find the serious racers piloting.

  Much of this has to do with the versatility carbon fiber offers during the manufacturing process. Designers aren’t limited by tube shape, meaning they can tailor the structure in all kinds of ways.


  Carbon can be layered in different angles and directions to produce various degrees of strength and stiffness-to-weight ratios. It also allows bike makers to maximize aerodynamics, an obvious plus when you’re talking about high-speed competition.



  From a construction standpoint, this guy’s chief downfall is durability. When it was first introduced on bikes, carbon composites were somewhat mediocre, and inconsistencies in manufacturing methods resulted in frame cracks and failures. But, bicycle brands learned from their mistakes, and these early issues have been virtually eliminated.

  Of course, nothing’s perfect. Because of its rigidity, carbon fiber can still be compromised under excessive stress. Unfortunately, this kind of damage isn’t always clearly visible. A carbon fiber bike with weakened structural integrity is fragile. It must be carefully inspected after any sort of collision to avoid the dangers of complete failure while in motion.

  Diverse Range in Quality and Price

  However, carbon fiber is an excellent choice for bikes. Just be careful about what you’re buying since not all frames are created equal (to the point that many brands even use different names for their own carbon fiber terminology). Quality is based on things like how the raw material is heated and layered and what resin is used to make the composite product.

  Consequently, performance ranges widely between cheap and expensive bikes. Prices do, too, but luckily these have been dropping steadily for higher-end models.


  If steel frames are the Incredible Hulk of the bike world, titanium frames are the Superman: lighter and stronger. Of course, Superman comes with a super premium, which makes titanium one of the rarer frame materials on the circuit.


  Strength-to-Weight Ratio

  Like we said, very light and ridiculously strong. Similar to aluminum, bike titanium is actually an alloy that includes a dash of other metals such as aluminum (go figure) and vanadium.


  Titanium also makes for one smooth trip and is renowned for its bump-absorption over splotchy terrain.


  At least when it comes to the frame, titanium bikes are practically indestructible (but please don’t test this out at home). They hold up extraordinarily well against wear and tear. Their anti-corrosive properties help brush off water, road salt, and other elements that wreak havoc on alternative materials.

  Lifetime Warranties

  Because titanium bikes last so long if well cared for, most brands offer lifetime warranties against manufacturing defects. If nothing else, this is certainly a nice way to justify the up-front investment.


  Raw titanium is expensive. Construction is labor intensive. Significant expertise is needed. Availability is typically limited to boutique or custom shops. Repairs are challenging. Be prepared to shell out for a titanium frame.


  Riding style, size, climate, experience, budget, and other individual considerations should all play into your decision when selecting the best bike frame for your kids.

  Let’s summarize the advantages and of disadvantages of different bike frames to support your search.

  •   Steel: Strong and smooth. Buy steel if you’re looking for durability and don’t mind the extra weight. These are great for casual and touring cyclists once they get a little older.
  •   Aluminum: Light and inexpensive. Buy aluminum if weight is an issue or if your kid is becoming more involved in a specialized sport that requires stronger performance than steel.
  •   Carbon Fiber: Stiff and ultralight. Buy carbon fiber if you’ve become a regular parent on the competitive racing scene and you can stomach the higher price tag.
  •   Titanium: Powerful and durable. Quite simply, buy titanium if your child is a serious cycler and you want it to be the last one you purchase for a while. Or ever.

  What material bike frame is best?

  For all of these reasons, steel is a popular option for boutique and custom bikes, as well as touring and bikepacking frames, where weight is less of a concern. Steel offers better value than titanium, and durability and longevity are key.

  Does bike frame material matter?

  Frame material certainly plays some role in a bike’s overall character, but it’s far from the only thing that contributes to its feel and performance. So when you hear that aluminum leads to stiff and harsh riding, while steel and titanium make for a smoother experience, the truth is a lot more nuanced than that.

  Which is better aluminum or steel bike frame?

  Aluminum frames are generally stiffer than steel, resulting in a harsher ride. When fractions of a second count, track racers prefer that rigidity. But for getting to the store over city streets steel offers a more forgiving ride. No frame material is more durable than steel.

  What is the lightest bike frame material?

  This magic ride is attributed to aluminum being the lightest frame material — even lighter than carbon and titanium. It makes aluminum frames great choices for racing and time trialing. And, unlike steel, aluminum won’t rust; another advantage. There are various types of aluminum tubing in use by manufacturers.

  What is 6061 alloy frame?

  The 6061 alloy, which is alloyed with magnesium and silicon, is an excellent choice when welding is required, as is the case with bicycle frames. It provides stiffness, structural strength and toughness, good corrosion resistance and good machining characteristics.

  What bike material does not rust?


  Aluminum. While significantly lighter than steel, aluminum is a dependable lightweight metal option with benefits that also include strength, corrosion resistance and being rust proof.

  Why are bike frames made of aluminium?

  Aluminium was the leader when it came to frame material before carbon become more accessible. It’s a relatively light and stiff material and generally cheaper to produce than carbon. When it comes to bike frames, aluminium is ‘alloyed’ with another metal.

  Do aluminum bike frames crack?

  Do aluminum bike frames crack? Yes, aluminum bike frames will eventually crack. It may take an exceedingly long time if you have a quality bike frame, but it is something that will eventually happen, and there is nothing you can do that can really prevent it.

  Why is carbon fiber better than aluminum?

  Carbon fiber is a material that offers stiffness and strength at low density– which is lighter than aluminium and steel, that provides many practical benefits. Weight for weight, carbon fiber offers 2 to 5 times more rigidity (depending on the fiber used) than aluminium and steel.

  How long will aluminum bike frame last?

  Aluminum frames don’t last as long as other bike frames do. On average, aluminum frames last for about 6 years, while steel frames have an average lifespan of about 20 years or more. Every time you place some weight on the bike, the frame gives in because aluminum doesn’t have fatigue limits.

  Do aluminum bikes break?

  Unfortunately, aluminum is one of the weakest and shortest lasting bike frame materials available. This is due to the fact that it is so brittle. Unlike steel, aluminum does not bend before breaking. It will break with too much pressure and will be completely useless.

  Why are steel bikes so expensive?

  Even though steel was once the material of choice by manufacturers – making steel bikes far cheaper to produce – steel bikes today can be pretty expensive, and generally cost more than aluminum ones. Many steel bikes are custom made or designed by bespoke manufacturers so come with heftier price tags.

  Do bike frames rust?

  Bike frames, wheel rims, and gears are often made from steel which is vulnerable to rusting. The elements in rainwater, salt on the streets, and other materials can cause rust to build on your bike and eat away at the metal, especially if it’s exposed.

  Will an aluminum bike frame rust?

  Unlike your average steel bike frames, aluminum frames are not vulnerable to rust and subsequent corrosion. This resistance to rust is what makes aluminum bikes low-maintenance and perfect for mountain biking, hobby and touring cyclists who spend a significant amount of time riding in wet conditions.

  How long will a carbon fiber bike last?

  around 5 to 7 years

  It is estimated that a carbon fiber mountain bike will last for around 5 to 7 years. Carbon fiber bike frames used to be susceptible to UV damage, but this is no longer the case.

  Do carbon bikes break easily?

  When made well, carbon fiber can be tougher than steel and quite safe. But when made incorrectly, carbon-fiber components can easily break. The parts are built by layering fibrous carbon that’s bound together with resin.

  What is the lifespan of a bike?

  Originally Answered: How long do bikes usually last? Most bikes have the same lifespan as most cars, around the 15 to 25 year mark.

  Does carbon fiber scratch easily?

  If you have a part on your car made using carbon fiber, you may wonder whether this material is vulnerable to scratches. It’s unfortunate that despite all the unique properties possessed by this material, it can get scratched. And scratch marks can significantly affect carbon fiber’s sleek look and design.

  Should I worry about rust on my bike?

  A rusty bicycle doesn’t just look bad, it can seriously hinder your bike’s performance. A rusty bike chain can slow you down, stop bells from working, and rust can corrode the spokes, which if left unchecked can reduce the structural integrity of your bike.

  What is the lightest bicycle frame material?

  This magic ride is attributed to aluminum being the lightest frame material — even lighter than carbon and titanium. It makes aluminum frames great choices for racing and time trialing. And, unlike steel, aluminum won’t rust; another advantage. There are various types of aluminum tubing in use by manufacturers.

  Can you crack a carbon bike frame?

  Yes, you can! The process of repairing a carbon fiber bike frame that is cracked, damaged, or split is to lay new carbon fibers and epoxy them in the same direction as the original fibers. The end result is a stronger bicycle frame than the original build at a negligible weight gain.




LavaLove has a large number of product reviewers, most of whom come from authoritative platforms for product editing and testing services, such as Forbes, ABC, CNN, etc. We analyze thousands of articles and customer reviews on the entire network and provide the best reviews The product.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Enable registration in settings - general