When I first started cycling years ago, it was on a ladies mongoose mountain bike. Apparently it was aluminum but let me tell you – that bike was HEAVY. Being the cocky young man I was, I challenged a family friend to a bike race. “Just 30 miles”. I was a wrestler back then, and seeing as how I was reasonably fit, I thought that would translate directly into cycling. WRONG! All that aside though, that aluminum cycle stayed with me for years until the bottom bracket began to warp. That being said, I made the jump to a full carbon cycle a few years ago, and I never looked back. But is it really worth it? Below I’ll discuss my personal experiences with both carbon, and aluminum cycles.
After riding my Mongoose gravel bike into the ground in 2011, I realized it was time to get an actual road bike, so with help from my sweet mother, and what meager savings I had from working retail, we purchased a Winsdor Wellington 4.0. It was an aluminum frame, with carbon forks, and it was the most beautiful bike I had ever seen. Compared to riding the goose’ I felt like the fastest cyclist alive! What really stood out about the bike were those carbon forks – highly responsive, and they dampened vibrations like a champ. Seemingly all I had to do was think about going left or right and the bike would read my mind. For those on a budget, a set of carbon forks gives you the strength and resiliency of aluminum, but still offers a smooth responsive ride. The bike was lighter than my old goose, but still pretty meaty to carry around. Something I appreciated about the aluminum frame was that it was durable – I hit many a hole and imperfection in the road and that machine never failed me! Eventually I put enough miles into the Wellington that I decided it was time for the next step. I wanted to go full carbon cycle.
My intent was to get a carbon fuji tri bike… That intent changed when I saw my beloved Kestrel Talon X sitting alone at the end of the row.
All smooth, sharp edges, with a matte black finish, she looked like a predator ready to pounce at any minute. Needless to say my decision was made, and off I went.
The first things I noticed about the full carbon frame was how friggin light the bike was, and how smooth the road felt. Carbon dampens vibrations considerably more than aluminum or steel, and that was immediately evident from my very first ride. The acceleration on a carbon frame is also something worth mentioning – if you’re trying to go fast, fast, then my friend a full carbon cycle is for you. It is also worth noting that the power transfer I have noticed on my carbon frame is way better than the aluminum. When I turn on a carbon cycle, it feels like the entire bike is turning with me, which was a strange sensation at first. Riding Kestrel feels like the bike is an extention of my body, which I believe is how it should be.
I’ve been on this bike for 3 years now and have no intention of changing anything any time soon. Aside from a few nicks, the bike has held up to two crashes, many falls, and thousands of miles in every weather regime you can imagine that doesn’t involve ice.
All this being said, there is nothing at all wrong with carbon fiber, aluminum, or even steel frames. Everyone has their own riding styles, goals, and things that factor into what kind of bike they will get. Eventually my plan is actually to rebuild the Wellington one day and make it my commuter bike, simply because it holds sentimental value to me, and it is a joy to ride. Aluminum is a better value option, and will take bumps and holes much better than a carbon ride will. Carbon is pricier, but you have the potential to move faster, have better maneuverability and feel the road less.
What’s your favorite frame material?
“Earn Your Tailwind”