Bicycle Frames, The Heart Of The Bike

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The design of the bike frame has not changed much over the years, but the materials indeed have. The original bike was a hobbyhorse that you pushed along with your feet on the ground; this original was made from wood, and they are all pieces of museums. However, since the beginning, they were made in different sizes for singular people.

The geometry of a bike frame also differs when the purpose is mountain biking, road, bmx, or single speed. There are frame charts where you can check the correct size to use depending on your height, inseam and some other variables.

Steel & Aluminum Bike Frames

The bicycle frame was for many years manufactured in steel, the first frames were very heavy and the angles were very laid back and with a long wheel base, which made for a comfortable ride on the rough roads of the time, but would not be responsive for today’s fast roads and race conditions.

Steel bicycle frames over the years got lighter and lighter by making the tubes thinner and joining them without the use of lugs.

A big change came in the manufacture of frames when alloy tubes could be joined to each other strongly and safely to make responsive and very light frames, the tubes had to be bigger, but they could be made in aero-dynamic shapes.

Titanium Bike Frames

Litespeed Siena Titanium

If you have the money titanium or an all carbon frame would be your choice, much more expensive.  But in the case of titanium if it made correctly it will last a lifetime.

Titanium is very light but will give you a hard ride, mixing titanium main tubes with carbon forks and back end would be the best for handling and for comfort. One of the most famous titanium manufacturers is Litespeed and Siena is perhaps their best known bike. We recently reviewed another British titanium’s frames manufacturerm read the review of the Enigma Sprit.

If you want to upgrade from alloy or cabron to full titanium, there are some brands to look at, these are Airbone, Lightspeed and Merlin. However the exist some(not many) other that probably have never heard of them. Names like Everti, Omega or Habanero titanium builders have ben reviewed and we made a comparison from these 3 companies, just to know whether they are trustworthy to buy from.

Carbon Fiber Bike Frames

An all carbon frame at the moment seems to be what every one wants. Although titanium is very nice, carbon fiber frames are more affordable and probably more popular. Some of the nicest bike frames on the market are carbon, most of the big and famous frame builders now make at least one carbon fibre bike frame.

The most famous of these are Giant, Colnago, De Rosa, Look, Trek and Pinarello and there are many, many more, all very beautiful.

TREK BIKE FRAMESTrek has been perhaps the biggest brand into cycling for years. And specially because Lance Armstrong won 7 times the Tour de France. Since then, and also beacuse carbon frames manufacturers started to made cheaper and lower quality frames, seems like trek frames has been going down. But its popularity is uncontestable and known worldwide.

>> Read more about Trek Bikes hereLook Carbon FramesColnago carbon frame (Denis Menchov)Orbea carbon frameScott carbon frame (David Millar)My Scott CR1 SL CDBH All Carbon frame (Alexander Vinokourov 2008)Ridley carbon frame
(Fred Rodriguez – 3 times U.S. Pro Cycling Champion)

Carbon fiber bike frames can be constructed in three different ways, they can be made in one piece, with the carbon material wrapped in different directions for strength and lightness or tubes can be made more like ordinary alloy or steel frames and then joined directly or with lugs.

All are good and strong and give a comfortable ride and all the strength that you put into pressing on the pedals will go into pushing you forward on the road.

Bike manufacturers, Giant are one of the leaders in carbon fiber frame making, they were the first to build a frame that came in at under 1 kilogram and at an affordable price.

There are many frame builders using carbon fiber and all have different designs as carbon can be moulded or wrapped in many different shapes, not just round profiles.

These can be flat for aerodynamics or square for strength or as with most carbon fiber bike frames a mixture of many shapes for a mixture of strength, comfort, aerodynamics and style and they come in any colour, usually black to show off that beautiful carbon fiber weave.

All the main frame manufacturers make one, some with lugs (Trek, Colnago, Cervelo), some without (Scott, De Rosa, Battaglin) and some monocoque (Giant, Trek).

The monocoque designs can have tubes in any shape, but are a little heavier. Basically buy the best bicycle frame you can afford.

Alloy Bike Frames

Alloy bicycle frames are now most people’s choice combined with carbon forks and in some cases carbon chain and seat stays at the back.

Pinarello Magnesium frames

pinarello carbon frame

(Oscar Pereiro Bike – Tour de France winner)

Which Material For Your Next Bike Frame

If you don’t know which material to choose for your next frame, there’s also an opened discussion in this website entitled The Best Material for your Bike Frame . You can contribute to post your opinion about which is the best for and why.
Photo By: linqbmx.com

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Comments

  1. Lynton bernie says

    Sorry to waste time ERNIE .
    Didnt know that you only promote bike products.(even tho they could be fraudulent with weight and reliabilitly)
    I’m not the only one that is haven’t this problem with GURU.
    Again not one of us has ever recieved a email back from GURU on this matter of our weight concerns.
    Here’s one of the sites.

    www,cyclingtechblog.com/2010/04/11/manufacture…

    LYNTON

  2. John says

    One additional consideration – durability. I just had a bad accident on my carbon fiber Blue Competition AC1. The impact cracked the top tube. There goes that expensive bike frame! Now, I must spend another $1500 to get another decent frame. I think my aluminum Trek would have survived the impact.

  3. PerverTT says

    So many steel fundamentalists here. It is not the material, but how you use it and where you use it. If you make steel tubing too thin, it will crumple under load or if you knock it hard enough. That is if it doesn’t rust away in the first place. The same with carbon or any other material. It will fracture easily if manufacturers listen too much to weight weenies and don’t allow for extra tolerances where this is needed.

    But there are some things you can do with carbon and not with metal. You can tune different parts of the frame to respond differently under load. This one of the reasons why so many carbon forks are fitted to bikes with metal frames. Use materials according to their properties, not according to fundamentalist preference.

  4. Simon says

    I do 10,000km per year, ride to work. Hey just to let you know I was running a steel Columbus tubing 105 bike, made in Italy (Vetta) and just got a Carbon Giant 105 TCR advanced for $2K. The ride is so much easier, so much smoother and WAY more enjoyable. This thing is faster with less effort and doesn’t hurt my back as much. I know it will not last forever but Carbon is way superior to other materials, I would say it is 30% better and easier to ride. Giant give a Lifetime warranty on the frame.

    I have read many of these posts but this is an honest unbiased view. They truly are better. Durability over the long term? I don’t know. To be honest with you if I get 30,000km (3 years) daily commute out of this I will be ecstatic and buy a new one. By then all other components will need replacing anyway – chain, tyres, seat, wheels maybe, cassette, chain rings. Given it costs $2000 per year in public transport where I live in Perth I am way ahead ($500 a year in bike depreciation and I will sell it in 3 years time for $500). At this point I will buy a whole new bike. Hope this makes sense.

    • Samuel says

      Yes Simon, it makes sense. In fact doing these calculations is what most people don’t do. I always recommend to invest in good quality bikes that ride as you say; faster and easier. Nohting leaves forever and bikes need some replacement time to time. I replace the saddle and tyres every year. Chain and cassette every 2 years and cables every 3….it’s money….but gasoil is more expensive

  5. Elizabeth McCausland says

    The type of bike frame you buy is determined on the type of riding you do, commute, tour, race, weekend warrior, or just plan riding for the exercise. How long have you been riding, are you going to stick with it, how many hours a week do you ride? Do you ride a lot of hills, flats or something in between? What can you afford?

    I started on a Gary Fisher Mt bike in 2006. I would ride it every chance I got, on the road. I did that for a year until the introduction of the Solvang Century. I bought a Dolce Specialized $1400, aluminum frame, carbon forks, and seat post, Shimano 105 in 2007. I lost 20 lbs and now ride 100-150+ miles a week. I live in San Diego area and all we have are hills. I love riding so much that I wanted a bike that I can abuse and have it last 20 or more years. I want components that help me go fast on the flats and get me up 15-22% grades. I want wheels that are going to move and respond when I need them to. I ride with pros and amateurs. I can never keep up the pace of pros, but I try. I do not want a frame that will brake if it’s dropped in an accident (Carbon can break). I had a friend drop his CF bike on a downhill turn with a flat tire, the $3000 Trek frame went in the trash. Titanium is my choice of frame material. They do not make titanium frames that will fit me, 122lbs and 61”. I’m taking the plunge and buying custom titanium frame, components that are light made for hills, flats a cassette at 11-28 and wheels with ceramic bearings. It is costing me $5000. It is worth it to me; I plan on riding for the rest of my life.

  6. Ron Page says

    I’ve been told that the reason aluminum is so popular is that the major bike manufacturers are now set up to produce aluminum frames and that the welding techniques for aluminum are understood by manufacturers. At the same time, steel alloys have become more exotic and the manufacturing process for steel has become more complex, and the end result is that more and more bikes are produced with aluminum. I’m a good 40 lbs overweight, so a few extra pounds from an older steel frame just doesn’t matter. (g)

  7. HiTecHoBo says

    My partner and I are currently developing a Monocoque / Hemp Hybrid frame that will be stronger and lighter than Beryllium.
    Problem is that you forgot that you were going to ride.

  8. Michael Olexo says

    I bought a Ridley bike frame from a fellow that has been ridding
    professionally for many years. He said the bike had been hanging for
    a year and so he was getting rid of it.

    On the frame it says Fast Freddy, which I assumed to be a cycling team. I googled Fast Freddy, but only found, Fast Freddy as Freddy rodriguez. On his web site it mentions he was the national pro champion several years. So then I googled Fred Rodriguez bicycle, and found an image that matches my bike. It is the same Ridley Fast Freddy frame that is in your article.

    Since the guy I bought it from seems nice enough, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, that it is a legitimate sale.

    Is there a way to find this out. I’d hate to have this bike if its important to Mr. rodriguez.

    Thanks!

    Michael Olexo San Francisco, CA

    • says

      Sounds like you’ve got your hands on the real thing there. I doubt the bike is important to Freddy as he will get new bikes from his teams. The bike was probably sold off at the end of the season.
      Dont worry about it and get out there on a real “Pro” bike!
      Enjoy.

  9. Martin says

    My current bike is aluminium (a 2001 Klein Quantum) and I’m looking to replace it.

    I’m prepared to spend a couple of grand to find a bike as good as my Klein was when I bought it 8yrs ago. If that brings me a lighter, faster more comfortable bike I’ll smile even broader when crunching the miles.

    The local bike shop says go carbon, a couple of cyclist I know say go carbon. They say aluminium is harsh/stiff, yet I have never thought my Klein as harsh, before people mentioned it the thought never crossed my mind. And some say wait until you’ve tried carbon and you’ll see the difference.

    Not sure it makes much difference but I’m short and lean so while I’m happy to sacrifice frame weight if I can save weight elsewhere. And my bike will be used for the occasional triathlon (1-2 per year).

  10. phil webb says

    Bamboo is the up and coming material of choice. 10 year warranty? No problem. Crash resistance? Better than Carbon. Ride? Smooth and quiet beyond belief. Responsiveness? When selecting the right species and processing the raw material correctly, very responsive. Green? Green.

  11. Jim Wedeking says

    I have 4 bikes, One is Chromoly, one is steel, one is Aluminumn, and one is a mixture of Carbon and Aluminumn. Of all my bikes, the oldest and my favorite is the one made of Chromoly, yet I now ride it least of all because I got used to the index shifting of the newest bike.My friends tell me to go all carbon or titanuum. What happened to Chromoly? It was lighter than steel, and just as light as Aluminum and just as stiff as Titanium. I’m confused about what direction to turn. Bike shops only care about making a sale or is it because I don’t know what to tell them what’s best for me?

  12. Oliver says

    I’m amazed at the dearth of conversation and information on the web about steel frames. While aluminum is cheap and light, it is a ROUGH ride, especially for those of us heavy enough to require very stiff/tough wheels. I think the laid-back geometry of older steel designs is wonderful for folks who like to ride distances but don’t necessarily race, as well as those new to longer-distance road riding. Do you know of any websites/rags that are devoted to steel bikes?

  13. john says

    this is so typical…. The tunnel vision of focus on racing. This article started off talking about frames in general, and frame materials. Then they started focussing on a carbon fiber Ferrari of the biking world. Unfortunately this is what gets the free press every year with the Tour de France. Yes if your racing the tour de france then 2-3 minutes difference in performance over the alps is crucial. But if your looking to commute to work, it’s inconsequential. If your trying to accomplish your first century, or taking a bike tour vacation… then comfortable positioning, gearing for your fitness level, and other factors are far more important than a few minutes. If your built like me (or too many of my fellow Americans), the 50 extra pounds i am still carrying (but still losing as I progress) have far more importance than a few ounces that might be shaved on a bike frame. Spend your Ferrari money, I’m doing fine getting around on my ford Taurus of a cycle.If you focus on yourself and not on others than you can always compete against the clock on whatever bike you ride.john

  14. Carbon Fiber Bike Frame says

    As “Mike said, owning a carbon fiber frame does come down to having the cash to buy it and also the need for it. Your run of the mill cyclist will not need a CF frame at all and I expect the majority of people who do have one don’t really need one either.Light, durable and excellent they may be, but not always the right thing to buy – unless you have more money than sense!

  15. Vince says

    Carbon Fiber frames are very commonplace nowadays and full bikes with proven racing credentials can be had for under $2K. I’ve tried looking for steel bikes and it would seem the only option is to custom build a bike around an Italian frame. Usually the steel frame itself sells for more than $2k. The cost of the entire bike would end up costing twice that. Steel has become the new exotic and expensive material. Am I missing something?Can you tell me of a manufacturer as reputable as Trek, that produces steel bikes with proven racing geometry for a reasonable price. It doesn’t even have to be lightweight. Thanks

  16. Mike says

    @Jim Wedeking -as you probably already know, steel is a generic name for all alloys of iron. Chromoly is name for a family of steel alloys that have relatively more molybdenum added. Chromoly steels tend to be strong, so the tubing of the bike can be ma

  17. Fk says

    dont forget the magnesium frames that (if memory serves me correctly) were available for a short period of time in the early 90’s.no end of problems with them from what i can remember.

  18. Carrie says

    I don’t think there’s any danger of the extinction of steel bikes any time soon. Their durability, welding ease (fix your bike if you crash!), ride and price/weight (many chromoly or newer steel composites are as light as aluminum), all contribute to their popularity. This review reads like it was written towards the end of the 1990s when steel was losing ground over fancy new technologies, but in the last 5 years steel continues to be the real thing.Maybe I’m biased b/c I was searching for steel tubing reviews (for my custom bike) when I came across this article.

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