Alu or Carbon? Does it really make a difference?

by othello   August 18, 2009  

I'm going to be biying my first road bike and I have a question for you all; does a full carbon frame make a huge difference over an alu frame with a carbon fork?

I'm looking to spend about a grand and the Boardman Team Carbon is looking very attractive. Then I was looking at the Boardman Team, which has *exactly* the same spec apart from an alu frame rather than carbon, but is £200 cheaper. If I don't need to spend the £200 then great -- I can go and buy some new winter cycling gear!

The weight is almost the same, and I'm not overly concerned about saving grams as I'm a big guy (over 6ft and 'chunky' I think is the polite term!)

Is the ride difference worth the extra £200 for carbon?

4 user comments

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Good question, I'd say not a huge difference, but probably a difference. A good aluminium frame does deliver a massive amount of bangs per buck even compared to carbon - and the best are not the horribly stiff, bone jarring rides of legend - far from it. For this amount of money I'd be surprised if there was much, if any, difference in the ride quality between the two - we were certainly very impressed with the quality of Boardman's alu frames when we checked them out at the range launch last year.

I do have to say though that there is a subtle difference in ride quality between alu and carbon which to my mind favours carbon - just. Although hedging my bets even further at the bottom end of the carbon price range it's even less pronounced.

My advice is to try both bikes, and see which one suits - if there isn't that much difference go for the alu, if you find the carbon a touch more comfortable go for that over the course of a few years riding a couple of hundred quid might prove a good investment.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4132 posts]
18th August 2009 - 15:28

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Thanks Tony! Good advice and I will indeed try them both.

posted by othello [279 posts]
18th August 2009 - 15:34

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My everyday bike is based around a Trek 1.5 frame which is a fairly ordinary (though nicely built) Aluminium affair. Currently though it's wearing some very nice finishing kit: Ultegra 6700 (test coming soon) Pro-Lite Bracciano wheels (http://road.cc/content/review/6577-pro-lite-bracciano-wheelset) and Alpha Q bars. I have to say that it's completely transformed from the Sora-equipped, Bontrager-wheeled, square-taper-bottom-bracket-sporting machine that it once was. For a start it's over three pounds lighter at 18lb, and a pound of that is wheel and tyre weight which makes the most difference of all.

so the $64,000 dollar question – or £200 question in this case – is: if i now swap to a full Carbon frame, how much difference would it make to the ride? My guess is not all that much. All those incremental kit changes have made a big difference, to my mind the frame swap is just another kit change. it would probably make the bike a bit better, but in reality it's not that different to changing any other component: an incremental change.

However, it's a change that'll cost you a lot more than £200 further down the line. By then though, you'll be hooked...

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7259 posts]
18th August 2009 - 16:07

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Thanks Dave - a very good point about the future upgrade.

As I never ridden a full carbon frame I need to try them and see which I like.

posted by othello [279 posts]
18th August 2009 - 17:21

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