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A baker's dozen bikes that show carbon doesn't yet reign supreme

It’s a long time since an aluminium bike won the Tour de France. In fact it was 1998 when Marco Pantani rode his Bianchi Mega Pro XL to success. These days it’s all about carbon fibre in the professional racing circuit, but despite the dominance of plastic, aluminium refuses to disappear. Away from the pro ranks it's is still highly regarded and a very good material to make a bicycle from.

Aluminium is enjoying a resurgence of interest at the moment. Some manufacturers have been pushing the material to achieve impressively lightweight frames, and smart consumers are realising that you get a lot of performance, and equipment, for your money. For value for money, aluminium is tough to beat.

So with aluminium alive and kicking, here are 13 of the best aluminium road bikes currently available.

Merida Scultura Disc 200 — £900

Merida Scultura Disc 200.jpg

The Merida Scultura Disc 200 may look like it is an entry-level machine on paper but the frame and fork are absolutely top notch and massively upgradable. It's yet another example of just how good alloy frames are right now, offering a very comfortable ride and plenty of stiffness to boot.

The Scultura Lite-BSA Disc frame has a very enjoyable ride feel; there is no harshness or irritating amounts of road buzz coming through to your contact points, even with the 25mm tyres pumped up to my preferred high pressures. This makes the Scultura a fun bike to ride and you can really cover some miles tapping away on the pedals while taking in the scenery.

Read our review of the Merida Scultura Disc 200
Find a Merida dealer

Mason Definition2 — from £2,795

Mason Definition

Mason Cycles exploded on to the scene in 2015 with two eagerly-awaited bikes, the aluminium Definition and the steel-framed Resolution. Former Kinesis UK designer Dom Mason didn't disappoint. The original Definition was so good we struggled to get into words just how a handful of alloy sticks welded together can leave you feeling so excited. You don't get a ride governed by angles and dimensions here; the Definition seems to mutate as the speed/gradient/direction changes leaving you wondering if you are still riding the same bike you were five minutes ago. It's stunning, and the Definition version two with thru-axles added at the rear received just as much praise in our latest review.

Read our review of the Mason Definition2

Van Rysel RR 900 AF — £849.99

2019 Van Rysel RR 900 AF

With a full Shimano 105 R700 groupset, Decathlon's Van Rysel RR 900 AF is a cracker straight out of the box, offering one of the best ‘bang for buck’ options you're likely to find for the price. With a stiff, performance-orientated frameset, it could easily accommodate some bling upgrades without overshadowing the main component. Van Rysel is the in-house brand of French sports superstore company Decathlon, which concentrates on the 'value for money' ethos for many of its goods. Don't confuse value for money with cheap, though – the Van Rysel RR 900 AF is a quality piece of kit.

Read our review of the almost-identical B'Twin Ultra 700 AF

Cube Attain SL Disc 2019 — £1,104

2019 Cube Attain SL Disc

The Attain is one of the most contemporary road bikes currently available. It's an aluminium frame designed around disc brakes with thru-axles front and rear. The frame is made from Superlite tubing with a smooth weld treatment and internal cable routing keeping the appearance clean and uncluttered. This model is very well equipped with a Shimano 105 R7000 mechanical drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes and Cube's own wheels shod with Continental Grand Sport Race SL tyres.

Specialized Allez Sprint Comp Disc 2019 — £1,599

2019 Specialized Allez Sprint Comp Disc

Specialized made waves when it unveiled a super expensive (£7,500) high-end aluminium Allez bike a few years ago, but it’s stuck with the idea and is using it to build frames that are aimed at being ultra-stiff short-course racing weapons. For 2019 the Allez Sprint gets disc brakes on an aluminium frame made with what Specialized calls the D'Alusio SmartWeld process. This uses hydroforming at the joints to increase strength and stiffness so the tube spans can be lighter. This £1,800 model gets a Shimano 105 11-speed groupset with DT R470 wheels and a Body Geometry Toupé Sport saddle.

Kinesis Aithein Evo (frame and fork) — £656.99

Kinesis Aethein Pro.jpg

British brand Kinesis UK has made aluminium frames its speciality over the years, and with the release of the Aithein, it proved that aluminium can be a credible option if you crave high performance and low weight. It’s made from 6000 series aluminium with SuperPlastic Formed tube profiles and smooth welds. The frame is just 1,050g (though it comes with a 90kg rider weight limit) and all modern details like a tapered head tube and PF86 bottom bracket.

Read our review of the Kinesis Aithein

Rose Pro SL Disc — £1,632.72

Rose Pro SL Disc Ultegra

If you want a lot of bike for not too much money, Rose is a company that needs to be near the top of your list. Rose offers the Pro SL Disc which has a claimed 1,350g aluminium frame with a new full-carbon fibre fork with tapered steerer tube. Rose also offers a large range of sizes, from 49 all the way up to 66cm. The appeal of aluminium really shines when you look at the equipment level. This model has a full Shimano Ultegra groupset with hydraulic disc brakes, Ritchey handlebars and stem, and DT Swiss wheels.

Condor Cycles Italia RC (frame & fork) — £899.99

Condor Italia RC.jpg

London bike brand Condor Cycles is fully committed to aluminium, and for 2016 it has thoroughly revamped the aluminium race bike in its range, the Italia RC. It has developed a brand new tubeset and it’s ditched the carbon fibre seatstays of the old Italia. The geometry comes from the Leggero carbon fibre race bike so you know it’s good to race.

Read our review of the Condor Italia RC, built up with Campagnolo's Potenza groupset and Zonda wheels

Bowman Cycles Palace:R (frame, fork, headset & seat clamp) — £745

Bowman Palace R.jpg

There are a number of British brands offering keenly priced aluminium frames and bikes, and one of the newest is Bowman Cycles. It has just launched the second generation of its Palace race frame, with a refined tubeset bringing the weight down a little, and the pressfit bottom bracket has been replaced with a threaded type.

Read our review of the Bowman Palace:R

Giant Liv Avail SL 1 Disc 2019 — £998.99

2019 Liv Avail SL 1 Disc

Giant has a healthy range of aluminium bikes and the Avail, part of Giant’s large women’s road bike range, is a really good package. Giant’s own ALUXX SL aluminium tubing tubing is shaped into a smart looking bike and it’s generously specced out with a Shimano 105 11-speed groupset and Giant P-R2 wheels and tyre set, with a Liv Connect saddle finishing it off.

Canyon Endurace AL — from £799

2018 Canyon Endurace Al Disc 7.0

Canyon might be best known for its carbon fibre races bikes like the Ultimate and Aeroad, but it does a nice line of aluminium bikes, and they offer excellent value for money. The Endurace is the company’s distance and comfort orientated model, with a taller front end and larger volume tyres to provide more comfort. The range starts from just £799 for full Shimano Tiagra drivetrain with Mavic Aksium wheels and Continental Grand Prix SL tyres. A lot of bike for not a lot of cash.

>>Read more: Canyon Endurace AL launched

Trek Emonda ALR — from £960

2019 Trek Emonda ALR 5

Another big bike brand investing in top-end aluminium is further proof that there is plenty of life in the material. The Emonda ALR is named after the superlight Emonda carbon fibre race bike and features a frame that weighs in at just 1,050g. That’s for a size 56. Very impressive. It’s made from 300 Series Aluminium (whatever that is) with Invisible Weld Technology that is a process claimed by Trek to save weight. The 2019 Emonda ALR 5, above, comes with the full new Shimano 105 R7000 group and Bontrager Affinity Tubeless Ready wheels.

Read our review of the Trek Emonda ALR 6

Cannondale CAAD13 2020 — from £1,600

2020 Cannondale CAAD13 Disc Force

Finally, there is the Cannondale CAAD13, the latest aluminium road bike from the company that was in the vanguard of developing and popularising aluminium right through the 1980s and '90s, and now offers the CAAD13 with a choice of disc or direct-mount rim brakes. The previous CAAD12, and the CAAD10 before it, were highly regarded aluminium frames, light and stiff enough for racing and comfortable enough for the long jaunt, and did a lot to promote the virtue of aluminium frames over more expensive carbon rivals. (You may wonder what happened to the CAAD11; we think Cannondale chose to swerve handing the cycling press an excuse for another round of lame Spinal Tap gags, and for that we are nothing but grateful.)

This time, Cannondale haven't focused on shedding grams — a CAAD13 frame weighs about the same as a CAAD12 — but on ride quality. After a brief spin on the new bike at Cannondale's launch, David Arthur wrote: "in the CAAD13, Cannondale have produced a bike that is wonderfully smooth all-round. The Cotswolds isn’t generally known for its smooth roads, and over the crusty surface on some quieter country lanes, the CAAD13 blew me away with its ability to not just provide a smooth and calm ride, but to really close the gap to a carbon fibre bike."

Cannondale have also made the CAAD13 a shade more versatile than its racing-orientated predecessor. The rim-braked bike has room for 28mm tyres, the disc bike will accommodate 30mm rubber, and both have mudguard eyes discreetly tucked away in the drop-outs.

The range starts with the £1,600 CAAD13 105 with rim brakes and tops out with the SRAM Force eTap AXS model shown above for £4,800.

>> Read more: New Cannondale CAAD13 First Ride

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David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

31 comments

Avatar
BehindTheBikesheds [3322 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

proprietory BB for the CAAD and are they still using the old CAAD 10 fork design (post mounted disc)?

The disc variant of the '12' is £2400 in 'Ultegra' and £1700 in 105 iguise, the 'Dura Ace' is £3700 except half the components aren't Dura Ace at all. Ultegra level STIs, cassette, chain. The only designated DA componets are the derailleurs.

Seems well overpriced despite what a good ride it's supposed to be.

The Bowman seems to be the best bet for a decent level frame to start from

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ianguignet [37 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

again no mention of Dolan or Ribbles.. what about cinelli experience? 

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s_lim [223 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
ianguignet wrote:

again no mention of Dolan or Ribbles.. what about cinelli experience? 

Cinelli Experience is the Condor Italia RC. Same tubes & geometry. Owned one in the past, and it was very good - replaced it with the Aithein, which is fabuluous. 

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Chris Hayes [464 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I hired a mid-priced carbon Trek Emonda on Majorca that had no life to it at all. Every gear change seems to echo through the frame.... I normally ride a Litespeed Siena or a C50 and didn't think that this could get much worse but mid-way through the holiday I had to change it for an ally one.  Wow.  What a shocker!  Some of these bikes may be okay, but the Trek isn't one of them...

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surly_by_name [570 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Chris Hayes wrote:

I hired a mid-priced carbon Trek Emonda on Majorca that had no life to it at all. Every gear change seems to echo through the frame.... I normally ride a Litespeed Siena or a C50 and didn't think that this could get much worse but mid-way through the holiday I had to change it for an ally one.  Wow.  What a shocker!  Some of these bikes may be okay, but the Trek isn't one of them...

I hired a mid-priced carbon Trek Emonda DL6 on Majorca (Tramuntana Tours - same bike/place?) and it wasn't a shocker at all. Didn't feel as taught as my regular ride, but I mostly put that down to the wheels and tyres (where manufacturers typically save money). Also, not having used Shimano for ages I kept misshifting but that was operator error. So I thought the Trek was OK. I am not sure I'd buy one (I'd probably spend the £2,400 on a Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 DI2). Although this discussion isn't so relevant to the article which is about aluminium bikes I think.

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Chris Hayes [464 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
surly_by_name]</p>

<p>[quote=Chris Hayes

wrote:

Although this discussion isn't so relevant to the article which is about aluminium bikes I think.

I was talking about the aluminium frame, which was worse than the carbon Emonda I didn't like either.  But of course cheap wheels won't help.

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BABristol [2 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Anyone else used a verenti belief or Merlin roc (same frame and fork)? Bought the verenti for £400, swapped in 105 and decent wheels and it is great. The Merlin roc got a great review too. Great frame but not many people know about them.

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rix [269 posts] 2 years ago
3 likes

I wote CAAD12! yes

 

//i.imgur.com/XXnTSfz.jpg)

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Boombang [68 posts] 2 years ago
2 likes

Just got myself a CAAD12.  It was down to a Supersix Evo, Giant TCR and a Cervelo R2/3 - but the CAAD for me was the best ride, communicative but never harsh.  Love it.

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bobinski [306 posts] 2 years ago
1 like

I am thinking about a purple caad 12 disc frame to replace my defy pro disc which is damaged. Sonwould be moving from a known comfortable carbon frame to something a little harsher but racier. I will swap over my ultrega and hunt wheels but will need a new seat post at least and perhaps new bb and stem. Still that purple frame looks fabulous 

Avatar
djbike97 [1 post] 1 year ago
1 like

I've got two of the bikes on this list (Trek & Specialized) and both are great bikes. For all out speed, the Allez is better, but the ride is harsher. The trek is a better all-rounder and it's a lot lighter.  

I actually planned on building up a Bowman Palace:R before the Trek, but the experience I had with Bowman was terrible. Between the lack of communication, multiple missed deadlines and a frameset that was poorly painted (and dented), I asked for a refund. Then to add a cherry atop of this shit cake,  it took a month to get a shipping label so I could return the frame (i.e. get my refund).  All said, I believe it was over three months of constant irritation with them. The lesson I learned with this experience is to always buy local. It's honestly too bad, I really wanted that frameset. 

 

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Lecoops [10 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

I'm loving my recently built up Trek. 

Full shimano 105, Deda stem & bars, swissside wheels = 7.5kgs.

Also love  the way it easily fits 28mm tyres.

 

Avatar
Zjtm231 [127 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

proprietory BB for the CAAD and are they still using the old CAAD 10 fork design (post mounted disc)?

The disc variant of the '12' is £2400 in 'Ultegra' and £1700 in 105 iguise, the 'Dura Ace' is £3700 except half the components aren't Dura Ace at all. Ultegra level STIs, cassette, chain. The only designated DA componets are the derailleurs.

Seems well overpriced despite what a good ride it's supposed to be.

The Bowman seems to be the best bet for a decent level frame to start from

Bought a 2017 CAD Frame in May and fitted it with 105 groupset and Hunt Supa Dura wheels and it is a seriously good bike - to the point that you woudlnt notice that it was aluminium vs carbon.  But still v stiff and responsive. Probably my favourite bike and one of the least expensive...

Avatar
fukawitribe [2937 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

[...] are they still using the old CAAD 10 fork design (post mounted disc)?

Flat-mount in the top of the range fork, post-mount in the others.

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steviewevie [60 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

Can I suggest that it would be more useful if the ancient 2014 Canyon article link was replaced with the less-out-of-date article at http://road.cc/content/tech-news/215091-canyon-endurace-al-disc-launched... ?

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Simmo72 [720 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

The caad9 NOS frame I picked up for £100 last year is amazing.  Had a couple of Alu frames before and very short lived, hated them.  The caad is the oppostive, love riding it, compliant, confiortable, stiff, light enough and not at all bad on road buzz.  Use as a year round bike, often getting used over the supersix with the same geo.  Cannondale do alu very well, would love to try out a 12....only downer is the bb30......daft design but all problems solved with a praxis convertor.

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fbhidy [50 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
bobinski wrote:

that purple frame looks fabulous 

Literally, that sexy purple is the only reason I clicked on the article.  I work at at Trek/Cannondale dealer in the US and I'm very much hoping we get that colo(u)r here in the US.

Avatar
IceCube [1 post] 1 year ago
1 like
Quote:

BB for the CAAD and are they still using the old CAAD 10 fork design (post mounted disc)

The disc variant of the '12' is £2400 in 'Ultegra' and £1700 in 105 iguise, the 'Dura Ace' is £3700 except half the components aren't Dura Ace at all. Ultegra level STIs, cassette, chain. The only designated DA componets are the derailleurs.

Seems well overpriced despite what a good ride it's supposed to be.

The Bowman seems to be the best bet for a decent level frame to start from

Don't forget the difference in rims between the Ultegra and 'Dura Ace' versions - just saying. It's 35mm deep carbon (in house) vs aluminum Mavic Aksiums.

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Blank [3 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Last December I received my Canyon Endurace AL Disc 8.0 and can't stop riding it. It is just great.

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Zjtm231 [127 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Bought the CAAD 12 stuck 105 on it with Hunt SupaDura Wheels and like it so much I bought the 105 disc version 6 months later for £900 in a sale to ride in the wet. Just arrived and loving that too. For that price I don't think you can get a better bike...

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velt [1 post] 1 year ago
0 likes

If only the endurace had mudguard mounts, I would buy one tomorrow

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matthewn5 [1421 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

What about the Cinelli Experience? Absolute pocket rocket. I paid £275 for frame, fork, headset, seat clamp, end of season deal. Super stiff and sharp as a tack, but comfortable with it.

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njmoffat [83 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I really want Canyon to make an Ultimate Aluminium Disc but I dont think they will..... Please Canyon!

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bruceS [1 post] 1 year ago
1 like

You should also consider the BMC ALR01 Anodised silver - I have just built up a 60cm frame and its clocking in at 7.2kg and is amazing to ride. 

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Geordietrout [3 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Loving my Btwin Ultra AF900 and thoroughly agree with the review... Frame is great and I feel I got very good value for money, and that doesnt happen often as I am tightwad!

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paulrattew [307 posts] 10 months ago
0 likes

I'm still waiting to see a proper review of the Specialized Allez Sprint Comp Disc. I'm really tempted but the lack of reviews from the usual sources makes me a little nervous

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guildwheeler [33 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes
djbike97 wrote:

I've got two of the bikes on this list (Trek & Specialized) and both are great bikes. For all out speed, the Allez is better, but the ride is harsher. The trek is a better all-rounder and it's a lot lighter.  

I actually planned on building up a Bowman Palace:R before the Trek, but the experience I had with Bowman was terrible. Between the lack of communication, multiple missed deadlines and a frameset that was poorly painted (and dented), I asked for a refund. Then to add a cherry atop of this shit cake,  it took a month to get a shipping label so I could return the frame (i.e. get my refund).  All said, I believe it was over three months of constant irritation with them. The lesson I learned with this experience is to always buy local. It's honestly too bad, I really wanted that frameset. 

 

I too suffered long delays in getting my frameset - one being that a whole batch had been sprayed up in the wrong colour paint and had to be stripped back and started again. However, I persevered and was so glad I did. It's a beautiful bike to ride.

Avatar
La Clotte [6 posts] 8 months ago
1 like

Good to see an article on Aluminium bikes. I've no idea why Canyon have stopped making their Ultimate AL SLX. It's my "go to" bike and gets ridden way more than my carbon bikes which feel dead in comparison.  Low Bicycles make some stunning Aluminum frames and will almost certainly be my next build. Maybe I just haven't ridden the right carbon bike yet but it would take me a lot to be persuaded. 

Avatar
La Clotte [6 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes

 

 

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Run BMC [19 posts] 6 months ago
0 likes
La Clotte wrote:

Good to see an article on Aluminium bikes. I've no idea why Canyon have stopped making their Ultimate AL SLX. It's my "go to" bike and gets ridden way more than my carbon bikes which feel dead in comparison.  Low Bicycles make some stunning Aluminum frames and will almost certainly be my next build. Maybe I just haven't ridden the right carbon bike yet but it would take me a lot to be persuaded. 

I'm the same. I had a CAAD 8 which I loved but foolishly convinced myself that I needed carbon so sold it and my current bike just feels so lifeless and dull in comparison. It's not high-end carbon admittedly but it's not what you'd call cheap either. I'm now looking for my next bike and it'll be either aluminium or titanium.

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