Aluminium v Carbon riding experiences

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Aluminium v Carbon riding experiences

Postby AlMac » Wed Aug 17, 2011 8:40 pm

I'm considering going to a Carbon MTB for my next XC full suspension rig, most likely a Giant Anthem. It'll be for general trail riding, with some race enduro, but primarily trail work.

Does anyone have experience riding Carbon v Aluminium generally on MTBs and if so did you think there was any substantive benefit in going to Carbon?
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by BNA » Wed Aug 17, 2011 8:56 pm

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Re: Aluminium v Carbon riding experiences

Postby alchemist » Wed Aug 17, 2011 8:56 pm

Mainly that carbon is lighter and more bling. It can be stiffer and also can be less buzzy (which is probably not really an issue on a dually)
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Re: Aluminium v Carbon riding experiences

Postby ldrcycles » Wed Aug 17, 2011 9:00 pm

I recently upgraded my XC frame from a VERY entry level 2.1kg GT Agressor to a sub 1.5kg Merida FLX3000 (eggshell thin aluminium front end and carbon stays). I'm not sure how much difference in acceleration is just down to reduced weight rather than any improvement in stiffness but the comfort is very surprising. The stays on the Merida are flattened and designed to flex, the first time i rode it i was unimpressed and getting pinged around for the first few k. I then happened to sit down to get my weight back while braking down a loose downhill and the difference was huge. Once i started putting my weight on the back more, the carbon felt like it was flexing as claimed and providing a very surprising amount of comfort (though not even as smooth as my stumpjumper with the hardest propedal setting, it is still a hardtail).

Don't know how helpful that is but that's the experience i've had :-).
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Re: Aluminium v Carbon riding experiences

Postby Mulger bill » Wed Aug 17, 2011 11:37 pm

I wouldn't DH on a cf frame, but then again I wouldn't DH on any bike these days. I know some makers have built DH rigs in cf but all them rocks pinging off the downtube worry me. (Been running a MacGyvered crud catcher thingy for years)
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Re: Aluminium v Carbon riding experiences

Postby Mugglechops » Thu Aug 18, 2011 9:58 pm

I went from an alloy trek ex7 frame to a carbon ex9.5 frame in 08.

With the same components it weighed the same. It also felt a little flexy in the front end.

I sold it before I broke it, I just never trusted it.

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Re: Aluminium v Carbon riding experiences

Postby trailgumby » Fri Aug 19, 2011 8:55 am

Sample of one, but I have a friend who works at a reputable bike shop in Northern Sydney who won't entertain the thought of a carbon mountain bike. Aluminium, titanium or steel only for him.

Given that you want flex tightly controlled for duallies, that reduces the choice to aluminium.

Although, he did hint recently that he was looking closely at a Yeti Big Top 29er (a hardtail), which has a carbon rear triangle. The Yeti Oz distributor Paul Rowney has a reputation for outstanding customer service that from all accounts is well earned.
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Re: Aluminium v Carbon riding experiences

Postby gcouyant » Fri Aug 26, 2011 7:55 am

AlMac wrote:I'm considering going to a Carbon MTB for my next XC full suspension rig, most likely a Giant Anthem. It'll be for general trail riding, with some race enduro, but primarily trail work.

Does anyone have experience riding Carbon v Aluminium generally on MTBs and if so did you think there was any substantive benefit in going to Carbon?


AlMac, the Anthem frame in carbon is excellent. It feels more precise and tougher than the hydro formed alloy frame and I measure nearly 200g lighter. Given that you live in Perth and are looking at trail work and some XC racing then it's a solid choice. As long as you are happy with the dynamics because it's a pretty quick handling bike compared to most other XC makes and models. The head is good and rigid so make sure that the fork you run compliments this. A bonus here is that you can climb all over the front end with confidence and let the rear dance around in the awful pea gravel you guys are cursed with.....

In the past, carbon frames varied markedly from manufacturer to manufacturer though today, we're getting past the "fad" stage where Sales rushed a product to market without proper understanding of the manufacturing techniques. I guess another thing to consider is frame warranty but certainly the carbon Anthem is out there in enough numbers to have earned a reputation as being robust. Be aware that most manufacturers warranty applies to the original purchaser only.
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Re: Aluminium v Carbon riding experiences

Postby AlMac » Fri Aug 26, 2011 4:48 pm

Thanks for all the replies everyone.

Tough call. Better get some riding done.
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Re: Aluminium v Carbon riding experiences

Postby fringe_dweller » Sun Aug 28, 2011 7:21 pm

A good alu frame will be a better buy than a cheap carbon (not a slur on what you're looking at, just a general comment). I'm on a Pivot Mach4 (alu) and it's a stellar bike. I have a Cannondale Rush Team in Carbon which is great in a completely different set of ways.

If you can manage it, get a ride on a demo from your LBS and see if you like how it feels. Compare it with other bikes and make your choice.

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Re: Aluminium v Carbon riding experiences

Postby AlMac » Thu Sep 15, 2011 5:52 pm

AlMac wrote:Better get some riding done.


I went riding and went carbon in the end.

It wasn't carbon v aluminium so much as the complete component and spec package for the dollar. I was offered a 2011 Anthem X Advanced SL1 at pretty much the retail price of the 2011 Anthem X1 Aluminium. So it made a lot of sense, and there were some specs I didn't like in the Anthem X range this year that would have easily eaten up any price difference between aluminium and carbon in my case. If I had to wear the full price gap, then I would have gone aluminium.

I don't suffer carbon phobia, so that didn't come into it. I came to the conclusion that on any well built frame, whatever the material, if you hammer it it's going to get damaged and potentially fail.

The Giant carbon frame has a life time warranty.

SantaCruz have said their carbon is as strong, or stronger, than their aluminium.

Trek have successfully used it on their downhill rig.

And if you still aren't convinced, you can always watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_O9PLorYPA

Once I've had a chance to do a reasonable amount of riding I'll post back some thoughts on the ride.
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Re: Aluminium v Carbon riding experiences

Postby gcouyant » Thu Sep 15, 2011 6:12 pm

AlMac wrote:
AlMac wrote:Better get some riding done.


I went riding and went carbon in the end.

It wasn't carbon v aluminium so much as the complete component and spec package for the dollar. I was offered a 2011 Anthem X Advanced SL1 at pretty much the retail price of the 2011 Anthem X1 Aluminium.


Sensational choice! You will no doubt rediscover just how exciting the tracks around Perth can be - and just how much fun it is to be out on a good Mountain Bike. You'll also have the native orchids going nuts too so plenty of photo opportunities to contrast that luscious carbon finish on the SL frame.

Congrats!
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Re: Aluminium v Carbon riding experiences

Postby jbchybridrider » Sat Oct 15, 2011 11:44 am

I bought a JBC carbon frame from Taiwan about 18 months ago weight is 1030grams 995 without the rear hanger its been great. Its not one of those raw carbon no name frames JBC is a reputable asian brand with links to giant and Ive been riding it fully rigid total bike weight around 8kg.
Acceleration on hills is awesome.
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Re: Aluminium v Carbon riding experiences

Postby AlMac » Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:30 am

AlMac wrote:Once I've had a chance to do a reasonable amount of riding I'll post back some thoughts on the ride.


Reasonable amount of riding thoughts.

Frame has held up well. No more damaged than my AL frame. Rocks pinging up into the bottom of the down tube from Perth's wonderful pea gravel trails make nice dulled pinging sounds off carbon.

I would hope that my next upgrade is to swap out worn running gear in and keep this frame.

Rides lovely.
Fast, smooth and precise. It's a very point and shoot experience.
Climbing is excellent - I enjoy uphill more than ever.
But, these are characteristics of the frame design, more than it being carbon. The carbon doesn't create these characteristics, but it has been used very well to enhance them.
So the carbon provides an incremental improvement to what is already a very good frame design (if you are after fast point and shoot). It's still great in AL, just incrementally better in carbon.
Would I have just as much fun on AL - yes I would and my mates riding with me do.

I think it looks great. Naked carbon look - will it ever go out of style? Not in my book.

But, there are some things which are bigger improvements than carbon which I would look for first and in my view offer a lot more than carbon does in the improvement chain:
1. Tubeless wheel system and low pressure. Getting tyre pressure into the low 20s is a huge ride gain for me. I'll probably drop it a little more.
2. Full Suspension, is the other great ride improvement. Obviously for the hits, but even more so for the way the back wheel tracks and holds the dirt.
3. Thru axle on the front. The way it firms up the steering on the front fork is a huge improvement. QR is hopefully dead.

So, carbon is another incremental improvement.
Sorted carbon should improve an already sorted AL frame design, but don't expect any quantum leap.
You need to not to be allergic to the thought of carbon on MTBs - you need to trust that it'll be fine or you won't be happy riding it. And for some of us, that's a bridge too far.
As I said at the outset, I got an awesome deal on a 2011 bike. 2012 would have got me into the fantastic new XT groupset and 2 x 10, but really riding isn't about applying the brakes and changing gears. So I took a bit of an XT compromise, got a great price and a great bike.
I'd happily do it again.
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