The construction of bicycles has come a long way in the last couple of decades - although the overall design and aesthetic of bikes haven’t changed much, bike frame materials have certainly improved over the years.
Historically, bike frames were only really made of steel - with steel being the staple of frame building for well over a century. However, in modern times, you can find stronger, more lightweight materials. Bike frames can be constructed using carbon, aluminium, steel, titanium and more metals.
In this blog, we’re going to be exploring titanium bike frames and aluminium bike frames, so you can make the right choice when purchasing your new bike frame.
Are titanium bikes lighter than aluminium? Which material is stronger? Are aluminium bikes cheaper? Read on to learn all about titanium bikes and aluminium bikes - and which one is the best choice for you.
Titanium has rocketed in popularity in the last two decades - due to its immense strength and durability, it’s used in spacecraft, aircraft jet engines, and even missiles. It is also used in everyday objects such as laptops, pipes - and of course, bicycle frames.
It is considered a high-end and exclusive metal, which is why titanium bike frames come with a high price tag. One of the reasons that titanium bike frames are so expensive is because the manufacturing process is complicated, and the physical material is pricey.
One of the complications of the titanium bike frame manufacturing process is that while it is being welded, titanium is reactive to oxygen. This means that bike frame manufacturers need to be extremely skilled, and have the right equipment to overcome this obstacle.
Like steel bikes, titanium bike frames feature thin round tubes with an expert finish. Titanium frames boast an extremely long lifespan, a sleek and stylish appearance, and of course, colossal strength.
Titanium bike frames are a great choice for serious cyclists as they can withstand wear, corrosion, and even hard impacts. In fact, most of the damage that occurs with titanium frames is superficial and can be repaired with ease. If you crash your titanium bike, the inherent structure will almost always remain in perfect condition.
If you take care of your titanium bike frame, it will last a lifetime. With other materials - such as aluminium - you’ll need to replace your bike every few years or fork out for expensive repairs when your bike sustains damage. However, titanium bikes are bikes for life - they’re not just a purchase, they’re an investment.
Aluminium bikes were hugely popular for both everyday cyclists and serious cyclists back in the ‘70s - but aren’t considered a great choice for competitive cyclists or endurance cyclists today.
Alone, aluminium isn’t strong enough for bike frames, which is why it’s alloyed with other metals such as zinc or magnesium. Some common aluminium alloys in bike frames include 6061 and 7005 - with 6061 being a more popular choice as it’s more lightweight.
However, aluminium frames may be a great choice if you’re new to the cycling world, or only cycle every so often. Aluminium is a relatively cheap metal, so it can be mass produced in a factory.
This is why aluminium bike frames are much more affordable than titanium bike frames and carbon fibre bike frames. The process can be automated and doesn’t require specialist knowledge and expert hands, unlike with titanium construction.
Likewise, aluminium is much lighter than titanium and steel, and lightweight bikes often make for an easier, more streamlined ride. It has a good strength-to-weight ratio, meaning that titanium bike frames are both stiff and lightweight.
A lightweight ride means that you can achieve high speeds when riding an aluminium bike. The aerodynamic design and reduced flame flex of aluminium frames also contribute to the high speeds you can achieve.
Unlike titanium bike frames, aluminium frames can’t absorb vibrations - they’re generally rigid frames that don’t always make for the most comfortable ride for adventure cycling or mountain biking. In comparison to other materials, such as titanium and carbon, their riding quality isn’t the best.
Aluminium isn’t corrosion-resistant, meaning that aluminium bikes may not be the best choice for humid environments. However, it’s not all bad - when aluminium corrodes, it forms aluminium oxide.
This creates a protective film around the metal, protecting it from further corrosion. When it does corrode and create aluminium oxide, the frame isn’t weakened - and won’t corrode away. However, it will damage the overall aesthetics of your bike.
So, which material makes the best bike frame: titanium or aluminium? Well, even though titanium is around two-thirds heavier than aluminium, its inherent strength means that not as much of the material is needed.
Although aluminium may be the more affordable option - and great if you’re on a budget - titanium bikes not only perform better and look better, but they also last much longer.
Titanium is a stronger and more durable material than aluminium, meaning that titanium bikes are bikes for life. At Reilly Cycleworks, we are so confident in our titanium bike frames that we offer a lifetime warranty for first-time owners.
Unlike titanium frames, aluminium bike frames are susceptible to corrosion - so extra care will need to be taken in humid environments. Due to its versatility, titanium can be used in the construction of road bikes, gravel bikes, and adventure bikes, making for a smooth and comfortable ride.
Whether you’re bikepacking, cruising along the road, or competitive cycling, a titanium bike frame is always a great choice.
At Reilly Cycleworks, we understand the importance of tailoring your bike to your style, which is why we create custom bikes. All of our bikes are made by cyclists, for cyclists - we know what it takes to make the best bikes for all kinds of riders.
Check out our titanium bike frames today. The Gradient range features our ‘do it all’ heroes, consisting of the Gradient and the Gradient T47 adventure bikes. Likewise, the Spectre is always a popular choice - it's our ultra-distance favourite.