Poll: What’s Your Material Of Choice?

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Since the sport of mountain biking was invented just a hair over 40 years ago, frame technology and materials have continued to evolve in the constant search for lighter, stiffer and stronger. We’ve seen mountain bikes move through various waves of material preference, with frames being made from chromoly steel, through to alloy, titanium, carbon fibre, and even wood and bamboo.

As each new material has initially come to market, there’s always a certain degree of rapid progression that occurs as the limits of that materials performance are explored. Remember when manufacturers were first pushing superlight chromoly tubing back in the late 80’s and early 90’s? Remember seeing cracked welds and folded tubes on a regular basis? Same thing when alloy was introduced, and carbon fibre too. Technological competition is fierce as more brands jump on board to get a piece of the action, with each manufacturer setting out to produce the lightest ground-breaking machine they can. And that progression is good for us.

They say steel is real. And while it may not be as cutting edge as carbon fibre, there are plenty of riders who lust after the slender tubes of a ferrous frame over a plastic fantastic equivalent.

Despite each material enjoying its own time in the sun over that 40 year period, in 2017 we can still walk into a bike shop and buy a brand spankin’ mountain bike with our choice of pretty much any of those above materials. And while carbon fibre continues to evolve as the current in-demand frame and component material thanks to its light overall weight and customisability, there are still plenty of riders out there who’d prefer their next bike to be made from metal instead.

titanium j.guillem
Is titanium still the wunder-material for you?

So that does beg the question; what do you think is the best? What material do YOU favour when it comes to your mountain bike, or perhaps, your next mountain bike? And not just the frame itself, but the wheelset too. Do you prefer a steel frame with alloy rims? Or a carbon frame with carbon rims?

Let us know by selecting your vote below. And if you can’t see the poll for some reason, then click here to to select your choice!

What is your preferred material of choice?

  • An alloy frame with alloy wheels (27%, 201 Votes)
  • A steel frame with alloy wheels (24%, 175 Votes)
  • A carbon frame with alloy wheels (17%, 127 Votes)
  • A carbon frame with carbon wheels (12%, 89 Votes)
  • A titanium frame with alloy wheels (8%, 58 Votes)
  • A titanium frame with carbon wheels (4%, 28 Votes)
  • An alloy frame with carbon wheels (4%, 26 Votes)
  • A steel frame with carbon wheels (3%, 23 Votes)
  • Bamboo FTW! (1%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 731

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Maybe you like a combination of two metals like this Cotic Flare Max, which uses a steel front triangle and an alloy chainstay.
whyte t 130 trail bike 27.5 130mm rockshox monarch yari boost 1x11 sram reverb
Or is the appeal of a burly alloy frameset and tough alloy rims the combo of choice for you? While carbon is the current marketing buzzword, alloy has been making some serious advancements in recent years, and what manufacturers can do with it in terms of shaping and butting is quite incredible.
trek procaliber carbon hardtail 29er 29in
If you want superlight, then carbon fibre really is the current market leader. Sub-1kg frames are indeed possible with modern carbon construction techniques, and those frames can also be built with a more forgiving ride quality thanks to the vibration-dissipating qualities of composites.
alchemy arktos carbon enduro bike full suspension fox transfer rotor kashima factory saddleback 36 27.5 us made
Then again, carbon manufacturers tout the increased impact strength of carbon fibre as being a drawcard for the material. Chunky carbon frames and light-but-wide carbon rims offer stiffness gains with higher fatigue loads than their alloy counterparts. Plus, you can make some beautiful shapes, like this drop-dead gorgeous Alchemy Arktos.
Logic and carbon fibre aside, it’s hard not to lust after a gorgeous brushed titanium frame like this Stanton Sherpa Ti. Titanium may no longer offer a significant performance advantage, and it’s also very expensive, but it doesn’t stop us from drooling all over frames like this one – just LOOK at it!
lynskey full suspension mountain bike titanium 27.5
Titanium can also be done on full-boingers too, as shown here by US boutique manufacturer Lynskey. Lovely, lovely detailing on these suave titanium tubes.
enve composites carbon fibre fiber rim wheel wide m60 handlebar stem exotic
But it’s not just frames. Carbon fibre, alloy, steel and titanium often fight it out for supremacy on other components. Carbon rims in particular have become a much more common sight on mountain bikes in recent years, but are you sold on them?
Maybe you prefer a good ol’ alloy wheelset instead? Something like the new MK3 wheels from Stans No Tubes, which come in at a much cheaper price point than equivalent carbon wheels that cost 2-3 times the price.
Gai Bikes Artemis, made from bamboo
Oh, and don’t forget bamboo! Are you more of an organic feel-good rider? A bamboo or wooden frame might be exactly what you’ve been looking for. Or not…

We’re interested to hear your perspective on what material you preference over others when it comes to your mountain bike frame and wheelset. And how did you come to that preference? Have you had a bad experience before with a particular type of wheel or swingarm? Or is it a cost-related preference?

Let us know by making your vote in the above poll, and feel free to leave us a comment if we’ve left any other combinations off the list.

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