Numerous times in the past I’ve mentioned that I prefer lugged steel bicycle frames over all others. While this still holds true, I like to acknowledge the fact that we all have differing needs and that one person’s ideal bike may not work at all for another. How a person plans on using their bike, as well as their budget, will determine their preferred frame material.
Steel is often thought of as being the ideal material for commuter and utility bikes. It’s tough, it fails slowly, and it can withstand a major amount of surface abuse. This makes it a good material for how we typically imagine a transpo bike will be used and abused.
But, there are plenty of riders who have a point-to-point commute, safe bicycle storage, and only a minimal need to carry stuff. There are also those who have very long commutes over difficult terrain. For those people, lightweight performance bikes might actually be preferred over what we traditionally think of as commuters or utility bikes. More exotic materials such as aluminum, titanium, or even carbon fiber are not necessarily out of the question for use on high performance commuters (bikes such as the Breezer Finesse and Civia Hyland immediately come to mind).
Carbon fiber frames have a reputation for being delicate and fragile (whether or not it’s deserved is a whole other discussion). Most aluminum frames are less tough than most steel frames, but they also tend to be lighter, and they seem to be inexpensive to manufacture (this probably explains the widespread use of aluminum among entry-level racing bikes and so-called hybrids). Titanium has similar toughness to steel, it doesn’t rust, and it builds into a light and lively bike. On paper it sounds like the ideal material for building bike frames; the downside is that it’s difficult to work with and the raw material is expensive, both of which make complete titanium bikes very pricey. Bamboo is the latest frame building material to come into vogue, but frankly, I haven’t gotten my head around it yet. Hopefully I’ll get my hands on a bamboo bike to try out before the year is over.
For our readers who are riding on something other than steel, it would be interesting to know the rationale behind your frame material choice.