Sunday, October 12, 2014

What is the best material for a mountain bike frame?

One of the great things about blogging is that it lets someone who knows very little look much the same as a world class expert. All of the usual cues to merit and expertise are stripped way. In the Feed Reader, nobody knows you're a naif.

Ok, that's enough informed consent. I'm now going to tell you what material works best for a mountain bike frame - Aluminum, Steel, or Carbon. I base this wisdom on two weeks of recrimination after Akerloff's information asymmetry and rampant bike lust [1] got me a problematic Carbon Frame Cannondale racing mountain bike. During this time I sorted out how to buy a used mountain bike and why Carbon frame warranty loss hits resale value -- and I came up with the definitive guide to the BEST frame material:

Attribute Aluminum Steel Carbon
Perform 2 1 4
Retail $ [2] 4 2 1
Repair $ [2] 1 1 3
Reliability 3 4 1
Comfort 1 2 4
Lifespan 2 4 1

The spider graph [3] makes it clear ...

What do you mean there's no clear winner?!

Year, it's like that. Since I don't race and don't have time to spend on fussy stuff I'd be best off with an aluminum frame or, if I had the money, a steel frame from one of the elite Minnesota steel bike companies. Still, there's no denying the performance and comfort of carbon.

So it just depends.

I lied. Sorry.

[1] My brother bought a Porsche under similar circumstances. He says I got off easy.
[2] In these cases higher rating is less cost. Carbon can be relatively cheap to repair if you can find the right person or don't mind mailing a frame.
[3] It is really quite amazing that one can create a table in Excel/Windows and paste it into Blogger's composer window as an HTML table. I don't think I can do that on my Mac. I tried to do this graph in Google Spreadsheet but didn't seem to be supported there.

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