Carbon vs. Steel

Words by Mark

on 19/06/2014 13:29:23

Carbon fibre is high-tech, modern, and clearly the best option for any bike right? ...or is it?

In this blog we take a look at these two awesome materials and the real benefits - and drawbacks - of both.

 

First let's take a look at carbon:

Summary pros: Carbon is ideal for performance and speed.  It is highly responsive and has sleek modern looks.

Summary cons: Carbon is more expensive than steel and is often noisier more than other materials.

Best exampleDe Rosa R838

de-rosa-r838

  • The first - and most obvious - benefit is that carbon is light. Lighter than steel, and in most cases lighter than aluminium.
  • Carbon is also highly versatile. It can be engineered to be soft and forgiving or sharp and aggressive.
  • Typically though, carbon is a stiff material; ideal for power transfer and performance.
  • That being said, carbon fibre is great for absorbing vibration and provides a nice smooth ride [it's for this reason that carbon handlebars are so popular on mountain bikes].
  • Carbon is also quite an expensive material and costs noticeably more than steel.
  • Carbon fibre will also creak more than other materials and provide for a noisier ride.

 

Second, how does steel compare:

Summary pros: Steel is perfect for long distances, comfort, endurance and old school style. It's also a lot cheaper than carbon.

Summary cons: Steel is heavier than carbon, and isn't as fast.

Best example: Genesis Equilibrium

genesis-eq

  • Yes; steel is heavier than carbon. However that being said, some of the higher end steel frames such as the Reynolds 953 steels aren't that much heavier than a low-end carbon frame, and in some cases high-end steel frames can be lighter than cheap aluminium frames.
  • Steel is also a more forgiving material than carbon. Steel provides a soft, comfortable ride.
  • The old school looks of steel are very popular too, with narrow tubing and traditional design.
  • Steel is much cheaper than carbon, so you can expect to get a lot more for your money with a steel bike.
  • Finally steel is a very strong material. It can withstand more impacts, can be thrown around and will keep on going mile after mile.
  • Steel can be re-welded and so is easily repairable; ideal for a long life span!

 

As you can see, both of these materials have a number of great benefits. So depending on what you want to get out of your next bike, give some thought to whether steel or carbon would be better for you, and if you're still not sure give us a call on 01572 332032 and find out what our team are riding.

Check out this great video by our bike sales and events coordinator Wiggy, comparing carbon and steel on the road: