bike frameOne thing that newcomers to the outdoor world quickly realize is that there’s much more to it than they thought. Once you get through the sheer amount of gear necessities, you arrive at the next level: the different types and materials used to make that gear. Bikes are a great example of this concept. We’ve touched upon the different types of bikes, but today we’ll go further and explore the different materials that frames can be made from.

A bike’s frame material will play a big role in its overall cost, of course, but it will also affect how it rides. There are cyclists who prefer frames made from materials that have more flex, which means a more forgiving ride, while others simply want the lightest frame they can find. The four most common frame materials are aluminum, steel, titanium and carbon fiber, and each offers its own benefits and potential drawbacks, depending on your needs.

Steel frames tend to be the least costly of the bunch, which can appeal to casual riders on a budget. They’re also very durable and incredibly strong. What turns off some, though, is that they’re also the heaviest frames out there.

Next you have aluminum frames, which are lighter than steel, but tend to be more expensive and don’t offer as much flex in the frame as steel.

Titanium frames are extremely light and possess as much strength as steel frames. They also offer a good amount of flex. Titanium frames tend to be the most expensive frame type, though, which can turn a lot of people away.

Carbon fiber frames are the lightest frames out there today. They’re on the pricey side, but they’re not as expensive as titanium frames, which appeals to more avid cyclists. One potential drawback, though, is that they don’t have as much flex as the other materials.

Of course, prices will vary greatly among different manufacturers. For instance, while steel frame bikes are typically less expensive than aluminum bikes, a high-end steel frame bike could still cost more than a lower-end aluminum frame bike, depending on the manufacturer. Reading reviews and being realistic about your experience, riding frequency, and budget will help you make a well-informed decision when it comes to purchasing a bike.