Carbon lower grade components vs aluminum higher end components

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    • #424831

      I hope you and yours are doing well.

      I’m buying a new MTB and weighing whether to buy a carbon bike with lower grade components vs. an aluminum one with higher grade components.  Considering the same price point, which one should I buy?   My magnificent 28″ inseam and the trails I ride focus on 27.5 options.

      I’m looking at entry to mid level major manufacturers who have both options.  Specifically, I’m considering Santa Cruz 2010s or Giant Trance and Bronson models, or similar levels of bikes from other manufacturers.  I’m 47 years old, and a weekend warrior, so this may be the last MTB bike I buy.  I’m focusing on trail bikes, and enjoy tackling uphills as much as the decent (almost).  I’m in SC so there are plenty of rocks and roots along the trails.

      I’m worried I’ll regret not buying a carbon bike.  However, as I look at the components (specifically the fork and shock) I’m seeing entry level components for the carbon vs higher spec ones on the equivalently priced aluminum bikes.  Full disclosure, I’ve laid my bike, and forearms, down more than once in the last couple of years.  These have not been huge impacts to the frame, but worth disclosing based on the research I’ve done.

      I appreciate everyone’s and anyone’s input.

      Thanks all!

    • #424930

      Unless you buy the highest end bike you are making tradeoffs on the perceived value of a spec vs it’s cost.  Your question really comes down to how much value you place on a carbon vs aluminum frame (as the carbon version of the bikes you’re considering have higher end builds) and where that falls on your priority list of specs (i.e. geometry, suspension, drive train, wheels, etc).  The biggest (promoted) benefit of carbon is the weight but the differences can often be quite small (<1 lb) and I suspect most weekend warriors will not even feel the difference in weight (or otherwise).  I would argue that, at least in my experience, modern geometry trumps (excuse the use of a highly controversial term lol) frame material for climbing.  The flip side of your decision should also consider how much you value the higher end components of the AL build vis a vis the carbon frame.  While other MTB’ers can provide you with our biases everyone’s ride style, terrain they ride, cost/benefit assessment is individualistic and may differ from your own.  If you can demo both versions that would be the best way to make a final determination!

    • #424965

      Mostly what you gain by buying a carbon bike is less weight about 1-2 pounds.  In all other respects like strength and stiffness, I don’t think you will be able to notice any difference when it comes to full-sus bikes.  Well designed carbon can reduce low-frequency buzz better than aluminum in a full-rigid or Hardtail bikes but that doesn’t really matter with full-sus bikes.  Aluminum can be recycled – carbon can’t.  When failing, aluminum bends or dents – carbon breaks.  If you crash a lot, aluminum might be better.

      For myself, I would pick the better-specced aluminum bike over the carbon bike any day.  I have aluminum bikes that are still going strong after 20+ years.

    • #425017

      Very interesting question.  I just checked out the $4,000 aluminum and carbon 5010s on the Santa Cruz website and that would be a tough decision.

      1. I have not ridden a SRAM drivetrain or brakes in years, but getting Shimano SLX, XT, or XTR would not be a deciding factor for me.  I would chose a carbon frame with SLX over aluminum with XTR.

      2. I have not ridden the current FOX Performance or Rythm forks.  If I could tell a difference between them on a demo, I would choose aluminum.  If not, I would go with carbon.

      3. I really like having a nice rear hub, so that would be an important factor for me.  However, I don’t know how much better the DT Swiss 370 is.

      Hopefully, you can demo both bikes to see which one you like better.








      I would probably go with the aluminum bike if it had significantly better wheels.  I would probably go with carbon if the wheels were only slightly better and everything else was similar I woul

    • #640233

      I’m of the opinion that the mainstream manufacturers are overbuilding modern carbon frames. I think the weight between a good aluminum frame and a mediocre carbon frame would lead me to buy aluminum.

    • #640399

      Frankly, I would go for the bike that has my desired geometry and dimensions. It has to be compatible with only one crash test dummy…

      Metal frames are easily sourced as a custom built one off and plastic is a no go in that regard.                      With today’s high end bikes being well above what I did my custom for in 2020, I beat that by a longshot… As a complete that each part and component was specced by this crash test dummy! I provided the blueprints complete with a callout page for each detail. AutoCAD is a wonderful tool to have.


    • #651862


      My humble opinion and it is what I did last year with no regrets, I went aluminum frame with higher end components on my trail bike Orbea Oiz H10.  The main decision was the fork and shock on the aluminum were so much above and beyond the comparable priced carbon.  Unlike a drivetrain which wears out, the fork and shock are staying.

      I’m an experienced rider and could have afforded the Carbon with equal components as the aluminum if I wanted, but I also knew regardless of which bike I got I would buy an upgraded wheelset and that would have made the carbon bike waaay more than I wanted to spend.  I still keep up and have just as much fun as my friends on high end carbon.



    • #651863


      …and really worthwhile and excellent question by the way.

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