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Mike Burrows Myth Busting: What’s The Best Material To Make A Bike From?

Mike Burrows works a pillar drill

The first bicycles arrived in the early nineteenth century and were built largely of wood. Fast-forward to today and entering a bike shop one will be confronted by a dazzling array of machines, coming in all shapes, sizes, materials and price-tags. In this clip, expert cycle builder Mike Burrows outlines some essentials of understanding frame material, and dispels some of the myths surrounding the subject.

Mike explains that when looking at what a frame is made of a key concern should be the strength of the material in bending and twisting. Bicycle frames with high levels of stiffness provide a more efficient ride, as more of the rider’s energy goes into turning the wheels, and less is lost through the frame flexing.

Mike Burrows works a pillar drill | MadeGood.bikes
Mike Burrows works a pillar drill

The majority of the bicycles in the world today have frames made of steel; it’s strength, durability, and affordability mark it out as the obvious choice. The density of the metal allows steel frames to have small sizes of tubing whilst giving decent levels of stiffness. Higher grades of steel with thinner tubing offer an even better ride. Whilst Mike champions steel as a frame material, he states the belief that it absorbs bumps in the road and offers a ‘more forgiving’ ride is unfounded. It has no magic properties, it is just another material.

The late twentieth century saw the introduction of aluminium frames. Aluminium is pound for pound much softer and weaker than steel, so alloy frames require larger sized tubing to cope with the stresses put on them by cycling. Aluminium weighs far less than steel though, so these bigger tubes are still lighter and stiffer than their steel counterparts.

In terms of stiffness and lightness, carbon fibre frames are a another step up from aluminium. A carbon frame with the same strength and stiffness as steel or aluminium will weigh far less. As Mike points out, that is why professional racing cyclists use carbon frames.

However, most people do not regularly race up mountains, and for the everyday cyclist a decent steel frame is perfectly fine. Mike tells us that what really gives a bicycle its structural stiffness is the traditional diamond-shaped format. Despite all the advancements in technology, this is something that has yet to be bettered (gratis gokkasten voor echt geld).

It has been said that there are three golden properties to frame material: high strength, low weight and small price-tag. When buying a new bike you can choose two of these properties, but not all three!