Which Mountain Bike is Best: Steel or Alloy?

Bike rider balancing on rock boulder, side view
For easier pedaling, choose an alloy mountain bike. (Image: Thomas Northcut/DigitalVision/Getty Images)

While recreational bikers often stick to the roads, mountain bikers generally prefer to navigate scenic trails and backwoods courses. The mountain bike has been equipped with a shock absorbent suspension for off-road riding. Consider your budget as well as your level of skill before selecting a mountain bike. The best mountain bike frames feature a metallic construction.

Durability

As of 2011, most mountain bike frames are made from steel or a mixture of metals known as an alloy. Steel mountain bikes feature durable construction that can withstand even the roughest of terrains. According to ABC of Mountain Biking, steel mountain bikes offer built in shock absorption as well as an exceptional strength-to-weight ratio. Mountain bike frames made with an aluminum alloy offer a solid design that can withstand high-impact jumps. Aluminum alloy frames offer a strong rigidity and are often featured on full-suspension mountain bikes.

Weight

The weight of the frame will directly affect your ability to pedal the mountain bike forward. While steel mountain bikes remain the most durable, they are also considered some of the heaviest models. If you prefer to ride on trails that feature steep hills, choose a mountain bike that features an alloy frame. Compared with steel frames, alloy frames remain considerably lighter. According to ESPN, some of the lightest bikes in the world have been designed out of titanium alloys.

Versatility

The frame materials will determine the versatility of your mountain bike. Steel frames can limit your riding options. Steel mountain bikes remain ideal for a genre known as downhill. The heavy steel frame allows you to remain stabilized during high speed turns and maneuvers. Alloy mountain bikes can adapt to numerous types of riding terrains due to their increased maneuverability. The alloy mountain bike can also function as a low-impact form of transportation between your home and place of work.

Price

The price of the mountain bike fluctuates depending on the frame material. The cycling experts at REI state that mountain bikes often range in price between $400 and $2,000. Entry-level mountain bikes often have a steel frame and fall into the lower end of the price scale. Alloy mountain bikes generally have a more expensive price due to their increased performance capabilities. Mountain bike frames made from a titanium alloy can easily cost more than $2,000.

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