Before the development and increased accessibility of carbon road bikes, it was aluminium alloy that was the leading frame material after taking over from steel in the 1990s. But with carbon now dominating modern cycling, aluminium alloy strikes back, this time under the newly crowned US champion, Jonny Brown, a real-life Captain America.
The secret behind aluminium alloy
While it may not possess the same, nostalgic feel as steel, or match the professional performance of high-grade carbon, aluminium still holds a significant place in the market, providing the frame material for the vast majority of bikes. The real secret lies in the ‘alloy’, another metal paired with aluminium to increase its stiffness and longevity, as well as its compliance and comfort. Frames are constructed from butted tubing and simple welds, creating an affordable and extremely resilient bike.
Despite aluminium’s resistance to corrosion, durability and slender weight, it never really took hold in the professional peloton. The Tour de France was only won on alloy bikes from 1994 to 1998 before the meteoric rise of carbon fibre in 1999. That hasn’t relegated aluminium to the history books however, one current team in particular paving the way for an emphatic return of aluminium alloy.
Winning the Hagens Berman Axeon way
Most of the young riders on the prolific US-based Pro Continental team have been riding the Specialized Allez Sprint Comp for the 2018 season, setting the stage for a resurgence of the once popular frame material. Even so, with an impressive 2nd place in a stage at the Tour of California, and a US Elite National Championships victory to its name, its impact has exceeded all expectations.
Piloted by Sean Bennett to an impressive 2nd place on stage 3 of the 2018 Tour of California, the Allez Sprint soon gained immense credibility within the pro ranks. With confidence high, in both the team and alloy machine, Hagens Berman Axeon lined up for the US National Championships on Sunday ready to impress.
In a race that saw fewer than 20 riders reach the finish line, it was Jonny Brown who shocked his rivals and the nation, the 21-year-old sneaking away from his breakaway compatriots on the penultimate lap, never to be seen again. Arms aloft as he crossed the line, Brown turn out to be a history-maker twice in one day, becoming the youngest-ever US Pro Road Race champion and doing so on an alloy bike – unheard of since carbon took over.
Hagens Berman Axeon also took their winning formula across the pond and lit up the Portuguese National Championships under track cycling superstar Rui Oliveira.
The best of aluminium from the Bike Factory
Specialized’s Allez may have some professional accolades to its name, but there are a wealth of similar machines offered by the Bike Factory, all promising the same durability, longevity and affordable price that we’ve come to recognise in aluminium.
The Grand Tour stage-conquering Trek Emonda is famed for its super-light weight and nimble handling, and unusually, Trek have applied the same design and geometry to the durable and affordable aluminium-framed Trek Emonda Alr 6 Dnister 18. With a 300 Series Alpha Aluminium frame and a Shimano Ultegra groupset for seamless shifting, this is one bike that boasts all the qualities of a top-end carbon fibre road machine without the price tag.
Trek have also taken their speedy, aero-inclined Domane model and created an aluminium variant, using the lightweight 200 Series Alpha Aluminium frameset and powerful hydraulic disc brakes to replicate the performance of its carbon fibre equivalent at a fraction of the price.
Tired of that hefty carbon fibre price tag or sometimes lumbering weight of steel? Then it may well be time to jump back on the aluminium bandwagon.