Carbon vs Aluminum: Separating Environmental Fact From Fiction in the Frame Materials Debate

Feb 13, 2018
by Richard Cunningham  



Is aluminum better for the planet? Does carbon fiber's performance live up to its high price? Will my frame end up as ocean fill? Is carbon fiber poisonous to work with?

Recently there has been a lot of finger-pointing within the sport, with aluminum’s supporters claiming that the abundant metal’s well established recycling channels make its products more earth friendly than carbon fiber. Some hold that somewhere in Asia, children are slaving away, waist deep in toxic chemicals to produce high-modulus pre-preg so dentists in more developed nations can shave two seconds from their Strava times. Entertaining stuff, for sure. Accurate? Not so much.

I've been a manufacturer, I've worked directly with factories in Asia, and as a journalist, I have visited many factories that produce frames and components with both materials. Like all hot topics, the truth can usually be found somewhere in the middle. This feature takes a step back from the hyperbole to compare the benefits and drawbacks of manufacturing mountain bike frames from either carbon fiber or aluminum.





When you bought your last mountain bike, did you inadvertently finance its makers to rape and pillage the earth?

If you bought your bike new, the correct answer is “yes.” Every part of that bike came out of a hole somewhere on earth. If your bicycle frame is made of carbon, that hole is 12 to 30 inches wide and oil comes out of it. If it is aluminum or steel, well, those holes can be seen from space. But, the journey only begins there. There are emissions created by hauling the materials to where they are needed. Trans-continental pipelines, excavation equipment, trains, long-haul trucks, cargo ships, and oil tankers move raw materials to processing plants. Add in the pollution and energy draw of the foundries, refineries and chemical factories that turn raw materials into usable forms, and then realize that the places where metal, plastic, and carbon fiber are made are most likely on a different continent than where your bicycle was manufactured.
open pit mine in Andalusia
If your bike is made from metal, it came from a big hole in the ground. If it is carbon, it came out of an oil well.

Once those materials are produced, an army of container ships continuously ply the globe, dropping off aluminum, carbon fiber, thermoplastic pellets, and steel to the places where frames and components are manufactured. Some of those same ships will then be loaded with containers of bicycles, destined primarily to European and North American populations who are hungry for high tech mountain bikes, but have lost their appetites for the dirty work that is required to create them.

bigquotesI used to operate a haul truck at an open pit copper mine. Aluminum is mined in a similar manner. My truck used 3200 liters of diesel in one shift. The mine had 92 of them working two 12-hour shifts. We are all guilty. When you consider the mining or manufacturing of materials, there is no higher ground.Dustin Adams, We Are One Composites Founder


Liteville 601 2015
Liteville claims their testing shows their aluminum frames can match or beat the stiffness-to weight ratio of some carbon models.

ALUMINUM
Recyclable? Yes. Low impact? Not exactly.

How it’s made: aluminum is one of the most abundant metals on earth and is separated from Bauxite ore into metal using an electronic process. Aluminum is the poster child of metal recycling. Products crafted from the substance (like bicycle frames and components) can be recycled, and re-melted to be used again. That’s the positive side. On the negative side, it takes an extraordinary amount of energy to produce aluminum. Bauxite is strip mined in equatorial zones where entire species are being wiped out on a regular basis. Aluminum production alone produces one percent of the planet’s man-made greenhouse gasses.
Bauxite the primary source for aluminum
Bauxite is the primary source of aluminum. - John St. James photo

bigquotesPrimary production of aluminum requires tremendous energy. It also produces greenhouse gases that affect global warming. According to the International Aluminum Institute, manufacturing new stocks of aluminum releases one percent of the global human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.William Harris, 'How Aluminum Works'

Global statistics: worldwide, the cycling industry is barely a sliver in the pie-graph of aluminum users. World production of aluminum is estimated at 24.8 million tons annually, mostly consumed by 187 billion aluminum cans (100 billion in the USA alone). Architectural and common industrial applications are next in line, followed by automobiles (which on average use 300 pounds of the stuff), then aerospace. That is a lot of metal being added to the melting pot each year. And, there is a lot more of it laying around that could be recycled.

Aluminum Manufacturing

Melted down, all the aluminum contained in a five-pound frame would make a block about the size of half a sheet of printer paper and just one inch thick. When you consider how little material they have to work with, it’s a miracle that mountain bike designers have anything left after spanning the distance between the rear axle and the steerer tube to construct essentials like linkage rockers, shock mounts, suspension pivots, and the bottom bracket housing. That’s why, with one or two exceptions, aluminum frames are welded together from an assortment of pre-manufactured pieces.

bigquotesA carbon frame is a good opportunity to save about 200-300 grams of frame weight. But, only when you have a suitable frame design and have a good manufacturer and experience. In our opinion, it is not enough to offer 200-300 grams of weight reduction, it also has to be stiff. So far, we exceeded with our Liteville aluminum suspension frame's comparison tests, the stiffness-to-weight ratio of all tested carbon competitors.Nathaniel Goiny, Syntace/Liteville R&D

Aluminum is easily formed and machined, so to avoid waste and to optimize the strength-to-weight ratio of a frame, manufacturers use a number of different processes to portion that five-pound block of metal into frame components. Highly stressed bits like dropouts, swingarm yokes, and suspension rockers are often forged. Threaded bits, like bottom bracket shells and places like shock mounts and pivot locations are CNC-machined to ensure precision. Some of that aluminum will have been pre-formed into tubing, which is then tapered, butted and profiled to maximize the strength and physical properties of the frame at each location. Welding those bits together creates a one-piece structure that could not be easily made using any other method. But, it's not a perfect process. Every welded frame must be heat treated and checked for alignment before it’s good to go.

Welding an Intense Tracer frame
TIG welding aluminum front triangles at the Intense factory. Parts are different for each size and they must fit perfectly. - Intense photo
Aligning swingarms after annealing
Welded aluminum frames must be aligned, heat treated, and then post-machined. - Intense photo


Using these “best practices” to make key components and then welding the frame together produces the least amount of scrap, and is a key reason that aluminum is competitive in both price and performance. Presently, only a handful of bike makers have pushed welded aluminum construction to the point where it approaches the properties of the best carbon frames. One brand has recently made that claim, but they plan to use a very different construction method.

Is there a better way? Pole Bicycle Company proposes to CNC-machine an entire frame from plates of high-strength aluminum. To produce a lightweight, tubular structure, Pole will machine the frame components in halves, and then bond them together. Cannondale’s Hollowgram crankarms are a successful example of this technique. At present, Pole estimates the Machine frame to weigh 3.2kg (7.04 pounds) without a shock, so they have a ways to go to attain their goal.

Pole Machine rendering
Pole's "Machine" is sculpted from plates of 7075 aluminum alloy by CNC-machining centers into matching halves, which are then screwed and bonded together. - Pole image

bigquotes7075 T6 aluminum is 1.7 times stronger than conventional bike alloy 6061 T6. This makes it possible to manufacture the frame to be much lighter than normal aluminum bikes. Machining from high-quality billets that are also used in the aerospace industry means a superior material is used. The heat treatment is also more consistent than heat treating the frames in an oven.Pole Press Release

Assuming Pole begins with a one-inch-thick plate, and it actually is possible to CNC-machine a five-pound frame that is safe to ride, it could take up to 100 pounds of aluminum to produce each frame (my calculations, not Pole’s). Some of the larger chunks of plate could be re-purposed, but the lion’s share would be waste - metal shavings, trucked off for recycling. Pole's designer, Leo Kokkonen was reluctant to elaborate on those numbers saying, "The machining process on our frame is a trade secret, so unfortunately I can't confirm any of your numbers on billet sizes. What I can say is that there are ways to save material on machining."

Is machining frames from billets sustainable? Perhaps for a boutique builder, but by my calculations, a production frame maker would have to import 50 tons of aluminum plate to make only one thousand frames – and then have to transport up to 95 thousand pounds of scrap for recycling. Even if you did manufacture your bikes in a country where pollution-free sustainable energy flowed out of unicorn butts, that would be an extraordinary waste of resources.

We went to Taiwan and started a bike company
Genio factory, Taiwan: most of the labor for aluminum frame production is spent preparing the sub-assemblies that are eventually fed to the welders, who make the magic happen. - Dan Barham photo

The down-side of manufacturing aluminum frames the traditional way is the sheer number of processes required to build them. There is at least one dedicated machine at each step and most of them require a trained operator, and presently, there is a worldwide shortage of skilled labor.

Metal fabrication can be a dangerous business. Normally, workplace-safety devices are in place at every step, but CNC machining centers, forging presses, extrusion machines, tube benders, industrial lasers, cut-off saws and heat-treating ovens can be unapologetic maiming devices in the wrong hands. Aluminum processing requires a number of chemical processes for cleaning, welding, lubricating, heat treating, painting and anodizing, and many of those processes take place under one roof. Every factory I have visited has been well ventilated, but it’s a noisy, warm, aromatic, shared environment. Even when there are considerable safety precautions in place, it's my experience that every worker is impacted by the byproducts of production to some degree.
We went to Taiwan and started a bike company
Cleaning and prepping aluminum frames. Chemical exposure, however mild, is a fact of life for all manufacturing. - Dan Barham photo


If you had to work a year at an aluminum frame factory or a year at a carbon factory, which would you choose?

bigquotesI would choose the aluminum factory. I love working with metals and get my hands dirty rather than wearing rubber gloves and breathing protection.Nathaniel Goiny, Syntace/Liteville R&D

Recycling Aluminum

Recycling aluminum can produce a raw, useful product with a reported, 95-percent reduction in energy (compared to the extraction process from Bauxite), and there is a ready market for it, because aluminum foundries are located near almost every population center. Aluminum can be recovered, smelted back to its original state, and then re-alloyed, so it is possible for a manufacturer to build the same product from ones that have been recycled. Aluminum cans are one example.
scrapping airliners in Mojave California
Airliners, scrapped for aluminum. - Mojave Space Center image

Aluminum recycling began during the Second World War out of necessity, but the concept was supercharged by government incentives, enacted after beverage makers mastered the 12-ounce pop-top can and users littered the earth with them. Cans are pure aluminum, and therefore a premium source for foundries that specialize in blending high-strength alloys—recycled cans earn top dollar. After many governments levied tax-and-reward systems to end the aluminum littering plague, “recycling” businesses appeared on every street corner to cash in on the double bounty. In effect, the reason that aluminum recycling is so readily available in developed nations is a direct result of garbage-throwing human scum.

bigquotesIf you decided your Commencal Supreme DH frame had served its useful life, you could choose not to sell it to some unsuspecting rider, hack saw it in half and recycle it – after which, you would have a clear conscience and $6.30 USD in your pocket.

Aluminum cans
A bag full of aluminum cans could be worth more than your aluminum trail bike.

Recycled aluminum is separated into two basic groups: known sources that are not contaminated by paint or other non-aluminum substances. Most of that stream originates from machining or manufacturing businesses. “Contaminated” aluminum, is either an unknown alloy or any aluminum that has been painted, or is mixed with other metals. Items like engine blocks, step ladders, Airbus A320s, and bicycle frames fall into this category and generally are the least desirable aluminum recyclables, because they require much more labor and energy to reduce to a purified base metal, and also because the process produces greater quantities of toxic byproducts. For a baseline, aluminum cans average $2.00 a pound (including the $.05-per can subsidy); clean aluminum, about $1.55, and contaminated aluminum goes for around $.90 per pound in California.

After making phone calls to large and mid-sized brands, I was convinced that nearly every factory has an aluminum recycling program in place. Once those frames are sold, however, most tend to remain above ground and far away from the smelters. People are still reselling frames I made in the 1980s. Just for the record: if you decided your Commencal Supreme DH frame had served its useful life, you could choose not to sell it to some unsuspecting rider, hack saw it in half and recycle it – after which, you would have a clear conscience and $6.30 USD in your pocket.


Unno Bikes
Unno's 160mm Enduro is Barcelona-based Cezar Rojo's take on the ultimate all-mountain bike. - Unno photo

CARBON COMPOSITES
Less recyclable, but also less waste.

How it’s made: Carbon fibers basically originate from crude oil that has been manufactured into acrylic fibers, or fibers created from pitch (I’m simplifying here). The ultra-fine fibers are heated in oxygen free furnaces until all of the compounds in the fibers other than carbon have off-gassed. The fibers are then post-treated to encourage them to bond to the resins which will be applied later to bind them into alignment when they are molded into their final shape. The machines that manufacture those tiny fibers are as long as football fields and there are only a handful of them worldwide.

Oak Ridge Laboratory s carbon fiber manufacturing production line is almost 400-feet from end to end.
Oak Ridge Laboratory's carbon fiber manufacturing production line is almost 400-feet from end to end. - Oak Ridge Laboratory photo

On the plus side, carbon composite’s versatility and strength-to-weight ratio is unparalleled, but more about that later. Because “raw carbon” yarns are lightweight and the substance is inert, it can be rolled into skeins, stored indefinitely and easily transported. Manufacturing is labor intensive, but the technology is relatively simple. The assembly and molding processes are low key and don't require the heavy machinery required for metal fabrication, so factories can be located close to population centers anywhere in the world. On the negative side, once the resins are cured, high-strength carbon structures become more problematic to recycle than metal. Like cloth, wood, and paper products, each time carbon is recycled, the fibers become shorter and less useful for high-strength applications. It is possible, but highly unlikely that fibers recycled from bicycle frames could be returned to production to become frames again.

Global statistics: Global production of carbon fiber is pegged at 135,000 tons (compare that to 24,800,000 tons of aluminum). The largest producers for 2017 were in North America, with the US and Mexico churning out 48,700 tons. Japan is next largest at 27,100 tons, and then China at 13,300 tons. Aerospace uses about 80-percent of the world’s carbon fiber production, with another 15-percent gobbled up by sporting goods manufacturers. Of those, golf and snow sports are by far the largest carbon consumers, with cycling trailing somewhere off the back. The automobile industry is anticipated to become a larger player as it struggles to meet stringent fuel and emission targets looming ahead.

UNNO Bikes
Unno Design Studio also manufactures its own frames in-house. This photo shows the finished frame, surrounded by every piece of carbon that is used to build it. - Unno image

Manufacturing Carbon Fiber

To convert the yarn into high-strength (high modulus) carbon composites that cycling manufacturers use, the yarns are either woven or arranged parallel (unidirectional) and then squeezed between rollers that saturate the fibers with catalyzed epoxy-type resins. Non-stick paper or plastic film is applied to the material, which is then stored in rolls. At that point, the clock starts ticking for the pre-impregnated material, because once the resin is mixed with the catalyzer, it slowly begins to cure, so it must be used immediately or placed in refrigerated storage to retard that process. Carbon material made in this way remains sticky (like adhesive tape) for a specific time, which is critical to layering and shaping the fibers during the molding process.

If you had to work a year on the assembly line, would you choose Giant’s carbon or its aluminum factory?

bigquotesComposite, for sure. Our aluminum factory is "vented," while our composite factory is air conditioned.Andrew Juskaitis, Global Product Marketing Manager at Giant USA

Pre-impregnated carbon material is formulated so it will not cure completely until it is heated to a specific temperature, at which point, the resin becomes viscous to ensure proper bonding between layers and to accelerate the catalytic process. When complete, the epoxy materials are transformed into a plastic compound that is virtually inert and that cannot be re-melted into its original state, like more common thermoplastics.

Pivot Cycles carbon construction
The carbon for this Pivot frame is being layered over an EPS foam mandrel. The clear plastic covering the mandrel is the bladder, which will be pressurized during the cure cycle to squeeze the carbon against the inside of the mold. - Pivot Cycles photo
Pivot Cycles carbon construction
Soft and pliable, the finished layup is carefully fitted into the mold. Removable blocks are fitted inside shock mounts and bearing locations, then the halves are then clamped together and transported to a heating press for the curing cycle. - Pivot Cycles photo

There are a number of ways that carbon is molded, but most of the top manufacturers today have adopted similar methods. Molds are machined from large steel plates that separate into halves. Front triangles are usually made in one piece. Swingarms are more complicated to mold and are generally made in two pieces, which are bonded together in a second operation. Each frame size requires a different mold, although most designers try to use one swingarm for the whole size run. Most bike makers say that molds run from $40,000 to $80,000 per model, depending upon how complicated the frame design is. Molds last from one to three years, depending upon how much force it takes to separate them after the parts are cured.

Pivot Cycles carbon construction
After the curing cycle, the mold is pried apart and the frame emerges nearly finished, except for the thin flashing where the mold-halves meet. - Pivot Cycles photo

To ensure the strongest and lightest product, the pre-impregnated carbon is cut into a large number of shapes which are mapped and numbered, so workers can place them in the correct location and order. To assist this process, the frame maker molds a mandrel (usually EPS foam), slightly smaller, but identical to the finished frame. A slender, inflatable nylon bag is taped around the mandrel, which the lay-up workers then apply the carbon strips to. When all of the carbon is applied to the mandrel, it is carefully laid into the mold. The halves are closed and it is transported to a heated press. The nylon bladder is pressurized to force the layers of carbon together against the inside of the mold while the press runs through a heating cycle that can take well over an hour. When the mold has cooled sufficiently, workers pry and hammer it apart – and if all goes well, the frame emerges with minimal sanding and clean-up required.

bigquotesWith aluminum, the process of acquiring all the raw material, having all the machined parts made, forgings, butted and hydro-formed tubes, and prepping the material for production, we are realistically looking at 150-180 days [total production time] and the batch size minimum is usually 500 units. The same process in carbon is 90-120 days. Aluminum is less expensive but planning for it is more difficult.Chris Cocalis, Pivot Cycles Founder


Carbon’s strength-to-weight advantage over any other frame building material is undeniable. European supplier Dexcraft Composites states in its carbon vs. aluminum white paper that a component made from standard carbon fiber of the same thickness as an aluminum one will offer 31-percent more rigidity than the aluminum one, and at the same time, weigh 50-percent less and have 60 percent more strength. High modulus carbon can boost those numbers significantly. Carbon road bikes and some XC racing machines approach those numbers, but the reality is that carbon mountain bike makers err on the conservative side, which results in lower weight savings - about one pound between comparable carbon and aluminum frames.

bigquotesA component made from standard carbon fiber of the same thickness as an aluminum one will offer 31-percent more rigidity than the aluminum one, and at the same time, weigh 50-percent less and have 60-percent more strength.Dexcraft Composites

The molded layering process used to make the frames, while time consuming, provides options to strengthen or lighten the structure as needed that are either impractical or impossible with aluminum. Unlike metals, which must first be formed into useful structures and accurately fitted before being assembled into a final product, one roll of carbon fiber can be molded into any number of shapes and used to make any size frame. A good carbon frame emerges dimensionally correct, without need to re-size its bearing locations seat tube, or threads - which lends itself well to building dual-suspension frames, where even minor misalignments can wreak havoc. Carbon’s additional strength and the repeatability of the molding process has reduced warranty returns for most bike makers. Workers must be careful and attentive, but not necessarily skilled. Typically, lay-up takes place in air conditioned rooms, and the manufacturing process is safe from beginning to end.

The downside of manufacturing carbon frames is the material costs begin around $20 USD per pound and the start-up cost for molds, engineering, and proof-testing is very expensive. The lengthy lay-up process is tedious, and it has to be done correctly. Layup is an entry-level job with a high turn-around, which makes it hard for factories to retain experienced workers.

Rumors abound about exposure to toxic chemicals related to carbon production, but in my experience the majority of workers are at low risk. Some epoxy-type resins that are used for high-strength carbon composites react with human skin. Once mixed and embedded into the carbon those effects are mild, but they are accumulative. Prolonged exposure to skin can eventually cause hyper-sensitivity and allergic reactions. Plastic gloves are enough to protect workers, and help to prevent moisture, oils or grime from affecting the layup. Smaller manufacturers purchase their carbon pre-impregnated, which is quite safe to handle. Larger frame makers, like Giant Bicycles, however, buy their carbon dry and, in order to have a fresh batch on hand for each production run, they pre-impregnate their own carbon as needed. Understandably, the mixing-room staff who prepare those chemicals and operate the machines face an elevated risk of exposure.

Recycling Carbon Fiber

Today, the cycling industry’s carbon frame and component makers do not generate enough waste to attract the attention of recyclers. Toray, one of the world’s largest carbon fiber producers, says that an estimated 50 million pounds of carbon fiber scrap are produced annually, and that 2 million pounds of that scrap is generated in Washington State, where Toray services Boeing’s airliner production and aerospace ventures.

Toray’s recycling factory in Port Angeles, Washington, is designed to recapture uncured carbon fiber in quantities that dwarf the cycling industry. The carbon scrap just generated by Boeing and friends next door in Seattle could make 400,000 carbon trailbike frames a year. Carbon recycling facilities are established near all of the world’s manufacturing centers, but they need large volumes from known sources to produce high-quality products. The cycling industry doesn’t even move the needle for those people.
777x wing spar under consruction
A robot drills the first hole in Boeing's massive 777x carbon wing spar. - Boeing photo

bigquotesThe carbon wing spar for Boeing’s 777x is over 213 feet long and uses almost 400 miles of carbon pre-preg tape. Boeing Press Release

Aerospace and military suppliers must track their materials from the ground to finished product, so they discard any material that could be questionable. Toray pegs the scrap rate for aerospace at 20-percent, which is astronomical compared to bike makers, who typically clip remnant carbon pieces into small squares and use them to reinforce hard-to-reach sections of their frames. The high cost of carbon, and the fact that the lay-up process affords many opportunities to use small, odd-shaped pieces is the constant that drives carbon makers to enforce frugality - from the world’s largest frame producers, like Giant in Taiwan, down to a small wheel builder like Dustin Adams, founder of We Are One Composites in Kamloops BC.

“We make 125 rims a week,” says Adams. “And our total scrap rate is one plastic trash bag. Most of that is the paper backing we pull off the carbon.” Adams commented about an image that was being tossed around the interweb of a stack of discarded carbon frames behind an Asian frame factory. “That probably came from the frames used to qualify their customer’s designs,” he said. “You have to destroy a number of frames from each size run for every customer, and some of those factories take on a lot of clients.”

bigquotesWe make 125 rims a week and our total scrap rate is one plastic trash bag. Most of that is the paper backing we pull off the carbon.Dustin Adams, We Are One Composites Founder

Adams says he saves up his cured scrap until he has enough of it to send to a recycler, who converts carbon waste to chopped fiber. Brands like Trek, Specialized, and Ibis also send their carbon fiber scrap, which consists mostly of warranty returns, to become chopped fiber as well. Most of the world’s carbon recyclers convert cured carbon into short “chopped fibers” by heating the composite material to burn off the epoxy matrix, which leaves raw carbon fiber. The resins assist the burning process. The fibers are sized and then sold to be used to reinforce molded plastic (like you’d find in a pedal) or made into fibrous mats, which are used to manufacture structural panels and under-the hood bits for automakers. Chopped fiber is also mixed with asphalt and used to reinforce concrete.

Carbon waste
One day's scrap at small US carbon frame maker's layup table: paper backing in the large container and small carbon pieces in the smaller one will both be recycled.


From the recycler's perspective, bicycle frames do not contain particularly long continuous fibers, so it is unlikely that our carbon waste will be in demand for anything but chop. We're not high on their list. Chopped fiber customers can purchase new material for slightly more than recycled, so recyclers are picky about their sources in order to assure their customers are getting the good stuff.

Conversely, current carbon frame manufacturing techniques require top-quality continuous-fiber materials, so there is little chance that we will be making new frames from recycled ones anytime soon. But, there is hope.

We soon may be able to switch to recycled carbon, harvested from other donors. Toray’s Port Angeles
Magura MT Trail Brakes
Chopped carbon fiber is used to reinforce engineered plastics, like the material used to make Magura's master cylinder/lever perches.
facility and its sister in Japan are beginning to produce continuous-fiber products recycled from large-scale aerospace sources. To augment that waste stream, the first airliners and military aircraft to use composite wing and fuselage parts are due to be scrapped this year.

bigquotesAs land fill material, composite waste is relatively inert compared with other waste (such as food waste), producing no leachates or methane gas.Dr. Sue Halliwell, End of Life Options for Composite Waste

Almost ready for recycling: The bottom line for carbon frame makers is that, as a whole, they are a small producer of carbon waste and much of that goes into landfill sites. Carbon composite is considered inert, so its detrimental impact in landfills is its bulk, but that resource may come to a swift end. Concerns about auto makers and aviation ramping up their carbon use propelled the European Union to ban composite waste from landfills and many countries are following suit.

Some bike makers do recycle. Telephone calls and emails to a cross-section of the industry indicate that almost every carbon manufacturer is under pressure to come up with a pilot recycling program and would happily do so if they could find someone who would take it. Hans Heim, CEO of Ibis put it bluntly: “The small amount of returns we get and our pre-production products had been accumulating for years. We didn't throw away our carbon. We wanted to initiate our own recycling program, but when we tried, we couldn’t get them to return our calls.” Ibis paired up with another prominent brand in California that sends a truck every few months to pick it up. As it stands, carbon manufacturers will most likely have to pay recyclers to take their waste until customer demand for their products comes up to speed.

bigquotesWe are founding members of the Utah Advanced Manufacturing Initiative, which has among its goals, carbon fiber recycling... It's not a small topic!Matt Robertson, Enve Composites

And, what about you? Owners of carbon fiber bikes are even less likely to recycle their frames than their aluminum-riding friends. Carbon bikes are more resistant to fatigue and corrosion, generally out-last aluminum, and fetch a better price on the resale market. In addition, broken or cracked carbon frames can often be repaired to full strength, while most aluminum frames cannot be welded back into service without stripping them down to bare metal and sending them off to heat treat. Aluminum may be more easily recycled, but on the other hand, you may be able to pass your carbon bike down to your great grandchildren.

Pivot Mach 6 alloy
Aluminum Mach 6: Pivot Cycles re-committed to aluminum in 2017 with an aluminum version of its most popular carbon AM/trail bike. Founder Chris Cocalis says the difference in frame weights between a medium size aluminum and carbon frame is about 280 grams - Pivot Cycles photo

bigquotesCarbon fiber frame construction offers us the greatest flexibility in design and ultimately, a better stiffness (and strength) to weight ratio, so we can build a better frame that justifies the higher price. At the same time, being able to offer a very similar quality product, with a relatively small weight penalty at a much lower price (typically, about $1000 less) really shows the continued viability of aluminum.Chris Cocalis, Pivot Cycles Founder


So, Which is Better: Carbon or Aluminum?

If I personally was going to launch a new mountain bike factory, I would build with carbon. My reasoning is that aluminum construction has evolved to its pinnacle and offers little room for improvement. Perhaps a breakthrough in additive manufacturing (3D printing) could breathe new life into aluminum construction, but as it stands, it's a way to make a very good bike frame that's going nowhere fast.

My litmus test is simple: if I gave a million dollars to an aluminum factory to improve a frame, and did the same to a carbon factory, I doubt the aluminum version would be significantly better than the best aluminum bikes are today. Carbon, however is relatively new to bike makers and has a long way to go before it could be considered a perfected process. One example: automation is a fact of life for metal fabrication, but has not taken root as a viable option for labor-intensive carbon frame production. Recycling will hopefully soon be a fact of life for the composite industry as a response to public pressure and new regulations. The potential for improvement and to remain competitive is much greater with carbon.

If I were teaching sustainability and best-use practices at a middle school, I'd own an aluminum bike, because I would not have to argue my decision with students beyond the black and white fact that aluminum is the most recyclable material that lends itself to mountain bike production.

If I was a bike brand, concerned about the human cost of those who made my bikes, or was worried about "ocean fill," I'd first choose the best material for my bike design and then I'd research a factory that has established safeguards in place for its workforce and documented environmental protocols. In my experience, bicycle manufacturing jobs are sought after in the countries where they exist, and most of the cycling industry adheres to environmental standards that often exceed those in their countries of origin.

If all I rode were downhill bikes or 33-pound enduro sleds armed with tire inserts and 1100-gram tires, I don't think the one or two pounds that a carbon frame and wheels might save me would mean all that much in the pedaling department, so either carbon or aluminum would be fine.

For professional riders and those who want the pinnacle of performance, carbon is king. Carbon offers a lighter weight, longer-lasting, corrosion-free frame, a more lively feeling chassis, wheels that remain straight almost forever, and a more attractive return on the resale market.

Everything can be broken. Regardless of the material or the amplitude of their riding, some people just break stuff more often than the rest of us. If you are producing your own waste stream, then you should probably choose aluminum and recycle your broken frames and components. Recycling is earth-friendly, but so is conserving resources. If you don't break things that often, consider a long-term investment. Carbon may be less recyclable, but well-made carbon frames and components have the potential to maintain their performance and appearance for many years.


The Takeaway
bigquotesSo, which material is best? If you've made it this far, you've probably made your choice, and either one would be right. After all, you're the one riding it. I'm currently testing an aluminum bike that I'd keep for life, but that said, the ultimate performer is carbon. There's a reason that almost every performance bicycle brand has suffered through the learning curve to build carbon bikes. All of the top players have the testing, teams, and evaluation equipment to measure aluminum versus carbon and have made their choice. But, does this discussion really matter? Because, regardless of what it was made from or how it was manufactured, unless you ride your mountain bike for transportation, it's only a play toy. Perhaps the only defensible consideration actually is, "How big of a hole in the earth will my purchase make and how will it get filled back up?"RC


Must Read This Week

710 Comments

  • + 790
 Without a doubt, the most comprehensive, informative article I've read on this site! Well sourced, in depth with as much detail as necessary that applies well beyond just bikes...those who still throw cans in the trash when the blue bin is 5 steps away are probably due for a full life re-evaluation.

I'm proud of myself and all my fellow PB commenters who have no doubt read the entire article before spouting off because we are now better people than when we first clicked on this link. There is no longer any need to post our usual carbon vs Al BS because we all now know the full story and realize there are pluses and minuses to all aspects of each material and can make a well informed decision as to which is the best one for our next bike (or not next bike!).
  • + 21
 I just said the same thing--very well-written article about an issue that's important to me. I'll be more mindful of where I throw my alu cans. I do tend to put them in a paper bag and neatly put it in the garbage bin for the recyclers to easily find. But now I'm not sure if that's good enough.
  • + 7
 I feel better about my choice of carbon now. If that was the underlying intent of the Carbon Trilateral Commission, for which Mr. Cunningham is a spokesperson, it worked. The fatigue life of aluminum has always troubled me when handing down or giving away abused old bikes.
  • + 9
 Yes, FINALLY a well researched article!
  • + 8
 Agreed! It's so easy to get caught up in Primary issues of waste and environmental accountability, without looking a little further down the line. Every decision we make, from what we drive, to what we eat, to the size house we live in, is part of the picture.
  • + 9
 @Sardine: I am also proud of our commenters for reading your entire comment...wait.
  • + 7
 Informative? A lot of claims in the last chapter, like "carbon frames and rims last longer" or "carbon is longer lasting, which is important for proffessionals" or that there is very very little waste and then show this Unno picture with tens of quite complex shapes. So i think it is typical truth mixed with "let's not taese the industry" article. I mean, the real point is: carbon gives better aligned frames, which can crack when hit a rock or last forever if you are lucky and is pricey. Aluminium is quite the opposite. Both are not environmental friendly, as any consumable goods.
  • - 9
flag endlessblockades (Feb 12, 2018 at 13:36) (Below Threshold)
 @lkubica: Nobody has mentioned, that unlike aluminum, carbon is easy to repair.
  • + 27
 @endlessblockades: you mean except for the part of the article that says exactly that? "In addition, broken or cracked carbon frames can often be repaired to full strength, while most aluminum frames cannot be welded back into service without stripping them down to bare metal and sending them off to heat treat."
  • + 7
 After reading this article in it's entirety and definitely not skipping to the conclusion and comments section this reminded me of an article I read the other day about a new "super wood" material that has very promising attributes including being as strong as steel and much more environmentally friendly. Amazing if true, maybe there is hope for a truly green frame material: www.sciencealert.com/new-super-wood-stronger-than-steel
  • + 25
 Yeah the last portion has some pretty suspect claims:

"Aluminum may be more easily recycled, but on the other hand, you may be able to pass your carbon bike down to your great grandchildren."

Are you kidding me? How many of us ride a 10yo carbon MTB? Plenty of people puttering away on alloy 26ers.
  • + 6
 @mattbrown9: I'm surprised by that claim : "In addition, broken or cracked carbon frames can often be repaired to full strength" that I've often seen nonetheless.
When you see the unno piture, you get a feel that all parts were specifically design to be that way and not another, to optimize strengh, weight, etc... so how would a patch of carbon glued on a crack be as good as that intricate layering ?
Or is that layering just a pile of carbon parts until it's simply thick enough ?
  • + 28
 Interesting read! But i think the comparison to oil coming from a small hole in the ground, to an image of a massive old bauxite mine can be a bit misleading (you know this comment was coming....). Here’s one example of those small “12 to 30 inch” widel holes in the ground for oil...as seen from space.

visibleearth.nasa.gov/view.php?id=6776
  • + 4
 @rezrov: Cause there wasn't that many carbon bikes ten years ago like there is now. If you're on a ten year old alloy bike your basically riding a time bomb, never had an alum frame last more then 3 yrs. Steel on the other hand is where it's at for used bikes.
  • + 3
 @mattbrown9: Uh, oops. I have no defense for my oversight.
  • + 1
 @Will-narayan: There's a shop here in the bay area that can repair any carbon frame TDF roadie to DH. It's just a skill.
  • + 5
 @rezrov: I completely agree. From my real life experience carbon has yet to prove itself to be more durable. And I don't know anyone who has recycled a broken carbon frame or wheel. But most local recycling centres cater for aluminium
  • + 7
 @rezrov: I'm riding a 9yo alloy 26er hardtail...
  • + 4
 @endlessblockades: or you can do it the ugly way yourself pretty cheap and easily. I did it on a Giant Defy frame I found at the local dump (!) that had a crack in the seat stay.

6 additional layers of CF on the outside ain't pretty tho!
  • - 34
flag themountain (Feb 12, 2018 at 16:25) (Below Threshold)
 @mattbrown9: That is utter nonsense...there is no way in hell to fix a broken carbon frame , period!
  • + 2
 Great article.
  • + 10
 @MikeGruhler: I rode to work this morning on a 27 year old bonded alloy hardtail...
  • + 30
 A good and informative article. But can't help feeling that it just came across as a defense of carbon fibre. Although giving pros and cons to both It focused mostly on the negatives of Alu and mostly on the positives of carbon. Just my thoughts.
  • + 16
 @rezrov: Agreed. For me, there is a takeaway that is far more important than "which one is better".

If, after reading this excellent piece, there is anyone who still desires the latest and greatest, with up to the minute cutting edge components and the "latest geometry" and as a result only get a season or two out of any frame before their desire to keep up with the riders at the trailhead convinces their ego to get a new bike, then Carbon or Aluminium doesn't make a scrap of difference. Whichever brings with it huge externalities that those grandchildren to which they pass their bike, in order to help make them feel better about their own personal rampant consumerism, may end up paying for it in a myriad of other ways down the line.

That rider at the trailhead on the bike they have a been riding for close to (insert preferred number) of years now, aluminium or carbon, and that still gives them smiles galore, and who is happy with that and sees no need to scrap it and buy a new one; well they hold all the aces in the debate. Period.
  • + 16
 Great write up. Mostly makes up for that atrocity comparing DH bikes to skis.
  • + 8
 @themountain: That is not an informed or a responsible statement to make. There are frames that we get in our shop that are damaged beyond repair, but the majority of them are dings and cracks that are easily fixed.

I like steel the best
  • + 2
 @IamSeaDevil: what exactly does a repaired carbon frame look like? is it obvious because there's a big patch of unpainted carbon slathered on top? or do most frames get repainted?
  • + 1
 @BadMotor: Yeah but then we'd be swallowing up trees and more people than just bikers would be complaining about that.
  • + 3
 @themountain: www.robertscomposites.com/bike.html
Peruse this site and tell me carbon is not repairable. Unless you were being sarcastic.
  • + 1
 @xeren: We repaint them and you can't tell the difference
  • + 19
 @sospeedy: I was thinking the same thing, the impacts of oil extraction and refining were heavily downplayed in this article while the impacts of aluminum production were extensively highlighted. I own carbon and aluminum bikes so im not taking sides, just thought the article was a bit skewed.
  • + 1
 good good.
  • + 1
 Thank you RC. This is what I've been saying. Aluminum is not the environmental poster child that some people seem to make it out to be.
  • + 5
 Regardless of all the pros and cons for carbon and aluminum, I’m still buying what the wallet can afford. Bottom line!
  • + 21
 They are both shit for the environment. This article definitely favors carbon fibre with skewing the image of how bad it actually is. This kind of crap makes me like this site less and less. If anything, articles like this should push people to keep their bikes longer and stop buying the hype. Keep a bike for more than a couple seasons. I'm done.
  • + 1
 @WayneParsons: please. We all know where you work...
  • + 6
 @makripper: I agree. Starting to feel dishonest to me. I wonder who paid for this.
  • + 2
 @sospeedy: Thank you and well put!
  • + 3
 @HankBizzle: 100% agreed!
  • + 1
 @WayneParsons: what about the BP oil spill?
  • + 1
 @rezrov: no one rode carbon bikes 10 years ago...
  • + 5
 @karatechris: I have a pair of skiing/hiking poles which ive owned for 10 years i hit them off rocks, roots, sticks. I bought 2 pairs of aluminum poles before the carbon ones and they both snapped/bent. My carbon poles have scratches and scrapes but no other signs of being worn down. I think they could easily last another 10 years. Thats how tough carbon can be.
  • + 4
 Steel is going to (kind of already is) have a resurgence in the industry. Up until the late 80's early 90's that's pretty much what all bikes were made out of. Frame geometry is plateauing and we're nearing a point where all 'changes' to standards are just to make it feel like your new bike from last year is now irrelevant. Not hating on other building materials it's just since the inception of the bicycle anything other than steel is a flash in its evolution.
  • + 2
 @themountain: however, in reality, there are several ways to fix carbon fibre.
  • + 1
 @Chingus-Dude: Au contraire, if the powers that be backed this avenue properly, it would be a supremely elegant solution (barring issues with chemicals). Replace half the world's livestock feed crops with sustainable structural timber plantations as close as possible to the point of consumption. It's a wonderful idea that will never happen for the same reason that hemp isn't going to catch on anytime soon (other than drugs are bad, mmmkay?). Industrial inertia brought about by the need to squeeze every last drop out of existing CAPEX. If all current energy/raw material processing facilities turned to dust today and all mines ran out of resources tomorrow, these revolutions would happen before you could say "evil liberal tax-generating conspiracy".
  • + 2
 @xeren: there's some stuff on YouTube. Done properly it's seamless. Done by me, it's a big tube of CF around the afflicted part.
  • + 1
 @makripper: Nothing about where I work, just giving my honest opinion. Cheers!
  • + 1
 @MikeGruhler: Unless you have a Kona - my old CrMo Kona Lava Dome frame was the bendiest unbent thing known to man. It was horrible. It flexed on cornering horrifically. My steel BMX bikes on the other hand were either cracked or not.
  • + 4
 @Sardine It is a misleading article because it is based upon the premise that because it is stronger, carbon frames lasts longer than aluminum. In my experiences the opposite is true.

The article doesn't take into account the crash factor: Carbon frames, are ruined beyond repair much more often in crashes and therefore on average they don't last nearly as long as aluminum. It's even more true with carbon road bike frames. If something has to be replaced more often that means more resources are used.
  • + 5
 @WayneParsons: it seems no frame or bike part is a environmental poster child no matter what it's made from
  • + 1
 @rezrov: Carbon has massive fatigue issues at the moment with many manufacturers assuming the bike lifespan and use is much smaller than actual. The testing for these frames is minimal as well....
  • + 1
 @yeti951SD: Doesn’t steel, (and I don’t know) require much more material to get the same strength as carbon or aluminum making it much heavier?
  • + 0
 @sospeedy: Also interesting is that there's Iraan in 'Murica.
  • + 2
 @makripper: totally agree - although the industry is making it harder and harder to keep an older bike up and running
  • + 3
 @Flowcheckers: Truth. I had a carbon road bike... for roughly 12 races. Still riding the old 2008 aluminum one.
  • + 1
 @IamSeaDevil: So in rewelding frames there is the idea that a rewelded frame will A.crack in the same place or near it or B. never be as strong as originally. I have always wondered if carbon repair advocates have the same opinions about carbon repair. It seems like a mixed bag opinion wise from people who are objective but I have had many people argue with me that their frame is just as strong as before and I don't quite buy that. I would legitimately like to hear some opinions on it. (Also I'm not fond of the argument that they do it on airplanes so it should work on bikes they are different beasts that's the most common argument I got from people.)
  • + 1
 Excellent article Pinkbike and RC, thanks! Three questions: In carbon frame construction, how is the mandrel removed from the inside of the frames? Does the mandrel get reused?, And what brand-model is the aluminum frame you are currently testing that you would keep for life? Thanks for all this info and insight!
  • + 0
 @jeremiahwas: yes. Steel is much heavier. I mean, traditional cromoly / mixed allow steel is strong but heavy. Nobody is going back to that. Titanium would work and has been used. I think the material cost is the reason that’s not prevalent these days.
  • + 1
 @grant725: lol steel isn't heavy. You need less steel compared to aluminum for similar strength for bike applications. Aluminum is cheap. Cheap wins. Their only debate before was design limitations but technology has overcome that issue now.
  • + 4
 There is a big point that was missed in the article. Which is the step from producing the raw carbon to forming the fibre. As carbon can´t be molten, you have to dissolve it into a fluid. And the chemicals needed for that are either extremly strong acids or extremly strong solvents. And those both are dangerous and they do harm the environment.
  • + 1
 @kamelfront: Basically RC drowned people with technical details to appear informed, but he was wrong about a few core points.
It's still fair to say that aluminum has less of an environmental impact, but it's not even significant compared to the impact of somebody choosing to take a round trip airplane flight.
  • + 2
 Not much words needed anymore, you said it all. The article may have taken some days or weeks to prepare and it was worth the effort.
Something that should have been asked is the point why does the cycling industry still sticks to their annual product life cycles? If we can get rid of this disease and increase the lifespan of a bike model, we would also help to minimize the waste. As a new color, a different derailleur or minor spec changes doesn't make a difference.

It would be interesting how much resources are wasted due to this stupid behavior. We ride bikes not fashion items!
  • + 1
 @jeremiahwas: There are more machining costs because of the material and weight issues are more of a manufacturing cost difference so it's understandable that aluminum would be perdominant over steel but you could design a steel frame at equal performance but it's marketability is deterred by production costs.
  • + 1
 @yeti951SD: I think your right but I also think the manufacturing issues could be avoided by using what people now would consider smaller ugly looking tubing which would not pass any market test. What I mean is that you could probably build a steel frame with better performance than alum at the same weight it would just look too ugly to sell nowdays.
  • + 1
 @rezrov: 2008 SWorks enduro lol! Still keeps rollin'
  • + 247
 The fact that I ride bikes everywhere instead of driving cars has a much more significant impact on the environment than the choice between aluminum and carbon.
  • - 1
 Except, quite a big portion of people drive cars in order to ride mountain bikes, that's a rather common way to get to the bottom of a climb. 99,9999999% of tripsto the bottom of the lift involve a car too, and no, and average bike park visitor does not come there in 1979 Volkswagen Type 2. Oh and quite a big portion of people cycling to work do it out of convenience (saved money, time, occasional workout) so not much sacrifice there. So let's throw that argument to the "failed-virtue" bin.
  • + 49
 The pentagon is the biggest polluter on earth by a long shot, no one in America ever likes to talk about that though...
  • + 35
 I’m reading this article on the bus.
  • + 0
 Fosho
  • + 28
 I miss the days of living 5 mins by bike from quality singletrack ...
You’re right, driving to go ride your bike sucks and is the one thing road riding has going for it, I can ride from my front door.
  • + 2
 @speed10: in the USA, on average, bus transportation pollutes more because no one rides them so they drive around empty
  • + 9
 @gjedijoe: Ya, everyone likes to ignore that a single Abrams tank gets .5 mpg
  • - 28
flag enrico650 (Feb 12, 2018 at 10:14) (Below Threshold)
 This article is more of a way to push and sell carbon fiber after the "ocean fill" Debacle
  • + 11
 Skynet™, sentience, mimetic poly-alloy. "And in retrospect, it is truly astounding that at the exact moment Skynet became sentient, it decided to build a better bicycle rather than systemically eradicate the planet from the progenitor talking monkeys that haphazardly created it."
  • + 28
 Is it bad that upon looking at the photo of the great big whole supposedly visible from space, my first thought was 'I wonder if I could ride down that biatch'?
  • - 1
 @hamncheez: indeed mentioning how much fuel Abrams tank burns when someone talks how much energy US military expends reminds me of talking of how bad bicycle carbon frames when discussing environmental impact of mountain biking. That's a great analogy Smile
  • - 25
flag chasejj (Feb 12, 2018 at 10:42) (Below Threshold)
 @enrico650: Ding!!Ding!! Ding!!
Enrico wins the truth teller award today. Ignore all the hater downvotes, telling the truth is not popular here.
  • + 73
 @enrico650, far from it. The point of this article was to shed light on both sides of the debate. As RC writes, "Which material is best? If you've made it this far, you've probably made your choice, and either one would be right."

The article clearly illustrates that there are pros and cons to both materials, especially when it comes to their environmental impacts. This isn't a ploy to sway anyone to one side or the other; rather, it's a way to add balance to a conversation that often gets skewed by the loudest voice in the room.
  • + 8
 @WAKIdesigns: I agree with you and propped your comment - all of your justifications are why I ride my bike when I'm in "commuter-mode" - BUT we (as in, the royal We) need to let go of a "must sacrifice and suffer" attitude when it comes to everyday actions that impact the environment. How successful are most when it comes to forcing themselves to do something because they know it's good for them? (i.e. how many of you are still following your new year's resolution?)

So yes, it's BS to say "I ride my bike instead of driving" if you still own a shuttle vehicle or drive 50km to the trailhead, but it's completely legit in my books to say "I biked to work everyday last year because it's cheaper/good for me/better for the earth" even if the (you know it's true) real reason is because you;re like me and enjoy riding your bike way more than driving.
  • + 12
 @chasejj: well no, you guys are not interested in the truth, you are interested in propagating a certain point of view, signaling certain virtues in order to suck up to your peer group. You have absolutely no proof of what you are accusing RC of, you just stick to a certain bias to see if someone with similar bias can call you a hero.
  • + 7
 @gjedijoe: Except for China, which burns half of the all the coal mined on the planet.
  • + 1
 @gjedijoe: Yep, as Ron Paul would often point out, having 1000 bases and over 100 countries around the world comes with a hefty price tag (in dollars and pollution).
  • + 2
 @plyawn: exactly. Same goes for me buying "eco", "organic" food. I don't buy it because I care for the planet. I buy it because I am HOPING, it grows further from the highway, using less pesticides, so that I get higher quality food with less toxins in it. But to be fair, in the end I have no idea where that food comes from, it's a wishful thinking, hoping the label says the truth. I didn't own a car for 2 years, I've been using Volvo Car Pool. Because it was convenient. For me and for Volvo. They earn more money via their car pool than by selling cars. Each car pool car earns by average 150$ a day, after 3 years they sell it for half price of new one. I often "prescribe" Interface modular carpets for buildings I design, because in the long run they are cheaper. Because in offices floors are used most in passages, so they change the most worn out modules and since they all differ from each other, you can't really tell the new ones from old ones. They are an amazing company recycling their carpets. Everyone is happy.

These are just some examples where "environmentally sound" ideas are more convenient than unsound ones. It is only the fkng green leftie lobby that wants you to think that they sacrifice themselves for the greater good. But in reality they just talk crap in order to elevate themselves to a higher moral ground. There are many hippie a*sholes in my town who say they have kids and don't own a car, they use bikes with trailers or transport bikes along with public transport to go around town. Oh hell yeah, they ONLY borrow cars from their parents or rent on petrol station for vacation. Only that.
  • + 1
 Good for you dude. Ignore the anal orifice who told you otherwise. You know that term "that guy?" Well, that's him here on Pinkbike. Trust me, I've had debacles with him over the dumbest things, and I'm sure 55 million other people did.
  • + 9
 There's 2 types of cycling here, that I think should be defined and differentiated: leisure and commuting.

1 is really good for the environment, 1 is really bad for the environment.

Whether either be on a plastic or metallic bike makes little difference and to concentrate on that is ignoring the elephant
  • + 1
 I thought the axact same thing. Point is we all know (if you have half a brain) that the mass production of anything has a negative impact on the planet including food. The fact that our oceans are being filled with plastic is where carbon fiber production is and will be a problem. Carbon or aluminum are not the problem at the of day I think. It’s the wasteful and irresponsible society in which we now live. @enrico650:
  • + 0
 @hamncheez: They are all alt-fuel or electric in my area.
  • - 1
 @IllestT: The poachers just killed the last elephant. Or was it Ted Nugent? We will need to Ignore something else in the room going forward.
  • - 9
flag chasejj (Feb 12, 2018 at 13:01) (Below Threshold)
 @WAKIdesigns: Proof...no. You are correct. But the decided political bent and blatant cronyism being displayed by PB lately. Leads me to the logical conclusion that MFG's who are experienced very poor sales on CF bikes after massive investments, are probably upset about that article and want something to counter the PR they likely think isn't helping sales. No need for this article at all unless moneyed interests(advertisers) are screaming in the background. This is not a random decision to produce this story.
  • + 4
 You sound like the first Prius owners
  • + 1
 @endlessblockades: So coal powered then?
  • + 1
 @Scottybike36:

Whaaaaa. Right on man
  • + 1
 @hamncheez: Yes, pretty much. We have some windfarms, but that probably a drop in the bucket.

On another note, I am finalizing my plans for a wood-burning helicopter.
  • + 1
 @hamncheez: meant to upvote u bruh but hit the wrong arrow.
  • + 2
 @speed10: I did too
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns:
Absolutely! I bicycle to work because I like riding bikes. And while we are at it, is my mostly aluminum Jaguar more environmentally friendly than a Corvette? Do I get to feel a smug sense of superiority because my expensive toys are metal instead of plastic? Or vice versa?

Maybe I should just blame "the Jooz" like gjedijoe. Then I can really have a self congratulatory euphoria.
  • + 12
 @chasejj: I am happy to respect your opinion. But I found previous articles on carbon ocean fill and sustainability as a load of virtue signalling bollocks romanticizing an ethis of a small company at the same time demonizing big players. All this in the name of environmentalism and sustainability, effectively engulfing us in a retarded aluminium vs carbon debate, taking our attention from real issues with environment, creating labels like aluminium - ethical, carbon unethical. Which I wholeheartedly claim to be a pulp for idiots. Frame is a small and simple piece of a complete bike, and then there a huge differences between frames of the same material, depending on who makes them and how. Want to be a good guy, ride same bike for as long as you can. As simple as that. Whatever the Poles intention, the result is obvious: they got quite a good coverage thanks to that story, and it’s quite ironic for them to say “carbon-unethical, but we make an E-bike”. As if this anti carbon drivel wasn’t bad enough on its own

Anyhoo, not saying you are wrong. Sorry if I sound like an ass. Well... I do...
  • + 24
 @WAKIdesigns: Good point. For 99% of people who own traditional cars, junking your current ride and buying ANY electric or hybrid vehicle pollutes more than just taking care of your existing car and driving it for as long as possible.

Manufacturing pollution > efficiency savings
  • - 1
 @WAKIdesigns: I just recently was on the receiving end of a wine producers explanation of why "organic" is the past. That modern scientific advances have moved well past that label and that organic is both inefficient and destroys the soil.
  • + 1
 I applaud you for your effort, really I do. But there's nothing significant about your impact except to your personal health and finances. When we're 1 of 3 billion we are pretty much inconsequential to the what's gonna happen to future, of course unless you got a big red button to drop nukes. ????
  • + 2
 @friendlyfoe: but details can be tricky, it will take me some time to trust them because at least when it comes to grapes, they were spraying them with some horrible shit, possibly worst compared to other plants. Like those Chinese mushrooms super rich in heavy metals.
  • + 1
 spot on!!
  • + 2
 @friendlyfoe: DaFuq? Organic destroys the soil??? Please provide scientific sources or a ticket to Mars becuase this planet has lost its collective shit.
  • + 1
 @Boardlife69: we need to sign up some people for being the next dummy payload for Falcon Heavy... maybe Eagle Heavy Big Grin Saying organic food is this and non organic food is that is like saying carbon steerers are faster. More details pleaseeee... One thing is sure, some certain fruits, most meats, or mushrooms - no way I am eating that as non-eco, preferably as "organic" (even though I hate that term deep to the bone since diesel is also organic)
  • + 5
 @WAKIdesigns: "failed-virtue" You're kidding aren't you? Just because something isn't a sacrifice, doesn't mean it isn't better for the environment.

Maybe people should only do good things if it's incredibly difficult for themselves. That way they will be able to big note themselves to everyone they know because that's what life is really all about...

Anyone who commutes by bike (or walks/runs) when they could have driven is doing the world a favour and should continue to do so even if it wont impress Waki.
  • + 3
 @WAKIdesigns: Organic used to be organic before it became regulated. Now its questionable, for sure. Luck would have it we have Demeter. Thats the only label that you can half trust that they do at least half of what they say. It may be filled with crazy Rudolf Steiner practices, but you simply cannot get more organic than biodynamic farming practices.
  • + 1
 @IllestT: get a bamboo bike then
  • + 5
 @Tim2: I said it a wrong way. I wanted to criticize people (and in my town there are many) who say “I cycle to work” as a mean of getting credit for their supposed sacrifice as if not martyrdom. I do not expect any credit for what I am doing because it comes easy to me.

I said above that many environmentally sound solutions don’t need to be difficult and can be beneficial. This cannot be said about let’s say buildings. If you want an eco building you’ll have to lash out at least 20% more for it and it will not higher the value of it. That’s a sacrifice. And life cycle analysis of those eco buildings doesn’t look that good either so you are running on a big dosage of hope and own added meaning. Same with cars. Buying a Tesla over BMW M5 is a sacrifice.

Then mountain biking instead of driving is plain bullshit. I am fortunate to live close to trails but many around the world aren’t hence car is necessary for them to practice their sport. How environmentally friendly is a spiritual trip to Nepal?
  • + 0
 @WAKIdesigns: I think until you make a trip to Taiwan and see the process and culture you are going to be funding to build your product. You cannot really appreciate Pole's Position (I like that word combo). Anyway many small US bicycle mfg's I've spoken to feel the same. I think the mass produced CF process in Asia has sufficient downsides to justify Pole's take. Even I called it virtue signaling when I saw the first article. But when you factor in the comments I have heard from others,their decision carves out their own niche for marketing as well as offers a unique technology to add into into the mix. I happen to really like the geometry of their bikes and will likely buy one maybe next season once a few are out there to sort the issues. That and Robotbike are the only high end choices I really like these days. CF frames have become somewhat of a mass produced commodity. That is a strange thing to say considering where we were 10 years ago.
  • + 5
 @chasejj: yeah and there are Pandas going around every factory making alu bikes eating broccoli sprouts growing on machines, served by people working 36h work week with early retirement and they ride every lunch. They even advised workers not to eat too much coconut oil anymore. Stop please... I assure you nearly every industry insider in the world is shaking his head in awe reading these bollocks. Pole is the only company in the world who decided to capitalize on the fact that they don’t want to get their hands dirty and are unwilling to perform necessary quality control in Taiwan. Joe Graney has probably punched a few screens since their first article and thought of performing mass shootings. Whether Pole doesn’t want to leave their warm Finland and do it themsleves in Taiwan or they can’t find a guy on site doing it for them, is beyond me. Hey I tried a backflip yesterday and fell on my head, I think I will put it on my Tshirt - hey I suck and I want you to give me credit for it.

Oh Suddenly Robot is cool, well let’s get CesarRojo here, suddenly his carbon be cool too, then George from Antidote, then Joe Graney from SC, the Jason from Specialied and suddenly more and more carbon bikes will be cool. But right now Pole are the only ones with facts. The rest is cowardswho have somethingto hide. No no you guys are fine, I was speaking of these other guys who throw frames to the sea. Oh you at Pivot aren’t doing it either, you made an interview about it, ok ok, so yeah, damn these other guys, oh oh, Dactory making yetis is also normal oh oh, yeah Yeti is cool too, and yeah those damn bastards at Giant and Trek putting failed wishbones into mouths of dolphins!

You see what happens Larry?! This is what happens Larry! This is what happens wheb you f*ck strangers in the ass! Big Grin
  • + 5
 @WAKIdesigns: Waki is off his meds.
  • + 3
 @Boardlife69: Organic farming is bad for the environment. Organic farming is not more "natural", since theres nothing natural about farming or domestication of other species. Organic agriculture is literally (not figuratively) deciding, arbitrarily, to use 1920s technology in producing food. What if we arbitrarily decided to only use 1920s technology in communication, because its more 'natural' than using the internet?

There is 0 credible scientific evidence that demonstrates any health benefits to consuming organic foods over traditional foods. Organic farming restricts the options available to farmers to manage their land, and since yields are dramatically lower more land needs to be tilled to feed the world.

blogs.scientificamerican.com/science-sushi/httpblogsscientificamericancomscience-sushi20110718mythbusting-101-organic-farming-conventional-agriculture

www.realclearscience.com/2017/05/28/organic_farming_is_bad_for_the_environment_276405.html

advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/3/e1602638

geneticliteracyproject.org/2017/02/16/organic-farming-better-environment

theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/organic-farming-is-bad-for-the-environment

www.science20.com/agricultural_realism/six_reasons_organic_not_most_environmentally_friendly_way_farm-110209
  • + 3
 @hamncheez: with all due respect, organic farming does not use/ claims to not use pesticides, if you can't get that pesticides going into your body are more harmful than when they are not going into it, you are overthinking it. That has NOTHING to do with how ecologically friendly organic farming is. Farmers hate it too. They'd rather do sht the "normal" way. Grapes, Bananas, Oranges, Potatoes etc. are proven to be loaded with lots of toxic sht because if you are a farmer and your choice is: lose half of the crops, maybe los all of them, instead of repeatedly saving most of them, then for fks sake off course you want to spray'em! it goes even deeper with farm animals. Yes there are small farms around my place that don't inject antibiotics to their cattle and yes some of them go out of business as some sht happens, and YEEEES those who do tend to not lose their cattle too much. Same goes for certain high yield targeted GMOs (no I'm not one of those anti GMO lunatics) and all sorts of intensive farming, if you can yield MORE then you fkng want to do it, why wouldn't you?! if you live in a plac with shortage of water, then hell yeah you will dig deep wells and then need to clean the water or pay a lot for bringin water in other ways. It takes a little bit of thinking to understand that instead of reading loads of books and articles on how we torture the earth or on the other side, how maximizing capital is great. So well, if I can eat food with less toxins in it. I WILL, and fk all of you. Same goes for animal protein, fk you guys. I will eat it in reasonable amounts, because I want to deadlift 160ks before the summer and not worry what the fk should i supplement to go around a tortured animals. Because I can, because I am having last good years of my body in prime shape, it starts to deteriorate slowly from where I am.
  • + 3
 @WAKIdesigns: Organic farming uses organic pesticides Waki. These mainly consist of sulphur and heavy metals (I want to say copper but my brain isn't working right now). Organic pesticides need to be sprayed with much higher frequencies than synthetic pesticides and just because something has a natural origin doesn't mean it's good to be ingesting. Heavy metals over time will render soil unfertile, so organic pesticides over a long period of time actually do hurt the soil.

Hamncheez makes the most important point. Organic is an outdated method. Science has come a long way since then.
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: Once again, adverse health outcomes of consuming normal crops VS organic has yet to be observed scientifically.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: By all means feed your kids organic carrots, just make sure you're not also making them drink the pure oestrogen coming out of your taps...
  • + 3
 @WAKIdesigns: you are so right. If a person wants to do something positive for the environment, have fewer children, drive less and ride more, ride and drive and use your stuff until it’s truly worn out. Buy less clothing less often, don’t be getting homes bigger than you need. Every process to produce stuff has an impact.
  • + 4
 @friendlyfoe: i shall do my research then inspired by your comment and I may stand corrected. Thank you. That is why I’m here. Learning. And then pissing off people
  • + 4
 @mikekazimer: At the end of the day it makes no difference to Pinkbike because they have no agenda either way. Pinkbike doesn't make bikes!
RC has a unique perspective, because he's owned his manufacturing company and worked in manufacturing.

His conclusion is when all thing are considered if he had to start making bikes again, he would do it in carbon.

I don't see an anti-aluminum conspiracy in any of it.
  • - 1
 @IamSeaDevil: OMG. You are so naive. Mfg's grease these guys all day long to run articles and advertising. No agenda? Hardly.
  • + 5
 @chasejj: Big Grin you must like conspiracy theories
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: I can agree with that. Some people definitely do want recognition for how 'green' they are. I don't commute by bike, and I ride to the MTB trails (50 min away in good traffic). So I can't claim the moral high ground but the original comment you replied to was about commuting by bike which is great for the environment.
  • + 3
 @WAKIdesigns: "I do not expect any credit for what I am doing because it comes easy to me. "

Nugget of truth there Waki.

We don't grab our bikes and cycle to work in a bone-chilling wintery wind because we want to save the Pandas homeland from the next Broccoli sprout factory; we ride because we don't think about going any other way. There's nothing more worthy about that than someone who chooses the car for the same reason.

There is truth embedded somewhere deep within that tortured soul of yours. It shines through sometimes, and is maybe missed by many.

Enjoy the day.
  • - 1
 @WAKIdesigns: not theories, facts.
  • + 3
 @chasejj: why do you whipe your ass with the word “fact”?
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: There you go again Waki. Get a cup of espresso and breathe before you type. I know you didn't mean that.
  • + 0
 @chasejj: do you really want to me to post the whole content of pages "fact" and "theory" from wikipedia so that we can go through it and make our best shot at interpreting it as if it was the Gospel of John? Or do you have the access to mail server of RC with the record of his conversation with the League of Fibers where they plot this entire article as a mean of selling more carbon so that you can have a proof that can make your theory into a fact? Because my theory is that RC is old enough and has established his position well enough that he can write what the fk he wants and if he wakes up in the morning thinking that air shocks are better and that he will write an article about it, then he will
  • - 3
 @WAKIdesigns: If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck. Logic indicates it is probably a duck.
Maybe all the dark web machinations aren't traceable but the content and timing of this article , you have to admit supports my accusation.
Particularly after the blatant Bears Ears nonsense where he gets an all expenses paid 1st class vacation by Patagonia and gives a glowing review for a POS Hydro pack that is trash compared to virtually all other mfg offerings and the company has been and continues to be Anti-MTB to its core.
Very odd.
  • + 2
 @chasejj: For this discussion I don't care how pliable is RC to reciprocity based PR strategies, aka smooth bribing. It's obvious, if they pay you a trip, give you food and bikes to ride, you will shill in one way or another. However in this particular case, I believe you are stretching it, thinking he is sucking up to companies making carbon frames, because every single large company (advertiser) makes both alu and carbon bikes, earning more money on the alloy models by a large margin. So there is no reciprocal leverage on him. You may not have noticed but he is a huge fanboi of LiteVille.
  • + 3
 @mikekazimer: Then why open with a photo of an unrelated commodity and mining style as opening gambit. That association is wrong, factually incorrect, misleading and the association implied in the article lead to some gross errors in the journalists assessment. Get better at this if writing as an assessment piece, and have someone with editorial oversight check the submission. Even a 5 minute independent review would have seen the imagery used and the fact origin were cause the article to have bias from the outset.
  • + 1
 @chasejj: I think the real problem you have with the article is that you prefer aluminum. And anything in this article that can be anyway construed as negative toward your beloved aluminum is like a personal attack on you.
Or maybe you feel it's a personal attack on your buying choices, like maybe you feel other riders might think you're not a knowledgeable or informed buyer. We get it you prefer aluminum.

As for your conspiracy theory, you are probably right. On one hand you have manufacturers that make both aluminum and carbon bikes.
I can see why they would want to go exclusively to carbon, it costs more to make and cuts their market in half. A company like Trek or Specialized would naturally want to rid themselves of a $500 aluminum hardtail that they will have to make 20,000 of to keep up with demand versus a $5000 carbon full suspension bike that they'll have to discount half way through the season, to get rid of 300 bikes still sitting in the warehouse.

On the other hand you have greedy websites that are replacing magazines. The only way they survive is on advertising revenue and they need to get it any way they can. No one wants to read about $500 alloy hardtails, they want to read about $5000 carbon full suspension bikes. Just like no one wants to read a car website that talks about Chevy Cavaliers.
  • + 1
 @IamSeaDevil: whether anyone wants to go exclusively for carbon or not is irrelevant, certain technologies cost certain money and certain people will opt for cheaper options, therefore certain frames sell much better than other frames, therefore aluminium bikes beat the last sht out of carbon market when it comes to numbers. Carbon is niche, whether someone feels awake, edgy or realist or pessismist or comfortable. So no, not a single company like Spec or Trek will attempt to create an impression that they’d rather not make those eeeeew aluminium bikes, pay RC to write a biased article because that would simply put away clients who would never buy carbon. And “carbon - no way” folks come in muuuuch higher numbers than ”carbon maybe”. When you are in the war, you don’t leave your soldiers in the base, taking along officers only
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: That was the point exactly, but I chose hyperbole to illustrate it
  • + 1
 @IamSeaDevil: I do prefer aluminum but probably for different reasons than you think. I feel that the rush to molded CF frames has severely limited the choices of geometry and suspension designs. This is leading to a longer development cycle to amortize the mold investments. That is simply a fact.
I could give 2 f*cks which material is more green or responsible. I just care about being able to obtain the best bike for "me" I can get with my limited recreational funds. Right now aluminum is the best bang for the buck, IMO.
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: I dont know about anyone else but i read all your posts in Rick Sanchez voice
  • + 0
 @WAKIdesigns: This commuter comment might be the most ignorant thing I've ever heard you say. Commuting is not about convenience. It is the opposite of convenience. And for many it is a sacrifice don't belittle that. If what you are saying was true it wouldn't be so difficult to convince anyone including bikers to commute. Also the first response you get when you tell a non biker your a commuter is usually holly shit that must suck then Usually second is how far.
  • + 2
 @loganflores: oh well we have to agree to disagree, because it must suck as hell to sit in a traffic jam
  • + 1
 can't upvote this enough. Everyday in the US you can see endless streams of solo commuters driving huge SUVs. Who needs a Suburban to drive one person 15 miles to your shitay office job?
  • + 4
 @motard5: US has gigantic urban sprawl, because someone thought that every American has a right to own a house. That elongates the travel distances a lot. We are not going to tell them that their way of living is immoral and they should live in blocks of flats, since it is way more sustainable, are we? That’s what a fkless leftie ahole student of urban planning in Europe would do
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: It's called the American dream. Much of America would NEVER live in a crowded urban city. We enjoy the vast expanses in our huge SUV's ( I literlally have 2 of them and a truck) ....oh and the relatively crime/stress free life compared to living in a city.
My MTB riding is right out my front door.
WAKI- Can I upvote that comment 1000 times?
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: Not nearly as bad as daily life in a city.
  • + 1
 @chasejj: oh Jesus... guess what there are pros and cons to any situation. I would never like to live in a house, did it for 20 years of my life, never again. Do I think I am the smartest in the world and everyone living in a house is missing out? No. Idiots do that.
  • + 1
 So I enjoy life in the city quite a lot.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: I'm not sure you caught that "the American dream" does not mean the dream of all Americans. It's a turn of phrase used to describe something like the dream of the first people who settled the country that left crowded British cities that did not have sanitation. The phrase gets twisted as through probably until the 60's it was a specific phrase used to describe the joys of living in rural America, not the goals of all people.
  • + 1
 @friendlyfoe: I don't know what American Dream is, I am quite sure it means different thing to different Americans... I was talking about urban sprawl that makes people spend lots hours in traffic jams each single work day. I live in the apartment and riding to work takes me 15 minutes... same with riding to the woods. Lots of schools to chose from, each 10 min walk from home. Hospital 15 minutes away... Plenty of shops, caffes, restaurants. Everything in 10-15 min range. I also don't need to give a crap about state of plumbing, roof, facade walls, drainage, clipping grass, watering flowers. Public transport works great.
  • + 226
 Steel it is then...
  • + 86
 4130 upvotes for you, good sir.
  • + 40
 You missed the part about mining, transportation, etc. But this is Pinkbike so I will forgive you for not reading the article.
  • + 7
 My steel DH is 15 years old, wouldnt change it either as great park bike..
  • + 13
 @jasdo: Ah, your sarcasm font must be turned off. It's the red button in the upper right hand corner with the 'x' in it. Sometimes the green button with the upward arrow next to the main comment turns it on, too...
  • + 5
 What about titanium?
that new kingdom vendetta looks pretty slick (also well out of my budget, but still)
  • + 6
 @ratedgg13: Yes, I'm curious about Ti, the king of alloys
  • + 2
 @hamncheez: Titanium mining is pretty resource intensive, if I recall correctly. Then again I can't think of titanium frames as being as "disposable" (or "fast moving" might be the marketing-correctly term) as carbon and aluminium so maybe these shouldn't be compared one on one. Yeah I seriously considered the Kingdom Vendetta 2 LS too.

@jasdo: What did we miss? Unlike aluminium, carbon and titanium, steel is being mined and processed locally (at least in NW Europe). So there is much less transportation involved for some of us here.
  • + 2
 ...all the way. Thank you Production Privee.
  • + 8
 @vinay: You ever been to a steel mill? Ever see the process it goes through to become steel and the filth it belches into the sky, which you can smell for miles and miles around the plant? All the waste it dumps into the water around it? How it runs the sky orange at night?

I know the OP was just joking, and we as a society need steel, but anyone who thinks steel production is environmentally friendly... you've got to be kidding.
  • - 2
 @MTBrent: 4130? Peasant... Come back to me when you get some Kaisei or Tange... let me take a sip of my single origin naturally dried Coffee from Ethiopia... Big Grin

@vinay: heh just because there's plenty of iron ore dug up in Kiruna doesn't mean it goes through Sandvik to your welders table. I may be wrong but I read somewhere that quite a big portion of it goes to China and then comes back to Europe as steel... It was an article criticizing Swedish industry and entrepreneurs for exporting raw materials like iron ore and wood before they become a product of any kind, which would create jobs and give bigger profits from export. But it was in one of crappy Newspapers they give you on the bus so I can't tell how accurate it was .
  • + 9
 @vinay: I thought all Ti came from scrapped Mig 21s
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: Reynolds is where it’s at!
  • + 0
 @cunning-linguist: Reynolds is like Volvos. Fkng upper class wannabies... if you want to roll with the real toughs, you buy finest Japanese steel

BTW I have no fkng clue what I am talking about, just googled Japanese bicycle tubing to make myself sound knowledgeable.
  • + 1
 I vote for steel because it's ridefeel lasts much longer than aluminum, and steel can be mended locally by you or your neighbor (no sending away to be re-heattreated like alum.)
  • - 1
 @filmdrew: Just like with every material, there is steel and then their is steel, just because your bike is made of steel doesn't mean it has a great feel. I assure you that my Merida UMF made of 4130 felt as sht as a shtty hardtail feels. JUst because it's steel doesn't mean it's a Stanton, or Sick or a Starling. As with everything: buy quality stuff if you can afford it.
  • + 3
 @TheR: I absolutely agree with you that pretty much all new materials used come with an environmental impact. Same goes for the processing of steel. It is a bit harder to compare in equal units though. Pretty much all steel processing facilities are huge because quite simply the material is being used loads. But I read in an article (in Cranked, issue 11, "The darker shade of green" by Dan Milner) that according to Trek one single kg of steel extracted to be used in a bike contributes 1.3kg of CO2 vs 4.6kg and 5kg for one kg of aluminium and carbon respectively. We know aluminium mining isn't clean. And we know the oil used for carbon production isn't clean either. And we also know that they don't care one bit at the recycling dept whether this disposed piece of steel is painted or even stickered. They just dump it in the furnace for 100% recycling (of the iron, that is).

@WAKIdesigns Mines usually don't produce something ready for welders to work with. Kiruna produces cokes and pellets. Facilities like TATA steel in The Netherlands (and I'm sure there must be other European companies) work this into tubes, bars, sheets etc. I'd be surprised if they wouldn't get part of their material from Kiruna or the UK. As for tubing, frame builders use tubes from many sources. Some use Columbus or Dedacciai (which I believe is Italian), others use Tange (which is Japanese, I suppose). And I don't think some are held in higher regard than others.
  • + 0
 @vinay: i know, that’s why I mentioned Sandvik, which makes steel and also produces tubing from this steel. I am just saying that just because you chose steel it doesn’t mean it comes to your home in shortest possible distance from Kiruna. The only confirmed steel that goes this way is DT Swiss spokes
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: Ah clear. I wasn't aware Sandvik does all that. I only knew them from their hand tools until now. They're pretty big.

Either way, I just checked the LKAB website and it seems they do supply to the UK and The Netherlands. That is, they have a dedicated office in Luleå to cater for these countries.
  • + 1
 @vinay: The Ti frames made by Sandvik here in Washington State in the 90’s had the most perfect welding I’ve ever seen anywhere. From my understanding, their sports division was making bikes, golf club shafts, and hockey sticks basically from the scrap tubing remaining from their nuclear projects in this area. There was not a bead out of place on my Rektek frame and they made the best looking Mongoose you’ll ever see. As I recall they also built for Kona, Diamondback, Dean, and others.
  • + 0
 I'm also curious to read about a variation like "carbon vs. everything else"... In the case of the automotive industry, there's about a window until brands are facing restrictions on their mainstays (internal combustion engines). So, they're all scrambling to come out with full-electric technology just in case if/when those laws take effect (and not just another Prius, but even the sports cars and offroad segments). With plastics too... more and more industries and municipalities are clamping down on plastic usage due to it's known pollution effects (harbors toxins, sickens animal life, etc). Carbon bikes include a lot of plastic. So it's not too far off to think that we'll see restrictions (Ie: Plastics limited to medical, carbon fiber limited to aerospace). Seems like MTB brands could take a page from car manufacturers, and have a backup plan ready to ramp up over the next decade. What other materials are out there?? I'm happy with my metal bikes Smile
  • + 1
 @PNdubRider: I've got my Sandvik-built Cove Hummer XC to prove it. Flawless,sexy welds.
  • + 1
 What about Hemp Fiber man?? I mean, Henry Ford used to make cars out of it before the steel mafia ended that project. Like how oil companies buy and kill any competing technologies. Most of the answers to todays problems were thought up almost 100 years ago. Lets bring them back.
  • + 1
 @Boardlife69: Hemp and flax are quite commonly used in composites found in cars.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: or just ask Marino to build what you want -for 300-500 bucks
  • + 1
 @vinay: where? Not the body for sure. I can watch utube vids of H.Ford beating the shit out of a hemp car with a sledgehammer and hardley making a scratch. Any car today breaks into 2000 pieces if you smack your knee into the bumper. Anyways what about a hemp fiber composite bike? Are they viable?
  • + 3
 @Boardlife69: I love that a hippie's answer to everything is hemp.
  • + 2
 @nozes: The Ti Hummer is a very nice piece of BC MTB history for sure!
  • + 89
 Best article Pinkbike has ever written....for adults who are interested in actual facts. Thankyou.
  • + 4
 Well if you leave out a lot of facts, you would get this story. We were in process to make carbon bikes first and were leaning to similar information that this story gives. Then we learned more about it and started to look the other way.

Here's more information about the processes because not all is described here: polebicycles.com/aluminium-vs-carbon-battle
  • + 1
 @polebicycles: I am a huge fan of the new Pole bike since it just is far more practical a solution for small volume producers. Bravo to Pole for being first on the block. I think Magic Motorcycle tried similar ideas long ago but flamed out.
I could care less about the "save the earth" stuff but I do care about the sustainability of my recreational dollar and cannot stand the limitations that CF production of frames does to innovation of geometry and suspension design.
  • + 1
 @chasejj: Cheers! We are actually planning to produce in big volumes Big Grin
  • + 17
 @polebicycles: Well, either way this article is good marketing exposure for you. The Pole Machine is very cool, but I think hiding behind "trade secret" about the amount of raw aluminum that is recycled is a cop out. Richard clearly points out the deductive facts that to get to 3kg machined aluminum frame, you must start out with much much more raw material.

Your process is cool and suitable for a highend boutique bike, but no way it can be adopted for mass volume production, which we can question in the big picture whether or not it is truly sustainable when 90-95% of the raw material is not used and must be recycled. That in it of itself is wasteful even if the material is recycled.
  • + 6
 @smoothmoose: there's a sort of 'creative accounting' that Pole seems to be relying on, as well as continuing to hold up the example of carbon manufacturing as a straw man argument to bolster their intended manufacturing method.

The Pole Machine is planning to play in the higher-end of the market - at $4200 for frame alone the small number of willing buyers will keep these machines in the hands of collectors and boutique enthusiasts - people who shop around at the handmade bike shows, for example.

Marketing-wise it would be nice if Pole stopped crapping on other methods of manufacture. Razzing on others doesn't make you look any better; quite the opposite. Play up your strengths and do comparisons, fine. But if you desire a small market, don't insult the rest of the people for wanting the more commonly available stuff... Its like Patek Philippe saying to Casio "hey our tourbillon is the best, where's your tourbillon?"
  • + 3
 @smoothmoose: Did you read the article on the @polebicycles website that was linked? He says that RC is overestimating their waste % by quite a large margin.
  • + 4
 @twozerosix: Well we did never say that all the companies are doing it wrong. We stated that we are not doing it this way because as a small company we just can't change any of the bad stuff. Also why wouldn't we make our frames faster if we can? The Carbon process is at least 130 day slow and the frames will still be in China. You need another 50 days to float them to Europe. Also you need to decide how many S, M, L and the colors. This is why we get wholesale discounts and too much stuff.

We stand for modern production. People are just thinking the old fashioned way about machining. There are many ways to reduce the scrap.

We use the 7075 T6 aluminium which is 80% stronger than conventional aluminium on the bikes which is quite expensive. We are talking about a high end lightweight bike that's sidewalls can take a hit.

Just think about the fact that we have made several innovations to the bike industry and this is just the next one. We are at the beginning era of rapid production. The next part of it is adding and removing material with the same machine. Basically what I'm saying is that by just giving a little bit of thought we changed a lot on the industry. For example it looks like the industry is following our geometry little by little. The full suspension bikes have been around for a while and they barely can fit one bottle inside the frame. We can make a frame that can hold two bottles inside the front triangle without a compromise. This is just a scratch of the innovations that have gone through our process that we put in to the Machine.

The dollar is quite bad at the moment but the price on the frame in Europe is very competitively priced. The good thing about the machining process is that we can find a factory in US in two to three years if the sales in the states keep rising as fast as it's rising at the moment. It reduces the cost of logistics and also creates jobs where the products are purchased.
  • + 2
 @polebicycles: Is it possible to close the loop and reforge the machine shavings as billet?
  • + 2
 @polebicycles: "...Many carbon fiber bike factories are moving to Burma in the following years. Burma is a military dictatorship country."

This is why you want people to buy Pole bikes, instead of carbon bikes.

Come on man.
  • - 2
 @half-man-half-scab: Basically that's what the recycling industry does. They reproduce the chips to new raw material.
  • + 2
 @twozerosix: Well that's not our sales pitch. That's what reveals more about the industry -> it's labor intensive and it's dependent on cheap labor and cutting corners. I'm not saying that the high end bikes are going to Burma but they will because I don't thing that there is a way to automate carbon production. Last time I visited aerospace factory they were still laying up by hand and I think they will be doing that in the future as well.
  • + 2
 @HommeDeBatte: I did read it. It does nothing to substantiate a quantifiable amount of savings vs. waste. Without a number we can only assume based on industry knowledge, presented by Richard...but I reckon it will still a very high number probably around 75-95% "wasted" to recycle.

This is only statement from the pole article and is completely subjective and deflecting the topic.

"If you just try to calculate a billet chunk and compare that on waste, I think that you will miss the point."
  • + 10
 BTW...I have nothing against the Pole Machine...I just think they are copping out in saying Richard is presenting partial truths, where they are clearly presenting their own set of partial truths and then hiding behind a "trade secret" because it so happens to be an inconvenient truth.
  • + 9
 @polebicycles: I took a marketing class once, so I'm pretty much an expert, and we learned that you should highlight the benefits of your product without attacking other products in your competitive landscape. Let the consumer come to a realization by him/herself. By knocking alternative products without providing clear cut reasoning as to why your product is 100% better to ALL consumers in your target audience, you are actually distancing yourself as a company by positioning yourself as superior/more intelligent/ more aware than the consumer.

...But seriously, what do I know?
  • + 0
 @snowwcold55: SPOT ON!
  • + 0
 trololol... now I see why Trump got so far..
translation: always doubt the author and check if there is important part he left out in his article or if he would have sold his own grandma for a $$$ (hint: carbon fiber strands don't materialise from oil wells.. it is actually very energy consuming process!)
  • + 2
 @polebicycles: get the price down a bit and I place and order!
  • + 1
 @twozerosix: I like the wristwatch analogy Smile
  • + 0
 @snowwcold55: Your teacher is right and wrong. Basically there are millions ways of marketing. We are not using this as our main marketing tool. If you go to our product site, we don't sell the Machine as a green product. The whole carbon vs. aluminium started off from our decision that we are not going to be part of that industry. We found out in our subjective research that carbon manufacturing is against our company policy in ethical way and also in business way it's not very profitable as well if we would want to make a good carbon bike. We are a startup.
  • + 1
 @smoothmoose: I would have to venture a guess that Pole isn't starting with solid billets. You know alum can be forged into shape that is like 90% of its final shape there for reducing machining time and waste. Just like a forged and machined stem or cranks.
  • + 1
 @smoothmoose: We are just protecting our intellectual property. We will try to explain the benefits later when we have a bit more track record and statistics. Now we can really explain our benefits from a process-wise. Our process is far more simpler and cleaner and in sophisticated views that we got from industry experts says that our way is much more ethical, cleaner and also better business than the traditional way.
  • + 1
 @smoothmoose: RC didn't publish my whole arguments. This is why people think that we are hiding behind a "trade secret". If we would reveal our production methods, we would give out a lot of our knowledge in design and manufacturing. The reason we don't try to patent it is simply because in that wey we would just tell the world how we actually make the bikes. I think you don't need to know how much of the billet is machined away. If you read the full explanation, you will understand how much easier the process is and how much less effort there is to produce the Mahcine rather than the carbon product. Think about this: why would we invest a lot more to our own CNC factory instead of just going to China and produce the old fashioned way if our way is worse?

Here's our conversation: polebicycles.com/aluminium-vs-carbon-battle
  • + 2
 @polebicycles: You are earning my business with each new post. I applaud your honesty and methods.
  • + 3
 @polebicycles: Understood but I guess my point is, why bother getting involved in this argument at all since there is very little ROI in doing so? If you were building electric jetliners that would literally alter the course of history, I'd say, yeah, get up on your soapbox and go to town bashing the currently available means of air travel because you'd be providing a significant benefit to society and the majority of consumers would support you (I hope). I think suggesting that "the use of carbon fiber in bikes is ethically wrong" is a bit of a stretch to a lot of people who ride bikes, so getting up on your soapbox about this issue doesn't really do you any favors, if that makes sense. And in regards to making a better product, that's great that you are able to do so with alu, but I've owned both carbon and alu and they both have been remarkably good. So, again, why not just push what makes you great and let the consumer decide for him/herself?
  • + 2
 @snowwcold55: My next plan is bigger. Let's make bikes first and have fun making them.

But please don't put words in to my mouth. I don't say it's unethical to use carbon. It's the process with cheap labor and cutting corners in waste management that is unethical.
  • + 5
 @snowwcold55: I understand that being critical of current manufacturing methods for any industry is considered "bashing" to some, but for me, and plenty of others, I am interested in people that have a drive to improve their processes and inform the public. My biggest criticism is that at its core this article has little to do with fact. This is a subjective comparison of one material to another.I have zero loyalty to a material of one kind or another. If someone is able to represent in real terms the economic cost due to environmental degradation at extraction, manufacture, shipping, even wear (how often due people throw these away) that would be a good place to start. I also want to know about the livelihoods of the people who make any material turn into a bike from extraction to disposal. Do their kids have a future? that being said, I do really appreciate this article and the conversation happening, regardless of anyones position. I also appreciate what seems to be a disruption in the industry coming from pole, that is an initial impression, and we all still have a lot to learn about what they are doing.
  • + 1
 @Planetx888: you’re describing a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA). Many companies do this as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the responses will be as varied as there are companies. An Alchemy will be as different from an open-mold no name carbon company as a Pole from a WalMart aluminum model.

What I want to know relevant to this article and debate is: what % of the bicycling or bike purchasing market cares enough to make the origin of their bike the PRIMARY driver in a purchase? Assuming all other factors are equal. Maybe PB already did a poll on this.
  • + 2
 @Planetx888: @polebicycles Totally get where both of you are coming from.

Pole -- I'm not trying to put words in your mouth, only simply replying to your response, "We found out in our subjective research that carbon manufacturing is against our company policy in ethical way" which suggests that by going the carbon route there is something unethical about it. I'm not judging you guys at all - I'm sure your products are top notch and I also totally believe you guys care about the environment which I very much respect, but at this point I'm not ready to change my purchasing decisions to alu-only based on the data currently available in market. If it is really as strong as you make out, let the data speak for itself!

Planetx -- Great points, all around. It's creating a dialogue that needs to be heard, I totally agree, and you're right, it isn't necessarily "bashing" to discuss the pros and cons of alternative manufacturing methods. But I think the main point of this article was to point out that both methods of manufacturing based on currently available data suggest there is very little difference in environmental impact and overall product quality, so my initial point to Pole was, from a marketing standpoint, why bother getting involved in this debate if you aren't going to release data that shows a significant difference? It isn't going to help you sell more product, which, at the end of the day, is ONE OF the most important metrics a company can go after.
  • + 1
 double post
  • + 2
 @snowwcold55: We can calculate our impact but not carbon impact because the data is not there. This is why there is no point publishing anything from our side. Nobody can provide the data at the moment and even Spechialized's research can not give the data. It just says "needs more research". It's funny that there is no interviews from Spesh at this article even though they seem to have at least some data. Spechialized is 49% owned by Giant so anyone would assume that they can get the data more easily.

In any case. We can only look at our data and use practical thinking from the process cost in Asia and compare it to Finland. When we compare this process cost it's beyond reasonable if the bikes would be sold with same margin in high volume.

For example, there are succesfull aluminum bikes made in Germany but no carbon. This article basically says that carbon process would be easier. How come there is no succesfull carbon frame factories in Europe then?

So if we can not make these frames even nearly with the same cost in a country that cares about the impacts to people and nature, how is it possible to produce the frames without cutting corners with a fraction of a cost in Asia?
  • + 1
 @polebicycles: "Spechialized is 49% owned by Giant" Correction - Merida, not Giant.
  • + 1
 @bananowy: Yes. Thanks for correcting
  • + 1
 @snowwcold55: Pole is not an american company. European company policies have changed quite a bit away from american model of consumer finding out what he actually is buying. It is quite bothersome.
  • + 2
 @half-man-half-scab: It is common practice aloop system isn't even required. A lathe or mill cnc or mechanical has a catch bin or area that the scraps land in. it is common practice also to clean your machine after each piece for accuracy reasons and cleaning the machining surface. You put all the scrap in in a bin and get the absolute best scrap price for your material. If my high school machine shop and machinist school and current job do it as well as every school and machine shop I've ever heard of or visited has done it I imagine everyone who can does it. It payes well.
  • + 1
 I guess my question was poorly worded, but I was wondering about the likelihood of having a smelter at the same site as the cnc machine.
  • + 2
 @half-man-half-scab: It's more economical to have a bigger smelter.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdBJTrSL6H4
  • + 1
 @polebicycles: Cool, that was a very soothing movie
  • + 1
 @bananowy: Pretty shocking that 30 mill USD buys 49% of a company that had revenue of $500 mill USD in 2011. Just how small was Spec in 2001? That'd be less than half of 1 year of net income today.
  • + 1
 @Varaxis: 2016 Finnish company AMER who owns Mavic bought ENVE by $50 mill. ENVE's turnover was $30 mill.
  • + 1
 @snowwcold55: bit stale, but I got bored so I came back...exactly, data, lots of it. We will likely be looking to other industries and universities and countries for related studies in advanced composites, metallurgy, so an and so forth. It is true that at this point we essentially have a marketing campaign from pole, based on maybe-facts, but there is promise- data, if and when we see it. As you say, let the data speak for itself. Until then, all conjecture, maybe very we'll informed conjecture, but still just a biased assumption.

I am extremely interested in what the drivers of these industries, auto, aerospace, military, construction, will come up with to respond to growing demand for transparency and lower environmental cost. Even Arconic (formerly Alcoa) is playing wth lithium-alu alloys, chip recycling. THE reason I want federal marijuana legalization is that I think there is enormous potential for hemp in composite research.
  • + 78
 Quite possibly the best article I’ve ever read on PB. It probably won’t go over well since it deals with facts and goes against “the sky is falling mantra” that people were spewing on the Pole article that started the hysteria to begin with.
  • - 8
flag lifeofloon Plus (Feb 12, 2018 at 10:58) (Below Threshold)
 ALTERNATIVE FACTS!!!

????
  • - 8
flag polebicycles (Feb 12, 2018 at 11:36) (Below Threshold)
 @lifeofloon: Well... There were facts but not all of them. Selective facts and opinions.

But there was also a lot non facts. I almost stopped reading when Cunningham wrote: " If it is aluminum or steel, well, those holes can be seen from space". Here's a photo of earth from space. Please point me where is the Bauxite mine. I don't mean to be a dick here but clearly he wants to state from the beginning that aluminium is bad a and carbon is not as bad and the airlines are worse.

upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/db/Nasa_blue_marble.jpg/1200px-Nasa_blue_marble.jpg
  • + 45
 @polebicycles, I think you're missing the point. And there are plenty of satellite images where strip mines can clearly be seen. Here's an entire article, complete with pictures about that: www.wired.com/2009/10/gallery_mines.
  • - 13
flag polebicycles (Feb 12, 2018 at 11:50) (Below Threshold)
 @slumgullion: The fact is that mining is bad but the claim that you can see them from space is a half truth. Yes. You can see the mines with a telescope from space. You can actually read someone's phone with a telescope these days.
  • + 8
 @polebicycles: sarcasm font
Sorry you didn't pick up on it.
  • + 17
 @polebicycles: you seem to try and not be a dick alot. Keep trying.

I seriously was considering your upcoming billet bike as a Wreckoning replacement because its just really cool.
But,you very much like our President, there are things that I like that he's done but pretty much everyone on both sides of the isle would really wish he would just stop speaking....Or find an editor
  • + 8
 Hey pole! Have a look at this...

www.youtube.com/watch?v=wH_BkLMniRY

Oldest alumine production plant: Red muds, bauxite dust everywhere, thousands of tons of basic water, radioactivity.
The point RC is trying to make is valid. Aluminium or carbon, those processes are everything but eco-friendly.
So cut-off the marketing bullshit, and go ride a long pole. ;p
  • - 3
 @Oskarpol: Well, there's no news there. Mining is bad but the end product (aluminium) is still 100% recyclable.
  • + 13
 We are all missing the real question: is this damage control for that 'DH is dead' article RC posted a few days ago?
  • + 41
 I also hink this article leans more towards carbon fibre from the beginning and therefore shows some selective facts.

1. If something can be recycled fully and a closed resource circle can be done, it is ecologically superior because downcycling will become one of our biggest problems. No need to point on the raw material production. Don't forget impacts from oil production (Deep Water Horizon anyone?), which leads us to:

2. The carbon manufacturing is shown very positive in this article.
1 kg of carbon materials uses 2.4 kg of crude oil equivalent. A bicycle with carbon frame, wheels and bars uses more than 4 kg of carbon fibre which equals to around 10 kg of crude oil equivalent. That equals 116.3 kWh.
The basis for carbon fibre is Polyacrylonitrile. This fibre is synthesized from Propene in two steps requiring heating up to 200 °C and after to 300 °C. The following carbonation process requires a temperature of 1400 °C.
Production of Polyacrylonitrile and the carbonation are mostly done in different locations (for the BMW i cars for example PAN production at Mitsubishi Rayon in Japan and carbonation at SGL in Washington state).
These heating processes require an immense amount of energy which equals for another 277.8 kWh for the bicycle mentioned above. That's 394.1 kWh altogether.
Human toxicity is also not fully understood (not like claimed in this article). I wouldn't want to work in a factory where carbon cloth is cut or any form of carbon dust is around...

3. I seriously doubt carbon frames outlast Aluminium ones (on a side note: Alumin i um). One riding buddy of mine has two carbon bicycles, a Specialized Diverge and an Evil Insurgent. The diverge got a little stick in it's drivetrain and the derailleur got ripped off and it damaged the chainstay. That was fixed, but an Aluminium bike never would have this problem. He crashed the Insurgent right with the headtube into a tree and the frame had to be replaced, so that's waste. A similar crash with my alloy Yeti resulted in nothing than a tree with the mark of a Yeti headtube badge.

Sincerely,
an Environmental Science/Resource Strategy student.
  • + 7
 @jzPV: It is what jzPV said!
Carbon fiber consumes almost the same amount of energy as aluminium purification from boxite! Add in huge difference in recyclability and low costs of recycleability than aluminium is a no brainer!
Also RC never wrote an article that wasn't promo for some kind of company, and this goes from his MBA days. I sincerely hope that pinkbike is NOT the new MBA!!!!

About medical problems of carbon: Resin hardeners cause skin iritation and skin ekcems, also lung iritation when inhaled. carbon fiber - epoxy dust causes ENT and lung iritation, chronic lung problems and it MIGHT cause asbestosis-like lung problems (carbon fiber strands are resistant to macrophage breakdown)
  • + 13
 Oh, and I forgot to mention that oil production will worsen with the increasing and inevitable scarcity of crude oil, because unconventional deposits will be used. The oil sand production in Canada for example uses more energy than it produces...

To summarise: I think because of the dependency on the petroleum industry, the energy demand, the lack of useful end-of-life strategies like recycling to equal value carbon products, human toxicity of resins and nano particles and the mostly questionable crash behaviour, carbon in the bicycle industry is unquestionably ecologically inferior. This article makes it sound like 50/50...
  • + 7
 @jzPV: Not comparing energy consumption from carbon or aluminum, but when oil prices go up many bauxite mines will close as they do not remain profitable. I think this really speaks to the amount of energy it takes to get aluminum from the earth. While one process may lean on petroleum more than the other, I think both rely on it quite heavily.
  • + 4
 @jzPV: 1. Except for when the manufacture of said recyclable resource is many times more destructive to the environment than the manufacture of said non-recyclable resource. That makes the question alot less cut and dry.

2. You also failed to mention all the oil used in aluminum production, which is a big part of what I was referencing in my reply to your first point.

3. If you hit an aluminum frame in the exact same way with the exact same object that was able to crack/damage a carbon frame, you are going to have a broken aluminum frame too - which is then garbage. No, i'm sorry, recycling. Same with the frame crashed into a tree. I've seen this first hand.

To make clear - i'm not saying you are totally wrong nor am I of the stance that carbon is overall better. It's not a clear cut case of one winner. There are big problems with both materials. That's the whole point.
  • + 1
 @jzPV: This is what I told RC to calculate. Use points in all the process parts and estimate the impact. Here's our conversation about it.

polebicycles.com/aluminium-vs-carbon-battle

The point is that 26 process steps vs. 6 process steps. 130 days vs. less than 30 days. The amount of labor needed is what I can not calculate but not clearly you can get away with two persons producing one carbon frame. You need to employ people to prepreg, eps , lay up, curing, machining, bonding, finishing. On machining we only need machining and bonding.

Just to point out. Clearly people are taking shortcuts here because the headline says carbon vs. aluminium. There are different ways of doing both and I would calculate the whole impact. For example if we get our frames from Taiwan to Finland. The carbon footprint by boat from Taiwan to Finland pier is the same as from the pier to our warehouse by truck. There is some scale.

I think people should read our story again. We didn't say in any point that we are saving the world. We stated that carbon process is unethical and old fashioned and THIS IS WHY WE CANCELLED OUR PROJECT.

polebicycles.com/why-arent-we-going-for-carbon-frames
  • + 11
 @polebicycles: carbon process is unethical and old fashioned... oh Jesus. You have issues, really. I dedicate this to you

instagram.com/p/Bc5cKzcBsbc
  • - 4
flag polebicycles (Feb 12, 2018 at 22:41) (Below Threshold)
 @WAKIdesigns: Thanks. Nice drawing.

Unethical: Carbon bicycles needs a lot of labor and the price people pay for the bike is lower than a decent labor and environmental standards can live with.

Old fashioned: There is no automation. Not a lot even in the design process.

For example:Concorde is still the fastest consumer airline ever made but it is not viable for many reasons. It's consuming a lot of energy, it's still analog and there are better ways to transport people without causing as much harm to people and nature.
  • + 13
 @polebicycles: We’ve been over this. You put all carbon bikes into one bag with name unethical and all aluminium frames into the bag ethical. That is just ignorant. End of story
  • + 3
 This debate makes no sense. because the problem lays deep in our "culture" of consumption. Anything more complex than a flint axe require resources. That's not bad, otherwise we should commit a mass suicide to save the planet. The problem is that we want new things badly. Partly because companies want us to and they make everything they can to make us buy new bikes every 2-3 years. However, we, the consumers are also guilty for this. Any time you buy something 10g lighter and weaker, any time you sell your bike because new standard has emerged and you fear the resell value loss you make this new f*ng carbon frame appear, even though is it not really needed.
  • + 3
 I thinks the article only lacks a lifecycle analysis in numbers : ie what it costs (in CO2) to produce, shape and recycle a bicycle frame
But in the end neither of these is sustainable since we're bound to change all our stuff every three year due to marketing
  • + 6
 @polebicycles: If you want to continue to make these claims find a doctoral student to complete a robust life cycle assessment using a software like GaBi. Have them outline their assumptions regarding your aluminum frame and a comparable carbon frame (like a Wreckoning, Hightower LT, etc.) and have a discussion about the parameterization.

Qualitative statements about whether you can see a hole in the ground from space don't help the quantitative argument you appear to be trying to make.
  • + 1
 The thing is nobody here is interested as much in truth as they are in supporting their own belief system bias and signaling it to others in order to appear great. And greenie lefties are having their haydays lately.

Companies like BTR Fabrications, Sick bicycles, Calfee design, Soulcraft make bikes from steel which is even more environmentally sound than aluminium, BUT do they go around shouting out loud the story of their fight with exploitation and shit on everybody for being profiteering opressors of the planet? No. Do they even mention it in friendly chats on the subject? No. Do they take selfies of themselves saying that the world is against them but they will keep on fighting and they know they are cool? No. Does Unno, Hope or Robot Bike say that their frames are the most technologically advanced thing that exists on the market right now while in fact they are and people working for them actually work in F1 and Moto Gp? No. Did Empire bikes go on a media crusade saying how advanced is their CNCing the front triangle? No. Did they say that their frame is lighter than according carbon frames while in fact they almost half of a kilo heavier? No.
  • + 15
 @polebicycles: I can assure you that our carbon tubes are produced using both decent wages and environmental standards. I just don't think you can simply say carbon is bad, aluminium isn't, there are clearly pluses and minuses to both. The last thing we want to do is produce frames that end up in landfill, hence why we design all our bikes to not suffer from fatigue even when subjected to DH loads, and offer a true lifetime warranty.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: I'll buy into this resistance against the profiteering oppressor of the plant when the human labor-less, AI machined frames stop being marketed to self-righteous pricks and significantly drop in price, to be at least on par with the one being welded up by exploited Germans, if not Poles or even Asians. Until then I'm not sawing off any $$$ frame in half and selling it at $6.30 to have a clear consciousness. Though, if that happens I'll have to live with an unclear consciousness that some robot took er jerbs.
  • - 1
 @RobotBikeCo: Well, we never said that carbon is generally bad. It really depends of the appliance. For example in airplanes carbon saves a lot of fuel which is better than using aluminium just for aluminium's sake. We speak only on our behalf of our choices not going carbon in far east and not making a carbon factory in Europe because we think that it's old fashioned process. What @RobotBikeCo makes is something in between our choices that we needed to choose from. Rapid prototyping + carbon. I don't see any problem in that. Why we didn't do it the same way is because we didn't see it as a very easily scalable business. @WAKIdesigns doesn't seem to understand that what we're only criticizing the process of mass production carbon frames to consumers where you need to cut corners in order to reach the certain cost per product. The end product in carbon should be fine if you make it with highest standards without a cost limit like Unno is doing. Does the result really make any difference and what are the downsides of carbon is debatable and that we can talk endlessly.

The facts in mass carbon fiber process are that it's a bit dodgy business. Don't you think that with this size of a debate there should be a manufacturer coming out of the closet and present a full analysis with video and photographs from their factory and state that they do it right? Where is the calculations of the energy and proof of proper waste management. They still say that carbon is recyclable and lean on the "future".

We just offer an alternative and point out that there might be a problem there. It's everyone's own choice where you invest your bike money.
  • - 1
 @WAKIdesigns: You don't need to namedrop anything because these other companies have their strategies in the market and we don't really think about it. Even though you repeat the names. What I can say is that we respect all the companies that you listed. Unno and Cesar are making a huge stand to a smaller companies and we think that this is the way to go. People should rush and buy Unno frames so that he can make more. Not everyone will ride Pole in the future but I hope that more smaller manufacturers would stand up with innovative ideas like Pole, @RobotBikeCo and Unno
  • + 3
 @jollyXroger: robots have already taken jobs and that is for the benefit of the rider. More often than not, they weld better than humans. If someone likes welding - cool. Robots will take over more and more parts of our lives. Resistance is futile. Fear is not necessarily necessary

@polebicycles - these were examples. It is useful to mention examples. People come in humble and non-humble types. Fine. We both know where we both fall on the scale.
  • + 0
 @WAKIdesigns: For us it's passion about bikes. Not bragging or arrogance. I love this thing in mountain biking that everyone is so serious. If people wouldn't be so serious about their bikes it would be same to go to diaper business Wink
  • + 8
 @jzPV: Nice informed response and for someone like myself who works in the carbon manufacturing industry I can agree with your statement. I work in producing Carbon/Carbon Composites and confidently say this isn't a clean industry.
This article really doesn't highlight the importance of energy consumption and the basics of production. An example would be the use of Propane. Propane is widely used in vast quantities for the production of Carbon fibres, Graphite and CFC. Propane is a by-product of natural gas processing and petroleum refining and we all know what effect that has on our planet.

The effect on health I am no expert on but I agree with jzPZ, but i know even the cleanest of factories aren't the best place to be. While a lot of European manufacturers and Japanese have strict measures to protect their employees from the carbon dust particles. A vast majority Carbon products are produced outside Europe and Asia due to the cheaper labour and most people are can agree that China and Thailand unfortunately don't have the best Health and Safety measures...saying that China has started cracking down lately.

So while I enjoy working in this industry and Carbon is a fantastic material that will continue to be used in innovative ways. Without the possibility or wanting to recycle carbon with ease or on mass then It's impact to the environment will eventually be worse than Aluminium production. (IMO) After all we can recycle most of a Boeing 747 at the end of its life, but can we say the same about a Boeing 787 Dreamliner?

I also feel maybe the author should've also mentioned how the bike industry can take more responsibility of its impact on the environment. If you are introducing new standards all the time and quickly making old standards obsolete you are further contributing to the environmental impact your industry has. Manufacturers push a new frame material and that is great. But as you push the demand for this material you are increasing the pressure for material manufactures to lower their costs. As manufactures look at decreasing their costs while increasing output that will ultimately come at a price which without a doubt impact on environment and ultimately human health.
  • + 3
 @gefunk: sorry mentioning prices of crude oil and offshore drilling when talking about carbon fiber bicycle frame production like @jzPV did is just insane. There's waaaay more oil used for riding and using the bike than making the carbon frame for it. What you talked about has been widely mentioned in a study where Specialized alu& carbon road frames were compared, and the overall conclusion was that difference is very little. The big difference comes theoretically from recycling as carbon cannot be recycled as effectively as aluminium, nowhere near that. However we are still nitpicking here focusing only on the frame. Bicycle needs more than the frame which is one of least complicated to manufacture parts of the whole bike. For Pole as a frame maker, environmental aspect is dawn and day difference, but for us, riders - users of bikes, it's a very little factor considering the whole picture of what our bikes are made of and how they are used. Mountain Biking is NOT a green sport by any means. For me chosing aluminium over carbon solely for environmental purposes is like chosing a Porsche with or without start stop.

So I'm planning a trip to BC next year. Should I be ashamed of myself? I will not take a kayak to Vancoucer harbor then ride my bike to Whistler. WE HAVE TO PUT THINGS INTO CONTEXT. Perhaps it is easy for me to see things this way as an ex urban designer and currently an architect/engineer, but too many people zoom in too closely on a particular issue while walking into a hole.
  • + 1
 Hi @WAKIdesigns: I never mentioned the costs of crude oil or offshore drilling. I gave an example about energy consumption. Which is why I spoke about Propane and its use in the industry, the consumption and mentioned where it came from.

The main reason I even brought that up is because at the end of this article it starts to teeter very close to saying Carbon is better than Alloy due to it lasting longer and doesn't leave large holes in the ground. Which almost implies less impact on the environment.

But in reality what he should've have really said is both the consumer and manufacturer has a large environmental impact and ultimately it doesn't matter what material you choose.
That is how I personally think it should've been summarised with a non-biased statement regarding materials used.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: Hence, if, for the benefit of the rider, a robot is replacing some guy at his welding station at the other side of the globe, one would expect the price to be lower not higher. Otherwise it is only about the thicker profit margin wrapped with some recycled moral bullshit story.
  • + 2
 I think the pole guy missed the first lesson of marketing: "Do no harm"
  • + 2
 @jzPV: on a side note: Aluminum or Aluminium is spelled differently in different countries. Aluminium comes up actually as spelled wrong on my computer as I type this.
  • + 3
 @hamncheez: I think he doesn't realize that his attitude is turning what was originally viewed as an admirable environmentally conscious decision into just another marketing ploy. I know i've gone from being impressed to being annoyed based on his presence here.
  • + 2
 @TheRaven @hamncheez : I'm sorry guys if you feel that way. We do not reveal our intellectual property but we gladly open our process around it. People made fast conclusions based on biased information that we needed to address. My point is that RC didn't really make a good job on the article. He's done a great work on opening most parts of the processes but there are a lot of argumentation flaws and biased opinions. For example:

"As landfill material, composite waste is relatively inert compared with other waste (such as food waste), producing no leachates or methane gas." If you compare objects A and B, you cannot say B is ok because there's a object C that is a big problem. You cannot broaden your scope whenever it suits you.

Here's RC's and our email conversation and my short take on the article.

polebicycles.com/aluminium-vs-carbon-battle
  • + 6
 @polebicycles: I'd venture to guess that most people reading this comment section now that feel that you're coming across as a petulant 12 year old boy.

There are ways to honestly disagree with somebody's point of view, especially when it's in writing. Did you consider extracting RC's points and offering your position them using these facts that you keep referring to? You probably would've ended up in a better place and might have even been more of a comment section darling.

My money goes to companies headed by people who I'd love to actually ride with, people like Chris Cocalis and Scot Nicol jump to mind. I typically try and avoid buying bikes from people who act like complete asses, whether that be in person or in comment sections. I may only be one person in your target market but at this point I believe I'm one of many saying that I'll pass on the Pole.
  • + 19
 @polebicycles: We already know Pole's stance on this issue. We don't need a company to continue to pound on us about it. RC's article is not the only publication to address the issue. This type of study has been done many times over by third parties and every single time the same conclusion is reached: "which material is more environmentally destructive? Both."

You are a small company so your decision to stick with the more recyclable material is admirable. For a large company who's manufacturing process makes up a much larger piece of the "environmental-effect" pie, the equation is completely different.

You can just stick with - "Pole chooses to use the more recyclable material". That's all you need to say. It's true, it's correct, and it doesn't come off as a controversial maketing excercise. The version of Pole you are portraying here, one that jumps into every conversation yelling "WRONG SIR! WRONG!" is not going to make you any new friends.
  • + 2
 @OriginalDonk: @TheRaven You guys are right. There is too much commenting around this topic from our side. My apologies for that. Cheers on pointing that out. -Leo
  • - 1
 @jzPV: i just crashed my Wreckoning onto a tree head on onto the headtube. Nothing but scuffed paint and sticker. Your point proved nothing. Pm me if you need pics
  • + 3
 @TheRaven: No, that's my point. If you take into account the environmental impacts of producing only carbon fibres (including crude oil production, which has to be included to make a fair assessment) even primary aluminium is not worse than carbon. The energy demand I calculated above only accounts for production of the carbon cloth, not the resin, not the oil production and not the "baking" of frames.

If you compare that to primary raw aluminium production, those 10 kg of aluminium would have an energy demand of 390,8 kWh. That's the total energy demand only of the carbon cloth production! That on the other hand includes ALL energy consumption during the production of primary aluminium, including mining and processing. Data from the PROBAS database.

If I hit an aluminium frame on a rock it has a good chance of survival. Carbon, not so much. Yes carbon is structurally stronger, but by far not as impact resistant.

@WAKIdesigns
Sorry but you have no idea what my statements are about it seems. We are talking about production so stay in that functional unit or any assessment is useless.
Talking about crude oil is important because it is the material carbon is made of, it's that simple. You can't say aluminium is bad because primary aluminium is shit and then "forget" oil production during carbon fibre production. Then you have conflicting functional units and you can not compare those two. That's why RCs article is not accurate by any scientific measurement.

I know LCA studies of carbon vs. aluminium. Not for bikes, though, and that's a major difference. For airliners carbon is useful because it allows you to use about one third of material mass less, which reduces fuel consumption in the use phase (which is the most substantial life phase in any motorised vehicle) and also reduces environmental impacts of material production, simply because you need less. The difference I read about (which differs from study to study) is about 10 % less energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions for an airliner. With bicycles the effect of reducing fuel consumption is non-existent and the difference in material mass is not equally large. That will make it very very hard to compensate the impacts of carbon fibre.

That said, I just wanted to add some thoughts to this article because I don't think it is written very well and it is more of an opinion piece. I realise that there are by far bigger impacts on the planet in all our lives than some bike frames. I don't own a car for example, and that's a far bigger advantage. My next frame may very well be a carbon frame, basically just because I want that freedom of choice and I don't like most frame designs (stupidly progressive designs), so it limits my choices pretty much. I certainly don't need one.
  • + 2
 @jzPV: The production of aluminum, in the context of bike frames, does more environmental damage than the production of carbon. However, aluminum is almost completely recyclable and carbon is largely not recyclable. This is the current general consensus of material industry experts. I'll take the word of industry experts over some guy on an MTB forum, thanks.

If you hit an aluminum frame on a rock sufficiently hard, you will dent or crack the alloy. Whether it's dented or cracked, it is PERMANENTLY compromised, and more than likely, that frame is now not safe to ride. Furthermore it can never be repaired back to it's original level of integrity. Smack a carbon frame the same way on the same rock, you will likely have a crack, which can then be fully repaired by a professional and the frame is then good as new or possibly even stronger.

Sorry there's not a clear cut winner on this one. We'll just have to settle for our own personal preferences. I respect yours, and I hope you can learn to respect others'.
  • + 2
 @TheRaven: Science is not about respecting personal preferences. For you I'm that guy on the internet, but I know my facts very well. I'm currently working on my master thesis on environmental assessments, so you have to try a little harder to convince me with some hard facts Wink
  • - 1
 @jzPV: I'm not trying to convince you. I just finished telling you how I respect your opinion. You prefer aluminum. That's cool. I currently have four bikes - two carbon, two aluminum. I'm pretty neutral

What I really hate though? Personal agenda being thinly veiled with a claim of "science". Science is not about opinions...that's correct. The problem is that you find lots of "science" guys on the internet who think they are experts because they have an opinion and go read things that support their opinion. You can easily spot these guys because they use the word "science" when called on to defend their position. You'll never hear a real student of the scientific method refer to "science" while detailing the process they used to reach the conclusion they reached. But then again, you'll never find such an individual debating in the comments section of a sport forum because they have no need...they already know the right answer.
  • + 1
 @jzPV: "That said, I just wanted to add some thoughts to this article because I don't think it is written very well and it is more of an opinion piece. "

That is exactly what it is, an opinion piece. In his takeaway he basically suggests that, "If you've made it this far, you've probably made your choice, and either one would be right. After all, you're the one riding it." Then goes to "does this discussion really matter?"

This article just brings up the discussion. Are his facts accurate? Who knows. Could it have been better, of course but unlike you he isn't writing a master thesis on environmental assessment. Perhaps he points a greener picture for carbon so its your choice to choose what you believe and where you want to spend your money.

The bike industry went to carbon because the advantages of it were better than aluminum. There are downsides to both. I have seen plenty of aluminum frames break at welds as I have seen cracked carbon frames. The consensus is Aluminum frames shouldn't be fixed due to the metal being compromised. Carbon you can fix, albeit its cost quite a bit and in most scenarios not cost effective. Maybe someone should open up a company that just fixes carbon bikes/wheels and sells as I think someone mentioned. Then it would always be recycled! Smile .
  • + 1
 @TheRaven:
Ah, the old internet classic: "I respect your opinion, BUT mine is so much better so I'm undermining you because I don't have any facts". I suggest you read my comments again and pick up some textbooks about resource strategy. Bye.

@Airfreak:
You are right. My problem is that it is not clearly marked as an opinion piece and many take it as all there is. He talks about facts but doesn't list them all. That's why I commented in the first place and thought I maybe can adress this issue for some readers.
There are some specialists here in Germany who repair carbon products and frames, one is the "Carbon Klinik" where a friend of mine works. Specialized in Germany send their broken frames there. For a minor failure it costs about 200 - 250 €. The bikes go back to the customer of course, but If you find a broken frame on ebay for cheap you can maybe get a nice functional frame out of it...
The problem is even then someday it won't serve it's purpose as a bike anymore and will become scrap.
  • + 1
 @jzPV: master thesis... when you finalize your post doc we can talk about facts... go ask your closest professor tomorrow: how much is PhD worth in science world... tip: PhD is a study process where you don’t do research, you learn how to do research... students ugh... BTW I was an assistent at a course for enviro sciences in urban planning, that’s where I realized lots of holistic talk like what Pole is doing, is an alergen to me
  • + 4
 @polebicycles: actually you did say unequivocally that 'carbon is unethical'. This statement makes no sense at all, since carbon is just carbon. The process used to build abike frame from carbon fiber could be 'unethical', but so could the process used to build a frame from aluminum. Either way it's just a disposable consumer toy for us privileged folks to spend our money on. If you really wanted to be ethical you would not build bikes at all.
  • + 4
 @Skooks: the best thing is that they plan to do an e-bike and school us about buying carbon...
  • + 1
 @jzPV: Thank you for your posting and not drinking the Kool Aid.
  • + 2
 @raveglia: oh yeah as if greenies weren’t selling their own kool aid. The moment you make the generalization alu vs carbon And saying one is better than another, regardless of your choice means you are high on kool aid.
  • + 1
 @Skooks: Well people really seem to understand this thing how they wish. We think that carbon fiber itself is not unethical. The process is unethical that produces it to consumer mountain bikes. To that price people buy them you need cheap labour and cutting corners in waste management. The labour intensive process can not be automated so the future is going to be dark. It's not about the carbon footprint nor the material itself, it's matter of ethics that we should move forward to automation which is the future.

The conversation here has been concentrated too much on the carbon footprint. Where we left off with the story was about ethics. It might be hard to understand this ethical point. Scandinavian culture emphasises equality and fairness. We also cherish not making unnecessary harm.

What you suggest that we should not making bikes at all is a paradox. There are dozens of comments here that if we would care about the world we should quit doing everything. It's also a paradox. We have chosen this way and if we can make an ethical choice, we should do it. There are a lot of companies that don't give a shit about ethics and nobody is blaming them about it but when some companies are trying to think about ethics they need to have very good reasons for it. Just like we see on this forum.

People might think that there are a group of marketing guys answering here from Pole but it's all me and all these thoughts are from my head. -Leo Kokkonen

If you just read the whole story, you will get our point. polebicycles.com/why-arent-we-going-for-carbon-frames
  • + 41
 Great read, I still can't afford carbon though.
  • + 9
 Companies like Canyon and YT are making carbon bikes at alloy prices. Still pricey but over the last few years things have really heated up...
  • + 4
 @ryan83: agreed, I was just checking out the new YT Capra. Beautiful bike and a great spec. Put it on my list of ones to keep an eye out for.
  • + 6
 @Nathan6209: I like the Capra... probably going to wait till June for the Alu spec frame though

Wife, Kids, Mortgage life, yo, reppin the WKM
  • + 2
 @focofox37: Wife, kids, mortgage life, got me a ALU Jeffsy. Couldnt be happier with it. I'd take the wife and kids over alu or carbon anyday.
  • + 1
 @slayersxc17: Yup, This will be the year I get a bike to compliment my 8 yr old NS hardtail. New Job FTW, but the industry needs to respect the budget a lot more than they have over the last 5 years...
  • + 31
 The worst thing we have done to the environment in the cycling industry was screw around with wheel sizes and new industry standards. How many 26" dh sleds are in garages not getting used and not worth anything to sell, most of them will be landfill long before they are worn out just because of a new wheel size.
  • + 16
 Why should they have to be landfill? Just give them away if you can't sell them (which I doubt), I'm sure someone in your area will be happy to ride them for a long time.
  • + 16
 @Pedro404, exactly. And there are always plenty of groms out there who could use a new (to them) bike, no matter what wheel size it has.
  • + 4
 @mikekazimer: Okay go the other way, how many people go and buy a new bike because the review on Pink Bike says the wheel size or whatever standard is way better. Then their old one sits in the garage. Remember "Reduce" is the first "R".
  • + 14
 @RLEnglish, don't you think that most people sell their old bike once they buy a new one? Sure, in a perfect world everyone would buy one bike and use it for the rest of their lives, but that's simply not how it works. Just think about how many cell phones you've gone through in the last decade. We're living in a society where advances in technology unfortunately lead to obsolescence, real or perceived, occurring very quickly. I wish there was a simple solution, but it's a complicated subject without a clear answer.
  • + 1
 @mikekazimer: I agree it is a very complicated subject without a correct answer. And I am guilty of the new shiny object syndrome. And I understand that industry needs to change for company sales to happen.
It wonder though how many 26" wheel bikes did enter landfills because of the wheel size change. Even if the number was massive, you are right and it would be eclipsed by the phone industry..
  • + 1
 @mikekazimer: I've gone through 3, I think that's pretty good for a decade of cell phones. It is also why my pictures are terrible, haha.
  • + 3
 Please, the worst thing we have done to the environment in cycling is Walmart.
  • + 3
 More like 26 trail bikes. 26 inch dh sleds still appear all over the classifieds in my area. Good look selling a 4 year old 26 inch xc or trailbike though
  • + 2
 I predict in 10 years (the time it takes a grom to go from learning at 5 years old to dominating the red bull rampage at 15) that there will be a massive influx of third world country riders, that grew up riding 26" first world country waste.
  • + 3
 Everyone's talking about moving away from 26", but my 2013 davinci wilson is still the best looking bike I've ever seen and I'm gonna ride it until it dies. I have a 27.5 trail bike and I couldn't give a toss about wheel size. Give me a gorgeous C cup over an overrated D cup any day.
  • + 1
 @scary1: this is true. Many bike shaped objects at the dump. Not many real bikes.
  • + 2
 @medievalbiking: No, you gonna ride it untill you find decent tyres and rims for it. The reason you give a sh*t about wheel size is precisely because you can buy tyres and rims for you 27.5 bike in every god damn shop. When I ride my 26 inch bike I need to have a spare tyre in my car, becasue no shop stocks 26 minions anymore (and there are like 5 shops in 5km radius from trailcenter I typically ride).
  • + 2
 @lkubica: I don't necessarily disagree with you, but how often do you need to buy a tire on a bike ride?
  • + 27
 Really interesting, well-written arcticle, Richard, thanks! I like that it's not really taking sides, as much as just pulling back the curtain a bit and showing that it's not as black and white as some commentators would have you believe... More of this, please!
  • + 27
 Haha, I see what you did there to paint the Aluminium industry so poorly. "I used to operate a haul truck at an open pit copper mine. Aluminum is mined in a similar manner." And that was made by a Composite manufacturer. And with that and scant any further research by the author, aside of cause the gratuitous picture of an open cut hard rock mine pre rehap, says Al is evil. Lets have some facts eh Richard Cunningham. Bauxite is a laterite deposit that is mined in thin strips, The Vegetation top soil is removed, the bauxite is recovered, the top soil is replaced with landforms and the vegetation replanted over a 10 year period. Or the ie WA and QLD Australian example agriculture or forestry returned. So the land isn't destroyed and returned to former purposes. And hey bloke, what about what that offers the community. Jobs for people , indigenous communities in a range of disciples across environmental, engineering and processing including opportunity for indigenous parties. Your assessment considers none of that on the benefit side? Not very balanced or researched And then the energy issues. Yes to turn Bauxite to Alumina to Aluminium is energy intensive , however industry is located where energy is cheap, ie Hydro sustainable in Canada, or where natural gas exists, or through renewables. Of so some countries operate some Aluminium industries in unsustainable manner, but these are third world shitholes that operate ALL of their industries unsustainably, be it agriculture, forestry. manufacturing, energy, banking. I think on balance you assessment has used the composite manufacturers to tell you how bad Aluminium supply chain is, has not done any value add assessment of that industry to the community, and has finally used a poxy UNRELATED mining photo of a DIFFERENT COMMODITY to lump Al in with the Devil. This is poor and should have failed PinkBike Editorial content assessment.....oh never mind. eBike anyone?
  • + 7
 This guy knows his deposit models and beneficiation processes.
  • + 3
 @gonzoracing: you are right - it is a copper mine, one of the biggest ever: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corta_Atalaya
  • + 6
 This is what I meant: Why start the article by non truths and then following by selective facts.
  • + 7
 Plus the whole article is based upon the false pretense that carbon bike frames last longer than aluminum, which in my experience is an absurd claim.
  • + 4
 I don't like this article.
No link to scientific papers. Just some quotes from different guys, most of them working in the industry.
No use of the notion of "embodied energy".
No word about how resin is produced (between 30-40% percent of the volume of the composite is resin)

As some already said, the material is not the more important parameter but the design and the quality management.
Have a look at www.youtube.com/channel/UCY9JUMYI54lLOHpb_zbIedQ, and see how the quality controls are weak in the bike industry.
A lot of the current bike companies don't have a deep experience with composite. They are small companies with maybe 50 employees, with 5 of them in the R&D... How can they develop this knowledge so fast ? How do they have the economical resources ? They have too use this new technology, else they loose the interest of customers. "Innovate or die."
Look at suspension design. The theory is well understood till the late 70s/80s and we had to wait for 2010 to have a market not full of crap. Amazing.

I like how pole just think outside the box. Elon Musk did it too.
And don't get me wrong, this is not an ode to Pole Bicycles. I am just happy to see that some small companies are still competitive (Orange, Nicolai, MDE, Starling, robot bike maybe) with their own approach.
For any given problem, there is often more than one solution.
  • + 2
 @Flowcheckers: True. I've owned 15 Giants: 7 Al, 8 Carbon. One of the Al frames cracked. Two of the carbon ones didn't, (the two sold before a full season, BTW).
  • + 1
 @gonzoracing Actually, I did my research on Bauxite mining, so I assume that you missed the sentence that specified that the ore was "strip mined." :I also omitted the fact that your country is by far, the largest miner of Bauxite in the world, to keep the conversation from derailing on one aspect of a larger issue. The introduction mentioned that "aluminum or steel" come from big holes in the ground, which they do. (that one was primarily an iron mine in Andalusia). Happy to hear that Australia is filling all of their mining pits back up.
  • + 6
 @RichardCunningham: Actually if you researched Bauxite mining, as identified recovered by strip mining, there is no "Big Holes in the Ground" ya doofus. And then you have the first evidence photo, a totally unrelated mining method of hardrock, so a different commodity AND different mine style. But its all mining anyway so my anology must be roughly correct Haha, trust me Im a journo. You have failed to address that the evidence you supply re the bauxite supply chain comes from a composite manufacturer/owner, hardly an independent expert. And that he "drove trucks" so again he must be an eminent expert in the full supply chain. I mean if his truck consumed X, over a shift that's how many tonnes of bauxite, that then makes how much aluminium? How many cars or aeroplanes to set some context, per litre of fuel. Perhaps its the gallons to litre conversion that's stuffing the analysis? In those views and lenses it may be efficient and effective when considered how automated and scaled these operations are. Same for the composities in terms technology adoption.....?. We had no photos of sweat shops and layout slave factories working for a pittance in far east Asia, not 1 interviews with those individuals to balance the ledger. "I worked in a sweat shop frame lay out place for 2 of my currencies and a bowl of rice a day, and its sold for $US2k, so there must be some gross margin there", or some such other eminent statement from the bottom of the food chain. So for a primary level assignment I think a C may be appropriate, but I would expect an editorial piece to at least apply consistency, rigour and transparency to be at High School level, and sir, this ain't. #paidcompositeadvert
  • + 4
 @RichardCunningham: Hey Gonzo, with all your hyperbole you forgot the Royalties issue, the Billions of Dollars that are paid by the Bauxite industry to the sovereign Country whom hosts the industry for use of the Countries assets and commodities. The money that flows to Consolidated Revenue to pay for schools, education, public housing, roads, water services, social services. So you are saying that the industry pays its workers, rehabilitates and must be transparent about environmental issues and rehabilitation, creates employment and job opportunities and contributes to the Country in payroll tax and tax revenue benefit from wages to the Govt, and then has to pay again as often a major source if GDP to a country to use the Bauxite to turn into a saleable and exportable product, or creates its own down stream process industries and spawn further economic activity and benefit.? So it pays for the roads for me to get to MTBing, the fuel subsidies to drive to MTBing, has made my car substantially more economic and lighter and efficient, and if I stack has paid for the hospital attend and the doctors and nurses to fix me up. Composites are not even in the same ball park RC, and a balanced and complete assessment would prove what a lot of hot air your assessment is with pre conceived and industry supported biases
  • + 24
 I have an aluminum XC bike (retrofitted to the GF), a carbon trail/enduro bike (Evil), and a steel hardtail (Stanton). I couldn't decide between materials so bought all of them.
  • + 12
 No titanium?
  • + 3
 @jollyXroger: Too expensive for me =(
  • - 8
flag WAKIdesigns (Feb 12, 2018 at 8:56) (Below Threshold)
 @jollyXroger: let’s be linguistically consequent here l: what you’re after is titanum
  • + 3
 No ti, why even try? haha
  • + 1
 @mfranzen: graphene for me
  • + 20
 I'm still trying to figure out whether I'm supposed to have a stiff frame or a compliant frame.
  • + 9
 @DJ-24: If it's anything like carbon wheel advertising nowadays, you want a carbon frame that rides and weighs the same as an aluminum frame...
  • + 3
 @DJ-24: For going at it hard and fast, you want a stiff one.
For best comfort, something quite compliant would do best.
  • + 2
 @hamncheez: that Kingdom bike is super nice! Still close to double what I paid for the Stanton but quite a bit lighter. Maybe in the future. Thanks for the links!
  • - 4
flag WAKIdesigns (Feb 12, 2018 at 11:54) (Below Threshold)
 @mfranzen: Sick bicycles also do "affordable Ti". I'd never buy anything from On-One. Their prices and margins are terrifying... oh wait I just bought a Octane One DJ Frame for 120$ and I bet someone died making it. Hypercrit
  • + 6
 @WAKIdesigns: Waki, we've talked about you going on the internet when drinking. Practice safe commenting!
  • + 22
 Those of us in the making industry saw Pole's position for what it was: Green-washing in it's finest (lowest?) form.

Unabashed attempt to gain press & notoriety. Pretty cool bikes, but wag of the finger Leo, shame... Just make cool bikes ferchrissake.
  • - 24
flag polebicycles (Feb 12, 2018 at 10:29) (Below Threshold)
 Not exactly. The story is clever but not really a throughout fact based research of the whole industry. This is not relevant but I almost stopped reading when I read this:

RC:"If it is aluminum or steel, well, those holes can be seen from space."
- You can see anything from space if you just have a telescope, but you won't see and aluminium mine from space with a naked eye. Same goes for the Great Wall Of China. You can not see it from space Big Grin

What I read about the story is that: “Don’t look at us. The airline industry is a lot worse polluter”. It’s easy to blaim someone else but they are still missing the point. Airplanes run on kerosene. When an airplane loses weight because of carbon fiber, they save kerosene which is better for environment. Here we see that carbon is good although it’s bad.

Cheers Wink
  • + 2
 @polebicycles: Hah, I suppose it depends on how you define "space." Good point!
  • + 18
 @polebicycles:
Way to pick out one the least important parts of the article and build a strawman to save you.
  • + 3
 @reverend27: @reverend27: My point is that if you want to make an article that is scientific, why would you start the article by saying something that is not true?

Here's another argumentation fail:

"As landfill material, composite waste is relatively inert compared with other waste (such as food waste), producing no leachates or methane gas."

If you compare objects A and B, you cannot say B is ok because there's a object C that is one helluva problem. You cannot broaden your scope whenever it suits you.
  • + 9
 @polebicycles: Please.

Agreed there is a bit of sensationalism in the article, but certainly no more, and likely less than what Pole is guilty of with your original position Smile . Can you admit that you kind of started this? RC is just providing an alternative view, and does a good job bringing in + and - of each.

There are some very responsible carbon mfr's serving the bike industry, as well as repair outfits dedicated to fixing broken frames and keeping things out of landfills. There are also some very irresponsible mfr's making both aluminum, carbon molded and (gasp) steel frames, filling dumpsters daily. Finding a good manufacturing partner is key in Asia or anywhere, and there are plenty that follow progressive recycling practices.

Focus on that.
  • + 1
 @polebicycles: You may be right, they may be wrong but coming into the comments and acting like this is not smart business. I read every bit of this article and at no point did RC attack your company.
  • + 3
 @Bigernmcracken: You are right, commenting here is not very profitable if you would be a big company. It could cost you a lot if someone would misunderstand you. For us this is quite important because we are in the phase where we are finding our core customers who think likewise. We started off with different geometry that everyone was laughing at. That needed a lot of explanation and we got a lot of haters but we came out as winners and now most of the companies are going to same direction with their new bikes. For example YT's geometry is quite the same that I had in our first Prototype EVOLINK three years ago. enduro-mtb.com/en/first-look-pole-evolink-140-29-in-finale-ligure

In our business plan that I wrote five years ago says: "Avoid doing unnecessary harm to people or nature". Our comments here are not attacking towards anyone and any company. Basically Spesh, YT, Canyon, Trek etc. creates customers us with their entry level bikes. We are just pointing out that the system is not perfect and we are not going to be part of that same old same old. Just another option here. If you look at our product pages, we don't really wave the green card.

@redbarn We are commenting here about this matter because we started this anyhow. Everyone knows it. We don't think that RC attacked on us. Why would he?Our point is that we need better data to show people. If we would do provide the data, nobody would believe us. But we can not just keep quiet when someone makes another view that is not very good.
  • + 15
 If you really care about the environment just take fewer flights (or where possible don't do it at all). The differences between frame materials is completely insignificant when compared to emissions from transport.
This is interesting nonetheless.
  • + 12
 Yup, or just keep your bikes longer. Plus you know that your rear axle will always fit.
  • + 2
 Valid point, the environmental costs of just one round trip flight are staggering. Anybody who flies for pleasure and claims they care about the environment is a hypocrite.
  • + 14
 Richard, this is the best article I've read from you so far, and one of the best articles I've read period. It's funny that I was just talking to some friends about bringing manufacturing jobs back to America (specifically bike manufacturing), and how much consumers are willing to pay that extra few bucks for the more expensive labor. I was telling them about a relative of mine who worked in a Chinese factory for a while and how he described the "sorta unsafe" working conditions (spray painting without any masks on some days). This was back in the late 90s or early 00s, so I'm hoping that those conditions are no longer existing for the Chinese workers.

I have a Commencal Meta AM V4 alloy mountain bike and a BMC GF02 carbon road bike. I think the best way for me to be a better human being (i.e. not a garbage-throwing human scum) is to keep those bikes for as long as I can. I'm broke anyway Smile
  • + 14
 Well researched article! I was like "CF vs Aluminum again?" when started reading and I was surprised by the amount of detail described above. It matches the overall conclusion of a master thesis I have read, which basically had the same topic but wasn't bike related. Must have been quite a lot of work. Well done.
  • + 15
 If only they could manufacture a bike out of "Holier than Though" attitudes and smug self-satisfaction.

Infinite in supply and endlessly recycled...
  • + 13
 It’s been a really long time since I’ve read a good unbiased article by RC.
I’ve been criticizing him for a long time but this time he deserve some props. Great article RC. Really insightful perspectives.
  • + 11
 What an excellent article. I love when facts surface above the mire of emotions and marketing. Bottom line: EVERYTHING we touch has an impact. The best thing we can do is make well informed decisions and reduce our use. This applies to everything. I can hang my hat on the notion that the bike industry is generally well-intentioned above the typical standards, but the responsibility for follow-through lies in consumers demanding transparency of the bike companies, bike companies demanding transparency from frame/component manufacturers, and those manufacturers demanding transparency from their suppliers. Without an culture of accountability, then someone will inevitably cut corners, undoing all the hard work by those committed to preserving what we have.

I would have liked to see a more direct comparison in the global supply-chain logistics for raw materials, because much of the hidden impact of goods we use lie in when we produce the base materials for construction.

On a side note, here's a sustainability idea: BUILD MORE TRAILS! That way some of us won't have do drive hour(s) to ride our 2-wheeled planet-saving machines.
  • - 2
 @rwjones4 all of this is irrelevant when your military is spending 60% of your annual budget building fighter jets and nuclear bombs. Want to save the planet- end war. Support BDS, vote Green Party, raise awareness.
  • + 5
 @gjedijoe: I won't disagree with you on that except for "all of this is irrelevant". Everything is relevant. Large impact comes from incremental change. Nobody will argue with you on ending war, but you might as well add "boil the ocean" to your to-do list while you're at it.

Also, "my" military? I'm not ready for that responsibility. I just learned how to do my own laundry.
  • + 0
 Your right that it's not totally irrelevant, but plastic containers and bags are next in line to war and oil, carbon bikes are waaay down the list. and a lot of these things are connected, oil companies lobby for war, defense contractors fund politicians who shit on the environment for big business, those big businesses lobby for more war, those wars help steal oil that we don't actually need(America has enough oil to sustain itself) simply so they can keep power over the countries who need their own oil, the big banks fund wars so they can keep countries from nationalizing their own oil and not having to depend on the IMF, our carbon footprint could be made sustainable simply by taking corrupt war mongers out of the equation. Green energy is more profitable, but the price of the technology is kept high by big business patent Nazis who also lobby for war and oil, hemp plastic is kept from becoming the norm by chemical companies who also profit from war, its all connected, your throwing rocks at a bulldozer by driving a hybrid car, especially if it's made by defense contractors like Ford and GM @rwjones4:
  • + 4
 @gjedijoe: Holy F'ing run-on sentence.
  • + 2
 @bman33: ...Holy freakin conspiracy theory. lol
  • + 1
 @mtbikeaddict: even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day...
  • + 1
 @BenPea: Yeah. Some of the points were worth considering... but between the run-on sentences and the overall message... Eek
  • + 2
 @mtbikeaddict: agree, he also threw in a few anti-semetic remarks on a few other comments here as well. The guy may have a few valid points. However, his tone, lack of grammar and numerous rants on this article alone lose him credibility
  • + 3
 @bman33: I don't know, you can't even say that all jews support Israeli policy. You can condemn Israeli, Western and Arab nations in equal measure without having to mention religion. Those who are to blame are always simply a bunch of nutjobs, regardless of what name they carry and what "cause" they defend.
  • + 1
 @mtbikeaddict: hardly a conspiracy theory. Just a description of the military Industrial complex. Pretty much consensus reality.
  • + 1
 @BenPea: wish I could upvote this more.
  • + 3
 @alexhyland: Not a conspiracy theory, but it's a massive reach to connect the mountain bike materials debate with the Pentagon war machine. The extremely loose connections help remove some of the legitimacy from the post in this context.
  • + 2
 @MrMentallo: You got what I was thinking... whole slippery slope thing.
  • + 1
 @mtbikeaddict: i'd never heard of a run-on sentence before. That's the only thing I've learned from all this.
  • + 10
 YT's new capra was a hell of an investment.

5 front triangle sizes ( 5 x $60 000 = $300 000)
2 rear triangle sizes (2 x $60 000 = $120 000)

2 wheel sizes so total of 10 front triangles and 4 real triangles ($840 000 total)

And that is on molds alone...
  • + 6
 It wasn't super clear but the mold cost stated is per model not per size. Each model is normally 4 front triangles and 1 rear end. I would expect YT is closer to $80 000 for 29er and another $80 000 for the 650b.
  • + 1
 @RoboDuck: depends if they are offering different levels of frames.. Intense may need to have separate molds for two different levels of frames, while I think YT keeps the same frame through the line...
  • + 1
 @RoboDuck: You need one for each size and given YT are using a new process it may be a lot more.
  • + 1
 Working with precision machining, my guess is that it costs 40-80k for the full range of a model. Tooling is very expensive, but ~60k for one size mould would be insanity.
  • + 1
 Actually, I will qualify that statement. Depends heavily on how large of batches they want to be able to form. Purchasing those moulds in volume would get very expensive
  • + 0
 you need further molds to have the autoclave worth the cost. having a normal distribution I would say a factor of 3 molds on size M and L, plus 2 on XL and 1S and XXL.
for the rear the same...
just remember
batch 1 is on the autoclave
batch 2 is being layout
batch 3 is being removed and prep for layout (you can put this one off, if you use very good planning!)

a lot of money....

and then think all of this making the breakeven in 2 to 3 years, not counting for refrigerator warehouse, nor man power to layup!
frames cannot be cheap, but its companies like yt and canyon and others that transformed things!
  • + 1
 @RoboDuck: Nope, he's pretty close. Those molds are ridiculously expensive, that's why most brands run a model for 3 years or more. The first year sales mostly just pay off the investment in molding.
  • - 3
 So I've actually Skyped with several factories in China and asked them how much it would be to open a mould for an XC 29er. I almost invariably get a quote of $5000 for the front triangle, $2500 for the rear triangle, and $2500 for every size afterwards. That price includes research and development (I'd throw them the geometry numbers and general design aesthetics, they do the CAD and cut the mold). I don't know where PB got these numbers from.

The fact is, it doesn't cost THAT much to CNC machine a clamshell mold out of a solid piece of aluminum.
  • + 3
 Are we assuming they have only one mould per model/size? Production would take forever at that rate. A larger volume manufacturer would surely have several moulds running in some key top selling sizes (medium, large).
  • + 7
 @zdebruine: so you give them a drawing on the napkin, an excel sheet, send them 7500$ and after 2 months you get an AwakeAF Wheelbase 1500 delivered to your door? They do the Cadding? Huh man...
  • + 3
 @WAKIdesigns: hahhaha
awakeAF
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: you take the piss but I bet that's closer to reality than what many would have you believe for a carbon ht mould.

People get crappy because it makes them feel cheated, remember in the bike industry it's poor form to make a profit.
  • + 2
 @lumpy873: Yep. Santa Cruz is the same with the CC and non CC versions. Although in both cases they are probably just changing the internal mandrels not the mold which defines the outer shape.
  • + 2
 @Travel66: The above statement accounts for the separate molds. It is doubtful whatever process YT is using requires more than that. If they are doing very large volume they might be using more than a single mold per item to speed up production time.
  • + 1
 I'll say... I don't quite understand why those steel molds are so expensive. I guess they are all just one-offs and don't have the production efficiency & economy of scale?
  • + 10
 I am inclined to agree with RC that there aren't clear answers here. But what is remarkable is how a small boutique company started such a massive debate (OK they probably didn't start it, but they sure added a lot of heat). In advertising, this is referred to as earned media, or publicity gained through non-paid advertising (owned media). Pole managed to generate a ton of awareness for their "Machine" without paying for the advertising. Even if unanticipated it was brilliant. Full disclosure, I own a Pole Evolink and love it. I really like Leo and his approachability, he regularly contributes and answers questions on the Pole owner facebook page. I also have had many carbon road bikes and parts and don't really get into this debate.
  • + 7
 Haha, cheers! I never thought that our decision not going carbon would have this kind of effect that big companies would start to explain their doings. We made the choice for us, not for others.
  • + 2
 @polebicycles: aaah, the "we don't care if we don't sell anything" dollar, that's a huge market ;-)
  • + 5
 @BenPea: Who said that we don't sell? Our Factory is going to run non stop the whole year around and probably we need to buy more machines for next year.
  • + 2
 @polebicycles: just pulling your leg man, it's bill hicks/south park month on PB. I'm not yet jaded enough to believe people don't sometimes do things for the right reasons.
  • + 4
 @BenPea: Haha. You got me.

Well, it looks like it's hard to convince people that we are actually very honest about our business. The only things that we don't share is the trade secrets that would give other companies keys to copy our business.
  • + 1
 @polebicycles: well, as long as you're not keeping the secret to a better world to yourselves, that's perfectly fine. You're not are you?
  • + 3
 @polebicycles: I think we can all agree that the issue is Pole-arising...
  • + 4
 @BenPea: We hide it as long as we can of course Big Grin This is also a business and we want to do good there as well.
  • + 12
 Just saw the article appear... promptly reached for the popcorn bag and the microwave...
  • + 76
 Saw title, put head in microwave.
  • + 19
 That was a good read for me. Not much "This is more ethical" drama bollocks from any party. Super fast and perfect Elite Ski Racing for great gentlemen wasn't mentioned either. Big props RC!
  • - 8
flag chillrider199 (Feb 12, 2018 at 8:35) (Below Threshold)
 @BenPea: Your dick get stuck in a fan as well?
  • + 6
 @chillrider199: Fans usually just let go when you're done. Otherwise just ask nicely.
  • - 8
flag WAKIdesigns (Feb 12, 2018 at 8:42) (Below Threshold)
 @BenPea: put your balls in it and in few months you'll be able to get Marijuana on prescription and 2 years later you'll give your wife a coat from your scrotum skin*
  • + 1
 Balls are next. All our fans are too covered in shit to be of any use to my johnson. Other than that tl;dr and irrelevant to me as I can't break my god damn frame, so no new bike.
  • + 0
 @BenPea: it seems very few have picked up my South Park reference... makes me feel old. Kids these days!
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: Very few still worship at the church of Eric.
  • + 5
 I thought it was a great article as well. Very informative without some of the political/idealogical BS that often accompanies articles like this.
  • + 2
 To those who were confused by my comment I was referring to the joke “directions not clear enough, dick got stuck in ceiling fan.” Haha
  • + 1
 @chillrider199: (Intentional) misinterpretation really can enrich a discussion Smile .
  • + 8
 Nicely done article RC. Scot Nicol did a great series of articles on different bicycle materials in the 90s. It was called “Metallurgy For Cyclists.” It’s still on the Ibis website and one takeaway was that titanium is insanely energy intensive, dwarfing aluminum’s energy use in both smelting and production process. Good thing it lasts for years (maybe.)
  • + 8
 I went with what I have the most fun riding. Think it comes down more to design and geometry nowadays. Had the latest carbon super bike, now have an aluminum frame built by a few dudes that love to ride, and shred(Guerrilla Gravity) Still have some carbon here and there: handlebar, cranks, and rims. . . . which are undeniably strong and reduce rotational weight. But a frame that is handmade, strong, has great geometry, and helps some dudes in Colorado make a living - - makes me feel good about my purchase.
  • + 5
 Ditto, I love to ride just about any mountain bike and My last 5 were all plastic-fantastic. Then I fell head over heels for the Trail Pistol. It currently weighs 10 pounds heavier than the last "New" bike I rode for a year and sold. This one will make a man out of me! ABSOLUTELY loving it @rideGG.
  • + 3
 Same here. Swapped a carbon superbike for a Knolly alloy model with better geo & suspension behaviour and couldn't be happier. The thing climbs so well and the descending with a proper reach spec allows me to get in such a better position and no issues with perceiving frame flex. I could afford carbon and yet I'd tell others not to pay the extra money over the top-shelf alloy frames from GG and Knolly.
  • + 2
 @Chonky13: I had the SC Hightower, sold the frame and got a Trail Pistol, couldn't be more happy -- thing shreds and I have way more fun on it -- maybe only 1 lb to 1.5 lb heavier and I am faster on both uphill and downhill - so very stoked!
  • + 1
 @islander: Yep - I can get any bike I want(no, I'm not a dentist) but chose what rides the best. I rode my buddies Delerium - that thing shreds too!
  • + 1
 Well said. I bought a Knolly for the same reasons. Great design, super fun to ride, lasts a long time, and local company with great support. It happens to be an aluminum frame, but I would be just as happy with carbon.
  • + 10
 I thought that was a great read. Finally, someone does research and interviews people rather than spouting off hyperbole and unbacked controversial statements.
  • + 7
 Great article - in depth and does clear much of the misconceptions. HOWEVER:

If the bike industry is really honest about being environmentally friendly then they should not be rendering bikes worthless every year with new standards.

There is an irony in 'you can leave a bike for your grandchildren' or sell it on, when WHO THE HELL WANTS TO BUY A BIKE THAT NOTHING FITS ON?? because the threads changed 2mm and you can't fit any new parts and the old ones are not produced anymore.
  • + 10
 Recycle your beer cans, and ride whichever bike you want.
  • + 6
 The bike industry is tiny in comparison to aerospace and military making "this" environmental debate moot.

The article subtlety reveals that the push for Carbon bikes is solely an economic decision based on shorter manufacturing times, cheaper labor (entry level vs skilled), and higher marketing potential (lighter & stronger). Not going to discuss “strength” is not merely strong or not, but made up of tensile, compressive, shear, etc., and that rigidity doesn’t translate to durable.

It is easy to understand the industry’s motives, but my advice to manufacturers would be to not abandon aluminum practices. Aluminum is recyclable, Carbon is not. And when petroleum prices soar, so will your carbon frames.
  • + 5
 You are right on here. Basically we do the same. Our process is less than 30 days easy. It can be two weeks.

What I don't like about this article is that Richard points at Aerospace industry and says that they consume more carbon fiber but forgets that airplanes run on kerosene and carbon fiber makes airplanes lighter which saves kerosene.

This article does not look at is the processes and total waste that can not be recycled and the amount of traffic the process creates.

Also there is nothing mentioned about the 7075 T6 alloy we use. There is nothing mentioned about the direct sales model that reduces carbon footprint. The main focus in the story is just to the conventional process. Our process has six steps and the carbon process has roughly 26. Carbon process takes 130 days (and the product still in China. You need to ship it) against less than 30 days in Finland or anywhere in the world. We are not bound to any location because the process does not need cheap labor.

I can take this debate any time.
  • + 5
 @ebum1127 great points. Both upstart builders and established brands want to succeed in business. The industry isn't altruistic, and virtually all changes have commercial considerations as well as consumer considerations.
  • + 7
 First world countries consume 80% of the worlds raw materials
Many mountain bikers love shuttling bikes in 6000 pound trucks
Trucks that are for hauling people and Starbucks coffees
I rape the earth for my personal pleasure
  • + 10
 4130 for life.
  • + 1
 Seriously my DJ frame is lighter than any of my aluminum frames
  • + 6
 There is a reason bmx stuck with steel
  • + 5
 @gjedijoe: you break it, you can fix it. A good steel bike can last you forever. My friend has a 1960's steel road frame he is still riding.
  • - 1
 If I crack my top tube on my bmx I wouldn't trust a weld fix, still some companies like Sunday offer free replacement. That's probably what I'll buy if I break my kink @fartymarty:
  • + 1
 @gjedijoe: Apart from, on race bikes.
  • + 5
 The EPA standards here in the states make Carbon a very expensive option. How strict are China's rules and regulations on cleanup and waste versus say California? I know Cervelo made a frame in Ca and it retailed for $10,000 while the Asian made one was $5,000. It is not just the cost per hour that drives companies offshore it is also operational cost. What say you RC?
  • - 1
 First off, comparing one state in the the U.S. to an entire country is pretty flawed. California has it's own regulations that are more stringent than anywhere in the country. Paying employees $30 an hour opposed to $5 an hour is a huge difference. The idea that EPA regulations are what push businesses to Asia is a big fallacy. In fact, the regulations here are really basic and merely requires that businesses do the right thing. That is to not pollute the waters and dispose of waste properly while attempting to keep employees safe. There's a right and wrong way of doing things and unfortunately people tend to put money before ethics, so regulatory agencies exist. In a perfect world, that would be common sense.
  • + 1
 @dualsuspensiondave: So do you think Giant is doing everything in ASIA 100% clean? Judging by the skies above mainland China I would not be shocked to find they are not. A big reason to produce there is lower regulation. Do we want to bring in the fuel economy of a full sized Ocean Tanker. It can be done in the states Alchemy has been doing it a ling while. That would make a good article as well local versus import....
  • + 1
 @downhillnews: No I do not, however that's not the leading reason they have a factory there. It's always been about the cost of labor.
  • + 1
 @dualsuspensiondave: Not just cost of labour. That is just the term that gets pushed around by media. The total cost is what is really hidden from us. Work Safe standards, environmental cost's, taxes, energy costs.
If it were just labour cost's then all automated assembly lines would be close to the sales area's.
  • - 1
 @RLEnglish: As I mentioned, it's not all cost of labor, however it does make up the majority of it. The media and politicians in this country actually do claim that it's the environmental regulations that cost them too much to be profitable. Trump has deregulated many different environmental policies federally because of those claims by wealthy businessmen. In reality, I work in the business of trying to keep the waterways clean for a living and I see the very minimal effort that businesses make to keep the waterways clean. It's to the point here that it's cheaper to take a fine than to do the right thing. The recent chemical fire in Parkersburg, WV illustrates this. Government agencies actually pay contractors and businesses to limit pollution and they still don't do it, instead they pocket the money.
  • + 6
 I work down the road from Port Angeles Carbon recycling center. They had 4 employees last time I checked, they cut scrap 787 panels into ping pong paddles. Carbon recycling is kind of a pipe dream.
  • + 2
 Shit you could make some cash selling CF ping pong paddles or Paddleboard paddles.......
  • + 5
 There are approximately 28.99 crap tons of comments at the time of my writing this. Many of which I haven’t read, so I do apologize if this has been mentioned already, but RC has previously tipped his hand in regards to his frame material of choice not too long ago in this ask us anything piece...

m.pinkbike.com/news/ask-pinkbike-carbon-aluminum-norco-sight-optic-2017.html

...and unfortunately that preference appears to bleed through this piece.

Somehow this article feels like the author has a vendetta against one particular manufacturer.
  • + 5
 As much as I love reading RC articles I just can't ignore the feeling that it was wrote in opposition to peoples reaction after Pole dropped the ball on carbon fiber.

Definitely I'm a "metal bike" type of guy mostly because of price and fact that I know where to weld alu frame and keep using it. On the other hand I don't know where to fix cracked carbon because I don't know any wrokshop in my country who have proper autoclave. If my memory is not deciwing me the price of fixing bike in Reich was so high that it made whole repair pointless from financial point of view.

When carbon recycling will be at aluminium level the whole discussion will became pointless but for the time beeing I still prefer alu or steel bikes. And for the record I do believe that milling frame from huge billet is incredible waste of material. Yes, I'm talking about you Pole bikes.
  • + 1
 Well, we would not go this way if it would be waste of material. I'm really sorry but we just don't want to share how we optimize the materials because it's our trade secret.
  • + 13
 @polebicycles: thanks for your reply - I really appreciate it.

Please don't be mad if some doubts about waste of material will remain in my mind.
  • + 5
 @EnduroriderPL: Haha. Not mad at all.

The chips are 100% recycled. There are numerous ways to reduce the cutting waste. Cunningham just made his own calculations and this is why nobody has gone this way before. They don't know how to do it profitable. It's easier to get cheap labor from China.
  • - 1
 @EnduroriderPL - even if it was written as opposition (not let's clear this out, shall we?) that's how we progress as humanity. Someone says something and someone else checks out the facts, then someone else comes with alternative story and it is being checked too. Both are necessary to determine who's right. And this process goes on and on. For fantastic holistic ideas to be implemented without opposition look no further than Carl Marx. Very popular among students worldwide. Maybe apart from nations like Czech Republic, or Ukraine or Poland, you know, those who actually had something to do with Marxism...
  • + 8
 @polebicycles: We don't have more facts about your machining process because you, understandably, aren't ready to share your trade secrets with the world. Most of this article is about conventional aluminum production, RC just wanted to address what is known about your innovative approach as well. We'd love to hear more about how you deal with the energy used to transport, purify, and re-smelt the aluminum waste in your frames.
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: It sounds weird to say this to you... but you are right. Big Grin
  • + 1
 @brianpark: Well, my comments are more for the people who didn't realize the difference between the conventional process and our process.

Here you can read what I answered to RC in email. It's more about the process differences: polebicycles.com/aluminium-vs-carbon-battle
  • + 10
 @polebicycles: are you suggesting you have some kind of newly developed process for milling aluminium that nobody in any of the much higher profit industries has thought of?

Is the process water jet cutting the blank shape and then recycling the chips but you want to make it sound complicated and new?

Love the bike by the way but the secrecy is a little OTT, people won't copy you because it is a very expensive process compared to almost every other type of aluminium mass production for bicycle frames, not because the process is secret - I'm sure specialized etc have enough money to develop and implement any such manufacturing technique that is viable.
  • + 1
 @Racer951: I think you nailed it with the waterjet cut profile. Even then, still tons of chips being created.
  • + 1
 @polebicycles: I would have to venture a guess that you start with forged or extruded billets to achieve a majority of the shape,then go to town machining the final shape. Sorry if I gave away secret.
  • + 2
 @MikeGruhler: doubt it, forging would require one mother of a setup for the size of the frame ( plus different for each size) same with an extrusion die - take a look at how extrusion works.

They basically confined what I guessed as waterjet or milling out the basic shape before milling the frame and re using the big chunks left over for other bits like the swingarm etc

I find it unlikely there is any 'new' or highly expensive process being used here, it will pretty much be a cnc mill working its tits off and them capitalising on lights out machining and cheap electricity.
  • + 1
 @Racer951: I see what you mean, but I do recall reading about him saying something about preshaped billets or ingots. Going to be an awesome project regardless. Love seeing this type of thinking.
  • + 1
 @MikeGruhler: a water jet cutter is capable of cutting out a billet of that thickness with no issues, it's a cheap process and would leave the remaining chunks available for other parts - you only lose the width of the water jet and that's it.

There just isn't enough money in the cycle industry to develop experimental forms of manufacturing, and Pole I imagine certainly don't have money comparable to other high profit industries.
  • + 5
 i can only apply this to myself-a quiver of bikes is more fun than one super bike. i currently own 6 bikes- 2 hard tails, one full suss, one fat bike, a road bike, and a bmx bike. only the road bike is carbon. the rest are metal. own moar bikes, buy metal.
  • + 5
 So in summary: Aluminum really is not significantly better than carbon from 'green' perspective. Therefore let the bros & PB peanut gallery who can't/won't afford carbon continue to whine about how horrible, weak, etc. carbon is compared to alloy. We can go back to that approach we did before Rat Boy vaguely mentioned it on his 'retirement' interview and Max Commencal said he wouldn't make carbon because of the environmental issues with carbon (aka he doesn't want to pay for molds). Full disclosure, I have a Commencal Meta, so no, I am not anti Commencal either

Let the downvotes begin.
  • + 8
 Disturbingly like journalism. No room for it here.
  • + 4
 First: Thanks for making this article. Being a avid biker, bike mechanic and having worked in the bike industrry for a long time, now working as a enviormental an climate engineer, this is maybe the most interesting articles to come out of Pinkbike.

Also growing up in a town, which has Norway's biggest aluminium plant (Yara Aluminium, Karmøy), hits even more home. That said, all my high end bikes (DH, trail, road) are carbon, and only my dirt jumper is alu.

Making aluminium takes a huge amounts of energy, typically 13 kWh/ton. Yara aluminium plant has recently (fall 2017) built a new groundbreaking facility, with new tecnology (dubbed HAL4e) reducing this down to 11,8 kWh/ton. 15% decrease is quite significant when we're talking about a factory which churns out 75 000 tons a year.

To put it short: That's a reduction of 90 000 kWh/year or about 562 500 km in a Tesla Model S85 (to the moon an half way back).

Also it will be the plant in the world with the lowest CO2-equivalent per kg produced at 3,5kg CO2 versus Kina's plants at around 18-20kg CO2.
  • + 4
 "In addition, broken or cracked carbon frames can often be repaired to full strength, while most aluminum frames cannot be welded back into service without stripping them down to bare metal and sending them off to heat treat."

RC- In the very least, for a carbon repair, you do need to strip paint or clear coat at least localized to the repair area, though it may not be like a full front or rear triangle paint strip for aluminum. Also, there is a curing process involved in every epoxy/resin compound, though I have no idea if heat is always involved, one can guess it would probably help curing to have it warm. No one rides around with dented carbon. I raced collegiate DH with a kid that raced on a very dented old giant faith and was pretty damn fast, more importantly, we did dumb college stair gap huck-to-flats with it. The damn thing is still being used by a different dude on trail crew at a local bike park.

So, I see your point, but lacking some information maybe?
  • + 0
 On the contrary, I rode a seriously cracked carbon frame for three months. Had zero problems. Then got it repaired and refinished to like new condition. Had that been an aluminum frame it would have had to have been retired.
  • + 1
 @TheRaven: sure but the point is that technically, both can be repaired, for money, often lots of money. Crash replacement is now mostly ubiquitous across the industry instead of pursuing a repair.
  • + 0
 @Planetx888: Aluminum bike frames cannot be FULLY repaired. Once an aluminum frame is damaged it is compromised...you can weld it, and reinforce the repaired area, however you will never be able to restore the frame to its original integrity. Also you will add quite a bit of weight. Carbon on the other hand can be fully repaired...and returned to even stronger than new...and that's with adding negligible weight.

One thing is for sure though, and this is probably the biggest problem of all when it comes to our bikes and their effect on the environment - whether it's a carbon or aluminum frame, once it's been repaired, it is essentially worthless. That's a perception issue that needs to be changed. People buy repaired automobiles all the time with only a slight reduction in value. Carbon frames should be the same.
  • + 1
 @TheRaven: Tell that to Turner Bikes, I had an 05' DHR in 2009 that cracked around the shock mount, they warranted the frame as a known 3rd owner. They paid for shipping both ways, rewelded the cracks, heat treated the frame, replaced all bearings and bushings and repowdercoated to any of there colors. All free of charge, took less then 3wks to get back. That bike is still going strong and is about to get some geometry upgrades with a reach set head set and a new shock mount location on the rear triangle to slaken the head angle and drop the BB. So yes alum can be repaired and still be as strong, must be reheattreated though.
  • + 4
 Thank you for covering this topic and topics like it. Most of us on here, including myself, are very passionate about conservation and I DO weigh this factor heavily when I make purchase decisions. We all should. What we spend our money on matters more than who you vote for.
  • + 3
 @Goomba if your passionate about conservation, endless war is the first place to start, boycott Israel, vote 3rd party(green), and educate yourself on the biggest polluter on earth- the pentagon. Also never shut up about, spread awareness.
  • - 4
flag dualsuspensiondave (Feb 12, 2018 at 12:58) (Below Threshold)
 @gjedijoe: That's some Nazi talk. What's next after you persecute Jewish people?
  • + 4
 @dualsuspensiondave: there is nothing anti Jewish or Nazi about the comment he made. This is not the place for a debate on Israel, but I find most people have a pretty poor understanding of the history of the situation. There is a lot of interesting factual information here, worth a read for any of us.
en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Israel
en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Israeli–Palestinian_conflict
  • + 4
 @dualsuspensiondave: are the Jews that protest against some of the behaviour of Israel anti semites too?

It is possible to have an opinion about Israel, positive or negative without referring constantly to a dark place of history, simpleton.
  • - 3
 @catweasel: Never try to get facts from Wikipedia. That's not a legit source.

@Racer951: I'm thinking much more into depth than you realize. There is a long history of countries from different religions trying to steal land from the Jews and persecuting them in the name of religious war. Our country has deep connections and roots with the Israel and they are our allies that we have an agreement to protect them. Israel is the home of the Jewish faith and their strive for peace should be respected greatly.
  • - 2
 @Racer951, @catweasel :
Speaking against the policies of a government is certainly an acceptable if not praiseworthy practice. The problem is the BDS movement is supporting the destruction of Israel entirely because most of the population are Jews. And Jews who support the BDS movement are stupid and self hating.

Have you forgotten that Amin Al Husseini, the Mufti, supported Germany in WWII, specifically because they wanted to see the destruction of the Jewish people? That "dark place in history" is a big part of the Jewish narrative, and the current "Palestinian" movement are the direct political descendants of those who were the allies of the Nazis. Don't ever forget this.

Did you see the BBC program about the fighting at Deir Yassin? The one where an Arab soldier who was a veteran of the battle stated that it was a battle that their forces lost, and that they made up the story of a massacre ass a propaganda stunt? I didn't think so.

And please remember the expulsion of Jews from the Arab world following the creation of Israel. Do you remember reading about the Libyan Jew who was stupid enough to believe that he could go back to Libya and restore the synagogue after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi ? I didn't think so.

If you tell me that Jews have been able to live in the Muslim world in peace and freedom I am going to call you an ignoramus. Did you ever hear of the expulsion of Jews from Cordoba by the Almohads? I didn't think so...

About 20% of the population of Israel are Arabs. They vote. Some serve in the army, often with extreme valor. There are cities like Haifa where there are mixed Arab/Jewish neighborhoods.

Lastly, please remember that the region was named Palestine by the Romans as an insult to the Jewish population. It has been considered to be home by Jews for maybe 2500 years in spite of the many foreign occupiers.

And I think your current PM is a fool. Now sod off! But not in the Arab world or they will throw you off the top of the tallest building...
  • + 4
 @Dangerous-Dan: Both of the articles I linked to clearly state that the Mufti fought with the Nazi's, they also cover amongst other things numerous mistreatment of Jewish people going back 2000 years.
That still doesn't mean criticising Israel makes you a Nazi. Nor does it change my opinion that many people have a limited understanding of the complex history of the area.
  • + 2
 @Dangerous-Dan: You have made negative, non factual remarks about Muslims in your statement - the op simply said 'boycott israel' without adding such a comment as 'they will throw you off the tales building'

I guess that makes you racist then?
  • + 1
 Ahh the "self-hating Jew" lol right out of the ADL/AIPAC dictionary @Dangerous-Dan:
  • + 4
 A carbon fibre frame will be 60% stronger and 50% lighter than an Aluminum frame?
I call BS
That would equate to a six pound aluminum frame can be three pounds and be stronger than the Aluminum frame
Where are these amazing frames in the real world?
  • + 4
 Seems disingenuous to mention aluminium mines "visible from space" and completely omit oil rigs that extract the crude used to build CF.

Both are wasteful. Buy the bike that'll be used the longest.

Who here rides a 10yo alloy bike? And who here rides a 10yo CF bike? I'm pretty sure I know what the answers will be...
  • + 6
 So are there any bike companies actually using 100% recycled aluminIUm (by the way) for frames, parts etc?
  • + 2
 Doubt it. I'd be interested to know if there's any price difference between buying raw aluminium straight from source vs. recycled material, as surely that would be the driver for manufacturers to start using recycled materials.
  • + 1
 Very unlikely.
  • + 1
 Alloys used in the mtb industry are high specification such as 6061 and 7075, they have specific levels of alloying elements required to give certain mechanical properties. Recycled aluminium would need to be purified to its base element before being remanufactured into a specific grade, I have no idea if this is a common practice or not or if they just use recycled aluminium alloy in less demanding applications.
  • + 3
 So, now carbon manufactering is not bad for environment?.. )))

Remember the article of some small bike company repsresantative who was clearly claimed about how bad it is, how many carbon in ocean etc...

so funny to see when "needed" direction is promoted through articles like that. )
  • + 3
 Sorry to burst the conspiracy bubble, but if there's one thing I personally take from RC's article it's that if we want to be ACTUALLY environmental we should stop eating meat, park our car, get a vasectomy, move next to work, and never ride a bike again.
  • + 3
 There is ONLY one point for any articles like that - to sell carbon bikes. Period.
  • + 3
 Carbon is never currently recycled, it is DOWN-cycled, at huge degradation to material and at enormous energetic cost. Also, Aluminum is not generally fully recyclable either. the alloying metals-zink, nickel, chromium, molybdenum, etc. are compromised or removed in recycling alloys, and must be re-added and that means mining at unbelievable environmental cost, where you remove a school busses worth of material and end up with a few tablespoons of pure nickel, or whatever it is.

"...aluminum construction has evolved to its pinnacle and offers little room for improvement."

doi.org/10.1016/j.procir.2014.07.023. It does seem like there are certain specific 6000 series alloy chips (essentially machining tailings) that can be recycled with little or no degradation to the alloying metals. I have no clue what application these materials are then appropriate to use for. Are you making ingots (stock material) suited to cold drawn butted tubes? Are you just hot pressing alu der hangers and less valuable parts? Or maybe recycled stuff moves to a totally different industry like strip-casting and sheet metal?

Possible too that with multi axis CNC routers that you can rough out aluminum front.
Also found that the Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) group is working with a company Novelis to make all of the aluminum unibodies for one of the Jag SUV out of 100% Recycled automotive Aluminum. Novelis is a Huge company also working with Ford and others on similar initiatives.
  • + 1
 I think my brain kept working but my hands stopped- *Possible too that with multi axis CNC routers that you can rough out aluminum stock to shape and reduce milling waste. Also could imagine just pouring ingots in some aproximation of the final form. This of course requires a smelter willing to create custom ingots.
  • + 1
 @Planetx888: multi axis cnc won't really reduce waste, its more to reduce operations and cycle time and increase tolerance.

If you pour an 'ingot' into the rough shape of a frame would be pretty impossible for a small nanufacturer to achieve especially to give the correct mechanical attributes.

Cnc a frame may be novel and suitable for small number production, also allowing 7075 to be used but it's just not a viable mass production method, tubes are really rather good for making bike frames with.
  • + 3
 "A component made from standard carbon fiber of the same thickness as an aluminum one will offer 31-percent more rigidity than the aluminum one, and at the same time, weigh 50-percent less and have 60 percent more strength." "The reality is that carbon mountain bike makers err on the conservative side, which results in lower weight saving."

I don't get it. Why are they being so conservative? And why do carbon parts still break?
  • + 2
 I'm not a rocket scientician, but strength in one plane isn't strength others, and certainly not in impact resistance.
  • + 1
 Because Carbon is still fragile stuff, I've had lots of crashes on aluminum frames and zero cracked, I know lots of people that fall over and the frame cracks! It ridiculous, same with carbon bars.
  • + 3
 Biased article trying to sum up an infinetly more complex issue than what it seems. There's a MASSIVE hole in this article and it's about that raw material for carbon: high end manufacturers use better stock than tar and pitch (oil refining by-products) such as Rayon, but they are a minority in the bike industry. Here's the real f*ck up: tar and pitch come from oil refining, oil exploration, drilling, production and refining have one of the biggest environemental impacts of any ressource utilization. That alone is more than enough to switch the favor to aluminium. Other points I can think of in the 6 min i have to write this:

- The industry at large for metals is gearing towards a closed loop cycle of make/use/recycle, while specialized alloys will need to be made new du to contraints on performance, there is going to be a point were the mining of metals is going to be only for a make up amount. Compositesw made of relatively short fibers have no future propects of real recycling other than chopping them up

-3D printing is rapidly taking the manufacturing sector by storm and pretty soon almost everything will be printed then mahcined if needed, very few parts will have to be made from bar stock/forgings... etc

-Alloys and their products are very easy to repair and asses for damage, composites ? not so much, hence a lot of carbon products are simply thown away while a compareable alloy item could be repaired or evaluated esaily

That doesn't even begin to scratch it but that 's the time I have....
  • + 0
 Not that simple. We're going to drill for oil no matter what. The heavy oil and bitumen at the bottom of the refinery is the feedstock for carbon. It's basically a by-product of oil production which will happen anyways vs. Aluminum which has a massive, massive global footprint with most bauxite mined in Australia (10:1 ore to waste ratio in the open pit before considering tonnes of GHGs used to move and process the waste ore) and shipped across the world to smelters with cheapest power costs (Kitimat, BC, Iceland, etc.) with now raw aluminum probably shipped back to bike industry in Taiwan. Compare that to the carbon fibre source which potentially could be produced in North America, processed into carbon fibre stands in North America, and molded in North America and you could be looking at far less impact, even if the frame ends up in the landfill. IMO - once the Aluminum is out of the open-bit it can be recycled indefinitely, but I would bet the global recycling chain also has a massive global shipping footprint (let's ship it back to Kitimat or Iceland to be re-smelted into Aluminum ingots).
  • + 1
 Again with the minimizing of the immense amount of oil used in the various stages of aluminum production. So many guys here pointing out one hole while creating another of their own. Your third point is backwards. It is A LOT easier to asses and fully repair carbon, and extremely difficult to impossible to fully repair aluminum. This one I know from personal experience.
  • + 1
 @TheRaven: tell me why it’s hard to asses metal damage ?! So many ways to inspect with non invasive techniques since it is conducting... whereas carbon is by visual inspection. Repair methods are the same. The fact that aluminum uses fossil fuels was already pointed out. A lot of aluminium refineries are sited near hydro electric dam to lighten their costs since they use so much energy. Apart from the trucks carrying the ore, most of the equipment (including the diggers) are driven off electricity so while some part of the energy comes from fossil fuels (big power plants are usually more efficient than standalone vehicle engines) there is a part of it that comes from increasingly available renewables. Tar and pitch come from an industry that needs to quite bluntly die so no point in going in there. Besides metal recycling trumps pretty much every arguments in there... this isn’t to say metals are “green” but they are way better for the environment than carbon production for now.
  • + 2
 @Brakesnotincluded: Very simple. Compromised carbon cracks. Want to know if carbon is compromised? All you need to do is determine if there are fractures. No fractures, no compromise. With alloys that's not the case. Alloys are malleable, and that fact makes assessing actual damage much more complicated.

As for your energy usage points - first, the assistance of hydro power is so minimal as to almost be a non-factor. Second, whether transportation runs on gas or electric it still uses oil. Third, BOTH aluminum and carbon production take advantage of these energy-saving measures (and more) so they can not just be placed in the aluminum column.

Finally, on the recycling end, certainly aluminum has the advantage. However, aluminum does considerably more damage on the production end than carbon...so to truly determine the winner you would have to have numbers on how many aluminum frames actually get recycled, and how many carbon frames actually get recycled.

Again, there's no way for anyone in this comment section to have the answer. It's too complicated. Anyone claiming one is definitely better than the other, here, is wrong.
  • + 3
 Great article but not without biases. Like resrov(and probably other said here) this comment doesn't ring true.

"Aluminum may be more easily recycled, but on the other hand, you may be able to pass your carbon bike down to your great grandchildren."

The rate at which the industry changes specification, it doubt very much anyone would be that interested in a 50yo carbon bike other than a museum. All bikes will be in a junk pile some day. better they be recyclable.

Educational article though, thanks for writing it.
  • + 3
 The world is over populated. We drive cars on an average of 5 days per week. Many people driving 100 plus miles per day to and from work. People need to have a new bike and a new car every year. My ball sack is made of carbon and my heart is made of gold!
  • + 3
 Is it safe to say that (generally speaking) people riding carbon bikes are more likely to replace that bike sooner than someone riding an aluminum bike? My logic here is carbon, being the most expensive and advanced option will attract a) the racing industry, and b) the consumer with a higher disposable income. Vs. The consumer with a lower budget that will likely need to hang on to their purchase they saved for for longer?

This is purely based on speculation and I have no facts to back it up, but, if it IS the case then the carbon footprint between materials might just be balanced at this point?
  • + 3
 Don't care on this level, boys and girls. Just don't... I'm concerned with conservation within certain circles, but this is a KNOWN unknown, that we're not guiltless in this specific area. Sorry, I'm buying my bike to ride, not cry over.
  • + 2
 Can we see a back to back test between a carbon and Ali frame with the same build, same tetser, and same track to see which one brings the best time?
alot of the time money is the big player for people, so if we could see a genuine advantage of say +5 second faster on Carbon, that might persuade us to push that further. If we are looking at 0.5s for example, then pish go with the cheaper unless you are a dentist and NEED to buy carbon!
  • + 4
 Sounds really fun
  • + 2
 What % of the worldwide aluminium production goes to the MTB industry? A tiny one, I bet. Aluminium will be mined anyway, so why worry? Even CF frame molds are made of Al. How many old aluminium frames are still around? How many CF ones will still exist in 10-15 years? Only time will tell. I'm sure CF will be the material of choice in a near future, once manufacturers find the way to cut down costs and reflect it to the final customer. Maybe we should stop demanding new models every year so they can amortize their molds. Every new bike out of the mold will be cheaper and cheaper.
  • + 1
 They are just like all car, cell phone, shoe, agricultural equipment, and refrigerator manufacturers ultimately. "Innovate or die." The manufacture demand whether we need new stuff or not, that is how they stay in business. There is room in the global cycling marketplace for a few niche manufacturers to have high quality, forward and backward compatible frames that are backed with lifetime warranties, and some people may keep them for decades, which is great. If they all did that, there would be a problem for a lot of manufacturers.

From a consumer perspective, I could not agree more, but the economics of it are based on a different business model than we see in most industries. I would love to see more companies making fun, modern, aggressive bikes, but with a longer arc to the storyline, with emphasis on a culture of durability and longevity. sadly that will never be the lion's share.
  • - 1
 @Jackstephen if us Americans would stop building thousands of fighter jets and starting wars with everyone we don't like, we could all be driving corvettes to the trail and riding carbon bikes without having to worry about polar bears eating each other.
  • + 2
 I actually dont see the point in stuff like this. Whatever we buy has an impact on environment, good or bad. Whatever we buy has pro's and con's. You like what you like and you don't what you don't.Thats life. Get over it and move on!
  • + 2
 I'm absolutely sure that even yet-another-groundbreaking-zilionPascals_stiff axle standard wouldn't start such a long comments section like this one :-). Actually, few of the comments were more worthy than the article itself.
.
The article seems to me as a carbon-advocacy in favor of big manufacturers. It is out of context of manufacturer business size which I think is another important aspect of comparison. I'm very suspicious about small EU companies that have jumped on CF coco-jumbo-train at very competitive prices.
For @Pole Bicycles it makes NO SENSE in going CF, from any perspective. CF doesn't allow them what they are after in a reasonable costs and while Leo's claims seem to be little bit idealistic I'm a huge supporter of theirs. I like watching like a tiny group of people from country not specifically known for superb engineering comes with solutions that much bigger guys in the market are not courageous to show. I think the progress in this sport is going to rise from a few small companies and individuals while big blocks are going to draw another standards.
  • + 2
 I don't know if I agree that aluminum is at it's apogee. 10 years ago, I thought aluminum was fully developed with nowhere to go - but the widespread adoption of hydroforming proved me totally wrong. Aluminum bikes of today are vastly superior to anything 10 years ago. So my guess is that something is going to pop up sooner or later to move the bar again. Granted, our current aluminum bikes seem like marvels to a guy who has been riding twenty something years, but I think there is a lot of money in the aluminum industry going into R&D.
  • + 2
 Wary nice article.
When author explain aluminum frame-manufacturing process he could use Nicolai frame building video.
Its show all stages of frame building step by step
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5Jkjy_Jh5Q
Yes I am guilty own two of those, as two ocean filler bikes one on them modern geometry vpp disappointment; to short, to step, not low enough and require too much attention.
And I’m planning to get one more and it’s going to be third Nicolai or Pole.
No I am not dentist I am sailor and working on container ship.
  • + 2
 @RichardCunningham

"destined primarily to European and North American populations who are hungry for high tech mountain bikes, but have lost their appetites for the dirty work that is required to create them."

This is completely wrong, on a huge level, massive. Very wrong!

The main reason bikes are not MANUFACTURED in the United States is because our own government made it cheaper to have products made in other countries, some due to NAFTA, some of it due to other International Trade deals. But, make no mistake, the US does not MANUFACTURE bikes like the Giant company because there would be no profit, or a very small market because of the cost of manufacturing handed to the customer. As where most customers are not sitting around a money tree that can pick up a custom shred-sled made in the US.

Example; a Colorado made Megatrail frame is $2000usd; while a Giant Reign 2 full build goes for $2,755.00.

And, since most people want a bike now, instead of building one with a budget, which is the most obvious choice?

It's not about "getting hands dirty", it's about supply and demand and budget.

So please, next time you do an article, try not to slander an entire countries manufacturing(or lack there of) because you didn't take the time to research why bikes are not MANUFACTURED in the US.
  • + 6
 Your comparison makes the difference in pricing between GG and Giant sound larger than it really is. Here's another comparison: Megatrail Ride 2 full build $2995. Giant Reign 2 full build $2755. ridegg.com/megatrail-ride-2
  • + 2
 Pole says that "7075 T6 aluminum is 1.7 times stronger than conventional bike alloy 6061 T6. This makes it possible to manufacture the frame to be much lighter than normal aluminum bikes." But Pole machined frame weights 3.2 kg without a shock which is one of the heaviest frame on the market. This does not make sense at all, am I missing some information?
  • + 0
 Hello Henri. We have weighted the carbon frames that actually carry loads that the bikers put on them and match the weight on them. Our frames are bigger and actually if you would make same size frame from carbon, you would get quite same weight. Actually the figure is 80% stronger.

The bottom line is that we want to be sure that the bike actually rides good and is not just light. You can use high modulus carbon fiber and get a light "stiff" but a weak bike.
  • + 1
 @polebicycles: Yes, it bothers me that RC said high modulus is high strength. High modulus refers to stiffness, and that can refer to Toray M40, which is considered high modulus, but not nearly as strong as T700 (standard modulus). M40 is very brittle. T800 is considered an intermediate modulus, and it improves on T700 in almost every way, kind of like 7005-T6 over 6061-T6; 7075-T6 even more so over these two.

They use high mod in frame design in strategic areas, where strength is not needed, but a good stiffness to weight ratio is demanded. Think back to big cross section thin-wall Cannondale alloy frames for an alloy comparison to high mod.

There are technologies for metal that offer all sorts of different properties and material grades, typically through alloying, tempering, and working techniques. For example, all these techniques combined often is what separates good knives/tools from low quality ones. Cryogenic treatment for XD-15 bearings is another, which greatly reduces wear rate against sliding. "Ceramic" technology was once brought into cycling, which I forget the details of, but I imagine it increased hardness at cost of ductility. Maybe the cycling industry can play with carbides or whatever else to differentiate and play the marketing game...

BTW, the Pole Machine can be compared to the new Santa Cruz Nomad CC frame (~3.3kg w/Super Deluxe).

I don't like how Pinkbike is practically a pseudo-industry trade group. This article just reads like RC researching a certain spin to help advance his stance, like typical political cherry picking. People who didn't know any of this at least have more info and can fact check, but still the influence is akin to brain washing. People will read this as there being no need to feel guilty about choosing carbon fiber amid eco controversy. I read it as a reminder that I should feel guilty for buying shit I don't need, or shit that's actually shit.

Oh and Pole's electrical energy comes mostly from clean and renewable sources.
  • + 1
 @Varaxis: BTW, the Pole Machine can be compared to the new Santa Cruz Nomad CC frame (~3.3kg w/Super Deluxe).

You forget what POLE not for persons with T-rex syndrome and it haw modern geometry.
  • + 2
 One easy way to reduce waste, whether it be carbon or aluminum or hard earned dollars is to make frames that are more versatile. Frames with adjustable geometry, massive tire sizes, multiple travel settings, etc. Reduce waste by giving us bikes with longer lasting and backwards compatible standards. Give us bike we want to keep for years, rather than something new to cover every season.
  • + 1
 Agreed. And realistically I’m not going to notice if my bike is a pound or 2 heavier than it is if that means I only need one and it can do everything. More importantly is it going to last. Durability is a metric id like to see more of. And saying it’s 60% stronger than aluminum that is 3mm or what ever is completely useless because will that actually translate in the real world to longevity?
  • + 2
 So here is a grand ol' idea I've had kicking around in my head for a while, that could really have some positive impacts all over the place and would perhaps be most realistic for carbon bicycle manufacturers due to fatigue resistance. A certified pre-owned resale for frames.
What if the manufacturers partnered with their local bike shops and distributors to help move used bikes.
You would bring your old frame to your local dealer and receive a trade-in credit. The manufacturer would subsidize this credit for the dealer. The dealer ships this frame to the manufacturer who performs a thorough inspection and x-ray to ensure the frame is not compromised. The manufacturer then certifies the frame and re-sells it at a significant savings to the consumer with an appropriate warranty through whatever channels they are using, be it direct to consumer or LBS. Manufacturer would still profit off the second sale, the LBS established a customer and made a sale or even two, the next consumer of the certified pre-owned frame saved a boat load of money on a frame they can trust and is warrantied, and you just executed the greatest form of recycling... Re-using. Too much to ask?
  • + 5
 Long article in a nutshell: Keep buying second hand and repair instead of replace everything you can.
  • + 2
 The last frame i built up, i bought for 20% of the MSRP because it had a crack in it, which I spent about 6 hours over the period of a week fixing myself, for about 50 bucks. I wonder what most bike companies do with the frames that are warranty returns, and why they wouldn't repair them and sell them as "factory seconds" or second-hand frames for cheaper than their new frames. Sure, if you ask Calfee to repair something small, it's generally about 300-400$ plus painting fees, but if it's keeping an entire frame from going into the landfill or somewhere else where its being chopped up, why not just have it repaired, sell it to someone that understands what they are buying, and make money off of it? I'm sure tons of people who aren't wealthy enough to cash out on a $3500 carbon frame would be more inclined to buy the same frame, returned and repaired by the factory, for like $2k. just saying.
  • + 1
 People need to come to terms with the fact that Carbon can be repaired to full strength. Just like when your car is damaged in an accident. Sure it affects the value of the car slightly, but with a bike frame, if it's been repaired, it's virtually worthless. No reason for that other than irrational uneducated fear.

Just like the guys talking about "fragile" carbon and how aluminum "doesn't break like that". Hysteria.
  • + 2
 Man there are alot of comments here. Thank you pinkbike for this article I have been waiting a long time to hear the truth about this one. Still i am unsure of the awnser as most people ive known with carbon frames that cracked.....ussually after a season or two have had them "replaced" by the manufacture. If that means two frames i dont know how much more sustainable that is. I mean some people break bikes of both materials. I have seens AL bikes go way longer tho.....soooo I dono yet. Maybe carbon will be more of a thing to repair in the future...currently I don't see this...both are bad fo the enviro....ride your bike as long as you can or at least keep it more than two years...all I can add the the comment section.
  • + 2
 interesting, so many ways to look at it. But if you want a shocking story of needless waste, then here you go:
storymaps.esri.com/stories/2017/batteries/index.html
yup, that 135 million phones to landfill in the USA each year and the battery is over 90%
  • + 1
 Carbon is not "relatively" new compared to aluminum. Graphite frames appeared in the early 1970s and Giant has been developing carbon frames since the 1980s. Yes lugged aluminum frames date to the 1930s or so, but similar to Carbon only really got going in the 1990s. Carbon lagged behind by about a decade, but to insinuate aluminum frame design and production is old technology and not changing is incorrect. Aluminum frames of today are far more advanced than they were 20 years ago just as carbon frames are. Do not misinterpret me as suggesting aluminum has much more advancement in it. It may have reached its pinnacle, I'm not arguing that.
  • + 1
 Great to have an informative article. It's such a big topic and nobody really knows the answer. Not even the material specialists due to lack of information through the entire suppliers chain. Bike frames are probably easier than other products, but it's a big question regularly for design engineer's.
Interesting that the tech you read it on... the companies that make the chips inside your device you read it on don't pay enough detail to the where and how for their compound's etc that go into IC's. They use well known companies for chemical break downs for Rohs, Reach etc. Unless of course you are American where you can still used leaded solder which has not been allowed for CE marked products for many years.
Its (EIA or Environmnetal Imoact Analysis) a big can of worms and often the source of pain for engineers in medical companies etc, especially these days with new manufacturers popping up all the time, buying legacy fabs from the old big boys who leave arenas due to price pressures.
  • + 1
 this kind of talk its to deep...
how about talking why manufactures are in Asia and not in US/Europe?
How much is manufacturing costs related to manpower? 40%of total cost?
How much is the profit of bike manufacturers? 40/50% markup?

regarding the article, just try to reduce the water you use in the bath and all could do much better than decidi g what material on the next bike
  • + 1
 I though it was a well written informative article, I'll stick with Ali frames, for now at least.
It's what I'm used to and I can't afford a carbon frame, let the rich boys blow the money now to fund better r&d into carbon then one day maybe I'll buy one when they have it sussed out
  • + 1
 At the end of the day, for me, while aluminum may not be "clean", I think it's clean-'er' than carbon. And since I am both cheap and lazy, I'll take aluminum since it's obviously less expensive to the consumer to purchase, and as a bike, generally more tolerant to abuse/negligence than carbon.
  • + 1
 With current tech aluminum makes more sense for reducing environmental impact. Take it from the ground once, then reuse countless times with moderate energy inputs. Carbon can't yet be effectively recycled, but once tech improves we should be able to recover more of the material without huge energy costs. People don't buy carbon to reduce their impact. They buy it for the weight, stiffness, shape, and bling factor. I buy aluminum bikes, but ease of recycling is way less of a factor in the decision than cost.
  • + 1
 Nihilism wins... All this is irrelevant because humans are a virus and unless we are eradicated from the earth we will, without a doubt, destroy this organism (planet)... So if you prefer steel over carbon or a bike over a car, in the end it won’t matter. Humans are incapable of avoiding hypocrisy! However, I do not doubt human ingenuity will eventually find a way to another host for us to consume.. good article though.
  • - 1
 Dude, the vast majority of humans have a couple of hundred years left (although I'm pretty sure the lizards with all the cash will make sure their kind survives). The Earth and multiple as-yet unheard of species will be here "forever". Thank your lucky stars we'll only see the beginning of the end.
  • + 2
 Pine box or cremation!?! The trail of karma is long and often unseen. Humans are not alone. Given the chance all living things will take their shot. Keep your eyes open and proceed with caution. In the end through me in the hole I made.
  • + 2
 Obviously you just want to find a reason to talk about nihilism, a nihilist finding purpose and meaning talking about nihilism how ironic!
  • + 1
 @tigerteeuwen: who said I was a nihilist? A troll maybe... Big Grin
  • + 1
 Ethics aside Aluminium uses a hell of a lot of carbon in the pots some smelters have over 700, each a ton and the anodes , yup also carbon but they burn through em and to add a bit more meat to the environmental argument spent pot liners , again made of carbon are toxic 700 tons of toxic as they get swapped out The japanese have been busted on a global scale for falsifying steel and aluminium data in their materials
  • + 1
 Don't know what everyone is celebrating. This article answers nothing because it couldn't put comparable stats together about tons of non-renewable resources per pound of frame material between the two on a lifecycle perspective. The ratio will blow your mind. Think computers are at least a 2000:1 ratio.

Even though the aluminum can be fully recycled, this is a guess at the non-renewable resource waste chain: (10 tonnes of ore waste per ore of bauxite mined in Australian open pits, tons of diesel burned to move ore in mine, ship by rail-to-port in Australia, ship and by sea-to-smelter (e.g. northern BC, Iceland), ship processed aluminum ignots from Smelter to taiwan, coal-fired baseload electricity to process ignots into frame parts in Taiwan, more diesel to ship final frame to end market globally. Once your frame is packed in, there is again more diesel to ship the frame back to the global smelter so it can be melted down again into aluminum ignots. That assumes renewable-powered smelting (Iceland, BC Hydroelectric) with little carbon emissions impact.

Compare that to carbon fibre, which could be extracted (oil), processed into fibres (e.g. maybe seattle), and molded into frames entirely in a domestic market (or maybe intra-europe as well using Russian Oil drawing a continental parallel here). Yes carbon fibre frame gets tossed in landfill but there is no hole dug in ground for the alumimum in a distant part of the world. Since every barrel of oil cannot be 100% used for transport, we might as well use a portion of that barrel for carbon fibre. Oil is produced everywhere. There is lots of it. At any price as the last decade has shown us.
In North America, Carbon Fibre could win since you could avoid the Australia-Smelter-Taiwan-North America materials-to-end-product transport & process chain. Answer is not easy, even if your frame started with 100% recylced aluminum. Give me some facts for once!!
  • + 1
 3200 liters / 12 hours is higher than I find googling around - but actually within the ballpark. I think numbers like 2200 - 2500 are typical. I don't think the article really covered extraction costs for petroleum, though - which probably aren't less than aluminum.
  • + 1
 First off Thank you for the article. I don't even mind that its over due. Aluminum or Carbon, makes no difference. The computer im typing on, the iphone we've all been told are amazing. Electric F'ing cars. Each on comes from some type of mining, drilling or chemical production. It all boils down to how responsible the company is with the production. I have been to a lithium mine that supplies to battery manufacturing, and I can tell you its "not so good" to saw it lightly. I have traveled to many places around the globe working with mining companies and petrol companies on efficiency and waste. I have seen amazing places with great strides in environmental upgrades, and also terrible places. It doesn't matter so much what you buy, its who you buy from. I also agree that at some point carbon will most likely be the way to go not because of recycling but its a little smaller impact on the environment at the beginning. If you feel so inclined to protest, protest your cell phone. It causes way more damage to be made and thrown away than a few thousand carbon bikes.
  • + 1
 Great Article. It appears I have largely been talking Sh1t3 on this front. So happy to be re educated. I was looking at replacing my 15 year old full working BMW just because its old and I fancied a change. I will probably keep that now. I think the most environmentally thing I can do is buy more carbon and alloy bikes and ride them more. It that simple!!.
  • + 1
 great article thank you! and lucky for me i got to read it before the comments section began....have to make a point to read articles hot off the press from here on in (or skip the comments section, but then id miss the one or two gems that make up for the remaining misery of the hive mind)
  • + 1
 I guess what PB is trying to do here is to give his own opinion about material selection for a mtb frame manufacturing.
That is a long article with solid research, however depending on the position of the reader this is possible that some conclusion goes in the wrong direction.
For product design, we can conduct what is called LCA or life cycle assessment. This gives the complete picture of the product impact. It also help to understand the difference from one product to another (for example power assisted product versus standard product) and its relative impact. This is useful to improve process drawbacks and so it can have great impact on product spec.

Bicycles are simple products but also really complex. This is through full LCA that it we can rule on what process or material is better than another.
179 pages of interesting data here

sites.duke.edu/specializedbikes/files/2014/02/Summary.pdf

sites.duke.edu/specializedbikes/files/2014/02/Duke_MP_REPublished.pdf

Everyone can give is opinion and criticize one solution or another. At least we all have choice and we are not forced to stick with any statement.
I would simply say to @polebicycles that they don’t necessarily need to argue too much about there choice, cause there concept speak by itself. Compared to conventional manufacturing, there new way of building bike frame allow similar level of design freedom than monocoque carbon frame. It seems they have the recipe to do it efficiently in mass production at relatively low price for high end level.
But this is just bike, so dudes, don’t care too much about all these comments and keep going
  • + 1
 I guess what PB is trying to do here is to give his own opinion about material selection for a mtb frame manufacturing.
That is a long article with solid research, however depending on the position of the reader this is possible that some conclusion goes in the wrong direction.
For product design, we can conduct what is called LCA or life cycle assessment. This gives the complete picture of the product impact. It also help to understand the difference from one product to another (for example power assisted product versus standard product) and its relative impact. This is useful to improve process drawbacks and so it can have great impact on product spec.

Bicycles are simple products but also really complex. This is through full LCA that it we can rule on what process or material is better than another.
179 pages of interesting data here

sites.duke.edu/specializedbikes/files/2014/02/Summary.pdf

sites.duke.edu/specializedbikes/files/2014/02/Duke_MP_REPublished.pdf

Everyone can give is opinion and criticize one solution or another. At least we all have choice and we are not forced to stick with any statement.
I would simply say to @polebicycles that they don’t necessarily need to argue too much about there choice, cause there concept speak by itself. Compared to conventional manufacturing, there new way of building bike frame allow similar level of design freedom than monocoque carbon frame. It seems they have the recipe to do it efficiently in mass production at relatively low price for high end level.
But this is just bike, so dudes, don’t care too much about all these comments and keep going
  • + 4
 Decide which you prefer, then be a dick about it. It's a tradition among cyclists.
  • + 1
 Honest question here... Hopefully @polebicycles can add some color... if pole is able to mill the internal cavities of a frame into a piece of aluminum and later mill the exterior shapes and bond them together and then offer that as a frame for $4k USD, why on earth would it cost so much for a CF frame mold? It seems to me that the milling of innards of a “machine” frame gets you awfully close to a CF frame mold. What makes actual CF mold cost orders of magnitude more than what seems to be just one step of pole’s manufacturing process?
  • + 2
 The factories who produce molds do charge for design and production. The molds are more like one off stuff than stems for example so you need more cash for one piece. There are a lot of testing involved for example. The steel they use is a bit more expensive and polished mold needs more time. The last part is that on carbon frame you need more molds for each sizes. Here you can save cost on the cost of looks or go individual molds for each frame size. If you make big batches is more reasonable to make individual molds. Cheaper way to make different sizes is to find an angle to the down- and toptube and just stretch the connection point from size XS or make two basic molds etc. There are many ways. Basically if you just think about this labor, material and machining time you will end up with five figure numbers.

The molds need service as RC said in the article so there are more cost in there. The manufacturing time for one unit is quite big if you calculate the EPS mold, silicone, prepreg, prepreg cut, laying, curing, machining, bonding, sandblast, precoat, sanding, prepaint, paint, stickers, clearcoat.

Here is a good channel to see what quality the mass produced carbon bicycle products actually are: www.youtube.com/channel/UCY9JUMYI54lLOHpb_zbIedQ
  • + 1
 As an article its a good start. The article touches very lightly on scope 1,2 and 3 emissions but doesnt really bottom this issue out which has a significant impact on the planet. Maybe a follow on article on the cost of moving this stuff around the world would be useful, not to compare materials but to make mountainbikers more aware of the environmental cost of their upgrade?
  • + 1
 Wow, thanks for this excellent article. I’m definitely glad I read this thoughtful and thorough review of the processes involved to make both carbon and aluminum frames. It seems entirely honest about the limitations, advantages, and challenges for both materials.

I still love my 90’s GT aluminum frame. It seems indestructible to me and I’m hopeful my relatively new carbon frames will last as long. I tend not to destroy stuff even though I’ve had my share of over the handlebar wipeouts in my day. I feel more hopeful the carbon frames will last long enough for my young boys to ride them someday after reading this than I did before; I feel better about the purchase of carbon now as well.
For purposes of riding uphill as well as down, there’s no doubt in my mind that the lightest available frame and accessories are also the most desirable!

Excellent work RC. Thank you.
  • + 1
 Lets also be clear about carbon fibre. This stuff was invented in the 1800's and refined into a so called "wonder meterial" in the 1960s. It is not new and is as common as tracksuit on a council estate. I staggers me that people still accept the stupid prices for this stuff. Unbelievably people still think its the latest tech in mountain biking but it just isnt, so stop it! I was riding a carbon DH bike 22 years ago....oh and it snapped by the way. It is complete total crap that carbon costs more than metal to produce. Refuse to pay the over inflated prices and guess what...the prices will come down to sensible levels. There is absolutely no reason that a carbon bike should cost more than a high grade aluminium bike in this day and age.
  • + 1
 The article put a lot of facts out there, which is great. It went above and beyond so many other articles we get to see as consumers. However, it didn't present the facts in an even manner, in my opinion. It felt like a puff piece for carbon fiber when it was said and done. Sure there was lip service paid to "there's no wrong answer", but the pros and cons were such that the path to carbon was much more positively spun.

This is a great example:
"If your bicycle frame is made of carbon, that hole is 12 to 30 inches wide and oil comes out of it. If it is aluminum or steel, well, those holes can be seen from space."

If you want to talk about a single instance of 1 "hole" itself, sure... but it's a vast understatement in regards to any actual oil extraction operation. Where's the picture of a huge plot of oil wells?

themorningnews.org/gallery/oil
cdn5.img.sputniknews.com/images/102937/43/1029374306.jpg

A little more than just an innocuous little hole, isn't it? Yet, only actual imagery of a bauxite mine was shown. I just found that odd. There's other examples, but that was the most egregious one to me.

In the end, I still like the article. Again, it contained a lot of really good information. I'd rather this than the alternative- an article based on hearsay and internet opinions. I just think it was a little skewed, I encourage people to do research beyond this article before they make any "real decisions", but this is a nice starting point.
  • + 1
 I’ve been in manufacturing for years. Great article, needed to be done. I personally knew all of this going in.
Now here’s my actual opinion- those that can’t afford high dollar bikes will always need to vent about those that can.
Some homeless guy once acused me of not being “green” because I put 5k in my aluminum frame bike.
As if I just built an SUV.
Guess I should have gone to Walmart for a racebike.
  • + 1
 Searching this massive thread didn't find it, but do any bike manufacturers use all or a % of post consumer recycled content for aluminum feed stock? That would lower the total impact of a life cycle assessment of the frame and help keep metal scrap prices higher.
  • + 1
 How people can say metal is cleaner then carbon is beyond me. I’ve worked in Foundery’s making aerospace components not bikes but it’s the same in all the factory’s. They are dirty polluting places. The amount of oil wasted to cool the cutting head on a cnc machine. The amount of energy used to keep a blast Furnace at operating temp when it’s not been used or to power a centrifuge you can fit 20 people inside . And then there’s the tons of sawdust we used the throw onto the steel slugs in the drop forge to stop the slug sticking to the die not to mention the 100 lorry’s a day picking up and dropping of supplies. But in the same factory we also made carbon false limbs, that room was so clean I used to go there to eat my lunch. But that’s just my opinion from a manufacturing point
  • + 1
 Most of the money you spend will eventually be spent on energy somewhere down the chain. Since most of the world's energy is non-renewable, then the carbon footprint is proportional to the purchase price. Aluminium is cheaper...
  • + 1
 Congrats on a great piece Richie. I miss you on the EWS videos. In my opinion You were loads better than the current bloke doin' the videos. It's time for the alloy buffs to get off their high horse and realise that both materials are damaging to the environment in different ways.
  • + 1
 Just figured out after posting that you are not Cunynghame lol. So disregard about the ews vids lol. They still need to bring back Richard Cunynghame though ;-)
  • + 3
 Awesome article giving real info and not based on conjecture. Can you please do one on the REAL impacts e-bikes have on a trail.
  • + 1
 Turner is right: squirrel cages. E bikes or no e bikes, carbon or metal, those who live near any population centers are destined for squirrels cages.
  • + 2
 Most of us aren't worried about impacts on the trail. It is the impact on trail ACCESS that we are worried about. The people who rally against mtb trails rally even harder agains motorized use.
  • + 1
 @pacificnorthwet: I get that but the reason that ACCESS is an issue is because people believe that they do more harm to trails and put other trail users at more risk than regular mtbs.
Traditionally motorized use boiled down to dirt bikes etc which ARE loud, WAY faster, tear up trails etc and there are valid reasons for separating them from other trail users.
With e-bikes those issues are a lot more subtle or even nonexistent IMHO.
  • + 1
 Oh the whole a well written and informative article. I have one issue though (and I apologise if this has already been said) but how can any bike currently be a bike for life when the standards keep changing and you can no longer buy components that fit it?
  • + 1
 Do people actually recycle their bikes? I've never heard of anyone doing that, it's either keep them for good times or sell them used. This to me sounds like the most 'environmental' way to deal with a bike you don't want anymore
  • + 1
 Yea but at some point they are off to the bin and therefore recycling are they not?

If not there will be garages stuffed with old relics of bikes.
  • + 1
 Recycling is the last resort. First reduce, then re-use.
  • + 1
 Never a whole bike, but all the broken parts.
  • + 1
 Richard Cunningham-
Did you take into consideration the amount of people that touch a carbon frame from initial pre-preg to cutting patterns(some now using CNC plotters), to lay up and then the finishing work/ sanding prep. I recon at least 25-50 people handle one carbon frame as it moves through its various stages of MFG'ng.
Headcount is way above what an aluminum frame requires and that should weigh in on environmental impact, curious how that rolls up both financially and environmentally
  • + 1
 having visited both carbon and alloy bike/component factories (along with other industries) in three Asian countries and two "western' countries, Ill say that the standards of ppe supplied and needed for both methods vary greatly from factory to factory. if given a choice what material I had to work with but not knowing where that would be I would pick alloy hands down-I still ride carbon bikes/parts though even having visited where some of those items were made and being unimpressed.
  • + 1
 One of the most interesting articles I've read on Pinkbike (or anywhere) in a while.

It took me hours to get through. I ended up going off on tangents to read more about: bauxite, TIG welding, Pole's Machine, the design of aluminum cans, Oak Ridge Laboratory, We Are One Composites, Toray Composites careers in Tacoma, Boeing's production line, etc.

Well worth the time spent.
  • + 1
 I want carbon so I can be better for the environment. Unfortunately the cost differential over aluminum is so great I’ll have to work on the oil rigs again to afford one. Being green is easy if you have dough but if making dough costs pollution: what’s a peasant to do?
  • + 1
 I owned two Foes bikes over the course of 10 years, and have nothing but respect for Brent Foes and his products. If you want an experts opinion on the matter, look at his explanation on his website. Not like he doesn't know what he is talking about.

Personally, I will never own CF. Having ridden the Shore as long as I have I remember well seeing early bikes of CF "interact" with granite rock. Nope. Not for me. At least metal dents and you can still ride the thing.

And if this is an environmental debate, you could call the CF frame more friendly if you like, but I bet the person buying it (especially if it is $10k or more) more likely the person whom has an abode, vehicle, material goods, extra things (since money doesn't grow on trees)......the environmental angle of this debate is moot if you look at the bigger picture. Almost seems to me the CF conglomerate is trying to "shame" us into CF bikes since the debate of them being better or not is not entirely cut and dried.

If it was really about environmental concerns, why not a bike out of bamboo, which is strong enough to be used as scaffolding, some species of which can grow up to 3 feet a day (yes). And I though bamboo was only good enough for fly rods.
  • + 1
 Remember all the fuss about water bottles containing BPA and how it's bad for you? Epoxy resins are mostly BPA. The carbon fiber energy use is only one factor. The toxicity of BPA and other components of the epoxy are the real issue.
  • + 1
 Redemption for RC?

I agree with his sentiments on carbon, up to a point - its a great material and subject to proper design of the frame, is probably as durable or more so than aluminium. But, if its not designed properly, it will not be better. I rode a carbon frame for 2.5 years and it cracked where the seat tube meats the BB. That's not repairable damage according to the manufacturer. I have never cracked an aluminium frame, even a cheap one and I can't see my aluminium replacement ever cracking in that area.

That said, I'd buy another carbon frame because design and manufacturing processes have got better
  • + 1
 Hey Gonzo, with all your hyperbole you forgot the Royalties issue, the Billions of Dollars that are paid by the Bauxite industry to the sovereign Country whom hosts the industry for use of the Countries assets and commodities. The money that flows to Consolidated Revenue to pay for schools, education, public housing, roads, water services, social services. So you are saying that the industry pays its workers, rehabilitates and must be transparent about environmental issues and rehabilitation, creates employment and job opportunities and contributes to the Country in payroll tax and tax revenue benefit from wages to the Govt, and then has to pay again as often a major source if GDP to a country to use the Bauxite to turn into a saleable and exportable product, or creates its own down stream process industries and spawn further economic activity and benefit.? So it pays for the roads for me to get to MTBing, the fuel subsidies to drive to MTBing, has made my car substantially more economic and lighter and efficient, and if I stack has paid for the hospital attend and the doctors and nurses to fix me up. Composites are not even in the same ball park RC, and a balanced and complete assessment would prove what a lot of hot air your assessment is with pre conceived and industry supported biases.
  • + 1
 Well written and researched. Only comment is that Epoxy curing is not a catalytic process. Nor is a catalyst mixed to the glue. That is polyester you are thinking of. Epoxy is a two component Polymer where they are mixed at a very accurate ratio, depending on the make and type. It is a cross-linking crystalization process where everything from one component reacts to everything of the other. Hence the importance of correct mixture ratio. Epoxy does not give off toxic gasses, unless the mixture is wrong and it starts to burn...
  • + 1
 Interesting article. This brings to light a lot of questions that I have limited ability to answer as a relatively uninformed (not in the cycling industry) bike consumer. Bikes should be well made and fun, but like everything else, I try to vote with my dollars.

I wonder if there is any insight into going with smaller manufacturers for frames components with different materials, as opposed to larger ones- i.e. We Are One vs Reynolds or stand carbon?

Carbon rims create some opportunities to examine comparisons between many types of manufacturers, and the livelihoods of people working there, as well as environmental practice. There are large, generally non-transparent companies using asian manufacturing, smaller asian manufacturers that seem to be somewhat transparent and independent (like Light bicycle), and now We Are One and Enve based in North America, and seemingly making an effort to be transparent.
  • + 2
 Every carbon frame i have ever owned i cracked. But this is not the case with aluminum. Also, bike manufactures do not offer to repair their cracked carbon fiber frames. But will gladly sell you another at small discount.
  • + 2
 They won't offer to repair their alloy frames either.... But they'll sell you a new one for discount. What's your point? Carbon can be repaired extremely well leaving it just as strong. Most offer long warranties on their repairs... Alloy, maybe you weld on a plate, but it won't be warranties..
  • + 1
 I know it sucks, even for xc riding, it still cracks, it's junk
  • + 2
 @markar: I am heavier than the average Rider and carbon scares me. The amount of broken carbon frames compared to broken aluminum frames that come through my LBS is almost 5 to 1. Carbon may be stronger but I don't think the bike manufacturer have gotten it totally figured out yet. I'll stick with a little heavier bike that I feel safe on.
  • + 2
 @BeerGuzlinFool: yeah good idea! I don't think the majority will see all the cracked frames unless you work at a bike shop, the warranty hassle is not worth it, people have been brainwashed into believing it's better haha
  • + 0
 These bikes manufacturers can label the bike 7075 or 6061 whatever, the average consumer can't tell the difference! They have probably been labeling bikes since for all we know cause 6062 is cheaper for them, but charge the consumers on 7075s! Buy carbon frames, no one will be here long enough to feel any of the environmental impact since the earth is also naturally producing carbon from forest fires and volcano's! We're doing more damage driving our electric cars and E-bikes!
  • + 1
 Great article pinkbike. Let's make this as knowledge not for debating. Personally I choose the aluminum due to the price..that's all. And other people have another reasons..????????????????????????????
  • + 0
 Carbon is for suckers, saving 1 pound isn't worth the hassle of dealing with a cracked frame, my point of view is xc, everyone I know almost has cracked multiple frames, I haven't cracked one aluminum frame in 30 years so it's scary to see a friend fall over and discover his frame is cracked! No thanks
  • + 1
 I would much rather have Titanium, a material that actually will last a lifetime. It's a shame that more builders don't use it. Price and weight are comparable to titanium and the life cycle is 100 times that of carbon.
  • + 1
 Well made carbon fiber parts will definitely last a lifetime. Carbon fiber is so strong that for relatively crude, low tech parts like bicycle frames there is essentially an endurance limit that is well beyond (in terms of stress) that of titanium or steel.
  • + 2
 I've broken 3 aluminum frames, one titanium frame and one steel frame over the years. I've had at least a half dozen carbon frames and never broke one.
  • + 1
 How exactly do you break that many frames??
  • + 3
 @schofell84: I've been riding mountain bikes since the 70s. Busted frames included a Bridgestone MB1, GT Xizang, Fischer hardtail, Niner hardtail, and Pivot 429 Al. Anything wears out if you ride it enough, but I haven't been able to do in my Santa Cruz, Pivot, or Ibis carbon frames. Part of that may be that at 70, I don't ride hard enough to hurt them anymore:-)
  • + 1
 @bde1024: congrats on riding at 70, and for owning a Xizang. That thing was the polished total hotness.
  • + 1
 : I'd base my judgement on your age and manufacturing techniques, not material type.
  • + 1
 Kind of bummed no one mentioned new aluminum filler metals which allow you to repair frames without annealing- Just a quick heat treat in the oven and its stronger than T6. Maxal 4943
  • + 1
 Great article! And do not forget, that aluminum production, requires a huge amount of electricity. The production of electricity is very far from being good for the environment.
  • + 1
 Lot of info there, but I think the real takeaway is that if you don't play golf then you can buy as many carbon bikes as you want without any guilt at all. Hell, you're basically captain planet.
  • + 5
 I rode my bike today.
  • + 1
 Regarding the aesthetics, I find well made alumium frames at least as appealing as fancy carbon frames. Just look at those older Intense frames with their amazing weld seams for example. RAW beauty.
  • + 0
 "if I gave a million dollars to an aluminum factory to improve a frame, and did the same to a carbon factory, I doubt the aluminum version would be significantly better than the best aluminum bikes are today."

this is the reason I would go Al!!!
I don't pay to receive under-development things...
sorry
  • + 2
 So I need to go start up a bike company that only relies on Boeing’s scrap carbon for production,build them locally and sell direct to consumer.hmm
  • + 2
 Talking about bike material because we have choice but nobody cares about Smartphones, Tvs, Computers because we can't live without Smile that's f*cking irony
  • + 0
 How could he have missed steel? It is easily repaired and recycled. In fact, they dump scrap steel in the furnace along with the new stuff so recycling is almost inherent. I expect my British made steel bike to be made from British sourced steel (doesn't that go, for Reynolds tubing)? Haven't been there but I've been down the Kiruna mine (Sweden) a fair while ago and conditions were neat: www.pinkbike.com/photo/15605878. In fact I think they nowadays almost exclusively use remote controlled robots operated by adult women under fair worker conditions (as according to the guide women happen to cause less damage to the robots). I also think CO2 emissions for aluminium and carbon are about equal whereas for steel it is considerably lower.

Despite this obvious omission the article seems nicely done. Just don't look blindly at the distance materials travel. Transportation of a custom carbon frame from Barcelona to South Germany doesn't necessarily require less energy than a mass produced aluminium frame shipped from Taiwan to London.
  • + 0
 Because the sht storm has been about making frames from aluminium for awoke as fk creative class vs carbon for dentists and sea mammals
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: Yeah but then again to make the discussion of any use, you can't ignore an important frame material like steel. People don't go "I need a new frame, should it be aluminium or carbon" but just consider a number of frames and if they're made of different materials and they're interested in the environmental impact side of it, an article like this could be informative. Sure if someone is set on a certain model, some brands offer it it with either an aluminium or a carbon frame. But then again others (Commencal comes to mind) offer an aluminium or a steel variation and again some other brands again (like Stanton or On-One) offer a frame model in either steel or titanium. So in this context it is a bit limiting to merely compare carbon and aluminium. Sure I know about the "ocean fill" comment but that one is going the way of the "looks like a session". If someone would ever dedicate an article to such a statement it would be so much more interesting (if possible) to include other frequently copied appearances like the On-One 456, Wellgo B-25 pedal and the Shimano XT cassette. No not for me either but I wouldn't be surprised the "looks like a session" crowd would be jumping with joy.
  • + 0
 @vinay: Ok let's say I buy the BTR Pinner? And so what? That's just a frame that needs components to be mounted on it in order to make it a bike. Exactly same ones as come on some horrifying plastic crap from AliExpress. All the parts will be shipped to me with cars, trains and even planes, in tens of cardboard boxes, with plastic wrapping and "anti US lawyers installation manuals". I will change tyres on it, drive it on the back of my car, take it on a lift. Buy plenty of plastic clothing and protection in order to ride on it. You may want to bring as much value and meaning to it but the reality is frame material is a drop in the ocean. Off course your values are precious to you and ought to be respected by others.
  • + 1
 We love steel too, but this article was big enough as it is and the vast majority of high end MTB production today is aluminum or carbon.
  • + 1
 @brianpark: That's a tricky one to bring up. Many of the high end builders work with steel pretty much exclusively. I'd still have to come across someone who's tested a Starling and a carbon or aluminium bike with the same spec and the same price that doesn't consider the Starling at least as good. And that's only one brand. My impression is that in steel and even in mass production, companies forgo the lowest end stuff you see in aluminium and also starts to emerge in carbon. It is at least decent but more likely at least something special or quite good. Maybe my rose tinted glasses are playing tricks on me again. I do know some of these brands only build to order and as such may not qualify as production stuff. But considering PB also reviews some bikes close to 10k in value, that kind of money gets a fully from Portus Cycles that is a true work of art too.

@WAKIdesigns : Yeah I get your point but that kind of goes for this entire article, doesn't it? The thing is indeed, if you want to make a conscious decision on where you want to reduce your footprint, you can't but break it down. And yeah some of these measures only do help the tiniest bit. I'm never going to decide for others which measures to take or leave. If you really want to eat meat then I'm not going to stop you (within reason). If you really like to drive your car for a hour every week to get to the trailhead for your weekly ride then yeah, if that is what it takes. My impression was that this article was aimed at readers who were apparently concerned about the environmental impact of the production of their bicycle frame. Yes it is only a small part of the bike and most likely the longest lasting but yeah if the concern is there and you're going to dedicate an article to it then you'd just as well be complete.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: But did I increase my carbon footprint by putting a drivetrain and suspension on a hunk of the stuff? Sounds like I didn't.
  • + 0
 I had considered a carbon bike, not that I am that good, but getting old and need every advantage I can get. This past weekend I was at a trailhead and I guy was unloading a sweet carbon bike with a huge rubbed spot on the downtube. He said while transporting it had rubbed against something and it went pretty deep into the carbon. No thanks
  • + 2
 That garbage photo seems like fake news.

No empty coffee cups or cans of red bull? No half eaten donuts or Kleenex!

Staged!
  • + 4
 There's a difference between manufacturing waste and lunchroom waste. I'm pretty glad those folks are not eating timbits while laying up rims.
  • + 2
 Those all get upcycled into teslas more donuts
  • + 0
 @bishopsmike: so your telling me the glazing on tim bits and carbon is different? Who would of thought...
  • + 2
 Ok cycling is not so ecologic... Every time you produce something... you waste something... But you give a job to someone that feed his childrens... So take my money!!!
  • + 3
 The best material is Titanium...then Steel...obviously.
  • + 2
 Great article! I am looking forward to seeing the first one piece 3D Aluminum bike. This will turn the table again
  • + 0
 Great article, props for posting this Pinkbike/RC. In the end there is probably no "ultimate superior" material. Each and every one of us has responsibilities for the world we live in.
  • + 1
 I wonder how this article would change its tune when we discover we've contaminated most of our drinking water looking for oil...
  • + 1
 I myself would like to build my own bike, or something of the sort. I like to build my thing. DIY. It all depends on what someone want.