Being on the road for about 25 k every year, my material is sacred. One of the best upgrades I once made, was the switch to carbon road bike wheels. It seems like a logical choice, yet I hesitated. After all, there are also rock-solid aluminum wheels. And each of these types, carbon or aluminum has its advantages. Therefore, today an article about carbon road wheels vs aluminum road wheel. Hopefully this article will help you make the right choice of wheels once and for all.
Table of Content
Different factors in the aluminum vs carbon road wheel comparison
Carbon is more expensive than aluminium. This is a fact, and there’s no real way around it.
The price difference between carbon road bike wheels and aluminum road bike wheels can vary from brand to brand, but we’ve found that on average carbon wheels are about $500 – $1,000 more expensive than their aluminum counterparts.
Durability & strength
We’ve already established that carbon is lighter and stiffer than aluminium, but it’s also more durable. As a material, carbon has a higher tensile strength than aluminium so it’s less likely to deform under load.
In addition to being stronger and more resistant to damage from impacts or fatigue (the stress on the wheel caused by pedal strokes), carbon wheels are also more likely to hold their shape over time. If you have an accident with your bike and break one of your front wheels, for example, an alloy wheel could crack in half but a carbon wheel will more likely bend without fracturing completely into pieces.
Aluminum has a strength of about 500 kilonewtons compared to carbon fiber which can have up to 1600 kilonewtons of strength. The strength-to-weight ratio of carbon is higher than that of aluminium. This means that a carbon wheel will be able to withstand more force per unit weight than an equivalent aluminium wheel. In other words, a carbon road bike wheel can take more abuse without becoming bent or damaged.
Does this mean aluminum is a weak metal? No, not really. You still get a lot of strength bucks for your money. Aluminium is an incredibly strong metal that’s used in many different applications ranging from aerospace components to bike frames. It’s light too, which means you can get a lot of strength with a small amount of weight. All this adds up to make it ideal for making bicycle components like rims and frames. While aluminum frames cannot typically be repaired, they are less expensive to replace. Aluminum can also withstand some crashes and impacts and still be okay to ride.
Simple, although aluminum bikes are in general light weight, nothing can beat the strength-weight ratio of carbon. Few materials can come close to carbon fiber’s strength-to-weight ratio.
Carbon wheels are lighter and more aerodynamic than aluminium wheels. Because of this, they’re faster on the flats and in headwinds. They also offer a better power transfer in acceleration situations, as well as smoother rolling on rough surfaces like cobblestones or gravel roads.
Aluminium wheels are heavier and less aerodynamic than carbon fibre ones, which makes them slower on straightaways but they actually have an advantage when it comes to climbing (especially if you have a rear-wheel drive bike). You’ll find that most people who are riding bikes with aluminium rims tend to be more experienced cyclists who know what they’re doing—there’s nothing wrong with having an aluminium wheel set if you’re one of those people!
Carbon is a much better conductor of heat than aluminium. So you’ll find that carbon road bike wheels dissipate heat better. They’re also more aerodynamic and have a higher strength to weight ratio than aluminium rims, as well as weight savings over the entire wheel (including spokes).
Aluminium has a lower specific gravity than carbon fiber when both materials are dry, but when wet aluminium actually weighs more than carbon fiber because it absorbs water more readily. This makes aluminium less durable in wet conditions because it’s heavier and doesn’t dry out as quickly.
Summary aluminum vs carbon road wheel
Carbon gives you the best of both worlds while aluminium has a lower price and more durability
Carbon road bike wheels are lighter than aluminium, making them faster. However, they’re also more expensive. Carbon also has better aerodynamics than aluminium, so you can use less energy to propel yourself forward on your bike. The material nevertheless is more expensive. Carbon road bike wheels are lightweight, stiff and have a low rolling resistance. They can be difficult to manufacture though and that’s exactly why they are more expensive than their aluminum counterparts.
Aluminium is cheaper than carbon but doesn’t offer the same weight savings as its competitor material. You’ll notice if your bike weighs more with an aluminium wheel set compared to one made of carbon fibre. This material also conducts heat better than carbon fibre. This means that it’s easier for your tires to get hot during long rides or races where you have to climb steep inclines under harsh condition. Aluminium road bike wheels offer better value for money and are much easier to produce. On the other hand they’re heavier and less aerodynamic than carbon ones.
Because aluminium conducts heat well, the metal itself works better at absorbing the heat generated by braking or pedalling than other materials would – preventing overheating and helping to keep your hands cool on long rides (or if you’re pushing hard). If something does happen though, such as when your wheel hits a pothole or curb at speed, then aluminium’s good conductivity helps dissipate this extra energy quicker so you don’t need worry about sudden bursts of heat damaging your rim or spokes
I hope our article about carbon road bike wheels vs aluminium road bike wheels has helped you understand the differences between these two materials and how they affect your choice in wheel. While performance is not the only factor when choosing a wheel, it is an important one. You should also consider price and durability. And whether or not you want to invest in a pair of wheels that will last for years or save money now but have to replace them within months due to wear on the rims from riding on rough surfaces such as gravel roads or trails through forests where there are no roads at all! Personally, I have gone for carbon wheels. I saved the money to buy them and since I am a fanatic cyclist, a velofanatic 🙂 , I always want the lightest and most aerodynamic option.