Over the last few years I’ve been fortunate enough to try bikes in almost every material. Aluminium, steel, titanium and carbon fibre across a variety of price points.
As someone who has budget challenges and can’t spend as much as I’d like on bikes, I’m always trying to work out what will give me the best bang for my buck on bikes and I figure that there’s lots of us in this position.
I seem to have got to the point that if I could share the knowledge I have now with the me when I was beginning I would have pointed them to a post like this.
It’s my view that there have been some terrific aluminium road frames released in the last couple of years that provide fantastic performance for the money and my list of these follows.
Some I’ve ridden, some I’ve not but they all should make for a fantastic road bike that is light, fast, comfortable and won’t require a second mortgage…. for many of us (myself probably included) they’re all the bike and performance we’ll need to really enjoy our riding.
Rose Xeon RS 3000
I was lucky enough to try a new Xeon RS 3000 at the Rose Bikes press launch last summer. Lucky also that I got lost when out on this bike, so spent a bit longer riding it. I was blown away with how good it rode in this build with full Ultegra and Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels. Light, fast, smooth, comfortable with a really nice ride feel – it did everything well. Rose say that a size small frame is around 1,000 gms making it super light for an aluminium frame, with a matching fork that weighs in around 300 gms. Impressive. Only available as a complete bike but amazing value at around £1400 delivered to you, considering that the wheels and groupset alone will cost you around £1,000 if you shop around. This is a seriously good bike for the money: http://www.rosebikes.co.uk/bike/rose-xeon-rs-3000-748264/aid:748387
It’s a bike I’d be very pleased to own. The only catch with Rose is you have to be comfortable buying online. On the plus side you can tweak almost every aspect of the build, but the standard spec is good enough that you might not feel the need. A terrific choice (and particularly fetching in the anodized black finish)
Another very fine aluminium frameset I’ve been lucky enough to ride is the Bowman Palace (you can read my review here). Selling for a competitive £650 as a frameset (frame, fork, headset and seat collar), buying a Bowman is a chance to support a small new company, which most of us don’t normally get a chance to do. If you choose to, you’ll be rewarded with a frame that’s light, fast, comfortable and fine handling. I thoroughly enjoyed riding the Palace and was sad to see it go back as I think I’d still be happily riding it. For a first frame to market for Bowman, it’s an impressive and fine riding debut that gave a good ride quality and road feel, terrific road manners and a lightweight at around 1200gms for the frame. The only downside I could find with the Bowman is that it’s externally routed, so no Di2 compatibility. It’s a minor issue as most people would build this up with a great mid range mechanical groupset like Ultegra or SRAM force. One plus for the Bowman most others on this list will struggle with, is clearance for 28mm tyres (no mudguards though). Wider tyres will make a big difference to comfort although on the bike I tested even with 23mm tyres, I was really impressed by the comfort.
Find out more here: http://bowman-cycles.com/palace/
Kinesis have over many years of designing great all weather aluminium race bikes for UK conditions built a well-deserved following and fine reputation. The Aithein is their own super light alloy frameset that’s had terrific reviews. I have to confess that I’ve never ridden one but I know owners who love them and I’ve been impressed with the ones I’ve seen in the flesh. I was originally led to believe that it was a frameset designed for riding flat out for a couple of hours with no quarter given to comfort but I’ve seen reviews and spoken to owners who’ve said they’re actually surprisingly comfortable.
Available in some fantastic colour choices including Sweet Orange Metallic and Sick Green Metallic as well as an attractive anodized black, the Aithein, weighs in at 1200 gms for a 56cm (with a 330 gm tapered carbon fork), retails for £650 and includes a matching tapered carbon fork and a headset. The only catch with the Aithein is the weight limit of 14 stone or 89 kgs. I’ve heard of a few people being caught out by that. If you are, but still fancy a Kinesis – the 4S is also a terrific all-rounder (I owned and reviewed the 4S when it was called the TK3)
More info on the Aithein here: http://www.kinesisbikes.co.uk/products/racelight/aithein
Trek Emonda ALR
A new entry to the high end lightweight aluminium frameset market is the new Trek Emonda ALR, available as a frameset for £700 retail or as a complete 105 build for £1300 or an Ultegra version for £1700. Like it’s super light carbon cousin, the aluminium ALR drops weight to an impressive 1050 gms for a size 56cm frame, complete with a lifetime warranty and 275lb (124kg) weight limit for the rider. Trek say they’re using an invisible weld technique that reduces the amount of metal needed but increases the strength. I’m tempted to believe them given the weight limit and the lifetime warranty. The Emonda ALR also uses Trek’s excellent H2 geometry which I’m a big fan of. It’s a good choice for all but the fastest and most aggressive riders and fantastic for a weekend warrior like myself. Comfortable, fast and fine handling, it’s a geometry many riders will quickly be at one with. Personally I’d build it up from a frameset but it’s great to see a couple of solid build choices available. It’s a new model, so I’ve not ridden one or seen one in the flesh yet, but I was excited to see it launched. I expect to read good reviews on this bike in due course.
More info here: http://www.trekbikes.com/uk/en/bikes/road/performance_race/emonda_alr/
You can order one here and here
Canyon Ultimate AL SLX
Another highly respected lightweight aluminium frameset is from another German direct brand – Canyon. The Ultimate AL SLX is available as a frameset or in a number of builds. With a frameweight of around 1200 gms – it’s once again bang on as a super light contender. Currently the frameset is on special offer at £560 and there’s even a tasty Dura Ace build featuring a pair of £1300 Reynolds Assault carbon clinchers for £2475 including delivery (and not forgetting a Dura Ace groupset is the best part of £1000 on it’s own, you’re getting the frame and build for a couple of hundred pounds! It’s also a complete bike weighing in at under 7kgs! Even the more modestly specced Ultegra version (similarly specced to the Rose above) weighs in at 7.25kgs complete (according to Canyon).
You can find out more about the Canyon here: https://www.canyon.com/en/roadbikes/series/ultimate-al-slx.html
The CAAD10 is somewhat of a modern classic and can perhaps be argued was the frameset to start it all. It’s looking a little long in the tooth now as the design is a few years old and most of the contemporaries here are much more modern. However it’s still got a fine reputation, it’s light and the price for the frameset has got cheaper over the years to now be £700. The geometry is a little low in the front end, so check that’s going to work for you – it’s a bit aggressive for me personally but I see plenty of happy riders out on them. Even if it’s getting on a bit, it’s still a fine, well-respected and well-proven choice. Also available in a number of builds including 105 for £1299 and Ultegra for £1699.
You can find out more about the Cannondale here: http://www.cannondale.com/uk_gb/2015/bikes/road/elite-road/caad10
Any of these fantastic aluminium frames will give you a bike that you’ll absolutely love riding. They’ll be fast, fun, engaging, involving and you won’t have to worry so much about looking after them as you would a carbon bike. For those of you out there that only consider carbon frames, you’re missing out. Ignore these and it’s your loss.
Thanks for reading, and please ask any questions in the comments.
*I appreciate that we all have definitions of what’s affordable.