Whether you’re looking for a road bike, a mountain bike, a triathlon bike, a kid’s bike, a touring bike or any bike in-between, the frame and forks are fairly key.
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The type of bike you’re after and the type of frame you need are essentially two of the same thing – the frame of the bike will dictate the sort of riding you will be doing.
When it comes to frames the majority of designs will fall into one of the following: road bikes, mountain bikes, tri and time trial bikes, track bikes, BMX bikes, cyclocross bikes, fixiebikes, and hybrid bikes.
Bike frame materials will fall into one of the following categories:
Also known as high-tensile steel, carbon is a strong and long-lasting frame material. Die-hard fans have coined the phrase ‘steel is real’ – enough said!
Chromoly steel is all about delivering response an flex without compromising form. It’s a light and strong steel.
Don’t think of the aluminium of yesteryear when you think of aluminium bike frames these days. Light, strong and stiff, plenty of riders continue to see the benefits of this relatively cost-effective bike frame material.
It’s light, strong, responsive, offers flex and yet still retains its shape – no wonder titanium is one of the more expensive options on the bike frame market.
When ‘carbon’ frames first started hitting the market, they were the absolute superstars of the modern riding world. This material is created by weaving together continuous fibres and binding them set with glue. This makes a ply and then a number of plies combine to create a laminate. When designed and fabricated properly, this laminate can be incredibly tough, but it’s also brittle.
Rather than listing the various differences in the main types of frames on the market, let’s instead look at the style of riding that may interest you and therefore the frame features you will need to keep in mind.
Any type of long distance riding like a sportive or a gran fondo is going to call for a frame that isn’t too stiff – you need to have a level of compliancy from the frame so that the ride isn’t as hard.
So it’s all about performance here and as such you’ll need a frame that is angled so that your head naturally will go lower down and closer to the front of the bike. This position increases your aerodynamic efficiencies.
A stiffer frame will also help performance – it helps power transfer straight to the wheels from your pedal stroke.
This is 100% about achieving the best in aerodynamics and riding fast, fast, fast! As such frames usually have teardrop designed tubing rather than the more classic tubing style, and stiffness is key to get the most out of that transfer of power from pedal to wheel.
Well it depends very much on the type of mountain biking you plan to do as downhill, for example, will call on a different more bespoke frame to, say, cross-country. A frame with a steeper head tube angle usually inclines a bike to climb better and turn faster.
For cross-country the popular choice is often hard-tail, which means there is only suspension in the front of the bike. Full suspension, in contrast, features suspension at the front and rear of the bike, making impact on the rider a lot less intense. So this is a great choice for mountain bikers planning to go over plenty of bumps, roots, rocks and whatever other obstacles are going to make for a challenging surface.
To keep the rider has comfortable as possible on their touring journey, touring bikes tend to have the rider sit in a more upright position. They’ll also be built of study stuff (think steel) to better handle everything touring riding is likely to throw at them.
Mountain bikes come in Small, Medium and Large, and this usually corresponds to your height. It’s a good idea to refer to the bike manufacturer to see what height range they’ve dictated for each size, but also your store is going to be able to fit you.
The lighter the frame, the more likely it is to have a higher price tag. In the day and age of marginal gains, a few grams here and there can really have an impact on perception and performance. However, you need to factor in your own weight when it comes to buying a bike
A bike fork is connected to the front of the frame and holds the front wheel in place. Bike forks are an essential part of the bike and are used in all traditional categories of riding - mountain bike forks, road bike forks, BMX forks, track bike forks, triathlon bike forks, urban bike forks, electric bike forks and commuter bike forks.
Bike fork materials widely differ depending on the style and type of bike. The main bike fork materials used are carbon fibre, titanium, steel and aluminium.
Carbon fibre forks are mostly used on performance road and mountain bikes due to their lightweight and durable features. Carbon fibre was a revolutionary material that was introduced to cycling as an alternative to the then-current materials. Its mouldable material made it easier for manufacturers to use and its lightweight, stiff and durable features grew its popularity throughout the cycling world. Most high-end bikes these days only come in complete carbon fibre forks, where you mostly see other alternatives such as steel bike forks are on entry-level or commuter style bikes.
Steel forks are a commonly used material that is predominantly seen in your everyday commuter bike as well as entry-level and mid-tier road and mountain bikes. The quality of steel differs with the quality of the bike, but the noticeable differences from the higher quality steel forks are their weight.
Titanium forks are one of the less common materials when it comes to forks alone.
Aluminium forks are one of most commonly used material and can be found in most entry-level or lower-end bikes.
There are several features that have been designed with forks over the years, but the most common are suspension, which is widely used throughout mountain biking.
Bike fork suspension is an integral part of mountain biking as this provides the rider the ability to ride over harsh terrain at high speeds whilst not absorbing the heavy vibrations. Many manufactures offer different styles and technology for what they believe is best on a traditional two legged bike fork suspension, but Cannondale innovated their own concept with the Left fork. A lefty is a single leg fork which Cannondale believe offers a lighter and stiffer comparison to the rest of the market, with attention going into more relevant areas of the fork to increase strength.