Aluminum vs. Steel Beach Cruiser
What Type Of Bike Do I Need?
This is a question I get a lot, many people wonder if they need an aluminum bike, will it prevent rust, last longer, or work better? Beach cruiser bike frames are either made of steel or aluminum and the general consensus is always that if you live by the beach you need an aluminum bike because it won’t rust. Well, I’ve got some input that may change your mind.
Buying an aluminum beach cruiser does have advantages, I’ll discuss both the advantages of steel and aluminum.
Will having an aluminum prevent rust? The answer is it most likely won’t rust, but it can corrode. When people ask for an aluminum bike they generally do so because they think it will be the answer to all of their rust worries. Truthfully though, having the frame of the bike be aluminum is not really that important because the frame is painted. Whether the frame is steel or aluminum doesn’t matter as long as it is painted, if it is painted it will not rust. The paint will protect against rust, unless the paint chips off and the metal is exposed, then yes the metal underneath could rust.
The bike components most susceptible to rust are the ones which are unpainted and exposed to the elements. These components are the seat post, handlebars, chain, chainwheel, hub, rim, spokes, and crank. Also, the nuts, screws and bolts can rust. When searching for a cruiser, if you are interested in aluminum make sure the handlebars and seat post are aluminum, those are the two things I see rusting most on beach cruiser bikes. But, if the bike is steel and all of the components on the bike are painted, like the handlebars, spokes, rims and seat post, this will be the best option for preventing rust. As I said the paint will prevent rust by providing a coating over the metal. Generally speaking, most steel beach cruisers come with aluminum rims and stainless steel spokes, so rust won’t be issue on the wheels.
If you live in a salt water environment rust can be issue, but even with a steel bike it can be prevented if you wipe down your bike after each ride, and don’t leave your cruiser outside.
Advantange: Bike with Aluminum components or Bike with all painted components is best way to prevent rust, just an aluminum frame gives no advantage over rust.
It is definitely true that an aluminum bike will weigh less than a steel frame, it is a much lighter metal. But will the weight of the bike affect performance? The answer is yes, if you are trying to reach top speeds of 50mph, but for the average rider the weight advantage of a steel bike is not great, and generally can’t be noticed when riding.
If you will be lifting your bike in to a car or on to a roof and you’d prefer it to be a little lighter then I would recommend an aluminum frame.
In terms of durability and stability, steel wins this category. Generally, manufacturers will warranty a steel frame forever, but an aluminum frame may only be warrantied for one to two years. Aluminum is a softer metal than steel and therefore is more likely to bend or flex over time. Steel is much more rigid and stiff and very durable and should last forever unless it is run over by a car or thrown out of a window. If this is a bike you want to keep forever, I’d recommend steel.
What I mean by efficiency is which bike will roll the best, and give you the most distance out of each turn of the pedals. The answer is aluminum. Aluminum bikes are lighter so it will be easier to move and will travel faster because there is less weight to move. Now, how important is efficiency? That is up to you, how fast do you want to go? How far do you want to go? For the average rider who is going for a cruise by the beach, around the block, or with some friends for fun, efficiency is not really that important. But if you want to ride 20mph for 15 miles, then aluminum will help make that ride a little easier.
In terms of beach cruisers, steel beach cruisers definitely wins the appearance category. Steel beach cruisers out numbers aluminum beach cruisers by a long shot. Although there are some good looking aluminum beach cruisers, the biggest selection of “cool” beach cruisers are steel. Not to say there aren’t a lot of cool aluminum bikes but your selection will be far greater if looking for steel.
Aluminum cruiser bikes will always be more expensive than steel. Aluminum is a more expensive metal and it is also harder to weld, making the frames more expensive. Sometimes aluminum bikes can run about 30% more expensive than steel, but it depends on the company and the type of bike. There are also different grades of aluminum, they have varying costs. Depending on the type of riding you will be doing it may be worth the investment, but take into account how much you will ride. The choice is yours I recommend steel if the bike will be for recreational purposes, it will save you some money upfront and the bike will last a long time.
Overall, for the average Beachbiker, who’s going to ride their bike a few days a week and generally keep the distance under 10 miles, I would say a steel bike will be perfect. It is a good value that will last a long time. If you plan to do a lot of riding of distances over 10 miles and more than say 2 times per week, I would recommend aluminum.
With that said though, the choice is yours and comfort is a big factor. All bikes feel different, so make sure the fit is right for you. If you sit on a bike that is steel but if feels better than aluminum, don’t convince yourself you need aluminum, how the bike feels is most important. I always want people to make sure their back, knees and arms feel good, comfortable and relaxed. Otherwise, if they don’t they’ll be hating everything minute of their bike rides.
If you have any questions don’t hesitate to email me.