Steel vs. Aluminum Frames: Which is better for Mountain Bike?

Steel vs. Aluminum Frames

Steel vs. Aluminum Frames: Which is better for Mountain Bike?

If you’re looking for a bike, you will most likely want to consider steel versus aluminum frame bikes.

These two make the most popular bike frames, and you don’t want to leave their consideration out of the equation.

And if you are not sure which of the two is the best, each of the two has its strengths and weaknesses. So you will need to choose based on your needs.

For instance, steel-framed bikes take them home in strength, making them more durable. For those who fall, this is the bike you need.

Regarding rust and corrosion, aluminum is the best option as it has a thin layer of aluminum oxide acting as a barrier from moisture.

This happens to be what protects it from rust and moisture. On the other hand, aluminum is lighter than steel, which might be more helpful when riding on the streets.

You are more likely to ride for a longer distance when riding on a lighter frame.

What Are Hardcore Hardtails?

Hardcore Hardtail refers to any Mountain Bike without rear suspension but has a long, low, and slack geometry profile! It’s also known as an aggressive hardtail.

The phrase long, low, and slack geometry means that :

  • The stand-over height and bottom bracket are low, improving handling and stability when rowdy and rough things are.
  • The wheelbase is long, increasing stability at speed.
  • The head-angle is slackened out, improving downhill performance!

When these elements are combined with others, including chain-stay, length, and reach, it will mean that certain bikes are more effective in specific situations than others.


While some XC weapons can be classed as hardcore hardtails, they are far from being hardcore in the modern sense!

Hardcore hardtails go beyond the confines accorded by XC, excelling in the steep and deep, unlike XC thoroughbreds.

Are Steel Hardtails Better?

Yes, but it might depend on what you are looking for. A hardtail bike has a rigid rear suspension.

A steel hardtail is the lightest type of bike, making it a great option for those riders coveting a swift ride on trails. It’s particularly lighter than all other types of bikes.

Steel hardtail doesn’t have any rear suspension. It makes it easier to ride faster on steep or rocky terrain.

Steel vs. Aluminum Frames

The bike uses a tubular steel frame instead of the two-piece aluminum support found on many other bicycles.

What holds a hardtail bike’s frame together is unique joints using a single bolt in fastening the crankset and the two wheels.

And if you are after speed, comfort, and efficiency, this is the way you want to go.

After several years of riding a hardtail, I concur that it can be described as a lean, mean, speeding machine!

This is the best bike you can get for mountain biking than the conventional full-suspension bikes.

The shorter frames, less travel, and smaller wheels will outdo any other bike on the mountains.

They have smaller wheels, shorter frames, and less travel in normal circumstances.

Reasons abide why hardtail bikes are preferable for mountain biking to conventional full suspension bikes.

One reason is that hardtails require less maintenance than their full-suspension counterparts due to the shorter frames and smaller wheels.

Also, they usually have shorter chainstays, making them more maneuverable than the full-suspension models.

This could would be more difficult to turn quickly on steep climbs or descents.                                                                    

Do Hardtails Break Easily?

It depends. Even the strongest bike can break easily, #depending on the force and direction of such force applied to it.

But if you are easy on your hardtail, you can enjoy thousands of miles from it, even riding downhill.

But one thing will need your worthwhile consideration: hardtail bikes are XC bikes, so their frames and wheels cannot qualify themselves as heavy-duty like trail bikes.

Indeed, they are easier to break in comparison to trail bikes. As the bike’s rear takes hits constantly, all things connecting to the rear wheel take the hits as well.

Consequently, you want to ensure that your tire chain has appropriate slack,.

In addition to making sure your rear derailleur has proper adjustments so you can get the power to the ground.

But be warned, if you push your hardtail too hard, you can break or crack the frame, could damage your brakes, you could bend your rim/rims, or you could hurt yourself.

So you will want to be a bit less extreme, taking a smarter path downhill and having a blast when doing it.

Can A Hardtail Go Downhill?

Yes, you can ride your hardtail downhill. While you will feel every bump due to the lack of suspension, this should not prevent you from taking your ride downhill.

Many riders have taken this as their training to choose a better path. You can decide to ride a hardtail downhill either on purpose or when compelled by circumstances.

Those who want to ride their hardtail downhill on purpose normally seek to improve their riding skills.

Since the ground is uneven, you will want to avoid obstacles so that you don’t break your bike. In the process, you will be careful, consequently honing your riding skills.

Many riders have tried this and found it to work extremely well.

As you know, if you hit a rock or any other obstacle, you will feel it if you are riding a hardtail.

This is because your body will absorb all the hits (as there is no suspension to buffer it). So you don’t want to hit it another time!

Can You Ride A Hardtail At Whistler?

Yes, it’s perfect for riding your hardtail at Whistler. I have been riding my FR hardtail at Whistler; I can only describe the experience as awesome. 

I’ve been riding my FR hardtail at whistler for the last two years, and it’s been fine. I’ve ridden a few of the double d’s and all the black diamond trails.

However, you will want to know that it gets sketchy at that point on a hardtail. Start on the blues and have a blast in your usual venture.

Devil’s cub, B-line, Crank it up, Heart of Darkness will come in handy in helping you familiarize yourself with Whistler riding.

What I can assure you, you will need a well-working set of Disk brakes more than gobs of suspension.

While you might hear FS riders gripe about bumps, it’s still the same thing on a hardtail.

If you want to smooth the roughness, go faster! But if you have to go slow, pump the trail surface, and you will be good.

After figuring it out, the black D trails will present no challenge at all. I can assure you that you have your plate full on the mountain you can play on.

Why Do People Prefer Steel Bikes?

People prefer steel bikes since steel can make custom dialed into the nth degree. Steel bikes have drawn so many benefits from decades of research and development.

Steel bikes offer a performance that can hardly be matched with other materials.

Their performance excels in speed, handling, reliability, all-road capability, and all-weather capability.

Steel tubing comes in multiple diameters and wall thicknesses, so fine-tuning steel bikes’ ride quality and performance have never been a problem.

For instance, you can have a mule for hauling heavier loads, customized with a stiffer main triangle.

Fine-tuning steel is relatively easy so that the bike gets flex characteristics for optimum performance.

Again, it is very easy to shape steel since it isn’t too difficult to bend. Still, you can get more clearance by indenting the stays.

Again, you might want to know that steel is easy to machine, helping make braze-on, dropouts, and other parts.

Are Hardtails Good For Trails?

Yes, hardtail mountain bikes are excellent for trails. They are also easier to jump from, though they will not be as comfortable as they lack suspension.

You will not easily do away with jumps and drops as you bike on a trail since these are too common on trails.

This is especially so because many of the different trails are uneven.

When riding on trails, you want to remember that there is no assurance of a flat terrain since there are some trails that bear obstacles and slopes requiring you to jump and drop.

Therefore, your bike should be light for it to be ridden on trails. You don’t want to look elsewhere with light and tested hardtail.

But the concern of many will be if a hardtail, having no suspension, can suffice to be ridden on a trail, taking jumps and drops.

Fuji Jari Bike

The truth is that your hardtail will handle jumps and drops anytime you are on a trail.

And even when you are not on a trail and would like to jump, a hardtail is good in handling this kind of stuff.

How Can I Make My Hardtail More Aggressive?

Making a hardtail more aggressive is easy. But you need to make key upgrades to your bike. The first thing I consider appropriate to start with is the handlebars.

They are easy to start with and do not require much money. If you install a wider set of handlebars, you will feel increased stability.

The bike’s stability is enhanced as the rider lowers their weight for a more centred stance.

Alternatively, you can install riser bars with an increased risk. An increased handlebar height will put your body back, making steep trails’ descending more comfortable.

Still, you can tweak your bike’s handling by using an angled headset. These are handy in changing the geometry of a bike by half or a full degree.

When the head angle gets a little slacker, you will be sure of additional stability. Another thing to change will be the tires. Knobby tires will give your bike more grip.

Can I Race On A Steel Bike?

Yes, but it might be heavier than other options. If you want to race, you need to use a light bike to help make your ride smooth and easy.

There is no point in increasing the luggage when you can do better without it.

Although steel is stronger, you do not need a stronger bike to race: you need a high-performance bike.

Do XC Racers Use Hardtails?

Yes, XC racers use hardtails as these are high-performance bikes that top out where most other brands begin. Hardtails will easily offer genuinely offer a smooth, fast ride.

You can expect the ride to be incredibly efficient. An example is the Mondraker Chrono R delivers light, fast, and focused. Fortunately, this bike is ruthlessly efficient.

You will immediately notice the balanced weight distribution when looking at Mondraker’s XC Forward Geometry.

Is The Hardtail MTB Dead?

No, hardtails are not dead. And you might want to buy one! Indeed, you might consider buying one due to its better handling capability.

Again, hardtails offer smoother line choices, so you will get up your game. This is because feedback happens to be instant and brutally honest.

Steel Vs Aluminum Frames

As you might be aware, most city bikes are built on either aluminum or steel frames, and the one you pick will heavily impact your ride’s quality.

Still, the life of your bike will be impacted as well. If you go for an aluminum frame, you are signing up for a harsher ride due to the frame’s stiffness.

This is what a racer will want. However, if you are not into racing, you will appreciate that steel is more forgiving.

On durability, you might want to choose steel frames as their durability is far beyond what you can ever get from aluminum.

Steel will scratch, ding, dent, even bend but still retain its integrity. Indeed, steel will easily last a lifetime, depending on its maintenance.


Your preference to go for either a steel or aluminum frame will depend on what you need the bike for. Racers will want to go for a steel frame, but aluminum will be fine if not.


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