It’s a long time since an aluminium bike won the Tour de France. In fact it was 1998 when Marco Pantani rode his Bianchi Mega Pro XL to success. These days it’s all about carbon fibre in the professional racing circuit, but despite the dominance of plastic, aluminium refuses to disappear. Away from the pro ranks it's is still highly regarded and a very good material to make a bicycle from.
Aluminium is enjoying a resurgence of interest at the moment. Some manufacturers have been pushing the material to achieve impressively lightweight frames, and smart consumers are realising that you get a lot of performance, and equipment, for your money. For value for money, aluminium is tough to beat.
So with aluminium alive and kicking, here are 13 of the best aluminium road bikes currently available.
Mason Cycles exploded on to the scene in 2015 with two eagerly-awaited bikes, the aluminium Definition and the steel-framed Resolution. Former Kinesis UK designer Dom Mason didn't disappoint. The original Definition was so good we struggled to get into words just how a handful of alloy sticks welded together can leave you feeling so excited. You don't get a ride governed by angles and dimensions here; the Definition seems to mutate as the speed/gradient/direction changes leaving you wondering if you are still riding the same bike you were five minutes ago. It's stunning, and the Definition version two with thru-axles added at the rear received just as much praise in our latest review.
BTwin’s Ultra 900 AF is a cracker straight out of the box, offering one of the best ‘bang for buck’ options you're likely to find for 800 of your British pounds. With a stiff, performance-orientated frameset, it could easily accommodate some bling upgrades without overshadowing the main component. B'Twin is the in-house brand of French sports superstore company Decathlon, which concentrates on the 'value for money' ethos for many of its goods. Don't confuse value for money with cheap, though – the Ultra 900 AF is a quality piece of kit.
The Attain is one of the most contemporary road bikes currently available. It's an aluminium frame designed around disc brakes with thru-axles front and rear. The frame is made from Superlite tubing with a smooth weld treatment and internal cable routing keeping the appearance clean and uncluttered. This model is very well equipped with a Shimano 105 mechanical drivetrain and RS505 hydraulic disc brakes and Cube's own wheels shod with Continental Grand Sport Race SL.
Specialized made waves when it unveiled a super expensive (£7,500) high-end aluminium Allez bike a few years ago, but it’s stuck with the idea and is using it to build frames that are aimed at being ultra-stiff short-course racing weapons. DSW — D'Alusio SmartWeld — is a process that uses hydroforming at the joints to increase strength and stiffness so the tube spans can be lighter. This £1,600 model gets a Shimano 105 11-speed groupset with DT R460 wheels and a Body Geometry Toupé Sport saddle.
British brand Kinesis UK has made aluminium frames its speciality over the years, and with the release of the Aithein, it proved that aluminium can be a credible option if you crave high performance and low weight. It’s made from 6000 series aluminium with SuperPlastic Formed tube profiles and smooth welds. The frame is just 1,050g (though it comes with a 90kg rider weight limit) and all modern details like a tapered head tube and PF86 bottom bracket.
If you want a lot of bike for not too much money, Rose is a company that needs to be near the top of your list. For 2018, Rose is offering this Xeon RS which has a claimed 1,050g aluminium frame with a new 315g carbon fibre fork with a tapered steerer tube. Rose also offers a large range of sizes, from 49 all the way up to 66cm. The appeal of aluminium really shines when you look at the equipment level. This model has a full Shimano Ultegra groupset along with Ritchey handlebars and stem.
London bike brand Condor Cycles is fully committed to aluminium, and for 2016 it has thoroughly revamped the aluminium race bike in its range, the Italia RC. It has developed a brand new tubeset and it’s ditched the carbon fibre seatstays of the old Italia. The geometry comes from the Leggero carbon fibre race bike so you know it’s good to race.
There are a number of British brands offering keenly priced aluminium frames and bikes, and one of the newest is Bowman Cycles. It has just launched the second generation of its Palace race frame, with a refined tubeset bringing the weight down a little, and the pressfit bottom bracket has been replaced with a threaded type.
Giant has a healthy range of aluminium bikes and the Avail, part of Giant’s large women’s road bike range, is a really good package. Giant’s own ALUXX SL aluminium tubing tubing is shaped into a smart looking bike and it’s generously specced out with a Shimano 105 11-speed groupset and Giant P-R2 wheels and tyre set, with a Liv Connect saddle finishing it off.
Hoy Bikes made a good impression when it released the reasonably priced Sa Calobra a couple of years ago, with an aluminium frame that really shone in the ride and handling stakes. For 2016, it stepped into the world of disc brakes and released the Alta Irpavi, with an aluminium frame and carbon fibre fork. Hoy has used size-specific tubesets with internal cable routing and flat mount disc tabs. There are three models starting from £1,100 with hydraulic discs across the range.
Canyon might be best known for its carbon fibre races bikes like the Ultimate and Aeroad, but it does a nice line of aluminium bikes, and they offer excellent value for money. The Endurace is the company’s distance and comfort orientated model, with a taller front end and larger volume tyres to provide more comfort. The range starts from just £799 for full Shimano Tiagra drivetrain with Mavic Aksium wheels and Continental Grand Prix SL tyres. A lot of bike for not a lot of cash.
Another big bike brand investing in top-end aluminium is further proof that there is plenty of life in the material. The Emonda ALR is named after the superlight Emonda carbon fibre race bike and features a frame that weighs in at just 1,050g. That’s for a size 56. Very impressive. It’s made from 300 Series Aluminium (whatever that is) with Invisible Weld Technology that is a process claimed by Trek to save weight. The 2018 Emonda ALR 6, above, comes with the full 2018 Shimano Ultegra group and Bontrager Aeolus Comp Tubeless Ready aero wheels.
Finally, there is the Cannondale CAAD12, the latest aluminium road bike from the company that was in the vanguard of developing and popularising aluminium right through the 1980s and '90s , and now offers the CAAD12 with a choice of discs or rim brakes. The previous CAAD10 was a highly regarded aluminium frame, light and stiff enough for racing and comfortable enough for the long jaunt, and it did a lot to promote the virtue of aluminium frames over more expensive carbon rivals.
Well the CAAD12 is a complete update with an even lighter frame (the disc version is 206g lighter, the calliper rim brake frame is 52g lighter) with other changes focused in increasing stiffness in the head tube and bottom bracket, as well as eking out more compliance. Smoother, lighter and stiffer than the previous model. You can get a Shimano Dura-Ace bike with hydraulic disc brakes for £3,499.99, but the 2018 range starts with the £1,099 CAAD12 Tiagra (rim brake) and we've even found a 2017 Ultegra model available with a 30% discount if you happen to take a 56cm frame.
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David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.