I'm planning to use a bike for rather short commutes (max half an hour), will the carbon fiber be noticeably more comfortable than aluminium one?

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    The nicer bike might encourage you to ride longer distances, take the scenic route on your commute rather than the shortest distance. – Criggie Mar 28 at 0:25
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    I agree with this. If a 30 minute commute is all the cycling you are ever going to do in your life, no it doesn't matter. And a road bike at all is not optimal for utility cycling in the first place, no place for a rack etc. But if you think you might ever ride a bike more than that, the nicer one will soon become very noticeable. And carbon > aluminium for sure, I'd take carbon with 105 over aluminium with Ultegra or even Dura Ace any day. (I have had bikes in steel/aluminium/carbon/titanium with Sora/Tiagra/105/Ultegra and Dura Ace so I have experience of the full range). – Ivan McA Mar 28 at 5:41
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    There seems to be a misunderstanding here. Why do you even think that the frame material makes the bicycle more "comfortable"? Comfort is usually determined by things like fit, geometry and ergonomics of saddle and handlebars. The frame material is relevant mainly for weight and stability, which should not be an issue for a short commute. – sleske Mar 28 at 9:51
  • Not a direct answer, but consider that a CF bike is more attractive to a thief. Commuting could imply parking it all day in the same space, and become a stolen bike pretty easily. – Criggie Nov 8 at 23:39
up vote 23 down vote accepted

Comfort isn't really an issue for a 30-minute ride, as long as the bike fits. Also, for any given price point, an aluminium bike will have better components than a carbon bike, so will probably be more enjoyable to ride.

For a commuter bike, I'd be much more worried about theft and damage, unless you have somewhere secure to park the bike at work. If you are worried that aluminium will be too harsh, you're probably wrong but I'd consider steel instead, rather than carbon. Or just put wider tyres on it. I've ridden rigid aluminium hybrids with 28mm tyres and had no comfort issues at all.

Any good bike shop should be happy to let you take a test ride of at least half an hour on any bike you're thinking of buying.

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    I agree here. You aren't really going to notice the difference much over a short commute. Plus, most aluminum bikes come with carbon forks anyway. You can also upgrade the seatpost to carbon. This will provide many of the comfort benefits of carbon while keeping the costs down. Also, many carbon bikes aren't designed for larger tires. If you want comfort, then fitting 28+mm tires will provide the best bang for your buck. – Kibbee Mar 27 at 13:47
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    Thanks, looks like aluminium is the way to go at my price point (looks like I can afford an aluminium bike with full Ultegra set while carbon bikes with incomplete 105 parts are significantly more expensive). – synapse Mar 27 at 14:30
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    If you have a place to keep the bike inside carbon might be ok , not really much of an improvement between 105 and ultegra really . But keep in mind there are modern road steel bikes which are good commuters, comfy while still very fast, check out genesis, salsa, kona, surly, etc... if it has to stay outside id just use something like an 8 speed 105 on a steel frame, something fast enough and reliable enough. Personally I'd stay away from aluminium... – gaurwraith Mar 27 at 21:21
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    @sandraqu The asker will be riding this bike for an hour a day, five days a week. In that situation, I’d certainly want something quite a bit nicer than a beater, and I’d want a decent number of gears unless the ride was very flat. – David Richerby Mar 28 at 6:36
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    As someone with a bike-train-BSO commute, I ride a beater and a tourer or an old (but decent) hybrid every day. My beater/BSO would be OK for half-hour rides, but the hybrid is much less effort and more comfortable (the tourer better still). So my testing supports @DavidRicherby's last comment. And even the flat bit on the BSO is nicer with gears (I considered SS but that woudl have cost me more). – Chris H Mar 28 at 13:22

If you are going to be commuting regularly so that you rack up some miles, in different kinds of weather, I think it's better to buy an aluminum frame bike and spend the saved money elsewhere. Upgrading the seatpost, saddle, and tires will make the bike plenty comfortable. Money can also be spent on more or better clothing - which will make a big difference in comfort if you are riding in unpleasant weather. Also, remember the cost of replacing tires, chains and cassettes.

As others have mentioned, for such short rides comfort will likely not be a major concern in the same way it would for endurance events, "bikepacking", or even racing. That's not to say you shouldn't consider comfort at all - a bad saddle or bad bike fit can make things hurt in a hurry. But these are things that can be easily adjusted to make any one of hundreds of bike models work, and you shouldn't need to optimize your comfort beyond pinning down those basics.

That said, I wanted to address the underlying assumption within your question: that some frame materials are fundamentally "more comfortable" than others. While it is true that it is generally easier to make some materials feel comfortable, in the end comfort, or whatever performance metric you choose to focus on, is the result of complex interactions between the materials, the geometry (both rider geometry and tube shapes), and the construction of the frame. With clever enough, or poor enough, engineering you can make any material feel harsh or compliant, stiff or flimsy, responsive or sluggish. Ultimately, the best and really only way to determine whether a particular bike will feel good for you is to test ride it.

Here is a good video by GCN on carbon vs aluminium frames

  • I take some issue with "you shouldn't need to optimize your comfort...". In my opinion comfort is extremely important. Only if you enjoy the ride you will ride. Maximize enjoyment. (Speed is part of the joy...) Comfort is also getting more important with age, starting before you think it should. Riding an hour each day (2x30 min) with an unsuspended hard saddle can quickly give you back pain. Riding too low can give you a knee issue (although I think that would be covered by your "basics"). – Peter A. Schneider Mar 28 at 1:09
  • The key phrase is "shouldn't need to." My point was that getting to a point where you're comfortable for 30 minutes should be fairly easy. It is still possible that he might not hit the perfect ideal - some things don't become noticeable until hour 2 or 3 (or 5 or 6...), but if he's not riding that long he'll never find or have to deal with those issues, so why stress about them? That said, if there is any pain, discomfort, or unusual/unexpected soreness, however mild, it should obviously be addressed. – Josh Doebbert Mar 28 at 14:31

I'd read this before buying Carbon fibre, the conditions and environmental consequences are huge. See https://polebicycles.com/why-arent-we-going-for-carbon-frames/

Also, if you're doing short commutes, might a cyclocross bike be better, you can fit panniers to some of those which might make it more useful.

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    True `cross bikes are for racing and don't have rack fittings. 'Adventure' and 'gravel' bikes mostly do, and are available all frame materials. – Argenti Apparatus Mar 28 at 12:30
  • Thanks. As far as I understand, 25 mm tires are used mostly for aerodynamics which is probably not a concern for me while an ability to use the bike on rougher roads could be useful. – synapse Mar 28 at 15:20
  • For reference, I've got a Croix de fer 20 which I use for commuting, and it'll handle everything pretty well – James Mar 29 at 10:21

For a fun rider or daily morning rider/ commuter, considering the price point, I would always consider a good Aluminum alloy frame with good groupset over carbon frame.

For very short commutes, like half an hour, take bike that has storage space and makes you work out a bit (for health reasons)

I recently started a gig and am commuting 30 minutes each way over patchy city streets. I'm currently riding a steel single-speed. Here are the things I'm looking forward to in my next street bike, once I've saved up for it:

  • Better fit. Track geometry and track handlebars aren't great for me.
  • Better brakes. This bike has long-reach Tektros, which are pretty spongy.
  • More than one gear. Self-explanatory.
  • Pedals suited to street shoes. Track pedals aren't great for this; I plan on getting some MKS "easy superiors".

Having a bike that doesn't bounce all over broken pavement would be nice, but that can be achieved in a number of ways. I'm not planning on getting a carbon bike for street riding.

There are some things that you need from a good commuter bike:

  • Robustness (so that you don't come late to work too often, and won't need a new frame after an accident)
  • Comfort of posture (so that rides are fun)
  • Efficiency (so that rides are fun and fast)
  • Durability (the bike should live as long as possible with the least servicing as possible)

Carbon frames reduce weight, as are aluminum frames supposed to do, so they have a slight efficiency advantage. Let me stress, how slight this advantage is: If you weight 70kg, and your bike weights 10kg, 1kg more for a steel frame would increase your total weight by just 1.25%. However, you don't need to carry that weight, the air in your tires does. The extra weight means a small increase in rolling resistance, but that is dwarfed by the air resistance anyway. I'd estimate that 1kg extra weight will not decrease coasting efficiency by more than 0.5%. The faster you ride, the less efficiency will be lost.

So, is such a tiny increase in efficiency really worth the extra dollars? I doubt it.

On the other hand, aluminum is more brittle than steel, and carbon fiber is much more brittle than aluminum. With a carbon fiber frame, every accident might be the last, a hard knock at the wrong place suffices to break a tube. With a steel frame, you basically need to ride full speed into a car to destroy your frame. So, this is quite a plus in robustness for steel.

In terms of durability, both aluminum and carbon have the plus that they can't rust. However, a good paint job will keep a steel frame from rusting for a very long time. My steel frame has been in heavy use for 15 years, and there's still no rust anywhere.


So, carbon gives a negligible efficiency advantage, but that's more than offset by its brittleness and high price tag. Use either steel or aluminum for commuting.

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    The weight difference between carbon fiber and decent aluminum frame is in the range of 500 grams, not 5 kg. The myth about aluminum fatiguing is repeated in many places so it's likely you read it but the truth is slightly more complex. – ojs Nov 8 at 23:07
  • @ojs Ok, I removed the comment on aluminum fatigue. As to the numbers, well the 5kg is just taken out of thin air. If it's an overestimation of the real differences, all the better: If 5kg is negligible, how much more negligible is 0.5kg? :-) – cmaster Nov 9 at 7:27
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    That 5kg refers to steel. Comparing my steel tourer to a cheap aluminium road bike that's probably about right. Then maybe another 3kg saving for really light carbon. Good Al a little heavier than carbon as you (@ojs) say. I've certainly ridden a lot with people whose bikes weigh half as much as mine -- before you add the lock, tools, panniers, water, and rider. – Chris H Nov 9 at 9:19
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    @ChrisH The 5kg figure isn't remotely right. I ride a nothing-special steel-framed road bike that cost me about £700 and which weighs under 10kg. If that frame was costing me 5kg, I could swap it for a carbon one and have a sub-5kg road bike. And "really light carbon" can't possibly save you 3kg over a regular carbon frame: probably all carbon frames are lighter than 3kg. – David Richerby Nov 9 at 10:56
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    @ChrisH OK, that makes sense, though it's not really a like-for-like comparison. – David Richerby Nov 9 at 14:51

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