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I am planning to buy new gravel bike, there is a frame model with different material, one alloy and the other is carbon. Component wise I really don't care, because I will replace it with my spare GRX groupset.

I really prefer the carbon one, but because it is double the price of an alloy one, I am afraid I will get sentimental and not ride the bike because "it’s an expensive bike, better to ride it only on special occasions".

But if I buy the alloy one of course i will ride it anywhere because if the bike broke, in my mind "I can just buy a replacement, after all its not that expensive" but in long run probably i will regret it because while I can upgrade any component, upgrading the frame feels like buying new bike and a waste of the old bike (since the old one will only have frame only)

Now the question, are alloy gravel bikes better economical value than carbon ones?

For comparison, I currently own a carbon road bike, but only ride my road bike on asphalt or clean road.

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    I don’t think anyone else can understand what you value in how the bike rides and what impact that extra money has on your life. I will say that carbon bikes are very robust these days and you should by the bike you’d be most excited to ride.
    – Paul H
    Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 4:58
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    In most instances, reasonably cheap products are better value than expensive ones but you really have to judge based on the whole setup and equipped components. In the Canyon gravel world (Grizl 7 AL/CF, just as an example), you pay 500€ more (1799/2299€) for their entry level aluminum vs. carbon bike - what you get is a ~1kg lighter bike and better wheels. But value for money highly depends on what you value.
    – DoNuT
    Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 6:37
  • Just a thought, not worth an answer because probably a short in the dark: Is buying a frame/frameset an option? Then you don't have to buy the full bike including the group set that you won't use and that gives you some budget on the frame. Yeah, you can sell the overhead components, too, but my feeling says: If you secretly want carbon, buy carbon and make it a nice bike to ride for years.
    – DoNuT
    Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 11:56
  • @DoNuT very rare that brands are offering to sell "entry-level" framesets separately, and when they do, it doesn't necessarily make sense to buy them. To take an example, the Trek Checkpoint Aluminum (to not take the Grizl SLX) frame+fork is 1400€, the first full bike with this frame is 1800€.
    – Rеnаud
    Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 13:56
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    Please don't use "alloy" as a material name. Every metal used in practice is an alloy. For some reason many cyclists have come to use the term to denote aluminium alloy specifically, but a titanium frame or a steel chain or a brass nipple are all also just as legitimately alloy. Just say "aluminium". Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 22:13

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The notion of "value" is subjective, so it's difficult to give an absolute answer.

A few thoughts:

  • It's generally admitted that if your budget matches the entry level of carbon bikes, you'll be better off with an aluminium bike for the same amount of money (wheels are an understated component on how a bike feels).
  • If your concern is superficial damage, wrap the bike. It takes a bit of time in the beginning, but it's worth it if you like having a neat-looking bike.
  • For gravel you need much more compliance than on road. Aluminium is always stiff, while carbon can be compliant (I write "can" because it depends on the design choices, it's generally the case, but "race" frames are for instance are designed to be stiff). That being said an aluminium frame can be fitted with a carbon seat post, and that does a significant difference. When on rough terrain, comfort can make the difference between an enjoyable ride and a non-enjoyable ride, so this point should not be underestimated.
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  • On the seatpost, personal anecdotal evidence: my main sport bike has an alloy frame, 30km of gravel riding with alloy seat post is sufficient to cause back pain, but with a carbon seat post, no issue at all.
    – Rеnаud
    Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 8:41
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    I would add that modern gravel bikes specifically are built more with compliance in mind, you very likely ride them on light gravel and bumpy terrain (not so much with your entry-level road bike). Plus: wider tires, lower pressure in tubeless setups and some brands (again, Canyon, I'm not an ambassador) spec carbon seat posts even on their alloy models.
    – DoNuT
    Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 10:28
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    @DoNuT Actually I had Canyon in mind as well when writing the thought about compliance: early reviews of the new Grail are saying it's a stiff bike, and the CFR is even more stiff (but it's a (gravel) race bike, so it's justified). But I agree that Canyon specs their bikes very well.
    – Rеnаud
    Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 10:34
  • Yeah, it's no so much about Canyon, I just think that manufacturers care more about comfort on more touring/commuting/bikepacking-oriented entry level gravel bikes than they did on a 2000s alloy road frame which might have just been harsh to ride. I'll (hopefully) soon get my Cube Nuroad (aluminum) bike soon and will be wiser, then. :)
    – DoNuT
    Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 10:49
  • Of course a lot of the need for compliance is in the forks (by no means all, but it's important) and carbon forks are common on alloy bikes. The forks can then be designed to have a given compliance. I do find my Canondale Topstone (alloy frame + carbon forks) a slightly harsher ride than my Genesis Tour de Fer (steel) with the same tyres, but nothing that can't be solved by 0.3bar less pressure (or about half the difference in the pressure Silca's calculator recommends for different quality paved roads)
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 19, 2023 at 14:33

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