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Interested to know cost of raw frame materials(6 posts)

Interested to know cost of raw frame materialswjtm
Jun 27, 2003 6:19 AM
I suppose this question is aimed primarily at someone who works in frame manufacturing facility, probably in the purchasing department.

I often hear so much about 'the cost of titanium' vs. other materials. And even the cost of carbon. And I am curious to know what a tube of titanium costs vs. a tube of steel or aluminum. How much of a $2000 ti frame is materials cost? What about a carbon frame?

I realize there are other costs associated with a frame such as fixed costs of welding machines (more expensive for ti) and jigs and labor, and I am interested in these as well, but I am mostly interested in knowing more about materials cost.

Also, can ti be machined and molded like steel? This question is for titanium components, which cost so much more than steel components - why is this? I would imagine that small pieces of titanium in pedals, for example, would add only a few dollars to the price - not hundreds.

One extra thingwjtm
Jun 27, 2003 6:22 AM
Sorry, forgot to ask this: in addition to knowing the cost of a titanium tube, I would also (for comparison's sake) be interested to know the cost of a steel tube and aluminum tube. I realize there are dozens of widths/thicknesses, but if you could identify the cost of a 'good' tube - say for a frame that costs in the $750 to $2000 range, I'd be grateful!

tubing costsgamara
Jun 27, 2003 3:50 PM
If you're interested in building your own frame, I know that the united bicycle institute offers courses in building either steel or titanium frames. At the end of the course, you actually build a frame of your own design that you get to keep.

Getting back to your question of tubing costs. There are suppliers out there that actually do sell to the amateur, hobbyist builder. One of the newer air harderned complete steel tubesets with the smll parts ie. bb shell, bosses etc. can be purchased for roughly $140-160 range for a whole bike. For titanium its around $250 up depending on what type of titanium you get.

Sounds like a real bargain doesn't it, but you have to factor in the necessary jigs, fixtures, cutting tools and least of all the necessary welding equipment. You notice that I didn't mention aluminum. Modern aluminum tubesets are so thin walled and heat sensitive that in order to retain their strength after welding, they must be heated and cooled to specific temperatures as well as being heat quenched that only the most knowledgeable builder and this is where the price increases in terms of the value added to the final product comes in.

As for titanium being molded, not likely. Titanium is an abundant material being found in sand but in order to process it and purify it costs $$$. Also titanium is super hard and very difficult to work with. To be honest, you're better off buying a complete bike because the idea of building your own from a purists point of view is a nice dream but in the real world, just not worth it. Prices from manufacturers keep dropping offering better value every year. Here's something for you to think about: 10 yrs ago, a top of the line complete racing bike would weigh around 21 lbs. Today due to UCI rules a bike must ring in no lower than 16 lbs. Its taken around 10 yrs to achieve this at a level thats affordable to the masses. Hope this helps.

Jun 27, 2003 7:30 PM
I'm building my own lugged steel frame with True Temper Steel tubes and cast lugs from Henry James in California. $140-200+ depending on what tubeing you want to get, and what braze-ons/lugs you want.

Time, both in construction/finishing and in gaining experience, is the costly part of frame building.

You can get and oxy/acetalene torch or a tig welder for pretty cheap at a pawn shop.
Jun 30, 2003 8:39 AM

Thanks for replying. Believe it or not I am not interested in building my own frame, rather I am interested to know how much cost of expensive frames are materials, fixed costs, and the harder-to-quantify 'branding.' From what you mentioned, it seems that tubes for a ti bike are $100 to $200 more than for steel bike, which leads me to believe that mass-produced ti frames should not be all that much more expensive than steel.

I think with bikes it's easy to get into the 'more cost is better' thing, when in fact the higher cost is rarely justified by materials. For example, when a manufacturer shaves 20g off a saddle and makes the rails out of ti, but charges $100 more for it, I get really suspicious. The justification for paying the high price is that "hey, it's made out of titanium, which is more expensive to make" but I always wondered - is it really THAT much more to make?

Seems to me the truth is that there is a perceived quality benefit when paying premium prices. Pay more get more. And I agree in principle at the reasonable spectrum of things (sub $2,500 bikes), but I think it quickly gets out of whack at the higher end of thngs, primarily with these custom parts.

To make the long boring story short, you've answered my question in that I now believe ti to be 2 to 4 times more expensive a material than steel, which is actually quite cheap in the scheme of things.

I do wonder, however, if most riders could tell the difference between a straight-tubed ti Dean or Airborne ($1000 frame) versus a straight tubed Litespeed or Merlin ($2000 frame) if they were built the same way. Presumably their materials costs are the same. But now we're into paying a premium for a brand, which is another discussion entirely!
Aluminum tube costsmerckxman
Jul 1, 2003 7:37 PM
If I recall correctly, I read that the tubes in an aluminum Cannondale cost $20.00 or less.