A New Horizon For Magnesium Bikes? | Super Magnesium Explained With The Vaast Allite A1 Gravel Bike

(upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) Having covered carbon fiber,
aluminium, steel and titanium I thought we’d concluded the
GCN material science course. But no! Thanks to a company
called Allite magnesium is now in the syllabus. Magnesium is by the mass the ninth most abundant metal in the universe. It’s the fourth most abundant
on planet earth and in fact an incredible 13% of the
mass of earth is actually magnesium. It’s also the
third most commonly used structural metal, so why
then are so few bikes any bikes, in fact made out of the stuff? Well in this video I’m going
to tell you and I’m also going to tell you how Allite
a material science company are out to change that with
their new Super Magnesium. They make a variety of magnesium
alloys for a huge array of purposes from aerospace,
automotive, construction and now bikes, their sister company
VAAST here being the first to bring one to market and
you’ll be pleased to hear that unlike many new technologies
this one doesn’t have a super premium price tag. (upbeat music) While there aren’t really
any magnesium bikes in production until this one
it wasn’t always thus. In fact there have been some
quite notable magnesium bikes over the years. The Kirk Precision that John
took a look at a few weeks ago and the Pinarello Dogmas in
fact from the mid 2000’s were also made of magnesium. One of which won the
Tour de France in 2006 under Oscar Pereiro. However it is fair to say that
magnesium as a frame material has never really caught on,
one of the fears about it is that rather than catching
on it might just catch alight. In fact, let’s tackle
that elephant in the room first shall we? I don’t
remember much from my chemistry days at school but I do
remember vividly setting fire to magnesium, oh yes. However, you need not fear
that your new steed might spontaneously combust because
what you might remember from high school is actually
burning magnesium powder or magnesium ribbons which
are easy to set alight and burn well really quite spectacularly. In bulk magnesium is much
much harder to set alight and actually this specific
alloy AE 81 when it gets to temperatures in excess of
600°C rather than catching fire will just melt like any other metal. Although, I’ll be completely
honest that doesn’t really concern me because I don’t
actually like riding in temperatures quite that hot. The fact that magnesium
doesn’t readily combust doesn’t explain why it’s the third
most popular structural metal what does is its density magnesium is light really light in fact it has the
density of just 1.73 grams per centimeter cube making
it about 75% less dense than steel and 33% less than aluminium. Take this frame set as an
example: it weighs jut 1190 grams which makes it roughly equivalent
to a similar carbon fiber frame set, similar one being
of course a gravel specific frame set like this one
and this is no concept feather weight either, this
has been designed to be eminently practical it tuned
with extras like rack mounds and fender mounds and luggage
mounds and VAAST say it’s also been designed to
be incredibly robust. They say they wanted one single
frame to sail through all three international standard
tests and come out the other side still fighting and they
stressed the one frame element because actually there’s no
rules to stop a manufacturer submitting a brand new
frame set for each new test. Which seems a little bit
sneaky if you ask me. Well firstly there are the
alloying elements themselves in addition to aluminium which
actually also strengthens and hardens the material
there is also a percentage of rare earth elements which
contrary to the name are actually not that rare at all. They are, however typically
well dispersed and not often found concentrated
in mineral form and they incidentally explain
the name of the alloy. So A stands for aluminium,
E stands for rare earth and the numbers after stand for
their respective percentages so 8% aluminium, 1% rare earth
and then the second fact is down to the size of the
crystals within that alloy so smaller crystals yielding
a stronger metal and so in this case Allite
actually have a patented double crystallizing cooling
process which basically means that the crystals within
this alloy are 20% smaller than a common magnesium
which means that the metal is strong as a result. The Young’s modulus of the
material though does show that this Super Magnesium
is still slightly less stiff than aluminium but just like
aluminium is slightly less stiff than steel you can, if
you so wish compensate for it by having larger diameter tubes
and because the material is less dense it still means that
gram for gram you can make a stiffer tube. As I said at
the beginning magnesium bikes have existed before but not for
long and sometimes literally and that’s because one of
the historical problems of magnesium bikes has been corrosion. So what then have VAAST
done to ensure that that doesn’t happen to their new gravel bike. Well firstly one part
comes down to the material itself, firstly you need to
reduce the level of impurities in there because the presence
of elements like copper and iron will greatly increase
the propensity of magnesium to corrode and then secondly the
inclusion of those rare earth elements in this particular
alloy will also improve the corrosion resistance and
when you combine the two in Super Magnesium apparently
they’re on a par with aluminium for its propensity to corrode. Then the second thing is
that one the frames been made VAAST coat it in plasma
electrolytic oxidation so basically the frame’s dunked inside a
special bath and then that leaves a ceramic coating over
the frame both inside and outside of the tubes,
apparently that is a really hard wearing coating. Leaving aside the structural
properties of the metal for one minute one of the
ace cards for me is the environmental sustainability
of this material and its not something that’s often
talked about in cycling. But actually a lot of the
products we use are pretty horrific for the environment.
Take carbon fiber for example it’s got an incredibly
high environmental cost of production and actually
once it’s made it’s virtually impossible to
recycle it in any meaningful way. This one however takes
40% less energy to produce than aluminium and it can
be completely recycled apparently at the end of its life. (upbeat music) (upbeat music) I know that people often
like to attribute certain riding characteristics to
certain frame materials. So for example you’ll often
hear steel described as responsive yet forgiving
and titanium is springy and lively and aluminium we
were always told was stiff but now with modern production
techniques it can be comfortable and stiff and
carbon fiber, well you name it it can be stiff, it can be
compliant all of the above. So, hopefully you can tell that
I don’t really subscribe to that kind of pigeon holing,
I think the engineering of a bike is at least as important
if not more than the material itself but I can also
appreciate that you probably like me to try and explain
what magnesium feels like. And so with all the caveats
in place; I’ve come a long way from home and I’ve only
just swung a leg over it and I’m not going to get to spend
long on this bike I will try and give you my first impressions. Which is that it’s kind of carbon fiber-esque like it’s very totally stiff which is a good
thing, the handlebars very much feel like they’re
connected to the same machine as the saddle and you get
out of the seat and it’s very responsive but also it feels like it’s very smooth over this kind of like high
frequency vibration like the vibrations are muted out and it may well be that it’s because I’m using aluminium
wheels and they’re often used to stiffer carbon ones
or the fact that I’ve got nice big 38c tires but it could be due to the frame material itself. Time will tell I guess but that is my first impressions. I said at the beginning
of the video that this new technology doesn’t come with
a super premium price tag and so as an example this
VAAST A1 gravel bike with a Shimano one by GRX group
set is retailing for about 2.500 dollars. Now there is huge spectrum of gravel bikes to compare it to but for my
money I’d say it’s probably a shade less than a comparable
carbon fiber framed bike and actually that means less
than a bike of an equivalent weight. Which I think is
pretty exciting actually the spec on here as you can
see, we’ve got Stans wheels 700c on this particular one
although there is a 650b option which is where you have a
smaller diameter rim remember where you fit correspondingly
wider tires to. We’ve also got a Praxis carbon
crankset on here which very interestingly attaches to
the frame via a T47 bottom bracket which is where you
get a threaded bottom bracket shell but it’s a wider diameter
so you can fit 30 mm spindle cranks in there with proper size bearings. So yes it is a new bottom
bracket standard, or new-ish but it’s definitely one that
we should all be getting a bit excited about. So there we go,
there is your VAAST A1 gravel bike made out of Allite AE 81 Super Magnesium. Do make sure you get involved
in the comments section let us know what you
think about magnesium. Is it a new horizon in bike
frame materials? I’d be very interested to hear your
thoughts. If you’d like to catch up on some of those
previous episodes in the GCN material sciences course then
why not click on screen now you get through to titanium.

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100 thoughts on “A New Horizon For Magnesium Bikes? | Super Magnesium Explained With The Vaast Allite A1 Gravel Bike

  1. Very interesting! I'm intrigued by the material and would definitely consider Vaast if looking for a gravel bike. But for now I'm very happy with my responsive but forgiving steel steed 🙂
    I'm looking forward to new road bikes made of this super magnesium though.

  2. Magnesium (or whatever material) bikes could catch on as long as they aren't inferior to existing ones and are cheaper for a buyer, instead of making bigger margin. I'm not against profit they do, but if they cost same as alu bikes then everyone would just choose alu bikes. If mag bikes are just a bit less expensive than CF bikes – people would figure out, let's just swallow a toad and go with known evil.

  3. I had a top end magnesium frame a few years back. 2001 model I think I remember.
    It rode very well. Light. Responsive. Seemed to smooth out vibration a bit too.
    After about 15 months use the weld at the seat tube/top tube split about half way through.
    A little research at the time suggested this wasn’t uncommon with these magnesium frames. The welds were a known weak point in magnesium at the time. That may have changed of course.
    I found something else out too. If you cut your knackered frame into six inch bits and put them one at a time into a hot wood burner, they burn very very brightly. My daughters, who enjoyed the light show with me, still talk of it fondly. We were all wearing double sunglasses just in case due to the brightness btw 😊

  4. Not likely many bike frames are really going to be recycled. You'd have to strip all the parts off the frame and strip the paint to recycle it. Better to shoot for a frame to be useful for a long time. "Re-use"

    I wonder where Vaast is building these? Taiwan?

  5. Love Magnesium. But there was one more mass production magnesium bike not mentioned here, Merida Magnesium Elite, which was phased out as it was cracking near the top of the seat tube. Any comments on that?

  6. the question is, does it last as long a carbon bikes do? Will they come with lifetime guarantee? Thats the main thing why I buy carbon frames.. They don't lose strength over time

  7. Press Release


  8. I don't think I put enough watts out to catch my bike on fire, even if it was made of fatwood. So no worries about spontaneous combustion there!

  9. "represents rare earth".
    My first thought was erbium, as the obvious E. But Yttrium is used in magnesium alloys to increase strength, soo…maybe?

    Regardless, nice looking bike. I wouldn't want to think about getting one until that corrosive resistance is proven over some years of hard use, though.

  10. I've been a metallurgist for 20 years. I also love bikes. I want the fastest bike I can get and sorry to say, that's carbon. So as much as I love metal, personally, I still want a carbon frame, fork, wheels, etc…

  11. I'll probably make that my next bike! I'll fit in with all of the cool kids. Kind of exotic like Ti, real like steel, rides like carbon and it can be recycled!

  12. Everyone noticed the elephant in the room, but Si never mentions the drive side chain stay. I can't imagine that they simply made it to look different. We all are collectively scratching our heads as to what purpose it serves. If you have to make an entirely new video to explain it, I think we all want to know what is the unique reason for it's existance, if any.

  13. Zinn has been making Mg alloy bikes for decades. Yes, it's light but it's difficult to manufacture and prone to corrosion and fatigue. One scratch and it corrodes.
    Aluminum is recyclable.

  14. I've owned titanium Litespeed, carbon Specialized, steel Sears beater. Carbon-compliant, Litespeed (when I feel like going fast) slightly stiffer but more compliments, Sears go anywhere ride the shit out of it, no one will steal it if you don't lock it but oh so cheap and slow.

  15. You are on my daily bike route in Steamboat on CR20, Is GCN still filming in The area or was it just for the Gravel Race?

  16. Would love to see these guys connect with Fazua to bring us an e-gravel magnesium bike with the Rotor Uno hydraulic drivetrain. I'd stand in line for one of those unicorns.

  17. 6:27 Wait, the production of aluminium is one of the most energy-intensive processes besides steel production.
    I have to say, that I do not like a couple of construction details: 6:15 (drop outs), 9:41 (chain stay, bearings), 4:16 (cable routing, plastic plug)

  18. Heh , a reduced wiegth over aluminium as advantage and no exact specification of weight for exact model ! https://www.vaastbikes.com/bikemodels/a1/

  19. All very cool but let’s face reality. Your average cyclist is going to spend $400 to $900 for a bike. Which means they’re going to find a steel or aluminum frame or buy used on Craigslist or some other selling platform. If cycling companies want to make specialty products that sell in the hundreds then by all means keep making these types of bikes. But if a company wants to appeal to the masses, and sell in the thousands or millions, they need to find a way to produce bikes that fall within a certain price point. I know price is always a taboo subject to bring up when buying a bike, but it’s also the beginning or end of every conversation. Price matters.

  20. Both aluminum and magnesium are too soft in their pure state to use as bike frames, or for anything structural. Aluminum and magnesium are usually alloyed together for those purposes. So what's the difference between a bike frame that's made from "aluminum"(magnesium-aluminum alloy) and one made from "magnesium"(aluminum-magnesium alloy)?

  21. I work as a tree climber and our professional chainsaws crankcases are made of magnesium. so are the outer bits like the chain cover and starter.

  22. I do not understand the secrecy about the alloy…the most strong of them all is Aluminium-Boron Matrix, lighter then Magnesium and stronger then any kind of steel for same volume….no secret…you can read about it on Internet…I am pretty sure it is much stronger then this mixture…There was a US company,who manufactured this metal mixture and wanted to get into automotive chassis production(besides other things)…but fell apart due to investor infighting(probably some metallurgical giant wanted it for itself and they destroyed it in process…….) I machines in my shop connecting rod made from this material for a racing motorcycle….and it just ate my carbide tools. I had to resort to diamond tools and it was not much better…… Got it done, but with great difficulties.

  23. The original "Mag" wheels used on American muscle cars in the 60's were made out of magnesium – but the alloy was quickly abandon.
    In the event of a brake fire (or any fire) the mag wheel would also ignite – and because of the high magnesium content the fire could not be extinguished by the fire department – no department was equipped for it. Wheel manufactures thereby switched to aluminum.

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