Inside the inner sanctum of the house of steel in Austria.
STEEL VERSUS ALUMINUM
Hasn’t KTM proven that steel is
a better material to make a frame from than aluminum? And, wouldn’t titani-
um be even better?
There are three major reasons why aluminum has become the frame material of choice for Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki: (1) Structural rigidity.
An aluminum frame can be made from cast, forged or drawn parts, and by
mixing and matching these aluminum pieces, an aluminum frame can be
sculpted for rigidity much more so than a simple tube frame. ( 2) Weight. An
aluminum frame has the potential to be lighter than a steel one. When used
properly, it can save 3 pounds over a brand’s previous steel frame. However,
that has not held true over time. The first aluminum production frames, introduced in 1997, were lighter than steel, but since then, aluminum frames have
bulked up to the point where a chromoly steel frame is now lighter. ( 3) Cost.
Although aluminum frames don’t save the consumer any money, they are a
big savings for the manufacturers. The typical aluminum frame is composed
of only eight major parts. There is a giant reduction in the need to bend
tubes, miter tubes, shape gussets, add tabs, weld numerous joints and heat-treat the metal. For the manufacturer, aluminum frames are plug-and-play. A
steel frame requires more pieces, more welding, more cold settings and more
As for titanium, it was banned by the AMA 45 years ago to keep costs
down but would now be legal if a manufacturer built a production model
with it. That will never happen, because Ti is expensive and requires more
care in welding. It has all of the negatives of a steel frame, as far as production goes, with the only benefit being light weight.