Commentary on Aluminum Cycle Carriers

Section I — Background:

The cycle carriers advertised as aircraft grade aluminum actually use traditional steel for the receiver tube (the main structural member: square tubing that runs into the hitch receiver).

Section II — Engineering, Materials & Comments:

  • The tray (channel) is typically made from 6000 series aluminum.
  • Advantages of Aluminum:
    Typical weight savings of a properly designed aluminum product vs steel is 1/3. The tray typically weighs 25 lbs so the weight savings can be 8 lbs. Actual Carriers4cycles weight for example: Model 3B6-19-S w/42" ramp=53 lbs.
  • Aluminum does not corrode as early as steel with most environments. Road salt is highly corrosive and will attack painted steel products more readily than aluminum.
  • Disadvantages of Aluminum:
    Aluminum is not a very tough material as it is very unforgiving! Aluminum is expensive, must be highly engineered, and is very complex to manufacture. Notice how long it has taken autos to have components made of this material? Do you honestly believe a cycle carrier selling for $200 and the company popped up yesterday has had extensive engineering completed and strict quality control in every step of the manufacture of it?
  • Aluminum can become brittle as it has a very low ductility compared to plain carbon steel. Aluminum has low fracture toughness and poor fatigue strength, also.
  • If aluminum is subject to cyclic/fatigue loading (as the carrier tray is: road vibration/shock and the hauling vehicle turning corners) and is overloaded even once, a very sudden fracture can occur from any notch or area of poor workmanship. Have you ever seen the modern aluminum snow mobile trailers severly damaged or broken in two from hauling too much weight?

Section III — Heat Treatment:

  • Heat treatment is lost when forming or welding. To produce the “U” channel shape of the tray, the 6061 aluminum would have to be heated prior to bending. This heating would result in the loss of heat treatment and most of its strength of the material. Do you believe the tray which is 75” long is put into the heat treat furnace after bending to restore the properties? This uneven heating to bend it likely results in a tray with unknown strength properties.

Don't risk your cycle to an aluminum experiment, go with tried and proven material; STEEL!!

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