As bike manufacturing has evolved, frames have become lighter, stronger and more expensive. But with a wonder alloy known as Super Magnesium recently becoming declassified by the U.S. government, bicycle frames — and other metal-dependent products — could see a dramatic shift in weight, durability and price.
Since its development in 2006, the proprietary alloy owned by Allite Inc. had only been used for aerospace and military projects, functioning solely as a classified government material. But now, Super Magnesium is available for consumer use — and the scope of its applications is astonishing.
Allite’s corporate parent is UWHK Ltd., which also owns Huffy Bicycles.
Super Magnesium, a blend of rare earth elements and magnesium, is special in that it’s capable of being cast, forged or welded. However, it isn’t just the variety of uses that have manufacturers excited at the alloy’s potential.
With a weight of 1.83 grams per cubic centimeter, the alloy is 75 percent lighter than steel and 50 percent lighter than titanium. Put plainly, it weighs less than any relative structural material, even aluminum.
Though its extremely light weight has road bikers dreaming of the possibilities, it also offers a strength-to-weight ratio which rivals that of carbon fiber.
During its development cycle, the company created a way to play with different alloy formulas to produce varied results. Depending on the application, its properties can be changed to offer a specific strength to weight needed for any structure. Because of this, Allite sees benefits not just in cycling, but also in the automotive, sporting goods and outdoor industries.
Though carbon fiber produces similar results in terms of vibration absorption and strength, Allite’s Super Magnesium wins in one significant category: Sustainability. Super Magnesium is 100 percent recyclable and requires around 50 percent less energy to manufacture than aluminum.
Allite hasn’t announced exact pricing but did say the material figures to cost roughly 50 percent less than carbon fiber. The alloy’s reasonable price is largely due to the fact magnesium is one of Earth’s most common elements. It’s even capable of being extracted from seawater.
Allite has yet to put its Super Magnesium on the market in any form, though it announced at the annual Interbike conference in September that several brands already began working with it. With a high bar set in terms of hype and intended performance, it remains to be seen how effective Allite Super Magnesium will be once released into the wild.
Editor’s note: images courtesy of Allite Inc.