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Thread: Steel vs. Ti

  1. #1
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    Steel vs. Ti

    First of all hi! I'm new on here but have been on the boards looking at stuff for a while now.

    Sorry if this is a repeat thread but I did search beforehand and didn't find an exact thread like this. But again...sorry if it is a repeat.

    I'm looking into possibly purchasing a new frame to build up in a few months when I graduate from grad school and start making some real money I've been researching doing a custom frame and think this is the way to go. My big thing right now is trying to determine what kind of material I want a custom frame out of.

    I thought about carbon but it just kind of freaks me out to do carbon on mt even though my friend loves her sworks stumpy and swears by it. That said I'm between steel and ti.

    I know ti is more expensive and supposedly more resilient. I know it's supposed to be the "ultimate" frame material by some standard. However, I've heard great things about steel and it is relatively cheaper. I know steel is more prone to damage due to rust though (I don't ride in wet conditions often but 12 hour races out here do run in the rain sometimes so yeah...there's that).

    I guess what I'm looking for is anyone who's owned a frame of both material who can tell me the real difference. I mainly want to know about ride quality. I do prefer my stiff carbon road bike over my aluminum mt bike but, again, carbon on mt still makes me nervous. I do like the stiffness though and I'm wondering which of the two is less flexy. Which one is more suited to cross country? Is there a difference in ascending/descending? Is there any difference at all other than price?

  2. #2
    1*14*29*2.1 & 1*1*29*2.4
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    People will chime in and tell you that it is more about how the frame is made, and there is merit to it. Especially if you go custom with a good builder, who can tailor your ride how you want. My first 29er was a steel frame and while very compliant I didn't like the front end wobble. I took this info to Quiring (who does steel, Ti, alu) who taliored a frame in Ti for me that ticked all the boxes. If you are going custom, have this converation with your builder who will advise you ..this is why you go to a good custom builder.

    Having said that....steel has some good points...I like steel a lot. I think there is something with the feel of it. I think it is easier to make a steel frame regarding tolerances with the smaller diameter tubes, and I believe less demanding to weld and cut. Ti is nicer regarding no rust and lighter. I personally don't consider one tougher than the other as long as the build is right. Potentially I think keeping the weights reasonable, Ti will be stiffer.

    All up I prefer Ti. Personally I think it feels racier than steel....a good compromise between steel and alu. It just depends on what you want the frame to do for oyu and what kind of riding you do though. I'd love a nice custom steel frame. I still ride my old Italian racing roadie from the 80's.

  3. #3
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    If you have access to both, try them out. Only you will know if a certain material suits your needs. I'm not a huge fan of carbon, but it has more than proven itself over the last few years. Rent, beg, steal, borrow bikes of different material types and try them all out to see which works best for you.

    I'm old and like my steel bikes. I've owned everything but carbon, and I always go back to steel.

  4. #4
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    Why do you need custom? Are you really big or small? I would ride a lot of bikes so you're more informed before going for a custom frame.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fat Bob View Post
    If you have access to both, try them out. Only you will know if a certain material suits your needs.

    I like this ^^^ advice but keep in mind that rides can vary wildly depending on how the builder has designed the frame and fit is paramount- for example riding a too small or large ti frame is not a fair test of it's ride qualities.

    I have not owned any ti bikes but have ridden many and my opinion is that they offer a very supple ride that seems especially good for a ridged or HT mountain bike. Overall the ones I've ridden feel more flexy- In a good way, than steel. Someday I will have one.

    I have owned several steel frames and I love the ride of a good steel steed. Good tubing and good design = a great ride. I wouldn't worry about rust- if you live in a really wet area you can treat the inside of the frame but otherwise take reasonable care and you'll have no problems.

    To my knowledge there is no such thing as a custom carbon frame.

  6. #6
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    There are plenty of custom carbon frames, Crumpton being one of the very best.

    and you're absolutely crazy to buy a Crumpton unless you know exactly what you want.

  7. #7
    Rogue Exterminator
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    It seems as if you haven't even considered Aluminum.
    And yes, why would you feel the urge to get a custom frome?

  8. #8
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    i would try a lot of bikes
    i'm on my 3rd frame this year
    trek xcal
    niner mcr
    canfield nimble 9
    and finally found the geometry that suits my style and fit
    so NOW i have a custom titanium on order, it closely mimics the nimble 9, with more stand over clearance and a couple little tweaks

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan GSR View Post
    i would try a lot of bikes
    i'm on my 3rd frame this year
    trek xcal
    niner mcr
    canfield nimble 9
    and finally found the geometry that suits my style and fit
    so NOW i have a custom titanium on order, it closely mimics the nimble 9, with more stand over clearance and a couple little tweaks
    What did you not like about the MCR?

    As everyone has said, get on a load of bikes. I rode steel until I found something I loved, then ordered a custom Ti. There are some great deals on steel bikes right now, I'd take a few for a spin.

  10. #10
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    tubing matters

    I've owned a couple steel and a couple ti mtn bikes.....both geared and SS. Just know that there is a difference between high quality steel and plumbing-quality steel. Same goes for ti......there is a lot of ti out there that is designated "sport grade" and you really don't want to spend the money to get a bike made with this.

    So there are steel bikes made of wonderful tubing with better ride characteristics than some ti bikes.

    My preference is ti if you can spring the extra $$. By and large it's smoother, doesn't carry the same worry as steel in wet environs, and if well made will last a couple of lifetimes.
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  11. #11
    the mountian is within
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    Look at Vassago...you can get a base model SS or geared steel...if you like it they do USA made high-end steel and USA Ti....just sell the base-they sell quick and upgrade frames!
    i own a bikeshop in WV thetruewheelwv.com

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Canyon93108 View Post
    What did you not like about the MCR?
    not that i didn't like the mcr
    i just like the handling of the canfield that much more
    the geometry of the nimble 9 is better for me
    the mcr has a much steeper head tube angle
    and steering was too fast at high speed

    the best way i can describe it is the mcr steers thru my hands
    where as the nimble 9 steers thru my hips

    and gives me WAY more confidence
    i can do stuff that i normally wouldn't, and carry way more speed

  13. #13
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    I'm a fan of Ti. I've had my Ti road bike for 11 years now and have no urge to replace it. I rode a high end carbon bike (while waiting for my turn on a MTB during a demo) and was impressed. It was pretty comfy and obviously fast... but not $5K faster than my extremely comfy Ti roadie. Ti lasts, is strong and light and I won't worry about bashing it on rocks.

    Eventually I'll get a Ti MTB as my HT. Problem is, my Al bike is such a perfect fit and great - and comfortable - ride, I can't justify spending the money yet. And then when I do, I may have to take my Al frame to a custom builder and have them recreate it in Ti because I like it so much.

    Back on topic, if you can try a Niner SIR9, that'll be a good steel test.
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    Completely agree with trying out different bikes. I know a lbs that carries lynskey so maybe ill see if they have any demos I can throw a leg over.

    In regards to the questions about why custom...I want to start doing 12 and 24 hour races and I have weird geo that causes a lot of neck and shoulder pain. I've done a lot of tweaking to my cockpit and whatnot but have never found a sweet spot that's allowed me to reach a really comfortable riding position. I've tried multiple bikes (all day demos, friends bikes, carbon, all diff brands, etc) and have never really found a good fit. Thats why I'd like to work with a great builder who can possibly eliminate the riding discomfort. I know this might not be the answer either but I figure a custom frame can't be a bad investment either as long as I'm not going overboard. I'm trying to bargain hunt and find the best builder for the right price. But we'll see. A lot of times you get what you pay for

    Aluminums a great material but I don't want a custom frame out of it.

    Btw...how would you guys rank aluminum, steel, and ti as far as stiffness?

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    Also...one frame that really caught my eye was the new Titus Fireline 29er. Obvi it wont be custom but the price is amazing in comparison to the other ti quotes that I've gotten. So I don't know. I know Titus is listing it as more of a trail style bike as well so I don't know how that'd translate to my cross country style. Any thoughts on the geo of this bike?

  16. #16
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    Nothing beats a nice steel frame! IMO. They are works of art. Take a look at the NHMBS (National Handmade Bike Show) 99% of their bikes are steel. That should tell you something.

  17. #17
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    I meant NAHBS (North American Handmade Bike Show)

  18. #18
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    I may have missed it but not sure if you're talking rigid, HT, or full sus...I kinda assume rigid since you're btwn Fe and Ti.

    If you're going rigid I'd suggest a Chi-ti spaceframe...I've got a 24" MoJo spaceframe which is my go-to bike for everything except a couple of places here in SoCal which are really rough...I can't climb worth sh*t on a rigid frame in the really rough sections so I use a Sultan, but otherwise the Spaceframe is the best.

    The price, including a fork, is not bad ($3800), and JJ will work with you to get a setup that fits. If you're not sure, you could also try the steel version at $1500. The other plus is you won't have to wait. If you're really weirdly shaped it might not work, but otherwise it's a good option. Good luck.

  19. #19
    The perfessor
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    Ridden both myself - steel SS / Ti SS, steel geared / Ti geared.......I liked the Ti better because I found it both comfortable and easier to "throw around" underneath me; I cut a bunch of weight with the current Ti 29er HT I'm running and it handles almost as nicely as my 26er (better for climbs)...........
    Trifecta is Perfecta: 26" FSR Geared / 29er SS Rigid / 29er Ti Hardtail Geared

  20. #20
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    Dan GSR- who are you going with for your custom?

  21. #21
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    xacd

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    I had a Cotic Soul in 853 steel and a Cotic Soda in Ti. At the time these were an almost identical design so it was great to compare. When I picked up the bargain Soda frame, my brother got the Soul for his bike and we could ride togehter and swap bikes. We both preferred the Soda as it was so light and had a wonderful lively responsive feel on our local forest trails. However when I took it to the Peak District (where the trails are a bit rocky) I gave myself a couple of real scares whilst descending. I discovered that the Soda frame wasn't stiff enough and felt rather out of control when things got bumpy.I think Cotic realised the original Soda was too wobbly as they completely re-designed the frame and had the new design built by Lynskey. I have not ridden the new Soda design so I can't comment on how that rides but I'm guessing the stiffness issue was addressed because a few months back I saw a Cy Turner lecture on Youtube where he discussed designing for steel and titanium and seemed to acknowledge the shortcomings of the original design whilst discussing the new one. Anyway my Soda was stolen and could not afford to replace it at the time so I had new Soul instead. After owning the Soda, I expected to be dissatisfied with the Soul but I actually found I was really enjoying it. I think that after my scare on Soda, I appreciated the stiffer more confident downhill qualities of the Soul.
    The Soul/Soda saga took place around 2008, after which I got into various suspension bikes. Most recently I had been riding a Turner Flux and was absolutely delighted with it as it combined what I liked best in all the other suspension bikes I'd tried. Even so I still was really curious to try a 29er hardtail. I got all fired up again when I read a review of the steel Indy Fab Deluxe 29er by Steve Worland in in back number of WMB. At the start of this year I was actually looking for a steel 29er when I spotted the El-Mar in Ti frame going cheap.
    Anyway the upshot is that the El-Mar Ti has been a big hit with me. In really rough situations it is not as capable and confident as the Flux, but even so I just love riding it.
    Last edited by Tea@Dimbola; 12-02-2012 at 01:08 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by finch2 View Post
    People will chime in and tell you that it is more about how the frame is made, and there is merit to it. Especially if you go custom with a good builder, who can tailor your ride how you want. My first 29er was a steel frame and while very compliant I didn't like the front end wobble. I took this info to Quiring (who does steel, Ti, alu) who taliored a frame in Ti for me that ticked all the boxes. If you are going custom, have this converation with your builder who will advise you ..this is why you go to a good custom builder.
    This. A good builder can take what you like and don't like, your height/weight, your riding style, and craft a bike that will work for you.

    and another plug for Scott Quiring, he builds great frames.
    Pisgah Area SORBA

    Quote Originally Posted by kjlued View Post
    ... your idea of technical may be much different than other peoples idea of technical.

  24. #24
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    It's very simple

    Competently designed/built frames out of ti and steel will ride exactly the same, and both will be plenty durable.

    The ti frame will cost $500-2000 more, depending on the manufacturer, and it'll be somewhere around a half pound lighter. It will never rust, but as long as you keep your steel frame in your shed or garage when you're not riding it and do some very basic maintenance, neither will the steel.

    In essence, you are buying rust protection, a little weight, and bling. If your budget for a bike is <$5k or so, ti makes no sense at all, since you'll be sacrificing componentry to afford the material (a $3k steel bike is XT/XTR - in many cases that will only buy you a frame in ti). Over $5k if you want what ti brings to the table, go for it.

    -Walt
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Walt View Post
    Competently designed/built frames out of ti and steel will ride exactly the same, and both will be plenty durable.

    The ti frame will cost $500-2000 more, depending on the manufacturer, and it'll be somewhere around a half pound lighter. It will never rust, but as long as you keep your steel frame in your shed or garage when you're not riding it and do some very basic maintenance, neither will the steel.

    In essence, you are buying rust protection, a little weight, and bling. If your budget for a bike is <$5k or so, ti makes no sense at all, since you'll be sacrificing componentry to afford the material (a $3k steel bike is XT/XTR - in many cases that will only buy you a frame in ti). Over $5k if you want what ti brings to the table, go for it.

    -Walt
    Pretty stoked you took the time to answer this

    I know you are one of the experts on the subject and therefore I kind of want your weigh in on steel maintenance for a person who doesn't know how to completely assemble and take apart a bike. My friends dad is a mechanic and works on/build ups my bikes for free. He's great at what he does (been offered many shop jobs) but he just does it on the side. I hate asking him to do extensive stuff though on my bikes as he's not getting paid for it, etc. What I'm asking concerns your suggestions on maintaining a steel frame. I live in SoCal so rain isn't really any issue for me. That said I ride in a lot of places with creek crossing and (while I could carry my bike over) they are awesome to ride through. Having said this, how much maintenance would you expect the frame needing? Does it really need to be completely stripped down and rebuilt every year?

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