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  1. #1
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    Aluminum or Steel Frame for SS endurance events

    I live on the East Coast (rocks and roots are big parts of our mtb exprience) and am hoping to ride some SS endurance events SS this season with a Reba on the front. I have an aluminum Specialized frame that I like.

    Please let me know if you have had experience on aluminum and steel SS frames in roots and rocks and if the steel frame makes a noticeable difference in ride quality over the long-term (i.e. 5-12 hour events)?

  2. #2
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    Having ridden both it's steel for me. It soaks up the chatter better and the feel is unmistakeable, at least for me. I also like the slimmer tubing of steel strictly from an aesthetic perspective. For a recent all mountain hardtail build I could have saved weight by going with an aluminum frame, but chose a MUCH beefier and heavier steel frame.

    Aluminum has, for lack of a better word, a brittle feel by comparison.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Papagiorgio View Post
    I live on the East Coast (rocks and roots are big parts of our mtb exprience) and am hoping to ride some SS endurance events SS this season with a Reba on the front. I have an aluminum Specialized frame that I like.

    Please let me know if you have had experience on aluminum and steel SS frames in roots and rocks and if the steel frame makes a noticeable difference in ride quality over the long-term (i.e. 5-12 hour events)?

  3. #3
    undercover brother
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    Quote Originally Posted by i.a.n. View Post
    Having ridden both it's steel for me. It soaks up the chatter better and the feel is unmistakeable, at least for me. I also like the slimmer tubing of steel strictly from an aesthetic perspective. For a recent all mountain hardtail build I could have saved weight by going with an aluminum frame, but chose a MUCH beefier and heavier steel frame.

    Aluminum has, for lack of a better word, a brittle feel by comparison.
    Yup. The weight difference between aluminum and steel frames is not enough to make me EVER want to own an aluminum hardtail ever again. STEEL IS REEEL!

  4. #4
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    Steel!

    I like the feel and the ride of steel over Al personally. Less vibration and harshness on ride. Love my Jabberwocky!
    I ride at ludicrous speed

  5. #5
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    I live in the mid-atlantic, so I ride plenty of roots and rocks. Owned both steel and aluminum and found the difference in both weight and ride negligible. I.e., the steel's extra weight wasn't noticeable and neither was its "compliance." With today's low pressure tubeless setups having such a huge positive effect on ride comfort, frame compliance is moot.

  6. #6
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    I think it depends on the way the aluminum frame is made. I just recently built up an On-One Scandal 29er SS with 80mm Manitou Tower Pro up front. The frame was only 3.5lbs. The weight ended up under 23lbs and I have a carbon fork that would drop another 2lbs. But, it really soaks up a lot trail chatter and roots. The way they designed the rear of the frame, makes it very compliant for aluminum.
    Last edited by trrubicon06; 02-07-2013 at 01:18 PM.

  7. #7
    meatier showers
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    There's a reason nobody makes springs out of aluminum. I've broken an aluminum frame (which is not to imply that steel frames don't break -- they do. Just sayin' I haven't broken one yet.)

    I did the Cream Puff on a steel SS in '02. It had 5" travel fork. Within the final 25 miles, I stopped three times to see if my fork was still working (because my arms were so worked that I thought the fork might be broken -- it wasn't). Anyway, IMO in endurance events, I think every little advantage adds up.

    That said, a hardtail is a hardtail regardless of material. I do believe a well built steel frame may tolerate the abuse of such events with less likelihood of welds or tubes failing. YMMV.

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  8. #8
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    I rode a Jabberwocky with a Reba fork for a couple of years. Loved it. Last year I decided to switch to a Niner One 9 with a Reba to change things up. I'm faster for XC / max effort laps on the One 9. I've done a couple of 6 hour races on the One 9 and I'm about the same speed but not as comfortable. The Jabber really was comfortable for longer rides. No east coast riding experience but I do visit Austin/central TX a few times a year and it is land of the rocks. I'm thinking about going back to steel. I really like the way steel rides and aesthetics are hard to beat (yeah really subjective stuff here). I may go custom steel on the next frame. Good luck.

  9. #9
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    While I don't have any east coast experience; I did start riding the rocks and roots of the PNW almost 20 years ago.

    Since then I have ridden or owned most materials; Steel (High end and less so), Aluminium, Carbon and even rode a Bamboo mountain bike on the trails of So. Cal.

    As a lot of people have mentioned, steel is typically considered more comfortable and Aluminium less so. You need to take this with a grain of sand. Several years ago (early 90's) Aluminium bikes were all done with straight tubes and were generally pretty harsh. Since techniques like hydro-forming have come into vogue, manufacturers have been able to manipulate Aluminium into shapes that allow the frame to absorb more than in the past.
    Along those lines, each bike frame of similar material will have different characteristics. I myself am fond of steel. When I purchased my current bike (Salsa El Mariachi) I tried several (Surly, Niner, Spot, etc) I (personally) found the Surly to be exceptionally harsh, the Niner flexy and the Spot was compliant but firm. I know some people find the Soul Cycles Dillinger (Aluminium) to be a comfortable bike.

    Once you have chosen a frame, don't underestimate the material choice in the cockpit. While I would never ride a (current generation) Carbon frame, the use of a high quality carbon bar will help noticeably in regards to vibration and trail chatter.

    Hope this help. Remember though that in a lot of cases (the collective) we are talking in variances of degrees when it comes to frame materials so don't get too hung up on the subtleties.

    Randall

  10. #10
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    i believe it comes down to which body part(s) you appreciate the most. legs like the lighter weight of aluminum, while your low back and kidneys most likely would appreciate the feel of steel. personally i opt for lighter weight and run lower volume in my tires. i ride nj, ny, pa, and del and have participated in a few endurance type races.

  11. #11
    No known cure
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    I have a custom steel frame that is a dream to ride all day, but a little too springy and forgiving for XC racing. So I had another one built that looks the same, but with stiffer stays and a larger diameter DT. It's out for paint right now so I don't know how it rides yet.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Aluminum or Steel Frame for SS endurance events-img_4683-2-.jpg  

    Ripping trails and tipping ales

  12. #12
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    Vader - Still sticking with canti brakes? Looks like a cool build.

    RE: frame material, I've owned all materials and I find frame design/geo has more impact than material. I'm really liking the slightly slacker geo, which gets you more upright and weight more on the legs. It helps on those longer days on the saddle (for me anyway). Setting up a different (ie bigger) tire configuration with less psi will help a ton as well.

  13. #13
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    I think it comes down to trying out what you can and picking what feels right to you and not what wins a web poll. Everyone is different and it is hard speak in generalizations. I've ridden an Alum HT for while and it was like a bad night in prison after a couple hours, so I switched to FS.

    Then last year I built up an old Ibis Alibi from the late 1990s which is Alum and it rides like a dream for me, so different than the cheaper mass produced HT I had before.

    I have also ridden some SIR 9s and they are sweet rides but no more "compliant" than my Ibis and my Ibis is no more "stiff" than the SIR 9s......

    Let your body and arse be your guide.....

  14. #14
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    From my experience your seatpost material will also have a huge impact of how the frame rides. Ti or carbon is usually much more forgiving than aluminum.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Captain_America1976 View Post
    From my experience your seatpost material will also have a huge impact of how the frame rides. Ti or carbon is usually much more forgiving than aluminum.
    This is also a very valid point......good observation

  16. #16
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    Scandium for the win! I ride a scandium frame...which is basically aluminum with 1% scandium and an erickson ti seatpost. I ride in Colorado so take what I say with a grain of salt.

    I have broken two steel frames and one aluminum frame in the past 5 years. I ride a lot of the longer rides out here, breck 100, the vapor trail, 12 hours of mesa verde, crested butte 100 etc. I am by no means competative in these events, just trying to finish them.

    I honestly can say that the scandium frame is the most comfortable and responsive out of the past frames. Maybe it is the titanium seatpost, maybe not. Titanium seatposts are stupid expensive and for years i thought they were total BS....then I rode one...and bought one that day.

    I would like to see someone set up a steel frame and an aluminum / scandium frame with the same tires and tire pressure, same seat and post and grips and somehow make it a double blind study and have people try to figure out which is which. I am not sure how to disguise the frame for this test, but I think the results would be super interesting....some bike magazine or web site needs to do this.

  17. #17
    meatier showers
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deeps Elgnis View Post
    ... Maybe it is the titanium seatpost...
    I'll bet it is. I rode a ti seatpost for a couple years (until it finally took a set) -- I had 11" of post showing above the frame. Talk about a spring! Most comfortable hardtail EVAR! It as a good as a softtail, I'm sure, maybe almost as good as a short travel FS frame. I'll bet that poor ol' Airborne ti post moved at least an inch, maybe more, every time my arse cheeks slapped down on it. It was amazingly comfortable... right up until the end. I'd like to get another ti post but I don't want to break another one.

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  18. #18
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    I thought my Salsa El Mar was a big improvement over my Jabber but then

    I threw an Erickson ti post on my El Mar and couldn't believe the difference it made over the alum thomson post I was riding.

    It was such a huge improvement in ride quality it was worth it for sure, not to mention how well the post performed over the thomson as far as

    keeping silent.
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  19. #19
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    Aluminum or Steel Frame for SS endurance events

    Last December I did my first solo event on my rigid SS. After 10 hours and 128 miles the Erickson post earned a permanent place on all current and future hard tails.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  20. #20
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    Dissenting opinion.

    Last year, I rode both a steel frame and an aluminum frame in a bunch of endurance events. I rode the aluminum frame rigid 100% of the time...



    and I rode the steel frame rigid and with 100mm of travel, depending on the event.



    I rode the Trans Sylvania Epic (you wanna talk East coast rocks and roots?) half on rigid aluminum and the other half on the rigid steel.

    Here's what I think. Tire pressure and volume, ti/carbon seatposts, ti/carbon bars... they have way more impact on comfort levels. Aside from select races in Pisgah (which I will race on the steel bike with 100mm of travel), I'll be racing this:



    Granted, I will swap the tires to a 2.4/2.25 Ardents for the TSE this year. East Coast pretty much means burly tires or get quick at changing flats.

    I should add... I've been doing the endurance SS thing since 2004. I've done it on multiple ti, steel, and aluminum frames. They all felt good... unless they didn't.

    SS endurance racing hurts or else you're not doing it right.
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  21. #21
    meatier showers
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    Aluminum or Steel Frame for SS endurance events

    Quote Originally Posted by teamdicky View Post
    ...

    SS endurance racing hurts or else you're not doing it right.
    I'll drink to this!

    In fact I already have... many times. :-/

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    Quote Originally Posted by riverrat
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