Steel or Aluminum 29er Hardtail for comfort?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Steel or Aluminum 29er Hardtail for comfort?

    Does a steel 29er Hardtail ride more comfortable than an aluminum 29er Hardtail? Looking for the more comfortable hardtail: Vassago Bandersnatch or Sette Razzo for my older bones?

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    It sounds like you have a problem with your seat I would suggest getting a leather suspension seat with springs, I would suggest one of the three seats:http://www.brookssaddles.com/en/Shop...+duty&prod=B67
    I don't have any experience with the Brooks but it's considered "the standard"
    http://www.permaco.com/en-us/dept_7.html
    I have used the Persons Apollo and Majestic Saddles and the Apollo is by far more comfortable of the two. The Apollo also has a shortened rear "wing" which means that you can move it further back than most saddles. I have used the Apollo on both road and mountain bikes and it makes huge difference,especially on a road bike. It can really absorb all the bumps and subtle obstacles that you are bound to encounter during road riding.

    I have also used the Gyes Leather Bicycle Saddle:
    http://www.crowcycleco.com/bicycle-c...e-560-005.html

    It's far superior in quality and construction to the Apollo Saddle, I have had five Apollo's and one required a replacement. However it has two disadvantages compared to the Apollo saddles. The first one is the leather, it just isn't as soft so it has a "firmer" ride. Another issue is the wing itself. The Apollo saddle can be pushed back further than the Gyes, and probably the Brooks Saddle due to it's "small wing" design.

    Another thing is it's much cheaper to get a new Saddle than a new bike! If I'm wrong you're out maybe $80 a new bike on the other hand is a much more expensive proposition.

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    A big fat rear tire run it tubeless at low pressure.

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    Steel.

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    Easily steel. Aluminium is the harshest by a long shot. If you've got the dough then go titanium. As mentioned get some large volume tyres live the Schwalbe big apples for the city or WTB Weiwolfs for trails at 25 - 30 pressure. Any more comfortable than that and you may as well be on an armchair.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hugor
    Easily steel. Aluminium is the harshest by a long shot. If you've got the dough then go titanium. As mentioned get some large volume tyres live the Schwalbe big apples for the city or WTB Weiwolfs for trails at 25 - 30 pressure. Any more comfortable than that and you may as well be on an armchair.
    Calling BS.
    Another MTBR urban myth IMO.
    Have had steel (Sir9 and Zion), Scandium with CF seatstay (Mamasita) and Aluminium (El Comandante).
    IMO none of them felt significantly harsher than the other.
    Ran all of them with 2.1's front and back and mainly fully rigid.

    IMO good build quality and geometry will also effect ride quality.
    Will get back to you on the improved ride quality that ti brings to the table when I have a good few rides on my Blacksheep under my belt.

  7. #7
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    Comfort in frames is all about the design and build, not about the material.
    For added comfort look at large volum tires, low pressures, thinner seat posts and a fitting comfy saddel. As stated before in this thread...

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by simenf
    Comfort in frames is all about the design and build, not about the material.
    For added comfort look at large volum tires, low pressures, thinner seat posts and a fitting comfy saddel. As stated before in this thread...
    That is my experience on my road and mountain bike as well. I recently changed from a steel Karate Monkey to an cheap aluminum Access 9r from Performance. The Access is IME more compliant. I suspect that the longer chain stays play a role in this.

  9. #9
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    See what not asking a properly worded question does? You make a bunch of folks give you more confusion than you started with.

    Is steel more compliant than the other material? Yes, all day long (unless you mean some crazy cheap, thick walled POS). Thin walled butted steel has a ride with no equal in terms of forgiveness and snap.

    Is aluminum stiffer, therefore, less flexible, and thus, capable of building a less compliant frame? Yes (unless you mean some of the uber-expensive offerings that have aluminum pushed to it's limits, often with carbon involved, or things like Scandium). Cheap, thick walled pricepoint type alloy frames are like riding with a jack hammer up your arse.

    Comfort is so many things. Back pain, butt pain, shoulder pain, hand pain, they all have different solutions, (fit, component choice, design, body type, fitness level etc) .

    But to call steel no different in ride quality than aluminum is a disservice to the OP, and the material.
    This is a Pugs not some carbon wannabee pretzel wagon!!

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    But to call steel no different in ride quality than aluminum is a disservice to the OP, and the material.

    Even aluminum frames from different manufacturers can have a very different feel, I have a Gary Fisher Rig (converted into a 1x9) and a Giant XTC 29er 1 although both bikes are made of aluminum the Giant is definitely stiffer, its frame is lighter too.

    I've also tried Rocky Mountain's Hammer 29er Geared steel hardtail, it has better ride than either the Gary Fisher or the Giant, but it has one major drawback:it doesn't climb as well as the Giant.

    So sure it's possible to get a bike with a less road chatter but it may affect climbing. Honestly I think a leather suspension saddle is your best bet.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by MendonCycleSmith
    See what not asking a properly worded question does? You make a bunch of folks give you more confusion than you started with.

    Is steel more compliant than the other material? Yes, all day long (unless you mean some crazy cheap, thick walled POS). Thin walled butted steel has a ride with no equal in terms of forgiveness and snap.

    Is aluminum stiffer, therefore, less flexible, and thus, capable of building a less compliant frame? Yes (unless you mean some of the uber-expensive offerings that have aluminum pushed to it's limits, often with carbon involved, or things like Scandium). Cheap, thick walled pricepoint type alloy frames are like riding with a jack hammer up your arse.

    Comfort is so many things. Back pain, butt pain, shoulder pain, hand pain, they all have different solutions, (fit, component choice, design, body type, fitness level etc) .

    But to call steel no different in ride quality than aluminum is a disservice to the OP, and the material.
    I have to disagree based purely on frame material. The compliance of "steel" frames per se is an urban legend. Tires, assuming they are not inflated to ridiculous pressures, have far more compliance and would mask any vertical frame flexing.

    I'm aware that you have qualified the type or quality of steel and aluminum utilized but one does not have to go to extremes. It is my belief that a well designed frame trumps the material used.

    I think this issue is best explained in the linked article by the late and highly respected Sheldon Brown.

    Ronnie.
    The trouble with having an open mind is that people will insist on trying to put things in it.

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    Wow, if you read the article by Sheldon Brown, the argument is over. No reason to shell out the money for steel I guess.

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    Wow, if you read the article by Sheldon Brown, the argument is over. No reason to shell out the money for steel I guess.

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    Well, if you read Sheldon Browns Article, the argument is over. It's all about frame design.

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    Well without studies looking at every different frame manufacturers geometry and its vertical compliance it seems this question is unanswerable.
    However it goes without question that of the 3 common materials used to manufacture frames that the most elastic and hence most comfortable metal starts with titanium, then steel and followed by aluminum.
    I accept that geometry has a very large factor to play but it is an unknown variable in this comparison.
    As a bioengineer I do not know where carbon fits in the equation as we don't use it.
    If I was the OP I would suggest titanium and if I couldn't afford that then I would go steel.

  16. #16
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    Only applies if you drink the Sheldon Brown kool-aid. Mr. Brown was a bright fellow but he also is pretty singular in his frame article. He considers comfort using only his butt as his gauge. And makes some large assumptions which are purely math based, pertaining to a perfect world. He never for instance takes resonance into account.
    Frame material does make a difference the same as chain stay length or any other piece of the design.
    I love reading Sheldon Brown but his is his own opinion and he isn't nor ever was a final authority, at least not that I know of.
    Wally

  17. #17
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    It depends on bumpiness.
    PoisonDogFart

  18. #18
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    In my humble opinion, I think frame material is more applicable to road bikes where the tires have 100+ PSI. The tires are very hard an transmit much more of the raod to your sit bones. Plus, on a road bike you tend to ride seated a much higher percentage of the time than on a mountain bike... On a mountain bike, you have (relatively speaking) large volume squishy tires... and you're probably only sitting on the seat 1/2 the time, give or take... I think comfort issues have to do with the seat, the seat position, the correct frame size, the correct stem lenght and bar hieght and width... my recommendation is to get professionally "fitted" to your bike if it's causing you discomfort.

  19. #19
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    So let's say hypothetically, that you had 2 bikes one a steel hardtail and one aluminum and they had the same geometry and same wheels tires etc. that they would feel the same?
    The secret to mountain biking is pretty simple. The slower you go the more likely it is you'll crash.

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    Quote Originally Posted by prphoto
    So let's say hypothetically, that you had 2 bikes one a steel hardtail and one aluminum and they had the same geometry and same wheels tires etc. that they would feel the same?
    That's the part that depends on bumpiness.

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    Same bumpiness.
    The secret to mountain biking is pretty simple. The slower you go the more likely it is you'll crash.

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    Quote Originally Posted by prphoto
    Same bumpiness.
    In that case the steel frame would absorb and dissapate the "bumpiness" better. Unless you're comparing a budget steel frame with a super high-end aluminum frame.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by imbabob
    Does a steel 29er Hardtail ride more comfortable than an aluminum 29er Hardtail? Looking for the more comfortable hardtail: Vassago Bandersnatch or Sette Razzo for my older bones?
    Do a search on other boards besides this (general, bike & frame) and you will see that this has been one of the most endlessly debated topics for as long as mtbr has been online. Still no agreement.

    My take: So far, the steel HT's that I have ridden have been felt compliant/comfortable to me that the aluminum ones. CAN aluminum be as compliant as steel? I'm sure some of the more compliant aluminum frames are more compliant that some of the less compliant steel ones. But that does not mean that steel is not a more compliant material that aluminum, it just means that material is not the only thing that matters in a bikes smoothness/compliance.

    I saw someone comparing their Karate Monkey with a Access frame. the KM is known to be one of the least compliant 29er steel frames out there. I know, I have one. The Zion EB853 I had before it was much smoother.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MendonCycleSmith
    See what not asking a properly worded question does? You make a bunch of folks give you more confusion than you started with.

    Is steel more compliant than the other material? Yes, all day long (unless you mean some crazy cheap, thick walled POS). Thin walled butted steel has a ride with no equal in terms of forgiveness and snap.

    Is aluminum stiffer, therefore, less flexible, and thus, capable of building a less compliant frame? Yes (unless you mean some of the uber-expensive offerings that have aluminum pushed to it's limits, often with carbon involved, or things like Scandium). Cheap, thick walled pricepoint type alloy frames are like riding with a jack hammer up your arse.

    Comfort is so many things. Back pain, butt pain, shoulder pain, hand pain, they all have different solutions, (fit, component choice, design, body type, fitness level etc) .
    But to call steel no different in ride quality than aluminum is a disservice to the OP, and the material.
    THIS IS THE TRUEST RESPONSE IN THIS THREAD!

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    Quote Originally Posted by kapusta
    Do a search on other boards besides this (general, bike & frame) and you will see that this has been one of the most endlessly debated topics for as long as mtbr has been online. Still no agreement.

    My take: So far, the steel HT's that I have ridden have been felt compliant/comfortable to me that the aluminum ones. CAN aluminum be as compliant as steel? I'm sure some of the more compliant aluminum frames are more compliant that some of the less compliant steel ones. But that does not mean that steel is not a more compliant material that aluminum, it just means that material is not the only thing that matters in a bikes smoothness/compliance.

    I saw someone comparing their Karate Monkey with a Access frame. the KM is known to be one of the least compliant 29er steel frames out there. I know, I have one. The Zion EB853 I had before it was much smoother.
    Yep, the Karate Monkey.....That would be an example of a "budget steel frame."

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    If you want to break it down to the specific stiffness of each material then aluminum will have a higher stiffness to weight ratio than steel. The reason they don't make airplane wings out of steel.
    The secret to mountain biking is pretty simple. The slower you go the more likely it is you'll crash.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by imbabob
    Does a steel 29er Hardtail ride more comfortable than an aluminum 29er Hardtail? Looking for the more comfortable hardtail: Vassago Bandersnatch or Sette Razzo for my older bones?
    As a general question regarding steel versus aluminum you've really pulled the scab off the wound. You'll get no consensus. Cheap steel can ride harsh and well done aluminum can ride great. But since you've actually supplied the forum with specific models to compare we should actually address that. We should not compare the KM to the Access as these are not the bikes you asked about, though the Access is probably more similar to the Sette than the KM to the Bander.

    First - I've never ridden either. My opinion will be based on nothing but speculation and is therefore no better than anyone else's, and worse than some (or most). But a forum such as this is about nothing if it's not about people supplying baseless opinions.

    Second, the obvious point that the Sette can be had for about $280 less than the Bander. How much more comfort in terms of components, tires, etc, can you get with that. Or better yet, would saving that amount of $ make a decision more "comfortable."

    Based on reputation alone, and certainly no real experience or science, I would suspect that, if you took a straight, round tube made of the Bander's 4130 steel versus the Sette's 7005 Alu the Bander's tubes would be more compliant and may (big maybe) transmit less amplitude of vibrations in the range that causes fatigue in humans. Don't really know, I'm not a materials engineer, just speculating. How this would translate to the ride of the bike would depend on the execution of the maker. Shaping of the tubes will also make a difference as curved or shaped stays will be more compliant.

    On the other hand geometry will have a great deal of effect. Compare the geo. The sizes aren't exactly alike and therefore will fit you different. One thing I notice off the bat is that the Sette can be had in a larger size, so if you are a bigger guy this may be important (ETT 641mm vs 623). The Bander, at a similar ETT (but not the same) has a slightly taller head tube which may make for less strain on your back. The chainstays are about the same.

    As others have pointed out there is also the component selection that will have a great deal to do with vibration dampening and fit.

    It also depends on what you mean by comfort. What kind of riding will you be doing? Full rigid or suspension fork? Are you open to other frames? Are you riding a bike right now? What don't you like about the fit and ride qualities of that bike?

  28. #28
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    What would give you more comfort, a +2" tire or a hard tail frame of any kind or material ?
    Go for the frame with the the most tire clearence, so you can use the fattest tires on the market.
    Belgian beer and Scotch whisky.

  29. #29
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    Depends on frame design. Also on contact points. Try some bikes out. Even some thicker grips can make a fair bit of difference.

  30. #30
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    Comfort aside, a good steel frame has a kind of springy, lively feel that makes it fun to ride. A cheap steel frame can be pretty hard to distinguish from a cheap aluminum frame.
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    Wow good info from all you guys. Thanks. I currently have a 2008 Kona Hei Hei 2-9. I'm going to be reviving my sport class racing career and don't really want to race a Hei Hei as its a bit sluggish & heavy for racing. Hence wanting to build up a 29er Hardtail for racing this summer. I'm getting a bit older in my mid 40's so a bike that doesn't beat me up is big concern for me. Thats why the Steel vs Aluminum 29er question. I tried the "search" function but not a whole lot came up but maybe I didn't type the search in quite right. The Frames I'm interested are the Bandersnatch and Razzo as I need to stay under the $500 frame price. By reading your posts, looks like I should concentrate more on tires, seatpost, seat and the frame material doesn't matter as much. I'll lean towards the Razzo as the price is nice and a lighter frame. Thanks again!

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by imbabob
    Does a steel 29er Hardtail ride more comfortable than an aluminum 29er Hardtail? Looking for the more comfortable hardtail: Vassago Bandersnatch or Sette Razzo for my older bones?
    comfortable aluminum hardtails do not exist.

    steel all the way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by blumarvel
    Yep, the Karate Monkey.....That would be an example of a "budget steel frame."
    Well, the Access frame is not really a high-end frame either, is it?

    My point was (and is), that there are so many things going into the ride quality of a frame that the only answer to the question of the OP is "No.".

  34. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by imbabob
    Wow good info from all you guys. Thanks. I currently have a 2008 Kona Hei Hei 2-9. I'm going to be reviving my sport class racing career and don't really want to race a Hei Hei as its a bit sluggish & heavy for racing. Hence wanting to build up a 29er Hardtail for racing this summer. I'm getting a bit older in my mid 40's so a bike that doesn't beat me up is big concern for me. Thats why the Steel vs Aluminum 29er question. I tried the "search" function but not a whole lot came up but maybe I didn't type the search in quite right. The Frames I'm interested are the Bandersnatch and Razzo as I need to stay under the $500 frame price. By reading your posts, looks like I should concentrate more on tires, seatpost, seat and the frame material doesn't matter as much. I'll lean towards the Razzo as the price is nice and a lighter frame. Thanks again!
    Hmm...it's not like those are the only two options. If I wanted a nice aluminum hardtail with gears for under $500, the Niner EMD would be right up there. I used to own a One9 and it was a very respectable frame. Don't cheap out on the frame and be disappointed.

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by crankpuller
    comfortable aluminum hardtails do not exist.

    steel all the way.
    You are deluded.

  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by prphoto
    So let's say hypothetically, that you had 2 bikes one a steel hardtail and one aluminum and they had the same geometry and same wheels tires etc. that they would feel the same?
    I have a feeling you'll find this interesting, I certainly did and it influenced my decision to go steel:

    http://forums.mtbr.com/showthread.php?t=176386

    Sir9 (steel) versus One9 (scandium) both specced the same, with essentially the same geometry.

    The difference between the two was pronounced and immediately noticeable. Not a subtle or non-existent difference, as has been suggested..

    I'd imagine the differences found between the bikes would be even more pronounced had the test included the EMD9 because it's aluminum, which is supposed to be even less compliant than scandium.

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    I know the whole world says this but.........

    It's all about the fit! I rode a Cannodale hardtail with a ti seatpost and was pretty happy, but the best riding non suspended bike ever to me was my Specialized Stumpjumper Pro, until the suntour xc freewheel was missin more theeth than a Wille Nelson fan!
    my 5 year old son took my photo, not a bad shot!

  38. #38
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    i'm no metallurgist, so i could be completely wrong. but i'm sure comfort is most about design, wheels, tires, seat and less about comfort. however, if all components being equal, then at lower price points i would think steel would give a more compliant ride. and once you get to the upper echelon of frames, the varience becomes even more insignificant between any material.

    in the past though, it was a totally different thing. my cannondale was brutally stiff compared to a friends Ritchey. i was much younger and could handle the jarring, but now i prefer steel and all my bikes are steel. including my soon-to-be 29er double squish.
    will you rep me?

  39. #39
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    When you hit a bump, how much does your frame flex? Maybe 1-2 mm?
    How much does your 2.1" tire flex? Maybe an inch?
    How much does your saddle flex?
    How much does your suspension fork move?
    How much give do your grips have?
    What about your gloves? padded shorts? soles of your shoes?
    Do you think that the 1mm is going to really be that noticeable given all of the possible points of flex?

    I love steel bikes. But not because they ride more comfortably. A well designed bike made from either steel or aluminum will ride well and comfortably. Aluminum is less strong than steel and will flex more, so in theory a bike frame made of aluminum will be more compliant - and that's what the first aluminum bikes were. But frame builders (and engineers) determined that tubes with a larger diameter increase strength dramatically, so aluminum tubes were made thicker to make them stiff. Some aluminum frames have big fat tubes with little flex. Some have smaller diameter tubes with more flex. Assuming that all frames made of aluminum ride a certain way is bunk, as the tubes diameter (steel or aluminum) combined with the wall thickness (which varies a lot) and the frame's geometry are all working together to defined the frame's ride.

    If your frame rides rough, it maybe the frame. But it's more likely a result of the chainstay length or seat tube angle than the material that it's made from.
    Each bicycle owned exponentially increases the probability that none is working correctly.

  40. #40
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    I have some high-end bikes (Lynskey Pro 29, Waltwork) and a KM. The KM kicks ass! I use it as a SS commuter and a cyclocross. Can't erase the grin off my face...

  41. #41
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    Sheldon Browns page got the answer.

  42. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by Minimalist
    Well, the Access frame is not really a high-end frame either, is it?

    My point was (and is), that there are so many things going into the ride quality of a frame that the only answer to the question of the OP is "No.".
    My point is that you are comparing one steel frame to one aluminum frame. sample sizes of 1 and 1.

    Just because frame material is not the sole determinant of ride quality does not mean it makes no difference.

  43. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by laffeaux
    When you hit a bump, how much does your frame flex? Maybe 1-2 mm?
    How much does your 2.1" tire flex? Maybe an inch?
    How much does your saddle flex?
    How much does your suspension fork move?
    How much give do your grips have?
    What about your gloves? padded shorts? soles of your shoes?
    Do you think that the 1mm is going to really be that noticeable given all of the possible points of flex?

    I love steel bikes. But not because they ride more comfortably. A well designed bike made from either steel or aluminum will ride well and comfortably. Aluminum is less strong than steel and will flex more, so in theory a bike frame made of aluminum will be more compliant - and that's what the first aluminum bikes were. But frame builders (and engineers) determined that tubes with a larger diameter increase strength dramatically, so aluminum tubes were made thicker to make them stiff. Some aluminum frames have big fat tubes with little flex. Some have smaller diameter tubes with more flex. Assuming that all frames made of aluminum ride a certain way is bunk, as the tubes diameter (steel or aluminum) combined with the wall thickness (which varies a lot) and the frame's geometry are all working together to defined the frame's ride.

    If your frame rides rough, it maybe the frame. But it's more likely a result of the chainstay length or seat tube angle than the material that it's made from.
    they didn't just move to bigger tubes because of strength. If aluminum is allowed to flex it will work-harden and become brittle, leaving it more prone to cracking and failing. An aluminum frame built to last will be stiffer, but the same does not have to be done for steel as it does not fatigue

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    I gotta agree with laffeaux

    Fatter tires make the bad frame go away! I rode an Easton Rocky Mt. thin air I loved for years, but it was made of good quality stuff by good a good company. I had a Rocky Hammer (steel) before that I didn't like as much, go figure! I love my steel rodie and that's the only way to go for a road bike, unless my longterm powerball plan works out, they ti here I come! It seems the older I get the smarter Grant Peterson becomes! Ironically, I am debating buying a 29er and the options I am considering are all steel. Haro Mary, Raleigh (I really suck at roman #'s) or a Redline.
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  46. #46
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    simple answer yes

    but then again depends...

    just the material themselves...
    STEEL by a mile....

    think: elongation, elasticity and resonance....

    once one spends some money, yes i said it, on the high end, just talking frames, same geometry and maximizing for comfort, the steel frame will be more comforatable..

    yes, an aluminum can be made very close to the ride of a steel, but it will fail and be a throw away frame in a year or two...


    but, most important; is builder, design, execution of design, then material, and firstly, a bike that fits...

    so, for me, steel, and tubeless=ethereal...

    ride what you like just ride....

  47. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by kapusta
    My point is that you are comparing one steel frame to one aluminum frame. sample sizes of 1 and 1.

    Just because frame material is not the sole determinant of ride quality does not mean it makes no difference.
    I never said that frame material wouldn't make any difference but the OP's question was if a steel frame is more comfortable than an aluminum frame. If you make a broad statement like "steel is more comfortable than aluminum" I only need 1 example to prove this statement wrong. It's like saying a sunny day is warmer than a cloudy day.

  48. #48
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    What sticks out to me is the the Bandersnatch seems to have a really long effective top tube (ETT). Could this potentially cause a rider to stretch out in the cockpit beyond one's comfort zone or cause one to ride an overly short stem? Anyone have any first hand experience on this???

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    To the OP - it should be obvious by reading this and 1,000's of other discussions on the subject that a bunch of variables - material property, tubing thickness, geometry, frame design and God knows how many other things affect ride feel. You just have to ride a bunch of different things till you find what you like (and then you'll just change your mind anyway). My $.02 is that 29ers pretty much negate the "harsh" ride feel people attributed to aluminum hardtails of old. I've always been a fan of steel for overall ride quality, but to me...larger wheels, tubeless tires and longer chainstays make even aluminum feel pretty "forgiving" compared to say a mid-90's GT Zaskar. For what you want to spend, there are tons of options. I just ordered a Scandium Kona King Kahuna frame from my local dealer for $460 (just one example).

    Ride as many frames as you can, then pick the one that puts the biggest smile on your face.
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  51. #51
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    Rider Weight Has Not Been Mentioned...

    And I think it plays a part. I could be wrong, but I suspect that the guys that say frame material does not matter are not big guys. I have never ridden an aluminum frame of any price that is as compliant as my steel bikes. I go 6ft 2in and 260lbs, so if there is some compliance in a frame I will feel it. maybe some of these guys are too light to actually benefit from the compliance?. hence why it all feels the same to them. Just wondering.
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  52. #52
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    Quote Originally Posted by edouble
    And I think it plays a part. I could be wrong, but I suspect that the guys that say frame material does not matter are not big guys. I have never ridden an aluminum frame of any price that is as compliant as my steel bikes. I go 6ft 2in and 260lbs, so if there is some compliance in a frame I will feel it. maybe some of these guys are too light to actually benefit from the compliance?. hence why it all feels the same to them. Just wondering.
    85kg and 6'3".

  53. #53
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    I noticed a distinct harsher ride when I switched from a steel frame to aluminium but after about two days of riding I dropped the wheel pressures a bit and now I don't notice it at all. What I do notice is that my aluminium frame has a massive load more power transfer to the rear wheel than the steel. Less flex, but once again this is to do with build more than material.

  54. #54
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    There is a lot of good stuff here - but boomn touched lightly on one aspect of steel that even the renowned Sheldon Browne didn't: Fatigue life in the different materials. If aluminum made good springs, they would use them in automobiles and motorcycles, etc... as it is light and relatively inexpensive. Since aluminum's modulus of elasticity is fairly low, it cannot be deformed too far before it yields, and if it yields enough, it will fail. If you flex aluminum enough times, it will also "work harden" and become more brittle and fail. (EDIT: Any material will work harden if cycled through enough stress cycles - Alu just does this with fewer cycles) By making an aluminum frame rigid enough that it doesn't flex easily (larger diameter, slightly thicker-walled tubes) it is less likely to approach that yield point when subjected to a stress (pedalling hard, hitting a big dip/depression/bump/etc...) Most aluminum alloys tend to work harden fairly easily (become more brittle from the accumulated stresses that approach, but do not exceed it's yield point) and if there is not enough material in the areas where these stresses are concentrated, the frame is likely to fail in one or more of these areas. Aluminum also tends to be more affected by the heat of welding than steel or titanium, making it not uncommon for aluminum frames to fail near a weld. Adding Scandium to the alloy allows the aluminum to behave a bit more like steel, being more heat resistant, more fatigue resistant, and still retain the lightweight benefits of aluminum. You can make an aluminum frame that would ride almost identical to a steel frame - but it would probably not last very long. Adding Scandium would make it easier to achieve more of the same durability characteristics of steel - but you add cost. A Ti frame with the same characteristics of steel will be a bit lighter than steel, and probably last longer too. It will be more expensive than either the steel or Scandium frame though.

    Design is a big factor in how the frame rides and "feels" - and steel and Ti are both more easily configurable with factors such as "S-bend" stays and other features that actually can "give" enough to be felt when hitting larger bumps or "G-out" type of depressions in a trail. I am surprised that a "fountain of knowledge" like Sheldon Browne did not address this in his frame article - he only considered straight tubing in his equations...

    For metal frames, a lightweight XC racing frame from Scandium-enhanced aluminum is probably the best value/performer for the dollar, but it is likely a shorter-life frame than a steel or Ti frame that performs the same (though may weigh a bit more). For someone racing at a higher level, frames get used a season or two and then it's time for a new bike, so this is not a big deal.

    On any rigid bike, your tires should do most of the shock absorbtion of small rain rivulets, washboard, gravelly rocks, roots, etc... Tires, then saddle, seatpost are your main small-bump absorbers. Bigger hits, especially when your weight is in the saddle, you will have more noticeable flex in a well designed steel or Ti frame, if it is subjected to enough load to require it to flex. Once that load reaches a certain point, it can begin to affect the frame's shape and make it begin to deform vertically. The earlier this happens, the more comfortable the ride will tend to be. Bang for the buck, high-quality steel in a well-designed frame, with the right features included to allow the bike to act as a spring while still retaining enough stiffness to give good performance with pedalling loads, predictable handling and vibration/oscillation damping is the way to go. It will almost definitely outlast a comparable riding Alu or even Scandium frame by a number of times, and not change it's ride characteristics over time.

    Carbon fiber can be a material where all the best features of ride characteristics are combined into one material. While there is a question of it's impact resistance in rocks, etc... most carbon frames seem to hold up pretty well. If carbon fails, it tends to go catastrophically - specatacular if you are not the one riding it when it happens - but aluminum frames can do this too... Less likely with steel and Ti. I have a CF road bike and it dampens the small imperfections of the road better than any bike I have owned. CF can be designed to perform as a spring very well, it is light, and the fibers in the layers of the material can be oriented to make the piece of CF do what ever the designer wants it to. It can be lighter and stronger than about anything else out there, but again, expense is the offset.

    My rigid SS 29'er is steel, and I love it. My next bike will likely be steel (or Ti if the budget allows). If I get a Ti frameset, it could last me the rest of my life - but to be honest - so might a good steel frameset. A stiff, strong Aluminum frame with a Ti seatpost, and a suspension fork could also be comfortable enough for some riders, and perhaps last the rest of their lives too. Some people tend to dispel the "myth" that aluminum is harsh, but there is a reason, I believe, that this tends to be a consensus among many experienced riders. Bottom line is, if you find a bike that you really like the feel of, regardless of the material it is made out of, as long as it has a good warranty and you feel that the quality is there that you are - litterally - willing to risk your life on it as we all do at times on our bikes, just get the damn thing and enjoy it! I, for one, will likely stick to steel or Ti for the dirt trail riding that I do - I tend to keep bikes for a long time. I would ride a Scandium frame for a year or two with no reservation, though the two Scandium frames I have ridden both felt a touch stiff to me... YMMV. Hope whatever you get is the best bike you have ever had...
    R.I.P. Corky 10/97-4/09
    Disclaimer: I sell and repair bikes for a living


  55. #55
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    There really are some confused people around.A properly designed bike regardless of matereial is the key here.Also tyres,seatpost,seat,wheels and bars play the most important part in the feel of any bike.This really upsets the elitests around who proclaim otherwise but its really funny listening to the cries of pain and outrage.

  56. #56

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    This is a good thread. So I might have missed a post or two.. Has anyone taked about the different quailty's of the steel and how it is produced, like air hardening? Like Reynolds 853 or Colmbus tubing, and True Temper OX. And now aluminum bike co. Like Trek and Giant are butting there tubes and making the ride more compliant. By hydro-streaching the aluminum and butting it at the ends. Thinner in the center and thicker on the ends that meet the other frame parts. like the XTC 29ers or my Anthem x1.

  57. #57
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    Trail Pshyco - Air-hardening the steel tubes mainly makes them more resistant to weakening from the heat of welding/brazing - this allows the tubes to be made thinner, but only affects the yield strength in the "Heat Affected Zone" near the actual joint. These thin tubes are only going to be a little bit stronger than a regular (non air-hardened) Cro-mo tubeset of the same thickness everywhere else. The tube can be made larger diameter to retain frame "stiffness" using a thinner wall, the tube will be less affected by heat at teh thinner butts, but usually not as "crashable" as a bike with smaller tubes and thicker walls. Again, as with anything there are trade-offs. For a race frame or a smaller rider - thin-wall oversize tube is a great option. For longer term durability - maybe not. Same thing with aluminum, and same thing with almost any other material. Metallurgists and chemists are finding ways to improve some of the properties of these materials. This allows new forming and butting to change the ride characteristics of that metal in a frameset configuration, and get some different behaviors from the metals - but you will give up something usually in exchange. It might be that the tube will ding or "crumple" more easily. It might become more brittle, so that even though it has a high yield strength, when it does fail it will bend less before it fractures. These frames are the ones that possibly will fail 'catastrophically' when they go. It also happens to over-heated thicker wall frames, or any frame that is over-loaded to a certain point!

    Like Coasting said - "properly designed" regardless of the material will ride great. Getting aluminum "comfortable" will likely reduce it's durability - as will getting steel lightweight, and to some extent Ti also. All of them can make great frames - but for value, durability, and compliance, a well designed steel hardtail is still the way to go. Then Ti, then Scandium (Durability becomes the question with thinner Scandium tubes). Aluminum FS bikes = no brainer. Tube tuning becomes much less a factor for comfort as the shock takes the hit and the frame can be designed not to flex. I'd like to build up a light bike with a Scandium frame. for faster smoother trails I am sure it would be a blast. Maybe a CF frame too. If I had an unlimited budget, I would build a Ti hardtail designed for vertical compliance and lateral rigidity - a'la Jones or Blacksheep Eon. Not super-light, but able to be ridden on pretty much any trail, any time, just about forever. If I broke one of those frames, I'd be more worried about the hospital bill (or surviving the crash) than the mega$$ bike. Some of the other light options that would ride the way I want them to - they might give it up on something that was inconsequential...
    R.I.P. Corky 10/97-4/09
    Disclaimer: I sell and repair bikes for a living


  58. #58
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    OP: If you could narrow it down to one or two specific steel frames and one or two aluminum frames, you might get some actual useful information, rather than the endless debate above.
    Whining is not a strategy.

  59. #59
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    Could not agree more...

    Couldn't agree more with this statement.

    If different materials do not offer different ride characteristics, why then do we have so many materials to choose from?

    Sorry TR, but I disagree with your statement above...

    Why go Ti, then? There has to be some reason beyond geometry. Ride feel? Because you can? There must be a difference, and you would be qualified, based on your previous ownership, to provide some guidance to the OP.

    To the OP...For what it's worth, all things being equal on the bike/trail, I find steel to be smoother than aluminum.

    But to call steel no different in ride quality than aluminum is a disservice to the OP, and the material.[/quote]

  60. #60
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    your tall...

    Quote Originally Posted by TR
    85kg and 6'3".

    but at 187 lbs not really a big guy. I weighed as much as you when I was 16 years old. Not fat either.
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  61. #61
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    Quote Originally Posted by edouble
    I weighed as much as you when I was 16 years old. Not fat either.
    Me too

  62. #62
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    Quote Originally Posted by imbabob
    Does a steel 29er Hardtail ride more comfortable than an aluminum 29er Hardtail?

    All
    things being equal - frame geometry, tube diameter, wall thickness, etc., the aluminum will be much more noodly and "comfortable" than the steel. But that simply does not happen in the real world.

    Quote Originally Posted by imbabob
    Looking for the more comfortable hardtail: Vassago Bandersnatch or Sette Razzo for my older bones?
    Now that's a different question that can only be answered accurately by someone who has ridden both under similar conditions with similar (preferably identical) setups - especially tires and tire pressures.

    DR

  63. #63
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    I took a quick spin on a buddy's Razzo. Compared to my custom steel Waltworks the Razzo felt like crap. Not saying that steel is always better than aluminum but after years riding one of each I will take steel without a moment's hesitation.
    Vecsus

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  64. #64
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vecsus
    I took a quick spin on a buddy's Razzo. Compared to my custom steel Waltworks the Razzo felt like crap. Not saying that steel is always better than aluminum but after years riding one of each I will take steel without a moment's hesitation.
    Your statement means nothing though. You are talking about a $200 made in China frame and comparing it to a customized for you bike. If you didn't think there was a difference, even in your mind, I'd say something is wrong.

    Ronnie.
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  65. #65
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    Maybe mythbuster's could do a show on the steel vs aluminum debate?

  66. #66
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    ATBScott could you share your opinion on the notch sensitivity of titanium in the context of mountain bikes?
    My knowledge is in biomaterials where titanium is used extensively predominantly for its elasticity and reduction in stress concentration at bone-implant junctions.
    When implanting titanium though we are extremely careful not to scratch, dent or deform the implants in any way due to the extreme sensitivity titanium has to failure after this. In fact with a couple of the implants I use they are cut to custom length on the operating table with a scratching tool and fractured with a small press.
    I have been concerned about buying a titanium mountain bike due to the repeated blows they sustain on the trail or even on bike racks and trailers.

  67. #67
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    I like hearing from ATBScott more than I like hearing regurgitated quotes from Sheldon Browne. Sheldon Browne encouraged some nice things, but he left a lot of things in the "enigma" category rather than braving the often dangerous waters of generalizations.

  68. #68
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    Hugor - I am not a metallurgist, so I am not sure that I can really give you any definitive answer on that subject - but I do know that Ti is almost always alloyed and what the additives are, and the percentages used, can define the malleability of the metal, and likely the ductility too. I have owned one Ti frame (one of the first Merlins) and it took a couple of huge impacts in it's time with me. Never dented, and had a few superficial scratches. That frame has to be close to 25 years old now - and it is still being ridden from what I hear! I have also seen Jeff Jones slam the sh!t out of his truss fork against the frame with out leaving a mark. The 3/2.5 Ti that is used for bikes seems to be pretty tough stuff. Of course, that said, anything will break under the right loads or situation. What allow [Edit - "Alloy"] do you use in the bio field? Is it also the 3/2.5 or some other variant?
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  69. #69
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    Don't want to derail the thread too much but the most common alloy we use is Ti6Al4V.
    Some use Iron and Niobium as well.
    Different companies use slightly different proportions however and alot of the metallurgic details is in house.
    Certainly by your description the titanium alloy used in bike frames is harder and probably tougher. It will have different properties to that used in medical applications.
    If you hit any of the implants I use firmly, you will certainly dent it. I bend 5mm thick x 1cm wide plates with 6 inch metal levers. If your putting in a screw and the driver slips, it will scratch the plate and we will discard it due to the fracture risk. I haven't had the opportunity to try this on a bike frame.
    As you say there is no doubt a difference in the alloys used in bike frames to those used in bioengineering and this will obviously improve its properties for this use.

  70. #70
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    I think it is time to go and ride them my friend! Let your Ass do the Decision making..

  71. #71
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    70 (now 71) responses to a question that makes no sense whatsoever. Fascinating.
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  72. #72
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    Get whatever is cheaper and then buy a thudbuster seatpost.

  73. #73
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    I vote for Ti...but maybe I am biased....
    Geologist by trade...bicycle mechanic (former) by the grace of God!

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  74. #74
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    Really?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ronnie
    The compliance of "steel" frames per se is an urban legend.
    Ever seen a spring made of aluminum? There is a reason...
    Marc82Much
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  75. #75
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    Seriously, the differences are a bit overrated. There is nothing really comfortable about a hardtail regardless of material, buy what you can afford, let a little air out of the tires for the Al frame and just ride. The way it is talked about sometimes, it is like steel/ti frames visually move when they hit bumps and Al frames thrown riders like a riding a bull. I had a guy I worked with at the shop tell me one time he was getting 1.5" of travel from a Ti seatpost..hahahahhaahh.
    Geologist by trade...bicycle mechanic (former) by the grace of God!

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  76. #76
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    Both

    Will rattle your teeth on rough descents. The notion a steel hardtail is comfy is goofy. An alloy full suspension bike is comfort

  77. #77
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jaybo
    Will rattle your teeth on rough descents. The notion a steel hardtail is comfy is goofy. An alloy full suspension bike is comfort
    Bingo...... Why ride a hardtail in the dirt? Bikes should be fast AND fun to ride.Why live in the past when the present is so sweet.

  78. #78
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    Quote Originally Posted by tg
    Bingo...... Why ride a hardtail in the dirt? Bikes should be fast AND fun to ride.Why live in the past when the present is so sweet.
    because people have different pesonal preferences.
    i ride a hardtail and full rigid bikes because i have fun knowing most of what happens is up to ME, and not my shocks.
    personallyi enjoy the ride of ti over anything but other then that ill take 4130 or reynolds over the highest end alloy or the best handmade carbon anyday!

    ps my only hardtail is about to be fully rigid as soon as qbp has vicious forks back in stock(only a week or so away)
    Quote Originally Posted by ISuckAtRiding View Post
    The dude is like 120lbs, tops lol he can run any tires he wants without issues, i'm sure.
    :D

  79. #79
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    Quote Originally Posted by tg
    Bingo...... Why ride a hardtail in the dirt? Bikes should be fast AND fun to ride.Why live in the past when the present is so sweet.
    Because they pedal better, are lighter, cheaper, easier to maintain and are generally fun to ride? Thats why I sold my FS and bought a second HT SS at least.

    As for the original post, I own a 26er in steel and a 29er in AL. The steel bike does have more give and the AL bike is harsher but stiffer. If I had to choose one of the two as an only bike, I'd choose steel. With that said I'll likely sell both at some point and just ride Ti.

  80. #80
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    Keep rollin full rigid and your shoulders could be full of screws like mine Just messin w/ya. I find that for our CO. trails rigid is no bueno.

  81. #81
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    Cool... Now we've evolved into a hard-tail vs. suspension discussion! I'm guessing the hard-tail haters are used to sitting with 99% of their weight on their ass (seat).

    Even when sitting, I've learned to keep a good weight distribution on the pedals and bars. I do remember when I first went back to a hard-tail, I took all the hits right up my spine. How much travel do we have in our knees and elbows?

    Back on the OP's topic. I am looking into a new Siren frame. Does anyone have experience on the Trauco vs. John Henry? Almost identical geometry. I'd love to try them both to determine the handling differences.

    OP: FWIW, I ride a Vassago and it's a very nice frame for the $$, But it could get better for 2-3x the cash.

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