Question About Frame Quality- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Question About Frame Quality

    I have a quick question about frames, if I may. What consitutes a good frame, exactly. I know weight, geometry, etc factor in, and I don't consider a walmart bike frame in the equation, but what's the real difference between say, a bottom of the line Diamondback aluminum frame, and a high end say, specialized, aluminum frame when you get right down to it?

    I'm asking mostly out of curiousity and ignorance, I mean...is aluminum, aluminum regardless? Does it come down to the alloy? the welds? etc.

    Educate me?
    "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." Winston Churchill

  2. #2
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    All of the above. Aluminum comes in a ton of alloys and heat treatments and can be shaped a few different ways. Companies also get to choose how much engineering time they put in to really optimizing a frame.

    How that plays out in practice is going to show up in how closely a given frame follows current trends, like short chainstays and changing head angles and top tube lengths and in weight. I think it rarely affects reliability: lower-tier frames just throw more material at the problem. Though the cheapest may have shoddy enough workmanship to matter. There's cosmetic stuff too, like whether welds are ground smooth or left natural.

    Really short chainstays can require funny shapes and funny shaped seat tubes to get everything to fit. So some design elements on more expensive frames can actually be out of reach for cheap frames, even if they're able to follow a lot of the trends.

    Really cheap frames are also more likely to have issues with fit. Stuff that's machined on a more expensive frame could be "weld and hope" on a cheap one.

    I do think aluminum hardtail frames are very mature. So I think what you get in a mid-range frame gives up very little to what you get at the top end.

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  3. #3
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    Thanks, that's what I was looking for. My thinking is I have a full suspension bike that I'm upgrading parts on, etc. I was just curious if getting something low end to mid range, as far as a hardtail would be worth it, if I'm taking the parts off my FS (it's a 2016) and putting them on the hardtail as upgrades. As an off the top of the head example, I upgrade my hydraulic brakes on my FS, and then use my take offs to upgrade say, mechanical brakes on said hard tail, or said hard tail comes with crap wheels, I change out the wheels on my FS and use those as an upgrade for the hardtail. Know what I mean?
    "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." Winston Churchill

  4. #4
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    Even the lowest end aluminum bikes are well made, properly welded, strong, and use appropriate alloys. Some cheap bike frames are even surprisingly light.

    I wouldnt even consider build quality when looking at any bike of reasonable quality. These days, even cheapo off-brand stuff is extremely well made. You gotta go dirt cheap, like $150 for a complete bike, to get a frame thats genuinely bad and poorly made.

    Its all about geometry. Its really the only thing you need to be concerned about when buying a hardtail, as long as you're looking at real frames, and not department store bikes.

    If I was buying a hardtail, id want something with a head tube around 68 degrees or less, with a steep seat tube, that takes 120-140mm forks. Any company putting out a frame like that, is putting out a good quality frame that I wouldnt have to worry about.

  5. #5
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    Yeah, definitely not thinking a department store bike. Just thinking of getting a decent complete, and upgrading with swap off parts as I fix up the Full Sus. I've been looking at the Cube's on Chain Reaction's site...unfortunately, Chain Reaction never seems to have, well, anything in stock. Ever. Also kicking around some of the lower stuff on Performance's site. Something like that. I don't know, it's all hypothetical at the moment.
    "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." Winston Churchill

  6. #6
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    I don't think any of Performance's completes would concern me in terms of quality stuff. You're still going to want to pay attention to the frame's interfaces with other components, like the head tube and how the rear hub is retained.

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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by DocVudu View Post
    Yeah, definitely not thinking a department store bike. Just thinking of getting a decent complete, and upgrading with swap off parts as I fix up the Full Sus. I've been looking at the Cube's on Chain Reaction's site...unfortunately, Chain Reaction never seems to have, well, anything in stock. Ever. Also kicking around some of the lower stuff on Performance's site. Something like that. I don't know, it's all hypothetical at the moment.
    CRC has 98 cube bikes in stock right now.

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