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  1. #1
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    Steel only - unreasonable?

    I am in the market for a new road/ gravel/ urban bike. something I can take on long rides on non-mtb trail terrain and the occasional gravel race. I'll use it to commute to work if I ever get a job close enough to home to do that. I would rather something that is purpose-built for singlespeeding, but I can make due with a tensioner or some sort. I can do that on my mtb but it kind of sucks.

    I have had a few CX bikes over the years but sold them when I needed mtb parts. Now I am down to one bike.

    so far, the only bikes I am considering are steel. I have a limited budget so titanium and crabon fibre are out. all of the bikes I have ridden extensively have been steel- hardtails, CX, touring, etc. most of them were singlespeed as well. I have had good experiences will all of those frames and see no reason to pick an aluminum frame specifically, but is it unreasonable to limit my choices to steel? opening up to aluminum seems to provide me with more options, but something about it just doesn't feel right to me.

    what am I missing out on by excluding aluminum frames?
    Last edited by mack_turtle; 12-31-2017 at 05:21 PM.

  2. #2
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    1. You are accustomed to steel.
    2. Steel is 'Springy' - Alloy is not.
    3. Alloy being a rigid metal will transmit vibration and ride 'Harsh' by comparison.
    4. Alloy is a good platform for suspension systems, allows suspenion work better.
    5. Steel suits rigid type bikes that ride over rougher surfaces.

    You're not missing anything by riding steel in those circumstances.

    Eric
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  3. #3
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    If you want sharp handling and efficiency, modern aluminum frames (larger formed tubing) can be better than steel as they can provide better lateral stiffness and less weight. Good design can mitigate an aluminum frame's relative harsh ride quality.

    Aluminum has 1/3 the modulus of steel and 1/3 the density. The stiffness of aluminum comes from needing thicker sections/diameters for equivalent strength, despite its lower modulus. Its lower density allows achieving this at less weight.
    Do the math.

  4. #4
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    Just being pedantic here, but steel is an alloy, too.

    In my experience, if you like the way steel rides, most aluminum and/or alloy frames won't feel quite right. Too stiff, kind of dead feeling. Some aluminum can be OK, but it's hard to tell without some time in the saddle.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Malcolm View Post
    1. You are accustomed to steel.
    2. Steel is 'Springy' - Alloy is not.
    3. Alloy being a rigid metal will transmit vibration and ride 'Harsh' by comparison.
    4. Alloy is a good platform for suspension systems, allows suspenion work better.
    5. Steel suits rigid type bikes that ride over rougher surfaces.

    You're not missing anything by riding steel in those circumstances.

    Eric
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
    what am I missing out on by excluding aluminum frames?
    Nothing. It is quite reasonable to go with what you already know that you like.

  6. #6
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    Thanks for the feedback. I just wanted to assure myself thay I am not just being a snob when I find a bike that might suit me and ignore it entirely because, "ew, aluminum!"

  7. #7
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    Aluminum can be great, but it has to be the right frame. I prefer steel for hardtails and rigid bikes (but will say my sonís CF Highball feels very nice).


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  8. #8
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    Steel is the only material for a bike like this. It provides superior comfort to aluminum and the durability isn't even comparable. A steel bike will hold up way longer to the abuse that a cross/commuter/all arounder will see.

  9. #9
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    My most expensive bike is steel. I also have never had an aluminum bike that was truly comfortable. (I'm not saying they can't be, but it tends to be too harsh in my experience, especially in a smaller frame.)

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
    "ew, aluminum!"
    ^ this
    Rigid SS 29er
    SS 29+
    Fat Lefty
    SS cyclocross
    Full Sus 29er (Yuck)

    Stop asking how much it weighs and just go ride it.

  11. #11
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    Just an observation, but I find that the older generation riders who move over to aluminium move either back to steel, or go forward to CF. Most common comments are in relation to not feeling right or they can't handle the harsh ride. Remember, we are talking about rigid bikes only here and ones that will see difficult ride conditions that vibrate a rider, so compliance is the priority.

    Eric
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  12. #12
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    It's your bike, your money, do whatever you want!

    I just built up a steel bike about 3 months ago that would qualify as a gravel bike I think, and I absolutely love it. Steel fork + frame, 37mm tyres, drop bars, relaxed geometry.

    When you combine slightly bigger tyres (compared to a road bike) and steel it's wonderful. I love the way this thing takes bumps and rough terrain. You can still feel the bumps of course but the hits that come through the handlebar and the seat are so much softer, and the whole bike feels so incredibly solid. Yet it does not feel like it's made out of noodles like some older lugged steel road bikes.

    Personally for a road bike that only sees perfect quality roads I would consider aluminium, but for a rigid bike with smaller tyres that you use on rough roads and/or offroad I would not. (MTB with suspension and big tyres is another story)

  13. #13
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    Material means nothing in isolation. Any of the common frame building materials could be used to make a wonderful frame that lasts a long time.



    That said, for me i want steel cuz i like it. I like the aesthetic. I like that i personally understand the material. I like how it's been developed for over a century and has 4 generations' worth of wisdom on how to make it a frame. I like that it trips traffic sensors. I like how i've never broken a steel frame that didn't have a design/production flaw that i was responsible for. I like how there's a ton of steel tubes for a small volume producer to choose from to make just the right production steel bike.
    "Things that are complex are not useful, Things that are useful are simple."
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by adarn View Post
    Steel is the only material for a bike like this. It provides superior comfort to aluminum and the durability isn't even comparable. A steel bike will hold up way longer to the abuse that a cross/commuter/all arounder will see.
    How do you figure?
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by scottzg View Post
    I like that it trips traffic sensors.
    Does it, really? I've never ridden my K-Monkey on the road...but I'm about to. Never thought there would be enough magnetic mass to have enough affect on a sensor but bonus points if it does. I'll see how it works on my nearby problem signal that I have to "run" all the time on my sport-tour moto as well as my carbon Roubaix.

    Oh...and OP, my vote is for STEEL!

  16. #16
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    I don't think you're unreasonable at all. I personally will not own any more aluminum or carbon bicycles. I like steel. I've never owned a titanium bike but I think I'd probably like it.

    Steel is a material that people have bicycles made from when they want them to last a lifetime. Aluminum and carbon turn the frame into an expendable part of the bike instead of the tough skeleton that can remain with a bike throughout its life.

    And steel is real in our culture, of course. And for good reason.

  17. #17
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    Now that we have the material out of the way let's talk about whT kind of bike he needs.
    A garage full of steel frames means happiness.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by CS2 View Post
    Now that we have the material out of the way let's talk about whT kind of bike he needs.
    I vote for this.

    Steel only - unreasonable?-rad.jpg
    Rigid SS 29er
    SS 29+
    Fat Lefty
    SS cyclocross
    Full Sus 29er (Yuck)

    Stop asking how much it weighs and just go ride it.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oh My Sack! View Post
    Does it, really? I've never ridden my K-Monkey on the road...but I'm about to. Never thought there would be enough magnetic mass to have enough affect on a sensor but bonus points if it does. I'll see how it works on my nearby problem signal that I have to "run" all the time on my sport-tour moto as well as my carbon Roubaix.

    Oh...and OP, my vote is for STEEL!
    I've never had any luck with the signals on my steel road bikes. But I like the idea.
    Quote Originally Posted by Oh My Sack! View Post
    Remember, there's always quilting and knitting if pedalling becomes too tough.

  20. #20
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    Ever seen an aluminum spring?
    AL has a fatigue life. After it flexes X number of times, it will fail, period.
    So this means an AL frame has to be made rigid enough so there is no flex. Who wants to ride that?
    I agree it is more suitable for suspension frames, but for the life of me, I can't figure out why people ride aluminum rigid anything.
    Oh wait, marketing, that's why.

  21. #21
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    Just broke down and ordered a Traitor Crusade. $500!

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hodo View Post
    Ever seen an aluminum spring?
    AL has a fatigue life. After it flexes X number of times, it will fail, period.
    So this means an AL frame has to be made rigid enough so there is no flex. Who wants to ride that?
    I agree it is more suitable for suspension frames, but for the life of me, I can't figure out why people ride aluminum rigid anything.
    Oh wait, marketing, that's why.
    Fat bikes...but I do agree with you since I can feel vibration through the frame when riding it on the road with a higher pressure in the tires.
    I don't know why,... it's just MUSS easier to pedal than the other ones.

  23. #23
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    It's less about the material, and more how it is designed and built. But of course, some materials are easier than others to get that right feel out of.

    I love my steel bike, I also like my aluminum bikes, and I also like my carbon bikes.

    If I could only choose one, I would probably look for a steel bike.

  24. #24
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    I wouldn't rule out carbon fiber. Carbon frames are getting cheap (I know, cheap is a relative term). Or an aluminum frame/carbon fork combo may meet your needs (assuming you're going rigid).

    My issue with steel is that the last 2 steel frames I purchased were really heavy. Back in the 80s and 90s, there were nice light high-end steel mtb frames available. Since Aluminum and Carbon took over the "light bike" market, it seems like there is no longer an effort to make steel frames light. With the steel frames I purchased in the past 10 years, I didn't expect them to be really light, but they were quite a bit heavier than they needed to be. Someone is probably still making light steel frames, but that doesn't seem to be the norm for steel these days.
    Warning: may contain sarcasm and/or crap made up in an attempt to feel important.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hodo View Post
    Ever seen an aluminum spring?
    AL has a fatigue life. After it flexes X number of times, it will fail, period.
    So this means an AL frame has to be made rigid enough so there is no flex. Who wants to ride that?
    I agree it is more suitable for suspension frames, but for the life of me, I can't figure out why people ride aluminum rigid anything.
    Oh wait, marketing, that's why.
    There's plenty of aluminum full suspension bikes that use flex instead of pivots. The aluminum acts not just like a spring, but a full on pivot.

    It works and it's reliable.

  26. #26
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    I was in the market this past Fall for a versatile bike. I defined that as capable of being reasonably fast on the road, comfortable for long rides on gravel and light trail, with the capability of handling some bikepacking and bikefishing. I purchased a Fuji Jari 1.3 ultimately. It's an aluminum frame. I didn't go into it with any particular frame material in mind, just focused on fit and features that were appropriate to my intended use. I've owned Al bikes, Ti bikes and some carbon as well, though not full carbon. I currently have a Ti road bike and while the Jari doesn't have that muted feel over chatter, I do find it more than acceptable smooth and composed, not harsh. The bike feel really came alive when I switched the stock Clement tires out and started running tubeless Panaracer Gravel King 38's. I found a lot of great bike/frame options and think I could've been happy with numerous others as well. I've owned a fair number of bikes over the years like many cyclists, and feel like with a few tweaks I can be comfortable on most anything so long as fit is good. Good luck with the new bike hunt, it's always a lot of fun!

    *edit* missed that you made the purchase. I've been curious of Traitor bikes, the Slot in particular. Curious on your initial impressions when you get it. Enjoy it.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mtb7000 View Post
    . I've been curious of Traitor bikes, the Slot in particular. Curious on your initial impressions when you get it. Enjoy it.
    https://www.evo.com/shop/bike/bikes/...-bikes/traitor

    Lots of their bikes here for $500. They happened to have the Crusade in my size only and they seem to have fewer than five left.

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mtb7000 View Post
    I was in the market this past Fall for a versatile bike. I defined that as capable of being reasonably fast on the road, comfortable for long rides on gravel and light trail, with the capability of handling some bikepacking and bikefishing. I purchased a Fuji Jari 1.3 ultimately. It's an aluminum frame. I didn't go into it with any particular frame material in mind, just focused on fit and features that were appropriate to my intended use. I've owned Al bikes, Ti bikes and some carbon as well, though not full carbon. I currently have a Ti road bike and while the Jari doesn't have that muted feel over chatter, I do find it more than acceptable smooth and composed, not harsh. The bike feel really came alive when I switched the stock Clement tires out and started running tubeless Panaracer Gravel King 38's. I found a lot of great bike/frame options and think I could've been happy with numerous others as well. I've owned a fair number of bikes over the years like many cyclists, and feel like with a few tweaks I can be comfortable on most anything so long as fit is good. Good luck with the new bike hunt, it's always a lot of fun!

    *edit* missed that you made the purchase. I've been curious of Traitor bikes, the Slot in particular. Curious on your initial impressions when you get it. Enjoy it.
    Fuji has always made very practical and versatile bikes. Two of my favorite rides are a late 70's Fuji touring bike and my 2009 Fuji Team (barely over 15 lbs even with the old school saddle and pedals w/ steel toe clips). Unfortunately they seem to have little interest in getting into trail bikes.

  29. #29
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    I've read so many cracked frame threads today, I thought I'd come back here and say...
    I think steel only is the way to go after spending some time in the frame discussion forum!

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hodo View Post
    I've read so many cracked frame threads today, I thought I'd come back here and say...
    I think steel only is the way to go after spending some time in the frame discussion forum!
    I don't know that that's fair given than most mtb frames today are aluminum, with carbon coming in 2nd? (I'm not 100% sure on that).
    Though speaking from my own personal experience, I have only had one frame break on me and it was aluminum even though I have more mileage on steel and carbon.
    Warning: may contain sarcasm and/or crap made up in an attempt to feel important.

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hodo View Post
    Ever seen an aluminum spring?
    AL has a fatigue life. After it flexes X number of times, it will fail, period.
    So this means an AL frame has to be made rigid enough so there is no flex. Who wants to ride that?
    I agree it is more suitable for suspension frames, but for the life of me, I can't figure out why people ride aluminum rigid anything.
    Oh wait, marketing, that's why.
    Of course, airplanes are made out of aluminum alloys and flex back and forth all over the place, like a spring.

    Your claim that designers fail to take into account the fatigue life for such structures is ridiculous. Of course aluminum alloy bikes flex, they do so up until the fatigue life, but that is usually enough cycles of stress that you'd never encounter it in 20 years. What you might encounter is the fatigue limit or over-stress a part of the bike that was not designed/manufactured to the specified limit. The former usually results in the metal being "torn" apart in rather dramatic fashion. The latter usually results in a crack. We can show frames that have failed from this all day, of all materials, but fatigue life? No.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    Of course, airplanes are made out of aluminum alloys and flex back and forth all over the place, like a spring.
    Different alloys, different design objectives. And do you want your bike frame to flex like an airplane? Guessing probably not.

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by sapva View Post
    Different alloys, different design objectives. And do you want your bike frame to flex like an airplane? Guessing probably not.
    But if one were to flex their aluminum frame like a wing it would take it...
    lean forward

  34. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by sapva View Post
    Different alloys, different design objectives. And do you want your bike frame to flex like an airplane? Guessing probably not.
    You don't seem to have any idea how alloys work.

    Aluminum bikes do flex, how much depends on the limits of the alloy, tubing diameters, etc. An airplane is also required to be incredibly rigid at the same time (while some parts flex). Bikes, like airplanes, are subject to "cycles" of loads. The engineers design a certain amount of "cycles", they won't fail until you take them out past this limit, which for most bikes will be more than you'll put on the bike in 20 years, but if you exceed the fatigue limit, or the bike wasn't designed/manufactured properly, it'll fail, no matter what the material. The idea that "steal is real" or that "titanium is more durable" is BS.

    To answer your question, yes, I do want a little compliance in the ride, not too much.

    The idea that you "shouldn't make aluminum rigid bikes" is based on false perceptions of materials and failure modes.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    You don't seem to have any idea how alloys work.

    Aluminum bikes do flex, how much depends on the limits of the alloy, tubing diameters, etc. An airplane is also required to be incredibly rigid at the same time (while some parts flex). Bikes, like airplanes, are subject to "cycles" of loads. The engineers design a certain amount of "cycles", they won't fail until you take them out past this limit, which for most bikes will be more than you'll put on the bike in 20 years, but if you exceed the fatigue limit, or the bike wasn't designed/manufactured properly, it'll fail, no matter what the material. The idea that "steal is real" or that "titanium is more durable" is BS.

    To answer your question, yes, I do want a little compliance in the ride, not too much.

    The idea that you "shouldn't make aluminum rigid bikes" is based on false perceptions of materials and failure modes.
    I'm with you all the way... in theory.

    I've broken every single damn aluminum frame i've owned (8?) at roughly the same mileage. The steel frames have all outlasted that mileage, and then if/when they fail it's due to a fairly obvious (in retrospect) design oversight.

    I know i overload frames without being intentionally abusive, but the steel frames tolerate this much better than aluminum. Draw your own conclusions.
    "Things that are complex are not useful, Things that are useful are simple."
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  36. #36
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    All you need to know about aluminum alloys and bikes...
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatigu...S-N_curves.PNG

  37. #37
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    Check out the Fatash wood framed bike...in our favorite Mountain Bike Action Mag. Seems to work real well.

    Its in the design...even wood works well as a bike frame.
    lean forward

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1niceride View Post
    Check out the Fatash wood framed bike...in our favorite Mountain Bike Action Mag. Seems to work real well.

    Its in the design...even wood works well as a bike frame.
    Whoa, that is one sweet frame. It's not a new idea, but this is the nicest implementation I have seen. Ash and Hickory make superior tool handles, so it would be no surprise if it also makes a frame that is strong and stiff, but rides like butter.

    Interestingly, there are, and have been aluminium hammer handles produced. But it's unlikely that you will ever see any professional use one (outside of servicing a MRI while in operation). Just think about how your forearm tendons would feel after hammering nails for eight hours with an aluminum baseball bat.

  39. #39
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    My arms also don't like 8 hours with an air nailer either...

    Bamboo works good also for a frame.
    lean forward

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