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Thread: frame material?

  1. #1
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    frame material?

    Hey everyone,

    I'm in the process of choosing a cross bike, which I will primarily ride for fun and exercise. I'd buy a road bike but I would rather stay off roads and ride gravel paths/fire roads if possible, which there are many miles of in my area. Plus I like that a cross bike is a bit more rugged.

    Anyway, when time and my job allows, I'd like to commute (about 12 miles one way) to work when possible on this new bike. I'm having a hard time deciding between steel and aluminum. I have only owned mountain bikes, with suspension in the past. I have only been able to test ride a kona jake the snake and a salsa double casseroll, (although I'm considering any cross bike between 1000 and $1200) and the difference between steel and aluminum were really apparent. The kona felt great, until I tried the salsa (steel frame) and at that point the kona felt very stiff and harsh.

    So I ask, what frame material is preferred to commute on? I loved the light "zippy" feeling of the AL frame over the steel, but I don't want to be regretting it mid-ride one day because the ride is so harsh. Am I over rating the "lightness" of aluminum? I love speed, but maybe my body likes comfort more.

    Sorry if this isn't a 100% commuter question, but I didn't know where else to ask since this is somewhat of a commuting question. Thanks guys.
    Last edited by zeppman; 02-18-2012 at 02:20 PM.

  2. #2
    Wierdo
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    I commuted for two years on an AL frame cross bike. For the last two years I have commuted on a steel frame cross bike. Can't say I have noticed much difference.

  3. #3
    Bedwards Of The West
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    My cross bike is aluminum. I have ridden steel bikes in the past. I think the difference you noticed had more to do with tire selection than anything. For an all-weather commuter/gravel grinder and no worries with rust, etc...I'd go with aluminum and cram as big of a tire as you can on there. It will feel more plush than the steel frame you rode.
    You have no excuse for driving to work
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    (no excuse for that either)

  4. #4
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    Well, the Jake is more of a race bike while the Cassaroll is more of a ride and enjoy sort of bike. That, tire selection, frame material/design all contribute. If you wanted to spend more money I'd try to steer you toward a Rivendell! It sounds as though the Salsa would suit your purposes better to me--it's just more of a versatile, all 'rounder sort of bike...

    I wouldn't worry too much about rust--modern steel alloys (CroMo) are pretty rust resistant. Apply framesaver on the inside of a steel bike and you're good. Maybe recoat it every decade or so if you ride in slop a lot.

  5. #5
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    I think you may be overthinking a bit (I usually do). In my experience there is always one bike I lean towards more. Just get it and take CommuterBoy's advice above and call it done. All the bikes you have mentioned are very nice bikes that will serve you well.

    Though I recommended the Cross-Check in the other thread (I still stand by it) I also ride an aluminum cross frame to work and back (28 miles round trip). I stuck wider tires underneath, aired down a bit and it is plenty comfortable for that.

  6. #6
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    Yes, I over think anything that costs more than $10

  7. #7
    Former Bike Wrench
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    I've owned Steel and Aluminum cross and road bikes...no question 100% STEEL for commuting. It rides better, is more durable, is more dent resistant, and can easily be repaired in the event of a crash. And steel is surprisingly corrosion resistant, especially if you treat it with JP Weigles Frame Saver.

  8. #8
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    Honey, is that you?

    Quote Originally Posted by zeppman View Post
    Yes, I over think anything that costs more than $10
    I had no idea my wife frequented this forum and went by the handle "zeppman."
    When you find yourself on the side of the majority it's time to pause and reflect.
    -Mark Twain

  9. #9
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    thanks mtnbiker72... I'm starting to think that way to.

    cdaddy... too funny.

  10. #10
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    I'm a fan of steel period. Nothing wrong with Aluminum, but I like the ride quality more on steel. It helps absorb some of the harshness and feedback you get with aluminum. If you're commuting, IDK if there is really a reason to have AL. Who cares about weight, it's a commuter, least thats my thinking. I just want something comfy, and reliable. Steel fits that bill best.
    -Eric
    Keeping the hardtail dream alive, one ride at a time.

  11. #11
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    To be honest, I'm completely confused now and don't know what the hell I want.

  12. #12
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    Just to muddy the waters, I'm saving for a Surly Ogre... kind of excited to go back to steel
    You have no excuse for driving to work
    (unless you don't have studded tires)
    (no excuse for that either)

  13. #13
    LightJunction.com
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    +1 for steel. It's tough (so you can carry cargo and abuse it), and it smoothes out road vibrations better than aluminum. All things considered, steel frames don't even come with ridiculous weight penalties anymore.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by CommuterBoy View Post
    Just to muddy the waters, I'm saving for a Surly Ogre... kind of excited to go back to steel
    If I had to do it over again, as much as I LOVE my Swobo Crosby, if I was in the market strictly for a commuter, I would get the Ogre.

  15. #15
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    The primary purpose of this bike is fun and exercise, and It would be mostly used on multi-use gravel paths. Secondary would be commuting (primarily on the road).

  16. #16
    Wierdo
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    Quote Originally Posted by zeppman View Post
    To be honest, I'm completely confused now and don't know what the hell I want.
    Personally, I don't think that the frame material has much impact on ride comfort. Tire choice and tire PSI will have a much bigger impact. Both frames will undoubtably be durable for many years. The relative weights of the frames are probably close. So it comes down to the extras:

    1. The quality of the other components that come with each bike (cranks, derailluers, shifters, brakes, wheelset, etc.)

    2. Which bike fits you best and feels best when you ride.

    3. Which bike has all the proper mount points for commute gear (rack, fenders)

    4. Which bike offers room for the size of tires you want to run

    5. Price

  17. #17
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    I prefer steel bikes. They can be inexpensive and still be of great quality. Getting the right tires and pressure will work out well too. I also like larger boxy rims for comfort. For some reason I find them more comfortable than others. Also never skimp on the saddle, even if it costs $200 your booty will love you forever. Something like a Surly Crosscheck or Salsa Vaya would be pretty good for what you are doing. If you wanted something more rugged maybe and Surly Ogre or a Salsa Fargo.

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