Pedaling performance vs. ride quality?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Pedaling performance vs. ride quality?

    Not really intended to be another aluminum vs steel vs carbon vs ti vs bamboo thread. Every time I throw a leg over a decent aluminum 29er SS, I am struck by how much more I feel like I get from each pedal stroke as far as forward motion. They just seem to go forward more easily, even at pretty comparable weights and wheels, etc.

    I have ridden two steel SS 29ers...a Karate Monkey (not known for a great ride) and a Jabberwocky, typically considered to be a decent riding steel bike for the money. I have owned high end steel bikes, but never a 29er and it has been a while since I pedaled a really nice steel frame.

    I often find myself willing to take a bit of a hit in the suppleness dept, if that is indeed the case, and I do wonder how big a deal that really is, in order to get that fabulous pedaling feel when you really get on the pedals of an aluminum SS.

    Has anyone else faced that same thing and come to any decent conclusions? Can a really nice steel bike do it all?
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  2. #2
    openwound
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    I've ridden both steel and aluminum 29-inch singlespeeds. I prefer steel. The aluminum frame just feels dead to me. I hear what you're saying about a sort of very direct, immediate feedback sensation from an aluminum frame, but otherwise, aluminum (to me) just feels stiff, lifeless, and mechanical -- whereas a steel frame really seems to respond to inputs and helps me to get into a flowy rhythm that much more readily. And that flow and rhythm is why I love riding singlespeed on singletrack.

  3. #3
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    If you want to spend enough money, I'm sure someone could build you a steel frame that's close in weight and lateral stiffness to aluminum, but still supple. I'm sure someone with enough skill could also build you an aluminum frame that has the same characteristics. $$ talks.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by sean salach
    If you want to spend enough money, I'm sure someone could build you a steel frame that's close in weight and lateral stiffness to aluminum, but still supple. I'm sure someone with enough skill could also build you an aluminum frame that has the same characteristics. $$ talks.
    I have an an offer on the table for a high end/hand made steel frame that is pretty tempting. I know it will be a better spring, but can it really pedal like these aluminum frames do?

    It seems that in reality a soft ride means flex somewhere in the frame and less of that is good when pedaling, but not at other times.

    I am really a steel guy at heart, but man, I sure like the way the aluminum frames I have ridden respond to really hard pedaling forces, like grinding up a typical SS climb.

    I guess I need to get on a really nice steel frame built for my weight and see if the compromise is worth it.
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  5. #5
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    i'm with you, i ride strictly Aluminum. I'm not old enough for the rigidness of the frame to bother me much yet. i'm sure that time will come though.

  6. #6
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    I don't own one but from all the people I talk to, the soul cycles dillinger is a pretty supple ride for an aluminum frame. Maybe the best of both worlds?





    Quote Originally Posted by mtroy
    I have an an offer on the table for a high end/hand made steel frame that is pretty tempting. I know it will be a better spring, but can it really pedal like these aluminum frames do?

    It seems that in reality a soft ride means flex somewhere in the frame and less of that is good when pedaling, but not at other times.

    I am really a steel guy at heart, but man, I sure like the way the aluminum frames I have ridden respond to really hard pedaling forces, like grinding up a typical SS climb.

    I guess I need to get on a really nice steel frame built for my weight and see if the compromise is worth it.

  7. #7
    trail hunter
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    Just went from alu to steel

    had a GF rig, got an OS Bikes Blackbuck. The Rig flexed a lot in the chain stays on climbs. So far I can not get the Blackbuck to flex at all. Im 6'2"/220 lbs and ride trails with lots of steep climbs. I could not be happier with my decision to go with the Blacbuck.

  8. #8
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    I am not sure that flex with steel is the issue. Honestly, I cannot ferrett out any flex in my Jabber. It may be there as far as the entire bike being able to give and take (from HT to track ends), but I sure do not see or feel anything getting pushed around.

    But the difference in the two alu frames have been pretty dramatic. The diSSent I could not get along with for ride quality...too much of the trail coming through even though the bike has a rep for being a nice riding frame at that price. But it sure got up the trail when you pinned it.

    The Rockhopper SL SS I am just getting to know is the same way as far as pedaling. It just feels faster and seems to get up the hill better, hills I ride all the time on the Jabber.

    If I was not so darn old, I would not be having this discussion and I would just not care...like I felt 20 years ago. Until I ride a really nice steel frame and feel differently...IF it changed my mind, I sure would put the two alu bikes above the two steel bikes I have ridden for an SS ride, and they are all comparably priced frames.

    It is a predicament as to what I value more, if I cannot have it all.
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  9. #9
    You know my steez...
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtroy
    I am really a steel guy at heart, but man, I sure like the way the aluminum frames I have ridden respond to really hard pedaling forces, like grinding up a typical SS climb.
    Maybe you're really an aluminum guy at heart? Seems to me that you really prefer aluminum, why not just go for it?
    I'm unique, just like everyone else....

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by BunnV
    Maybe you're really an aluminum guy at heart? Seems to me that you really prefer aluminum, why not just go for it?
    I am trying to come to terms with that exact thing. In the end, I was not an aluminum guy with the diSSent. Too harsh for me. I sold that not long after I bought it.

    The Giant XTC 29er 1 was pretty smooth, but not an SS, obviously.

    Jury is still out on the Rockhopper SL Comp. So far, it seems pretty decent as far as overall ride.

    I am really struck by the rock steady BB and git up and go of both of the aluminum bikes and neither of them have been $$$ bike frames. I keep wondering if a Ti seatpost and 5 lbs less air in a tubeless tire would be all I need to do anyway. No matter what, all of these bikes are hardtails and sometimes it feels like the pea under the mattress as far a ride quality.

    Not sure. Still thinking and riding.

    I would like to get on a very nice steel frame built for my weight. That remains to be done.
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  11. #11
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    And I will add this as well...I would not have this debate about a geared hardtail, something I have little use for.

    The SS is such a different paradigm. There is so much time spent standing and pedaling, pedaling hard, and pedaling harder, that any gain in forward motion there is very nice to get.
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  12. #12
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    It would be interesting to know the difference(s) - if any - between things like the wheels, cranks, bar/stem combo on the bikes also. While the Alu bikes that I have ridden do have a bit more initial "off the line snap" than my steel frame (or any other that I can think of...) once I am rolling and my cadence is up to a certain range - over 50 RPM or so, I think that any advantage from pure stiffness goes away. Steel may flex a little bit but also tends to spring back with the energy that was put into it.

    All that said - different strokes for different folks. I like the "cush" feel of a steel frame with S-bend stays and reasonable wall thickness. I also don't race and having a bike that I can go really fast on for an hour or so is not as important to me as a bike I can ride for 3 to 5, or even 8 hours on a long trail ride. If your rides, your terrain, your weight and riding style let you rail it on a stiffer frame, then might as well save the weight and go Aluminum, or even better, Scandium. I still think that the steel frame will probably outlast it, but that is a different argument.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by ATBScott
    It would be interesting to know the difference(s) - if any - between things like the wheels, cranks, bar/stem combo on the bikes also. While the Alu bikes that I have ridden do have a bit more initial "off the line snap" than my steel frame (or any other that I can think of...) once I am rolling and my cadence is up to a certain range - over 50 RPM or so, I think that any advantage from pure stiffness goes away. Steel may flex a little bit but also tends to spring back with the energy that was put into it.

    All that said - different strokes for different folks. I like the "cush" feel of a steel frame with S-bend stays and reasonable wall thickness. I also don't race and having a bike that I can go really fast on for an hour or so is not as important to me as a bike I can ride for 3 to 5, or even 8 hours on a long trail ride. If your rides, your terrain, your weight and riding style let you rail it on a stiffer frame, then might as well save the weight and go Aluminum, or even better, Scandium. I still think that the steel frame will probably outlast it, but that is a different argument.
    Good input. In my case the components were a direct swap from the KM to the diSSent to the Jabber. The Rockhopper is different, but very comparable in weights and component levels.

    Just curious what steel frame you are referring to?
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  14. #14
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    have you timed yourself up same climb feeling about the same fitness wise...? i'd venture to say you would have the same time.... theres also the chain stay issue between the frames and such....stem, even crank, lotsa factors were talking here...

    I donno i'm a steel guy.... alum just seems to beat me up to much... up or down...
    Read my BLOG!

    just a guy who loves bikes and exploring

  15. #15
    I dig trails!
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtroy
    I keep wondering if a Ti seatpost and 5 lbs less air in a tubeless tire would be all I need to do anyway. No matter what, all of these bikes are hardtails and sometimes it feels like the pea under the mattress as far a ride quality.


    I'm a steel guy. Lovin' an On One inbred for a couple of years. Compliant, flexy, but fun. Then a bud shows up with a Chameleon. I think, cool! But aluminum box stays, DJ, harsh as *$#@!

    So I get to ride it on the local sharp rock trail at speed.... and it's butter. WTF! Ok, the fork is soft. But my "compliant" Inbred is pinging off those same rocks that the Chameleon is soaking up. Then I check the rear tire. A 500g, 120 tpi weenie tire, at 40psi, but still. I'm on a reinforced casing Michelin 2.3 Dry2 at 30psi. Then I get it. Compliance in the tire!

    Just switched to a tubeless converted rear for compliance, and hit the same trail on the Inbred and soaked it all up.

    A tire is more compliant than steel. My big lesson.

    Aluminum is on the menu again.

    P

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr.P
    Then I get it. Compliance in the tire!

    Just switched to a tubeless converted rear for compliance, and hit the same trail on the Inbred and soaked it all up.

    A tire is more compliant than steel. My big lesson.
    So what did you go to and what PSI are you running now? The other tire (you liked) seemed very light and like the PSI was very high. (so doesn't make sense it felt to good)

  17. #17
    I dig trails!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wish I Were Riding
    So what did you go to and what PSI are you running now? The other tire (you liked) seemed very light and like the PSI was very high. (so doesn't make sense it felt to good)
    His: Maxxis High Roller 2.1 120tpi ~500g 40psi = butter
    Mine: Michelin 2.3 Dry2 reinforced sidewalls 60tpi 760g 30psi = harsh
    Mine later: Specialized Fasttrak Armadillo Elite TLR casing 2.2 60tpi 680g 25psi converted tubeless = butter

    I think a 120 tpi casing at higher pressure is more compliant to sharp rocks than a 60 tpi casing at lower pressure. (that's a broad statement but I think the general rule applies)

    No doubt steel & aluminum ride differently, but I found a huge difference in ride quality with the sidewall compliance of a tire. Surprising to me.

    P

  18. #18
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    mtroy - my ride is just a Raleigh XXIX - not any sort of bling frame at all - just reasonable Cromo with S-bend stays and middle of the road tube diameters and angles. It works pretty well about everywhere. Something like a SIR9 or a nice thinwall, higher-end frame will be lighter and have a similar or even more smooth ride. And like Mr. P noted - tires will take most of the shock off of smaller, high-frequency bumps, but the bigger hits, and even "G-out" sort of stuff, rut impacts, etc... is where steel will be better than aluminum. And I ride fat tires with fairly low pressures on a steel frame - only thing possibly cushier would be a well-made Ti frame with vertical compliance in the design criteria! If Aluminum made a good spring, they would use it in car suspensions to save weight and fuel. Aluminum makes a sh!tty spring though, so they don't. Aluminum works great in FS bikes, where the stiffness and lightweight can be used to it's best advantage - the shock and pivot design does all the bump absorption and the frame can be engineered to do what each material does best. Light and stiff = Aluminum.
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  19. #19
    one chain, two sprockets
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    I prefer steel, so when selecting a do-it-all-SS frame I wanted to minimize flex - especially when cranking out of the saddle, BMX-style. My solution was a frame that allowed me to dramatically reduce the frame size while maintaining an acceptable top tube length. A super long seatpost also dampens the trail. Next was a slight lack of concern for weight. I run 2.6" DH 3-ply casing tires, on strong DH-style SS wheels.

    So, to sum-up the thread title, I have an ueber-stiff bike with fantastic ride quality, with the following performance penalties:
    1. heavier overall weight
    2. heavier wheels/tires
    3. lower gear, to handle 1 and 2 on technical trails

    It took a little getting used when I first began to ride it.But it soon rewarded me as the best-riding bike in my stable.

    Tom P.

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