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Thread: Why steel?

  1. #1
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    Why steel?

    Paging through the singlespeed threads, well over 90% of singlespeeds posted are steel. Some are older bikes and some are brand new. I get the love affair with steel. Many singlespeeders are throwback, retro, KISS riders and steel fits that mold perfectly. Plus, everyone raves about the ride quality. Steel is real...yadda yadda yadda. Even hard core singlespeed racers are primarily on steel. The guys winning the HIGHLY competitive singlespeed category in my local races are almost always on steel.

    HOWEVER, if you look at the race threads, you almost never see a geared hardtail racer on a steel frame. It's always carbon. I say 90% but it's probably higher than that.

    Why do geared racers choose carbon but singlespeed racers choose steel? These are the same guys in theory -- young, fast, fit, and they win. But two groups with the same training, the same goals, on the same courses are almost unanimously choosing radically different frame materials.

    Any thoughts as to why?

  2. #2
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    It comes down to style...

    Steel provides options to put a smile on your face. Bikes perform about the same regardless of materials. Unless you are a "pro" the idea of riding a bike for any reason other then style and fun is silly.

    Yes, more single speeders ride steel vs. geared riders. The style of steel bikes has a greater appeal to the single speed mindset. Riding steel reflects style as much as anything else. With steel you get options and can build a bike to reflects you personal expression.

    Geared mountain bike riders take style ques from main stream mags and the options at bike shops. The single speed riders tend to be less style driven and/or have an individual style or ride steel to align with factors that drive them. Road riders take style cues from the Tour de France. The popular styles somewhat just reflect a mindset.

    Single speeders don't get wrapped up into the idea that the new wiz-bang marketing BS will translate into winning races. Steel succeeds with single speeders because in general they are less technology driven vs. riders who choose geared bikes.

    In terms of absolute performance; steel, carbon, and other materials perform at a level where outside of very specialized events you pretty much are not going to be able to measure any performance difference. Aestheticism and tactics decide the result of a race. Races show orders of magnitudes of rider performance such that the difference between steel and wiz-bang carbon is meaningless. I have been podiums plenty of times and never once did I feel the result was in the range where frame material choice was a factor.

    The closest race finish that I had last year was our NC/SC regional championship road race. I was 4th in the field sprint. The top 20 for the race all crossing the line within a few seconds of each other. Most riders were on carbon bikes. I don't recall seeing any other steel bikes in the field. A race can look like a tight finish but really the performance gap between 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and down the line is huge. For mountain bike racing the "close" results that I had were measured in minutes. The idea of material making a difference finish order is silly. People who are better athletes beat me and I finish ahead of people who are less talented riders. Even "close" results really are big differences in power output that goes far beyond the small difference equipment choice makes.

    My bike is not the reason for my race results. For me, steel reflects my personal style choices. My bikes is also hand made in the USA. For me steel is a style thing reflecting the ride quality that I prefer plus factors including the craft that goes into the construction.

    The bike you ride like other aspects of style should reflect the things you value.
    Last edited by febikes; 02-07-2016 at 03:42 PM.

  3. #3
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    All that and.......not many options for SS carbon fiber frames these days. Seems the majority of what's being offered is steel. That's one side of you equation I guess.

    Other side might be if you're going to gang all those heavy gears on your frame carbon fiber would keep the overall weight down.

  4. #4
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    it's just better

    i chose to ride steel frames for a lot of reasons, but none of them are "style". durability, lively ride, and connection to the bike/trail.

    there is a lot of articles, documentation, and argument out there as to which is faster, a super stiff frame or a flexible frame. here's one i found interesting.

    https://janheine.wordpress.com/2011/...ame-stiffness/

    of course there is a limit in either direction. too stiff=bad, too flexible=bad. I've ridden both (aluminum, steel).

    i'm not after the fastest possible ride, even though i do race, I'd rather feel connected to the bike than ride a soulless plastic whatever that's a couple seconds faster. it's just about enjoyment, i enjoy riding steel much more. and i agree with above that frame material will rarely if ever affect the outcome of a race at lower levels.

    edit: save the carbon for your wheels, seatpost, handlebars, and fork. that would likely have a bigger impact on how you finish a race vs frame material. (mostly the wheels)
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  5. #5
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    When I was a kid I had a steel bike.

    Then I tried aluminum.

    My next bike was steel.

    Then I tried some aluminum cermaic thing.

    My next bike was steel.

    Then I tried carbon.....

    My next bike was steel.

    Then I could finally afford Ti....... ( I do still have one Ti bike in the stable.)

    My next three bikes are steel.

    The ride of a quality steel bike calls to me. They have character, feeling, soul. I'm sure I'll be tempted by some new thing but steel will call and I'll come back. I always do.....
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    A lot of single speeders ride rigid, it kinda goes with the radical simplification theme. Steel can make for a really nice rigid ride. It's not just an affectation, there really is a difference.

    In all fairness, tire selection is where the bang for the buck is but frame material matters imo.

    Racing and general mountain biking are totally different things. Shaving a tenth of a second off my time is literally the very last thing on my mind, ever. Not sure why I would want a racing frame, or tires. Or pedals. I'm not racing anything except gators and snakes, and they aren't *that* fast. (Now, back when I was road biking, anything that would give me a speed advantage over the pitbull who lived at the top of the hill south of Clermont would have been greatly appreciated. )

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    Having ridden scandium, carbon, and steel single speed frames in the last 7 years I can definitely say steel has put the biggest smile on my face in terms of fun. There is just something about the ride quality of steel that cannot be beat. SS for me is about simplicity and steel just seems to go along with this mindset. If you aren't having fun at the end of the day what's the point? For me the most fun I've had SS has been steel.
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    I have just as much fun on my steel Kona Unit 29er as my converted 26" alloy Diamondback Vectra.
    I'll have to compare the geometry one day, but the longer the ride, the more chance I'll be on the Kona.

  9. #9
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    I've owned aluminum, carbon, and steel rigid SSs.

    For general riding I prefer the comfort of steel, but the faster and rougher it gets, the more I prefer carbon. For me and the bikes I have experience with, the rebound characteristics of the two materials makes carbon much easier to control. It may be bumpier and rougher overall, but it's more predictable when things start to flex.

  10. #10
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    I used to think like this as well. But I think this is more a product of demand as steel frames are easy to make comfortable, so there made that way.

    The reverse goes for carbon. But after having a custom Gunnar and my Chumba Stella I have seen how a steel framed bike can be made into a predictable solid platform. The Gunnar and Chumba are not as forgiving as my Cielo or VerHauen but the handle every bit as good as my past carbon Bikes and still retain most of the lively and comfortable feel of steel.

    That's just my experience...



    Quote Originally Posted by coke View Post
    I've owned aluminum, carbon, and steel rigid SSs.

    For general riding I prefer the comfort of steel, but the faster and rougher it gets, the more I prefer carbon. For me and the bikes I have experience with, the rebound characteristics of the two materials makes carbon much easier to control. It may be bumpier and rougher overall, but it's more predictable when things start to flex.
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  11. #11
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    Done right, a steel frame has great riding feel.

    However most production steel frames pay for that with a penalty of weight. I am sure with custom offerings you could cut that down.

    I've ridden a few steel SS frames, but eventually got tired of the 1.5-2 lbs penalty over an aluminum frame. With the right tires, the harshness of Al is minimized.
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  12. #12
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    So to expand this conversation a bit, how does 4130 Chromoly compare to some of the higher tensile steel made by Reynolds for example? All steel frames I have ever owned were all 4130, which I love, so is 853 that much better?
    -rides bikes for fun.

  13. #13
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    I have gone the custom way a few times with steel and once with Ti. Since I am a normal height guy that happens to be on the heavy side but athletic (I'm 210 to 220 pounds at 5'11 with 31-33 inch waste) what I end up with is a more expensive version of what I can find semi custom off the shelf or made to order. There are so many low volume high end buiders out there that you can get a "custom" frame if you look around.

    My Gunnar had the same frame feel qualities as my Chumba. my old Gunnar was custom geometry and tube selection. It road no better than any of my simialar US made frames with similar tubing. I just made a huge mistake in building a 650b hard tail single speed.

    Same thing with my Arizona made Optimus Ti vs. My custom rig and same goes for my Cielo when I had a all day comfortable rig made.

    I really believe that unless your very short, very tall, oddly proportioned or want silly geometry there is a high end frame out there the way you would have one built.

    The only difference I have noticed is sometimes the finishing touches are a little better looking on full custom. But then again my Cielo looks better than all my custom Bikes and any other tig welded custom steel bike I have seen come through bthe shop over the past 10 years I have been in the industry.
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  14. #14
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    Usually singlespeeder bikes are completely rigid. So, with no suspension, steel feels much better. If you run front suspension fork, you may as well have a carbon frame.

    Also singlespeeder run bigger tires for the same reasons. (plush ride)

    Steel is way cheaper too. (and more plentiful choices)

  15. #15
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    As to the original question, I agree most with febike's answer - its a cultural/stylistic choice. SS racers tend to be beer drinking mountain bikers first, racers second; a carbon SS is counter intuitive to many. Geared racers are often racers first, mountain bikers second; often they also race road bikes, do triathlons, etc. If they drink at all, it's that Michelob Ultra crap.

    Personally, I'm very drawn to steel on an intuitive level. I've owned carbon, ti, scandium, and aluminum, and they just don't resonate with me like steel. I plan to eventually swap my carbon fork for steel - just 'cuz.

  16. #16
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    I think I am a victim of BMX mentality. I rode bmx for many years, riding street and skateparks mostly, and aluminum is strictly for racing bikes in BMX. I can only think of one alu bmx bike that was made for street/ jumping (2-hip Pork) and it was not very popular. anyone I knew who tried riding street on an alu racing bike ended up breaking it catastrophically, so in my mind, aluminum is "weak" and riding an alu bike off-road will result in certain death.

    obviously this is not the case, I would probably be the last person to break anything that was made well. something in me wants my bikes to retain some of that BMX feel, which seems to come with steel. if I was going to buy a FS bike I would have not interest in a steel frame, of course.

    since all of my mountain bikes have been singlespeeds, or at least part-time SS, that makes most of my options steel ones, so the availability in the market has something to do with it.

    I also like classic-looking design of relatively narrow, round tubing that resemble some archetypal image of a bicycle in my head. most modern bikes look like something that belongs in a science fiction movie to my eyes rather than a bicycle. call me a curmudgeon, but I don't want any part of that.

  17. #17
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    It's hard to say why exactly, but I would back up what has been said that availability of mass produced SS frames tend to be steel. Why? It could be cost and there are various reasons for that for both the consumer and manufacturer as well as what was already pointed out that SS is a kind of throw back retro nostalgic undertaking for those who partake. The average biker will not want a SS typically. I tend to think that SSers are looking for a challenge and are driven by anger thereby beating the crap out of the SS. What material takes a lickin and keeps rollin'? Steel.

    Quote Originally Posted by robtre View Post
    So to expand this conversation a bit, how does 4130 Chromoly compare to some of the higher tensile steel made by Reynolds for example? All steel frames I have ever owned were all 4130, which I love, so is 853 that much better?
    Well, there are different 4130 tubesets that can be butted or not. 4130 is kind of a generic term for steel alloy tubesets and for the most part they are pretty similar. However, some 4130 tubesets are better since they will have less impurities and have a better strength to weight ratio. Labeling a bike frame as 4130 in itself is used as a marketing tool, but it may be misleading.

    853 is a Reynold's tubeset. It is a specific tubeset, afaik, and is air hardened. There are other similar tubesets like 531, 631, 725, 753, and the stainless 953. Stiffness and strength/weight ratio as well as how easy or difficult they are to work with is also varied. That's just Reynolds. There is also Columbus, Tange, True temper, etc. Each will have their own characteristics and some builders will have a preference of one over the other for personal reasons.

    There are threads here that talk about some of the specifics as well as a wealth of information online. As far as being better, that well may be a personal opinion but my RMB 853 Blizzard is better than the tubesets that Surly uses and that doesn't mean I don't like Surly. I will further say that the 725 tubeset for the Advocate Watchman is better than the tubeset for the Surly Wednesday, but I'd certainly settle for a Wednesday.
    I don't know why,... it's just MUSS easier to pedal than the other ones.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
    I think I am a victim of BMX mentality. I rode bmx for many years, riding street and skateparks mostly, and aluminum is strictly for racing bikes in BMX. I can only think of one alu bmx bike that was made for street/ jumping (2-hip Pork) and it was not very popular. anyone I knew who tried riding street on an alu racing bike ended up breaking it catastrophically, so in my mind, aluminum is "weak" and riding an alu bike off-road will result in certain death.
    A couple years ago I converted an aluminum BMX cruiser to play around on street and park. It had a steel fork, but I was surprised how non-giving the AL frame was. I knew it wouldn't be that good, but it was straight up bad with cement and high pressure tires. The smallest landing was bonejarring.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by robtre View Post
    so is 853 that much better?
    The hardened tubes can be made thinner and ligther and still have the same strength or better. Stiffness will be the same pretty much. But I have heard from many people the high end steels just ride a little better. I don't know why this is. But the good tubesets are really pushing the limit of the strength/weight ratio, that might explain it.

    I have a chromag at 2000g. And it feels like riding on a spring. Its stiff and strong yet comfortable.
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    Good comments, thanks all.

    I posted this because I'm looking for a new frame. I'm currently riding a Niner One 9 hydroformed aluminum and was going to upgrade to a carbon One 9 RDO. But talking to a bunch of guys who ride Niner SS and they all overwhelmingly recommend the SIR 9. One guy has both an RDO and a SIR and recommends the SIR.

    I was all set on the RDO until I learned about the chain slap issue so that got me to start looking at the SIR...and steel.

  21. #21
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    I have a riding buddy that had a 13 pound Air 9 Carbon and sold it and built a Sir 9.
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    Quote Originally Posted by robtre View Post
    So to expand this conversation a bit, how does 4130 Chromoly compare to some of the higher tensile steel made by Reynolds for example? All steel frames I have ever owned were all 4130, which I love, so is 853 that much better?
    I've had both, a cheap 4130 frame and custom 853. I think they ride about the same (awesome) The 853 frame was lighter but I cant say it was all due to the type of steel. I wouldn't base my next purchase on it unless I was really on the fence between two frames. I can always cut down on breakfast burritos if I need to shave a pound or two.

  23. #23
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    I think its more about balancing frame weigth/ strength to your riding style and own weigth to get the best performance ratio. Its like riding in an f16 or a 747.
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  24. #24
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    I have a steel SS, but that's a matter of happenstance. I'm a huge fan of steel though. It rides nice, good frames aren't any more expensive than alu, and although i have a long and inconvenient history of breaking aluminum frames i've never broken a steel one. I don't trust carbon because i frequently crash, and a steel frame i just trust and that does a lot for my confidence and enjoyment.

    I think part of it is that SS'ers already have a ton of miles in their legs and appreciate that you just don't have to worry about your steel frame. When the veterans ride them... hell yea you wanna be on a steel frame too!
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  25. #25
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    The main advantage of steel for me is the narrowness of the tubes.
    Standing and climbing, my knees hit my beloved 2011 26" Stumpy M5 top tube, too wide.
    Was most disappointed I couldn't SS the Stumpy

  26. #26
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    It's prettier

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  27. #27
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    A lot of good comments already posted. I have a Genesis Reynolds 725 rigid & SS specific 29er that I love to bits.

    Admittedly I'd already decided on steel as my first choice. In part for the aesthetics of narrow round tubes. Didn't really want a hydroformed alu frame with a toptube the size of my arm, even if it is a pound or so lighter. At 220lbs + myself I doubt the difference is great.

    I also like the perceived longevity of steel and the ring of it. It's alive. Overworked alu is just dead.
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    I ride steel because I rode aluminum hardtail for years and my first steel frame was so forgiving that it felt like it had rear suspension.....never going back

  29. #29
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    I've had and do have frames in every material but my 2 favorite XC bikes ever were and are Steel. Lot's of great comments on why but all I can say is they make me smile more. My next SS will be steel as well.
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  30. #30
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    There are a multiplicity of reasons why someone may prefer steel in a SS application. Here are a few reasons that immediately come to mind for me...

    Without the weight of a multispeed drivetrain you can build in steel and still have a reasonably light bike.

    If you're a small time frame builder it's a lot cheaper to build with steel.

    Snob appeal. Picking your favorite whatever and then being a d*ck about it is a time honored tradition in the bike scene and steel lends itself quite nicely to that purpose.

    Personally, I don't care what my frame is made out of as long as it rides nicely. I have steel, aluminum, bamboo, and laminated bamboo frames and I love them all. I hope to get a carbon hardtail this year as well. In my opinion it makes no sense to be totally stuck on just one material when there are so many materials and approaches to fabricating with them. When I finally have BOTH the time and money to build my own frame it will probably be a steel SS, mostly because steel is easy to work with and relatively cheap.

  31. #31
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    When I die and go to Valhalla, Crom will ask me the riddle of steel, and if I fail him he will cast me out and laugh at me.

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by JakeStroganoff View Post
    When I die and go to Valhalla, Crom will ask me the riddle of steel, and if I fail him he will cast me out and laugh at me.
    Why steel?-conan-barbarian-arnold.jpg

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    I didn't want steel when I went shopping for a singlespeed. To me half the point of riding single is it's lighter than my full suspension bike. I opted for aluminum and I'm very happy I did. No way I'm going to notice a difference in "ride quality" and the frame has a lifetime guarantee so I'm not worried about breaking it at all.

  34. #34
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    Read the fine print on lifetime guarantee. It's usually a determined time period for the life of the product, not necessarily the life of the original owner. That said, you'll have to ride hard or crash hard or both to break an mtb frame, unless there is a structural defect or you get the frame cut in 2 by Conan.
    I don't know why,... it's just MUSS easier to pedal than the other ones.

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by EddieSmirckx View Post
    Personally, I don't care what my frame is made out of as long as it rides nicely. I have steel, aluminum, bamboo, and laminated bamboo frames
    Seems like there's some irony here.
    Last edited by scottzg; 02-09-2016 at 06:03 PM.
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  36. #36
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    All Great points and opinions. I was reading all posts above, waiting to share my experience of changing all components from a steel to Aluminum frame. They felt the same. 120 fork and 29 X 2.4 Nobby Nics back then (balloons). Steel SIR 9, to a Scandium ONE 9, to a Hydrofromed ONE 9. They felt the same, all in size small, same components. After reading previous posts, I really miss the cool factor of the steel, and the small round tubes more than anything. You guys really made me miss my SIR 9. That thing was ROACHED! Gouges, scratched to hell, paint chips missing, rust under gussets (I oiled them to keep rust at bay) Glad I sold it before snapping it. But it was rad!

  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by hoolie View Post
    That thing was ROACHED! Gouges, scratched to hell, paint chips missing, rust under gussets (I oiled them to keep rust at bay) Glad I sold it before snapping it. But it was rad!
    Sounds like you had just broken it in. Pity the new owner didn't get any of the stories that came with a practically new frame.
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  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by hoolie View Post
    All Great points and opinions. I was reading all posts above, waiting to share my experience of changing all components from a steel to Aluminum frame. They felt the same. 120 fork and 29 X 2.4 Nobby Nics back then (balloons). Steel SIR 9, to a Scandium ONE 9, to a Hydrofromed ONE 9. They felt the same, all in size small, same components. After reading previous posts, I really miss the cool factor of the steel, and the small round tubes more than anything. You guys really made me miss my SIR 9. That thing was ROACHED! Gouges, scratched to hell, paint chips missing, rust under gussets (I oiled them to keep rust at bay) Glad I sold it before snapping it. But it was rad!
    I'm surprised to hear this. I rode a One9 scandium for 6 years and recently switched everything off that bike to a Sir9 frame. Pretty big difference, at least from what I have personally experienced. The Sir seems more forgiving and compliant overall. Had a carbon frame and disliked how it felt compared to either the scandium or steel.
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  39. #39
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    The thing with scandium is that the russians found out the weld wouldn't be as brittle and weak if you mixed in some scandium in the missle top cones, so they could launch them from under thicker ice. I think it prevents some type of crystal structure formation at the heat affected zone.

    Now what did the bike biz do with this?? They simply made the frames lighter, and very often weaker. If they had simply substituted the regular alu with scandium alu and changed nothing else on previously existing designs the frames would probably have been much stronger and long lasting. But thats bad for business. can't have that..
    Rule #9 // If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.

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    Steel as it's simply the best, if it cracks get it welded, if u ding a tube beyond repair get it replaced. I have 3 steel frames, Ritchey logic (P-650b) True temper ox III (KHS Team), 4130 DB (Avanti KISS SS) and a carbon Fully (Scott Scale RC700) and ti (Sun Exact 000) and I ride the steel frames the most. Thin steel frames look right and just ride wonderfully well.

  41. #41
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    The smoothest riding frame that I've had was a cheap 4130 steel frame. The roughest riding frame that I've had was a high end custom steel frame. Personally, I think geometry and weight play heavily into the perception that steel is just that much smoother. I've had several seemingly smooth riding aluminum frames. I'm riding a carbon Pivot now and although I wouldn't call it magical it does seem to have some rather interesting damping characteristics.

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  42. #42
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    Can someone share there experience between steel and ti SS? I've ridden plenty of nice steel but never ti. Is the benefit of ti that it is lighter? Or does it also have the same feel as steel? For a rigid SS, would you choose steel or ti?

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    Quote Originally Posted by dmo View Post
    Can someone share there experience between steel and ti SS? I've ridden plenty of nice steel but never ti. Is the benefit of ti that it is lighter? Or does it also have the same feel as steel? For a rigid SS, would you choose steel or ti?

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    As many have said before in many a discussion of steel vs. Ti, it is dependent on many factors. Some Ti frames ride much better than some steel frames, and some steel frames ride much better than some Ti frames. All things being equal though, Ti frames will generally weigh less than steel frames of the same size by the same brand/builder. Nonetheless, I love my Blacksheep Ti frame and the way it rides much more than my Sanko steel Monocog Flight (both SS). But again, comparing the two is more about many other factors than just the material they are made of.

  44. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mariop View Post
    As many have said before in many a discussion of steel vs. Ti, it is dependent on many factors. Some Ti frames ride much better than some steel frames, and some steel frames ride much better than some Ti frames. All things being equal though, Ti frames will generally weigh less than steel frames of the same size by the same brand/builder. Nonetheless, I love my Blacksheep Ti frame and the way it rides much more than my Sanko steel Monocog Flight (both SS). But again, comparing the two is more about many other factors than just the material they are made of.
    So if you can't ride all the different options how do you narrow down between choices? Do you just crowdsource and go off of reputation?


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    Quote Originally Posted by dmo View Post
    So if you can't ride all the different options how do you narrow down between choices? Do you just crowdsource and go off of reputation?
    Geometry, material, cost are my big three. I think you have to use your intuition in regard to reading reviews and the reputation of the company. I agree with you that you need a method to determine what will check all the boxes. My advice would be to write a list of the must haves, the maybes and the definitely nots. Then take a look at the rides you find appealing and start checking the boxes on your list. Your list will be different than others, so don't necessarily just go with what your bro biker rides. If you are going the custom route, then you make no compromises except perhaps accepting the monetary cost will be higher. However, the gains from having a custom ride for your dimensions, riding style, and preferences may in fact be a greater reward than the ticket to ride. Good luck!
    I don't know why,... it's just MUSS easier to pedal than the other ones.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dmo View Post
    Can someone share there experience between steel and ti SS? I've ridden plenty of nice steel but never ti. Is the benefit of ti that it is lighter? Or does it also have the same feel as steel? For a rigid SS, would you choose steel or ti?
    My steel single speed experience came after I owned two VERY high-dollar, custom-built-for-me Seven Cycles titanium frames that I wasn't particularly impressed with. I bought into the "ti hype" and all the marketing BS, and spent a crap-ton of dollars. What did I get? Pretty frames. Yes, they were pretty. The ride quality was decent, but didn't live up to the dollars.

    I sold the ti bikes, and built up a relatively inexpensive Surly 1x1 (my first dedicated SS). My riding/racing times were within a minute of my geared ti hardtail times, even over a long, 27-mile race I did every year. That's when I cared about timing myself...I don't anymore. The fun factor was much better, though, as was the ride quality. I haven't owned anything except steel since. All of my bikes are fully-rigid, as well.

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  47. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1x1_Speed_Craig View Post
    My steel single speed experience came after I owned two VERY high-dollar, custom-built-for-me Seven Cycles titanium frames that I wasn't particularly impressed with. I bought into the "ti hype" and all the marketing BS, and spent a crap-ton of dollars. What did I get? Pretty frames. Yes, they were pretty. The ride quality was decent, but didn't live up to the dollars.

    I sold the ti bikes, and built up a relatively inexpensive Surly 1x1 (my first dedicated SS). My riding/racing times were within a minute of my geared ti hardtail times, even over a long, 27-mile race I did every year. That's when I cared about timing myself...I don't anymore. The fun factor was much better, though, as was the ride quality. I haven't owned anything except steel since. All of my bikes are fully-rigid, as well.

    Craig
    So what kind of steel frame are you riding now? Have you always ridden full rigid?

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    Quote Originally Posted by dmo View Post
    So what kind of steel frame are you riding now? Have you always ridden full rigid?
    Sure thing. I rode front suspension for several years (Cannondale Headshok, and RockShox on my old SS hardtail). I've never owned a full-suspension.

    I used to ride a Soulcraft Plowboy SS, but it was stolen (along with my daughter's MTBs) during a break-in in 2013. I have a mint-contition Steelman Eurocross SS/fixed 'cross bike that I built in 2001, a SS Surly Pugsley, and a Surly Big Fat Dummy fat-tire cargo bike (my only geared bike). I'm also getting ready to buy a Surly Ogre, which I plan to convert to SS.

    Yes, I'm a fan of rigid steel bikes. The pros just seriously outweigh the cons for me.

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  49. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1x1_Speed_Craig View Post
    Sure thing. I rode front suspension for several years (Cannondale Headshok, and RockShox on my old SS hardtail). I've never owned a full-suspension.

    I used to ride a Soulcraft Plowboy SS, but it was stolen (along with my daughter's MTBs) during a break-in in 2013. I have a mint-contition Steelman Eurocross SS/fixed 'cross bike that I built in 2001, a SS Surly Pugsley, and a Surly Big Fat Dummy fat-tire cargo bike (my only geared bike). I'm also getting ready to buy a Surly Ogre, which I plan to convert to SS.

    Yes, I'm a fan of rigid steel bikes. The pros just seriously outweigh the cons for me.

    Craig
    Cool.


    I built up a Soma Juice SS with a rigid fork for not much money. I was thinking if I really dig SS to try ti, but have never ridden ti before. As far a steel goes I've thought of getting SS Yo Eddy if Chris Chance decides to make them or get a Ted Wojcik SS. If for nothing else just the sense of nostalgia.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dmo View Post
    Cool.


    I built up a Soma Juice SS with a rigid fork for not much money. I was thinking if I really dig SS to try ti, but have never ridden ti before. As far a steel goes I've thought of getting SS Yo Eddy if Chris Chance decides to make them or get a Ted Wojcik SS. If for nothing else just the sense of nostalgia.
    Yeah, rock that Soma for a while, and see where it leads. Just remember that big $$$ doesn't always equate to more fun. Enjoy the SS scene!
    I dig steel-framed bikes of all shapes and sizes.

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    I prefer steel bikes to all other materials. All of my bikes have multiple gears, but I suspect that most single speed riders choose a bike with one gear because they desire the rugged simplicity of a single set of cogs and chain. I can admire that.

    If I had a magic wand, consumer bicycles would only be made of steel. There is really no logical justification for aluminum or carbon bicycles for most users. Titanium is cool looking but I've never rode one. All this BS about weight is just marketing crap. When I start out-riding my bike, I'll start worrying about a few pounds. Until then, I'll enjoy my durable, lifetime-purchase steel bicycles.

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    BS about weight?

    My alloy Chameleon will still be around when the cockroaches inherit the Earth.
    My steel bike will have rusted away.

  53. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1x1_Speed_Craig View Post
    ...I sold the ti bikes, and built up a relatively inexpensive Surly 1x1 (my first dedicated SS). My riding/racing times were within a minute of my geared ti hardtail times, even over a long, 27-mile race I did every year. That's when I cared about timing myself...I don't anymore. The fun factor was much better, though, as was the ride quality. I haven't owned anything except steel since...
    I'll echo this, especially about the 1x1 which has turned out to be a more special bike than intended.

    It was designed in the late 90s at a time when rigid geometry had been optimised but also with the ability to take 3" tyres at a time when many mtbs couldn't fit 2.35". A set of 2.8" Dirt Wizards transforms it, and I prefer it to my Lynskey Ti 29er frame.

    The whole question of feel is changed once you can run tyres at 15psi and much of the argument over frame material become irrelevant, so long as you have a sufficiently stiff driveline.

    The difference between a quality steel frame and an equally strong alloy is about the weight of a water bottle. Pretty insignificant for all but the finely tuned top level racers.
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  54. #54
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    Quote Originally Posted by NordieBoy View Post
    BS about weight?

    My alloy Chameleon will still be around when the cockroaches inherit the Earth.
    My steel bike will have rusted away.
    Cockroaches can ride bikes?
    By continuing to browse my posts, you agree to send me cookies.

  55. #55
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    Because a handmade steel frame is way cooler than mass produced anything. Specially if you welded it yourself or a friend welded it for you.
    Why steel?-img_8013.jpg

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    Best response ever!

    Quote Originally Posted by febikes View Post
    Steel provides options to put a smile on your face. Bikes perform about the same regardless of materials. Unless you are a "pro" the idea of riding a bike for any reason other then style and fun is silly.

    Yes, more single speeders ride steel vs. geared riders. The style of steel bikes has a greater appeal to the single speed mindset. Riding steel reflects style as much as anything else. With steel you get options and can build a bike to reflects you personal expression.

    Geared mountain bike riders take style ques from main stream mags and the options at bike shops. The single speed riders tend to be less style driven and/or have an individual style or ride steel to align with factors that drive them. Road riders take style cues from the Tour de France. The popular styles somewhat just reflect a mindset.

    Single speeders don't get wrapped up into the idea that the new wiz-bang marketing BS will translate into winning races. Steel succeeds with single speeders because in general they are less technology driven vs. riders who choose geared bikes.

    In terms of absolute performance; steel, carbon, and other materials perform at a level where outside of very specialized events you pretty much are not going to be able to measure any performance difference. Aestheticism and tactics decide the result of a race. Races show orders of magnitudes of rider performance such that the difference between steel and wiz-bang carbon is meaningless. I have been podiums plenty of times and never once did I feel the result was in the range where frame material choice was a factor.

    The closest race finish that I had last year was our NC/SC regional championship road race. I was 4th in the field sprint. The top 20 for the race all crossing the line within a few seconds of each other. Most riders were on carbon bikes. I don't recall seeing any other steel bikes in the field. A race can look like a tight finish but really the performance gap between 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and down the line is huge. For mountain bike racing the "close" results that I had were measured in minutes. The idea of material making a difference finish order is silly. People who are better athletes beat me and I finish ahead of people who are less talented riders. Even "close" results really are big differences in power output that goes far beyond the small difference equipment choice makes.

    My bike is not the reason for my race results. For me, steel reflects my personal style choices. My bikes is also hand made in the USA. For me steel is a style thing reflecting the ride quality that I prefer plus factors including the craft that goes into the construction.

    The bike you ride like other aspects of style should reflect the things you value.
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  57. #57
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    I rode and raced a titanium Diamondback Axis TT Pro (built by Sandvik) extensively, and although the polished finish was purty, and and had a slight weight advantage, there was no magical Ti experience. I previously had a Marin Team Marin and a Bridgestone MB1, both with Tange Prestige.

    When I decided I wanted a dedicated singlespeed frame, I went custom. This bike is the best feeling bike I've thrown my leg over, even though the front triangle is "just" 4130 with Dedacciai stays.

    I've also have/had a full suspension frame that first had a True Temper OX Platinum front triangle that was destroyed in a head on with a moto at speed. The only reason I had the front end replaced with aluminum was turn around time. The Al front is stiffer but doesn't have that lively steel feel. Weight diff between the two was 11 ounces.

    I've been mountain biking 33 years now and have had a ton of high end bikes. My last two frames have been custom steel SS frames and I'll probably never own a hardtail in any other material.
    Ripping trails and tipping ales

  58. #58
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    Since my reply I've thought more about this.

    One thing I have noticed about singlespeeders is that they break stuff more. Just think about the shock loads going into a frame on a steep climb when the bike hits a stoppie rock but the rider then wrenches it over, and does so several times just on that one climb.

    I don't regard myself as particularly strong but I have twisted bottom bracket axles, torn the rings off crank spiders, broken several chains (as in broken, not separated*), bent cranks, torn the nipples off the spokes on the back wheel. I have never managed to do any of that on a geared bike. Friends have done similar things, plus broken handlebars on climbs, seatposts etc, and not from doing jumps.

    I'm not claiming no one else breaks stuff, but singlespeeders seem to break more IMO.

    I'd feel safe buying a secondhand steel frame based on a visual inspection, but with an alloy I'd be concerned about how it had been ridden by the previous owner, and had crystallisation started in stressed areas. I don't know how to check a C/F frame. They seem to go from looking perfectly fine to a bunch of fibres when they do fail.

    My concerns may be unwarranted because I haven't seen many failures recently, but for example I have a Scandium frame that's now 12 years old, and I'm starting to be careful how I ride it, whereas my 20 year old steel 1x1 still gets treated as it always has.

    A steel frame can and will break if you push it far enough, but steel has a better record in this regard for bike frames. (Yes, I know they use aluminium and carbon fibre in jet planes, but the people doing that don't build bikes, and we couldn't afford them if they did).

    It all comes down to trust. Steel is more trustworthy.

    The end result is that very few experienced SSers are weight weenies. There are advantages to a very light bike, but if you can build a 20lb alloy bike, you can build a 21½lb steel bike with the same components. Add a 180lb rider, and the difference in the weight you have to lug uphill is less than 1%.







    *supposedly impossible, but I have given up on SRAM and had no further problem.
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  59. #59
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    Interesting reading the old comments mixed with the more current ones.

    Currently I ride a Black Sheep Ti, rigid 29" ss. I also have a carbon Pivot Les. Another Black Sheep will be here shortly.

    I've ridden steel, alu, CF and Ti. Steel was an 853 Gunnar and several Surly's. Aluminum on bonded frames ( ouch! ) and hydro formed.

    The gunnar rode really well for an off the shelf frame. The geometry is dialed for what it is. You could really feel the trail interaction when rolling. The aluminum frames just beat the crap out of you. The Surly frames also rode well, but the weight was noticeable compared to the other materials. Not a deal breaker to some. The carbon is light and quiets the trail chatter, but you don't get the feel of the trail.

    Good Ti, in my opinion, is the best of both worlds. Good trail feel, weight is right between carbon and steel, and strength is greater than steel.

    Carbon doesn't do it for me and the Pivot is on the sale block.

    Personally, I can tell the difference between steel and Ti and prefer Ti.

    Yes, running 2.5 - 3.0 tires at lower pressures softens the ride of any material, but that is a completely different discussion.
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    Quote Originally Posted by azjonboy View Post
    Good Ti, in my opinion, is the best of both worlds. Good trail feel, weight is right between carbon and steel, and strength is greater than steel.
    I'm not actually sure that when comparing apples to apples, Ti is lighter. Ti is much more flexible than steel and the wall thickness has to be increased to compensate. There may be a modest weight savings, but there may not be any at all, depending on frame design.

    Not that it matters--both are fine materials for building bicycles. I've always wanted to try a titanium bike just because it looks so cool and it is corrosion resistant. It's probably also more dent resistant due to the wall thickness vs. high end steel. I wouldn't be so sure it is lighter, though.

    As for carbon, it's a shame that consumers ever embraced the plastic bicycle. That's gotta be the biggest scam ever in the history of marketing.

  61. #61
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    Quote Originally Posted by twodownzero View Post
    ...As for carbon, it's a shame that consumers ever embraced the plastic bicycle. That's gotta be the biggest scam ever in the history of marketing.
    I don't see it that way. Every material has its uses. If I was a dedicated racer and had the budget, I'd go carbon, but be prepared to replace the frame after any serious crash.

    However as I've said earlier, the weights saving is minimal in the overall scheme of things.

    What does amuse me is the amount of people (myself included) who are wary of carbon frames, but still have a carbon fork on their bike.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Velobike View Post
    I don't see it that way. Every material has its uses. If I was a dedicated racer and had the budget, I'd go carbon, but be prepared to replace the frame after any serious crash.

    However as I've said earlier, the weights saving is minimal in the overall scheme of things.

    What does amuse me is the amount of people (myself included) who are wary of carbon frames, but still have a carbon fork on their bike.
    If you were a dedicated racer, you wouldn't need a budget. You'd ride what your sponsors gave you.

    My steel bikes have steel forks.

  63. #63
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    Quote Originally Posted by twodownzero View Post
    If you were a dedicated racer, you wouldn't need a budget. You'd ride what your sponsors gave you.

    My steel bikes have steel forks.
    True. I wasn't thinking of the riding gods though, more the top level amateur.

    Come to think of it, my steel bikes have steel forks too. It's the alloy and Ti ones with the carbon forks.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Velobike View Post
    True. I wasn't thinking of the riding gods though, more the top level amateur.

    Come to think of it, my steel bikes have steel forks too. It's the alloy and Ti ones with the carbon forks.
    Steel is also an alloy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by twodownzero View Post
    Steel is also an alloy.
    Ti is an alloy as well. And Scandium is just a different aluminum alloy. Glad to see someone else who's bugged by people saying they rode their "alloy" frame. Maybe we can influence our peers to differentiate from carbon by saying alloy?

  66. #66
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    Quote Originally Posted by solo-x View Post
    ...Glad to see someone else who's bugged by people saying they rode their "alloy" frame....
    I bow to your superior understanding and knowledge.

    Nah, you're spouting a load of pedantic bollocks.

    This is not a metallurgical forum. 'Alloy' is common usage and everyone knows what it is intended to mean when used in a forum such as this.

    If you are going to be pedantic, then in your future posts please use the full molecular composition of whatever combinations of metals etc are used in your frame construction. I'll also expect a full chemical breakdown of the resins used in composite constructions.

    Meanwhile the rest of us will communicate in language and terms we all understand and leave you superior types to disappear down your fundamental orifices.
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    I think the preoccupation with steel frames is a little over-the-top. I have two steel frames and I like the look of the smaller diameter tubing along with the little bit of flex it provides but that's about it. I also like my ALLOY frame because it's super stiff and I like my carbon frame because it's light. I've raced each of them and with the right wheelset the differences in frame weight is pretty negligible. In other words, don't overthink it: it's only one aspect of a complete bike.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Velobike View Post
    I bow to your superior understanding and knowledge.

    Nah, you're spouting a load of pedantic bollocks.

    This is not a metallurgical forum. 'Alloy' is common usage and everyone knows what it is intended to mean when used in a forum such as this.

    If you are going to be pedantic, then in your future posts please use the full molecular composition of whatever combinations of metals etc are used in your frame construction. I'll also expect a full chemical breakdown of the resins used in composite constructions.

    Meanwhile the rest of us will communicate in language and terms we all understand and leave you superior types to disappear down your fundamental orifices.
    Somebody needs some time out on the dirt. I merely supported someone who thought the same way I do. I didn't intend to make you feel inferior by wanting to use proper names for things. Carry on calling one alloy steel (we even use the TYPE of steel alloy sometimes. 853 Reynolds! 4130 Chromoly! Talk about pedantic!) and another alloy "alloy". Just know it bugs me. Kinda like Alanis Morrissette and her egregious misuse of the word "ironic".

  69. #69
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    Quote Originally Posted by twodownzero View Post
    If you were a dedicated racer, you wouldn't need a budget. You'd ride what your sponsors gave you.

    My steel bikes have steel forks.
    There are different levels of sponsorship. Most of us aren't good enough to earn a multi-thousand dollar bike. For mere mortals you get a discount and a kit.

  70. #70
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    Quote Originally Posted by solo-x View Post
    Somebody needs some time out on the dirt. I merely supported someone who thought the same way I do. I didn't intend to make you feel inferior by wanting to use proper names for things. Carry on calling one alloy steel (we even use the TYPE of steel alloy sometimes. 853 Reynolds! 4130 Chromoly! Talk about pedantic!) and another alloy "alloy". Just know it bugs me. Kinda like Alanis Morrissette and her egregious misuse of the word "ironic".
    Mate, you're in the singlespeed forum, not the derailleur roadie forum. We all know those terms.

    What bike does Alanis Whatshername ride, is it real iron or an alloy?

    EDIT: Sorry about the grumpy post. I should have been politer.
    Last edited by Velobike; 02-28-2018 at 01:25 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by solo-x View Post
    Kinda like Alanis Morrissette and her egregious misuse of the word "ironic".
    I think she is being ironic.

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    Does this make carbon fibre realer?

    This company is adding steel fibres to carbon fibre to make the part tougher.

    https://singletrackworld.com/2017/12...-carbon-fibre/

    Anyone using Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene in a composite for bikes?
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    ^ that's funny, and cool. I think carbon just did get a little more real. Let's see if it makes it into actual bike parts we can purchase?
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    Full Sus 29er (Yuck)

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

  74. #74
    I am Walt
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    Why steel?

    I’m exclusively on a Vassago Optimus Ti SS (my second, as a matter of fact). I absolutely love the geometry and ride. It is the most comfortable, best feeling bike I’ve owned, by far.

    Prior to my Optimus Ti’s, I rode Niner SIR9’s for a number of years, and I cracked three frames. Really like the geometry and the ride, but I got tired of cracking them (on the rear dropouts, each time), not to mention the notorious Niner creaking BB.

    Prior to the Niner’s, I had a Kona Unit 29, and before that, a Kona Unit 26er.

    Prior to that, I had a basic Fetish aluminum SS, and it beat the crap out of me in AZ. That’s the only aluminum hardtail I’ve had. Eff that shit.

    For a while, I had a Niner RIP9 FS trailbike, but sold it because I hardly ever rode it.

    And after riding SS exclusively for about four years, I bought a carbon Santa Cruz Tallboy last summer, rode it a bunch, then sold it after I got sick of the weight...and I never shifted more than one gear away from my SS gearing. I’m also (much) faster on my SS....LOL

    Net net, after a lot of SS miles on aluminum, steel and Ti, I will take Ti every time, and never look back. Carbon...? Meh...


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  75. #75
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    Steel is real, Ti is fly! I do think aluminum and carbon frames have there place, but I prefer the ride of metal. Since I'm not interested in building up a sub 20 pound racing bike, my entire build is focused of ride quality. My first SS ride was on the original Sir9. Then I bought a Titus Eleven frame. I have a say, I liked the feel of the Sir9, so a few years later I bought a Sir9 and built my first fully rigid SS. I loved the bike, and still ride it. The Geo is on the steep side but it makes tight switch backs a breeze. By far what really made this bike come to life was i30 mm rims and 2.35 Nobby Nic's. The HV tires, set up tubeless, of course run at 16PSI felt better than my old 26" hardtail with a 80mm RS Sid.
    [COLOR="Black"]HARDMTNBIKER on Instagram

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  76. #76
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    Steel is real.

    Wool is real.

    For the ultimate in realness, wear steel wool underpants...
    As little bike as possible, as silent as possible.
    Latitude: 57º36' Highlands, Scotland

  77. #77
    psycho cyclo addict
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    Steel is REAL and lasts for a very long time. Got me two (custom) steel SS 29er's.

    Ti is intriguing however most of what I see tends to be weight limited to <200 lbs. I'm 195 lbs and prefer not to snap stuff or pay big $$$ for custom Ti as a lot of those folks charge (even more) ridiculous sums of monnay these days.
    【ツ】 eDub 【ツ】

  78. #78
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    Wool is real!! I have Outdoor Research,Kitsbow,Patagonia and Search and State shirts that I wear instead of jersey's. Once you wear wool, you'll never wanna wear a synthetic jersey again.
    Quote Originally Posted by Velobike View Post
    Steel is real.

    Wool is real.

    For the ultimate in realness, wear steel wool underpants...
    [COLOR="Black"]HARDMTNBIKER on Instagram

    Seven Sola SLX ENVE MTN SS
    Sir9 Carbon Niner SS
    #1gearallyear #Iridemtn

  79. #79
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    Ti is pricey and has been know to flex more than steel. A custom steel frame is going to ride better than a mass produced Ti frame anyway. I considering a custom steel frame for my next build.44 Bikes builds this awesome super boost hardtail Kris at 44 Bikes Explains Superboost’s Benefits for Hardtail MTB Frames | The Radavist
    I love what Kris states that 99.9 % of his buyers don't race.
    Quote Originally Posted by edubfromktown View Post
    Steel is REAL and lasts for a very long time. Got me two (custom) steel SS 29er's.

    Ti is intriguing however most of what I see tends to be weight limited to <200 lbs. I'm 195 lbs and prefer not to snap stuff or pay big $$$ for custom Ti as a lot of those folks charge (even more) ridiculous sums of monnay these days.
    [COLOR="Black"]HARDMTNBIKER on Instagram

    Seven Sola SLX ENVE MTN SS
    Sir9 Carbon Niner SS
    #1gearallyear #Iridemtn

  80. #80
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    So here we are 2 year later. I built up the Sir9 and liked it a lot. It was my sole bike for well over a year. But I got the urge to build a new bike and went top shelf this time. I've found the ultimate SS material for me and that material is titanium.

    I built a Vassago OptimusTi with a Fox 32 StepCast fork, Nox Teocalli carbon rims, i9 hubs, SRAM carbon cranks, and a Thomson cockpit. 21 lbs. of awesomeness. Boost + ti makes for a nice ride, especially with carbon rims.

    The Sir9 has been converted to rigid, with a Niner RDO fork and is a fantastic backup bike (and not a bad gravel grinder for a SS).

    Why steel?-vot.jpg

  81. #81
    Warp speed, Mr. Sulu!
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    That is sweet!

  82. #82
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    Quote Originally Posted by Velobike View Post

    Anyone using Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene in a composite for bikes?

    Yeah, Berd is making spokes out of it...
    Salsa Timberjack SS
    -Gears give me headaches

  83. #83
    DFMBA.org
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    For me, it was the minimalist simplicity of the frame that looks awesome. I have a carbon f/s 29 that has a big-a$$ down tube and top tube and I like it for waht it is. Looking down , however, at a narrow steel top tube is kinda appealing to me. Feels more crafted and gives me kinda an old-school vibe. I'm also not worried about a frame failure on a steel bike.

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  84. #84
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    Quote Originally Posted by KevinGT View Post
    So here we are 2 year later. I built up the Sir9 and liked it a lot. It was my sole bike for well over a year. But I got the urge to build a new bike and went top shelf this time. I've found the ultimate SS material for me and that material is titanium.

    I built a Vassago OptimusTi with a Fox 32 StepCast fork, Nox Teocalli carbon rims, i9 hubs, SRAM carbon cranks, and a Thomson cockpit. 21 lbs. of awesomeness. Boost + ti makes for a nice ride, especially with carbon rims.

    The Sir9 has been converted to rigid, with a Niner RDO fork and is a fantastic backup bike (and not a bad gravel grinder for a SS).

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Just my opinion, but that is possibly the best looking SS (or MTB period) I have laid eyes on. That might be really close to my personal dream build.

    Care to share cost? $5,500 - $6,000?

  85. #85
    mtbr member
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    Yeah, that is exceptionally close to the summit of single speed builds. Why steel then? Because it is cheaper than Titanium?

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