Road Bike Frames


New Member
Jan 31, 2002
Read this interesting article on
<a target="_top" href="">World of Endurance</a>
. It's on road bike frames and the history thereof (I know there were some questions previously)<br /><br />
Choosing a frame<br /><br />John Moss<br />11/28/2002<br />Way back in the dark ages there was only one choice of material for a frame and that was steel. There were only two main steel manufacturers these being the British company Reynolds and the Italian company Columbus. <br /><br /><br />The top-of-the-range tubeset manufactured by the British company was Reynolds 531 Double Butted. Double-butted meant that the tubes were internally thicker at the ends giving extra strength at this vulnerable point where brazing took place and thinner in the middle to save weight. The Italian company had an almost identical set of tubing called Columbus SL.<br /><br />For years handmade frames were made from one of these two tube sets. Then in the 1980’s Reynolds started developing a tube set that saved a 100 or so grammes called 753. The problem with this tubing, although it was stronger than 531 and SL, was that it had to be brazed at a low temperature using silver solder. If the tube was over-heated in the brazing process, it would considerably weaken the frame and would be susceptible to cracking whilst riding. <br /><br />Reynolds then developed another tubing called 853. Although this could be brazed conventionally into lugs it was really developed for Tig welding. This process did away with lugs and each tube was welded to the other. One of the main advantages of this tubing was the more it was heated in the Tig welding process, the stronger it became. 853 oversize tubing is still very popular with track riders.<br /><br />In the mid 1970’s frame builders began experimenting with aluminium. <br /><br />The aluminium tubes were bonded into an alloy lug set. These frames were much lighter than their steel counterparts but were far too “spongy’. Get out of the saddle in a sprint or on a climb and the rear end used to move from side to side as you pressed hard on the pedals.<br /><br />Then the 1990’s the American frame builders Cannondale appeared on the scene with oversize aluminium tubes Tig welded thus making lugs redundant. They produced a very rigid and light frame but this was still susceptible to cracking. As technology improved, their frames became much more reliable and the aluminium frame began to rival the steel frame.<br /><br />Suddenly, Italian frame makers caught on to the idea of oversize aluminium frames, mainly because it was easier to work with than steel and also it was attractive to the public as the frames were much lighter than than steel and are very efficient in transmitting power. <br /><br />The main drawbacks of aluminium over steel are short life, harsh ride and are easily dented were overlooked in the pursuit of lightness. Some manufacturers are now using carbon fibre seat stays to overcome the harsh ride of aluminium.<br /><br />Steel is now making a slight come back. The latest steel frames are made of oversize but very thin tubes and are Tig welded in the same way as aluminium frames. The top of the range steel model will only be a few grammes heavier than an aluminium frame but being so thin are also easily dented. When ridden they are a lot less harsh than aluminium but perhaps slightly less responsive.<br /><br />Then just to confuse everybody, carbon fibre came on the scene. More expensive than steel and aluminium, light and absorbing road shock better than both the other materials. This material became the choice of the in crowd.<br /><br />Then, to top it all, titanium made a belated comeback. <br /><br />Although titanium had been around for a long time, frame builders found it was very hard to build with, extremely expensive and hard to come by.<br /><br />Suddenly the price of raw titanium dropped relatively in price, the right grade of the metal for frame building was found, and improved technology made it easier to use. Now titanium frames are appearing on the market as light and responsive as aluminium and absorb road shock as good as carbon fibre. <br /><br />They are still expensive but have the added qualities of lasting a life time and do not need spraying and that means for the weight conscious this saves a few grammes on a coat of paint. <br /><br />The two main sources of titanium frames are from America and Russia. The cheaper Russian frames are built by redundant space engineers and although they use a lower grade titanium than the Americans the framesets are perfectly acceptable. <br /><br />The leading American company Litespeed uses a very expensive titanium for its top models which is only available in sheet form and consequently has a much higher production cost as it has to be rolled into tubes and seamed welded. It is claimed that this results in a much stronger, stiffer and lighter frame saving 250 grammes per frame set.<br /><br />So the bottom line is::<br />Steel: classic looks, reasonably light and a great ride.<br /><br />Aluminium: light, rigid, efficient in transmitting power, but gives a harsh ride, can be mass produced and should be cheapest option.<br /><br />Carbon fibre: light, responsive and absorbs road shock, expensive.<br /><br />Titanium: light, responsive, absorbs road shock, lasts a life time but expensive.<br /><br />Last word is no matter what frame material you choose, it will not make up for a frame that does not fit you.<br /><br />
John wrote: &quot;Way back in the dark ages there was only one choice of material for a frame and that was steel. There were only two main steel manufacturers these being the British company Reynolds and the Italian company Columbus.&quot;<br /><br /><br />John,<br /><br />Remember Vitus! I've never had a bike made from this French tubing but it was used for some quality frames in the past.<br /><br />Cheers,<br />Bruce<br /><br />