Steel vs. Aluminum

Discussion in 'Cycling Equipment' started by fdezarra, Aug 23, 2003.

  1. fdezarra

    fdezarra New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2003
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    I am in the market for my first road bike. Aluminum seems to be the most common material for entry level bikes out there. However, a few knowledgeable people I have spoken to have advised going with steel. The weight difference, they say, is easily surpassed by the improved quality of the ride and the durability.

    Does anyone have any strong opinions about steel or aluminum for road bikes? Why?

    Any help appreciated.
     
    Tags:


  2. Evo

    Evo New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2003
    Messages:
    37
    Likes Received:
    0
    It depends on what type of steel frame you're talking about. I have a Shogun Selectra (CrMo Steel) that I used for years, but it was strong, heavy and tough as nails!!! Oh, did I mention HEAVY! I now ride an aluminium beauty and there is no comparison!

    But...

    There is a new type of steel frames though - customised tubing that is as light as aluminium, but yeilds a softer ride (like carbon) and is as strong as both....nice. These bikes are somewhat above the price bracket of the entry level road bike, though.

    check out http://www.scapin.com/eng/Rframeset.html
     
  3. scituatejohn

    scituatejohn New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2003
    Messages:
    66
    Likes Received:
    0
    I like my Gunnar Sport steel frame, and I thought the price was reasonable. I had a Cannondale several years ago, and because of its bad ride, I haven't ever considered aluminum again. People tell me the new aluminum bikes are better than the ones from 15 years ago, so try both.
     
  4. cyclenerd

    cyclenerd New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2003
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    I would say that if you are serious about wanting to ride long distances, stay away from aluminum.

    I bought a Cannondale a few years ago (aluminum frame), and only rode it for 6 months before I had to get rid of it. I absolutely could not tolerate the ride no matter what seat, tires, seatpost I tried. As a result of that experience, I will never again buy aluminum.

    The cruel trick about buying bikes these days is that, as you have noticed, the bulk of new bikes sold currenlty are made of aluminum. The shop owners tell you to take it for a test ride, and you do, but beginning riders don't have anything to compare "the ride" to. A spin around a parking lot doesn't tell you how the frame will feel on a 20 mile, or longer, ride. You feel the difference between aluminum and steel after a good 10 miles ar so, and most people don't test ride for that long. I've often thought that there ought to be some sort of mandatory disclosure re: aluminum frames for beginning riders.

    Go with steel ! You 'll be glad you did when 6 months from now you are not dying to get rid of your bike!
     
  5. Ralph Ray

    Ralph Ray New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2003
    Messages:
    73
    Likes Received:
    0
    One of my road bikes is made from Columbus SL. I can go on my 45 mile ride I do every weekend and love the feel. I had a Cannondale years ago and couldn't stand the ride. I got rid of it. Cyclenerd is correct about the tests ride. You can't tell in a parking lot tests ride. Of course everyone has different tastes. My opinion is either steel or carbon fiber. Let us know what you decided on.
     
  6. fdezarra

    fdezarra New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2003
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0

    Thanks everyone for your reply. I will purchase within one week. Unfortunately, it's very hard to find steel and it's a hard time to buy now with the intro of 2004 models. I was about to buy a Alpe d'Huez from LeMond but was told the 2003 was no longer in stock and the 2004 would not be in for 1 month.
    After speaking to many people, it seems that those who prefer steel, prefer it for specific reasons. They have usually tried other materials as well and are able to make intelligent comparisons. Therefore, their opinions are valid. Those who say aluminum more often than not say it because that is what they ride, with no other explanation except to say the steel is heavier. This is true but I was looking for a ittle more reasoning.

    Anyway, thanksto all. I'll post my bike on purchase.
     
  7. dwj444

    dwj444 New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    Messages:
    61
    Likes Received:
    1
    I own two bikes: a Trek 2300 (SLR Aluminum with carbon fork) and a Bianchi Pista (steel frame, FG track bike). The difference is noticable. I like the lightness, stiffness, and acceleration from the aluminum -- its good qualities. The geometry of the Bianchi is more relaxed, and it's a more "comfortable" ride in general. I wouldn't ride the steel frame for training or racing though.

    My advice is decide what you're going to do with the bike. Steel may be better for you if you're going more casual; it'll take the road hum out of the ride to a certain extent. If you think you're inclined to become an adrenaline junky, I might go with the aluminum for the weight and speed. Even though aluminum is a stiffer, sometimes bumpier ride, for the right reasons, you can forget all of that.
     
  8. tt66

    tt66 New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2003
    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    0
    Well I just ordered a 2004 Klein Auro VX (same as 2003 Klein Q-Carbon Team). I was about to go to a custom steel frame until I test road this aluminum/carbon combo. It has a carbon fork and carbon seat stays. I would strongly recommend you try this before finalizing a steel decision. I was amazed at the difference the rear seat stay being carbon made.
    I had tested a Trek 2300, Trek 5200, and a Lemond Zurich.
    My old ride is a 1988 all Aluminum Cannondale that is truly harsh.
    I like the lightness of the aluminum frame over the steel as well as the direct power this particular bike seems to transfer from my legs to the road. It seems to scream: faster, faster, faster.
    Nothing against steel but this definitely changed my mind on an Aluminum. The Trek 2300 without the CF rear stay was definitely much harsher.
     
  9. DiabloScott

    DiabloScott New Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2003
    Messages:
    2,284
    Likes Received:
    2
    There's a good description of frame material choices in the "Beginner's Guide" by VO2 which is permanently at the top of the thread listings. The second or third message in the thread discusses materials and has a link to a pretty good article on frame materials. Read it.

    Much of the enthusiasm for steel is romanticism for the old days "when men were men and bikes were made of steel" - there was a lot of craftmanship and pride in small production frame building and some of that is still around. Most of the people today who still hype steel bikes are talking about custom frames like Richard Sachs, not entry level bikes. The ride quality of steel is different from other materials and some people prefer one over the other. But there are a dozen factors that influence ride quality and frame material is only one of them.

    Anyway, most of the "serious beginners" that I know are riding Trek, Specialized, Cannondale, or Giant aluminum bikes and they're all pretty happy with them.
     
  10. DiabloScott

    DiabloScott New Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2003
    Messages:
    2,284
    Likes Received:
    2
    There's a good description of frame material choices in the "Beginner's Guide" by VO2 which is permanently at the top of the thread listings. The second or third message in the thread discusses materials and has a link to a pretty good article on frame materials. Read it.

    Much of the enthusiasm for steel is romanticism for the old days "when men were men and bikes were made of steel" - there was a lot of craftmanship and pride in small production frame building and some of that is still around. Most of the people today who still hype steel bikes are talking about custom frames like Richard Sachs, not entry level bikes. The ride quality of steel is different from other materials and some people prefer one over the other. But there are a dozen factors that influence ride quality and frame material is only one of them.

    Anyway, most of the "serious beginners" that I know are riding Trek, Specialized, Cannondale, or Giant aluminum bikes and they're all pretty happy with them.
     
  11. wbmorrison

    wbmorrison New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2003
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    0
    One option to consider, if you haven't already...try to 'rent' a bike or two and take them for longer rides. I did that with a Lemond Buenos Aires and took it out for 20 miles or so. I did that same thing with an aluminum frame (w/ carbon fork and seatpost) and I did notice a difference AFTER. Slightly more body fatigue, wrists a tad more sore. However, in the short run, the aluminum was very nimble. If you're racing or sprint speed is important, i'd be inclined to aluminum or higher zoot material. If you're planning for frequent fitness riding and some periodic longer distances, steel is nice. PS: Check out eBay for a bike;) I bought a 2003 Lemond Tourmalet for a good deal. Was just about to pull the trigger on a Specialized Elite, but am glad I didn't. The specialized bike was sexier, but the Lemond is a classic that has been updated and is still very quick and comfortable. Also, be mindful of your body geometry. Are you longer in the torso than the legs or vice versa?? Most bikes are migrating to a 'compact geometry'. Lemond is traditionally longer in the top tube. So for someone like me who is 5' 11'' but only a 30" inseam, I need to be more stretched out a tad, with a slightly smaller frame.

    Above all: Get measured and Fit properly by a reputable shop that will take time with you. Dial it in for your body...not what the bike looks like or is marketed to do. Fit is the ONLY thing that truly matters.

    Good luck!!!
     
  12. BaCardi

    BaCardi New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2003
    Messages:
    638
    Likes Received:
    0
  13. dhk

    dhk New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2003
    Messages:
    2,259
    Likes Received:
    0
    How would you compare the 5200 and LeMond Zurich to the Klein? My local shop has the Trek and Klein in stock, and I plan to test ride them. Would appreciate your opinion.

    I've only had steel bikes to date, but the full-carbon Trek and carbon-stay Klein seem to promise better comfort and tighter response at the same time, along with lighter weight of course.

    Dan
     
  14. DiabloScott

    DiabloScott New Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2003
    Messages:
    2,284
    Likes Received:
    2
    Never ridden a LeMond - lots of guys like them though so you should give it a fair shot. You never know which bike is going to to give you that ZEN feeling - whichever one you bond with is the right one for you.

    The Klein handles a lot faster than the 5200 - you'll learn to love it but it's a little odd at first. To me the Klein just felt very efficient and balanced where the Trek felt like it was fighting me a little bit. To someone else the opposite would be true.

    I did about 3 dozen centuries on my steel Eddy Merckx. I was sore and achy after every single one (not entirely the bike's fault of course). I've done 3 centuries so far on my Klein and I feel a LOT better afterwards - almost exactly the same fitting as far as seat/stem/bars. Take that for what it's worth.
     
  15. Babbar

    Babbar New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2003
    Messages:
    163
    Likes Received:
    0
    Many factors play in your decision, such as, but not limited to how much and what type of riding you will do, the quality of the streets/bike paths on which you will ride, and how large you are.

    I noticed some people were recommending staying away from aluminum based on their experiences with Cannondales. I can't speak to the lower end but the higher end Cannondales are superb rides, especially for larger riders like myself, 6'3", 240lbs.

    Go to http://www.roadbikerider.com, click on product reviews, and then click on the Cannondale R5000 road test. The reviewer loved the bike, which has a CAAD7 aluminum frame. This is the same frame as the R1000, R2000, etc.

    Another thing to consider is how well are you going to take of your new bike? Any little chip on a steel bike requires immediate attention to keep it from rusting. I have several chips and nicks on my aluminum Trek and not to worry. No rust. I can touch up the paint when I get around to it.

    Steel will definately be a more comfortable ride and the Lemond Alpe D'Huez, Buenos Aires and Zurich are super bikes. The 2004 Zurich is, I believe, a combination of carbon and steel. As to the Trek and the Klein, either would be an excellent choice.

    But don't dismiss higher end aluminum and Cannondale's out of hand. My next bike will, more than likely, be an R1000, unless something drastic happens between now and when I purchase.
     
  16. dhk

    dhk New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2003
    Messages:
    2,259
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks for replies, will have to do the test rides on the Trek 5200 and Klein, maybe C'dale as well. I'll post my impressions.

    Dan
     
  17. BaCardi

    BaCardi New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2003
    Messages:
    638
    Likes Received:
    0
    Cannondales suck. Do a search.
     
  18. steven2000ad

    steven2000ad New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2003
    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    0
    STEEL is the way to go and a lugged masterpiece is certainly the GRAND TURRISIMMO of all! Aluminium frames have a short life span when compared to a good quality steel road frames. Consult any good metallurgy engineers manual and steel beats aluminium hands down from many aspects of "sheer" strength.
    Aluminium is a material acceptable today in a throw away society so adept in alternatives. Steel bikes have steel spokes to secure its transmission to the road whilst aluminium bikes and others ride on steel spokes. Should'nt aluminium bikes have aluminium spokes to compliment it's strength to weight ratio. This would spell disaster in the first minutes of travel. Steel is the best and the spokes shows it true magnificance. Carbon, Aluminium or whatever rides on STEEL for safety and durability. Anyone who disputes this can install aluminium wire for spokes and find out for themselves which is stonger if you are crazy enough to believe in aluminium! LOL
     
  19. steven2000ad

    steven2000ad New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2003
    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    0
    STEEL is the way to go and a lugged masterpiece is certainly the GRAND TURRISIMMO of all! Aluminium frames have a short life span when compared to a good quality steel road frames. Consult any good metallurgy engineers manual and steel beats aluminium hands down from many aspects of "sheer" strength.
    Aluminium is a material acceptable today in a throw away society so adept in alternatives. Steel bikes have steel spokes to secure its transmission to the road whilst aluminium bikes and others ride on steel spokes. Should'nt aluminium bikes have aluminium spokes to compliment it's strength to weight ratio. This would spell disaster in the first minutes of travel. Steel is the best and the spokes shows it true magnificance. Carbon, Aluminium or whatever rides on STEEL for safety and durability. Anyone who disputes this can install aluminium wire for spokes and find out for themselves which is stonger if you are crazy enough to believe in aluminium! LOL
     
  20. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs Guest

    Nice analogy.
     
Loading...
Loading...