Steel vs. Aluminum

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

  1. dhk

    dhk New Member

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    Looks like I'm going to switch from steel also after a few test rides at my LBS yesterday. Rode an '04 Trek 2300, with carbon fork and seat stay, and was impressed with the plush, vibration-free ride compared to my current Raleigh 531 bike. I was riding over manhole covers and cracked asphalt, and couldn't believe the difference. Also rode the 5200 full carbon, which didn't free any smoother or quicker than the ZR AL/carbon bike. As a baseline, rode the 1000, which is a heavy AL frame.....that was harsher. Looks like I'm another convert to high-tech!

    Dan
     


  2. jgatts

    jgatts New Member

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    If you're going to quote someone else, be sure to give a reference:

    http://www2.sjsu.edu/orgs/asmtms/artcle/steel.htm

    --Josh
     
  3. steven2000ad

    steven2000ad New Member

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    Quote forhttp://www2.sjsu.edu/orgs/asmtms/artcle/steel.htm

    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

    Steel breaks either from impact which exceeds the strength of the metal, or from the fatigue of small repeated stresses. Steel and aluminium both have fatigue limits and will not break so long as the stresses remain under limits. This is the simplest form of physics and understanding that most would understand. Aluminium has a fatigue limit that is totally different to steel and this is easy to understand. Each and every stress encountered by a frame causes wear and weakening, and eventual failure.

    Now I will explain it to "simple minds" that ride on light frames. Get yourself a steel rod of a certain diameter and bend this in its natural state back and forwards full right angles preferably so that you wont waste too much time LOL and count the times before it fatigues and breaks in two.

    Now get yourself aluminium and do likewise and if you like double its diameter. This simple experiment will prove to you the stength differentiation between these two materials. I hope you dont have to go to this as I'm sure your intelligence can already give you an idea to the results or get a budweiser and sqeeze it...........No you idiot ?????not FULL empty!

    Aluminium frame designers take this fatigue factor into account, over building their frames as seen in some top range mountain bikes with ugly plates and armour and what not that act as some kind of macho lug work. Road bikes have none of this paradoxical armour becuase its a delicate "LADY"

    A well thrashed but not abused steel frame will stay almost as good as new, but not a aluminium frame, which are thought to have a useful life of three to five years of which after there is no safety guarantee available. Check your manufacturers warranty.

    THE LIFE OF A STEEL FRAME IS MEASURED IN DECADES.


    Steel frames can be exhausted in 5 years with many kms but it is known by all the mechanics that a steel frame can be realigned and spring (as in steel spring not aluminium LOL) back to life in TOP condition.

    Many also wont mention the failures encountered with composites for long term durability of the joins of internal friction that arises. This happens also with aluminium (bend the rod tech example ) or as "URI GELLER" would say "bend the spoon', and this cumulative weakening, loss of vitality, and eventual failure will ocurr sooner or later.

    It has been mentioned "THE PELETON" pros use aluminium in a prefered choice. IT IS TRUE but : they have mega bucks to change cycles like a woman has shoes and stockings. My money is on steel because I dont use new frames like a aluminiun re----cyclist would smelter for new bike production. These guys change bikes like plucking the hairs off their legs.


    As for quoting info it seems that the homework is done like a dedicated student on the internet but simple explanations are to complicated to be understood as with the spoke EXTREME example.

    What next? Shaved eyebrows?

    Colnago classic master time trial bike HOOOWEEE

    http://www.aroadbike4u.com/classic_bikes

    [url]http://www.cyclesdeoro.com/Refinishing/R_Garni_Colnago.htm[/url]

    http://www.cyclesdeoro.com/Refinishing/refinish_gallery.htm

    Where's the classic aluminium refinished machines? Or are they to new without the test of time ,the best evidence available?

    Try em "jigars" this is the quote. Can you find this one? lol
     
  4. rutamike

    rutamike New Member

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    Well, I rode my brand spanking new aluminum framed, carbon fork for about 50 miles Saturday on everything except a gravel road. The verdict? I can't honestly say my steel bike felt any smoother or more resilient. Because I'm just getting back to cycling my butt's sore anyway, but I can't blame that on the bike.
    And it climbs sooo nice.
     
  5. dhk

    dhk New Member

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    It's great you love steel so much, buy what you like to ride and enjoy it. I'll always like steel also, but I'm more concerned now with ride quality and weight. The fatique life of a good (and heavy) steel frame may be measured in decades, but my experience is that the "corrosion life" is not. I've got two Reynolds 531 steel bikes, one a 1975 Raleigh Gran Sport, the other a 1993 RT 600. Both have rust, and were always kept inside. The "new" one, just a decade old, now has a downtube rusting through from the inside in two places.

    As I said, I'm ready to try something else next time, but certainly understand your love affair with steel.

    Dan
     
  6. steven2000ad

    steven2000ad New Member

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    It is true that steel has a "rusting factor" that when someone does'nt look after something, the life span is greatly diminished and can reek havoc on a much cherished frame. As with all things maintenance is a good practice and virtue that pays "dividends"

    Aluminium is also affected by corrosion that again is a simple explanation here that many may not know. All road bikes are confronted by foreign particles that work there way(s) into very inaccessable areas. In Europe for example and possibly the USA the winter season sees its fair share of "salt" yes salt being used owing to a simple chemical reaction that takes place
    that I wont explain in fully here, that breaks up the snow. This salt destroys many things that comes into contact with it and aluminium hates this stuff.

    This again is just my way of once again using a paradoxical equation to show the breakdown of various alloys including metal. Now you may say I dont ride in the snow or the winter period ! Thats fair enough- but I want to emphasize that this white powder (salt) is also naturally occuring without your knowledge on the many roads, rains and the occassional puddles in spring or summer that gets into the hidden side of your bike. Aluminium when used in building needs adequite protection and flashing from the adjacent masonary that naturally excretes salt that erodes aluminium or other metal for that matter by pitting especially aluminium and this powder is oxide of al.

    So to cut a chemistry lesson short the Aluminium frame as with steel does "rust" if you like and this to is well noted. Even washing your aluminium frame is subject to natural salts from estuaries that get minute quantities of sodium chloride via many ways as one can imagine.

    So aluminium like steel corrodes but the detrimental effects are different as the fe ion or the Al ions which deteriates at an accellerated rate. Try an electrolysis experiment using a iron cathode or anode and a Aluminium etching transfer. YOU WILL BE SURPRISED AS TO THE RESULTS.

    So as with everything if well maintained the steel frame will still outlast the aluminium if you care about your 2 wheeler but the fatigue factor will still be your worst enemy with the aluminium frame and structural pitting hidden within -without your knowledge.

    Any way your probably thinking how can I prevent this? Well I'm goint to give out a secret that is both beneficial to both steel and yes the aluminium material that this debate is all about. (STEEL VS ALUMINIUM).

    Ready ... set ....well here we go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    In order to increase the life span for generations especially steel -the secret is to protect what is often ignored,,,,,,, ????The inside of your bike!!!!!!!!Yes i said the inside!

    Most cosmetic work is focused on what your eyes can see when you arrive at the bike shop with your hard earned cash to be taken in exchange for your love. (not ya woman man your bike LOL If you trade her in i'll take her not the bike LOL) This is what attracts the sales exchange.
    Things are painted and anodized to protect your machine from nasties getting the better of your machine. THIS IS WHY ALUMINIUM IS ANODISED it provides a hard "exo-skelleton". Paint likewise protects steel but only the outside unless it is dipped into anti corrosion bath to seal the "inards" of your machine!!
    Many manufacturers cant be bothered with this method(after all steel bikes are bad for business because they last for decades and thats why aluminium has a better turnaround. Things are no longer made to last that long 2nd PARADOX) so one has to get hold of some sort of secret to protect your machine from contaminants on the inside.

    Well this is quite simple to do and will last for decades. Get yourself "fish oil" in a aerosol can from a auto shop under the fix and paint section. You will see that this is good for anti rust and corrosion prevention for automobiles (secret for bikes as well). Of course a bike is still a serious means of transport isnt it?

    If your good at working on bikes then your in luck because I would hate to imagine the cost involved if your not. When doing a complete bearing replacement and complete safety check and rebuild this is your best time to protect the inside of your bike.

    Spray this "fish oil" into the head tube and all other accessable tubes to give it a good coating via the plastic nozzle applicator. If you cant get all areas dont worry because it will run the same track as nasty corrosives would find the same route. This will give your machine a GREAT advantage that will last for decades without and problems. It is a flexible coating that will never get scratches to worry about exposure to the ennvironment!

    The downside which might I add is only temporary which is--------- the smell of fish oil ,but maybe you can get odourless like ive got! If not allow your bike to air for a couple of days untill the hardening has taken place.

    You will now have a SUPER sealed bike both internally and externally (externally being your neat paint job). The steel bike will still outlast your aluminium and corrossion will be no longer an issue unless of course you scratch the paintwork which will require attention anyway.
    This is a hint a "SECRET" that now is not so secret anymore! If i own a aluminium bike I would still use this tech because aluminium does corrode by pitting ond oxide powder is the culpret if you can see it on the inside!!!!!
     
  7. dhk

    dhk New Member

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    The key to preventing it, as you said, lays in keeping the mosture away from the metal. I'm not convinced on the effectiveness of your "fish oil" treatment, since it's not going to get everywhere or last very long if water is collecting inside rather than draining. It may help, but so would storing the bike in a dry heated space, lets say over a heat vent, radiator, or heat lamp in the garage. I admit I haven't done that with my steel bikes. They've lived in unheated garages. Actually, the 1975 Raleigh was probably done in by my sweat on the wind trainer the last 7 years. It's still fit for windtrainer winter duty. The newer RT600, with the lighter weight 531 tubes (and much better ride) is the one rusting from the inside.

    But getting back to the actual fatique issue, it still gets down to what you want to ride. I know I can buy a stiff, heavy steel frame for not alot of money that will last forever, but I don't care to ride it or pedal it up hills any more. If I get ten years and 50K miles of enjoyment from a lightweight AL frame with carbon stays, or a full carbon frame, I have no problem throwing it away. Compared to the overall cost of my bike club activities, a $1500 frame that fails in 10 years isn' a huge factor.

    I do know one guy in our club who's managed to wear out his Vitus AL frame. It developed a crack at the seatstay this season and needs to be scrapped. Believe he's had it about 15 years, and he rides maybe 5K miles a year or more. Other than that, lots of riders are on AL frames, from lowend to customs, riding/racing lots more than I do, and they just aren't failing.

    Concerning warranty life, our local framebuilder does reflect a difference in his warranties. He offers a 5 yr fatique warranty on most steel road frames, EXCEPT Ultra FOCO and True Temper S3 (the light weights) , which get a 3 yr warranty just like AL and carbon frames.

    It just comes down to what you value most I guess. If you want to buy a steel frame that lasts forever, and are willing to compromise a bit on weight and the ride, by all means go for it. There are some beautiful classic frames still on the market.

    Dan ;)
     
  8. steven2000ad

    steven2000ad New Member

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    Your absolutely right but as the previous entry stated the corrosion subject is a neglect item completely. As with anything prevention is better than cure.

    Any prevention is a good policy issue. Remember that regardless the fish oil technique is a backup insurance.

    You see your right about storage and this shows you have good sense to prolong your bikes life. Others may not have this care and neglect their machine (DHK's downtube) .But remember when you move it from differences in temp CONDENSATION develops within the tube. Corrosion takes years of abuse and it does occur but it can be prevented through good methods. Because tubes are a near sealed cavity draining is good in ONLY CERTAIN areas but condensation will still occur.

    Bringing a bike in from the cold or visa versa converts to condensation and the film of oil makes a good barrier regardless. Of course a dipped frame into EPOXY two pack primer is the best before final coating! This oil hardens but remains relatively flexible, its cheap and will outlast your lifetime. There will be many non believers but its practicle and safe.


    Fish oil is a no nonsense thing! If its good for 4 wheelers going through saltwater it going to be the BEST prevention for a road bike or any other for that matter. (unless some like riding in the pacific LOL) Tour de america to china!!!!


    http://www.exploroz.com/Forum/Archive/87.asp

    For those that have a corrosion issue this makes a easy method without going into too much hassle later down the track.

    Whats there to lose? It cant harm anything and it provides a good barrier if you cherish your Colnago classic, Moser, Eddy Mercx or other that you cant be without. I love the classic steel machine with decorative luggwork with GOLD plated components!
     
  9. kim belfield

    kim belfield New Member

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    Another angle on this aged old question. I am about to get a custom steel frame made with carbon forks and seat stay so based on most of the comments it should be even more comfortable and lighter.

    It works with aluminium why not for steel.

    Anyone out their that has this combo?
     
  10. Grandview

    Grandview New Member

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    What is your budget range. You can get a steel bike frame for $650 to $1200 on line and then add your groupset. You are talking a similar price range to the Lemond there. I know GVHBikes.com has some very nice Cinelli and Viner (italian made steel bikes) that will probably fit your budget. The ride is superior to what you would get with aluminum in the same price range.
     
  11. dhk

    dhk New Member

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    Agree this should be a plush ride. The Pinarello Opera is built this way, with Deda EOM 16.5 steel and the carbon rearend. Don't know anyone who has this setup though. Can you provide more details of what you're having built, and who the builder is?

    Dan
     
  12. kim belfield

    kim belfield New Member

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    I'm in melbourne Australia and the bike builder is Paconi. He does wonders with reynolds 853 and Columbus carve forks and stays.

    The value is approx. aus$1950 (us $1267.50)
     
  13. dhk

    dhk New Member

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    Ought to be a great frame at the right price; hope it meets your expectations for a good ride. I'm getting some prices from a custom builder here in town (SANO) on carbon stay frames. May end up going the custom route too, or with a stock Trek or Kestrel. Decisions, decisions..

    Let us know how it rides after put a few miles in.

    Dan
     
  14. Stellite

    Stellite New Member

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    Cool topic. I am a Mechanical Engineer with specializing in Energy and materials engineering. I have also been into bikes for all my life as well as other hobbies that involve mechanical things and materials.

    Steel is a good material for bikes. It is very strong and has very high toughness. It is much more ductile than the aluminums used in bike construction. Which means that when it gets banged up it bends or dents but will not crack immediately. The negative side is that Steel (used in bikes which is non-stainless) will corrode and if you have ridden at all in inclement weather this is a factor. A friend of mine just told me he found rust in his frame after one year of riding and he cleans it continuously. The biggest advantage to steel is how forgiving it is in being weldd. You can make a welding mistake in steel and never know it.

    Aluminum is lighter and is made just as strong as steel for bikes. This is done by the use of larger tubing and thicker wall thickness while retaining the same weight. The bikes look cool and they are strong. The big advantage is that they never rust and offer plenty of stiffness. Aluminum is more brittle than steel so, when damaged it is more likely to propagate cracks than steel. However, this is given the same tubing size. Since aluminum can be made much larger at the same weight, the crack propagation issue is not as much a factor. In fact Aluminum frames are stiffer and stronger on the whole than steel due mostly to their design.

    Is the crack issue a factor. No, If you crash hard enough that you crack an aluminum chain stay, lets say. Well The steel one probably bent. However, you just cold worked your steel frame and made it just as useless as the aluminum. In short if you damage any frame, chances are that you need to throw it away if you are a serious rider.

    As for riding long distances. I have ridden near 90 miles in hilly terrain with both and an SLR saddle with no appreciable difference. Neither bothers me.

    Get what you like and don't worry what material it is. Since the frame will last as long as you need it to. I have seen 15 year old Steel and Aluminum frames that looked great and newer frames that looked awefull.

    Carbon and Titanium are the next level in materials, but they too have their drawbacks.

    Personally, I like both, but prefer the looks of traditional frames be they steel or aluminum.
     
  15. serottarider

    serottarider New Member

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    I have 2 Serottas, a Colorado III and a Fierte, both in steel. The Colorado is a custom frame and has more relaxed geometry than the Fierte.

    The difference between these and the aluminum Specialized S-works M4 that I used to ride is like night and day. The steel gives a fast, smooth and responsive ride that is in sharp contrast to the more harsh and jittery ride I've experienced with aluminum bikes.

    I've tried carbon - it's not for me, although many of the folks I ride with swear by it. I haven't tried Ti for any length of time (a couple of 2 to 3 hour rides) , but it gave a pretty good ride too.
     
  16. Stellite

    Stellite New Member

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    I don't know what the deal is, but I don't consider road bike riding harsh on any style of frame. I guess it's all those years of MTB and BMX that has made me insensitive to road bikes. Most people don't even like the seat I use because it is so minimal. MAkes it easy to pick a bike that I like and not have to worry about harsh ride. I do like the stiffness of aluminum for sprinting.
     
  17. Hunter

    Hunter New Member

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    WOW! Some good oints were made here and some funny arguements were done as well. The most logical of responses I saw were by Stellitte, and he is dead on. So to place some further powder in this bullet casing I will add this.
    Pro racers will ride whatever they can they feel will give them a performance advantage. Most of the TDF bikes for example are destroyed after the riders have ridden them for the race. The frames are broken and components are wasted. Foe example the mtn crash that Lance had broke the frame on the drive side chainstay.
    Now for another analogy. In motorized racing what is the prefered material used in frame construction? What is the preferred material used for engine blocks, swingarms, control arms, etc? If aluminum is such a fine descision it would be used for these applications. The use Cro-Mo alloys for strength. Hence if strength is what you are after then it would seem that Cro-Mo alloys is the better choice.
    Wothout going into the varied differences in alloys whether it be steel, Alu., or Ti. Pound for pound Cro-Mo steel alloys is the better choice for strength. Now when it comes to ride properties then this is a personal choice. Some will prefer certain alloys over another. To generalize frame materials into simple categories is incorrect. There are many more Cro-Mo alloys then Alu. or Ti. alloys used in bicycle frame construction. There are also many application of assembly used in Cro-Mo frames that will give varied ride properties. Example lugged frames ride differently that welded. Columbus tubes feel different from Reynolds, Tange, or True-Temper. There are several Columbus alloys used, several Reynolds and many True-Temper. However there are only a small amount of Alu. alloys used in comparison. Ti also has a small amount of varied alloys, and carbon fibre is carbon fibre. Some weave it with Twaron, some with Kevlar, some just basic composite construction, and then there is thermoplastics.
    Another example is to research custom frame builders and see what their choice for materials is. It has been my experience that Alu. alloys over time not only fatigue faster the high end Cro-Mo alloys but they trash wheels. Monocogue composite frames IMHO have and always will be a bad descision. Even worse is the use of composites in rims.
    Just my $.02 worth.
     
  18. Stellite

    Stellite New Member

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    I was looking at either the Colnago or Pinarello website the other day and they had a steel frame, clssic style, that they indicated was made of a much stronger steel that offered much more corrosion resistance. This frame I think was on the order of 2500 or more. So for those who prefer steel and are willing to pay the equivalent price to Ti or Carbon, you can get an all steel frame that offers all the advantages of aluminum, yet the more supple ride of steel.

    My concern in frames is not so much the material used but is the frame designed to last or is it an annual throw away team frame. I cannot afford cracked frames every 18 months so I need durability, so are top of the line frames durable. Can I count on a Prince to last. Can I count on a C40 to last or a KG381 to last. I'm not made of money and I would rather have a slightly heavier frame that will last and that is my number one criteria. Number two is material and then design.

    Funny thing is that the durable frames are usually the cheaper ones, since shaving weight is so costly.
     
  19. dhk

    dhk New Member

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    Check out Orbea, at www.orbea-usa.com/home.html. Seems to me they've got a great lineup of highend frames. Saw a couple of them yesterday in Euskatel colors on our club century, and they looked great.

    Note they offer an UltraFOCO steel frame with Carve carbon seatstays, which to me would be the ultimate steel ride.

    Dan
     
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