Touring frame: Aluminium or steel?

Discussion in 'Cycling Equipment' started by Chris Loffredo, Jul 31, 2004.

  1. Hi,

    I'm buying a custom-made touring/fitness bike.

    I have a choice between an aluminium and a steel frame for the same price.

    According to the bike shop & several on-line articles I've read, the
    material itself isn't so important compared to the construction. I'd
    appreciate advice on anything I should look for in making my choice.

    Chris
     
    Tags:


  2. richard

    richard Guest

    With steel, if something gets knocked out of alignment, it's easier to
    fix. With LUGGED steel, if one tube gets severely damaged, it can be
    replaced. (Not all that common, but it is something to consider.)

    Chris Loffredo wrote:
    > Hi,
    >
    > I'm buying a custom-made touring/fitness bike.
    >
    > I have a choice between an aluminium and a steel frame for the same price.
    >
    > According to the bike shop & several on-line articles I've read, the
    > material itself isn't so important compared to the construction. I'd
    > appreciate advice on anything I should look for in making my choice.
    >
    > Chris
     
  3. Todd Kuzma

    Todd Kuzma Guest

    Chris Loffredo wrote:

    > I have a choice between an aluminium and a steel frame for the same price.
    >
    > According to the bike shop & several on-line articles I've read, the
    > material itself isn't so important compared to the construction. I'd
    > appreciate advice on anything I should look for in making my choice.


    Generally speaking, the steel frame is repairable while the
    aluminum frame is not. Also, given comparable quality,
    aluminum frames typically cost less to construct these days
    than a steel frame. However, given the number of variables,
    it would be hard to say in your specific case which is the
    better value.

    I would also look closely at the fork. The fork can have a
    large effect on ride quality. In steel, a crowned fork will
    flex more, and thus ride smoother, than a unicrown fork.
    Aluminum appears to be a poor material for a fork since once
    enough material is used to make the fork sufficiently
    strong, it is also quite stiff.

    Carbon forks can vary quite a bit. Carbon forks that are
    bonded at the crown are often beefed up there, and the
    result can be a harsh ride.

    A full carbon fork with no bonding (many carbon forks with
    carbon steerers are still bonded at the crown) can have a
    nicer ride. When we offered a carbon fork option for our
    Heron Road, we found that the Easton EC90 provided a
    comparable ride to our crowned steel fork.

    Of course, if you are going to tour with the bike and use
    front panniers, you will definitely want a heavy-duty fork
    designed for such use. The primary options here are steel,
    but expect the stiffer fork to offer a harsher ride when
    riding the bike unloaded.

    Todd Kuzma
    Heron Bicycles
    Tullio's Big Dog Cyclery
    LaSalle, Il 815-223-1776
    http://www.heronbicycles.com
    http://www.tullios.com
     
  4. Phil Brown

    Phil Brown Guest

    >With steel, if something gets knocked out of alignment, it's easier to
    >fix. With LUGGED steel, if one tube gets severely damaged, it can be
    >replaced. (Not all that common, but it is something to consider.)


    Tube replacement is not only possible n a steel TIGed or filet brazed frame,
    it's easier than on a lugged frame. And if a steel frame gets whacked out of
    whack it can be straightened. Aluminium can't.
    Phil Brown
     
  5. Chris Loffredo wrote:

    > I'm buying a custom-made touring/fitness bike.
    >
    > I have a choice between an aluminium and a steel frame for the same price.


    Who's building custom aluminium frames? Never heard of such a thing!

    See: http://sheldonbrown.com/frame-materials

    Sheldon "Metal Is Better Than Plastic" Brown
    +--------------------------------------------------------+
    | The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic |
    | is no more to the point than the fact than |
    | a drunken man is happier than a sober one. |
    | --George Bernard Shaw |
    +--------------------------------------------------------+
    Harris Cyclery, West Newton, Massachusetts
    Phone 617-244-9772 FAX 617-244-1041
    http://harriscyclery.com
    Hard-to-find parts shipped Worldwide
    http://captainbike.com http://sheldonbrown.com
     
  6. "Sheldon Brown" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]
    > Chris Loffredo wrote:
    >
    > > I'm buying a custom-made touring/fitness bike.
    > >
    > > I have a choice between an aluminium and a steel frame for the same

    price.
    >
    > Who's building custom aluminium frames? Never heard of such a thing!
    >


    At least one NorCal builder - Sycip.
     
  7. Sheldon Brown wrote:
    > Chris Loffredo wrote:
    >
    >> I'm buying a custom-made touring/fitness bike.
    >>
    >> I have a choice between an aluminium and a steel frame for the same
    >> price.

    >
    >
    > Who's building custom aluminium frames? Never heard of such a thing!


    Plenty of people build custom aluminum frames. Here's a
    small handful to start with:

    http://www.tetcycles.com/
    http://www.zinncycles.com/
    http://www.athertonbikes.com/
    http://www.huberbikes.com/1_new_fab.html

    >
    > See: http://sheldonbrown.com/frame-materials
    >
    > Sheldon "Metal Is Better Than Plastic" Brown
    > +--------------------------------------------------------+
    > | The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic |
    > | is no more to the point than the fact than |
    > | a drunken man is happier than a sober one. |
    > | --George Bernard Shaw |
    > +--------------------------------------------------------+
    > Harris Cyclery, West Newton, Massachusetts
    > Phone 617-244-9772 FAX 617-244-1041
    > http://harriscyclery.com
    > Hard-to-find parts shipped Worldwide
    > http://captainbike.com http://sheldonbrown.com
    >
     
  8. Todd Kuzma wrote:
    >
    > I would also look closely at the fork. The fork can have a large effect
    > on ride quality. In steel, a crowned fork will flex more, and thus ride
    > smoother, than a unicrown fork. Aluminum appears to be a poor material
    > for a fork since once enough material is used to make the fork
    > sufficiently strong, it is also quite stiff.


    Before the carbon fork craze, many bikes, including high-end
    titanium bikes, came with light-weight aluminum forks (For
    example, Kinesis forks used to come standard with Merlin
    bikes) These forks were often considered to be flexier than
    steel forks, and give a more shock absorbing ride than steel.

    Mark McMaster
    [email protected]
     
  9. Sheldon Brown wrote:
    > Chris Loffredo wrote:
    >
    >> I'm buying a custom-made touring/fitness bike.
    >>
    >> I have a choice between an aluminium and a steel frame for the same
    >> price.

    >
    >
    > Who's building custom aluminium frames? Never heard of such a thing!
    >
    > See: http://sheldonbrown.com/frame-materials
    >
    > Sheldon "Metal Is Better Than Plastic" Brown


    Hi,

    No, the frame itself isn't custom-made (in the case of Aluminium from
    the far East).

    The answers I have gotten so far seem typical of the problem: People say
    and maintain opposite things re materials (yes, I did read your websie -
    great!).
    If only frames could speak: "How good are you?"
    ; )

    Chris
     
  10. Werehatrack

    Werehatrack Guest

    On Sat, 31 Jul 2004 17:32:15 +0200, Chris Loffredo <[email protected]>
    wrote:

    >Hi,
    >
    >I'm buying a custom-made touring/fitness bike.
    >
    >I have a choice between an aluminium and a steel frame for the same price.
    >
    >According to the bike shop & several on-line articles I've read, the
    >material itself isn't so important compared to the construction. I'd
    >appreciate advice on anything I should look for in making my choice.


    Steel would be my choice. It presents fewer problems over the long
    term; seat posts aren't as likely to get stuck, dropouts aren't as
    likely to get scored or wallowed, and overall. steel tubing is more
    repairable and more paintable.

    Titanium can also provide an excellent value.
    --
    Typoes are a feature, not a bug.
    Some gardening required to reply via email.
    Words processed in a facility that contains nuts.
     
  11. "Boris Foelsch" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:<60997.
    > >
    > > Who's building custom aluminium frames? Never heard of such a thing!
    > >

    >
    > At least one NorCal builder - Sycip.


    Co-motion does too (www.co-motion.com)
     
  12. dianne_1234

    dianne_1234 Guest

    On Sat, 31 Jul 2004 12:03:10 -0500, Todd Kuzma <[email protected]>
    wrote:

    >In steel, a crowned fork will
    >flex more, and thus ride smoother, than a unicrown fork.


    Of course, traditional or unicrown is only one variable. For example,
    the Tange Silhouette (unicrown) is more flexible than several
    traditional classic steel racing forks (lugged crowns). See
    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/rinard/rinard_forktest.html

    >Aluminum appears to be a poor material for a fork since once
    >enough material is used to make the fork sufficiently
    >strong, it is also quite stiff.


    Could be, but there are several aluminum forks that are more flexible
    than steel ones shown at the link above.

    >Carbon forks can vary quite a bit. Carbon forks that are
    >bonded at the crown are often beefed up there, and the
    >result can be a harsh ride.


    None of the carbon forks measured had greater stiffness than the
    classic steel forks.

    >Todd Kuzma
    >Heron Bicycles
    >Tullio's Big Dog Cyclery
    >LaSalle, Il 815-223-1776
    >http://www.heronbicycles.com
    >http://www.tullios.com
    >
     
  13. Peter Cole

    Peter Cole Guest

    "Chris Loffredo" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]
    > Hi,
    >
    > I'm buying a custom-made touring/fitness bike.
    >
    > I have a choice between an aluminium and a steel frame for the same price.
    >
    > According to the bike shop & several on-line articles I've read, the
    > material itself isn't so important compared to the construction. I'd
    > appreciate advice on anything I should look for in making my choice.


    The real advantage of aluminum over steel is lateral stiffness and a slight
    reduction in weight. Mass produced frames are also somewhat cheaper. If weight
    or stiffness aren't a big deal and price is the same, there's no reason to go
    with one over the other.
     
  14. Evan Evans

    Evan Evans Guest

    These are all valid points but the cost of repainting or repairing a
    frame often exceeds the cost of repacement. Steel is prone to rust &
    will also fatigue over time just like aluminum.
     
  15. Evan Evans wrote in message ...
    >These are all valid points but the cost of repainting or repairing a
    >frame often exceeds the cost of repacement. Steel is prone to rust &
    >will also fatigue over time just like aluminum


    The first point is an invalid argument. Don't buy a cheap steel frame
    disproves it. As steel will rust if left outside, buy a cheap steel frame,
    there's plenty of steel there. Most people prefer not to have their
    bicycles stolen so store them inside. If you have a collection of steel
    frames which must be stored in outbuildings, treat the inside of the tubes,
    diesel will do it.

    TJ
     
  16. Werehatrack

    Werehatrack Guest

    On 2 Aug 2004 04:05:21 -0700, [email protected] (Evan Evans)
    wrote:

    >These are all valid points but the cost of repainting or repairing a
    >frame often exceeds the cost of repacement. Steel is prone to rust &
    >will also fatigue over time just like aluminum.


    And aliuminum will corrode, sometimes at an accelerated pace due to
    dissimilar metal erosion.

    Of the two, having had both for a while now, I still prefer steel,
    though the extreme thinwall stuff can be a trifle fragile.
    --
    Typoes are a feature, not a bug.
    Some gardening required to reply via email.
    Words processed in a facility that contains nuts.
     
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