what does "alloy" mean to cyclists?



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Ken

Guest
When I bought my first 10 speed bike in the 1970s, I seem to recall cyclists using the term "alloy"
to refer only to lightweight steel alloys like chrome-moly. The term "alloy" was used to distinguish
higher quality steel bike frames from heavyweight, low tensile steels. Back then a lightweight 10
speed bike was 25 to 30 pounds (mostly from Europe or Japan) and 40+ pound 10-speed bikes were
common (mostly American).

Aluminum components and frames were called "aluminum". Back then the only aluminum frames were the
French Vitus and a few others with small diameter tubes. If you think all aluminum frames are
stiff, you should try riding one of those. Cannondale and Klein started popularizing fat tubes in
the early 1980s.

Seems to me that some time in the late 1980s, the term "alloy" started being used in the cycling
world only for aluminum alloys. When someone today calls a bike component "alloy", everyone
automatically assumes it is aluminum. Steel bike frames and components are now generically called
"steel", regardless of the steel alloy.

Is my mind slipping, or does anyone else remember this terminology change? When did it happen and
why? I'm just curious. Thanks.

Ken
 
S

Sheldon Brown

Guest
Ken wrote:
> When I bought my first 10 speed bike in the 1970s, I seem to recall cyclists using the term
> "alloy" to refer only to lightweight steel alloys like chrome-moly. The term "alloy" was used to
> distinguish higher quality steel bike frames from heavyweight, low tensile steels. Back then a
> lightweight 10 speed bike was 25 to 30 pounds (mostly from Europe or Japan) and 40+ pound 10-speed
> bikes were common (mostly American).
>
> Aluminum components and frames were called "aluminum". Back then the only aluminum frames were the
> French Vitus and a few others with small diameter tubes. If you think all aluminum frames are
> stiff, you should try riding one of those. Cannondale and Klein started popularizing fat tubes in
> the early 1980s.
>
> Seems to me that some time in the late 1980s, the term "alloy" started being used in the cycling
> world only for aluminum alloys. When someone today calls a bike component "alloy", everyone
> automatically assumes it is aluminum. Steel bike frames and components are now generically called
> "steel", regardless of the steel alloy.
>
> Is my mind slipping, or does anyone else remember this terminology change? When did it happen and
> why? I'm just curious. Thanks.

As long as I've been involved with nice-quality bikes, starting in the late 1950s, "alloy" has
generally been a slang term for "aluminum." British writers used to also use "dural"
interchangeably.

Some people get their knickers in a twist over this, since actually almost all of the metals used in
bicycles are technically alloys. Nevertheless, the usuage is very well established, going back quite
a few decades.

Back in the day, if a bike was made of fancy tubing, it was generally "531" or sometimes Columbus.
Even the term "cromoly" is of later popularity.

By the way, there's no such thing as a "lightweight steel alloy." All steel alloys have basically
the same specific gravity.

The difference between one steel alloy and another is that some of them are _stronger_. Being
stronger, you can make the tubing with thinner walls without weakening the bike. This does result in
a lighter bike, but it's not because of any difference in the weight of the steel itself.

By the way, my online Bicycle Glossary is a good source of answers on questions like this. See:
http://sheldonbrown.com/glossary

Sheldon "Double Butted" Brown +-----------------------------------------------------+
| He is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs | of his tribe and island are the laws of nature.
| | --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
 
R

Russell

Guest
Sheldon Brown <[email protected]> wrote in message news:<[email protected]>...

> The difference between one steel alloy and another is that some of them are _stronger_. Being
> stronger, you can make the tubing with thinner walls without weakening the bike. This does result
> in a lighter bike, but it's not because of any difference in the weight of the steel itself.

I always roll my eyes when I hear someone say that a high-tech, butted steel frame is going to be
lighter and _stiffer_ than a inexpensive carbon steel one.

Russell
 
J

Jim Adney

Guest
On Fri, 14 Mar 2003 22:52:23 +0000 (UTC) Ken <[email protected]> wrote:

>When I bought my first 10 speed bike in the 1970s, I seem to recall cyclists using the term "alloy"
>to refer only to lightweight steel alloys like chrome-moly.

My memory is exactly the opposite. I believe the term "alloy" in the bicycle industry has always
meant aluminum alloy. At least since the mid 60s.

I've always found this annoying, since all commercial metals are alloys of one kind or another.

-
-----------------------------------------------
Jim Adney [email protected] Madison, WI 53711 USA
-----------------------------------------------
 
J

John Everett

Guest
On Fri, 14 Mar 2003 22:52:23 +0000 (UTC), Ken <[email protected]> wrote:

>Seems to me that some time in the late 1980s, the term "alloy" started being used in the cycling
>world only for aluminum alloys. When someone today calls a bike component "alloy", everyone
>automatically assumes it is aluminum. Steel bike frames and components are now generically called
>"steel", regardless of the steel alloy.
>
>Is my mind slipping, or does anyone else remember this terminology change? When did it happen and
>why? I'm just curious. Thanks.

Lest we be tempted to think this is a cycling specific use of the term, let me quote from an article
in the March 10, 2003 issue of AutoWeek. In "Masters of Ancient Technology - NASCAR Keeps the Clock
Turned Back", Bill McGuire writes, "Cup cars are still powered by cast-iron, pushrod V8 engines with
four-barrel carbureters, based upon powerplants that, except in a few trucks, are no longer
available to the public. The industry has long since moved on, to alloy engines with overhead cams
and fuel injection."

I pretty certain few people reading the article thought the alloy referred to was 4130 or 4340. :)

jeverett3<AT>earthlink<DOT>net http://home.earthlink.net/~jeverett3
 
J

Jobst Brandt

Guest
John Everett <[email protected]> writes:

> Lest we be tempted to think this is a cycling specific use of the term, let me quote from an
> article in the March 10, 2003 issue of AutoWeek. In "Masters of Ancient Technology - NASCAR Keeps
> the Clock Turned Back", Bill McGuire writes, "Cup cars are still powered by cast-iron, pushrod V8
> engines with four-barrel carbureters, based upon powerplants that, except in a few trucks, are no
> longer available to the public. The industry has long since moved on, to alloy engines with
> overhead cams and fuel injection."

> I pretty certain few people reading the article thought the alloy referred to was 4130 or 4340.

I'm also pretty certain you can justify any number of misnomers by citing published articles by
ill-informed writers. Just because you saw it in print doesn't mean it is correct or true. This
assumption alone can be taken as naiveté of the person offering the citation of the item in print.
It takes more than ink on paper to verify such things.

That's much like calling a tractor-trailer combination a "semi-truck" while in fact the trailer is a
semi-trailer pulled by a tractor. To make the whole thing more macho, the current term is
18-wheeler... wow!

Jobst Brandt [email protected] Palo Alto CA
 
J

John Everett

Guest
On Sun, 16 Mar 2003 07:39:18 GMT, [email protected] wrote:

>John Everett <[email protected]> writes:
>
>> Lest we be tempted to think this is a cycling specific use of the term, let me quote from an
>> article in the March 10, 2003 issue of AutoWeek. In "Masters of Ancient Technology - NASCAR Keeps
>> the Clock Turned Back", Bill McGuire writes, "Cup cars are still powered by cast-iron, pushrod V8
>> engines with four-barrel carbureters, based upon powerplants that, except in a few trucks, are no
>> longer available to the public. The industry has long since moved on, to alloy engines with
>> overhead cams and fuel injection."
>
>> I'm pretty certain few people reading the article thought the alloy referred to was 4130 or 4340.
>
>I'm also pretty certain you can justify any number of misnomers by citing published articles by
>ill-informed writers. Just because you saw it in print doesn't mean it is correct or true. This
>assumption alone can be taken as naiveté of the person offering the citation of the item in print.
>It takes more than ink on paper to verify such things.
>
>That's much like calling a tractor-trailer combination a "semi-truck" while in fact the trailer is
>a semi-trailer pulled by a tractor. To make the whole thing more macho, the current term is
>18-wheeler... wow!

Geez Jobst, lighten up! I was only pointing out that we're not the only group of people who
regularly misuse the term "alloy".

jeverett3<AT>earthlink<DOT>net http://home.earthlink.net/~jeverett3
 
D

David E. Belche

Guest
Sheldon Brown <[email protected]> wrote in message news:<[email protected]>...
>
> Even the term "cromoly" is of later popularity.
>

Not least because Reynolds squashed the competition from the main UK brand of Cr-Mo tubing by simply
by merging with the firm concerned and the emphasis being put on the Reynolds brands. The
alternative to 531 Mn-Mo tubing was marketed by Accles & Pollock (of Oldbury, Staffs.) under the
"Kromo" brand name, gaining popularity with quite a few builders, including both Holdsworth and
Claud Butler, no less! A&P, like Reynolds, ended up as part of the Tube Investments (TI) Group, who
were also owners of Raleigh Industries for a while. It was sold on to the Hay Hall Group, before
changing hands again and being absorbed into Tyco (whereas Reynolds is now an independent firm
again). A&P are still in business (and still in Oldbury!), but not in the field of frame tubes;
Reynolds 725 and 525 tubesets are the modern-day descendants of A&P Kromo.

See http://www.accles.co.uk/history.asp for background info - not much on the cycle tube side of
their business, though.

David E. Belcher

Dept. of Chemistry, University of York
 
P

Paul Southworth

Guest
In article <[email protected]>,
g.daniels <[email protected]> wrote:
>let's be practical!
>
>if I'm looking for chain rings in a mail order catalog and the chainring is described as "alloy"
>then the ring is defined as aluminum and not steel. And that's a foolproof assumption?

Yes.
 

W.Tell

New Member
May 15, 2003
5
0
0
Originally posted by Paul Southworth
In article <[email protected]>,
g.daniels <[email protected]> wrote:
>let's be practical!
>
>if I'm looking for chain rings in a mail order catalog and the chainring is described as "alloy"
>then the ring is defined as aluminum and not steel. And that's a foolproof assumption?

Yes.

I have not read all of the above, but some I did read. I'm a toolmaker/gunsmith and know a bit about metals. Let me put this straight: ALL metals we use in daily life are alloys! If they where not they would be useless, to brittle, to soft , rust too easy and so on....

But as far as I'm concerned if I'm speaking to a Brit or American, and he is using the term alloy, I presume he meant aluminum.

Dural is short for Duraluminium, and is a aluminum alloy.
 
A

Andy Dingley

Guest
On 15 May 2003 21:30:20 +0950, W.Tell <[email protected]> wrote:

> > >if I'm looking for chain rings in a mail order catalog and the chainring is described as
> > >"alloy" then the ring is defined as aluminum and not steel.

>Let me put this straight: ALL metals we use in daily life are alloys!

Well there is one metal that's commonly used in un-alloyed form.

Aluminium.

You know, the one that's always referred to as "alloy"

(OK, and copper too)
 
D

David

Guest
"Andy Dingley" <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:p[email protected]...
> On 15 May 2003 21:30:20 +0950, W.Tell <[email protected]> wrote:
> >Let me put this straight: ALL metals we use in daily life are alloys!
>
> Well there is one metal that's commonly used in un-alloyed form.
>
> Aluminium.

Is it used in pure form for any cycling applications? Titanium is. Not for frame tubes, but
commercially pure (CP) titanium is commonly used for dropouts, and I think other bike
applications as well.

David
 
J

Jim Adney

Guest
On Thu, 15 May 2003 13:04:17 -0700 "David" <[email protected]> wrote:

>
>"Andy Dingley" <[email protected]> wrote in message
>news:p[email protected]...
>> On 15 May 2003 21:30:20 +0950, W.Tell <[email protected]> wrote:
>> >Let me put this straight: ALL metals we use in daily life are alloys!
>>
>> Well there is one metal that's commonly used in un-alloyed form.
>>
>> Aluminium.
>
>Is it used in pure form for any cycling applications? Titanium is. Not for frame tubes, but
>commercially pure (CP) titanium is commonly used for dropouts, and I think other bike
>applications as well.

I'm really not sure about the Ti claim above, but I'm quite sure that pure aluminum is not used in
any bike parts. I would also think that pure Ti would have no use there either.

Copper, for sure.

-
-----------------------------------------------
Jim Adney [email protected] Madison, WI 53711 USA
-----------------------------------------------
 
D

David

Guest
A

A Muzi

Guest
"Jim Adney" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
> On Thu, 15 May 2003 13:04:17 -0700 "David" <[email protected]> wrote:
>
> >
> >"Andy Dingley" <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:p[email protected]...
> >> On 15 May 2003 21:30:20 +0950, W.Tell <[email protected]> wrote:
> >> >Let me put this straight: ALL metals we use in daily life are alloys!
> >>
> >> Well there is one metal that's commonly used in un-alloyed form.
> >>
> >> Aluminium.
> >
> >Is it used in pure form for any cycling applications? Titanium is. Not
for frame tubes,
> >but commercially pure (CP) titanium is commonly used for dropouts, and I
think other
> >bike applications as well.
>
> I'm really not sure about the Ti claim above, but I'm quite sure that pure aluminum is not used in
> any bike parts. I would also think that pure Ti would have no use there either.
>
> Copper, for sure.

I am also unsure about the actual composition of "commercially pure" titanium.

But what's called "CP" or "commmercially pure" titanium is either "dismally inadequate" (according
to people who sell modern 3/2.5 titanium alloy) or "comfy as a PX-10" (according to me). Anyone know
how "pure" "pure" is??

That material (CP Titanium) was used in such bikes as the early titanium Speedwell right through the
Sumitomo and Mory frames of the late 1980s.

--
Andrew Muzi http://www.yellowjersey.org Open every day since 1 April 1971
 
D

Dave

Guest
"David" <[email protected]> writes:

> "Jim Adney" <[email protected]> wrote in message
> news:[email protected]...
> > I would also think that pure Ti would have no use there either.
>
> Like I said, it's commonly used for dropouts:
> http://www.hewittcycles.co.uk/complete_cycles/airborne/lucky%20strike/index.htm
>
> And as I learned here, it used to be used for frames:
> http://www.bicycleexoticadirect.com.au/MERLIN/LearnTiMerlin.htm
>
> Some of which are still on the market: http://www.yellowjersey.org/SUMITOMO.HTML

Metallurgically speaking, commercial purity Ti is not all that pure, and should probably be
considered an alloy. Almost all commercially available titanium or titanium alloy has ~1000ppm (0.1%
by weight) oxygen, which increases its strength dramatically compared to very low oxygen Ti. High
purity Ti is generally too soft for any structural applications.

Metallurgical trivia...

Dave Korzekwa
 
M

Mark McMaster

Guest
A Muzi wrote:
> "Jim Adney" <[email protected]> wrote in message
> news:[email protected]...
>
>>On Thu, 15 May 2003 13:04:17 -0700 "David" <[email protected]> wrote:
>>
>>
>>>"Andy Dingley" <[email protected]> wrote in message
>>
> news:p[email protected]...
>
>>>>On 15 May 2003 21:30:20 +0950, W.Tell <[email protected]> wrote:
>>>>
>>>>>Let me put this straight: ALL metals we use in daily life are alloys!
>>>>
>>>>Well there is one metal that's commonly used in un-alloyed form.
>>>>
>>>>Aluminium.
>>>
>>>Is it used in pure form for any cycling applications? Titanium is. Not
>>
> for frame tubes,
>
>>>but commercially pure (CP) titanium is commonly used for dropouts, and I
>>
> think other
>
>>>bike applications as well.
>>
>>I'm really not sure about the Ti claim above, but I'm quite sure that pure aluminum is not used in
>>any bike parts. I would also think that pure Ti would have no use there either.
>>
>>Copper, for sure.
>
>
>
> I am also unsure about the actual composition of "commercially pure" titanium.
>
> But what's called "CP" or "commmercially pure" titanium is either "dismally inadequate" (according
> to people who sell modern 3/2.5 titanium alloy) or "comfy as a PX-10" (according to me). Anyone
> know how "pure" "pure" is??
>
> That material (CP Titanium) was used in such bikes as the early titanium Speedwell right through
> the Sumitomo and Mory frames of the late 1980s.

Here's a little bit of information about CP titanium:

http://www.fwmetals.com/spec_sheets/unalloyed_cp.htm

CP titanium was used in bikes even into the early to mid '90s. For example, there was a Raleigh made
from Russian CP titanium, and even Merlin used CP titanium for a few tubes in the low cost RSR and
the Odyssey frames.

Mark McMaster [email protected]
 
S

Steven Scharf

Guest
W.Tell <[email protected]> wrote in message news:<3ec38154
>
> I have not read all of the above, but some I did read. I'm a toolmaker/gunsmith and know a bit
> about metals. Let me put this straight: ALL metals we use in daily life are alloys! If they where
> not they would be useless, to brittle, to soft , rust too easy and so on....
>
> But as far as I'm concerned if I'm speaking to a Brit or American, and he is using the term alloy,
> I presume he meant aluminum.

For bicycles and components, the manufacturers know that "aluminum" is a word with negative
connotations. So they use many different words and some of their own made up trade names to avoid
saying aluminum; "alloy" is a popular word to use since it is so vague, but it means aluminum. OTOH,
a manufacturer of Cro-Mo steel, titanium, or carbon-fiber frames and/or components will always
prominently state the material since these materials command a premium price.

Still waiting for some clever company to boast about "carbon-steel" frames and components.
 
T

Thekid

Guest
Steve,

First, other than metal fatigue and a stiff ride, I don't think cyclist equates aluminum with
negative or bad. Cannondale's craftsmanship wiith aluminum is what they're known for, well that an a
stiff ride.

But to answer your question, as a cyclists, when I see the term "alloy" I am most like to think of
of CrMo first and Aluminum second. As non cyclist, I just think of alloy as a mix of any two metals
without regards to metal type.

"Steven Scharf" <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:[email protected]...
> W.Tell <[email protected]> wrote in message news:<3ec38154
> >
> > I have not read all of the above, but some I did read. I'm a toolmaker/gunsmith and know a bit
> > about metals. Let me put this straight: ALL metals we use in daily life are alloys! If they
> > where not they would be useless, to brittle, to soft , rust too easy and so on....
> >
> > But as far as I'm concerned if I'm speaking to a Brit or American, and he is using the term
> > alloy, I presume he meant aluminum.
>
> For bicycles and components, the manufacturers know that "aluminum" is a word with negative
> connotations. So they use many different words and some of their own made up trade names to avoid
> saying aluminum; "alloy" is a popular word to use since it is so vague, but it means aluminum.
> OTOH, a manufacturer of Cro-Mo steel, titanium, or carbon-fiber frames and/or components will
> always prominently state the material since these materials command a premium price.
>
> Still waiting for some clever company to boast about "carbon-steel" frames and components.
 
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