what does "alloy" mean to cyclists?

Discussion in 'Cycling Equipment' started by Ken, Mar 14, 2003.

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  1. Ken

    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
     
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  2. 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
     
  3. Russell

    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
     
  4. Jim Adney

    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
    -----------------------------------------------
     
  5. John Everett

    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
     
  6. Jobst Brandt

    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
     
  7. John Everett

    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
     
  8. 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
     
  9. 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.
     
  10. W.Tell

    W.Tell New Member

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    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.
     
  11. Andy Dingley

    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)
     
  12. David

    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
     
  13. Jim Adney

    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
    -----------------------------------------------
     
  14. David

    David Guest

  15. A Muzi

    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
     
  16. Dave

    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
     
  17. 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]
     
  18. 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.
     
  19. Thekid

    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.
     
  20. "thekid" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]...
    > Steve,
    >
    > First, other than metal fatigue and a stiff ride, I don't think cyclist
    No material gives a stiffer ride than another. It's just perception.
     
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