Your thoughts about bike materials?


Jan 6, 2011
A discussion thread, not a lecture thread. Add your inputs, please? Correct me if I make error?

First for consideration, an interesting YouTube video.
Go to three minutes-in, to see a wonderful cut, exampling what makes a great video.
Note the shot of the designer, how he's framed at three minutes? Then, ten seconds later,
his bike: same "shape", triangular. It's stiffness is gained in outside diameter, most primarily.

Anyway, the point here is that the young designer prefers aluminum.
It's very stiff, relatively, due to the large-bore tubing that must be used with aluminum,
or al-you-min-i-um, for our UK-related friends.

Aluminum frames and bike parts were first made in the 1890s.
Cost and corrosion and reliability problems seemed to cool the interest then, fast.

Early auto makers adopted aluminum, but with often disastrous results:

pistons that seized, blocks that corroded, crankcase support arms that snapped off,
until practical experience in both metallurgy and applications, showed reliable uses.

Today, of course, the technology is fully mature.

Q: what's the oldest piece of structural aluminum,
out of doors, which you can see if you are a bird?
Tip, it is atop a structure in Washington.
Aluminum was almost as precious as gold at that time,
so difficult it was to refine from bauxite, by chemical means.

By 1910 or so, aluminum was called, by the USA's auto repair shops,
"Oh that? You mean 'The Trouble Metal'."

Ah, but that was a century ago. Aluminum remains elemental.
Mankind has learned to work with nature, better; so, no more trouble-met-al.

Aluminum, by year 1900, was known to be easily worked and fabricated. Witness this lamp?
This early bike light has a top (heat/draft deflector) made of aluminum; the rest of the lamp is nickeled brass)

The reason for using aluminum for the top? It could resist the cycles of hot-to-cold better than brass sheet,
and also was more ductile and easily formed. Aluminum, depending on its alloy and how you work it,
is quite an amazing metal. Ask a Wrigley's gum wrapper if it can withstand crumpling up after use? : )


Jan 6, 2011
Steel is wonderful material. What about steel frame bikes?
Remember how perfected they are, and how elegant looking?
And how much does a high-end steel frame weight, anyway?

I'll paste some found-pictures and junk into this form, if that's OK.
I did not mean to post this form...but messed up.

Steel! The other gray metal.

((am sorry, that's all I see from Mr. Oswald's old channel))

more steel frame data will go here in time, if you allow.

Need parts, grin, you can still get parts to-day. Here, though, from the golden age,
and steel is available tomorrow too because steel works strong and good and true.

The experts here can explain better than myself why steel is less chosen for track bikes today.
For a fixie abused on the streets, for a BMX, for a cruiser, I wonder if anything beats steel for tough service?

Please see "the Singer Boy" at the other thread in soap box forum, if you want more of the truth...