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Aluminum vs Steel vs Composite Frames
#1
Currently I am becoming a believer in going with steel vs aluminum frames. I got a aluminum mountain bike and its nice , but after some recent research I found there is no weight advantage as for aluminum to be as strong as steel it will weight as much as steel. Aluminum does not rust so thats good.

I have two MB one steel and one aluminum, just got a new set of 1.5 more road oriented tires and put them on the aluminum one and the bike had very dead feel, tried them on the steel bike and it was nice and lively. I put MB tires back on the aluminum one and thats my dirt bike.

As I mentioned I also got a 1985 Fuji Del Rey, Its a road bike and it made a steel convert out of me. Its very nimble got to pay attention and make small corrections, the road tires take some of the credit. In all fairness I should ride a quality aluminum road bike for a full comparison. Anyone out there has both??

http://classicfuji.com/1985_20_DelRey_Page.htm

Composite high end bikes are the newest thing , they are light. But I have been told that for racing one should replace it often as cracks may develop. And owner maintenance is not suggested, unless very experienced. Expensive .

I have no experience with the feel of composite bikes. Be interesting to hear from those who have experience with all three types
Never Give Up!!!
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#2
Its a misnomer to say that aluminum does not rust. The surface of aluminum corrodes very quickly to (thankfully) form a protective surface deposit =)

Aluminum does not have the fatigue life that steel has, and you will feel a plusher ride with a steel frame because of its elasticity. Carbon composites do not have a known fatigue life, and when it goes it goes. Steel and aluminum at least have some telltale signs of cracking or making noise.

I've always ridden aluminum frame bikes and i don't have any problems with them. I would not buy a carbon mtb because of how the material fails. I'm still not convinced about the carbon road bikes because of the unknown fatigue life. I have a carbon fork and it scares me a little. You can still get carbon bike weights.with aluminum frames though. A friend of mine swapped out every threaded fastener he could with titanium to achieve a sub 16 pound aluminum road bike.

With all this being said, i want to find a steel road bike to use as my work commuter.
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#3
One answer 4130 Wink lol . Nah I have rode the Columbia Dream Machine (steel Frame road) and it was a pleasure to be a road bike.
Good maintenance to your Bike, can make it like the wheels are, true and smooth!
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#4
Do not understand your point??? But I just sold a MB with 4130 cro mo frame.That was a good lively frame.
Never Give Up!!!
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#5
Ih nevermind me lol I was being sorta funny and forgot to put the rest which was I have that Schwinn Traveler which is cro mo 4130 I am still working on and can't wait to see the difference.
Good maintenance to your Bike, can make it like the wheels are, true and smooth!
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#6
Here's a couple of articles that may interest you:

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/frame-materials.html

http://www.smartcycles.com/frame_materials.htm

I think all the materials have their pros and cons, although I think steel is probably still best for touring, and most purpose built touring bikes do tend to still be made of steel and I wouldn't want carbon for anything heavy duty like downhill, stunts and jumps where crashes and big impacts are likely.
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#7
Good articles xerxes. Kind of confirms my experience with steel and aluminum bikes. ANND confirms my belief in the triangular horizontal top tube frame. It looks proper. :-))

What got me thinking of this was when I put more road oriented tires on my aluminum MB. I found it to be kind of like steering by wire, dead feeling. I than switched those tires to steel 4130 MB and it was very lively.

Also the recent purchase of a 1985 Fuji Del Rey with a high quality steel frame and road bike geometry really made me aware of the difference. Now the Aluminum Schwinn is my off road bike and the Fuji is my road bike.
win win. :-)))

http://classicfuji.com/1985_20_DelRey_Page.htm

Dave_SD
"Aluminum does not have the fatigue life that steel has, and you will feel a plusher ride with a steel frame because of its elasticity."
I suggest you read up on this especially the smartcycles article.
Never Give Up!!!
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#8
Hi George,

I've never really ridden an aluminum framed bike, other than a few quick goes on friends bikes. I had a couple of Reynolds 531 lugged steel road bikes back in the 80's and 90's, one was a fairly low spec club rider/training bike, the other was more a proper racer; I actually preferred the ride of the heavier, lower specced one. :S

I've got two rigid steel MTBs now, one fairly low quality TIG welded Reynolds 501, which is my "town" bike, complete with mudguards rack and lights which weighs in at a portly 34lbs all-up. The ride and handling are nice enough though and it makes a decent enough work-horse and as a fairly low end bike it has limited theif appeal, which is a great advantage for something that gets locked up outside shops etc.

I've also got a 1990 Marin Pine mountain, which has a TIG welded Tange double butted MTB frameset. It's not the lightest steel MTB frame around at about 5.5lbs, some, like the Kona Explosif were under 4lbs, but I love the way it rides and won't ever part with it.

I've also got one of them new-fangled carbon frames on my 2007 hardtail. It's light, under 3lbs for the frame alone and has a sort of plush, dead feel, even with the suspension on the forks locked out, quite different to a steel frame.
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#9
I can't speak from experience other than carbon steel and chrome-moly steel. But I do know some things about boats that I learned a few years back. The carbon-fiber frame for bicycles is basically the same as a fiberglass boat with the exception that one uses glass fibers and the other uses carbon fibers. Both use resin to hold it all together. Now to my point. Over time, a boat will sag if left sitting on a trailer. The resin has a tendency to reform itself to whatever gravity is doing to it in terms of years. I could be wrong but I would think a carbon-fiber bicycle frame would also have a tendency to change form over time. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Steve
Junkyard Tools rescued from the junkyard!
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#10
Although fiberglass and carbon are both fibers in resin, it's not the same kind of resin. I've never heard of carbon sagging over time. The downsides of carbon tend to be cost and durability. By durability I mean that while it is extremely strong, the integrity of the whole frame can be compromised by damage in a small area (as opposed to metal frames where a dent doesn't affect much). Also, it can give less warning of a problem because cracks can be hard to spot and it has a tendency to fail "catastrophically", failing suddenly and coming apart rather than bending, etc. That said, there are a lot of rumors of carbon frames developing cracks and needing to be replaced every couple years. This may have been true of the very early carbon, but the stuff that comes out now should have a very long lifespan.

I own all three types (though no titanium). To be honest, I'm pretty convinced that the differences people claim to feel are mostly related to other differences in the bike: geometry, tires, wheels, seat, bars & grips, etc. The differences these factors will produce is just so much larger than what frame material will do. I like steel bikes, but I'll readily admit that that has as much to do with style factors as with any ride quality.
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