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What makes steel so real?(23 posts)

What makes steel so real?Ambishawn
Dec 30, 2002 9:03 PM
What's not real about aluminum, Titanium or Carbon Fiber? Supid Question I know but I don't completly understand that saying.
re: What makes steel so real?colker
Dec 31, 2002 7:17 AM
it rides better, costs less. it's pretty and needs beautifull coats of paint. steel has good damping properties and being a "old", had lots of feedback to improve on. hundreds of tubing options \make it possible to build a frame with the "right" mix of stiffness and compliance.
simplicity in welding and brazing steel makes for underdogs/ garage /cottage bike industry. you wouldn't have "small" bike builders without steel.
steel isn't noisy as aluminum, dead as carbon, noodley as ti.
i've ridden all of them and my best bikes have always been made of steel.
another: steel bikes always give good riding. other materials need lots of expertise to make them work well: ride like a good steel bike.
What colker said. Plus one more thing...cory
Dec 31, 2002 10:44 AM
I like steel pretty much just because I like steel. I've never owned a carbon bike, but squeezing out the last few grams from a frame isn't as important to me as having confidence in it, and in its durability. I don't buy new bikes very often (I do buy used ones, ride them for awhile for fun, then sell them), but my last two have been steel. I'm confident I'll be riding the Atlantis when I'm 70, if I live that long.
One other point you rarely read about: Even though we shouldn't, we sometimes just toss our bikes in the back of somebody's truck and go out to ride. Particularly with mountain bikes, aluminum tubes can get dented back there. I KNOW you're supposed to take care of them, but...well, it's an object, you know? I got it to ride, not to take care of. We've never dented a steel frame that way.
Well not reallyKerry
Dec 31, 2002 4:58 PM
The variation in ride, handling, weight, "performance," etc. is greater among bikes made of a given material than it is between bikes made of different materials. You can pretty much dial the ride with any material and the only variables will then be weight and price. Steel is cheaper and heavier (for the same ride properties). If that makes it "real" then just fine. But don't give me that "Al bikes are stiff, Ti is noodly" crap. To the extent that it is true, it is because the designers chose those properties, not because of some inherent material-caused effect.
Steel is like all flesh - mortal.Alex-in-Evanston
Dec 31, 2002 7:35 AM
Steel is like your mortal shell. It will eventually rust and die. That is what makes steel "real".

aluminum is like all flesh - mortal.DougSloan
Dec 31, 2002 11:00 AM
The same could be said for aluminum. It will eventually fatigue and die. Right?

I suppose so. It was just a joke. (nm)Alex-in-Evanston
Dec 31, 2002 11:06 AM
I guess it's only funny the 1st time :-) nmDougSloan
Dec 31, 2002 11:11 AM
it makes a nice rhymeDougSloan
Dec 31, 2002 7:39 AM
The saying is nothing but a nice rhyme. As far as I know, all the materials in question are just as "real." It's really pretty stupid.

Nonetheless, the different frame materials can have different qualities. I've had all four of them. Tube shapes, geometries, and other components have a huge effect compared to frame material, though. For a more complete analysis, check Sheldon Brown's website:

Yup.Spoke Wrench
Dec 31, 2002 10:48 AM
Somebody else may write all of the laws, but if I could write all of the songs, I'd rule the country.
re: What makes steel so real?motta
Dec 31, 2002 12:32 PM
People who believe steel is the only way to go with a bike frame have their heads buried in the sand. They are stuck on the romantic notion that because the great heroes of yore rode steel then it must be the best material available. Well guess what, that was the ONLY material they had perfected. If the technology had been readily available for the atheletes and builders to use alu, carbon or ti you better believe they would of been using it. Then like now everyone is looking for that edge. Plus, people seem to forget the fact that the technology of steel hasn't stood still. The steel bikes of today are leagues above the old steel. Lighter, stiffer, thinner walled, tig welded-- sound like aluminum? Seems to me steel is now playing catch-up to all these other materials.
As an aside, and not that this has any bearing on whether or not steel is a worthy material, I believe it is; just not the benchmark - are there any pro teams on steel?
re: What makes steel so real?MR_GRUMPY
Dec 31, 2002 1:06 PM
Steel is a answer, but not the only answer. Aluminum bikes can be make to feel just as lively as steel bikes, but the down side is that they will be shot after a year. Carbon bikes are great for climbing, but 3 Lb steel frames are becoming more common. ( They won't last more than 2 or 3 years, just like Al bikes). There isn't any thing wrong with Ti bikes, but there is no longer that much of a weight savings with them. I've got two steel road bikes and one flyweight Aluminum one. I just prefer the ride of the steel ones. The word "Better" should be excised from these discussions....... Ride what you want..... Just ride !!!
re: What makes steel so real?motta
Dec 31, 2002 3:20 PM
So when your flyweight aluminum bike is "shot" next year will you mail it to me??
re: What makes steel so real?MR_GRUMPY
Dec 31, 2002 7:21 PM
It will be "shot" when the stays crack. In order for an aluminum frame to be "lively", it must flex a little. Flex is death to aluminum. Every flex cycle, no matter how small, fatigues the aluminum, flyweight aluminum bikes have a fixed number of cycles then can endure. A 3 1/2 pound aluminum frame will last much longer than a 2 1/4 - 2 1/2 pound frame. The only problem is that is easy to get a 3 1/2 pound steel frame. Once you get down to a minimum weight of 2 1/2 pounds for aluminum and about 3 pounds for steel, the bikes have a relative short life span. Back in the days of 5 pound steel frames, they could last for 20 years.-- Not so, now.
relative lifemotta
Jan 1, 2003 4:31 AM
That is the key word, relative. The idea a lightweight frame is going to be shot in a years time is absurd. All metals have a fatigue life, but it is by no means fixed. You have to take into account alot of factors other than the material used to build it. How is it used, how it was built, the quality of material used, who built it and how well it is cared for, these are what are going to determine the life of a frame, not flex and fatigue cycles.
THE STEELmackgoo
Dec 31, 2002 10:41 PM
re: What makes steel so real?JetSpeed
Jan 1, 2003 9:12 AM
Can someone post exactly how each of the four basic
frame materials ride/feel? I've only ridden old carbon,
and am lost in which frame material to get next.
The exact ride qualities of each material:Kerry
Jan 1, 2003 4:00 PM
Here's the news - they're all the same if the frame designers took the inherent material properties into consideration and aimed for the same ride. If the designers tried to make aluminum stiff, steel solid, Ti compliant, and CF responsive, then that's what they got. Other than the noise damping characteristics of CF, you could not tell the difference in ride if the frames were competently designed to have the same ride. It's not about the material, it's about the design and execution of the design. Full stop.
but there are meaningful generalizationsDougSloan
Jan 1, 2003 8:28 PM
I agree with Kerry; if the makers all tried to shoot for the same qualities, they could get really close. But they don't, do they?

For top of the line frames, it seems to me that the makers tend to try to take advantage of the frame material they are using.

Aluminum gets used in funky shaped tubes to make really light tubing, but still not be horrifically stiff due to large diameters everywhere. Compared to the other materials, in real applications Al tends to be light and sometimes buzzy.

Ti is light compared to steel, and for similar shaped tubes is a bit more flexible. Throw in some big tubes like a Blade or Ultimate, and it gets as stiff as anything.

Carbon can be extremely stiff, like a C40. For almost the same weight frame, my C40 and my Bianchi EV2, the C40 is infinitely stiffer in the bottom bracket and more stable in corners. It will likely last 50 years longer, too. But then, it cost 3 times more. Carbon really does damp vibrations more than metals.

Steel has a nice combination of qualities, but suffers from extra weight. It just is too dense to make into large tubes necessary to be stiff, if you used little enough material to make a light bike. The walls of the tubes get so thin they would squish like a beer can. In other words, it is impossible to make a steel bike as light as a similar performing (stiffness, durability) carbon bike; the physics just won't allow it. Steel bikes tend to be solid non-racing type bikes. However, if you have a good quality steel bike with a carbon fork, the weight penalty would be around 1-2 pounds; even at 2 pounds, that's about 5 seconds slower up a 1 mile long 5% grade. Judge the meaningfulness of the difference for yourself.

Right now I have 3 steel, 1 carbon, and 4 aluminum bikes. I can tell you this: except for weight, the ride of each is affected far more by the tires (and pressures) on the bike than anything else, and geometry a close second behind that. So, unless you are a serious racer, a good bike in any material can be suitable. If you are a serious racer, then anything but steel would be first choice, but maker, fit, and geometry would still come before frame material.

Of course, there are more obvious factors, too. Ti needs no paint, so you need not worry about corrosion or paint problems. Steel, if lugged, can be repaired fairly easily. Aluminum probably has a limited life span, if it's a flyweight frame.

vinyl is realgtx
Jan 1, 2003 1:10 PM
It's kind of like saying four barrel carburetors are real, or tube amps are real, or vinyl is real. It's basically old school/outdated stuff that many people (like myself) like as much or more than the current/modern/high tech stuff.
well you gotta admit... you can't beat a tube amp :) nmempacher6seat
Jan 1, 2003 2:38 PM
well you gotta admit... you can't beat a tube amp :) nmLeroy
Jan 1, 2003 3:06 PM
Now that's a real good analogy. You really can't beat a tube amp. That's putting it in a way I can understand. IMHO steel frames are like tube amps in that that's the benchmark.
Especially if you like that kind of distortion! (nm)Kerry
Jan 2, 2003 4:46 PM