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Carbon Fiber? Steel? Titanium? Aluminum? under $2000msrp(9 posts)

Carbon Fiber? Steel? Titanium? Aluminum? under $2000msrpJohnnyCat
Jan 24, 2004 2:47 AM
I am so confused, frustrated, misinformed, possibly too informed that I am going nuts about what frame material I should be considering. Would prefer advise from those who have owned carbon fiber, steel, and ti from good co's such as: Look, Kestrel, Aegis, Fondriest, Calfee, Steelman, IF, Seven, Landshark, Litespeed, Lemond. Feel free to post if you haven't owned such bikes.

If you don't want to read all the stuff below. Just answer what frames do you feel are the best under $1750. Make and model?

Budget explanation
I am not willing to consider any frame that has a msrp of over $2000. I am mostly looking at frames for $1500 msrp and hoping to get a 20+% off deal on whatever I do plan to buy. So I really don't want to spend over $1500 out of pocket, but I would like to hear if someone feels that for $2000 msrp there is a frame head and shoulders above the rest. I am finding it is easy to find deals on mass produced bikes, and that is probably what I will get unless you swear to get something else that is = to or < than $2000. The reason is I can find deals from bike shops that still will have the warranty on mass produced frames (something I refuse to give up).

Frame Dilemna

My exotic part of my mind says go carbon fiber. (Pro thought): Seems like technical data shows it is stiffer and stronger than anything, (Con thought) but many say it isn't even compared to steel. (Pro thought) Most everyone says it is the most shock absorbing. (Con thought) One good crash and its screwed; example is LA in TdF. Seems very odd. Like it will last forever and is the best material, but hit it in its "magic spot" and it will crack. Or do Trek's just suck. I've been mostly considering Kestrel & Aegis. Which is better 200sci or 300ems? (Con thought) If your not willing to spend the big dollar on a Calfee or Parlee don't do it. What about Looks & Fondriest? Hard to find prices and info on Fondriest. Look really good.

Conservative side of brain says go steel. (Pro) Gets the best reviews. Doesn't seem gimmicky. Reliable. Nothing except welds can go bad. Seems like it would handle high speeds the best. Best bang for buck. Will last. Not that much heavier anymore. Can crash. (Con) Tech data shows not that stiff or strong. Won't dampen road vibration that much, or will it? Pros never ride steel.

Stuffy ultra conservative side says go Ti. Expensive & won't rust. Don't know what else to say. I've thought of it as high priced steel. Strong and stiff, but many say its wispy? Last forever. Is it like steel on steroids?

What I want is a totally reliable smooth ride. I don't want to feel the frame flex. I want to have the confidence I can hammer and not hurt the bike or cruise downhill at 50mph, even though I hardly ever do. Main priority is to have a smooth as glass ride, but able to keep the bike for 25000 miles with no change in properties. I never crash, but I want to feel like I can and not destroy the bike. Seems like Ti might be for me, but I hate the price.

Do custom steel builders like IF, Steelman, Landshark truly have better quality than Lemond that is worth the significant extra cost? Or is the main benefit custom fit geometries which I don't care too much about.

Aluminum: pretty much heard its crap, unless you want to sprint, are a weight wimp, or ride on the very best of roads.
re: Carbon Fiber? Steel? Titanium? Aluminum? under $2000msrpJuanmoretime
Jan 24, 2004 5:31 AM
Check out You can get a custom titanium frame for under $1,500. Any frame, regardless of material, gets the degree of stiffness from the choice of tubes, different diameters and tube shapes effect the ride. I ride a Litespeed Vortex which my 175 lbs just can't flex. Unless you get a used one, the Vortex will be out of your price range. I've owned four Deans in the past and they are great bikes. Look at there reviews and the best part is you will be on a bike that you won't see many of. Dean is a very small shop so be warned they usually take longer than they tell you to make you a frame although the wait will be worth it.
Pick one and be happyaOldMan
Jan 24, 2004 7:29 AM
Quality bikes are made out of Aluminum, steel, ti and carbon. The material matters, but to a lesser degree than the geometry of the bike. If the bike does not fit, it really does not matter what it is made from.

If you are looking for a high quality frame and you are on a budget, your best bet would be to look for 2003 models. For example, you can currently purchase a 2003 Look 381i for $1600 from excel (even less from totalcycling) which is $1100 less than the 2004 model. This is a great frame that has been proven in the TDF and many, many pro races. People that have it, love it.

The same logic can be applied to other manufactures as well. Once a model year changes, they need to liquidate last years model at significant discounts. Check out excel or competitive cyclists for their 'blowout' and specials. You will find quality frames made from all different materials at great prices at this time of the year.

My suggestion and opinion would be to go and shop around for frames that fit your body. Once you have found frames that fit, take them for a test ride. Do not get hung up on material. Ride the bikes and see what moves you. If the bike fits, and you like the way it looks and rides, then buy it. If the frame is from a tier one company, you will be fine.

As for custom frames (IF, Steelman, Marinoni etc) they are a good choice for some people. But again it comes down to your body shape and how a bike fits you. If you fit a stock bike, why go custom? If you have the money and want a custom bike (colors & geometry) then why not?

Go shopping, try out a few bikes and remember it is all about the ride. Materials and brands are great to debate, but it means little if you do not like the ride. It is more important to go crazy with your fitness and conditioning than it is to go crazy with the technology of the bike.
Yes, you are confusedKerry Irons
Jan 24, 2004 6:27 PM
All can build great frames, all can build crap frames. In the end Ti is is most durable, CF most easily scratched, steel is heaviest, Al is cheapest. To build a top of the line frame, Ti and CF are roughly the most expensive, then steel, then Al. These statements are all assuming similar design goals for a given frame. Yes, you can make steel very light, but it will not be as stiff as Al or dent resistant as Ti, for example. You pays your money, and takes your chances. It's much more about the individual manufacuturer than about the frame material.
Jan 24, 2004 7:45 PM
Thanks for all the help. I realize most of what you say, but I get a sick feeling in the bottom of my stomach about dropping a wad on a frame. I guess I should just bite the bullet and buy something reputable and burn off energy by biking and not by worrying. I guess the one one frame I wouldn't worry about is Ti, so maybe for just peace of mind I should go with it. I realize I shouldn't rule out any material if I truly like the bike.

One last question and I promiss I will shutup.

If all the frame materials happened to cost the same money, what material do you think the majority would say is the best? Not just to race, but to do everything for a longtime! I would think the answer would be hands down Ti. It seems like to me that many would say Ti is the best, but everyone loves to hate it (including me) due solely to the price. I think carbon fiber might be another popular answer, but I look at it like this. It is probably the greatest to race on due to comfort, but I have my doubts of longterm viability. The tour is only 2500 miles; I plan to keep my bike for at least 25000 miles. Seems like Ti gets the least complaints on structural problems, and I just don't have the luxury of pulling another bike off a car if something goes wrong.

Metals being a near perfect homogenous mixture, especially one that can't rust just seems like it has less variables to go wrong than fibers layed out and compressed with epoxy. I'm sorry, but not until more of the world is made out of plastics/CF will I fully trust CF. I think for the most part CF has proven itself way above my expectations, but its still a bit quirky acting for my liking. Just my 2 cents.
Carbon Fiber? Steel? Titanium? Aluminum? under $2000msrpdivve
Jan 24, 2004 10:10 PM
Any decent frame should be ale to last 25K. If you're worried about manufacturing defects then get one with a long warranty.
Carbon Fiber? Steel? Titanium? Aluminum? under $2000msrpJohnnyCat
Jan 25, 2004 12:16 AM
I totally agree a long term warranty is a must. But just beacause Kia's have a good warranty doesn't mean your going to buy one. I have heard though that if something does go wrong with a frame the company will many times just fix it, and sometimes not replace it as you might want. I think metals are truly the easiest to repair and return the product to its original properties. Seems like all they would have to do is reweld and possibly replace a tube. I don't know much about repairing CF. Seems like it couldn't be done too well. I would always want a new bike.

Call me crazy, but I think I would ride less agressively on a carbon frame that I paid a lot for as opposed to steel or Ti. Many people will agree that wrecking a carbon fiber bike will usually result in major destruction as opposed to steel or Ti. I have never wrecked, but I want to feel like I can. Seems weird, I know. I realize many have wrecked carbon fiber and its been fine, but I've heard more stories otherwise. I would say if I had to bet on which frame could survive a wreck my money would go on Ti. Where would your money go? It comes down to a peace of mind thing why I am leaning away from CF.
Thinking TOO HARD...C-40
Jan 25, 2004 7:18 AM
First, you never mentioned your size and weight. That makes can make a big difference in the most appropriate frame design.

I would not worry about crash repair. If you crash a frame severely enough to bend or break a tube, I wouldn't waste the money reparing it, and nobody repairs crash damage on warranty. I've crashed at least 6 times in the last twenty years and never damaged a frame yet. If all you do is slide out in a corner, it's mainly the rider, saddle, bar tape and brake levers that get damaged.

Ti frames can be had for $1000 or less (like Excel sports Macalu, built by litepseed). If you're big and/or heavy then the Macalu might be too flexy. Litespeeds should always be purchased at end of year cleranaces, since their value drops like a rock as soon as the new models come out.

Info on the price of Fondriest models is easy to get at They have some great deals, but sizes and colors are limited. Call the warehouse in Denver for the inventory of bargain frames still in stock. The smaller sizes are all gone. Fondriest also no longer makes anything but carbon frames according to their main website, The cheapest is $2000.

In carbon, you're more limited to Trek, Giant or LOOK frames in your price range. Total Cycling and Excel Sports have good prices on a limited number of 2003 LOOK frames. The 2003 LOOK KG 461 for example is only $1080 at Excel.
Thinking TOO HARD...<- YES!!! too hard indeed....russw19
Jan 25, 2004 9:38 AM
Johnny, make this much easier on yourself... go to a local club or group ride. Check out what the guys with nicer bikes who look like they know what they are doing are riding. Most will have a selection of materials, but even if it's a big group, you will see more than one of a certain frame. It may be a Giant TCR, a Trek OCLV, a Cannondale CAAD 6, a Colnago Dream Plus... whatever... but check out what the guys you want to ride like are riding. Then go a step further... check out what the guys who are built like you are riding. If all the guys who look like you are on steel... there may be a reason for it. But that is often a good indicator as they know what the roads are like in your area... they know how the hills are and how much climbing you will be doing, they know what works and what doesn't for your area. I know that is overly simplified, but you won't see many guys on heavy old steel frames if there are a lot of altitude changes, but if the roads are super sloppy and filled with pot holes, a good steel frame is a better choice than an ultra light aluminium one. Even the pros still ride more than one frame thru the season as the race conditions change.

Also, if you go to the local group rides to check out bikes, you can actually check them out. Some guys may let you ride their bike for a couple minutes (and some won't even let you touch it) so you can get a personal feel for the bike. That way you can also ask them where they got it, how much they paid, and if they were happy with the shop they dealt with. You seem to make warranty an issue... if that's the case, DO NOT buy over the net. Buy from an LBS you like and trust... they are the first line and often the actual decision maker in your warranty claim. I work for a Fisher/Lemond dealer... if I say a bike should be warrantied, I have never ever had my rep disagree. I have even told them to warranty a bike they probably didn't have to, but because I insisted, they pushed it thru. Your LBS can make all the difference. That unfortunately goes both ways too, so make sure their customers speak highly of them, or shop elsewhere.

At the end of the day, remember this small piece of advice... it's your bike, and buying it should be fun! Test ride everything and have a good time doing it. When you test ride bikes, feel the shop out as much as the bike. See who you will be giving your cash to and see what they offer you for it. Both as far as the best bike for your money and later, the service on that bike. And lastly, sometimes the best shops don't charge the least. They make up for it in other places... it's just like any industry. Keep that in mind. Look at the big picture and not just the pricetag. It will often make a difference a few months down the road.