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steel or aluminum?(27 posts)

steel or aluminum?rockbender
Nov 5, 2002 9:09 PM
I am in the process of searching for my first CX bike, and I swear I need to find one soon so that I can actually get some work done!

Bikes that seem to fit so far include the Axis and Jamis Nova, and judging by the geometry on paper a Gunnar should fit too. I have not, however, been able to take a long test ride on the trail with any of these rigs.

I am a self-admitting weight weenie, but realize that I may want to go for steel to smooth out the ride. Any thoughts? How much smoother is a steel bike? How about an AL frame with a steel or carbon fork?

I don't plan on racing, but am way psyched about blasting some fireroads and trails this winter. ...and yes, I am way envious of my GF's ti CX bike!

thanks for any thoughts!
re: steel or aluminum?atpjunkie
Nov 5, 2002 9:59 PM
if like you say you don't plan on racing and plan more on trail riding I'd suggest steel. This is coming from a guy who owns 2 Aluminum cx bikes. Steel will weigh a little more but will be more compliant and damped of a ride than Aluminum. Most Alu bikes by their bigger tubes are stiffer and harsher than steel, they are also lighter. If you were planning on racing I'd say Aluminum as weight is such a factor in cx racing (and you are suffering so much you don't have time to think about how damped your ride is) IMHO anyone can take the abuse of big Alu tubes for an hour or so. I ride Alu because I race a little and I'm so big I can soften just about any bikes ride. If you plan on doing longer, adventure type rides get the Gunnar you will be pleased. Carbon and steel forks will 'soften" an Alu bikes ride but it does nothing for the rear triangle which is what goes to your back and backside. This is where you'll feel it the most. Have fun, and maybe next year try a race it's AWFUL FUN!
Nov 5, 2002 10:15 PM
I knew I could count on you for a late nite answer!

That was my gut feeling to go with steel, but shaving and easy pound is always soooo tempting! Maybe I'll happen upon a good deal on a ti bike!

re: steel or aluminum?morati
Nov 6, 2002 2:53 PM
I agree with atpjunkie also. If I were only racing cx then I'd probably pick aluminum. However, steel really does give a far superior ride. Throw some jpweigle framesaver in the tubes if you're going to ride it in the winter though.
a vote for steelweiwentg
Nov 6, 2002 4:47 AM
have to disagree with atpjunkie here. it does depend on your intended use. if I had the $$ for a bike which I would ONLY race CX on, it would probably be Al or CF. but I am 120lbs; if anyone has the 'right' to be a weight weenie it would be me. and I ride steel.
the ride is a hell of a lot better, and my CX bike is also the winter bike.
Whichever is the best dealEager Beagle
Nov 6, 2002 5:55 AM
There is not a whole lot of difference in weight - not so you'd notice at all with a bit of mud around.

Ride differences are not that significant, when you factor in wheels, tyres and pressure, saddle, ground, other components etc.

Go for the best deal+components/what you think appeals more visually - that's more likely to make you happy with the bike.

I bet it rains flames for that one...
A vote for steel heretamjam
Nov 6, 2002 6:54 AM
Even though I ended up with a Ti CX frame, if the deal I found had not come along, there is no doubt I would have chosen steel. My 2 mountain bikes and 1 road bike are all steel. It rides better and it looks better IMHO (I hate the look of fat Al tubing). So you might save a 1/2 lb with an Al frame, which is a significant % when just considering the frame, but once the bike is built up to 20lbs, it becomes completely insignificant. The decision to ride with 1 or 2 water bottles will have a bigger impact on the overall weight of your bike. Finally, there are tens, if not hundreds, of custom frame builders who choose steel for their material. How many custom frame builders do you know that build with Al? Now if Brent Steelman had been born Aluminuman instead, everything could be different... ;-)
A vote for steel heremikebdiddy
Nov 6, 2002 8:37 AM
steel is real!!!!!!!!!!!!
i have 3 steel bikes-1 custom brew hardtail that corners like a dream. just bought the jamis nova for $800.00 it's a nice riding frame-i live in the mtns. so i put a xt rear deraileur and a big cassette plus changed the 39 front to a 36 and kept the 53. might want to put a triple on in the future. ritchey components nice, but you'll want to change out the saddle in about 2 seconds. i also like the surly cx alot but the jamis was more accessible.
thanks everyone!rockbender
Nov 6, 2002 9:03 AM
Well, this ought to at least keep the chance of a silly impulse buy to a minimum.

you guys are great... and after browsing through the archives, I realize how patient you all are! Thanks for answering the same questions over and over and over...!
Nov 6, 2002 6:05 PM
there's a sweet Independent Fab 53cm Bike for sale in the classifieds here. Buy it if it's your size. Great Spec and ready to go!!! 950 OBO
: ( ...too small!rockbender
Nov 6, 2002 10:38 PM
thanks for the heads up! unfortuanately it is a bit small. I am looking for about a 57, or a 58 w/ a 56.5 to 57cm TT. not that I am soliciting, but if anyone is parting, I would gladly kick down to RBR a finders fee!

I rode a sweet 55cm Pinnarello at the LBS that I wanted to make fit sooo bad!
: ( ...too small!atpjunkie
Nov 7, 2002 10:54 AM
going to be hard to find a bike with that spec. most cx bikes have longer TT's than ST's. I have both a 58 and 57 cx bikes which both have 59 TT's. (I ride a 61x59 roadie) Most cx's are square or over square in frame geometry, maybe something Italian or a Cannondale (both known for short TT's). Good Luck. What size is your road bike?
Nov 7, 2002 2:29 PM
I ride a 58cm C-dale Caad 5, which I think has a 57.5cm TT. I rode several of the C-dale cx bikes, but just couldn't quite dial the geometry... plus I am pretty sure I want to get steel anyway. Unless I got drop bars for a C-dale BadBoy w/ 80mm headshock... I can see traditional CX's cringing now, but seems pretty logical to me!
58cm for a roadie, you need a smaller cxatpjunkie
Nov 7, 2002 5:38 PM
IMHO you need a 56 or 55 cx bike. You're going to appreciate the standover plus the higher bb and bigger tyres take up some of that extra room from the smaller frame. My 58 cx bike has far less standover than most 59 cm roadies. I ride a 61 road bike and am quite happy with a 58 or even long TT'd 57 cx bike. I can ride a 59 but I like alittle more room for the jewels when I'm sucking air on the 5th lap and trying to remount. Look for a 56, no bigger than a 57
Hey ATP,rockbender
Nov 7, 2002 8:57 PM
So, that IF has a 57.5 TT in a 54. Does anybody know how these (and others with similar geometry) fit? It seems that I could just go with a longer post and a stack of (gasp!) spacers/ &/or positive rise stem. Is this going to throw anything way out of wack?

Conversely, the 56 IF has a 59.5 TT, which would be way too long. I guess maybe I need to get a longer torso!
same boatlaffeaux
Nov 8, 2002 12:39 PM
I'm in the same boat. My road bike has a 59cm TT, and I have a short 9cm stem on it. Does the IF have a sloped top tube to give it those numbers?
Hey ATP,atpjunkie
Nov 8, 2002 5:41 PM
yes you go with shorter rise stems and longer posts. The idea is to have a bigger bikes TT with more jewel clearance. Cxers are long as a 58 cx is roughly a 60 or so roadie in standover and TT length. Shop by TT length, IMHO the more room for the jewels the better.
Nov 6, 2002 6:03 PM
first...what the hell are water bottles? Kidding, but my cx bikes run none as they get in the way with portage. I usually go sans water or have one passed to me in a race that I chuck when done sipping.
Someone earlier again mentioned selecting Alu for racing and this guy clearly stated he's intending it for a trail bike. Let's pay attention.
RE: most custom framebuilding. The availability and ease of use (welding etc..) of steel is more of an issue in the custom market than builder pref. Also many custom guys are Luddites like myself
(except I'm losing that tag as most of my bikes are now AL) who love the feel of steel. Personally lugged handbuilt steel still looks the swankest IMHO.
853 vs 631 vs ? any real difference?rockbender
Nov 6, 2002 10:48 PM
I realize that the stronger, higher yield/tensile strength tubes can be made into a thinner/lighter set, which in my mind ( and what I remember from materials class ) would in general provide a less compliant ride than a slightly thicker tubeset. Of course, tube diameter will play a role too (ala C-dale, etc.)

Other than weight issues, does anyone have any knowledge of the differences between the different steel types?
You may find this interestingEager Beagle
Nov 7, 2002 1:55 AM
Nov 7, 2002 9:55 AM
I hear ya about that ease of use thing re: custom builders. Matt Chester has said he chooses to build with Ti not because he thinks Ti is superior but because he doesn't like dealing with painting a steel frame.

And about that water bottle thing. Having never raced CX but considering trying one, I was scratching my head about the water issue, since I had noticed in most pictures nobody carries either water bottles or a camelback. But then further reading up on racing protocol mentioned you all just down a bottle before the race and hope you don't get thirsty after an hour! Trying to remember the quote, it was something like "Most racers need to get used to downing a full bottle before starting a race.." I guess that's so you dont hurl it up 5 mins in ;-)

I'm a trail rider primarily so can bring as much as I want thank god.
Nov 7, 2002 10:58 AM
if the course has run ups and areas for shoulder portage a bottle just gets in the way. nothing worse than jabbing yourself in the ribs with a bottle cage. Also that bottle full of water is extra weight you have to carry. Believe me by about the 4th lap you are begging for the lightest bike you can on every run up. Yes, hydrate before the race and also have a friend who can pass you a bottle in a slow area you can take a quick chug and toss back. Most pure comp cx bikes don't even have bosses for bottle mounts. Do a race, it's the worst thing you will ever love.
I've been eyeing...tamjam
Nov 7, 2002 11:17 AM
The Redline Cup race in Napa 12/8. Toasted Head is is just a little too far away at 2+ hrs, otherwise I'd give that a try.
I've been eyeing...atpjunkie
Nov 7, 2002 1:43 PM
I think I'm going to come up for the nationals the following weekend. If I can swing it, I'll try to race on Sat. then spectate on sunday. 2+ hrs is a stretch, that's like me going up to LA to race the Urban series. I may take one in if I can get place to stay. Cross races start so early, hard to do a drive then race same day
I've been eyeing...bitterchan
Nov 8, 2002 3:34 PM
Do you know of any races south of LA? San Diego seems to lack any sort of cyclocross action.
SD races.atpjunkie
Nov 8, 2002 5:39 PM
first one was last Sunday. Celopacific is putting on a series. go there for info
next one is the 17th, the course was great. After that, it's Vista for the States and Sorrento Cross at UCSD. The Sorrento Cross is put on by SDBC and not part of the series. Hope to see you at some, I'm a big guy with a Specialized and a Ridley, pretty easy to spot.
SD races.bitterchan
Nov 8, 2002 8:49 PM
Thanks for the info, I'll be the other big guy with a 1 speed, paintless Redline.