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Aluminum Handling Characteristics(11 posts)

Aluminum Handling CharacteristicsT.
Mar 5, 2001 5:23 PM
Have read much on this board and in other places about the skittishness of aluminum bikes as opposed to steel for example. Is this the case with all such frames or are some better than others? Name names, I'm curious.

re: Aluminum Handling CharacteristicsGadfly
Mar 6, 2001 7:37 AM
Generally, the more expensive aluminum frames are designed/engineered to compensate for road vibration/harshness. Klein's Gradient Tubing, for example, has wall thickness variations for more comfort. I hear Cannondale's newer frames are fairly compliant as well, but have no direct experience. But it's not the material. It's the bike. Sometimes steel is good. Sometimes aluminum is good. But this is an old, tired topic. New board, old thread.
re: Aluminum Handling CharacteristicsT.
Mar 6, 2001 8:45 AM
Understood that this has probably been covered, but I'm relatively unimformed about bike frame materials. As I live in a very hilly area, a good climbing bike is a must, especially as the engine isn't what it used to be. However, I still try to descend like a kid, and the idea that a bike won't be stable on twisty downhills is un-nerving to say the least. Since my current bike is made of Columbus steel tubing (SLX me thinks) I know that steel would give me a familiar feel. I've test ridden Al bikes but haven't been able to really attack prolonged ups + downs. The Cannondale CAAD4 frames seem fine but you don't really know until you've ridden for a couple of 100 miles.
At any rate I was just looking for some additional perspectives.

Didn't Mean to be the CurmudgeonGadfly
Mar 6, 2001 10:13 AM
Sorry if I seemed pissy. I don't think you're going to have a problem descending on any good AL frame. I ride a Klein, and go as fast as gravity allows on the downhills. No problems. It's as much geometry as the material, methinks.
re: Aluminum Handling Characteristicschris-baby
Mar 6, 2001 10:25 AM
I like my Giant TCR just fine thanks! It handles really well, no skittishness at all. I did, however, buy a medium sized frame even though I might fit a small better. The medium is a little beefier of the downhills and handles better, methinks. Aluminum is great for climbing because it is very stiff and all high end aluminum bikes seems to be this way. Klein, C'Dale, Giant et al. are definately good bikes. Just get a carbon seatpost and you wont have to worry so much about the harshness.
I love my CAAD4 ...BrianC
Mar 7, 2001 9:19 AM
Although I don't have much to compare it to (except for some test rides of a few steel bikes), as it is my first serious road bike, I really like the feel of it. I do notice the stiffness on the nasty pothole infested roads here in Pittsburgh, but you'd feel those on any bike that doesn't have full suspension :-)

As for climbing and descending, I feel it is great for both. I definitely appreciate the stiffness when hammering up hills--I stomp on the pedals and it feels like every bit of power is being transfered to the crank and rear wheel.

I have been down some scary-fast descents on it, too, without ever feeling like the bike was going to fly out from under me or bounce me out of the saddle. Now, that could be because I've gotten to know the feel of my bike fairly well and have learned how to compensate with my legs.

Anyway, there's my personal experience with one of the newer Cannondale frames ... although, I think they have CAAD6 frames now ... sheesh.

It's not the material (mini-rant).shmoo
Mar 7, 2001 11:49 AM
I don't believe the handling characteristics of a bike have anything to do with the frame material per se. It's much more about the bike's geometry (especially the head tube angle, fork rake, wheel base, bottom bracket height, etc.), how you fit the bike (weight distribution and balance), as well as how you ride during those fast descents (butt back, hands light on the bar rather than white knuckled, properly weighting the pedals through the turns, etc.). I don't think that Aluminum is inherently any more squirrelly or skittish than any other material. Now if you're really referring to the "feel" or general "ride" of the bike, the frame material MAY have something to do with that, although even that is debatable, given contemporary advances in design engineering and tube manipulation (We ought to know. It's debated enough here). CAAD4+ is a great example. IMHO, the days of Aluminum framed bikes "beating you up" are just about over. The "feel" and comfort of any bike is more determined first by fit, and then by other factors such as saddle, fork material, wheel construction, and tires. The material of a contemporary frame takes a back seat (again, IMHO). Unfortunately, there really is no way to do a TRUE blind test, material vs. material, because each material requires a different design approach to maximize the benefits of a particular material while minimizing the impact of the bad qualities. So you're always comparing apples to oranges. In the end, it is totally subjective. Comfort is in the butt (and sometime the prejudices and pre-conceptions) of the beholder.
Schmoo, you said it well. Personally I would say aluminum is...JIMBOB
Mar 7, 2001 1:13 PM
softer. But not humanly detectable. The fat tubes make them torsionally stiff (good for DH, sprints, and climbing) but not vertically stiff. The great thing is everybody can choose their "weapon of choice."
Mar 7, 2001 1:59 PM
I think schmoo is correct. The geometry and not the material will determine the skittishness of the bike. Cannondales tend to have higher bottom brackets and shorter wheelbases for a given size compared to other. This makes them, in my opinion, quicker handling. I think they would be great in crits and technical courses where the rider really knows how to use the bike.

Compare the CAAD4+ geometry to say classic italian bikes, and you'll see that these bikes have shallower headtube angles and more fork rake and also a longer wheelbase. My italian steel bike has a really stable ride on descents compared to my cannondale (when i owned one). I think C'dales are nice and handle quick. Nothing wrong with that, but certainly there are bikes out there that inspire more confidence going downhill.

Many factors affect this, however, such as position and fit. go out and study the geometries and also take a bunch of test rides. You should be able to find a good bike in made out of any material. If you're really interested in a getting a particular ride, then i'd go for a custom bike. They can dial in what you want.

Happy riding!

Geometry!Slow Ned
Mar 8, 2001 7:03 AM
Ditto on the geometry issue. You guys take all the fun out of replying on these messageboards by stating the simple truth. Solid info, all.
re: Aluminum Handling CharacteristicsLLSmith
Mar 7, 2001 4:29 PM
Agree with Shmoo. Its not the material, but the size of the new frames. I came off an old steel Peugeot onto a Trek 2300. At first I thought I had made a mistake, but after 4 1/2 months my bike is just about where I want it. Alot of small adjustments with the seat and bars. Im on my third seat already. My first few times down hills had me a little worried. The bike felt loose. I have no problems now as my riding position has changed. We are going to Florida in a couple weeks and I was thinking about taking my old bike because of the sand on the roads. I have decided to take the new one because I just dont think I would be as comfortable on the old tank. By the way (IMO) a good engine will power any bike.