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Has anyone switched from steel to aluminum?(14 posts)

Has anyone switched from steel to aluminum?Painter
Apr 13, 2001 8:39 AM
I was wondering if anyone has switched from a steel road frame to an aluminum one, and what they thought of the difference between the two materials.

Are you glad you made the switch?
Do you regret it?
What were the good/bad points of changing?
Would you do it again?

The reason I'm asking is because my steel frame finally crapped out, and I'm trying to decide between a new steel and aluminum replacement frame. I liked the ride of my old steel frame (except for the fact that it was quite flexy), but the guy at the shop is telling me that aluminum doesn't necessarily have a harsh ride. Is he right?

Thanks for the assistance and input.

Painter
Yep.J.S.
Apr 13, 2001 9:16 AM
I went from a Lemond Zurich to a Gitane (Altec 2)with a Look HSC 1 carbon fork. As a person who races this was a long overdue change, not only did I lose 2lbs by just switching frame and forks but the bike accelerates and climbs much quicker and just feels faster. I also regularly do 5+ hour rides and feel fine afterward, not beat up as some complain about. I'm 35 by the way, no spring chicken. Honestly if I wasn't interested in racing I would probably own a nice Ti frame with mellower geometry. If your not racing, steel may be the better bet simply for it's durability, with one caveat, If you ride a 60cm or larger or are a heavy rider then aluminum may be a better choice as steel becomes whippy with these factors. NOTICE!!! this is simply my informed opinion.
re: Has anyone switched from steel to aluminum?LC
Apr 13, 2001 9:56 AM
I have three bikes; Steel, Carbon Fiber, and Aluminum. They each feel quite different. You should pick a bike by the type of riding you do.

The aluminum bike is a Cannondale CAAD 2 with a carbon fiber fork and this is my favorite bike for sprinting, hill climbing and cornering but is my least favorite bike for longer rides. If the roads are anything but smooth pavement then the vibration will tire you out quickly.

The steel bike has a springy feel to it and tends to flex alot when pushed hard. The steel bike is perfect for the long endurance rides, but the flex and extra weight can be felt climbing hills.

The carbon fiber is actually good all around. Feels light, absorbs vibration and does not flex too much when pushed hard. The only thing is that it does not have good road feel, and just feels wierd.

I am sure each manufacture has different designs that can influence the ride characteristics, but this is what my bikes feel like anyway to me. I would be willing to give some of the newer Cannondale aluminum frames a try again since I heard they worked on the harsh ride, and aluminum does not have to be harsh and I still feel fastest with that bike.
Love it, and I'd do it all over again!boy nigel
Apr 13, 2001 10:04 AM
My steel Atala racer finally crapped out too, and I didn't hesitate to replace it with an aluminum bike. I picked the Giant TCR2 (105 components), which has a long, aerodynamic carbon seatpost and an aero carbon fork. (This year's retails for about $1400.)

Today's alu is lively as hell, stiff for standing on the pedals (climbing, sprinting), and also VERY VERY comfortable. My new bike handles road bumps many times nicer than my steel ride did. Quick and jumpy when I want it to be, it's plenty comfy on long rides and substandard (I live in New York City) pavement. Older alu frames would've beaten me up. I ride a small frame, too, which would only make it stiffer ("harsher" in the old days).

I'd buy two more if I could (just to have--and maybe to hang on the wall!).

Look into it; the times have changed a lot. Steel's still great (I'm sure), but aluminum's come a LONG way.
Steel is a great material, mentally though the extra weightJimbob
Apr 13, 2001 10:06 AM
bothers me. I honestly never noticed it was smoother than anything else. I did notice it was springy when pedaling. I just love the pure performance of Alu. Plus its fairly cheap.
I switched from aluminum to steelDean
Apr 13, 2001 10:12 AM
I switched from a GT Force (aluminum) to a Landshark (steel). The GT always felt like it was going to slide out from under me on corners and beat me up on longer rides. Maybe it was the design or lower grade aluminum. I did like the stiffness in the drivetrain. You could get a flexy aluminum frame or an over-stiff steel frame, it all comes down to design. My Landshark is a huge improvement over the GT. Even being a heavier rider at 225 pounds, I do not notice any flex. I test rode a Zurich and got chain rub, but I have none of this with the Landshark. If you liked your old steel frame, check out http://www.landsharkbicycles.com. If you do go with a Landshark, check out GVH bikes. He has a special for a Landshark w/Ultegra for 1995. As far as aluminum being harsh, I would test ride an aluminum frame. Try to get it for a longer ride than a spin around the LBS parking lot. Learn as much as you can about each metals' properties and base your decision on what ride characteristics are most important. Good luck.
re: Has anyone switched from steel to aluminum?Thioderek
Apr 13, 2001 11:48 AM
I went from a steel Sanino (awesome bike)to a carbon Specialized Allez (decent) to an aluminum Vitus (with lugs-an ok bike but light as a feather) to an Aegis carbon (sweet ride) to an aluminum De Rosa Merak (fastest and lightest bike I have ever owned). The Merak handles like a charm. Go aluminum with that Scandium mix. The things they are doing with it now are out of this world. "Steel is real," but you pay the price in weight. I have three steel track bikes built up that are heavier than my De Rosa fully equipped. I have one Aegis carbon track bike that I prefer to the steel track bikes. Now I collect steel frames or bikes. I wouldnt ride one on long ride.
re: Has anyone switched from steel to aluminum?Flyweight
Apr 13, 2001 1:04 PM
Aluminum IS more flexible than steel. That is a fact of science.

The reason so many aluminum bikes have a harsh ride has nothing to do with the aluminum and everthing to do with the diameter of the tubes. A tube with the diameter of a Cannondale is going to be stiff no matter what it's made out of.

Skinny tubed aluminum bikes (like Vitus and Alan) are extremely flexible. Some of the newer aluminum bikes have more moderate sized tubes and have a nice ride to them.
re: Has anyone switched from steel to aluminum?LBS Guy
Apr 14, 2001 4:24 PM
The reason the bigger tubes are stiffer is because of the properties of al. If you were to makea steel tube as large in diameter is would fold, the best frames with the best feel are achieved with a mixture of large tubes and small tubes of al. I've ridden tons of frames, i work at a bike shop i get paid to. C-dale caad4 or better frames have the best ride of any steel, carbon or titanium bike i've ever ridden or any of the other aluminiums, this includes alot of the italian frames out there, I've done 150+ mile rides and have had no problems with being beaten to death on bumpy roads, even gravel roads, only thing that ever starts to hurt is my legs.
Later
Al not for lightweights....dave
Apr 13, 2001 1:39 PM
I've owned several steel frames, three Al frames (C'dales), one Ti (Ultimate) and now ride a Colnago C-40. I ride a 55cm, but only weigh 135-140. I've always found Al to be pretty harsh. I won't buy another Al frame. The Ultimate, with it's bladed downtube and short stays was as bad or worse than the Al frames I've owned. The harsh ride of the Ultimate was due to the design, not the material.

Heavier and larger riders seem to have fewer complaints about Al frames. I don't care for the looks of the large tubes, which are necessary to get adequate stiffness, and increase fatigue life, or the big ugly welds on some brands. Since Al has 1/3 the stiffness of steel, the big tubes are unavoidable.

The only frame I've liked better than steel is the Colnago C-40 (carbon fiber). I wouldn't hesitate to buy steel again. A Tommasini would be my first choice, followed by Colnago.
Design, not material...Rick Bell
Apr 14, 2001 11:17 AM
In most of these posts, people neglect to say much about the design of frames of different materials. The fact is that you can make a frame out of anything (any traditional frame material, that is), and design it to have an excellent ride. That being said, I would think that a well designed AL frame is probably the best buy for frames; light weight, handles wonderfully under the hammer, won't beat you up on long rides, and above all CHEAP.

I weight around 115 lbs, I'm a small guy. I ride a 51 cm Jamis Comet frame packaged with a Profile BRC carbon fork. 7005 AL, huge honkin' bladed tubes (even the seat stays are bladed and straight as a needle), and cheap... inexpensive, that is, the quality of Jamis has always impressed me for the price (sorry for the plug). The welds and detail are beautiful at close inspection; the frame is a work of mass produced art in my opinion. You would think that a frame like that would nail you on long rides, but it had the best feel of all the frames I tested in my price range (of all frame materials) when I was ready to buy, a dinky 115 lb'r. It must have a well tuned design to achieve that.

"I've always found Al to be pretty harsh. I won't buy another Al frame. The Ultimate [ti frame], with it's bladed downtube and short stays was as bad or worse than the Al frames I've owned. The harsh ride of the Ultimate was due to the design, not the material." --- So was the harsh ride of the AL frames due to the design as well? How old were the frames? You mention Cannondale as the frames you had, they were notoriously stiff in their early days, but have quite respectable rides now that they've had time to perfect the designs. Nowdays, it's not hard at all to find good well-tuned AL designs that offer great comfort combined with outstanding ability to sprint and climb. Cannondale CAAD5 or better, Ellsworth, Vitus, several cheaper makes (like my Jamis) are all worth investigating.
re: Has anyone switched from steel to aluminum?MCCL
Apr 13, 2001 1:47 PM
You get what you pay for and you basicly see it in all the replies above. When you buy Aluminum it can be cheap to pricey. DeRosa Frame is over 2000.00 Look into the classified add's and see what is selling and ask them why. Why is there so many Specialized, Cannondales, and other low end Aluminum bikes for sale. Not that these are bad bikes. A friend of mine had a Specialized and wowed it on it's lightness but went to a Ti frame after a year and said it was a world of difference in ride, just was to rough on the long rides. That was even after he put on a 200.00 carbon fork. So you see like the DeRosa which probably came with a carbon fork and I do believe it also has a carbon rear triangle this bike is got the best of both worlds. I have rode on steel for over 30 years. I would not put it down. It is around 20lbs. For all around riding, club rides, centuries it's a pleasure to ride this bike. If you are still leaning towards aluminum. Get a carbon fork and have them put a cross 3 spoke wheel on. If steel is it look into oversized steel frame which is lighter and more responsive. A Masi 3v, I do believe Performance Bike has this bike on sale. Other great steel is Colnago, and Pinarello. My wife marvels at her Pinarello Vaulte. Good luck with your choice.
Done it once; will do it againMass Biker
Apr 14, 2001 3:21 PM
I've ridden a bunch of frames over the years. The most recent switch I made was from high end steel (nationally regarded 853 frameset) to relatively high end aluminum (Giant TCR). To answer your questions specifically:
* I'm glad I made the switch
* I do not regret it
* Good points of changing - WAY lighter; WAY stiffer; about neutral re: comfort; quite affordable
* Bad points of changing - dependence on replaceable rear derailleur hanger (hey, stuff happens); enduring the condescension of assorted bike snobs

Seriously though - I am not a big or a strong rider (~ 6 feet/140lbs) and my new-fangled aluminum frame is plenty supple for me. In other words, it doesn't beat a lightweight up as much as the "steel is real" posse would have you believe. Long rides, short rides - it doesn't matter. A lot of this is due to the seatpost (Dura-Ace: Easton Al.) and the (stock) carbon fork. A teammate of mine has had luck pairing the TCR with other carbon forks to shave even more weight and provide an even more supple ride. Stock is fine. But a carbon fork is a must.

The guy at the shop is right in that aluminum doesn't have to have a harsh ride. The new breed of thinwall aluminum that ends up getting shaped and tapered every imagineable way is capable of quite a supple ride. Compared to my high zoot 853 frame, my humble TCR is stiff, responsive, and light as air - and their geometries are not that different. It really comes down to the frame material (I think). I train and race on my TCR as often as possible, on New England roads that eat tires and frames. 2-3 seasons is what I expect to get out of it, but for a frame that retails (in some places) for $600+, it does the trick. As long as I keep racing, I will race on an aluminum frame - the price to play is well within reach, leaving room for extra tires and those pesky race fees. Good luck.
Not sure if switched is the right wordJohnG
Apr 15, 2001 10:42 AM
How about "expanded" into AL land. Coming from someone who hated his previous Al bike my new Caad5 frame is MUY bueno!!! :) I'm 150 lbs and the CDale frame is quite nice even for my relative light weight.

That said, I do think that steel frames are more attractive than Al frames and I will always have at least one around.

good rides JohnG