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Which steel is (more) real?(17 posts)

Which steel is (more) real?Mass Biker
May 8, 2001 8:01 AM
Thanks for all the feedback yesterday on the "Disposa-Bike" vs. "Lifetime Bike" thread. Moving on - does anybody have any first hand experience with the different types of steel being used on bike frames right now? Apart from weight, any first hand impressions on ride quality and durability? Any opinions (pro or con) on the functionality of lugged frames vs. non-lugged frames (i.e. putting aesthetics aside for a moment)? Does the steel frame/carbon fork combo make inherent sense, or are there folks out there who swear by their steel forks? As always, your contributions are appreciated. - MB
Any info on 520 steel?Strom
May 9, 2001 7:47 AM
I've been following this thread and am curious if anyone knows anything about the pros and cons of 520 steel? Any thoughts?
re: Which steel is (more) real?Dean
May 8, 2001 9:13 AM
I currently ride a Landshark. It is fillet brazed and constructed of Dedacciai Zero Uno and has a Look carbon fork. The ride is great. The only other steel I have ridden was a Lemond Zurich (test ride only) which is 853. I was able to get chain rub while standing. I am heavier at 225 pounds and I get no flex with the Landshark. Even though you said aesthetics aside, the fillet brazing causes smooth joints and makes it look like a carbon bike. For me, the ride is close to perfect. I came from aluminum and loved the stiffness in the drivetrain, but got beaten up by the ride. This bike has almost the same drivetrain stiffness, but is incredibly more comfortable. You can get a Landshark in almost any brand of steel you want so they should be familiar with the differences. You may want to check out their website and maybe even give them a call. Good luck.
re: Which steel is (more) real?mike mcmahon
May 8, 2001 9:28 AM
I LOVE my TIG-welded Foco frame. Period.
re: Which steel is (more) real?peloton
May 8, 2001 10:34 AM
I'm riding a Reynolds 853 frame right now with a Time carbon fiber fork. I really like the combination of the two, and the ride quality is excellent. The carbon forks mute a lot of road chatter, and the steel frame is very comfortable over long rides. I've ridden steel forks as well, and I personally prefer the feel of carbon fiber. I have ridden lugged and non-lugged frames, and I don't feel a difference. The old world aesthetics of lugs may be something that appeals to you though. I think lugs are more a part of tradition than ride quality. Different types of steel are all going to provide a very similar ride quality, and the differences that you will see will be more in the weight. The differences that you may feel in ride quality will depend more on the builder than the specific steel used.

Find a steel bike that fits you well, and you really can't go wrong. I would check out a nice carbon fork to compliment it though.
re: Which steel is (more) real?DaveG
May 8, 2001 10:44 AM
I would argue that ride quality and durability is more a function of design vice material. Its possible to make a great riding bike out of lower yield strength steels if done right. I disagree with MJ that stiffness is a function of strength. Everything I've read says that all steels have the same density and stiffness. What can be varied is yield strength. A higher stength steel (Foco, 853) can be safely drawn thinner thus reducing weight. However unless you increase the diameter (or perhaps shape) of the tube, a thinner 853 tube would actually be less stiff than a thicker one made from 531. Anytime you push the boundaries of lightness you decrease durability - so there is definately a trade there. In terms of lugged vs TIGed, I don't know of any functional/performance difference, its mainly esthetics. However, its easier to modify geometry and tube design across various sizes using TIG welding because you don't need to design and build lugs with varying angles and tubing sizes. As far as forks, I like my steel fork. However, there is a substantial weight penalty here and if that matters to you you shoud go the carbon route. My current bike is Columbus Brain - certainly not state of the art and far from the lightest, but it does ride and feel great.
Columbus BrainRocco's Big Ride 2001
May 9, 2001 2:32 PM
If I buy this new left over Colnago with Colombus Brain and Chorus am I being shortchanged by not finding a higher grade steel? I won't be buying again in the near future after spending $1900. Where does Brain fit in the scheme of things is it low grade, mid range or something else entirely? I will need to close this deal tomorrow if I am to do it. Thanks Rocco
Columbus Brainpeloton
May 9, 2001 2:46 PM
Columbus tubing is known to be of good quality. Their Brain tubing isn't the newest stuff on the market, but it is proven. I've ridden a number of frames with Brain tubing and have found them to be quite good. Depends more on who is designing and welding the bike though, than the tubing itself.

Just buy the bike, you know you want to. :)
joining questionbrian n
May 8, 2001 11:02 AM
as a person with an M.S. in welding and materials science (and of course a bike lover!) i feel qualified to answer the joining aspect of your question. A brazed joint will always be stronger than a welded joint for alloyed steel. This is because whenever you weld tubes you melt material, ruining any heat treat and precipitate (the things that give the strength) dispersion in the weld area. Brazing is a much lower process and thus no material is melted in the tubes. THere is still a temperature effect, but not as harsh. That said, silver brazing is the best since it is the lowest temperature braze (as opposed to cheaper brass braze). THats the qick summary (as I have a seminar to go to here at school) but if you have more questions please feel free to ask!

May 8, 2001 12:22 PM
Nice to see someone with some expertise.

This is from the Reynolds web site:

A normal chrome molybdenum steel will lose strength in the joints after the heat has been applied. This material (853) INCREASES in strength as the frame cools to strengths well in excess of the delivered values shown above. This unique air hardening property of Reynolds 853 provides additional stiffness through reduced microyielding at the joints, allowing stiffer frames with excellent fatigue strength (when compared to standard chrome molybdenum) and excellent ride quality to be constructed.

This and some other advertising materials suggest that steels like 853 do not suffer in strenght from welding. Perhaps I am reading too much into it or perhaps its wrong. Any comment?
questionbrian n
May 8, 2001 2:19 PM
853 brings up an interesting point. While in normal steels you will find a softer zone in the heat affected zone of the weld (directly next to the molten weld bead), 853 hardens in this region. This acts to have the opposite effect: instead of yielding occuring in the HAZ, the HAZ is stronger than the rest of the tube. This in effect creates a gradient in strength from the HAZ to the rest of the tube, which can be quite steep. Anytime you have a gradient in properties it will magnify the stresses in that region. Thus, failure will occur in this gradient region instead of the HAZ of normal steels. A good builder can use this to their advantage and have a smooth gradient and thus very little chance of breaking. However, a lesser quality frame can have a very steep gradient, corresponding to a very sudden increase in strength of the tube. The tube will break at this sudden rise in this case, giving no benefits over a normal steel. So whats the answer? Any quality builder shall overcome this problem in 853 or any other steel. But the end result is the same: The less heat input into the tube, the more consistent the mechanical properties, and the stronger the frame. Maybe the best answer is a silver brazed 853 bike a la waterford or any custom builder.
re: Which steel is (more) real?Cliff Oates
May 8, 2001 11:09 AM
In terms of lugged/TIGged/filet brazed, the latter two joining methods would give the builder more flexibility in choosing tubing sizes and shapes. I believe I read somewhere that filet brazing is the strongest joining technique of the three, and the joints are certainly very clean looking and elegant. If I were having a custom steel frame built for me, I would probably specify filet brazing for it.

My "fun" bike is a Waterford 2200 (lugged 853) with a steel fork, and putting a carbon fork on it would almost be heresy. I find it to be a very comfy century bike and not at all "buzzy", but I do pay a weight penalty for the steek fork.
re: Which steel is (more) real?Doc
May 8, 2001 8:19 PM
I ride a 853 Pro Team steel Hujsak custom with a Kestral carbon fork. It's the most comfortable bike I've ever ridden, but I don't know if it's the 853 or the frame geometry. My feeling is that the fit is the most critical aspect. That said steel rides exceptionally well.
Mass B, whazzup with your TCR?boy nigel
May 8, 2001 8:29 PM
I remember your expressive endorsements of your TCR. What happened to that bike? Have you come across a weakness with it? It wasn't crashed, was it?

Just wondering, since I remember how much you dug the ride.

Let me know, eh?

Cheers, and good luck with your new bike search.
TCR ReflectionsMass Biker
May 9, 2001 7:24 AM
Nigel - The TCR is a weapon - light, functional, does what it has to do/what you want it to do. It is cheap, and durable for its price. But I also think that this wonderful mix of positive attributes comes with a hitch - if trained on/raced on hard, it gets 2, maybe 3 seasons at best. The same could probably be said about many Al. racing bikes, but at least with the TCR you are getting into the game for very little coin. Hence the genesis of this thread - buying a bike that you know you will replace (at least for active duty) within 3 years vs. buying a bike that (ostensibly) can take you well past that date. In the end, the cost-benefit analysis probably works out to exactly the same. In short, I have no complaints/qualms about the TCR - just criticism for my own profligate ways.
Please explain, if you will, the short life of Al.boy nigel
May 9, 2001 8:21 AM
I've heard many grumblings about how aluminum frames are "disposable," etc. Does this mean that they get tweaked out and rubbery after a couple of hard-riding seasons? They lose their stiffness, possibly? I don't see myself doing this to a bike since I don't race, but I'm under the impression that this can happen.

Any thoughts/experiences/advice would be appreciated. Thanks again.

Great luck with any new frame you purchase, and keep up the hard riding.

Please explain, if you will, the short life of Al.DaveG
May 9, 2001 10:33 AM
I'm not sure its fair to suggest that this is unique to Al. Whenever, you push the limits of weight, you have to compromise durability. That's going to be true of any material. There are some scary light frames being made. It is true that Al does not have a specific fatigue limit. This means that everytime you stress Al (by riding) you are causing some level of fatique and decreasing its life. For a properly designed AL frame this can be compensated for and a durable bike can still be built. But, if you press lightness to the edge, then the useful life of the frame can be shortened to a point it become an issue. Pick the bike that makes the right compromise for the type of riding you want to do. If you don't race, and want a bike to last for years, I'd stay away from the current generation of 2lb frames. If you need every conceivable edge, go light and be prepared to replace it when necessary.