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aluminum vs steel...really that different?(11 posts)

aluminum vs steel...really that different?marklorie
Jul 30, 2001 5:05 PM
i'm making the transition from mt. biking to road riding and am currently doing research to buy my first road bike. i'm looking at bikes in the $1200-$1500 range. i plan ride a wide range of distances but i want to be comfortable on centuries. am i really going to notice a difference between aluminum and a quality steel frame, like the LeMond Buenos Aires? i haven't decided which bike to buy yet, but i'd like to be able to ignore the aluminum vs steel issue, and pay more attention to the components and wheelset. one guy from a local shop told me that only laboratory instruments can tell the difference and that people can't (of course, he was trying to sell me an aluminum bike). is he right?

thanks
re: aluminum vs steel...really that different?badabill
Jul 30, 2001 5:52 PM
Ride the bikes for yourself and decide. Dont let a saleperson make the decision for you. IMO steel is a better ride, but all my bikes are steel so take that for what its worth. Steel is a little heavier but has a more forgiving ride, Alu tends to be harsh. Some of the more expensive alu frames are said to ride very nice, and with the addition of carbon parts are very lite, but it will cost you.
re: aluminum vs steel...really that different?Lone Gunman
Jul 30, 2001 6:01 PM
Go with a steel frame that fits you and get the CF fork, tough to beat over the long haul. Maybe a younger body will not notice the difference of Alu and Steel but my body does and it is glad to be riding steel.
Another vote for steel!jtolleson
Jul 30, 2001 6:48 PM
First, he's full of crap and don't buy a bike from him. They do feel different. That doesn't always mean better; some folks love the crisp responsiveness of aluminum, and yes, the stiffest even. And with the smaller downtubes they are now putting on some aluminum bike, some of the beat-the-crap-out-of-you-over-a-century is a thing of the past.

But I'd buy the LeMond if the fit is right. It is a slightly more forgiving ride. And how different are the components on the two? I'd think in that price range your are looking at similar gruppos...
re: aluminum vs steel...really that different?BananaGirl
Jul 30, 2001 7:08 PM
Take it from someone who has developed a tingling sensation on the top of her head from riding an aluminum! Go for the Steel. I rode the LeMond BA and it rocks. If you're lucky, try to get the 2002... LeMond goofed and put Ultegra comps on it! You're basically getting a $1600 for $1200! Don't let the bike store dude talk you into anything. Take advice from you fellow riders... get on the pony and try it for yourself.
re: aluminum vs steel...really that different?Whatever
Jul 30, 2001 9:01 PM
Generally agree with the posts above. They seem to reflect a slight "steel is real" bias. The best Alu bikes are highly tuned, just like the MTB builders are doing, and offer great rides that are, well, different than steel. Better? Depends on who is asking. Ride 'em and see for yourself. If you get a chance, ride several different makes of each material so you can see how builders have chosen to take advantage of the properties of the materials they work with. (My ride was vintage steel, is now CF, I bypassed the Alu generation entirely.)
depends on how much you ridebianchi boy
Jul 31, 2001 4:28 AM
I bought a high quality aluminum Bianchi frame with carbon fork in the fall, after riding a steel Bianchi for many years. At first I didn't notice the difference and the aluminum bike was much lighter. However, as I started riding more and increasing my mileage, the aluminum frame started to bother me more and more. I found myself avoiding bumpy roads, steering around rough spots on the pavement.

The clincher was riding a 40-mile stretch of road in the spring in Great Smoky Mtn national park, where I should have been able to fly. The road was rough in spots and my frame just about shook the fillings out of my teeth. That did it. I pulled out my old steel Bianchi that weekend and rode it 50 miles, and couldn't believe how comfortable it felt -- it was like it had shock absorbers compared to the aluminum frame. So, you know what I did? I pulled all the Ultegra components, wheels, brakes, etc., off the new aluminum frame and put it on my old steel Bianchi frame -- and I couldn't be happier. It's a couple pounds heavier than the aluminum frame, but there's no comparison in the quality of ride.

Bottom line: If you just ride a few times a week and limited miles on smooth roads, aluminum is fine. If you're riding 5-6 days, 100+ miles a week, get something more comfortable and forgiving -- steel, carbon or ti. In my opinion, you can't beat steel for the price.
Which framesepic
Jul 31, 2001 9:59 AM
WHich frames are you reffering to? I have a TSX/UL (with Time carbon fork), and am thinking about adding a new XL Aluminum to the stable. I've heard the newer aluminum bikes are getting closer to the steel bikes.
Yes he's rightJofa
Jul 31, 2001 6:31 AM
The actual flexion, in the vertical plane, of an ordinary diamond shaped frame, is effectively zero in use. Any flexion that does exist is a tiny fraction (approx.1/100th, max) of the compliance of the tyres.

All frames flex measurably in the lateral plane. This flex is contained in the front triangle and the fork crown, as the bike effectively rotates about the rear tyre contact patch, leaving the front tyre where it is. The rear triangle doesn't flex in any direction, even laterally. This lateral flex in any case is detectable in use when sprinting, but certainly not a problem: moreover, it has nothing to do with ‘ride quality'. This is the only place in which there are detectable functional disparities between frames.

Between the rider and the ground, it is the three parts which perhaps more people attribute compliance to, ie the frame, the wheels, and the cranks, which paradoxically exhibit the least flexion: look at your tyres first, then the seatpost, stem, bars, BB axle, and pedal axles for bending or compliance in response to pedalling effort, rider load or road shock.

There is a dubious proposition sometimes put forward that even though these components don't flex- change significantly in any dimension- they do vibrate at different frequencies. I'm sure they do, but remember we're dealing with a rubber-mounted mechanism here, and I don't believe for a second that there are so many princesses in cycling that they can detect and differentiate between the various vibrations of a rigid bicycle frame, which is insulated by a pnuematic void from the road.

Harmonics, however, are a different matter, and it's here I suspect lies one cause for all the ardent, passionate, and deeply-held opinions about one frame or another. Wheels and frames of different designs and materials certainly ring to different musical notes, and the noise generated is perfectly audible when riding. A salesman at a shop I used to work in used this as his ‘killer app' selling point for an expensive steel frame: he'd pick up the frame on one finger and tap it with a spanner: something made of thin walled steel tubing would ring long and true. Cheaper frames would produce a dull thud. He'd say something grandiose about riding a tuning fork, and the customer would ride off on the expensive bike to tell his friends about its extraordinary ‘suppleness' and ‘responsiveness'.

Which is, too me, the prime reason for all this guff. our inherent suggestibility. The crazy thing is that people invariably start with the right idea as novices ("it all feels the same to me"), yet are quickly cuckolded out of this, in favour of nebulous, erroneous psuedo-science - from the first time the guy at the BS sagely informs them of the 'superior ride characteristics' of Model X.which information they then dispense, with resolute authority and perhaps a little embellishment (not forgetting of course the touchstone of experience), to other people slightly newer to bicycling than themselves; the cycle continues, gathering moss. BS indeed.
Huh? Did you say something? NMbadabill
Jul 31, 2001 7:51 AM
Marinoni warranty for steel is 5 years, for Al just 3.Doll Face
Jul 31, 2001 8:41 AM
If you want a bike that will perform for years buy steel.