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Aluminum vs. ?????(24 posts)

Aluminum vs. ?????Ti
Aug 6, 2001 10:23 AM
I was recently scorned for recommending to a "road racer" that he not purchase aluminum. One person even went as far as to say aluminum is durable (which it is not and that's not even arguable).

Since this is obviously a hot topic I want to hear your opinions about aluminum and other frame materials.

Reasons I would not recommend Aluminum:

1) Brittle metal that breaks easily
2) Difficult and expensive to weld so it is mass produced
3) mass produces so it has ugly frame welds
4) cheap metal with inherent inconstancies in the raw material
5) non-forgiving ride that is bone jarring
6) oxidized with age
re: Aluminum vs. ?????gwilliams
Aug 6, 2001 10:33 AM
I have a 1984 Klein still going strong, so I think an Aluminum bike can easily be built to last. I also have a Serotta Legend Ti, my Klein is now my beater bike, but when I ride it I do not feel that the ride is bone jarring at all. As a matter of fact I do not find the difference in the Ti and Aluminum to be all that great. The Ti bike is definitly the smoothest, but on reasonably smooth surfaces I do not think the difference in price is worth it.

Gary
Beg to differ on all countsThioderek
Aug 6, 2001 10:38 AM
1) Brittle metal that breaks easily

Where is your information coming from? I hammer on my bike made of "brittle metal" all the time. I have yet to break anything.

2) Difficult and expensive to weld so it is mass produced
3) mass produces so it has ugly frame welds

De Rosa doesnt mass produce and my Merak has welds that are so finely done, you cant even find the seams of the welds. It is one of the finest built frames on the market today.

4) cheap metal with inherent inconstancies in the raw material

Have yet to experience an "inherent inconsistency" with my bikes-I have 2 De Rosa Meraks.

5) non-forgiving ride that is bone jarring

I dont ride because I want to sit on my couch. You have to put up with a little pain in everything. I have yet to experience the "bone jarring" ride of aluminum.

6) oxidized with age

Steel rusts with age. And who wants to ride the same bike forever? I plan on buying a new bike every 2 or 3 years.

Give me some more reasons.
Beg to differ on all countsAD14
Aug 6, 2001 11:50 AM
Ditto. I rode my mechanics dreamplus with record. The ride is amazing. Nothing like my old cannondale.
then read this:Ti
Aug 6, 2001 1:42 PM
I just retired my Cannondale (actually it retired itself) after 13 years (cracked frame:) And I finally bought a Ti! I cannot believe how bone jarring that Cannondale was. I had replaced all the components (record), wheels and even the fork so I can unequivocally blame the rigid Aluminum frame. Until you've owned something besides Aluminum you will never know how good it feels!
Old Cannondalesjtolleson
Aug 6, 2001 2:53 PM
You definitely cannot overgeneralize all al frames based on a decade old Cannondale. Those early Cannondales with the oversized down tube were stiffer than *@&$ and yes, a true misery. But even Cannondale itself has moved up... today's CAAD4 frame is nothing like what you and I rode in the early 90s. And the Litespeed Ultimate, for example, is, in my opinion, vastly more uncomfortable than many of today's Al frames.

Stiffness is influenced by geometry, size, seat tube angle, rear triangle design, and a million and one other things, and the perception is also influenced by rider weight.

Yes, I ride Ti for cushy comfort, but I'd never categorically tell people to stay away from aluminum, and some heavy riders (especially if they want to race) find Ti too flexy and inefficient.
Amen !!!Crash
Aug 6, 2001 8:23 PM
This comes from a guy that just bought an R2000si (which I chose over the Trek 5200 and Litespeed Tuscany among others), I had a Cannondale road bike back around 13 years ago and hated it ! The thing rode like a cement truck, couldn't wait to sell it. When I was looking to get back into road riding I tested the CAAD 4 / CAAD 5 bikes just because I really like the LBS. I was amazed at the improvement that Cannondale has made. The ride may not be for everyone, especially if you are under 130 or so, but for me I love the way the bikes rides.
then read this:BrianU
Aug 6, 2001 3:28 PM
Have you tried one of the newer Cannondale frames? I put alot of miles on a Cannondale SR800 and it was definitely a harsh ride. Last year when I started looking for a new bike, I tried out a Cannondale R1000 and was quite surprised. Not what I expected from an aluminum frame.
IMHO, quality of construction and design is more important than material. By the way, I ended up buying steel. I do like Ti, but what I like is a little too pricey for me right now.
Every aircraft you've ever been in : mostly Aluminum,Steeeve
Aug 6, 2001 11:12 AM
even most structural components are made from aluminum.

Aircraft do not have any age limits that which they must retire.
Ti has a point but it is generalized.Slothlike
Aug 6, 2001 11:31 AM
Aluminum has the benefits of being stiff (or harsh depending how you want to look at it). It isn't the strongest of frmae materials, that is a fact, but it can be made to last. However, if you are a hardcore racer, you probably would need to replace the frame every other season, but odds are you would be sponsored so it would be free. For the average recreational rider, an Aluminum frame could last longer than you would want to keep the bike. Titanium is by far the more comfortable and durable, but I think aluminum is more durable than steel as it doesn't rust. Lighter steel bikes can be quite flexy and flimsy. Really light aluminum can be very fragile. I have heard horror stories about the Bianchi Ev2. Nice bike. very very light, but delicate. I have the new Pinarello catalogue and they give you weight limits on the bikes for the rider so I think that says something about aluminum's delicate nature and the company's desire to keep weight down at the expense of strength. People complain about how expensive titanium is, but high end aluminum is more of a rip off as aluminum is a cheap metal, but these high end Pinarellos are as expensive as high end titanium and they shouldn't be. Paint job or not, titanium is a much more difficult metal to work with, weld and the material is inherently much more expensive. So the profit margin on a Litespeed probably less than on a high end aluminum for sure. I would love to have a Pinarello, don't get me wrong, but I have a difficult time justifying the price when I could get the indestructible titanium for the same price or even less nowadays. My old aluminum bikes rode nothing like my Litespeed and I would never go back.
Regards
GLG
so are soda cansTi
Aug 6, 2001 1:05 PM
I understand what you are trying to say but comparing aircraft and bikes is not valid.

Most new aluminum bikes have replaceble derailer hangers because they easily break off. Steel and Ti bikes do not. There's a reason. Also, if a Ti bike breaks it's usually at the welds. I've never heard of a tube cracking.
define easily?LBS Guy
Aug 6, 2001 5:23 PM
most new aluminum road bike have a replacable derailuer hanger so in case of a crash instead of trashing the whole frame because of a derailuer hanger, you can replace it, and most derailuers have a cro-mo bolt that goes into the hanger, in which case of a crash the stronger cro-mo bolt would rip the threads out of the al. but it will also rip out of a steel or ti frame(have seen it happen many times) al. is a great material
You should know better...biknben
Aug 6, 2001 11:43 AM
Now all the Al lovers are going to come out of the woodwork and bash Ti and steel. I think you're generalizing a least a bit. Yeah they may break occasionally but I wouldn't say "Easily". Ugly frame welds are the result of crappy welders not Al. "Bone jarring" ride can be the result of many factors not just the material.

Things I've learned here:
-All frame materials can be made to be soft or harsh
-It is possible to break any frame material
-Ride quality is as much a result of build technique and tube selection as is material.
-Proper fit is the biggest factor to consider when purchaing a new ride.
-There are always two sides to a coin
-The Al vs. Ti vs. Steel vs. carbon frame war will never end
-If you even bring up Shimano vs. Campy you're gonna get flamed
not so fastET
Aug 6, 2001 11:54 AM
-All frame materials can be made to be soft or harsh

But does that mean the best alu is as comfortable as the best ti? Is money an object in the decision-making? If so, how much?

-It is possible to break any frame material

The key is which one is more likely to break.

-Ride quality is as much a result of build technique and tube selection as is material.

But does that mean the best alu is as comfortable as the best ti? Is money an object in the decision-making? If so, how much?

-Proper fit is the biggest factor to consider when purchaing a new ride.

But what if you have the proper fit on both?

-There are always two sides to a coin

You next statement implies it's more like a 4-sided die.

-The Al vs. Ti vs. Steel vs. carbon frame war will never end

-If you even bring up Shimano vs. Campy you're gonna get flamed

You did. :-)
...and the earth is flat.seamus
Aug 6, 2001 12:02 PM
I have a great idea. Why don't we make sweeping generalizations about materials and totally disregard technological developments and engineering efforts of a bunch of VERY smart, passionate people in the bike industry.

Your generalized, out-of-context theories belong somewhere back in 1991, and should be listed with "flannel is cool, and Pearl Jam is the best band ever".

Don't believe everything you hear from insecure TItanium marketing spinsters.
re: Aluminum vs. ?????dug
Aug 6, 2001 12:14 PM
1. Wrong. Aluminum (and its alloys) is soft and malleable.
2. It is no more "difficult" to weld than steel. Compared to Ti & other exotic metals (not ususally associated with bicycle frames) it is easy to weld.
3. Mass producers have nothing whatsoever to do with weld quality. Poor quality control, type of welding (mass producers will use MiG welding which will always have an industrial look to it...), lousy joint mitres, = poor looking welds
4. Subjective statement. sure its 'cheap' compared to Ti. Inherent inconstancies = ?? > bring that up with Reynolds, Alcoa, etc.
5. More of a function of how the tubes are manipulated (swaging, ovalizing, etc. and tire pressure, type of fork, type of wheel, etc.
6. ANY metal will oxidize (yes - even Titanium - though not in normal day to day use*). Surface prep, paint, a little elbow grease minimizes how much oxidation and how long it takes.

That being said, I ride Titanium. However flaming Aluminum for use as a frame is wrong.

* = I'm speaking of Titanium used in the chemical and nuclear industry. Nasty chemical will corrode & tear up Ti.
Alu not durable?Stampertje
Aug 6, 2001 12:29 PM
The guys at www.efbe.de don't seem to come to the same conclusion. Some of the aluminum frames in their tests laster more than twice as long as the steel frames.
re: Aluminum vs. ?????GregJ
Aug 6, 2001 12:29 PM
Here is a good primer to read regarding the different metals in bike frames.
http://www.sjsu.edu/orgs/asmtms/artcle/articl.htm

I am not a metalurgist so I will not attempt to address all your concerns but I will say that Al bikes are produced in a fashion very similar to steel and perhaps even Ti, that is to say they may be produced on an assembly line in large batches or they may be made start to finish by an artisan in a small shop, just for you or somewhere in between. One of the main attractions (not only)of an expensive bicycle is appearance. And the amount of time it takes to file welds and do a deluxe paint and decal job can add substantially to the production time. I would hazard a guess that the finishing tasks alone could double or even triple the time that goes into production.
My own experience with comfort, my current ride is the best bike I have ever had in all respects and it is, yes, Aluminum. I have also had some fine steel rides in the past. I would not call my bike bone-jarring. I have several friends with Al bikes, no complaints.
I have been around cycling for 20 years and while I have never had a frame crack myself, I have seen quite a few cracked frames that belonged to freinds. 5 have been steel, both welded and lugged, 2 have been Al, 2have been CF and 1 Ti. 2 of the oldest bikes I know still in active service, a Vitus and an early 80's Klein.
Go watch an elite race if you can, you will see a ton of Aluminum frames, some quite expensive and some mass produced. If these super strong riders thought these bikes would fail, they would probably be on something else.
I would not encourage anyone to purchase a bike of one material or the other, but I certainly would not discourage someone on a budget not to buy Al. At the price that Sean was looking, that will probably be his best option with the possibility of a steel frame as well. Even used, it would be tough to go Ti or Cf at that price. Best regards.
At least do your homework!DrD
Aug 6, 2001 2:34 PM
1) Brittle metal that breaks easily

All materials will fail if used improperly - aluminum is actually pretty ductile. The major "achillies heel" of aluminum is its poor fatigue properties - even there, a good design will minimize local stresses to the point that fatigue isn't really an issue under normal operating conditions

2) Difficult and expensive to weld so it is mass produced

It's not that bad - certainly easier to deal with than titanium...

3) mass produces so it has ugly frame welds

beauty is in the eye of the beholder - also, there are cheap aluminum frames, and expensive ones - you often get what you pay for - high end aluminum frames have very nice welds (also, as an aside, external appearance has virtually nothing to do with how well a weld was formed - you can have pretty welds which suck and ugly welds which will last seemingly forever)

4) cheap metal with inherent inconstancies in the raw material

Aluminum is more expensive to produce than steel (but cheaper than titanium) - also, which inconsistencies are you referring to? Surely steel has none of that (last line dripping with sarcasm)

5) non-forgiving ride that is bone jarring

This is a geometry driven quality of a frame - larger diameter tubes build a stiffer frame - material has little to do with it. (tube strength, however, is a combination of material type and tube geometry - for materials like aluminum, if you want to reap the benefit of the lower density and corresponding lighter weight, the tube walls must be thin, and as such the tube diameter must be larger)

That being said, a stiffer frame (in the bottom bracket area) is preferrable, in my opinion, for a racing frame.

6) oxidized with age

Aluminum (much like titanium) passivates under normal conditions - it is much much much more corrosion resistant than many of the steels used in frames. Titanium is clearly superior here, though - you could throw an unpainted titanium frame into a tank of warm brine and a month later it would come out relatively unscathed - can't say the same for most iron or aluminum alloys...
The facts on Ti and Al. Long!!Largo
Aug 6, 2001 2:39 PM
Ah, the great debate!
If weight was never a concern, steel is a great material. High strength, corrosion problems are easily dealt with, cheap.
But, you can't build a plane out of steel, although Piper Super Cubs and other small aircraft of this type are still going strong with CrMo frames.
Ti is 40% lighter than steel, but 60% heavier than Al.
Al is 1/3 as heavy as steel, so you can use more of it to gain strength.
For example, 3-2.5 Ti has a yield strength of 586 mpa, and a tensile strength of 689 mpa with a 20% elongation (6-4 is stronger yet, but has less ductility)
7075-T-6 (a very high srtrength alloy) has a yield of 483 mpa, and a tensile strength of 524 mpa with a 6% elongation. Unfortunately, the stronger Al gets, the less ductility it has.
4140 CrMo has a yield of 417mpa, and a tensile of 655 mpa with 25% elongation.
What does all this mean?
The closer the yield strength is to the tensile strength, the less ductility a metal has, meaning that it will fatigue faster.
Granted planes are made of Al, but they are inspected OFTEN, and cracks are expected. Any airliner you fly in today has loads of cracks in it, but these are expected and accounted for.
The higher the elongation, the more a metal can deflect before it experiences "fatigue"
What this translates to is stuff that we as cyclists already know.
Steel frames are supple, strong, and last a long time, but are heavier.
Al is light, but can be alloyed to gain high strength, but loses ductility as it gains strength, is stiff, and will fatigue given enough use.
Ti is lighter than steel, for a given strength, but not as light as Al, although stronger than Al (and steel). Modern Ti alloys came into being during the Lockeed SR-71 project, in a search for alloys with good high temperature properties.
As for Al being corrosion prone, when Al oxidizes, it becomes Aluminum Oxide, which is what Anodizing is. Very hard corrosion resistant material.
Modern Metallurgists are constantly coming up with better alloys (witness the resurgence in light steel frames) and Aluminum alloys are giving softer rides all the time.
IMO, there is no best material for a bike.
WOW!!Ti
Aug 6, 2001 3:46 PM
I have to admit. I've learned something:) Thanks for all the posts. I may even test ride another Cannondale just to see hom much has changed in 10+ years!
WOW!!EW
Aug 7, 2001 1:45 AM
I coincidentally read the efbe report yesterday even before reading this post. I am looking at different frame materials - currently have a steel Lemond and a Klein.

http://www.efbe.de/ehomepag.htm

It was interesting that the Trek OCLV (despite all the bashing it gets for being woody and dead) was the strongest and did not break, and the Cannondale and Principia did not break either - so much for weak aluminum. I was very suprised to see that steel fatigued so soon and cracked, as did the MERLIN titanium (very surprised). Now there may be confounding factors (variable build quality or design specific to that brand), but I will think twice about buying Ti or steel (although my steel bike does overall feel smoother than the aluminum). The authors state that they performed exceptional stress on the bikes and that most riders would never even get to that point before they got bored with the paint scheme before the bike would fatigue and break.

So the debate goes on.
its actually spelt alluminiumdupe
Aug 7, 2001 2:14 AM
Actually, it's not.MikeC
Aug 7, 2001 7:18 AM
But those who follow the British forms of spelling go with "aluminium" (just one l, but with an extra i).