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Newbie Q about frames: Titanium or Aluminium?(26 posts)

Newbie Q about frames: Titanium or Aluminium?Bolt
Nov 26, 2001 8:14 AM
I'm shopping around for my first roadbike and want to know the difference between a titanium and aluminium frame, besides the obvious PRICE, of course.
I'm thinking weight, duarbility, how it handles the road, etc. Also, can someone shed some light on carbon and steel frames while we're at it?! Thanks!
Well, NOW you've done it!cory
Nov 26, 2001 8:45 AM
This comes up all the time, and we beat it to death every time it does. You'll get votes for everything...
For all-around performance, durability, strength-to-weight ratio and feel, though, it's still hard to beat steel. I've owned aluminum and ridden carbon fiber quite a bit (got no experience with titanium), but unless there's a breakthrough, I don't see myself ever buying anything but steel again. You can read some of the reasons on the Rivendell site,
Just get a Litespeedpmf1
Nov 26, 2001 8:55 AM
They make both aluminium and ti these days. Personally, I'd go with ti. Its light, never rusts and has a beautiful grey sheen. I'm sure their aluminium bikes are good too. Steel bikes are real heavy and rust away in a matter of years. Carbon bikes are great, but they melt in the heat and will shatter at temps below 32 degrees. Even if ridden in the proper temp range, a dropped chain will eat a huge nick in the stay rendering your bike worthless.

So ignore what others here say and get a Litespeed. Best bikes made. And make sure to get a saddle with a hole in the middle, or else you'll go sterile in a few weeks of riding.
Disagree, with all the respect I can muster...cory
Nov 26, 2001 9:06 AM
Don't want to start a chain o' flames about this, but just in case somebody doesn't detect the fine edge of sarcasm in that Litespeed post, steel frames are NOT "real heavy" and they will NOT "rust away in a few years" (anybody who can straddle a 25-inch frame is invited to ride one of my 20-plus-year-old steelies. Or hang around 40 years and you can take a spin on my rust-free antique Atlantis). Modern steel may give away an ounce or three to aluminum, but it's stronger and more durable, and at least some of us like the feel a lot better. In any case, the weight difference in the bike/rider package is far less than 1 percent.
He's right about carbon fiber, though. If you get a spark on it, it will burst into flame and singe off your nads. I've seen it happen.
No smiley? :-) nmkenyee
Nov 26, 2001 9:08 AM
Bunch o' Happy Horse Sh!tegrzy
Nov 26, 2001 12:58 PM
Soon you'll be able to get them at K-Mart and be just like all the other poseurs.
How much time/money ya' got?grzy
Nov 26, 2001 9:03 AM
Really an open ended question and subject of much passion. There is no easy answer once you get away from the stricly objective criteria and even THAT can be debateable. Each has it's advantages/disadvantages:

Steel: nice ride, affordable, traditional, not as light, custom no problem
Aluminum: Light, stiff as hell, very inexpensive, some custom avail. (C'dale)
Carbon: Superlight, smooth ride, not cheap, custom sizing not easy
Titainium: Can ride like steel and is also criticized for being too flexy, has the weight of aluminum, costs more than carbon, custom is often no additional charge.

Then there's all the new "unobtainium" metal alloys and the carbon/ti construction mixes. Ultimately it comes down to what you can afford, what you can feel, and wheather or not you want to make some sort of statement. All of the bikes can handle quite well or very poorly depending on geometery, craftsmanship, and rider skill.

For your first road bike you might want to go with aluminum - it's affordable and relatively tough for someone getting used to a roadbike - you'll probably change your riding position over time, but since your style and preferences haven't really been determined it would be best ot keep the cost down - you'll probably get interested in something a bit more exotic in time - only you don't know what that is yet. One exception would be to do what every is necessary to get a good fit - a great deal on a bike that doesn't fit isn't much of a deal.
Heres the link for youfirstrax
Nov 26, 2001 9:05 AM
Get one quick! Operators are standing by!
re: Newbie Q about frames: Titanium or Aluminium?cioccman
Nov 26, 2001 9:27 AM
Yeah, why compromise? Go with a Ghisallo or maybe a C-40 or Prince for your first bike! LOL! Get a 52 or 53 or so, and let me know if you want to sell it in few months.

Good luck! Actually my recommendation is go with a steel ride for your first. My guess is most of us went that direction. I did.
re: Newbie Q about frames: Titanium or Aluminium?Me Dot Org
Nov 26, 2001 10:54 AM
Before you decide on material, think about fit.

Ride several bikes with different geometries. Having a bike with the proper fit is much more important that the material.

There are pros and cons to aluminum, steel, titanium and carbon. I have a Columbus foco steel frame with Carve seat stays. The emphasis is on comfort over performance. Aluminum has a reputation as being stiffer, (better for climbing and sprinting) albeit with a penalty of a harsher ride. The general consensus is that newer aluminum bikes provide a much smoother ride than the older ones.

The last Paris-Roubaix Race was won by the Domo Team on Eddy Merckx aluminum frames. Called "The Hell of the North", stretches of the race are over slick cobblestones, making it one of the most physically punishing races, and yet an aluminum frame won.

The Merckx frames have carbon seat stays, which (in my experience) really help smooth out the ride. Carbon frames are great for soaking up vibration. The problem is that Carbon frames are made in very expensive molds, which limits the sizes available. So a lot of manufacturers are integrating carbon seat stays, or carbon seat, top or down tubes into their designs. The advantage is that you don't need a mold to make the frame. The unknown is how well carbon bonding will hold up with metal over time.

If you have the bucks, I would opt for Titanium. A great blend of light weight and smoothness. Personally I think a brushed finish Ti frame is just a classic look.

But again, the most important thing is FIT.

If you would like to read more about frame materials, I offer the following link:

The picture below is George Hincapie, riding his Merckx in the Paris-Roubaix.
Nov 26, 2001 11:20 AM
George Hincapie rides for USPS, and as a result, rides a Trek OCLV.

Domo rides Merckx's, but Hincapie does not ride for Domo.
and another persectiveDog
Nov 26, 2001 11:19 AM
steel: for old farts who don't want to go fast

carbon: for old farts who want to go fast and want to spend more money

titanium: for anyone who likes steel, but wants to spend more money

aluminum: for racers who want to go as fast as possible

combinations of the above: for those who can't make up their minds, and want to spend more money

Doesn't anyone ride bamboo frames any more? nmMB1
Nov 26, 2001 11:30 AM
what a stupid questionDog
Nov 26, 2001 11:33 AM

P.S. :-) nmDog
Nov 26, 2001 11:35 AM lust is happening!!! nmMB1
Nov 26, 2001 11:39 AM
Calfee is working on one. (nm)grzy
Nov 26, 2001 12:59 PM
who you calling old?gtx
Nov 26, 2001 11:52 AM
steel: for people who spent all their money on high end bikes in high school and college in the 80s and early 90s and haven't been able to justify buying anything new since that time because the steel bikes are still going strong, unlike those high end AL and carbon bikes that were so popular in the 80s that are now all broken. And when they do finally get around to buying a new bike, it will probably be...steel.

carbon: for people who want to be like Lance or Museeuw, and don't mind huge warranty hassles or broken bikes because they have lots of other bikes or they don't ride much.

ti: for people who fear rust because their only experience with steel has been with mid-level Italian bikes with bad paint.

al: for racers who don't care and people who don't know any better.

oldie but goodie (somewhat dated)Jack S
Nov 26, 2001 12:34 PM

You are old, and so is your bike. You managed to convince your spouse/family/significant other to let you spend an ungodly amount of money on a bike, only to have titanium appear two years later. You have a prostate the size of a grapefruit.

You are cheap. You were suckered by Trek's marketing into believing that the OCLV is just as good as a "real" bike.

Trek Steel
You are an artistic type who has spent WAY too much time with recreational chemistry.

You are either an attorney or a dentist. You whined for months to get your spouse/family/significant other to let you buy a bike instead of paying for college for your kid. With your new 17-lb superbike you are now able to ride 1/3 of a mile an hour faster than you were on your old Raleigh.

You are either an attorney or a dentist. You whined for months to get your spouse/family/significant other to let you buy a bike instead of paying for college for your kid. With your new 17-lb superbike you are now able to ride 1/3 of a mile an hour faster than you were on your old Schwinn.

You are young. However, age will soon catch up to you, and your prostate will be the size of a basketball. And your Cipollini-inspired sprint is every bit as fast as it was on your old Huffy.

Italian Steel
You are gullible. You are convinced that the Italian passion for cycling in some way translates to mechanical competence, and you therefore ride a bike produced by the same craftsmen who brought us the Fiat.

Italian Carbon Fiber, Italian Titanium, Italian Aluminum
You are suicidal. You trust your life to aerospace materials in the hands the same craftsmen who made Italy such dominant force in the world market for military and commercial aircraft.

"Classic" Italian Steel
You are delusional AND suicidal. You believe that the fine Italian "craftsmanship" can only get better with age (just like the Fiat).

"Look, Ma! The paint job is worth more than the bike!"
and another persectiveStarliner
Nov 26, 2001 1:08 PM
another point of view....

steel - for those who bring in the firewood and build the fire

carbon - for those who have gas-fired hearths

titanium - for those who like to sit in front of the fire that was built by someone else

aluminum - for those who like to sit in front of the fire with a can of cold beer nearby
One more attempt to compress the pabulum:bill
Nov 26, 2001 12:02 PM
All materials have inherent characteristics, almost all of which can be designed around. Design, however, costs money. So, the higher up in the food chain you go, bikes get more individualized, and the less true are the generalities about the materials. Generally speaking. I realize that you're looking for generalities, but, without a price point for reference, your question is really too general for a response that will have meaning to your decision.
Assuming that you're talking about entry level, I'd think about ti or steel unless you just want to race and are going for the cheapest, stiffest, lightest frame you can buy. The trouble with entry-level ti is that it's a bit of an oxymoron (although some cool deals are around now). Steel is a good all-around value -- you can get some world-class bikes (maybe not world-class light, but great riding bikes) for a modest cost compared to Litespeed, for example.
The one attribute of ti that will make you love it or hate it is that it usually comes unpainted. Some people think "bleah." Some think, how cool; no one can hurt it. Having both a steel painted bike and a ti unpainted, I am squarely in the latter camp. I love my steel bike, but I hate worrying about it. My steel bike, by the way, is boron steel, Dedacchai 16.5. Very thin-walled and light and kind of scary (I've never weighed it, but it's the same or less than a lot of ti frames). It's a nice change to go back to the ti bike once in a while and sort of not think about anything bad's happening if I'm not careful.
My bias against alu is somewhat of a personal bias; I'm not much of a weight weanie (so why did I get some of the lightest steel around? I'm not sure that I can answer that clearly) and who needs harsh? Alu somehow seems like cheating to me. Also depends a bit on your weight; I understand that what's an unforgiving ride for a 130 pounder is fine for a 180 pounder.
Believe me.....Mel Erickson
Nov 26, 2001 1:18 PM
you don't need to know the difference. Get a good fitting, find a bike in your price range that fits (with 105/Ultegra, Daytona/Chorus). Buy it. Ride. That's all you need. Everything else will come later, and, if you get hooked, drive you insane like the rest of us.
I don't know if the inmates sense a troll and are being silly...sprockets2
Nov 26, 2001 6:17 PM
in accordance with that judgement, or if there simply is a large population of wankers on this board, but you are not getting much help. Many consumer/hobbyist boards have a high percentage of goofballs, so one needs to read between their lines.

The difference in price between Ti and Al is an indication not only of the manufacturing costs but of the bike market in general. I would conjecture that most people considering Ti are not also considering very many Al bikes. Some of it is a price thing, and some of it is consumer concept of the bike that they want. The two types of bike are mostly targeted to different groups and serve some different purposes. If you consider Ti, you might consider custom steel as well.

I must admit a preference for steel frames, as it is all I have owned and raced in road bikes, and I like it's feel. Modern frames using the latest steel alloys and techniques are very nice and very light. OTOH, I am a semi-proud owner of a Litespeed. Ti rides nicely, but lacks the stiffness of a comparable steel frame, especially in large sizes. They are light, though. Nice and light. Small to medium sized frames may bear looking at even for racers.

I did not consider an aluminum bike because I wanted a durable bike I could train/commute/race with for a long time, and aluminum doesn't have that profile. Yes I know that aluminum Mt. bikes get the snot kicked out of them and they seem to hold up, but the engineering profile on aluminum is that it is not going to hold up over time-a long time. My only experience, and it confirms this somewhat, is an old, high mileage, pre-suspension fork Mt. bike I have that has lost some of its feel and stiffness in the frame-wheels are not at fault-though no cracks have appeared yet.

Carbon often has a similar knock on longevity, especially if tubes are bonded with lugs or to each other. Long term I would be concerned over the stability of the resins, but that IS long term. Nobody knows at this point, but aerospace evidence shows that they are high performance in the short term. Carbon bike ride always feels lifeless to me. Even newer, finessed designs are not as pleasant as other materials that communicate better. Lance rides 'em, though.

There are a lot of personal priorities that need to be sorted out when you choose between different bikes, not to mention the confounding factor of different materials. I like the stiff response of Al frames, but I hate their ride. Even high-end Al is pretty rough at times, race bikes especially. The best Al ride is generally not as nice as a good steel frame-at least for those of us who appreciate the difference-and in small to medium frame sizes a well designed steel frame has a power-to-the-pavement factor that is very comparable to Al for many riders.
THANKS everyone for your answers!Bolt
Nov 26, 2001 7:49 PM
Yeah, I know it was a pretty loaded and open-ended question, but thanks all for the input!
To answer some questions, I see myself as getting really into the sport in the future so I want a bike I won't outgrow too soon (within the next year at least). So I'm pretty open to spending a bit to get a good frame that'll grow with me.
I think steel and carbon are pretty much out because I ride in Singapore and it's pretty much hot and humid here. haha!
So I'm leaning towards ti or Al at the moment. tho I admit I do like the look of ti!
And like a lot of you have mentioned, there's also the all important FIT and geometry which I promise I won't ignore!
New Framec-squared
Nov 26, 2001 11:14 PM
I would like to continue on this line of thought. I've been riding an aluminum Specialized Allez Comp with Ultegra/triple for about a year. Did a 400 mile ride in 5 days with back to back centuries in September (over lots of hills) my teeth have finally stopped rattling, my knees can move again and my hands are no longer numb.

Thinking of doing another long distance ride 600 miles in May over 7 days and need to get a better fitting frame for a 5'6" female 130 lbs. Since I'm spending the coin, thinking of going custom. Thinking of Seven Cycles for frame / stem / seat post and keeping my current ultegra group until I can afford to upgrade that too.

I'm not sure I know enough about my riding style yet to invest more than about $2500 for a frame.

Carbon sounds like a nightmare to keep unbroken. Have tried steel for brief ride and liked the lively feel. Think I was getting beat up by the aluminum (in addition to the poor fit). Not sure I like the stark brushed metal look of ti. I hate to climb - yet I love to climb because what goes up must F L Y down. I also want a comfortable ride due to the distances. Thinking that a Steel or Titanium frame and Carbon fork and seat stays might be the way to go.

Can I get all this in one bike? Does a Seven sound like a good choice?
Looking for some insight.

New Framegtx
Nov 26, 2001 11:35 PM
Seven is great for custom ti, though I'd also check out Serotta. However, $2500 is a hell of a lot of money. Chances are there is a great custom builder in your area that you can visit for a fitting who can build you a great fitting and very comfy steel frame for $700-$1000 (or more, depending on the builder and the tubing and paint you select), match that with a carbon fork and you'd be set. Ask around at the local bike shops, or ask people on this board to recommend builders in your area. Good luck.