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Since when did Al become harsh?(5 posts)

Since when did Al become harsh?rengaracchi
Jul 2, 2002 6:55 PM
I recently purchased a new road bike to replace an old Cannondale. While I was in search for the new bike, I learned that Al has a reputation that it gives harsher ride than carbon, steel of Ti. But when I bought the Cannondale about thirteen years ago, people used to say that Al absorbed road shock better than steel. Now, they all say that Al is harsh and "steel is real". My guess for this total change of positions is that as Al gets thinner, lighter and stronger, it gradually changed its riding characteristics from soft to harsh. Steel, however, went exactly the opposite: as it gets thinner and lighter and stronger, the feel of steel got more sophisticated. Is there any validity in my guess? Coming back to bicycle market after ten+ years of absence, I feel like the world has completely changed.

What do you think happens if Ti gets thinner, lighter and stronger?

My new bike is steel, by the way :-).
re: Since when did Al become harsh?DMoore
Jul 2, 2002 8:59 PM
The earlier Al bikes, Vitus and Alan, were made of the same diameter tubing (generally 1") as the steel framed bikes of the day. In that diameter, the bikes were widely regarded as "noodles," although that never stopped Sean Kelly on his Vitus from blowing the doors off most everyone in a sprint. I once rode a 60 cm Vitus, and although I'm no sprinter I found it extremely comfortable to ride. I also found that I could move the bottom bracket further sideways than I thought possible if I stood up and hammered.

Eventually, starting with Gary Klein, Al framemakers starting going with larger diameter, thinner walled tubing. Current Cannondales have probably gone the furthest in that direction, particularly with the size of their downtubes. I haven't heard any remarks lately about beer can frames, but that was certainly a common remark a few years ago. Any metal tubing that large in diameter is going to be stiff, provided the wall thickness is enough to prevent the tube from collapsing.

Anyway, 13 years ago when your C-dale was new the conventional wisdom about Al frames was probably still based on the Vitus/Alan experience. Since then, small diameter Al tubing has pretty much disappeared from the biking scene (I'm taking about main triangle tubes, not stays) and Al bikes now have the rep for being stiff. This (and a heavy dose of marketing) have led to the current fad of carbon stays on Al bikes, to take the sting out of the ride.

So rather than saying "Al became harsh" it's probably more accurate to say that "the design of bikes incorporating Al tubing has changed, and the result is a stiffer bike and harsher ride." Or something like that.
re: Since when did Al become harsh?Juanmoretime
Jul 3, 2002 12:42 AM
The above poster is correct. A harsh ride is the price you pay for a stiff frame. This does not make this a bad frame, it depends upon your application. If you are a serious racer than aluminium is the was to go for handling and the ulimate power transfer to the ground. If you want all day comfort for Century riding, you would do better with carbon, titanium or steel. Lol
re: Since when did Al become harsh?rengaracchi
Jul 3, 2002 5:04 AM
Thanks for educating me for the change. I still remember clearly how I felt when I rode my Cannondale for the first time. I felt road shocks only indirectly, and I loved it. It is true that even with the oversized down tube, the BB flexed a little when I pushed it hard on the hill. The characteristics of the frame hasn't changed at all, but I decided to get a new frame since I need more than 12 speeds as I age. Here in Japan, it is difficult to get a down tube shifter version of Shimano group, and even if I could, it would be just as expensive as getting a new bike.

I don't think I will purchase another bike for next ten years, and I wonder what sort of frames, materials etc. we will be talking about. But, cycling is a great sport that you can enjoy for a long time!
Sheldon Brown...DougSloan
Jul 3, 2002 5:29 AM