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Should I fear aluminum?(9 posts)

Should I fear aluminum?Chicago_Steve
Sep 9, 2003 8:00 AM
I hate to start a material debate but I am curious on some of the newer aluminum frames on the market... I've been bitten by the new bike bug lately and am starting the research process...

- Aluminum has a reputation of being almost too stiff. Do modern frames still beat you up like the aluminum frames of 5-10 years ago? Can they be compliant like a good steel or Ti frame?

- The carbon rear triangles seem like hype to me. Adding an extra joint adds weight. In addition, it limits the geometry of the bike as there are only a handful of suppliers. Am I offbase in my thinking? Is a carbon rear end a crutch for a material that is too stiff?

Aluminum has some appeal in that it doesn't rust and can be used to make a low $$, light frame. On the other hand, Steel and Ti have great reputations for providing compliant rides. Carbon frames can be "tuned" by altering the amount and direction of the weave.

I'd be curious to hear from riders who have switched from other materials to aluminum frames. My riding includes a lot of city riding (pot holes, RR crossings, various unmentionable debris). Can aluminum work for me?
You already seemed pretty scared of Al...niteschaos
Sep 9, 2003 8:55 AM
...so just go with steel. A lot of ride characteristics that people complain about can also be caused by the wheelset, the tires being improperly inflated, saddle, etc. Just go with steel. If you don't race or ride in the rain all the time on a tight budget, then there really isn't a "need" to go with Al.

Steel can be weatherproofed so you can ride it in the rain all the time as well. The rust I have seen on steel bikes has been superficial, so rust really isn't a concern if you take care of your equipment. Modern steel seems to ride just as well as anything else, but at a lower cost for not much wieght penalty. Most will argue that a one-pound heavier frame that fits their riding style the best can easily be offset by trimming wieght on the rider. I agree. If a "skinny-tire bike" can have a Caddilac ride, then I would award it to a late 70s Raleigh I rode a few months back.

Ti is steel that is 3 times more expensive, 40% less dense, and requires no weatherproofing. It's like the Ferrari of materials right now. Sure there are things that offer better performance, but Ferraris have mistique. I've found the same with Ti. I haven't ridden a Ti bike yet, but I think a lot of the "magic" is derived from perception.

Carbon bikes have thier own following as well. Personal preferance again. I'm not a fan of the carbon triangle Al bikes, but some swear by them. CAAD5 and CAAD7 designs are said to be as comfortable but without the added complexity of grafting carbon into the frame. I've ridden the CAAD5 and it is smoother than my Felt F75, but I didn't have the chance to really flog the CAAD5.

I race an Al bike. Frame is light for the money and holds up well under racing conditions. When I crash hard enough to total the frame, I won't be crying as hard as if I were on a carbon or Ti rig. Those that can afford to race on carbon or Ti usually do, so there you go. If money wasn't an object, my next ride would most likely be a CAAD7 rig (Or a Pinarello Dogma, heh heh).

Don't worry about the little details dude. Just get out and test ride till you are comfortable with your desicion. Some guys on this board have taken months to decide, so take your time as well.
see the thing is...Chicago_Steve
Sep 9, 2003 9:16 AM
In the past, I always believed the whole "feel" issue with materials is in mostly in people's minds. I went from a steel to an aluminum to a Ti MTB frame and really could not notice alot of difference in the "feel" of the bike (admittedly the "feel" is masked by suspension forks and big tires). Now that I spend 90% on the road I can see where the "feel" of the frame becomes more of an issue...

I currently ride a steel frame which I am pretty happy with. The thing is that getting a good steel frame is getting tougher and tougher these days. Not many shops around here stock IF's, Steelman, or other brands to test out. Look at the current line-ups from most manufacturers and aluminum seems to be the predominant material...

And then there is the corrosion issue. I use Framesaver on my current frame and, while it does a good job protecting the insides of the tubes, it isn't really practical for the small nicks in paint on the outside of the bike.

Basically, I haven't spent any time on an aluminum road bike to make a decision to downplay them... Hence the question...
Yes duck and cover cause aluminum lerks everywhereLC
Sep 9, 2003 9:06 AM
It should be all steel. Steel handlebars, steel stem, steel cranks, and of course steel rims ;)

It is not the material, but the design. I had a aluminum frame that was not stiff enough. I also put a aluminum fork on a frame to soften it up. A low end aluminum frame is usually built with thicker tubes and generally very stiff, but a well designed frame from any material will ride like a dream.
I stared fear in the eye and she backed downterry b
Sep 9, 2003 9:12 AM
Went on a small buying binge this year to see if Aluminum was as bad as the collective "wisdom" would have it. Built a couple of bikes in V107, Starship and SC61.10.

My conclusion - coming from Steel and Ti bikes, the AL frames rode just as nicely and I've never felt beaten up. The SC61.10 bike rides as smoothly as any of my steel frames, and the other two are so close as to be splitting hairs. I'd have to develop an entire vernacular of "art critic" speak just to effectively communicate the differences.

My opinion now - upper end frames are going to ride pretty darn nicely regardless of material used and as long as they're put together by someone who knows what they're doing, you're going to end up with a decent ride.
In my opinionNo_sprint
Sep 9, 2003 9:16 AM
Frame material does make a slight difference in ride type however I think greater differences are made with wheel selection, tire selection and tire pressure.
Aluminum dangersUncle Tim
Sep 9, 2003 10:20 AM
I've seen many frames fail. Carbon fiber, aluminum, and even poorly welded cheap steel frames. A well built aluminum frame is very safe and will last many thousands of miles.

Aluminum got a bad rap in the "harsh ride" department. Whoever started that line of nonsense really did a fine job of messing up people's heads.

Just about anytime I read about "too stiff" or "too harsh", it is almost instinct for me to turn on the BS filter.

I love my aluminum frame bike as it rides about as nice as my carbon fiber one.

Now, if you want to find reasons to be afraid of aluminum, take a good look at your cranks. That is where the danger hides. On a recent hard out of the saddle climb, I broke an Ultegra crankarm. I was lucky to get out of that with scratches, road rash and an ugly bruise on my hip.
not all....C-40
Sep 9, 2003 11:53 AM
I've been riding an all-carbon Colnago C-40 for the last four seasons. Got a Fondriest Madonna di Campiglio this year, built with Campy Record triple for mountain terrain. The ride is amazingly good, much better than any C'dale I've ever ridden. I only weigh around 135 and ride a small size frame, so I get the harshest ride.

I was reluctant to try a new sloping TT Al/carbon frame, but have no regrets now. Check out the excellent values at www.fondriest-usa.com.
only if it's cracked in two, else, nothing to fear. nm.Sao
Sep 9, 2003 12:42 PM