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Very interesting post from on frame material(21 posts)

Very interesting post from on frame materiallocalhero
Dec 29, 2003 8:32 AM
I saw this post on and found it very interesting. I have heard plenty on both sides of this issue - can you use guidelines or not. It seems to me that many want to agrue that material is not key; but there are still lots who swear by Reynolds steel tubing.

here is the post ~~~~

""I am buying a new road bike on-line. I had been looking at bikes that compare to a Trek 1000; but I found out there are options on frame material.

So now the decision is less clear --
and after asking a few sellers about advantages and disadvantages - a ebay seller sent me the following - I am wondering about other riders thoughts on this - as a guideline

"Rules of Thumb for Choosing a frame Material

Some riders will tell you the only way to know which frame material or frame is best for you is to ride the bike. This might be true in a theoretical sense; but it is impractical and misleading.
1) there is no way to ride all bikes available
2) to tell for sure, at least 100 miles on a given bike is needed, and even then it is hard
to compare 3 or 4 bikes that you have tested
3) shops do not allow meaningful test rides (nor should they - as their stock would then be
used) - and most shops do not stock all sizes of lots of different models
4) you cannot test ride Internet bikes or models dealer's do not stock (thus your choices
are greatly limited). In addition, many brands are not available in all markets.
5) test conditions and bike setup change the feel of a bike
6) most riders change tires, saddles, and setup adjustment in the first year
this can completely change the feel of the bike

So it is imperative that guidelines be used in narrowing your search (which is the case in almost all life decisions - picking a school, selecting from a menu, shopping for products, or looking for a mate).

Here are the guidelines on Frame Material that bicycle experts would agree on




(High grade frames vary very little in weight - which confuses some buyers)
[I am posting typical high-grade frame weights next to type - as you can see the
total weight of a bike is little changed by frame tubing selection]
1) CARBON (2.6 LBS)
4) STEEL (3.2 LBS)

Here is how I sum this up (and most shops and magazines agree with this, I might add)

If you are a normal buyer with a budget, these guidelines would apply.

YOU are young, very sporty, ride short distances at a fast rate, enjoy competing for time or speed, and/or do not plan to keep your new bike over 10 years -- BUY AN ALUMINUM FRAMED ROAD BIKE.

YOU are a casual rider, ride longer distances, are older or have back trouble, ride for pleasure and exercise only, and/or you prefer a bike that you may never need to replace -- BUY A STEEL FRAMED BIKE.

If you are willing to send lots and lots of money on bicycles - no guidelines are needed as you will end up owning many many bikes. And as budget is not a concern, you will probably try in your time owning a carbon frame and a titanium frame.

A last note on STYLE -- even though most 'sport riders' might be better served on steel, aluminum frames have a "big oversized" look which is popular today. Also, entry level aluminum frames are much cheaper to make than high grade steel frames. If you prefer that oversized tubing style and you do not have special needs (bad back, super long rides, loaded touring) an entry or first bike in aluminum can be as good as steel."

Hogwash...............Dave Hickey
Dec 29, 2003 8:45 AM
I own three of the four. The only type I don't own is Ti. Of the three, my carbon is the most comfortable with steel second and aluminum third.

They make no mention of who makes the frames or how they are built or the geometry. IMHO, This is a bigger factor than the material.
to be polite, Hogwash.....dzrider
Dec 29, 2003 1:39 PM
I've owned all but ti and prefer steel. I find it makes the nicest platform for me to sit and spin. That being said, I had an aluminum Vitus 992 that was at least as comfy as steel or carbon and an aluminum Raleigh 600 that makes my teeth rattle. My Look KG96 fixed gear is wonderfully comfortable, at least 10 years old and, I don't think, all that light.

It's important for magazine writers to come to some kind of conclusion, but I got to agree that builders can produce all kinds of bikes from any material they choose.
gotta say I agree to a large extent.Frith
Dec 29, 2003 9:03 AM
It is a very rare thing that you'll be able to test ride a bike to the extent that you can actually make any meaningfull judgements. You won't be dialed in the way you would after owning it for several months... and you won't be able to ride it for long enough to simulate a normal day's ride. The most you can get in a test ride is an approximate feel relative to other bikes you have ridden (pretty limited in most cases). You may also be able to use a test ride to determine sizing where you might be in between two sizes of the same bike.
So all you really have to rely on are:
a)some generalizations on frame material and properties of particular components.
b)specs. You have to rely on manufacturer published specs to be thorough and accurate wrt. geometries and weights etc. (not always the case)
c)reputation. To a certain extent it is valuable to know someone elses opinion be it rider, media, or industry.

Doesn't sound like much to go on but I believe your ability to pick a nice bike improves dramatically if you do your homework... for intance, know the general properties of various frame materials because for the most part they are actually true. But also know that steel isn't always real, alu isn't always stiff or light, cf and/or ti can sometimes be the worst of all worlds rather than the best.
Know geometry and how it affects handling and feel.
You can begin to learn who to trust and who not to and to what extent to beleive some dude on your group ride who swears up and down that he can feel the difference between two different cranksets.
Test ride where/when you can but it's not the only (or even biggest) piece of the puzzle.
The test parts I agree with the materials are where I haveDave Hickey
Dec 29, 2003 9:13 AM
a problem. It almost seems like the article was written in the early 90's. Advances in carbon have been dramatic in the last 10 years. I'm not saying carbon is the wonder material. If I was doing a long tour, I'd pick steel since a frame can be repaired by anyone with a welding torch.
Yeah true.Frith
Dec 29, 2003 9:20 AM
I guess I should have emphasized that I agree with the fact that certain generalizations about frame material are necessary and that test rides are not all they're cracked up to be. On closer inspection I really don't agree with the generalizations that guy was making. Carbon in most cases is right up there in all of those categories especially comfort.
early 90s? me thinks lattercyclopathic
Dec 29, 2003 9:31 AM
3.2lbs steel frames have to be welded out of True Temper S3 or full 853 pro. No doubt it had been written by retro-grouch though. Hard to disagree with him: steel bikes are inexpensive, durable, comfortable and hard to sell. Most mfg killed their entry level steel bikes.

Agree Carbon bikes can be anything, from stiff racer to all-day-comfortable. Don't worry it is even easier to fix then steel, no torch needed. If you want to tour on carbon all you need to bring is #200 sand paper, fiberglass cloth and JB-weld.
Probably correct and there's nothing wrong with a....Dave Hickey
Dec 29, 2003 10:12 AM
retro-Grouch. I am one:-). I'm stuck in the late 80's so I guess I'm a semi-retro grouch.
Could you run your life without generalizations?localhero
Dec 29, 2003 10:46 AM
I think the point is; without 'rules of thumb' or generaliztions -- you could never make any decision.
Pick a school
Pick a wife
Pick a house
Pick a car
Pick box of cereal

you can not try everything before you pick; so you must narrow the field
What if the generalizations aren't true?Dave Hickey
Dec 29, 2003 11:06 AM
I'd like to see who the "experts" are that say carbon comes in last in ride quality and comfort for long distances.

If Richard Sachs, Craig Calfee, or other frame builders were the source of this information, it might have value.

The original poster in Bicycling got this "expert" advice from an anonymous person on Ebay who is obviously selling steel bikes.

IMHO, this advice is meaningless unless they say who they are and what their motives are.
There are other ways to narrow the field.dzrider
Dec 29, 2003 1:47 PM
If you want a bike for touring - look for eyelets - they aren't as common as they used to be - and a frame with room for bigger tires.

If you're more interested in comfort than quick handling look for a long wheel base and low bottom bracket.

If you have long arms, look for a long top tube.

The point being that often these, and other similar, factors are more significant than the frame material.
one way to judge. . .jimPz
Dec 29, 2003 5:19 PM
Look up a review on a bike that YOU know.
Compare that persons/source view to your own.
Look up other reviews by that person/source.
You'll now have a reference point to have some idea about how that bike rides compared to what you might think.
It aon't perfect, but it helps some.

Obviously biased toward steelKerry Irons
Dec 29, 2003 5:51 PM
First two rankings are a dead giveaway about the steel bias. Not many people would claim steel to be more durable than Ti. The only way you could claim that would be "standard" steel against "superlight" Ti. Otherwise, Ti is quite a bit tougher than steel. Certainly corrosion is not a big issue for most, though I have seen steel frames rust out when somebody has particularly corrosive or copious sweat. Similarly, there's nothing inherent in steel that makes it more comfortable than Ti - many reports of the comfort of Ti. The only thing Ti gives up to steel is $$, and that can be significant. At the end of the day however, it is still MUCH more about design than material.
Dec 30, 2003 5:56 AM
It is hard to understand how anyone can oppose generalities. Try buying a car without them!

hmmm - I need a $30,000 sedan
there are only 35 I need to test drive
and of course - they all handle different in town & on hiway
wait - loaded with family and luggage - rides diff than unloaded
wait - sometimes its hot
sometimes it snows
sometimes there is rain
two weeks a year we go to the mountains
how do the tires effect it? maybe they would all handle different with different tires

wow - I need 35x5x3x6x4 testes drives of an hour each!
-- better quit my job and make buying a new car my career

and rememmber this is a $30,000 decision - so way more money than I plan to spend on my bike - which only took 58 hours of test rides to pick

Oh crap! how I need a house and a new stereo
better hire a testing assistant
I think you're missing the pointDave Hickey
Dec 30, 2003 9:04 AM
We all need generalizations to narrow down our choice. The question here is the source of the information. Using your above example, let's say someone selling Toyotas, publishes info comparing their car to 6 other brands. Of course, the Toyota is going to come out on top.

Your post came from someone who is selling steel and aluminum frames so naturally they came out on top. If Lightspeed or Trek published a buying guide, I'll bet Ti and carbon frames would be the choices.

The only way any buying guide would be worthwhile is if the source was an unbiased third party.
I think you're missing the point ~ that's not logicallocalhero
Dec 30, 2003 12:10 PM
first - Trek and Litespeed both sell Aluminum bikes - Trek also sells steel bikes

second - everyone who says ANY thing has a point of view
- the question is not weather they are baised - EVERYONE IS
-- the question is the statement logical

as 'generalities' go - it all seemed logical to me - plus I have no idea what the source was selling - weather they sell only steel - only aluminum - only TI - or some of everything -- and even if I did -- that would not effect my opinion

but since TI and Carbon are purchased by very very few consumers -- maybe the steel vs aluminum generalities are the only things that matter
and if that is the case -- I see nothing wrong with these generalities at all -- do you?

Steel lasts longer than Aluminum
Steel rides smoother than aluminum
aluminum is stiffer than steel
aluminum is lighter than steel

if you are buying a bike under $1500 - like most people - these generalities are not a bad place to start; for those who do not have time to become bike experts or to test ride 47 different bikes
Here is a "guide" I found on another site...Dave Hickey
Dec 30, 2003 12:25 PM

I am NOT endorsing this frame material guide but here is what another "expert" says:

Frame material

Bikes can be made from all sorts of materials. Let's discuss the main types:

Standard steel frames are heavy. Not many manufactures nowadays make steel frames. Steel rusts easily when scratched or damaged.

Probably the most popular frame material. Most entry, intermediate and high end bikes are made from aluminium. Aluminium is lighter than steel, and more corrosion resistant.

Carbon fibre
Because of its strength and lightness, carbon fibre is an excellent choice for a frame material. However, carbon fibre is pricey.
Aluminium/carbon is a popular mix.

Titanium alloy frames are very light, but very pricey. Titanium is said to have the responsiveness of steel, the shock absorbency of carbon fibre and the stiffness of aluminium. Titanium bike owners call this the "magical ride" quality.

These guides can be slanted to sell ANY material you want.
Here is a "guide" I found on another site...localhero
Dec 30, 2003 4:18 PM
And YOU beleive this?
I would be surprised; I think very few knowledgable riders write off Reynolds steel tubing so quickly

but - there is no question
Aluminum is the most popular tubing used
and more manufacturers use it by far
and aluminum with carbon stays is the grow area

however, this post is list is not a guideline
at all about where to narrow your search
which is my entire point -- shoppers need guidelines
and their use makes sense

the advise I see on here - "Ride Them" is counterproductive
since noone has or can ride all of them in all conditions
Logic has nothing to do with it.djg
Dec 30, 2003 8:43 PM
Or not much. You offer a few bald generalities. Folks object. You reply that we need generalities and that these seem fine to you. So what? It's true that we tend to organize our knowledge around generalities (guidelines, rules, laws, principles, models, etc.--no generalities, and there's nothing much to apply to new situations, although certain connectionist types might disagree)--that doesn't mean that your particular list is any good or terribly useful. You say it seems logical to you. What does that mean? That you see no evident contradictions in your list? That the list is not internally incoherent?

If you are merely saying that you like this little list of generalities, no matter what anyone else says, than say that.
Logic has nothing to do with it.localhero
Dec 31, 2003 12:59 AM
it is not my list! just one I saw
but I see nothing wrong with it
and if the bike buyer is spending under $1500 - as most do then the list is very useful - I think
but what it really brings out to me is the foolishness of beleiving test rides are extremely important
I think test rides may even be misleading for those who have little cycling experience
and of course, if you order a custom bike or most high end bikes - you can not test ride
I just think you are more likely to pick a good bike with your brain than with your butt
Logic has nothing to do with it.djg
Dec 31, 2003 8:02 PM
I agree that test rides can be misleading. Indeed, they can be misleading for experienced as well as inexperienced cyclists. But it seems to me that your little lists are also misleading, or at least highly questionable. Whether you choose a better bike by taking a spin or by "your brain" may depend in part on what (besides raw sensory inputs) your brain is using as a basis of analysis. I think that many "experts" would debate your orderings, as well as your listed frame weights (certainly at your stated price range and also more generally). Whether you discovered these lists on the internet or cooked them up out of whole cloth is irrelevant to the question whether they're any good. You like the lists--fine. I don't. Frankly, it's hard for me to see why these particular generalities would be especially helpful to your hypothetical novice shopper of a given budget constraint, but you are entitled to like what you like. More than that, I don't see why this hackneyed handful of orderings is justified by anything like logic or the usefulness (in general) of generalities.