"...No bike rides as well as a steel bike built by a skilled builder..."
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  1. #1
    steel road, fixie, & MTB
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    "...No bike rides as well as a steel bike built by a skilled builder..."

    check out this article on steel & weight

    http://www.torelli.com/home.html?ht.../weight.shtml&1

    "...A steel frame can be made that weighs in the mid to low 3-pound range...[steel] bike that can take advantage of the high-tensile strength and springy elasticity of modern steel and ride a bike that is an absolute dream. No bike rides as well as a steel bike built by a skilled builder...

    People who disagree with this conclusion usually have either a commercial interest in other materials, or have not ridden modern steel bikes..."

    what ya think of that? i say what ever makes you ride more! of course, steel lasts the best.

    i noticed that most al. or carbon frames weighs in the low 3# range...my Viner Deda steel weight ranges from 2.8 to 3.3#s.

    my Kona 26# mtb steel frame weighs in at 4.4#
    Last edited by TrailNut; 08-03-2004 at 01:49 PM.
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  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by TrailNut
    check out this article on steel & weight

    http://www.torelli.com/home.html?ht.../weight.shtml&1

    "...A steel frame can be made that weighs in the mid to low 3-pound range...[steel] bike that can take advantage of the high-tensile strength and springy elasticity of modern steel and ride a bike that is an absolute dream. No bike rides as well as a steel bike built by a skilled builder..."

    what ya think of that?
    probably true. Everyone always compares their ride to steel. Weight and corrosion are the only downside.
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.
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  3. #3

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    I disagree. Titanium and Aluminum can ride just as well as steel. It is all in how the frame is designed and built. I currently ride an alumimum hardtail MTB that rides much better than most steel bikes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cdmc
    I disagree. Titanium and Aluminum can ride just as well as steel. It is all in how the frame is designed and built. I currently ride an alumimum hardtail MTB that rides much better than most steel bikes.

    Yeah? And how big are those tires on your mtb? Seriously, that is a laughable comparison. My ancient lugged steel fixie with a steel threaded fork (probably at least 2lbs heavier than my carbon Look frameset) arguably rides better than the Look.

  5. #5
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    I have had 3 aluminum bikes

    1. two Cannondale 's w/Dura-ace
    2. 1 Specialized Festina compact w /dura-ace.
    Sold them .

    both frames tracked good and sprinted good, but long rides beat you up.

    My preferences have always been steel,

    I still have my orginal Allez Specialized w/ Suntour Superbe/ tange prestige tubing 1979
    Razesa w/ Campy Super Record SLX tubing.1981
    Both are restored. they both ride great.

    Both of my current bikes that I ride full time are custom made steel.

    To me you can't beat STEEL.

    Waterford 2200 w lugs/ henery james 853

    Independent Fabrication.Crown Jewel Tig weld 853/Foco rear stays.

    Both bikes weigh in at 17.5 # total weight.
    IF, is a little quicker, and seems somewhat more responsive, sprinting and out of the saddle.
    Both bikes give a great comfortable ride, and are very responsive
    Last edited by [email protected]; 08-03-2004 at 12:27 PM. Reason: add on

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by TrailNut
    check out this article on steel & weight

    http://www.torelli.com/home.html?ht.../weight.shtml&1

    "...A steel frame can be made that weighs in the mid to low 3-pound range...[steel] bike that can take advantage of the high-tensile strength and springy elasticity of modern steel and ride a bike that is an absolute dream. No bike rides as well as a steel bike built by a skilled builder...

    People who disagree with this conclusion usually have either a commercial interest in other materials, or have not ridden modern steel bikes..."

    what ya think of that? i say what ever makes you ride more! of course, steel lasts the best.

    i noticed that most al. or carbon frames weighs in the low 3# range...my Viner Deda steel from ranges from 2.8 to 3.3#s.

    my Kona 26# mtb steel frame weighs in at 4.4#
    That's a very sweeping statement.
    I have a Cinelli Supercorsa SL/SLX tubes(Steel). It rides great, very lively and responsive.
    I have a Merlin Mountainbike (Titanium) because it is already outdated by today's mountainbikes (ridgid no suspension fork), I only use it on the road with 26x1 tires pumped to 105 psi. It rides very lively and feels springy you think it has suspension on undulating surface.
    I have a Klein Attitude Pro hardtail(Aluminum). It is very quick, agile, responsive too.
    The Kestrel I had was very quiet riding, muffling road irregularities, also responsive.

    So what Iam saying is, any of these will make a particular rider happy. To say that one is better than the others would be like judging a beauty contest, it depends on what physical characteristics you are looking for to say one is beautiful.

    Steel will last a long time if cared for. I wash my Titanium bike after every ride with soap and water year in, year out when I was still riding it on the trails. In the process I messed up the BB bearings and the rear hub bearings but the frame took it all happily. I don't think a steel frame bicycle can take that without rusting.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by filtersweep
    Yeah? And how big are those tires on your mtb? Seriously, that is a laughable comparison. My ancient lugged steel fixie with a steel threaded fork (probably at least 2lbs heavier than my carbon Look frameset) arguably rides better than the Look.
    Perhaps you haven't ridden the right aluminium bikes. Have you tried a Titus Drop-U out of 6069, a very soft and forgiving alloy? How about any of the new scandium bikes? I have ridden alumium bikes that pounded the crap out of me (can you say old Cannondales) and ones that ride great (my Klein Stage and Titus). I had a Lemond Zurich with a Carbon fork in the garage and it didn't ride any smoother. It's gone now.

    I will reiterate, it is all in how the frame is built. Aluminium can ride wonderfully or like crap. Same goes for Steel, Titanium and Carbon fiber. It is up to the rider to find that frame that meets their needs based on the ride and stiffness they want. You have a lugged steel frame that you love, but under my fat ass, it would probably break in two. I have found that aluminium frames when designed right can give a great ride and not flex like mad under my weight. BTW, I am not a racer, I prefer centuries, so I do look for confort.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by TrailNut
    check out this article on steel & weight

    http://www.torelli.com/home.html?ht.../weight.shtml&1

    "...A steel frame can be made that weighs in the mid to low 3-pound range...[steel] bike that can take advantage of the high-tensile strength and springy elasticity of modern steel and ride a bike that is an absolute dream. No bike rides as well as a steel bike built by a skilled builder...

    People who disagree with this conclusion usually have either a commercial interest in other materials, or have not ridden modern steel bikes..."

    what ya think of that? i say what ever makes you ride more! of course, steel lasts the best.

    i noticed that most al. or carbon frames weighs in the low 3# range...my Viner Deda steel weight ranges from 2.8 to 3.3#s.

    my Kona 26# mtb steel frame weighs in at 4.4#
    I have been traditionally an aluminum bike rider. I rode my Cannondale R500 for 6 years and loved it. It was responsive, stiff and light (after numerous upgrades). However, after riding charity tours, I could feel the stress of the road as they just vibrated through the frame onto my body. So, I decided to join in the millennium and get one of those aluminum frames with carbon fork and stays.

    It was magnificent! The comfort was something I never thought would be possible from an alum frame. Even having 700x19 tires did not make the ride less comfortable. I was hooked on the comfort. However, I realized there was noticeable flexing on the bottom bracket area whenever I get off the saddle during climbs. This was the only tradeoff that I could see with this new found comfort ride.

    Some folks in the club I ride with have steel bikes and I asked around why they ride them still. Technology has gone a long way that other frames can satisfy one's need for a long comfortable ride. This one guy just gave me his ride to try. Dude! It was stiff and smooth. I never rode a steel road bike until then. I started researching to get a steel bike. My primary concerns were corrosion and the bike weighing over 20 lbs. complete. My lbs gave me tips to maintain a steel frame. It was not as cumbersome as I thought. This accelerated my purchase.

    I took the leap of faith and got an Orbea Zona custom fit with ultegra, ksyrium, and etc. Complete, it was just about 20lbs. I was impressed! It was only 2 lbs heavier than my other bike with carbon stays but the ride is so much smoother and comfortable that I have embraced it as my new favorite! I took it for a 60 mi ride just last week and it was heavenly, smooth like butter on hot toast.

    I love my new steel bike!
    Last edited by santosjep; 08-06-2004 at 11:39 AM.

  9. #9
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    My steel bike did with no problems....

    Quote Originally Posted by midlife_xs's
    That's a very sweeping statement.
    I have a Cinelli Supercorsa SL/SLX tubes(Steel). It rides great, very lively and responsive.
    I have a Merlin Mountainbike (Titanium) because it is already outdated by today's mountainbikes (ridgid no suspension fork), I only use it on the road with 26x1 tires pumped to 105 psi. It rides very lively and feels springy you think it has suspension on undulating surface.
    I have a Klein Attitude Pro hardtail(Aluminum). It is very quick, agile, responsive too.
    The Kestrel I had was very quiet riding, muffling road irregularities, also responsive.

    So what Iam saying is, any of these will make a particular rider happy. To say that one is better than the others would be like judging a beauty contest, it depends on what physical characteristics you are looking for to say one is beautiful.

    Steel will last a long time if cared for. I wash my Titanium bike after every ride with soap and water year in, year out when I was still riding it on the trails. In the process I messed up the BB bearings and the rear hub bearings but the frame took it all happily. I don't think a steel frame bicycle can take that without rusting.
    I rode it in the rain for years with no corrosion problems. I just made sure the inner tubes were treated and I put it in a warm, dry place to dry. The corrosion issue is not an issue. If you left in in the rain it would eventually corrode. Cars are made out of steel. Most of them don't corrode.

    jaybo

  10. #10
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    Oversimplification!

    Beware the absolute statement! As the saying goes, the only absolute is that there are no absolutes. While frame design is not totally a science - you can't just "dial the properties" and get a specific result - there are a lot of knobs you can turn to get the desired performance out of any frame material. What you can't get is an equal combination of durability, weight, and performance from any material. For example, within the normal constraints of bicycle design, CF and Al will "always" be less durable than Ti and steel. The failure mechanisms are such that this is the case. Whether that means anything to people who trade in their bikes every couple of years to "upgrade" or don't ride much is beside the point. Under the same constraints, Ti and Al will "always" be lighter than steel, due to the density differences. My 59 cm LS Vortex is just under 3 lbs - show me a steel frame, that is designed to last, at that weight point. The points go on and on. The statement from Torelli is painfully self serving. They do make good bikes, but they don't make "the greatest bike in the world" by any stretch. People prefer different bikes for different reasons, and those who claim that a given material is "the best" are either fools or don't understand the concept of trade-offs.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by TrailNut
    No bike rides as well as a steel bike built by a skilled builder...
    I wonder what their unit of measurement is that proves this? Oh but wait...they're probably giving a personal opinion which then makes their next statement a little hipocritical -

    People who disagree with this conclusion usually have either a commercial interest in other materials........
    There's more of a difference in HOW a frame is put together than what it's put together with.
    .

  12. #12
    Quack
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    Someone 'splain to me

    I have two rides: a trek 1200 with carbon fork, kysrium equipes, conti 3000 tires and a tommasini tecno with a steel fork, mavic op's, and vittoria(sp?) tires. The fit of the two bikes is essentially identical as I've it obsessively tweaked by my LBS. I'm 5'9", 175 lbs.


    There is a definite difference in ride quality between the two bikes. Over chattery pavement the tommasini is much smoother. My rear tolerates longer rides much better on it. (It also climbs better, esp seated, though the trek is actually lighter.)


    Why is this? Is it the geometry, wheels, frame material, all of the above? Is it placebo since I spent twice as much on the Tommasini?

  13. #13
    Fez
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    What do you think Torelli's interests are?

    Quote Originally Posted by TrailNut
    check out this article on steel & weight

    http://www.torelli.com/home.html?ht.../weight.shtml&1

    "
    People who disagree with this conclusion usually have either a commercial interest in other materials, or have not ridden modern steel bikes..."

    I think Torelli has a quite commercial interest in steel frames, so take Torelli's conclusion with a grain of salt.

  14. #14
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    Some builders devotion to steel is due to their inability to work in other materials. So much of the bias can be ascribed to survival based marketing.

    BTW- in my personal experience very light steel frames are usually quite scary from a lack of stiffness and durability standpoint. Often they seemed to have been engineered soley for a weight claim, even though the frame was flexy and certain to be ruined in the first crash. Also the cost levels are often comparable with nicer Ti frames for these sorts of steel bikes, yet without any of the benefits.

    With the rise of afforable Ti and Carbon frames, and the very inexpensive integration of carbon stays, seatposts and fork into Al based frames, as well as the rise of sweet riding Scandium based frames (both due to the increased ability of Taiwan and Mainland factories with this regard) at very affordable prices steel is being marginalized to a few niches:

    1. Retro for retro sake crowd- they love the old school, get the Rivendale catalog, feel the love for bar-cons ect.

    2. Small custom builders (who cannot afford the equipment and experise to weld Ti) and their customers. The builders are constrained financially and through their past statements regarding steel. Their customers often thus have their choices restricted as well. Although many good deals (like Curtlo) can be found for those on a tighter budget but who actually need (rather then want) a full custom. Some like IF, get big enough and move from all-steel to offering Ti frames as well. Gee I wonder why?

    3. Steel is real crowd. True believers- won't ride anything else as their minds are made up. Depite the wonders of Ti, Carbon, Scandium, Mag frames and all the variations in between- their view is still stuck on steel. Often the more dogmatic members of this crowd get deep into decades old cliches when cornered with the facts about modern frame design and materials science- so what ever you do, don't corner them with inconvient facts. Back up slowly while repeating "steel is real, Al bike are made of beer cans".

    4. Lucky "perfect" frame owners. The lucky SOB who scored a Richard Sachs or similar dream frame that fits and does everything perfect for them. While other frames may be lighter or stiffer- they found the perfect frame for them and are sitting out the rest of the game. Often longer distance riders without a interest in racing or crazy fast group rides. Century and Brevet riders seem to follow this track. The rest areas at century are loaded with this sort of frame (along with more Sevens, Litespeeds and OCLV Treks then you can shake a stick at).

    ;)
    Dr. Cox: Lady, people aren't chocolates. Do you know what they are mostly? Bastards. Bastard-coated bastards with bastard fillings. But I don't find them half as annoying as I find naive bubble-headed optimists who walk around vomiting sunshine.

  15. #15
    steel road, fixie, & MTB
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    only way to "settle" these debates is to...race!

    go racing, as might makes right!

    or just laugh at all our sillyness...cause it's great to have so many choices offered by technology and builder skills.

    personally i don't favor steel so much as i do not trust light aluminum frames to last for years of hard riding (and crashing), even if well engineered from 'good' builders...but that's my personal bias developed from stories i've heard.

    so I must be...

    5. Hate light aluminum crowd. heard and have seen just a few stories of al. frames and al. handlebar & seatpost parts failing and have ignored all other materials frame and handle bar/seat post parts failure stories and have concluded, with "fallacy of composition," that most light weight al. frames just suck, unless aluminum is framed for dual duspension MTBs.
    Last edited by TrailNut; 08-09-2004 at 02:31 PM.
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    That pretty much sums it up. Good reasoning. That said, I'm keeping my steel Colnago MXL--at least until I get a C-50!
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.
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  17. #17
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    You tell us!

    How about you switch wheels between the bikes and evaluate the ride? I suspect a fair amount of the difference can be found in the wheels/tires. Also, the seat tube angle can have quite an impact on ride comfort - a steeper angle will send the forces more directly up the seat tube and give a rougher and more chattery ride. Wheelbase length will have an impact here as well, and often bikes with steeper STAs have shorter chain stays and shorter wheelbase. As far as climbing, I would want to see some speed vs. power information to confirm anything more than a "feeling" that one bike is faster than the other.

  18. #18
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    I used to believe that, not anymore.

    I have been an ardent believer in steel frames for years, but just got my first CF bike. Unbelievable ride, like floating on air..and very quick! I love steel, but I wouldn't ever say it is the best ride out there. BTW, my comparison is between two hi end bikes from the same manufacturer: the MXL vs the C50.

  19. #19
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    Racing doesn't prove who's bike is made better...the rider is what wins a race...

    I beat someone in a race on a new "custom" Trek project one w/ full D/A two weeks ago w/ my custom 3lb1oz steel bike frame w/ D/A, Ultegra mix...his bike was about 3lbs lighter...he finished about three minutes after me...

    I never said or thought his bike is better

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by cdmc
    I disagree. Titanium and Aluminum can ride just as well as steel. It is all in how the frame is designed and built. I currently ride an alumimum hardtail MTB that rides much better than most steel bikes.
    The problem is not materials properties, but what's available. Most aluminum bikes go all-out for stiffness and light weight. To my rear end, they're just too stiff, and with crowded tire clearance, so that only a 23 will fit. The combination of an ultra-stiff Al frame and 23mm tires at 120 psi produces a very resonant, "buzzy" ride that I don't enjoy at all. You could make a sweet-riding aluminum frame, by using narrower-gauge tubing, but nobody does anymore.

    Titanium has lots of neat properties, and the few Ti bikes I've ridden ride as well as my steel bikes do, except one that was too stiff.. That said, I don't care for the bare-metal look, and good Ti bikes are very, very expensive. I've seen to many cheap Ti frames with discolored welds, poor alignment, and other issues related to cheap, low-skill construction to trust them.

    I rode CF for 10 years before going back to steel. Nice riding bike, but a little too "dead" feeling for my taste, and crashed CF isn't pretty. Resin composites are very strong, but not very tough.

    For my taste and preferences, standard-diameter steel frames have the best set of compromises between weight, stiffness, and ride quality, so that's why I ride them. But it's about more than just materials. My Can-o'-ale touring bike is a cadillac. But with 38 mm tires, it could be made out of concrete and still be comfy. If I switch wheels with my steel road bike, I don't enjoy the bike at all.

    My Al hardtail is a nasty riding bike, even with 2.25 inch tires. It's just too damned stiff. Big downtube, and a chainstay junction milled out of 1 inch think solid aluminum plate. But I only paid 10 bucks for the frame, so I'm not complaining much.

    --Shannon

  21. #21
    steel road, fixie, & MTB
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chainslap
    Racing doesn't prove who's bike is made better...the rider is what wins a race...

    ...

    no kidding. duhhh! i'd would hope that this notion "rider is what wins a race" -- would be perceived common sense.

    just like fighting doesn't make the fighter "right," the dominant combatant just shuts off the loser's voice
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  22. #22
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    Yes AND no.

    I have a 3 1/2 pound steel frame that rides just great. I also have a 2 1/2 pound Aluminum frame that is very close to it. The only problem is with a AL frame so light, if I rode it all the time, it might only have a life span of two years. The steel bike will last 20 years unless I crash it hard.
    A 3 1/2 Aluminum frame might last 20 years, but you'll wish it didn't.
    If your opinion differs from mine, ..........Too bad.
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  23. #23
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    I don't see how frame material makes much difference...

    I've seen this argument over and over and to this day I don't understand WHY a frame material would have any noticeable difference in the comfort of a bike's ride (maybe in other areas, like lateral stiffness...but not in comfort). Here's my thought process...

    The primary source of 'discomfort' mentioned by most riders is a stiff ride...in other words, "stiff" as felt by your butt in the saddle (because that is where most of your weight rests). A secondary source of stiffness or discomfort would be felt by your hands.

    If you consider the physics that take place in the operation of a bicycle with a rider, what parts "give" (or move) the most as the rear tire hits bumps? It surely isn't the frame (unless you ride a rubber band!).

    From a comfort standpoint, the following bike components would have more impact than the material the frame was made from (in this order, the first contributing the most to comfort):

    #1 - tires. This is the biggest source of absorption of forces from the road (bumps) as this is the part of the bike that can "squish" the most. It's amazing the effects that psi, tire construction, etc have on the ride quality.

    #2 - saddle. The saddle is the second most "flexy" (or "squishy") part in the bike. A well-built saddle will absorb many of the forces transferred through the bike. Most saddles are built with either plastic or leather platforms that are designed to flex to both contour to the riders butt as well as deaden any force that comes up through the seatpost. The seat rails are also designed to flex quite a bit too.

    #3 - seatpost. The more the seatpost sticks out of the frame, the more it will flex and therefore cushion the ride. That might be one of the reasons many people think compact geometries are more comfortable than standard ones.

    #4 - frame design. A frame with shorter chainstays will direct more road feedback upward through the rear triangle and seat tube than a bike with longer chainstays. Of course, a bike with shorter chainstays is built that way to be a quick handler and not necessarily a "comfort cruiser".

    #5 - frame material (last). Think about it - let's say you have 2 frames of identical geometry with different materials. If you put an upward force on the rear dropout and measure that force at the top of the seat tube (simulating a force from the road), will there be any measurable difference between the 2 frames? I highly doubt it. Now in terms of transmitting vibrations to the rider's hands ("buzzing"), the properties of a frame may have some impact there. But once again, the saddle, handlebars, stem, seatpost, and bar tape all stand between your body and the frame, so the overall difference created by a change of the frame material would be negligible compared to the deadening the other components provide.

    There are just so many variables in the construction of a bike that affect comfort MORE than the frame material - tires, frame geometry, saddle, etc. - that I cannot believe that ANYBODY would buy into the hype that "frame material X is more comfortable than frame material Y". Of course, this is what bike manufacturers what you to think as it is what sells bikes.

    Just my 2 cents...

    Thx...Doug

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    Quote Originally Posted by dgangi
    #5 - frame material (last). Think about it - let's say you have 2 frames of identical geometry with different materials. If you put an upward force on the rear dropout and measure that force at the top of the seat tube (simulating a force from the road), will there be any measurable difference between the 2 frames? I highly doubt it. Now in terms of transmitting vibrations to the rider's hands ("buzzing"), the properties of a frame may have some impact there. But once again, the saddle, handlebars, stem, seatpost, and bar tape all stand between your body and the frame, so the overall difference created by a change of the frame material would be negligible compared to the deadening the other components provide.

    There are just so many variables in the construction of a bike that affect comfort MORE than the frame material - tires, frame geometry, saddle, etc. - that I cannot believe that ANYBODY would buy into the hype that "frame material X is more comfortable than frame material Y". Of course, this is what bike manufacturers what you to think as it is what sells bikes.

    Just my 2 cents...

    Thx...Doug
    All true, and your ranking is about dead-on, IMHO. To keep the number of variables to a minimum, let's confine ourselves to "racing" bikes, IE, relatively short wheelbase, steep angles, 700x23 tires. Assume equal pressure. There are noticable differences. They're small, but they're definitely there. My suspicion is that the answer can be found in the spectral decay characteristics of the frames, but I've got no proof of that. Still, human senses are pretty good at this sort of thing, and we are talking about subjective pehnomena anyway, so senses are what we've got to work with.

    I've done similar comparisons between bikes I've owned, and my perceptions are quite stable. Leaving smaller-gauge aluminum out of the equation for now, the aluminum bikes I've ridden have all shared a similar, resonant, "buzzy" ride, and have shown other behaviors indicative of excessive stiffness, like wheel chatter in rough corners.

    Carbon fiber seems to have little of this buzz, as one would expect from a lossy material. I've ridden too-stiff carbon bikes that had some of the other problems of stiff bikes, but they all shared this "well-damped" feel. To me, it's too much of a good thing, I feel like I'm loosing some information about what the tires are doing. CF has other issues, mainly in toughness and repairability, that are outside the scope of this discussion.

    Appropriately stiff steel and titanium bikes feel, to me, to fall between these two extremes, IE, just right. Enough "noise" is transmited to allow good feedback, but not so much that it's annoying or unfomfortable.

    But there are exceptions in each material. A bike like a Vitus or an Alan (I've ridden both) makes the case pretty convincingly that aluminum frames can be very comfortable, and a ride on a larger-sized Masi 3V, with it's straight-gauge 0.9 mm tubing, will make you re-think steel's comfort.

    But within the parameters of what can be found at the LBS, my observations have been quite stable over the years. Your observations, and your preferences, are allowed to vary, of course. Ride what works for you.

    --Shannon

  25. #25
    steel road, fixie, & MTB
    Reputation: TrailNut's Avatar
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    May 2004
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    ride on, Shannon

    Shannon's observations resonate with me
    Viner Pro Team Dedacciai EOM 16.5 light steel Campy 2x10.
    "The state that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting by fools." - Thucydides.

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