Touring - Al vs Cr Mo frames...
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I'm looking into touring in SE Asia later this year, and would like to get some opinions on frames. I've read a lot about people taking Al frames touring and being unable to repair them when they break. Is this a legitamate concern? I've had a 7005 Al mountain bike for 5 years which has been absolutely thrashed in the bush without anything breaking (except the rear deraileur), and don't really want to throw away money on a heavier CrMo frame. Do pannier racks put an unusual stress on the frame?
Has anyone ever broken a frame, and if so how did you do it?
04-20-03, 08:22 PM
I broke a chromoly frame once, but it was on a weld, so that may not count. I'm running aluminum now and I find it far too rigid.
I'm only guessing, but Southeast Asia might have a few potholes, and the couple of pounds you might save with Al might not be worth the jarring.
04-21-03, 07:11 PM
Do pannier racks put an unusual stress on the frame?
What I found is the racks sway a little when I ride, causing stress on both the frame and the rack. When this happens over a long period of time, something will give. I had an aluminium rack brake on me while on tour, but I never had a problem with my chromoly frame.
Cannondale, Devinci and Giant, to name three manufactures, are making aluminium touring bikes. Apparently aluminium technology has improved over the years, so they may be just as durable as steal. However, it all comes down to “what if” and if I was on a tour in South East Asia, I would like to be in the situation where I could have my frame repaired if the need arises. The way I look at it is, a steal frame is cheep insurance. Just think of the headache and risk of trying to find someone to weld an aluminium frame while in the middle of nowhere.
04-21-03, 07:31 PM
With current technology, there is no real [/i]cycling[/i] advantage going either way. A good steel frame is, in theory, heavier than a good aluminium frame, but one talks of a 0.5 lb difference, i.e. a trivial one. In terms of rigidity, a good touring frame like the Trek 520, the Bruce Gordon or even the Mikado won't flex and therefore will be as little "forgiving" as an aluminium frame. Resilience and shock absorbsion will come from tires, and a good touring frame for Asia should accept wide tires like 26"x 2" (or more), or 700 x 40 to 45, even with fenders.
So the real advantage of steel comes with its ability to be welded on the road. Not a real advantage in North America or Europe, but an interesting feature in Viet Nam.
BTW, make sure the derailleur hanger is reparable or carry some replacement part. Also, if you prefer STI, bring replacement downtube shifters.
As for racks, I have broken the original Blackburn (vintage 1980) but not the EX-2. Still, I'd prefer a rigid steel rack like the Tubus.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts guys. I'll do a little window shopping and see what's around.
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