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  1. #1
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    Possible New Clyde Ride?

    Anyone over the 300 # mark can relate to my fear of frame failure on alluminum bikes.

    Looks like Specialize has a steel frame bike that may fit the bill for me.
    I do not know enough about componets to tell if this would be the best pick, or even if the awol is a heavy duty enough bike but I want to look into it.
    I got up to doing some pretty long rides last year, but the farther I get from the house the more nervous I become of something failing.

    What are your opinions?

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    2013 Trek Ion CX Pro
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Midtown's Avatar
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    Check out he Surly Disc Trucker. I have one and really dig it. Disc Trucker | Bikes | Surly Bikes
    Or, the Surly Krampus. Krampus | Bikes | Surly Bikes

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Midtown View Post
    Check out he Surly Disc Trucker. I have one and really dig it. Disc Trucker | Bikes | Surly Bikes
    Or, the Surly Krampus. Krampus | Bikes | Surly Bikes
    I have looked at them online, there is no dealer with in 3 hours of me so the only way I can see them.
    I am not sure about the components on the Surly, have read some not so good reviews on the components.
    2013 Trek Ion CX Pro
    2013 Specialized Carve Comp

  4. #4
    Senior Member Wilfred Laurier's Avatar
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    Have you had aluminum frames break in the past? I have only ever had one aluminum frame break, and it was a frame intended for road use that saw heavy off-road use. I have broken a handful of steel frames, though. Steel frames tend to be built with a smaller factor of safety, and therefore are easier to exceed their intended design. Their reputation for being unbreakable is mostly a myth, especially mid-to-lightweight ones aimed at the mass market.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wilfred Laurier View Post
    Have you had aluminum frames break in the past? I have only ever had one aluminum frame break, and it was a frame intended for road use that saw heavy off-road use. I have broken a handful of steel frames, though. Steel frames tend to be built with a smaller factor of safety, and therefore are easier to exceed their intended design. Their reputation for being unbreakable is mostly a myth, especially mid-to-lightweight ones aimed at the mass market.
    I never had a frame break, I do realize I can race my bike like a 200 lb person can, I use good judgement. Not going to get rid of my current rides, as my weight continues to come off, the Ion will get tons of use.
    2013 Trek Ion CX Pro
    2013 Specialized Carve Comp

  6. #6
    Senior Member Wilfred Laurier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dkyser View Post
    I never had a frame break, I do realize I can race my bike like a 200 lb person can, I use good judgement. Not going to get rid of my current rides, as my weight continues to come off, the Ion will get tons of use.
    Well, my point is, looking only for a steel bike is unnecessary, overly restrictive, and probably counter productive.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Jarrett2's Avatar
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    I started riding at 375lbs last year. I had concerns the bike would explode underneath me. Riders who weighed 150lbs told me I needed to custom order a special bike made with reinforced titanium and wheels with 4 million spokes in them (ok, exaggerating a little)

    Surprisingly, none of the bikes I've owned were special built and none I've ridden have exploded. Basically, you can buy anything you want. Whatever feels comfortable to you. Whether that's carbon fiber, aluminum, steel, titanium, is up to you.

    The one issue you may have is breaking spokes in wheels. No matter what you buy, make sure it has 32 spoke wheels, especially in the rear. A lot of entry level bikes come with that standard. As you go up the price food chain, manufacturers tend to have models with less and less spokes. So you either have to buy a bike that comes standard with 32 spokes or plan on buying some wheels after the fact.

    Some LBS (local bike shops) will go ahead and let you trade in stock wheels on some sturdier wheels at the time of purchase. No matter what wheels you end up with, have the LBS do a tension check on the wheels and make sure they are properly tensioned for a bigger rider.

    Personally, I am a Specialized fan. I've owned 2 Treks and 3 Specialized bikes. The Treks (Bontrager wheels) were headaches. My Specialized bikes have been much lower maintenance.

    I've ridden this bike as heavy as 275 lbs. It's carbon fiber. No asplosions in 1500 miles:



    I put over 1300 miles on this aluminum bike with zero issues. It's completely stock and I weighed over 300 lbs when I rode it:
    Last edited by Jarrett2; 12-02-14 at 04:52 PM.

  8. #8
    The Improbable Bulk Little Darwin's Avatar
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    I have ridden for the past 10 years on aluminum bikes (primarily a Giant Sedona DX) at weights from 300 to 365.

    The only frame I ever broke was a steel frame, when I weighed 155 pounds... It was a cheap bike back in the 70s.

    I think an aluminum frame may be more prone to dents than breakage, and that wouldn't be impacted by weight, but klutziness.
    Slow Ride Cyclists of NEPA

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  9. #9
    Senior Member ahultin's Avatar
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    Based on my own experience as well as anecdotal experience from here and other forums, fatigue failures in aluminum frames seem to occur in the 15-20000 mile range. For me this was about 6 years. The failures I have seen rarely leave someone stranded (in my case I had noticed something strange going on and finished the last 10 or so of a 30 mile ride. it wasn't till the next ride that I figured out it was a frame failure) As such I don't believe you need to limit yourself to steel only. My advice would be to go with a frame from a company that stands behind its warranty.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Jarrett2's Avatar
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    Why not ride this one?

    2013 Trek Ion CX Pro

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jarrett2 View Post
    Why not ride this one?

    2013 Trek Ion CX Pro
    I do ride that bike, alot but the 18H front and 24H back race wheels make me nervous when I venture further and further from home. They have held up fine under my 350 lb weight so far.
    Like I mentioned earlier its when I get 10+ miles from home is when I start wishing I was on a more bomb proof bike.
    2013 Trek Ion CX Pro
    2013 Specialized Carve Comp

  12. #12
    Senior Member Jarrett2's Avatar
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    Senior Member corwin1968's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ahultin View Post
    Based on my own experience as well as anecdotal experience from here and other forums, fatigue failures in aluminum frames seem to occur in the 15-20000 mile range. For me this was about 6 years. The failures I have seen rarely leave someone stranded (in my case I had noticed something strange going on and finished the last 10 or so of a 30 mile ride. it wasn't till the next ride that I figured out it was a frame failure) As such I don't believe you need to limit yourself to steel only. My advice would be to go with a frame from a company that stands behind its warranty.
    This is my understanding as well. I've read that aluminum and carbon frames have a finite life-span, even under normal riding conditions, while cro-moly frames have a virtually unlimited life-span as long as you don't let them rust. It has to do with the properties of the materials and how they respond to stressors.

    I'm a 400lb rider and I stick with steel partly for that reason but primarily because I've also read that failure in a steel frame is a gradual process with the frame deforming and giving plenty of notice of impending failure. I've read that carbon often fails catastrophically and that aluminum sometimes does. I just prefer that extra margin of safety that a steel frame gives.
    Currently riding a 1983 Takara Highlander converted to a single-speed.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Jarrett2's Avatar
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  15. #15
    Senior Member Wilfred Laurier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by corwin1968 View Post
    This is my understanding as well. I've read that aluminum and carbon frames have a finite life-span, even under normal riding conditions, while cro-moly frames have a virtually unlimited life-span as long as you don't let them rust. It has to do with the properties of the materials and how they respond to stressors.
    This is a common misunderstanding. Steel has a potentially infinite life span only if stresses in the material do not go above a certain level - called the 'fatigue limit'. It is quite possible that a sturdy steel bike frame under a heavy or strong rider might not see stresses above its fatigue limit, but the limit is very likely to be reached easily by a big or strong rider in a lighter steel frame. And frame weight is not necessarily a good indicator of how much abuse a frame can take without exceeding its fatigue limit - the tube design, construction methods, and quality of construction are harder to discern but just as important.

    My weight fluctuates between 240 and 260 lbs, and I primarily ride aluminum frames because I get reasonable life spans from them and they are still reasonably light, and stiff enough that I don't get chain, brake or wheel rub when hammering of of the saddle. Up until last year I had only ever had one steel frame that I thought performed adequately, but then I found cracks under the seat stays and retired it.

    Most aluminum bikes are made with vastly oversized tubes, and this both increases stiffness and reduces the amount of stress the tubes must endure, given the same forces input into a frame made from smaller diameter tubes. Steel is generally not made with such big tubes because the frame would either weigh a tonne, or the tube walls would be so thin that denting would be a serious problem, so while steel is a 'stronger material' on a per-square-inch-of-metal comparison, the conjstruction of aluminum bikes makes them generally better than steel for heavy riders. When Kona made their 'Clydesdale specific' line of bikes, the Hoss models, they were made out of aluminum, not steel.

    Quote Originally Posted by corwin1968 View Post
    I'm a 400lb rider and I stick with steel partly for that reason but primarily because I've also read that failure in a steel frame is a gradual process with the frame deforming and giving plenty of notice of impending failure. I've read that carbon often fails catastrophically and that aluminum sometimes does. I just prefer that extra margin of safety that a steel frame gives.
    In my 16 years of working in bike shops, have saw a lot more steel frames fail than aluminum (both because steel used to be all that was available, and also, I think, because of the inherent weaknesses of bikes made from steel). I have seen some steel frames that failed very rapidly, while most cracked at a joint and were safely ridden home and retired. Of the aluminum frames I have seen failed, I can only recall one that simply fell apart (an early 90s Cannondale). The rest were ridden for tens or hundreds of kms after failure while the rider wondered why the bike was making creaking noises, or why it simply 'felt funny'.
    In short, the 'gradual failure' advantage is a myth.

    To summarize, experience and observation leads me to believe that a sturdy and well made aluminum frame is better for a Clydesdale than a steel one, although, truth be told, most people have fine experiences with well made bikes of either material.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Captlink's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dkyser View Post
    I do ride that bike, alot but the 18H front and 24H back race wheels make me nervous when I venture further and further from home. They have held up fine under my 350 lb weight so far.
    Like I mentioned earlier its when I get 10+ miles from home is when I start wishing I was on a more bomb proof bike.
    I owned a bomb proof bike you would not like it.I think I got as much exercise from pushing it as riding it.I finally gave up on it as it had no life being bomb proof.Remember you will get stronger and lighter but the bike that is a stone will always be a stone.If you are nervous buy a better stronger wheel-set and keep the high performance bike.
    I was worried about the steel vs aluminum frame also at 330#. I plan on aluminum but will retire the frame in two years and reuse any components that I can with a new frame.
    Ever had a eighteen wheeler get in your draft.

  17. #17
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    I'd like to thank the OP for pointing out the bike in general I had never noticed it before. Outside of the debate on Fe vs Al .... it's a cool bike, and I want to go test ride one as a possible replacement for my LHT.

  18. #18
    Senior Member jaxgtr's Avatar
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    I put over 3800 miles on a Trek 7300 that I bought in 2003 when I weighed 375 lbs, I never had any issues with it, I even stripped it of all parts and rebuilt it in 2007, pic below post re-build. It was even my commuter for a time.

    The bike is still going strong as I just sold it to a friends nephew who was in need of transportation for school and work. At 375, I would say you would need to find a bike with 36 spoke on the back, but other than that, should not have any issues with Aluminum frame. I had some Velocity Deep V's built up in 2006 and they have never had to be trued and they have been through a lot of miles. I would not ignore Aluminum as a frame choice.


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    you should learn to embrace change, and mock it's failings every step of the way.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Jarrett2's Avatar
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    This would be a solid rear wheel for you:

    Shimano Ultegra FH-6800 Rear Hub 32 Hole$104.74
    DT Swiss RR 585 Rim Black 32 Hole $68.88
    DT Swiss Competition 14/15 Gauge Spokes $14.40
    DT Swiss Competition 14/15 Gauge Spokes $14.40
    DT Swiss 14g Brass $4.48
    3 Cross Spoke pattern
    Labor $25.00
    Sub Total $231.90
    Less Discount -$13.80
    Total $218.10

    Excel Sports - Custom Wheel Builder

    Thinking about getting one for myself.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Wilfred Laurier's Avatar
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    One thing I forgot to mention is that that Specialized looks awesome and if it fits and the OP likes it, he should buy one immediately! All my arguments were really not to say that aluminum is better, just that big riders should not be afraid of it.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wilfred Laurier View Post
    One thing I forgot to mention is that that Specialized looks awesome and if it fits and the OP likes it, he should buy one immediately! All my arguments were really not to say that aluminum is better, just that big riders should not be afraid of it.
    I totally agree! That bike is right up my alley. This thread just may cost me $2000

  22. #22
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dkyser View Post
    I do ride that bike, alot but the 18H front and 24H back race wheels make me nervous when I venture further and further from home. They have held up fine under my 350 lb weight so far.
    Like I mentioned earlier its when I get 10+ miles from home is when I start wishing I was on a more bomb proof bike.
    As Jarrett2 pointed out, your wheels can easily be replaced. You might even end up losing some wheel weight when you do so. Low spoke count wheels use heavier rims in an attempt to make the wheel "stronger". I replaced a set of low spoke count wheels on one of my bikes recently with a 32 spoke wheelset built around White Industry T11 hubs, Pillar triple butted spokes and Velocity A23 rims. The wheels are stronger than the ones they replaced and they weight 2 lbs less.

    You are worrying too much about how far from home you are and what can happen. Learn how to deal with potential problems rather than needlessly worrying about them. I regularly ride hundreds to thousands of miles from home on self-sustained road and mountain bike tours as well as just recreational rides. Some of my rides can be incredibly remote. All I have to deal with the problems that I may encounter is a few tools, an opposable thumb and about a kilo and a half of clever monkey brain. It's amazing what you can do with so little. I also have a pair of feet if things get really hairy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wilfred Laurier View Post
    ...steel is a 'stronger material' on a per-square-inch-of-metal comparison...
    I agree with everything you said but have one (very small) nitpick. Steel is stronger on a cubic inch comparison, not square inch. Area vs volume.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wilfred Laurier View Post
    In my 16 years of working in bike shops, have saw a lot more steel frames fail than aluminum (both because steel used to be all that was available, and also, I think, because of the inherent weaknesses of bikes made from steel). I have seen some steel frames that failed very rapidly, while most cracked at a joint and were safely ridden home and retired. Of the aluminum frames I have seen failed, I can only recall one that simply fell apart (an early 90s Cannondale). The rest were ridden for tens or hundreds of kms after failure while the rider wondered why the bike was making creaking noises, or why it simply 'felt funny'.
    In short, the 'gradual failure' advantage is a myth.
    To elaborate a little further to your point which I completely agree with: People think of steel as being a "flexible" material and aluminum as being "stiff". They are confusing the way in with the metals are used with the properties of the material. As you pointed out above, steel frames are "flexible" and give a compliant ride because of the size of the tube used for the frames. Likewise, aluminum is "stiff" because of the size of the tubes used for bicycle frames. That is a cheese to chalk comparison (apples to oranges is the wrong idiom). If you compare similar samples...tubes, flat stock, square stock, etc...steel is stiffer than aluminum. Because it is stiffer, it is also more likely to break in the manner that many people think aluminum breaks, i.e sheer off suddenly. Aluminum is a softer material that tends to crack and tear when it fails which is why it creaks a lot before riders find out that their frame is cracked.

    From my own personal experience with frame failures (2 steel and 2 aluminum) and component failures (aluminum/carbon crank, pedals and lot of rims), the steel parts and frames sheered suddenly and unexpectedly. The aluminum parts cracked and creaked for a long time before I notice any cracks in the frames or parts.

    And to assuage dkyser's fears, failures of bicycles and bicycle parts are rare in my experience. Yes, I've broken two steel and two aluminum bikes but that's over 35+ years of riding and around 30 bicycles which are evenly divided between steel and aluminum. My touring bike is aluminum and, as I said above, I ride thousands of miles from home without support. My mountain bikes are aluminum and I don't worry about them failing me on some trail that is miles and miles from a trailhead.

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  23. #23
    Senior Member Wilfred Laurier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    I agree with everything you said but have one (very small) nitpick. Steel is stronger on a cubic inch comparison, not square inch. Area vs volume.
    Strength is measured based on square inches, not cubic. It is the cross-sectional area that is used when calculating stresses, and the stress a material can withstand is what we call 'strength'. Hence, material strengths are given in psi (pounds per square inch) or MPa (N/mm^2).

    However, everything else you said is true - but, IMHO, is only important on an academic level in the context of this thread, which is about a steel framed specialized adventure/touring bike. And I am sure we can also agree that that bike looks damn sweet, and I hope the OP is already out riding it!

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wilfred Laurier View Post
    Strength is measured based on square inches, not cubic. It is the cross-sectional area that is used when calculating stresses, and the stress a material can withstand is what we call 'strength'. Hence, material strengths are given in psi (pounds per square inch) or MPa (N/mm^2).

    However, everything else you said is true - but, IMHO, is only important on an academic level in the context of this thread, which is about a steel framed specialized adventure/touring bike. And I am sure we can also agree that that bike looks damn sweet, and I hope the OP is already out riding it!
    Not riding it now, but I will have a 3rd ride come spring.
    Living in a very rural area northern area, a problem with a bike can derail your progress in a hurry, happened to me last year.
    We do not have a long bike season so i will have more than 1 road / cross bike come March.
    2013 Trek Ion CX Pro
    2013 Specialized Carve Comp

  25. #25
    Senior Curmudgeon FarHorizon's Avatar
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    I started at 285 (admittedly, not over 300, but close) on an Electra Townie (aluminum frame). No frame issues and I still ride it. Provided you aren't riding a damaged aluminum frame, I really doubt that frame failure is much of a concern. Seat post failure, however, particularly with long, long posts...

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