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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 02-07-06, 10:27 AM   #1
DogBoy
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Question for the steel lovers out there...

Why do you prefer steel frames for commuting? AL seems to be more resistant to corrosion (well...it doesn't rust anyway). Is it just for the smoother ride or are there other reasons I'm not aware of. I'm afraid of steel with the combo of salty roads, wet & the frequent knicks and scratches my commuter bikes get. So here is your opportunity to sing the praises of steel.
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Old 02-07-06, 10:45 AM   #2
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I like the ride, it flexes nicely and absorbes impacts from craters, er, potholes, rather well. Its comfy. Its durable. Rust? Well, around here its not an issue. Nicks and scratches can be covered by a dab of clear nail polish to prevent rust. WIth proper care a steel frame will last a very very very long time. People are still riding steel bikes made in the 40's and 50's. Probably even older ones in some areas. There are steel penny farthings that have been restored and are 100+ years old, and they still get ridden. That's pretty durable in my book!
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Old 02-07-06, 10:55 AM   #3
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The ride (and price relative to other types) made me get steel. But there's no way I would ride it in the rain. The other bike is aluminum which was cheeeap and it handles the elements fine. All the steel bolts on it are rusting!
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Old 02-07-06, 11:14 AM   #4
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Steel's a good investment. Buy it once, keep it forever barring some horrific crash that cracks the frame. Just wipe it down after a rainy ride to keep it from rusting.
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Old 02-07-06, 11:18 AM   #5
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I've still got my steel frame from 25 years ago and it has been ridden in the rain many times. If I see rust, I sand it off clean and touch up the paint.

I've got nothing against other frame types... they have thier advantages as well. But steel is the longest lasting at the most reasonable price. With Reynolds 853, it's just as light as alloy or Ti. And the ride is good.

What more do you want?

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Old 02-07-06, 11:19 AM   #6
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My bikes are older ones that I bought used. I love the industry move to aluminum because everyone thinks steel is obsolete and the prices go down.

I work on my own bikes. Steel is not as soft as aluminum. Its harder for ham fisted galoots like me to strip the threads in bottom brackets or fender mounting eyelets.

I think steel is more resistant to dents. I'm talking about the bike falling over in the garage and landing with the top tube squarely on a concrete cynder block. I think steel is a little more robust in surviving stupid accidents like that.
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Old 02-07-06, 11:27 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rykoala
I like the ride, it flexes nicely and absorbes impacts from craters, er, potholes, rather well. Its comfy. Its durable. Rust? Well, around here its not an issue. Nicks and scratches can be covered by a dab of clear nail polish to prevent rust. WIth proper care a steel frame will last a very very very long time. People are still riding steel bikes made in the 40's and 50's. Probably even older ones in some areas. There are steel penny farthings that have been restored and are 100+ years old, and they still get ridden. That's pretty durable in my book!
That pretty much sums it up for me.

The only other thing I'd like to add is that bikes were meant to be ridden. Everything will wear our eventually. Ride what you like, take care of it, and worry less.
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Old 02-07-06, 11:54 AM   #8
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I bent the derailleur hanger on my Al bike. I didn't hit anything, and the ground wasn't rough - just smooth parking lot - but it bent severely anyway. Strike one. Shop wasn't sure if they could straighten it, took them three days to get the "special tool" from the main shop. Strike two. Failure would have meant a $300 factory repair - my nickel since it was due to a "crash." IMO, just falling over shouldn't be a crippling "crash". Strike three. Now it's steel forever after. Harder to bend by mistake. Easier to bend if it needs fixed.
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Old 02-07-06, 12:09 PM   #9
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I refuse to buy a bike for more than about 20 bucks. I pay less for the bike, it's less likely to be stolen, and if somebody were to steal it I'd spend less replacing it.

The only bikes I've seen that cheap are steel. I don't know if the ride is better than AL but the ride is fine and I've had no durability problems whatsoever.
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Old 02-07-06, 12:40 PM   #10
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I like steel because for me, it's a smoother ride than aluminum; I don't feel every tiny bump. As a result, my bad back doesn't get worse. My Lemond came from the factory with drain holes (even though it never rains in Southern California :-) ), but it also came with rustproofing inside the tubes. If your steel ride doesn't have that, ask at the LBS: they will be able to do it for you or sell the rustproofing liquid. It takes two or three days to do.
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Old 02-07-06, 12:56 PM   #11
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i haven't seen a lugged aluminum frame!

I love the ride of steel. And it will out last you if taken care of.
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Old 02-07-06, 01:02 PM   #12
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My steel bike doesn't rust - I put Framesaver in the frame and touch up the rare exterior paint scratch.

AFAIK, road salt will cause unprotected aluminum to corrode. Protecting my steel frame from rust automatically protects against the road salt corrosion, too.

Steel provides an amazing ride quality for relatively cheap.

Steel is much easier to repair.

For us clydesdales, aluminum will eventually fail due to fatigue, steel won't.

To my eye, steel frames look so much sexier.
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Old 02-07-06, 01:23 PM   #13
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I'd say lugged steel is the best way to make a good all-round bike frame. It's not just the steel, it's the brazed lugs.

I'm not so sure that welded steel is any better than welded Alu for a bike frame.

Workmanship and quality is the most important thing about frames. Cannondale makes really nice Alu frames--- better than almost any welded steel frames you can buy. So although Jamis makes a good cheap welded steel frame bike, one worth buying, it's not as light or as strong as a Cannondale's Alu frames.

A lugged Waterford fame is better yet-- because of craftmanship.

Many commuters pick 1980's lugged steel frames becuase they are well made and cheap. A good combo.
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Old 02-07-06, 01:26 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by d2create
i haven't seen a lugged aluminum frame!
Darn it, d2c. That was the best reason I could think of.
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Old 02-07-06, 01:33 PM   #15
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Oh, I bet you have seen a lugged Alu frame.... and lugged carbon frames as well. The lugs were inside the frame!
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Old 02-07-06, 01:47 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by d2create
i haven't seen a lugged aluminum frame!

I love the ride of steel. And it will out last you if taken care of.
Here is my Sakae (sockeye) frame and fork. ultra light lugged aluminum:

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Old 02-07-06, 01:55 PM   #17
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Steel is cheap! Actually, steel can be free. I occasionally get steel frames (and all kinds of other dated bike parts) from a certain scrap steel dumpter late at night.

I don't think I've ever ridden anything but steel, so I can't speak about the ride quality or anything. I do know that steel has been around so long and is understood so well (from an engineering standpoint) that I don't have to worry nearly so much about carbon forks exploding or aluminum frames getting random stress fractures, etc. Steel isn't perfect, but we at least know pretty much all there is to know about it, which can't be said for all the new fancy stuff they build bikes out of these days.

Another bonus is that I can weld steel in my garage if I need to modify something or fabricate a weird bracket or something.
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Old 02-07-06, 02:38 PM   #18
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My steel frame is more comforatable (no suspension), my AL frame feels "brittle" or "crisp", which is fine for shorter, fast rides. Fatigue favors steel, which is why I'll have my Trek 950 indefinitely, even if it is heavy.

As for rust, I spot remove any rust w/ steel wool and touch up routinely. No rust "problems" in 16 years, and I live in the Midwest (occasional winter rider). I've really only needed to remove rust on boss threads where the paint gets scraped.

A thought on weight. Better rims will gain you more in accel than reducing frame weight.
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Old 02-07-06, 03:06 PM   #19
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As far as the ride goes... If you have been riding for a while, go to the bike shop and test ride a steel bike, a carbon bike, and an aluminum bike. No suspension on all of 'em. I could NOT tell the difference before I started riding regularly, but now I can feel it right away. The steel and carbon bikes are so much more comfortable, I tried the aluminum before the carbon and when I went halfway across the parking lot I checked if the tires were flat, the carbon rode that much smoother than the aluminum.

But it's personal preference. An aluminum frame with carbon forks and seatstays might feel just as good as a full steel bike. Try different bikes in your price range and see what you like best.

(BTW: Don't crash when test-riding the carbon bike. They're a wee bit expensive.)
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Old 02-07-06, 03:26 PM   #20
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This NOT a rant against modern exotic materials. They are all very, very cool.

I like old 3-speeds alot. They are not light at about 38 - 42 lbs, but they are among the strongest, longest-lasting bicycles ever made. There may be over a billion of them on roads and dirt tracks all over the world. I've seen pictures of them being ridden in Africa with no tires.

They are steel.

I have at least one such bike. A '64 Brit that I got for almost nothing. It was a mess. A dull, shallow coat of rust on all bright surfaces but the tubing is as good today as it was when built. It rides like a Rolls-Royce and looks like one, too, except for the hood ornament. Note that these bikes were built out of "gas pipe". Today, steel bikes like Trek and dozens of other production are made of Cro-moly steel. The addition of cromium adds to the corrosion resistance of the steel, as well as providing other benefits. There are other types of steel at different price levels.

My '88 Trek was left outside by the side of the house for over ten years. It's very wet here and the ambient moisture in the Pac NW is high all the time. There is only the slightest hint of rust at certain sharp points. I ride it everyday with a vengeance.

Rivendell, ANT, Houle and other fine custom makers use steel because their bikes are built to be ridden daily and with no concern for the weather or other conditions.

Don't you be concerned, either.
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Old 02-07-06, 03:33 PM   #21
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If I rode an aluminum bike, I'd be lying when singing...

"I'm a cowboy.
On a steel horse, I ride.
I'm wanted
Dead or alive."

I guess I'm still half-lying, since I'm not really a cowboy or wanted, (especially DOA).

So, I'll have to stay with steel, (and no, I don't really sing this while riding to work).
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Old 02-07-06, 03:41 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tacomee
Oh, I bet you have seen a lugged Alu frame.... and lugged carbon frames as well. The lugs were inside the frame!
Bianchi's 928 Carbon Lugged/Chorus is externally lugged carbon.

But hands down Steel lugged frames look so much better. Only one bike in my stable is alu, the rest are steel.
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Old 02-07-06, 05:39 PM   #23
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Because steel is real. I have only ridden steel, and so I can't compare it to other materials, but I can say that it feels comfortable when I ride it and I know that every time I have ever crashed, by bike has come out in better condition than me, so that says something.
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Old 02-07-06, 05:57 PM   #24
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Steel is a better ride than aluminum, for me at least. Alu bikes seem brittle--the ride, that is. Never have liked them. As for rust, if you take care of your bike, rust will be minimal. That's just common sense--clean your bike every once in a while. And if you don't, it's not going to rust though for a very, very long time. My '85 Stumpjumper was used hard and hardly cared for when I lived in a salty, snowy land. It's 21 years old and fine.
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Old 02-07-06, 06:00 PM   #25
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The only way a steel frame will rust to the point of being an issue is if you leave it outside for years and never dry it. The worry about rust is silly IMO. I love the look of a classic steel frame, the smaller tubes and such and the ride is more forgiven on the steel bikes that I have owned versus the few alums.

Make that forgiving...Although my steel frame has forgiven me for abuse I give it sometimes.
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