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  1. #1
    Junior Member Flying Monkey's Avatar
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    steel vs. aluminum frame

    Please forgive me if this horse has been beaten to death but I'm new...

    What are the merits of a steel frame? Of aluminum?

    I bought an aluminum bike today for my city commute (Specialized Sirrus Comp) but wonder if I should have gotten my other contender (Jamis Coda Comp) instead.

    Thanks for any insights...

  2. #2
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    aluminum will be lighter (unless you're rich and can afford reynold 953), steel CAN be desing to be very comfortable and springy and is usually more dent resistant.


    what's your preference?

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    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    Go with steel if you can afford a good, well-made steel frame. The ride is smoother.

    Some people get all worked up about an extra pound in frame weight. Most folks buy light and load up their bikes with extra water, etc that negates all bicycle weight savings. In my opinion, the only place to really worry about saving weight is in the wheels and tires.

    Anyway - Steel = smoother ride. More personality.

    Aluminum = doesn't screw with your compass needle.
    Mike

  4. #4
    Retro-nerd georgiaboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flying Monkey
    Please forgive me if this horse has been beaten to death but I'm new...

    What are the merits of a steel frame? Of aluminum?

    I bought an aluminum bike today for my city commute (Specialized Sirrus Comp) but wonder if I should have gotten my other contender (Jamis Coda Comp) instead.

    Thanks for any insights...
    There is no clear answer. Specialized makes some really great bikes. However, the Jamis Coda series is a great value. The aluminum frame will be slightly lighter than the steel frame on the Jamis. The Jamis will give a smoother ride. The good news is the carbon fork on the Sirrus will have a double bonus of making the bike lighter and it will absorb the road shock on the front wheel. I think the Jamis has slightly better wheels and rear derailleur.

    Jamis does not have the high profile of Specialized and other manufacturers so they often offer more for the money.
    Would you like a dream with that?

  5. #5
    Junior Member Flying Monkey's Avatar
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    No clear answer...right. I guess it's all about trade-offs. This is what I've gleaned from comments in this thread (thanks!) and some surfing about steel relative to aluminum:

    cons: heavier (tho maybe not noticeable, esp. with gear on the bike), vulnerability to corrosion
    pros: more durable, smoother ride, if you get lost you can blame it on the compass : )

    I don't know what my preference is but all things being equal, I want the ride itself to feel so good that I make excuses to take the bike out.

    Seems like there are some definite steel-lovers out there. I think I'll test the Jamis out again tomorrow.

  6. #6
    Junior Member Flying Monkey's Avatar
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    Crimson we were posting at the same time. Are you saying that steel is safer?

  7. #7
    Retro-nerd georgiaboy's Avatar
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    Would you like a dream with that?

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    In a given price range, an aluminum frame takes a pound off the rider/bike combination...so, instead of pushing 212 pounds up a hill, a given rider might be pushing 211 pounds up a hill...a meaningless difference.

    A steel frame tends to take abuse better than aluminum. After a crash, a steel frame can be realigned, and aluminum can not be realigned.

    The ride quality of a bike depends on the wheelbase, the length of the chainstays, and the width of the tires. Aluminum bikes have the reputation for a poor quality ride, but that is simply the result of the current fad for "imitation racing bikes" with short wheelbases, short chainstays, and narrow tires. A steel bike of the same dimensions and geometry would ride about the same.

  9. #9
    M_S
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    I think the biggest con for steel is its liability to corrode if it is riddden in really bad weather. I'm considering a really cheap aluminum bike as a winter beater for this exact reason (unfortunately most cheap used bikes on c-list are steel).

    But, having owned fully rigid steel bikes and aluminum bikes, the steel does feel nicer, though tire size makes a bigger difference. Basically, a steel bike with 28 tires will feel approximately like an aluminum bike with 35s. (Very approximate, of course).

  10. #10
    Feral Member Nicodemus's Avatar
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    I have a Sirrus Elite, I love it. However, over the last few years of harsh riding on some cobblestone and bumpity paths, I yearn to return to steel.

    You will enjoy the Sirrus, it's a great bike.

    However you may regret starting this thread. You may have been better asking this either before you made th purchase or later when you're in the market for another one.
    Quote Originally Posted by KrisPistofferson View Post
    Did you just say "minarchist?" I'm going to start a 10-page vaginathon because only Libertarians can define Libertarianism. Also, you're mean.

  11. #11
    cs1
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    Quote Originally Posted by M_S
    I think the biggest con for steel is its liability to corrode if it is riddden in really bad weather. I'm considering a really cheap aluminum bike as a winter beater for this exact reason
    In theory that is a valid argument. In practice it just doesn't wash. My old Rockhopper, 1989, is ridden year around in Greater Clev OH. We use a lot of salt on the road. It doesn't have any rust at all. I wouldn't be concerned with corrosion at all.

    Ride both bikes and make your decision based on what you like.


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  12. #12
    Erectible Member pedalMonger's Avatar
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    I haven't really noticed anything harsh about the ride on my aluminum frame bike (Trek FX 7.5). I suppose it could be an ignorance is bliss factor, or maybe the carbon forks. I read the frame-materials link that georgiaboy posted, and it makes me think that perhaps I'm not imagining that its actually smooth!
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  13. #13
    Life is good RonH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flying Monkey
    What are the merits of a steel frame?
    Steel is REAL!

    Quote Originally Posted by Flying Monkey
    I bought an aluminum bike today...
    Sorry to hear that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Flying Monkey
    ... but wonder if I should have gotten my other contender (Jamis Coda Comp) instead.
    YES!
    My bikes: 2001 Litespeed Tuscany---2015 Cannondale Supersix EVO carbon 105

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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrimsonEclipse
    The biggest advantage of steel is the failure mode.
    Steel will bend before it breaks and Aluminum will crack and break.
    Thus the steel will likely bend if overstressed and the Aluminum will break with
    little or no warning (same goes for Ti). I have 2 Al frames and 2 steel frames.
    I prefer the steel.

    Also, a steel frame can be repaired easier via welding and is more resistant
    to damage like dents and over stress.

    CE
    Carbon fiber has the same failure mode as aluminum-- one moment, everything is fine, the next moment, you're doing a face plant. If you want a safe failure mode, steel forks will bend instead of shattering.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pedalMonger
    I haven't really noticed anything harsh about the ride on my aluminum frame bike (Trek FX 7.5). I suppose it could be an ignorance is bliss factor, or maybe the carbon forks.
    It's probably the carbon forks. I've ridden a borrowed Bianchi Milano, and the ride is noticeably harsh compared to my 30 year old steel frame. I prefer the smoother feel of steel.

  16. #16
    Junior Member Flying Monkey's Avatar
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    thanks for all the helpful suggestions and thoughts, everyone!

  17. #17
    Don't Believe the Hype RiPHRaPH's Avatar
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    you got it already. its your ride now. enjoy it.
    I have enough words to get me into trouble, but not enough to get me out of trouble.

  18. #18
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    Don't worry, no one stops at 1 bike. You will eventually have another. Now that you have your aluminum speed machine your next one can be the steel touring pavement pounder

  19. #19
    Junior Member Flying Monkey's Avatar
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    someone had a quote on one of these threads about the perfect number of bikes being n+1, where n=the number of bikes you currently own!

  20. #20
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrimsonEclipse
    The biggest advantage of steel is the failure mode.
    Steel will bend before it breaks and Aluminum will crack and break.
    Thus the steel will likely bend if overstressed and the Aluminum will break with
    little or no warning (same goes for Ti). I have 2 Al frames and 2 steel frames.
    I prefer the steel.

    Also, a steel frame can be repaired easier via welding and is more resistant
    to damage like dents and over stress.

    CE
    Sorry but this old chestnut just isn't true. I've broken 2 steel frames and 2 aluminum frames (I've detailed this all over the place on the forums). The steel ones broke like a spring, i.e. Ping! and the frame is broken. The aluminum ones cracked and tore but didn't break suddenly. In fact, the frames creaked for a long time before failure. I was just to stupid to notice.

    I've also had pedal axles snap...it went ping and sheered off...and crank arms...it creaked and groaned for a very long time. And, finally, think of how a spoke breaks. Everyone of them I've ever broken snapped suddenly without warning.
    Stuart Black
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    I can solve your problem....I'm rebuilding an old Raleigh "Technium" roadster. Aluminum main frame tubes and steel rear end and "bits".

    Folks were afraid these things would come apart, but I'm amazed at how many are still on the road.

  22. #22
    PatronSaintOfDiscBrakes dynaryder's Avatar
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    I've owned two Sirruses/Sirri/whatever and two Codas. I would've gone with the Coda because it's specc'd a little nicer,but you wouldn't go wrong with either. Frame material isn't the only determining factor in ride quality,there's also the fork material/shape and the tires.

    My former Coda Comp had a steel frame and carbon fork. My former Sirruses were both alloy/steel,my former Marin Fairfax was alloy/carbon,and my current Novara Big Buzz is alloy/alloy. All were flat bar bikes that came stock with 28mm 85psi tires. The Coda rode the nicest. The Sirruses and Fairfax were a little rough on bad roads,but not enough to bother me(the one Sirrus was a daily commuter until it got doored). The Big Buzz aggrivated my carpel tunnel when ridden every day,even after I swapped the tires for 32mm 75psi ones,so it's only ridden occationally. For 95% of my riding,the alloy-framed Sirrus and Fairfax would've done just as well as the steel Coda,it's just the Coda would've added a touch of luxury.

    C'dale BBU('05 and '09)/Super Six/Hooligan8and 3,Kona Dew Deluxe,Novara Buzz/Safari,Surly Big Dummy,Marin Pt Reyes,Giant Defy 1,Schwinn DBX SuperSport/Qualifier,Dahon Speed Pro TT,Brompton S6L

  23. #23
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    I've owned 8 (adult) bikes and the only frame I've had break was a hitensile steel frame - the seat tube cracked above the bottom bracket. Rode it for quite a while before I figured out it was broken. No problems, yet, with 2 aluminum bikes. One of those is a Big Buzz, which is very robust but also transmits shock too well. It now has cf bars, which helped some but not a lot.
    The recumbent I ride most of the time has a longggggg steel frame and really absorbs shock well.

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