Cycling and bicycle discussion forums. 
   Click here to join our community Log in to access your Control Panel  

Go Back   > >

General Cycling Discussion Have a cycling related question or comment that doesn't fit in one of the other specialty forums? Drop on in and post in here! When possible, please select the forum above that most fits your post!

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old 12-10-07, 03:42 PM   #1
Niles H.
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 2,360
Vibration Damping -- steel, ti, cf, al, other?

Carbon frames supposedly dampen vibrations very well. How do other materials compare?

And how important is this? Are there other ways of accomplishing the same thing? (Or is it in large part another case of being sold a load of hype from marketing, sales and advertising people?)

Some people claim that certain vibrational frequencies are fatiguing, especially on longer rides. This sounds reasonable or plausible in theory -- but how true is it in actual practice?
Niles H. is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-10-07, 04:07 PM   #2
Super Moderator
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Tariffville, CT
Bikes: Tsunami Bikes
Posts: 14,415
Get a hammer without padding on the handle (damaged etc) or a metal tool (crowbar) and hit another metal object with it. You feel that instant numbness in the palm of your hand?

Take a bike - it's more cushioned (tires are on the ground) but you can imagine if you hands went instantly numb and tingly as soon as you hit a bump. In fact, you can replicate this - ride a steel bar with no tape. Ride over 50 yards of heavily cracked pavement. Presto! Instant numb hands.

So yes, it's important to absorb or otherwise deflect some of that sharp shock. Aluminum and carbon fiber bars are a huge improvement over steel ones. Ditto forks, seat posts, even stems. As for frames and stuff, that's really debatable since it's impossible to be consistent design-wise from one material to another. However, personally, I think there is a big difference in damping properties of different materials, *as long as they are used correctly*.

The last bit is important. Used to be that aluminum frames (Vitus) were noodles, like limp spaghetti. Now people think of them as original generation Cannondales and say they're too stiff. It's not material, it's design.

"...during the Lance years, being fit became the No. 1 thing. Totally the only thing. It’s a big part of what we do, but fitness is not the only thing. There’s skills, there’s tactics … there’s all kinds of stuff..." Tim Johnson
carpediemracing is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-10-07, 04:17 PM   #3
Senior Member
Join Date: May 2005
Location: IL-USA
Posts: 1,659
Originally Posted by Niles H. View Post
(Or is it in large part another case of being sold a load of hype from marketing, sales and advertising people?)
It's hype.
The width and air pressure of the tires makes a much bigger difference than the frame material.
Doug5150 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-10-07, 04:42 PM   #4
Sensible shoes.
CastIron's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: St. Paul,MN
Bikes: A few.
Posts: 8,799
Let's not forget frame design. You can make a frame from damn near any material ride like a shopping cart or a noodle.
Originally Posted by cedricbosch View Post
It looks silly when you have quotes from other forum members in your signature. Nobody on this forum is that funny.
Originally Posted by cedricbosch View Post
Why am I in your signature.
CastIron is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-11-07, 11:45 AM   #5
slower than you
Applehead57's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: dairy country NY
Bikes: Gunnar Road Sport, peugeot UO-10
Posts: 652
700x28 tires and a steel frame (2005 Gunnar Sport) beat the hell out of my previous aluminum bike (1999 Fuji Newest).
Applehead57 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-11-07, 01:18 PM   #6
Velo Dog
Senior Member
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Northern Nevada
Posts: 3,801
I'm with the previous post: You can design a frame to do anything you want, but if you're trying to change the ride of a bike you already have, the fastest, easiest, cheapest and most effective method by far is to use larger tires at lower pressure. I haven't bought tires narrower than 32mm in years, and usually ride 35s at 75-85 psi. The ride's great, and the effect on speed and rolling resistance has been hugely exaggerated. I've been riding the same 12-mile commute since 1979, on all kinds of bikes and equipment, and the tires just don't make much difference in speed or perceived fatigue.
Velo Dog is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-11-07, 11:02 PM   #7
Senior Member
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 1,941
AL provides the least amount of damping. Because AL doesn't take kindly to any deformation, AL frames have to be designed so they don't deform at all, which makes them very stiff. I would call them harsh.

Steel and Ti are both able to deform and then return to their original shape. The degree to which they do this depends upon the design of the frame, and the designer can play around with the shape and size of the tubing to tune it to optimize strength, rigidity, and damping - but it is limited based on the characteristics of the material.

CF provides a ton of flexibility in design. It's a very rigid material - like aluminum - but unlike aluminum there is a lot more tunability in terms of where it is rigid and where it is flexible.

I've ridden "performance" bikes with frames made out of all 4 materials, and was surprised how different they felt, even though they were all riding on carbon forks.

I really like the damping on my Madone.

2005 Trek 5.2 Madone, Red with Yellow Flames (Beauty)
199x Lemond Tourmalet, Yellow with fenders (Beast)

Read my cycling blog at
Like climbing? Goto
ericgu is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-14-07, 09:03 AM   #8
Senior Member
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Taos, NM
Bikes: 2009 Custom TI Frame Road Bike, all 2007 Campy Record, Campy Euros Wheelset
Posts: 552
i think its somewhat hype too. I have a felt f1 team frame, traditional geometry, carbon frame. very much harsher ride than my (relaxed frame) carbon specialized roubaix. and i think anyone would notice the overall stiffness of the felt compared to the roubaix. the felt is harsher, with more vibration then my e5 aluminum tricross. dont get me wrong, i like the felt, just use it where its at its best.
2009 Custom TI Frame Road Bike, all 2007 Campy Record, Campy Euros Wheelset
2009 Custom TI Frame touring Bike. S&S couplers, XTR Drivetrain. LOW granny.
2009 Performance Bicycles TI (by Lynsky) road frame, 7900 DA, 7950 DA Compact Crank, Light Niobium Rim Wheels
jbpence is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-20-07, 03:22 PM   #9
Senior Member
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Out there, on my bike
Posts: 5,421
I don't like aluminum bikes after an hour or so. I prefer steel. Carbon is overkill for me, but others really like it.
tulip is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-20-07, 03:38 PM   #10
Abneycat's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Base of the Rocky Mountains, Canada. Wonderous things!
Bikes: 2010 Cannondale Hooligan 3
Posts: 1,431
Its true in practice, but like others have said, tires, grips and saddles play a large role in it.

I've never been on a CF bike, never been interested due to the big downsides you get along with the material, like dislike of having stuff clamped to it.

Titanium is a fairly nice ride, but i've only been on titanium a few times before. Its too hard to say how it stacks up to the others though, as the tires/grips/seat weren't constant.

The closest compare I can make is that we have several bikes around here, and the most comfortable ones are *easily* the steel ones. But thats not the only side of the story:

Steel #1 is a typical 1990's rigid MTB which has an Xtracycle on it, so along with having nice grips and such, wheelbase is extended, which also smooths out the ride quite a bit. This is easily the most comfortable one in the pack actually, with the big tires, long wheelbase, and good grip/saddle combination, there's almost zero vibration coming off the road, and it sucks up bumps. I'd rather tour on this than my touring bike.

Steel #2 is a classic 27" touring bike with gel/cork wrap on the bars and a properly fit seat. Very comfy.

Aluminum #1 is a "hybrid", and aside from Ergon grips, is uncomfortable. Vibrations on this bicycle are highly noticeable, but i'll be getting it some Big Apples someday.

Aluminum #2 is a full suspension all mountain Y-frame design. This bicycle is uncomfortable for extended periods of time.

Off my personal bias, aluminum is the only design that I find is not good in regards to vibrations. This may or may not be because of the material, but its because of the design: Aluminum bikes are made *not* to vibrate or flex, as that can ruin the material.

Last edited by Abneycat; 12-20-07 at 03:48 PM.
Abneycat is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-21-07, 01:00 PM   #11
Humvee of bikes =Worksman
Nightshade's Avatar
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 5,363
Steel will deal better with vibration "harmonics" better than any other
material right up the the point of failure.

1st order harmonics will just buzz your hands. Where 4th order
harmonics will make it painful to hold on. Vibration is one thing
but it's the harmonic amplitude that does the deed.
My preferred bicycle brand is.......WORKSMAN CYCLES
I dislike clipless pedals on any city bike since I feel they are unsafe.

Originally Posted by krazygluon
Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
Aluminum: barely a hundred, which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?
Nightshade is offline   Reply With Quote

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 03:10 AM.