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  1. #1
    Senior Member warrenginn's Avatar
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    Frame material comments - interesting...

    While doing some research in frame materials, I came across this from Andy Wallen of Wheelcraft Bicycles of Wheeling, WV in the "Ask the Mechanic" section of http://www.bikexchange.com/:

    --------- Begin Quote --------------

    "The truth of the matter is, most manufacturers are using aluminum almost exclusively. If you spend enough on an alu frame, it'll be as light as possible. It may last your 2,000 mile season, if you are light and don't abuse it, and it'll have a 1-year warranty, and cost of over $1,500. These would be your Starship, Altec 2, etc. frames form Cinelli, Colnago, etc. The quality of that aluminum contrasts greatly from the total crap used by most manufacturers--Derby, Fuji, Pacific, etc. (so-called 7005 alloy)--that is so cheap. They should give it away. But the former is heavier than a good steel frame and has the ride quality reminiscent of the old penny farthings, a.k.a. boneshakers. In between is the stuff made by Trek and Cannondale--reasonably priced, reasonably light, durable to a point, even guaranteed for life. The ride quality of these 6000 alu frames is better than the 7005s, but it is pretty unforgiving. I only recommend these frames to bigger (both taller and heavier) guys, or to younger riders who don't care so much about ride quality.

    "My opinion is that for the money spent, most people are better off with high quality steel. This opinion is not shared by many; however, it is a fact that people ride 30-year-old steel frames every day and enjoy it. A good quality steel frame will be almost as light as alu, will out last it, and will be comfortable on an all day ride. It will be half the cost of titanium, (not counting chi-com-prison-labor made ti, like Airbornes) and should last nearly as long. If you buy a steel frame, you will lose in weeny points, but you'll be happy with your investment.

    "I have some issues with ti. Without going into details and opinions, it is either cheap and crappy (Airborne), or it is too expensive to be worth the money to most consumers. Buy a Lightspeed, Merlin, Seven, or Lemond if you have no price restraints; otherwise, look at something else.

    "I ride a carbon bike, and I love it. I know that it will not last as long as steel or ti, but I don't care. A good carbon frame can have all the positive attributes of all the other materials, without most of the negative attributes. My bike has survived a few crashes without breaking, most recently 40 mph into a large deer, so it is more durable than ignorant people would have you believe. Carbon is relatively expensive, but anything worth buying is.

    "Don't buy mail order, and insist on test riding several bikes. If you think the guy at the shop is an idiot, you're probably right, so go somewhere else, somewhere with a reputation. Buy a frame, not components. You can get a crappy Raleigh for almost nothing, spec'd miles ahead of anything else, but you are paying for components, and getting a giveaway cheap frame.

    "My picks for under $3,000 include the Calfee Luna (built to order for $1,200, no fork), Trek OCLV (5200, 5500, etc.), Lemond 853 bikes (namely the Zurich) several Torelli bikes and framesets (your best buy in good steel), and, if you must have aluminum, Cannondale has a whole pile of bikes from $800 and up, but I'd buy a Klein."

    ------ End Quote -------

    I really like his point about buying a frame, not the components since you can always upgrade components. That makes my buying decision easier...

    .

  2. #2
    DEADBEEF khuon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by warrenginn
    I really like his point about buying a frame, not the components since you can always upgrade components. That makes my buying decision easier...
    Well, I think that depends on your financial constraints. Admittedly, I did a frame-up build on my bikes but it can get expensive. And upgrading an existing frame can get quite costly too. I think that weighing in some amount of quality for the components is usually the norm for midrange priced bikes.
    1999 K2 OzM 2001 Aegis Aro Svelte OCP Club Member
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  3. #3
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    great read

  4. #4
    Beausage is Beautiful Fugazi Dave's Avatar
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    Interesting, if more than a little biased.

  5. #5
    Senior Member warrenginn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by khuon
    Well, I think that depends on your financial constraints. Admittedly, I did a frame-up build on my bikes but it can get expensive. And upgrading an existing frame can get quite costly too. I think that weighing in some amount of quality for the components is usually the norm for midrange priced bikes.
    Actually, what I was talking about was when evaluating complete bikes, the frame should be the most important thing. He was talking about how some people will buy a bike because of all the nice 105 components, but with a crappy frame. That, for me, has been one of the most confusing parts of buying a bike. Some of these bikes have great components, others have lesser components but a great frame. The lower end components are often just to make a certain price point. I'm finding that in some cases, the frame may actually add $300 to the price of the bike, but the cheaper components disguise that.

    For me, I'm looking to spend about $1000 (I know it's not a lot, but that's all I can do right now).

    Compare the Binachi Strada at $680 (at my LBS) to the LeMond Wayzata at $1000:

    http://www.bianchiusa.com/strada.html

    http://www.lemondbikes.com/2004_bikes/wayzata.shtml

    The Strada has a 520 steel (Reynolds?) frame built in Taiwan, carbon forks and a nice SRAM cassette and rear derailleur. It has Tiagra hubs which I have heard may be difficult to keep true and a bunch of generic components which is probably why it's so cheap. So let's say I upgrade the wheels for $250 along with a few other components and you've got a $1000 bike with a 520 steel frame.

    The Wayzata has a Reynolds 853 frame built in the US with Bontrager wheels. I would definately want to replace the Avid AD 3L brakes and the Tiagra derailleurs. Also, I would be interested in replacing the aluminum fork with a carbon fork (about $200). So, here I have a better frame with okay components to make a $1000 price point. Once I do my upgrades, I will be spending about $300 more on the Wayzata than the Bianchi (approximately). This diffeence is what I am equating to the added cost (and value) of the better frame.

    At least that I how I see it. I am I completely deluded or does this make sense? Because I'm ready to order my bike...

    .

  6. #6
    Not-so-Senior Member
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    Go with the LeMond.

    I tend to agree with everything he said. Can't vouch for the quality of any of the ally or ti frames he mentioned, but knowing how these things work sometimes I'd be surprised if he's wrong. Not to say that steel is always good quality, cos it certainly isn't, but you can get a better quality steel frame for less money than an ally one.

    And I'd be amazed if anything could survive 40mph into a large deer :O

  7. #7
    hateful little monkey jim-bob's Avatar
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    Yeah, I'd have to agree. The frame's what you really want to concentrate on, as it'll outlast most of the parts you hang on it.

    Throwing nice parts on a so-so frame is kind of like frosting a turd - it's never going to be a wedding cake.

  8. #8
    Evil Genius capsicum's Avatar
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    I tend to agree with all that exept for the part about rough riding aluminum. Aluminum can be made to ride nicer with the right frame geometry, Its just that marketing has found over the centuries that its better to run with preconceptions than to try and educate the buyer. Alum has a rep for being harsh from the early years and so the manufacturers build stiff alum frames to meet peoples expectations. Some people like stiff frames so they sell just fine, but if a company made a nice riding alum frame a test rider might say it's flexy or mushy and give it a low rating, even though it might ride much like a good steel bike, just because they were expecting alum to be very stiff. Thus a bad reveiw caused by expectations rather than a poor quality bike.
    I like stiff for general around town riding myself, it gives me solid feel for the road and good power transfer, if I was touring I would want a bit of give of course. I do agree that Klein makes the most awsome aluminum bikes, I haven't tried their roadbikes but their Palimino mt bike is one sweet machine.
    As long as moths live in my wallet I'm sticking with my 35 year old steel road frame and 11 year old steel mt bike(top of the line when new and its dropped 2lbs since) each currently weighs in at 30lbs even, and show no sign of degredation. The fork, frame and stem and seatpost are the only origanal items left on the mtb, plum wore out the other stuff.
    Last edited by capsicum; 05-21-04 at 03:11 PM.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member AlanK's Avatar
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    I think the original quote is right on most accounts, but is a little harsh in some respects:

    Airborne titanium frames: If you can (or are willing) to afford it, ti is probably the best overall material. It's light, comfortble, and a well-made ti frame will last indefinetely. The original post disparaged Airborne frames, I'm not sure why. Everything I've read about them indicates they're high quality, and comparable to more expensive manufacturers. I think many have a bias against Airborne because the frames are made in China, but that doesn't mean anything. The practice of welding aluminum is very uniform, so I don't think you'd be losing anything. Also, over the last several years China has developed a well-deserved reputation for generating well-educated, highly skilled engineers.

    Aluminum: While an aluminum frame isn't as lively as steel, I think it's rep for having a harsh ride is exagerated. Sheldon Brown (www.sheldonbrown.net) is known for a no BS approach to cycling, and his take is that tires and saddle have more to do with ride quality than frame material. This makes sense when you consider that tires absorb the initial road shock. Steel and ti well flex more than aluminum, but we're still talking about metals, so difference really isn't all that pronounced. Also, while aluminum might be less durable, most aluminum frames these days are so over-built (thicker tubing and welds), they aren't much weaking than steel or ti.

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