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  1. #1
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    Chromoly Steel versus Aluminum Frames?

    While Chromoly steel bike frames offer a smoother ride, steel rusts. Given the choice for an around-town errand bike and light commuter, and all other things being equal, like price, which would you prefer?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mountainwalker View Post
    While Chromoly steel bike frames offer a smoother ride, steel rusts. Given the choice for an around-town errand bike and light commuter, and all other things being equal, like price, which would you prefer?
    I'd pick whichever one came in the color I liked better.
    My greatest fear is all of my kids standing around my coffin and talking about "how sensible" dad was.

  3. #3
    Disco Infiltrator Darth Lefty's Avatar
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    Having a low-end modern aluminum bike and a high-end obsolete steel one, I think ride quality is first a matter of tires, and as far as the frame matters, it's probably more how well-designed it is, rather than what it's made of.

    Rust is why humans invented paint.

  4. #4
    Senior Member linnefaulk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
    I'd pick whichever one came in the color I liked better.
    +1

    i cannot find any rust of my 24 year old bike.
    sharon

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by linnefaulk View Post
    +1

    i cannot find any rust of my 24 year old bike.
    +1

    I have a rust free 38 year old bike.
    Chaad--'95 DeKerf Team SL, '02 Lemond Buenos Aires, '05 Novara Buzz, '73 Schwinn Collegiate, '06 Mountain Cycle Rumble, '09 Dahon Mariner D7, '12 Mercier Nano, '12 Breezer Venturi

  6. #6
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    The rust issues are overstated, unless you are a complete idiot and leave your bike outside for the entire decade. There might be issues with salted roads in winter, but most people who live in those parts don't ride that often then, anyway. There are other components on any bike -- including aluminium and CF ones -- that are likely to corrode/rust before the frame, with the most exposed being the chain, then the cogs on the rear, and various bolts unless they are stainless steel (which mostly they aren't).

    The only way to determine if a bike has a good ride is to test ride it over the same sorts of surfaces you intend to ride normally. Personally, aluminium doesn't do that much for me -- my one road bike made of that material left me feeling quite beaten up after a century, and my steel ones haven't. But then I don't dismiss aluminium as a future option, especially if I was looking for a bike to go racing with (because aluminium frames generally are cheaper).

    How long a frame lasts also is a non-issue with most modern bikes these days. Aluminium frames and the materials (alloys) generally are designed to ensure they will last pretty well the lifetime of the user (yes, always exceptions, but not that many).
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  7. #7
    Senior Member OldsCOOL's Avatar
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    My choice...for me....if I commuted on bike...aluminum. Responsive and light. Tires would be another subject...for me.
    Having a flat tire as part of the total cycling experience is highly overrated. Knowing how to fix one quickly is not.

    '85 Trek 460 road racer

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    For a while, I had both an AL frame and steel frame road bike. They both had 25 mm tires, but different wheel sets, the steel bike was custom fit. AL was quite comfortable, steel frame is more so. However not sure if the comfort is due tires, bike fit, frame material or geometry.
    Have ridden steel frame bike year around in all sorts of weather, not concerned about them rusting. However, after riding in the rain or wet weather, when done - I raise the front wheel up so bike is perpendicular to ground to let water run out of the frame limber holes. I also might hang bike up by it's front wheel.
    ride long & prosper

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    They're both good tubing materials that will last. Properly taken care of, both a steel and an alloy bike will outlast you.

  10. #10
    Nigel nfmisso's Avatar
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    I like chrome-moly and 531.
    Nigel
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    I commuted for years in all weather on a steel frame. Still have the frame, still not rusted. Only thing I didn't like was it was noodly when cornering hard, otherwise the ride was very comfortable and I felt I could go forever on that thing.

  12. #12
    tcarl
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    You are asking about an around-town errand bike and light commuter. Since I'd think most people would tend to buy a less expensive bike, rather than spend thousands of dollars on a bike for this purpose, I'd recommend aluminum. (If you're planning on spending big dollars, ignore everything else I say.) In lower price ranges, you'll have a much greater selection of bikes to choose from in aluminum. Also, higher end, and even mid-range steel bikes ride nicely and usually to rarely to never have rust issues, lower end steel will be (very) heavy, not ride as well, and be (more) prone to rust. I have a $200.00 aluminum frame which is very comfortable.

  13. #13
    A tiny member bikeguyinvenice's Avatar
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    Aluminum = Lighter faster better.
    My cycling blog http://kcmjr.wordpress.com/
    "Normal" is just a setting on a washing machine.

  14. #14
    Senior Member delcrossv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikeguyinvenice View Post
    Aluminum = Lighter faster better.
    Not necessarily. A low grade aluminum frame could easily be heavier than a hi grade steel one. Heavier, slower, worse.
    Lightning P-38 / M5 M-Racer/Ryan Vanguard

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    The Fat Guy In The Back Tundra_Man's Avatar
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    After we've exhausted this topic, we'll move on to discuss which political party is the best.
    '81 Panasonic Sport, '02 Giant Boulder SE, '08 Felt S32, '10 Diamondback Insight RS, '10 Windsor Clockwork

    Visit me at the Tundra Man Workshop

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    Quote Originally Posted by delcrossv View Post
    Not necessarily. A low grade aluminum frame could easily be heavier than a hi grade steel one. Heavier, slower, worse.
    Which grades of steel should you look for in steel bikes, and which types/grades of aluminum in aluminum bikes?

  17. #17
    Senior Member RPK79's Avatar
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    Buy both. Then bash them together until one bends. Return the bent one.

  18. #18
    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    There might be issues with salted roads in winter, but most people who live in those parts don't ride that often then, anyway.
    Yes, slushy salted roads are the big issue for a steel bike. My old Trek Sierra started rusting out after only 2-3 years, all around the BB area. I guess I should have applied rust-proofing to the inside when it was new. Chains would get destroyed in a matter of weeks during the late winter/early spring; I could oil the chain heavily, ride to work, and by the time I got home it would be rinsed clean and red. The requirements for its replacement included aluminum frame and top-routed cables. If not for salt, I think I'd prefer the steel as being stronger and less susceptible to fatigue.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mountainwalker View Post
    Which grades of steel should you look for in steel bikes, and which types/grades of aluminum in aluminum bikes?
    I'm betting that most buyers are looking at the wrong end of the equation.

    The purpose of using a stronger alloy isn't to produce a stronger bike frame. If the base line frame is strong enough, making it even stronger would be pointless. Manufacturers use stronger alloys so they can make a bike frame that is equally strong but weighs less.
    My greatest fear is all of my kids standing around my coffin and talking about "how sensible" dad was.

  20. #20
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Both metals Oxidize, it's called Corrosion in everything But steel and Iron .. only then the corrosion is called Rust.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlazingPedals View Post
    Yes, slushy salted roads are the big issue for a steel bike. My old Trek Sierra started rusting out after only 2-3 years, all around the BB area. I guess I should have applied rust-proofing to the inside when it was new. Chains would get destroyed in a matter of weeks during the late winter/early spring; I could oil the chain heavily, ride to work, and by the time I got home it would be rinsed clean and red. The requirements for its replacement included aluminum frame and top-routed cables. If not for salt, I think I'd prefer the steel as being stronger and less susceptible to fatigue.
    'Pedals; The rust out at the bottom bracket (assuming you don't have a frame with cutouts in the bottom bracket) indicates that there is a leak somewhere such that salted water from the road is getting into the inside of the frame. Most likely spots are the little slot at the top of the seat post where the clamp is, the top of the headset around the stem entrance, and around the crank spindle at the cups. All of these areas should have had some axle grease applied to them during assembly to seal the gaps and keep water out. A second causal factor can also be not fitting a set of fenders for winter riding. Without fenders, the water from the road has a lot of opportunities to get sloshed onto the above mentioned areas. With these areas attended to, you should be able to ride a full month between major cleanups. Of course putting FrameSaver into the frame during initial build has a lot of long term merit also.

    Regarding the chain; I am reasoned to guess that you need to do more than apply some oil to it. If it is washing off in a single day's commute, then the oil being used is not worth a damn for that purpose. Pick something more viable and see if it improves it. Might look for products specifically intended for bicycle chains.

    Hope that helps (and apologize in advance if the above sounds preachy or condescending as its not so intended)

    /K

  22. #22
    Senior Member delcrossv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
    I'm betting that most buyers are looking at the wrong end of the equation.

    The purpose of using a stronger alloy isn't to produce a stronger bike frame. If the base line frame is strong enough, making it even stronger would be pointless. Manufacturers use stronger alloys so they can make a bike frame that is equally strong but weighs less.
    Yep. Hence the drive for double (or triple) butted tubing. Stong enough, but lighter.
    Lightning P-38 / M5 M-Racer/Ryan Vanguard

  23. #23
    Senior Member delcrossv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mountainwalker View Post
    Which grades of steel should you look for in steel bikes, and which types/grades of aluminum in aluminum bikes?
    Only part of the answer (see above). There's a bunch of tubing manufacturers- Reynolds, Columbus etc. and a bunch of different aluminum alloys and heat treatments.

    For a start: Reynolds 531 for steel and 6065 for aluminum. Either is strong enough to be made into a light ,stiff frame.
    Lightning P-38 / M5 M-Racer/Ryan Vanguard

  24. #24
    Senior Member Wilfred Laurier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    Both metals Oxidize, it's called Corrosion in everything But steel and Iron .. only then the corrosion is called Rust.
    however
    the oxide layer on aluminum
    protects the metal underneath from oxidising
    unless it is rubbed off

    while our orange friend rust
    continues eating the iron even after the first layer has been converted

  25. #25
    Senior Member Wilfred Laurier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by delcrossv View Post
    For a start: Reynolds 531 for steel...
    great advice for anyone buying a bike in 1975

    Quote Originally Posted by delcrossv View Post
    ...and 6065 for aluminum.
    or anyone ordering custom drawn tubing not normally made into bike frames

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