Tradition. (Sing it like Fiddler On The Roof.)
Slow, but at least still moving...
My cyclocross bike is steel, and I love it. Its also not the lightest thing out there.
In the end, I htink it is all personal preference. Everyone has their opinions about materials vs materials, weight vs ride.
Recently I sold my aluminum Orbea Airplane road frame and got a nice steel Gunnar frame to replace it built with the same components. The steel frame is 1 lb. heavier, but I can ride it all day as opposed to getting aches after riding the aluminum frame for a few hours. I also do not ride 15-20 hours a week anymore, which at the time was riding when I got the aluminum frame and considered it comfy.
Its all a matter of personal preference...and I have to admit...I'm a stingy steel nerd.
It has a higher... modulous or something or other some engineer could bore you about, but basically steel bikes are usually springier than aluminum bikes because that's the nature of steel. I haven't ridden very many aluminum bikes but the ones I have they were all much stiffer than my steel bikes. Mountainbike-wise I had a full rigid aluminum rockhopper and compared to my full rigid steel miyata mtb it was night and day. The rockhopper had no give and hurt my back it was so stiff, the miyata has give and doesn't hurt me.
Aluminum can flex, surely, but springs is made of steel and not AL for a reason. This is not to say I think aluminum bikes suck if someone gets all offended and wants to bore me with a list of the properties of AL.
i think it has to do with aluminum's molecular make up....FE molecules are not bonded in a patterned structure, I think, AL's molecular bonds are crystaline in shape. Steel deforms before it fails and aluminum fails catastrophically with no warning.
Its kind of a goofy expression and the people that preach it are usually pretty obnoxious but there is something about the compliency of steel that people and i like so much. materials like scandium and aluminum
are quite a bit lighter and snappier but they have a way transfering all of the bumps and imperfections of the surface into your arms and legs and butt. Dont think steel is springy or flexy its just complient. Carbon has the same characteristics but it cracks... it just breaks if you mess up.
It really depends upon your use of the bike and what you want out of it. If you want a cyclocross bike to ride on the road and commute with, steel is definitely a good option. The ride steel provides is smooth and enjoyable. This also depends upon the steel used and the builder though. If you are looking to race the bike a little or use it as a bad weather kind of bike then I don't think steel is a good option at all. Steel is heavier and rusts easier. A good aluminum frame would be the way to go if you want an all-around type of bike . . . that is a bike you might commute on, as well as take out for the occasional cross race. If you intend to race the bike alot and that is the primary purpose of the bike, then I would say you should definitely go with aluminum. Just my opinion though. I raced a steet Waterford road bike for the last two years and really loved the ride. But I can't wait to spend the next season on my new carbon frame.
I thought it was a pretty nifty saying, until I got t-boned in an intersection on my serotta steel/steel fork. The replacement bike ended up being a mid level trek 5200, and I cannot believe how much better it was... Climbing, stiffness, and comfort... For me it was a huge upgrade to lose the steel, but different strokes for different folks. I sold the trek later, but kinda thank that stupid motorist for getting me out of the mid 80's...
no one's written out the proof yet?
lets say that steel expressed in terms of real (A) and imaginary Bi components.
since steel has no components that are roots of -1, B must be equal to zero, removing all imaginary material from steel (aluminum, carbon, titanium, moon cheese, etc.). Since the only component left is A, we can then see the sense it makes to proclaim the reality of steel.
1999 Waterford RSE-11, 1995 Waterford 1200, 1989 Specialized Rockhopper Comp
1989 Raleigh Technium, 1989 Schwinn Traveler, 1986 Specialized Rockhopper
1984 Specialized Stumpjumper, 1986 Specialized Stumpjumper and just way too many projects to list.
I think it would be this sectionTorsional/lateral stiffness
This is mainly related to the stresses generated by the forces you create from pedaling. Any frame will flex around the bottom bracket a bit in response to pedaling loads. This flex can be felt, and many riders assume that it is consuming (wasting) pedaling effort. Actually, that's not the case, because the metals used in bicycle frames are very efficient springs, and the energy gets returned at the end of the power stroke, so little or nothing is actually lost. While there is no actual loss of efficiency from a "flexy" frame, most cyclists find the sensation unpleasant, and prefer a frame that is fairly stiff in the drive-train area. This is more of a concern for larger, heavier riders, and for those who make a habit of standing up to pedal.
he doesn't prove this statement, but it seems plausible.
for an aluminum spring (in a bicycle application no less) see castellanodesigns.com re: fango
Like others have already stated-- bikes with steel frames seem to have a more "lively" (springier?) feel to them. I have several bikes-- two of which are Cannondales. I've ridden my steel 'cross bike on the road (with 23c tires and 20 spoked Bonty wheels) and off road on the same trails I've ridden the Cannondale MTB. In both situations the steel 'cross bike had a more pleasing ride. The AL bikes have a sort of "dead" feel-- especially off road. The steel bike feels more active, it's a weird to try to describe a ride.
Plus steel frames can be repaired and modified (like adding canti bosses to a steel frame). In the end, the steel frame can be recycled. Carbon composites cannot-- they remain toxic garbage. Aluminum alloys are more difficult to recycle. They can't be repaired or modified.
I'm not knocking aluminum-- I love both my Cannondales. But the steel bike is my favorite.
Despite the fact that I constantly recommend Kool-Stop brake pads-- no, I don't work for Kool-Stop. (Although their factory is just a few blocks from my house!)
I ride drop bars off-road. (The excellent On-One "Midge.")
"If steel were a new material, recently engineered to be the ideal replacement material for bicycle frames, it would be the hottest thing to hit the industry. Comfortable, resilient, serviceable, light and delivers a ride like no other."
It is an annoying expression for sure, usually uttered by someone who has no better argument for riding steel (even though they should).
The wonderful thing about a steel frame is that, provided it's not crashed or corroded, it should last a lifetime under "normal" riding conditions. That is because the steel alloy has an intrinsic property known as a "fatigue limit". This means that the material can handle an (essentially) infinite number of load cycles (bumps, braking forces, pedaling forces, etc.) provided that the amount of load is below a certain threshold (the fatigue limit). Typically, steel frames are sufficiently robust to spend their lifetime below this load limit. I'm not aware of any other bike frame material that has that quality.
The other great quality of steel is that you typically have some warning before the frame fails. A crack may propagate near a welded or lugged connection, the tubes may buckle, but typically the frame will not fail catastrophically (at least not right away). The same cannot be said for carbon fiber or aluminum.
I recently test rode a Madone 5.2 (120 OCLV carbon fiber) and a Lemond Sarthe (Reynolds 853 steel). I have to tell you, I liked the ride qualities of my old beat-up 7005 aluminum cyclocross bike better than either one of them. It just goes to show that there's more to a bike's ride quality than the frame material.
Luckily I'm here just in time to bore you with 'modulus something or other" facts:
The modulus of elasticity of steel is approximately 2.5 to 3 times higher than the aluminum used in bike frames. That means that steel is 2.5 to 3 times "stiffer" than aluminum.
So if your experience says that aluminum-framed bikes are stiffer than steel-framed bikes . . . it is because of the design [larger diameter aluminun tubes perhaps], not the material used.
The older I get the less future there is to worry about!
Yeah, I don't think stiff is the right word just because a bike riding stiff isn't the same thing as using the term "stiff" when talking about a material. Regardless I think we're all talking generally here and generally aluminum bikes ride stiffer.
Steel users will quite often update their frame with new threads, brake fittings, cable routing. This may be more common with touring cyclists than with racers.
You can get additional "weld-on" applied to ti and al frames if you know where to look but in practice hardly anyone updates their non-ferrous frame.
But how many people actually do that to steel frames?
Personally I think you can get a good, solid steel frame for a very nice price. In some applications I'd take it over aluminum, in some I wouldn't. Cross is an application where I prefer aluminum because of weight.
As Sheldon says though, the material isn't even secondary. It's at least tertiary to ride quality, after tires/wheels and frame design.
Thinking about this (more so than is necessary) I think the term "steel is real" is reactionary and defensive for the most part. You can hardly find steel bikes any more. It's gotten better the last few years or so (surly, soma) but every major manufacturer mainly works in aluminum, and so do most of the mid-size players (like Kona, say), and at least in mtbs boutique brands are mostly aluminum too (Turner, Ellsworth, stuff like that). At some point in the late 90s everyone switched over to aluminum because tech-wise they could (previously aluminum bikes were somewhat rare, especially prior to the 90s) and aluminum was cheaper and produced a lighter bike. It's to the point that a lot of people who ride regularly simply think "aluminum is better" and it seems most people who don't ride regularly simply think "aluminum is better" (quotes just to connote the simplicity of the idea).
Anyway, no material is better all over than another because they all have their strengths and weaknesses so the wholesale idea of aluminum being superior to steel is galling. Hence "steel is real" as a phrase.
So there's the question of "why do people think steel is real?" and "what's the phrase steel is real all about?" I was an avid biker in the 80s and early 90s, and then it sort of went by the wayside for me. When I got back into it just a couple years ago I was just flabergasted that everything was aluminum. I hadn't bought a bike for so long it was seriously freaky to look at every company's lineup and see no steel bikes at all, or if they had one it's be a hi-ten piece of junk or 853 $2000 model.
Steel's real because it's been neglected, maybe.
Don't forget about shipping costs of bicycles built over seas. More aluminum frames can be shipped at the same price of shipping less steel frames.
Also, as aluminum frames fail, more will need to be build (and sold). Why produce a steel product that your customer may never need to replace?
Aluminum is good for business.
...its little details like that one that can annoy me...the stop not touching the top tube except at the rivet point, which you see on some, not all, aluminum frames.
Last edited by rodri9o; 12-05-07 at 05:42 AM.