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  1. #1
    Old, fat, but not dead
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    Aluminum vs Steel Frames? - Recreational Bike

    I'm looking for something to replace my old Schwinn Varsity 3-spd, which did not have the upright riding position I need. I have ridden several bikes, and am waiting for the LBS to get in a Raleigh Coasting bike (auto 3 spd gear) in a large frame for a test ride. But, when I rode the medium frame on this bike, it seemed heavier than the other two I rode (Electra Townie 3 & Specialized Expedition Elite). When I got home from the test ride, I looked up the specs on the Coasting bike and saw it had a steel frame vs aluminum or allow for the other two.

    Am I being dumb by thinking that a steel frame would be harder to ride than the other two? Or, will it not make any difference since I am strictly out for exercise and recreation and will most likely never be riding in a group ride where I will need some amount of speed to keep up?

    For the casual rider, are there advantages and disadvantages of a steel frame vs alloy?

    Edit - let me add that currently I weigh around 250 lbs, if that makes any difference. Thanks.

    Thanks for any info.
    Last edited by Bean27; 01-01-08 at 12:31 PM. Reason: additional info
    Regards from Texas,

    Bean27

  2. #2
    Senior Member George's Avatar
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    You may want to take a look at the Jamis Coda. It's a steel bike and is very comfortable. FWIW I gave my son my aluminum bike after 6 months.
    George

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    dbc
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    I wouldn't get too caught up in over-thinking the frame material. Depending on the specific metal composition and how the bike frame was designed, you can get any combination of heavy-light, inert-lively, whether steel or aluminum is used.

    You have the right idea with the test rides. Whether a casual rider or an experienced one, get something which is pleasant for you to ride. If you start to ride a lot more, you'll start to get more ideas as to what you want from a bicycle (and this doesn't necessarily touch on frame material).

    For a heavier rider, try to stay on smoother roads. But above all else, just enjoy your bike.

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    Senior Member Sci-Fi's Avatar
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    Shouldn't make that much difference. The additional weight would be from the automatic shift components. You have to decide whether or not auto shifting is worth the additional weight or not. Personally, I would look at a 7 to 8-speed internal hub or a derailleur bike with a twist or rapid fire shifter just for the additional gear ranges...although I still ride and love my old 3-speed, sometimes I wish there were gears inbetween or a bit closer for the conditions I'm riding.

  5. #5
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    Aluminum frames tend to be stiffer and usually lighter and will not rust. They can be difficut, if not impossible, to repair.

    Steel frames usually mute road vibrations better and can still be light. Rust can be a problem if the paint is scratched and if you live in a coastal area.

    I like the Shimano Coasting system for cruiser bikes. You can even adjust shift points on the computer unit, under the bottom bracket or downtube, with a simple turn of a screwdriver right down to locking out the shifting in 2nd, the direct drive gear. Schwinn calls theirs the Sid and Nancy!
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    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    My philosophy is that if I'm riding for exercise, it's rather pointless to go looking for ways to make the exercise easier. However, it helps if the exercise is fun, so whatever floats your boat, go for it.

    I was at about 280 lbs, and rode a cheap aluminum-framed mountain bike for a year. I had problems with the wheels, but the frame held up fine (just casual rding, wasn't jumping it and stuff). I'm riding a steel-framed bike now, different but not better or worse.

  7. #7
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    I note some of the bikes you are riding have suspension forks. This would dramatically overwhelm the differences between what material is used in the frame.

    Most of the lower priced steel frames are built out of high tensile steel, which doesn't ride all that much different from aluminum, but is certainly heavier.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by George View Post
    You may want to take a look at the Jamis Coda. It's a steel bike and is very comfortable. FWIW I gave my son my aluminum bike after 6 months.
    These bikes do not have the upright riding position I need, even though they look pretty cool. With two neck surgeries under my belt, it's upright or not at all.
    Regards from Texas,

    Bean27

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Bombadil View Post
    I note some of the bikes you are riding have suspension forks. This would dramatically overwhelm the differences between what material is used in the frame.

    Most of the lower priced steel frames are built out of high tensile steel, which doesn't ride all that much different from aluminum, but is certainly heavier.
    Really, Tom? I must have missed those while I was doing the test ride. The only suspension type piece I noticed was the seat post on the Specialized bike. I thought the others were normal unsprung front forks. Thanks for the info.

    Thanks to everyone else for the replies. That's a valid point that someone brought up about this being exercise, so why try to make it easier?

    More test rides to come.
    Regards from Texas,

    Bean27

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    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    Neck surgeries? Plural? Try a recumbent. Imagine sitting in a lounge chair and riding a bike. You head and neck stay upright. These usually aren't cheap, but you will get frustrated trying to ride comfortable with an upright bike.
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    If your bike has breaks, don't ride it.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bean27
    Am I being dumb by thinking that a steel frame would be harder to ride than the other two? Or, will it not make any difference since I am strictly out for exercise and recreation...

    Edit - let me add that currently I weigh around 250 lbs, if that makes any difference.
    Let's see. A 250 pound rider hauling a 24 pound bike (=274 pounds) vs a 250 pound rider hauling a 30 pound bike (=280 pounds).
    I can't lift 274 pounds or 280 pounds so it doesn't make any difference.
    Get the bike you like.
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  12. #12
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bean27 View Post
    Really, Tom? I must have missed those while I was doing the test ride. The only suspension type piece I noticed was the seat post on the Specialized bike. I thought the others were normal unsprung front forks. Thanks for the info.
    You didn't notice that the Specialized Expedition Elite had a suspension fork?

  13. #13
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    Nope. I was trying to pay what meager attention I have to how the bike felt and to not be crashing in the parking lot.

    I really didn't see that it had one. Guess I need to look at the bikes closer on the next test rides.
    Regards from Texas,

    Bean27

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    The only thing that would swing me away from buying a steel frame would be if I was living in an apartment building with no elevator, and no storage other than in the unit.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Cannondaler's Avatar
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    Bean, my wife has pretty bad rheumatoid arthritis and dearly loves her Elektra Townie. It has an upright position and the pedal forward design makes it much easier on her. She actually has less pain riding it than when she walks!

  16. #16
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sheik_Yerbouti View Post
    The only thing that would swing me away from buying a steel frame would be if I was living in an apartment building with no elevator, and no storage other than in the unit.
    My steel Motobecane Messenger weighs 19 pounds.
    Bikes use brakes to stop.

    If your bike has breaks, don't ride it.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Fibber's Avatar
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    If you are considering the Electra, try out the Trek Pure and Giant Sedona as well. All three are crank forward, but there are enough differences in the overall frame proportions that they have a very different feel (how upright you sit, how much reach to the handgrips, etc.). My wife felt 'stretched' on the Townie, and went for the Sedona.

  18. #18
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fibber View Post
    If you are considering the Electra, try out the Trek Pure and Giant Sedona as well. All three are crank forward, but there are enough differences in the overall frame proportions that they have a very different feel (how upright you sit, how much reach to the handgrips, etc.). My wife felt 'stretched' on the Townie, and went for the Sedona.
    Do you mean the Giant Suede? The Sedona, while being a nice comfort bike, isn't a crank forward design.

  19. #19
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    Well, I ended up buying a Townie 21 spd with 700c wheels, which has an aluminum frame.. Full story on the Townie thread on this forum. So far, I love it. It's not as heavy as my old Schwinn, but still feels solid. The riding position feels great and after two rides over the weekend, I have no neck pain at all.

    I'm very happy with the choice.
    Regards from Texas,

    Bean27

  20. #20
    Senior Member Cannondaler's Avatar
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    Sweet. Enjoy!

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