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  1. #1
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    Need advice on frame material

    I know this has been asked 1000 times on this site alone, but nothing seems to help me on my situation.

    I am currently training for a 150 mile, 2 day, charity ride. As I have never road this much before, I need a little insight. Right now, I have a 2007 Specialized Allez Double (switched out for compact crank). It has an aluminum frame with a carbon fork, and I put on 700x28 tires to help with the comfort. My question is if I will be better off with a steel frame, rather than what I have now. I am not looking for a big speed advantage. I mostly want to complete the ride, and all the training that goes with it, in as much comfort as possible. I should also mention that most of my training is city riding, and about a 10 mile bike commute.

  2. #2
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    You have a good bike.

    Now get your body in shape to enjoy it.
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  3. #3
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
    You have a good bike.

    Now get your body in shape to enjoy it.
    This.

    If you want to spend money on the equipment side of things, going in for a bike fitting could be worthwhile, if you're not comfortable on the bike now.


    Also, swapping out to 28mm tires isn't going to improve your comfort much, unless you reduce the pressure you run. The main reason wider tires are more comfortable is that they allow you to run lower tire pressures, so you might want to look at what air pressure you're using.
    You could fall off a cliff and die.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member RPK79's Avatar
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    Fit > frame material

  5. #5
    Senior Member Homebrew01's Avatar
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    Fitness > frame material

    You should worry more about this:

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt144 View Post

    I am currently training for a 150 mile, 2 day, charity ride.
    I should also mention that most of my training is city riding, and about a 10 mile bike commute.
    Bikes: Old steel race bikes, old Cannondale race bikes, less old Cannondale race bike, crappy old mtn bike

  6. #6
    Mr. Dopolina Bob Dopolina's Avatar
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    OP, I hope you get to do some longer rides on the weekends as short commutes ain't gonna cut it.
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  7. #7
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    I have a very good fit on my bike, and would consider it great importance if I were to switch frames/bikes. I am asking, assuming all else is equal.

    I am also doing longer rides on the weekend... don't worry I got that all planned out.

  8. #8
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    I concur with the others.

    Steel rides differently that all aluminum, which rides differently than aluminum with a carbon fork. But ride quality is also in the fit of the bike, and the fitness of the rider.

    I had all aluminum bike which was called a road bike and had 700C wheels and road tires, but a flat handlebar. If that is what you were riding, I might see a difference given the upright versus drop bar - I find longer distances I prefer the drops and having different positions.

    But you already have that.

    When you go for longer rides, are you feeling discomfort? If so, where. It could be a fit issue, getting the right saddle height to get the right leg extention, having the right length stem to give you the right reach etc.

    The frame material doesn't matter that much, and you may find that your bike is lighter than a steel bike which may help climbing.

    How long are you long rides? 75 miles is a long day if you aren't ready for it. Do you push yourself on your commutes or is it a slow paced commute with lots of stop and go?

  9. #9
    Senior Member Tim_Iowa's Avatar
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    Steel is springy, so a well-built steel frame can deliver a more comfortable ride. You may want to keep your eyes open for a nice steel road bike. See if any local shops carry Soma, All-City, Surly, Gunnar, Velo Orange, or steel bikes from the major manufacturers, and go for test rides.

    But in the meantime:
    Adjust your tire pressure,
    Consider a seat upgrade,
    and ride until your body is more used to it.

    You can ride the charity ride in 10 mile increments, stopping for 15 min in between. That's how lots of folks complete long rides.

  10. #10
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    Although it's a Specialized, your bike is just fine!

    Just ride longer distances, more often for your training. You might want to invest in a trainer and take a spin class or two, at the Y. Swimming will help with your cardiovascular system, as well.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by JamesRL View Post
    When you go for longer rides, are you feeling discomfort? If so, where. It could be a fit issue, getting the right saddle height to get the right leg extention, having the right length stem to give you the right reach etc.
    I am not feeling much discomfort, but rather am just looking for a smoother ride. I have seen differing information on the comfort of steel frames, and if I decide to change, would like to do it before I get to 50+ mile rides.

  12. #12
    Senior Member danmc's Avatar
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    I rode a charity century in my Specialized Allez and actually survived, without the need for hospitalization. All of my fillings are also intact. I also ride about 150 miles a week on it, believe it or not. I have defied all odds.

  13. #13
    Senior Member 2702's Avatar
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    I rode carbon bikes before my 2 current aluminum bikes and the difference in tire pressure is the difference to me.
    Do some searches and look up reviews on the frame itself.
    I rather have the best aluminum frame over a low grade carbon anyday.

  14. #14
    Senior Member MagicHour's Avatar
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    As everyone else is saying, plenty of bike for your endeavor providing it fits. Miles and lots of saddle time is what you need, bike should become really comfortable with lots of 50-60 mile rides under your belt - again provided your fit and set up is sound.

    One inexpensive upgrade you could do, though, if you don't already have one (and you're not a giant clydesdale) is get a carbon seat post. I ride one of the Ascent seat posts from Nashbar ~$39 and it made my aluminum bike noticeably smoother.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt144 View Post
    I am not feeling much discomfort, but rather am just looking for a smoother ride. I have seen differing information on the comfort of steel frames, and if I decide to change, would like to do it before I get to 50+ mile rides.
    It's more about what a builder does with the material. Steel, aluminum and Ti are all pretty much the same.

    What matters more for comfort is fit, geometry, wheels, tires and air pressure, saddle, and bar tape.
    You're just trying to start an argument to show how smart you are.

  16. #16
    I'm doing it wrong. RJM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt144 View Post
    I know this has been asked 1000 times on this site alone, but nothing seems to help me on my situation.

    I am currently training for a 150 mile, 2 day, charity ride. As I have never road this much before, I need a little insight. Right now, I have a 2007 Specialized Allez Double (switched out for compact crank). It has an aluminum frame with a carbon fork, and I put on 700x28 tires to help with the comfort. My question is if I will be better off with a steel frame, rather than what I have now. I am not looking for a big speed advantage. I mostly want to complete the ride, and all the training that goes with it, in as much comfort as possible. I should also mention that most of my training is city riding, and about a 10 mile bike commute.
    I wouldn't switch your bike as it seems to be fine. I would get in longer and longer rides and get your body comfortable on your bike for those lengths of time.

    I ride steel and find my bikes smoother riding than any other bike made out of other materials, but I think a lot of that comes down to geometry, tire size, and most importantly..fit. I just don't buy that it is just a frame material issue.
    "Rivendells do not rock; they jamboree."
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  17. #17
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    Thanks for all the input. I will stick with what I got now.

    On a side note, what would be a recommended range for air pressure? I've got 700x28 gatorskins, and I weigh about 160 lbs.

  18. #18
    L-I-V-I-N dtrain's Avatar
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    Check your tire pressure and consider a bar rewrap with thick gel tape. It's likely that the exact same frame in steel would be a little more comfortable (I ride one), but the difference is pretty darn small.
    "The older you do get, the more rules they're gonna try to get you to follow. You just gotta keep livin', man, L-I-V-I-N." - Wooderson

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  19. #19
    Senior Member RPK79's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagicHour View Post
    One inexpensive upgrade you could do, though, if you don't already have one (and you're not a giant clydesdale) is get a carbon seat post. I ride one of the Ascent seat posts from Nashbar ~$39 and it made my aluminum bike noticeably smoother.
    I have one of those. I bought it when I built my current bike (which is steel) and never tried it on my old bike (aluminum) so I can't speak to it being an improvement over the aluminum post I was using before.

  20. #20
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    Echoing pretty much what's already been said; but here's what you need to do:
    • Increase your mileage
    • Alter your bike fit if needed
    • Larger/More supple tires (Panaracer Pasela are a popular choice for short money) at a lower pressure


    The frame material is a personal and aesthetic choice. Frame geometry has everything to do with comfort and harshness.

    If you want a frame that's more comfortable on long rides you could consider something that has:
    • A longer wheelbase
    • slacker seattube and headtube angles
    • Less drop between seat height and bar height
    • clearance for larger tires that can be run at lower pressure


    Case in point:
    In my collection I have a Waterford 1200 racing bike and a Surly Long Haul Trucker; they're both made of steel. The LHT is smooth and comfortable and the Waterford will knock your teeth out on a rough road.

  21. #21
    Senior Member adrien's Avatar
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    Buy steel. (okay, not necessarily, but it seems like you wanted that to be said).

    I've had steel, carbon, alu. I've ridden but never owned Ti. I now have two steel bikes and an alu MTB.

    EVERY bike rides marginally differently from the next. There are many, many factors to this -- with fit, geometry, tires, wheels, saddle probably weighing in as more significant than frame material. Really.

    That said, there is a liveliness to a good steel frame that is hard to replicate, though some try, with other materials. It has a bit of give, which can be noodly (if the steel flexes too much), plush, lively or even whippy. This varies based on the size, weight, skill, muscle of the rider. So a bike that feels lively to me at 215 pounds will feel punishingly stiff to someone who's say 150. Much of that is up to the skill of the designer and / or the builder.

    Short answer is it's impossible to make a broad pronouncement that's useful here. Ride. lots. Try lots of bikes. Buy what you can afford that makes you want to ride more. I can't walk past my bike without wishing I was on it.
    "how do you know you can't swim until you have drowned?"

  22. #22
    Senior Member Ricanfred's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagicHour View Post
    As everyone else is saying, plenty of bike for your endeavor providing it fits. Miles and lots of saddle time is what you need, bike should become really comfortable with lots of 50-60 mile rides under your belt - again provided your fit and set up is sound.
    This has been my experience with an aluminum Trek 2.3. For reference, I use 23mm wide rims with Pro 4s and latex tubes. I really enjoy the ride.....
    2011 Trek 2.3

  23. #23
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt144 View Post
    Thanks for all the input. I will stick with what I got now.

    On a side note, what would be a recommended range for air pressure? I've got 700x28 gatorskins, and I weigh about 160 lbs.
    According to Schwalbe you should be running 85psi

    Inflation Pressure | Schwalbe North America

    There are a number of tire pressure calculators around. Good number of them come to about that same number for your weight, including Sheldon Brown.

    I'd try the 85psi, and adjust up or down as necessary. If you find the tires squirming when you corner, or you start getting pinch flats, go up. If the ride's still harsher than you want, go down.
    You could fall off a cliff and die.
    You could get lost and die.
    You could hit a tree and die.
    OR YOU COULD STAY HOME AND FALL OFF THE COUCH AND DIE.

  24. #24
    SuperGimp TrojanHorse's Avatar
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    I don't think gatorskins are necessarily known for comfort... but I've never used them so let somebody who has chime in.

  25. #25
    Senior Member danmc's Avatar
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    I use Gatorskins 25mm. I'm not exactly the Princess and the Pea, but they seem plenty comfortable to me. Plus, I'd much rather ride a slightly rougher tire than have to change flats 3 times a week, which is what I was doing prior to using them.

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