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  1. #1
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    Aluminum vs Steel frame

    After searching for a while, my Google-Fu doesn't seem to be turning up the info that I've been looking for. I'm getting ready to build my first project bike and I'm deciding on a frame that I like. I am concerned about aesthetics, but not to the point of getting something that is impractical or ends up being a wall hanger. I really like the look of aluminum (ex: http://liverydesigngruppe.com/liveryblog/?cat=25 is the frame that I'm particularly interested in, local builder etc), but I haven't been able to find enough information on the pros and cons of riding aluminum vs steel. I've read a bunch of general assessments: Steel flexes and lasts longer, Aluminum is a stiffer ride but may have a short life due to metal fatigue, but I'm looking for a bit more hands on analysis.

    Anyone have experience with this enough to be able to delineate the pros and cons of building up an Aluminum frame bike. I plan on using this bike to ride around town (attempting to only use my car to drive to and from work as I commute 60 miles a day to and from work), for errands and just for fun riding. One of my main concerns is that the streets in my city (Long Beach, CA) are not fantastic and running an aluminum frame/carbon fork combo seems risky if they really are as brittle and stiff as they seem to be.

    I currently wrench on a Schwinn Le Tour III, which unfortunately is not worth converting as it spent a few years outside and it would need a complete overhaul. I've kept it in as good repair as I can, but it seems to be time for a new bike. So, any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

    Oh, and inb4 "have you heard of the search button?" because it doesn't seem to work atm.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Brian's Avatar
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    You will not wear out an aluminum frame, nor are you likely to keep it long enough to worry about fatigue.

    That said, you don't want that bike for riding around town, and steel is still a better choice.

  3. #3
    Yo!
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    You need to try a few of them out. All of my MTB's and dirt jumpers are aluminum; I like the stiffness, it feels more resilient in my opinion, but most had suspension forks even though I run everything rigid now these days.

    For a track bike on the street with skinnies I like steel because of it's compliance; one can also never go wrong with the look of a lugged steel frame. If you're tricking etc, I'd probably stick with aluminum. Aluminum will also hold up better if your a bad weather rider. This thread will go on for days and days.....

    Also, I've seen Livery's stuff, looks pretty nice. But if you want a badass lugged frame for around $600 check out viking cycles.

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    ^ Thanks for the info. Not planning on tricking at all, just really like riding my bike as much as possible and wanted to put something together that is fun to ride and comfortable enough to not rattle my teeth out but still sporty.

  5. #5
    Get on your bikes & ride! xB_Nutt's Avatar
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    I've ridden stiff, harsh aluminum and stiff, harsh steel bikes. I have also ridden smooth, supple aluminum and smooth, supple steel bikes. It all depends on the size and quality of the tubing. Generally speaking though, steel is typically smoother than aluminum. Your best bet is to try to ride what you are going to buy.
    Litespeed Classic
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  6. #6
    Senior Member not_jason's Avatar
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    I like the aluminum bikes I've had just fine. In my own experience, the aesthetic differences are more profound than the difference in ride.

    Also, the only reason I clicked on this thread was because of your screen name. I used to be the biggest Ozma fan on the planet.

  7. #7
    The bus, Gus mrvile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yo! View Post
    If you're tricking etc, I'd probably stick with aluminum.
    wat

    ...esplain?

  8. #8
    Senior Member REMspeedwagon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrvile View Post
    If you're tricking etc, I'd probably stick with aluminum.
    wat

    ...esplain?
    seriously, find a bmxer at the park with an aluminum frame.
    null

  9. #9
    ... tall&lanky's Avatar
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    if you're tricking just get a bruiser, leader 729, or cutter. all steel.

    ride both, then decide.

  10. #10
    Elitist carleton's Avatar
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    This is amazing.

    Had this question been asked 3 years ago the answers would have been TOTALLY different. Yet, bicycle metallurgy hasn't advanced much in that time. I wonder what changed.

  11. #11
    Elitist carleton's Avatar
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    Those dropouts look relatively short. If you are getting a custom frame, maybe you can request longer dropouts. This will expand your gear options.

  12. #12
    .;/., cleanupinaisle3's Avatar
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    those livery frames look nice.

  13. #13
    I just wanna ride stryper's Avatar
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    http://spokesmanbicycles.com/article...sics-pg328.htm
    Everybody with questions about frame materials just needs to read this.

    That being said I ride aluminum frame and fork every day. Gonna start commuting to school in the spring, 20 miles each way. I love how stiff and responsive it is.

  14. #14
    Gentlemen. ADSR's Avatar
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    Basically steel is not real. Nor is aluminum, carbon fiber, etc. The main differences will be in how you shape the tubes. I have a lugged steel road bike fixed conversion from the 80's with some noticeable flex in the bottom bracket when I really mash into it, and an aluminum road bike bought over this last summer. The owner of the bike shop I bought it to test rode it around the block and commented that it's stiffer than his Colnago. They both ride with about the same level of harshness. If you really want a smooth ride put 28c tires with a high-TPI casing on. The smoothest bike I've ridden was a Bianchi Pista with wheels featuring twisted spokes, Deep V's and 28c Vittoria Randonneurs. It was also a stiff-feeling frame thanks to the formed tubing of the frame. Really, I think you'd do best to figure out what feels right to you when riding, and what kind of tires you plan to use/can fit the frame.

    PS, stryper are you going to commute out to Butte College?
    The bums will always lose.

  15. #15
    I just wanna ride stryper's Avatar
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    yes, I'm gonna ride out to butte 5 days a week. I rode the bus for a year and a half and it's slow and you have to rely too much on timing. Plus I want to build up my health and train for some more distance stuff

  16. #16
    Senior Member filtersweep's Avatar
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    The abundance of overbuilt boat-anchor aluminum "track" frames that sell dirt-cheap? Or the flood of straight-gauge cromo or hi-ten steel frames that are even heavier?

    The Livery frame looks like it actually built from some reasonable tubing.... unlike the VISP or the other ebay frames.

    I am riding a welded steel frame, and the track geometry alone is enough to make it feel stiffer than my lugged steel conversions. The geometry also makes me question how harsh an AL frame would be---

    My previous lightweight AL frame ended up getting dinged up quite easily. *FWIW.

    Quote Originally Posted by carleton View Post
    This is amazing.

    Had this question been asked 3 years ago the answers would have been TOTALLY different. Yet, bicycle metallurgy hasn't advanced much in that time. I wonder what changed.

  17. #17
    Gentlemen. ADSR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stryper View Post
    yes, I'm gonna ride out to butte 5 days a week. I rode the bus for a year and a half and it's slow and you have to rely too much on timing. Plus I want to build up my health and train for some more distance stuff
    That's awesome! It's kind of treacherous, but a definitely doable ride. The Midway is downright awesome.
    The bums will always lose.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Brian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cleanupinaisle3 View Post
    those livery frames look nice.
    Or ridiculously disproportionate. To each his own.

  19. #19
    Seņor Member atoms's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian View Post
    Or ridiculously disproportionate. To each his own.
    But Brian's avatar is way cuter, so I'm going with ridiculously disproportionate.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Brian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by atoms View Post
    But Brian's avatar is way cuter, so I'm going with ridiculously disproportionate.
    Hey, my dog has surfed in Australia, he's way cool.

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