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Old 02-27-07, 09:44 AM   #1
rs_woods
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aluminum

thinking of going on tour for several months, if not years. not a lot of cargo, just a change of clothes & some hygiene stuff. what do you guys think of aluminum for this? will i exhaust its finite lifespan? should i worry about buying a new steel bike?
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Old 02-27-07, 10:49 AM   #2
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Depends on the specifics. This is one of the more tested world traveling bikes: http://www.koga.com/uk/bike.asp?coll...66&FullSpecs=1
So is the Canondale.
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Old 02-27-07, 11:15 AM   #3
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Finite?

My aluminum 1988 Trek 8000 has about 100,000 miles on it.
Most of it touring under load - big load.
A lot of that on brutal dirt roads.

Maybe I'm just lucky, but I've had no problems with aluminum.
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Old 02-27-07, 11:19 AM   #4
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I think you'll be fine- especially as you're
travelling light! Aluminium is extremely strong, and frame design takes into
consideration the inherent qualities of this material (including the frailties/weaknesses).
I think you just have to be sensible with the kind of riding/purpose you're doing and be aware of any changes
in responsiveness in the frame if you're really concerned etc.

Aluminium frames are very well constructed these days in 6061
and 7005 Alu. I have never encountered aluminium failure myself.

What bike are you using?
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Old 02-27-07, 11:43 AM   #5
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Depends on where you are going. If you are worried about needing to potentially repair a frame, steel would probably be the best material since anyone with a torch and some know-how could fix it (assuming it's fixable). If you plan on calling home or going to the LBS to fix/replace a frame, any decent touring frame will probably be a good choice.

The important characteristic between any of the metals is the force needed for permanent damage to take place. Everything the same (diameter, wall thickness, etc), aluminum will be damaged permanently sooner than steel or titanium (not sure if Carbon Fiber is used in touring bikes).

Now, change the configuration of those tubes and you can get these characteristics to change. That's why details like bigger tubes and thicker walls are found in aluminum compared to steel.

Thus, choosing a bike that is made for touring, from a company that knows what they are doing, and you'll have a better time of it.

Enjoy! Dang, months on a bike...sounds wonderful!
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Old 02-27-07, 12:15 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peterpan1
Depends on the specifics. This is one of the more tested world traveling bikes: http://www.koga.com/uk/bike.asp?coll...66&FullSpecs=1
Integrated headset booooooo
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Old 02-27-07, 01:20 PM   #7
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Koga and Canondale both make tried and trusted Al touring frames. They are esp good for big guys, being a lot stiffer than large steel frames.
The main downside to Al is that it is much harder to make aftermarket alterations to the bike, eg brazeons.
It is true that you cant repair Al in anylocal blacksmiths shops but would you trust a lightweight steel bike to a village smithy?
The way to do a field repair on Al is with epoxy/fibre-glass wrap. These have lasted for several years in regular use. The chainstay repair is not safety critical but I wouldnt be so keen on a repaired head tube.
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Old 02-27-07, 03:09 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jamawani
Finite?

My aluminum 1988 Trek 8000 has about 100,000 miles on it.
Most of it touring under load - big load.
A lot of that on brutal dirt roads.

Maybe I'm just lucky, but I've had no problems with aluminum.
Love the pic in your post....
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Old 02-27-07, 03:13 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlowerBlossom
Now, change the configuration of those tubes and you can get these characteristics to change. That's why details like bigger tubes and thicker walls are found in aluminum compared to steel.
AL tubes are generally larger diameter and thinner wall thickness than a narrow steel tube. That's why they are more easily damaged and are lighter than a comparable steel frame.

If AL bikes had bigger tubes and thicker tubes they would be much heavier than steel bikes - which is not the case.
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Old 02-27-07, 03:59 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vik
AL tubes are generally larger diameter and thinner wall thickness than a narrow steel tube. That's why they are more easily damaged and are lighter than a comparable steel frame.

If AL bikes had bigger tubes and thicker tubes they would be much heavier than steel bikes - which is not the case.
I cannot claim I have measured aluminum or steel tubes, nor am I interested in measuring them. Instead, I got my information from a recent article in "Adventure Cyclist" (Feb 2007 issue, page 46), by Sheldon Brown. Putting this information into context, I will provide a couple lead-in sentences:

"...The "identical" aluminum frame would be one-third as stiff as steel, roughly half as strong, and one-third the weight. Such a frame would be quite unsatisfactory. That's why aluminum frames generally have noticeably larger tubing diameters and thicker-walled tubing."

(italics my own, to indicate which sentence contains the information I provided in the earlier post.)

A great all-around article, BTW. I learned a lot.

P.S. I hope it's ok to quote sources directly as long as I gave them credit, like in academia.
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Old 02-27-07, 05:21 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlowerBlossom
If you are worried about needing to potentially repair a frame, steel would probably be the best material since anyone with a torch and some know-how could fix it (assuming it's fixable).
FB, not picking on you, but:

I'm posting this response only because I believe this popular myth should be dispelled. People often post this, and it's largely untrue - in 90% of the cases this is simply not practical or economically sensible.

First, most "welders" are welders and have no experience brazing, or are not highly skilled at welding on material as thin as bike frame tubing. Most welders would probably ruin your frame if they attempted a repair. If the frame was still usable after the repair, it would probably look like crap.

Qualified frame builders usually have a bunch of new frames to work on, they're gonna be reluctant to drop their jobs and fix your (probably, relatively speaking) cheap frame.

Even if you can locate a qualified, willing repairman, he's unlikely to be near where you breakdown. So, strip the frame, ship, frame is repaired, ship back, rebuild. Thats a lot of time and money. The frame repair alone would cost $150-$300 bucks. Then there's the eventual paint or powdercoat job you'd want (unless you LIKE large contrasting panels of gray or red primer) - another $XXX .

So, its probably more sensible (and usually the only option) to replace a damaged frame. Certainly something like a cheap LHT. Or any other steel frame on a bike that sells for under $1500 msrp.

The whole "steel frames are field repairable" is basically a myth (it may have been true 30 years ago, in europe). If you tour and breakdown in Taiwan and speak Mandarin, then a steel frame may be advantageous.

I bet if you conducted a survey today, you'd find as many welders skilled at TIGing aluminum as those skilled at TIGing or brazing steel.

Otherwise, pick a frame based on fit, cost, and reputation of maker/seller. All common frame materials can be suitable for touring if the frame is designed and built with the rigors of touring carefully considered.

To the OP: aluminum can certainly work in frames for heavy duty use. Cannondale staying in business so long is simple testament to this fact. Its more likely that your finite interest in bicycling will be exhausted before the number of fatigue cycles required to break your frame have accumulated.
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Old 02-27-07, 05:53 PM   #12
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Not really a myth:
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/p..._id=44266&v=6j
http://www.vwvagabonds.com/Bike/BikeTheBikes.html
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Old 02-27-07, 06:08 PM   #13
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thanks for replies everyone. i'm actually riding a giant bowery right now, which is an aluminum track bike, so i think my worry is justified. months+ should be fun on the bike, the longest ive been before was a month (chicago to new orleans) and i felt rushed and wanted to go more, so it should be a great time. want to make sure i have a bike that's up to the task, though.

the shop also has a used diamondback road bike (steel, gears, BRAKES!) that I think would be a better touring bike, and I'll get it if the owner will let me, but i also like my bowery enough to deal with its shortcomings in the hills if i can't get the diamondback.
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Old 02-27-07, 06:18 PM   #14
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I wouldn't worry too much about frame material, just avoid carbon. I'd focus on getting the proper bike for your needs, specifically one designed for touring and that has a good ride. If you do not have a touring-specific bike, and plan to spend more than 6 months on the road, it's a worthy investment.

So, make sure you have the following basically kitted out:

- gearing that's low enough for your needs (27 GI or less, for most people)
- moderately wide touring tires
- the best saddle you can find
- comfortable ride position
- lots of braze-ons

A nearby LBS might have a touring bike handy, like a Trek 520 or Jamis Aurora.



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Integrated headset booooooo
True, but they come with handlebars like these:

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Old 02-27-07, 08:13 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seeker333
FB, not picking on you, but:

I'm posting this response only because I believe this popular myth should be dispelled. People often post this, and it's largely untrue - in 90% of the cases this is simply not practical or economically sensible.

First, most "welders" are welders and have no experience brazing, or are not highly skilled at welding on material as thin as bike frame tubing. Most welders would probably ruin your frame if they attempted a repair. If the frame was still usable after the repair, it would probably look like crap.

Qualified frame builders usually have a bunch of new frames to work on, they're gonna be reluctant to drop their jobs and fix your (probably, relatively speaking) cheap frame.

Even if you can locate a qualified, willing repairman, he's unlikely to be near where you breakdown. So, strip the frame, ship, frame is repaired, ship back, rebuild. Thats a lot of time and money. The frame repair alone would cost $150-$300 bucks. Then there's the eventual paint or powdercoat job you'd want (unless you LIKE large contrasting panels of gray or red primer) - another $XXX .

So, its probably more sensible (and usually the only option) to replace a damaged frame. Certainly something like a cheap LHT. Or any other steel frame on a bike that sells for under $1500 msrp.

The whole "steel frames are field repairable" is basically a myth (it may have been true 30 years ago, in europe). If you tour and breakdown in Taiwan and speak Mandarin, then a steel frame may be advantageous.

I bet if you conducted a survey today, you'd find as many welders skilled at TIGing aluminum as those skilled at TIGing or brazing steel.

Otherwise, pick a frame based on fit, cost, and reputation of maker/seller. All common frame materials can be suitable for touring if the frame is designed and built with the rigors of touring carefully considered.

To the OP: aluminum can certainly work in frames for heavy duty use. Cannondale staying in business so long is simple testament to this fact. Its more likely that your finite interest in bicycling will be exhausted before the number of fatigue cycles required to break your frame have accumulated.

+1, well said
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Old 02-27-07, 11:27 PM   #16
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If you are happy with your aluminum bike go with that.
I am a big believer in going with the bike you have (kind of like donald rumsfeld)
rather than the bike you would like to have.

However I have just been reading Stephen Lord's Adventure cycle -touring handbook and he says this about frame materials:

Quote:
Chromoly steel is therefore the obvious choice for bike tourers who want to wander far. Should you need one, steel weldeers exist in any small town; aluminum welding is rare and specialized. Whatever the virtues of aluminum -either its looks, or the few ounces saved - it's an unnecessary and entirely avoidable risk.
Contrary to what seeker asserts, if you read the tales of people doing expedition touring in remote places, you come across times when local welders patched together a broken frame on the spot. It does happen.

I have seen steel frames break, usually from a crack that propagates, but I have seen aluminum frames break before my eyes, quickly. One of them was a new touring bike from devinci. They replaced the frame under warranty but my friend had to replace all the parts himself.

If you were thinking of getting a new bike anyway I would get steel. If you are short of funds and you like your aluminum bike, use that. On the big scale of things, breaking a frame is relatively low on the list of things that can go wrong.

The important thing is to just go.
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Old 02-28-07, 12:45 AM   #17
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You've toured a month on a track bike?
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Old 02-28-07, 03:59 AM   #18
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If you actually have to assemble two parts by weldiing, if some kind of splint won't work, there are far more welding machines and welders that/who can handle steel than aluminum. All the major types of machine, stick, MIG, and TIG can handle aluminum. Stick aluminum electrodes are to say the least rare, and only work in AC machines. AC MIG machines can run aluminum wire, though machines set up for it are pobably not all that comon in non-specialty applications. TIG machines also have to be a special type to weld with aluminum, mine does not. It's possible to gas weld aluminum, but extremely unlikely you will run across the right sized torch, flux, rods and skills. You can't braze aluminum since by definition that is a process over 800F.

About the only thing you have to get right to weld steel is the ability to handle thin sheet metal sized projects. It's extremely unrealistic to believe that anyone will economically fix a broken frame. But finding someone who could get you back on the road with a gastly patch over a tube is probably not all that hard to find. Someone who can re-weld you tube without even massive damage to the paint is one thing, someone who could scab in some angle iron, etc.. that would last you out your trip, or get you to the next major center, that's another thing entirely. If you want fixability in a frame, get a good rugged frame so it won't likely break, and so the tubing is not unreasonable for the average welder to handle.
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Old 02-28-07, 07:28 AM   #19
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You can repair you broken aluminum frame yourself with only a borrowed propane torch (extremely commom item) and 1 alumaloy stick that you keep in the bottom of your pannier. The only trick to this product is a very clean surface, and it does work. I would not consider this a perfect, long term solution, but will keep you going till better arrangements are found.

http://www.alumaloy.net/
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Old 02-28-07, 08:10 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gregw
You can repair you broken aluminum frame yourself with only a borrowed propane torch (extremely commom item) and 1 alumaloy stick that you keep in the bottom of your pannier. The only trick to this product is a very clean surface, and it does work. I would not consider this a perfect, long term solution, but will keep you going till better arrangements are found.

http://www.alumaloy.net/


Interesting. I'd never seen that before.

Ultimately the steel vs aluminum dispute is a religious argument.

I'm not in favour of religious persecution, so if you really like aluminum go for it.
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Old 02-28-07, 09:52 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seeker333
To the OP: aluminum can certainly work in frames for heavy duty use. Cannondale staying in business so long is simple testament to this fact. Its more likely that your finite interest in bicycling will be exhausted before the number of fatigue cycles required to break your frame have accumulated.
i'll take this as an insult. its more likely that i buy a half dozen more bikes before the frame gives out.
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Old 02-28-07, 10:12 AM   #22
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Bacciagalupe, what are those trekking bars called and where could I buy them, thanks George
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Old 02-28-07, 10:38 AM   #23
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Woods!
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Old 02-28-07, 03:07 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seeker333
FB, not picking on you, but:

I'm posting this response only because I believe this popular myth should be dispelled. People often post this, and it's largely untrue - in 90% of the cases this is simply not practical or economically sensible.

First, most "welders" are welders and have no experience brazing, or are not highly skilled at welding on material as thin as bike frame tubing. Most welders would probably ruin your frame if they attempted a repair. If the frame was still usable after the repair, it would probably look like crap.

Qualified frame builders usually have a bunch of new frames to work on, they're gonna be reluctant to drop their jobs and fix your (probably, relatively speaking) cheap frame.

Even if you can locate a qualified, willing repairman, he's unlikely to be near where you breakdown. So, strip the frame, ship, frame is repaired, ship back, rebuild. Thats a lot of time and money. The frame repair alone would cost $150-$300 bucks. Then there's the eventual paint or powdercoat job you'd want (unless you LIKE large contrasting panels of gray or red primer) - another $XXX .

So, its probably more sensible (and usually the only option) to replace a damaged frame. Certainly something like a cheap LHT. Or any other steel frame on a bike that sells for under $1500 msrp.

The whole "steel frames are field repairable" is basically a myth (it may have been true 30 years ago, in europe). If you tour and breakdown in Taiwan and speak Mandarin, then a steel frame may be advantageous.

I bet if you conducted a survey today, you'd find as many welders skilled at TIGing aluminum as those skilled at TIGing or brazing steel.

Otherwise, pick a frame based on fit, cost, and reputation of maker/seller. All common frame materials can be suitable for touring if the frame is designed and built with the rigors of touring carefully considered.

To the OP: aluminum can certainly work in frames for heavy duty use. Cannondale staying in business so long is simple testament to this fact. Its more likely that your finite interest in bicycling will be exhausted before the number of fatigue cycles required to break your frame have accumulated.
Seerker333,

I don't feel picked on. Thanks for your consideration, though!

Perhaps there's some truth to what you say; I luckily have never been in the position to need to get my frame fixed.

However, what I said is definitely NOT a myth. There's a real probability associated with being able to fix steel. Period. I have read you can't fix aluminum (Peterpan1 presents information to the contrary that I can't comment on at this point on my learning curve.).

Your guess is 10% (.1) for actually getting steel fixed. Fine. However small it is, someday there will someone whose easiest and cheapest option is the local metalworker....the person who isn't able to call on the phone or get on a bus w/o a long walk or whose travel budget would be eaten up and trip ended with the must-buy-new-bike option. Erick L posted some links that were along the lines of what I was thinking. Steel makes this situation a bit more optimistic.

Finally, I have a very different attitude about the what a frame builder/repairer might think about my cheap frame. I could care less. If I ever get into the situation where my best-bike-that-I've-ever-had has a frame issue, I'm going to ask as many qualified experts as I can to determine if it's fixable. If no one is interested, fine. I'll be disappointed, but, I can handle disappointment. Most importantly, however, is that I will know it was a potential and that I tried.
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Old 02-28-07, 06:38 PM   #25
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sup ponds! havent talked to you since pre-k
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