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Old 09-18-11, 06:59 PM   #1
hybridbkrdr
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Steel vs aluminium

I don't know whether this is the "dumb question people don't want to answer" but here it goes. Would the difference between steel and aluminium be almost non-existant if you had larger tires like 700x38 or even 700x42? Of, do you think it would slow you down too much to want to go with 38mm or 42mm tires?

Maybe I should break out the popcorn. lol
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Old 09-18-11, 07:26 PM   #2
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I'll answer the non-sensical question.

no.
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Old 09-18-11, 08:18 PM   #3
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You'd first have to establish what inherent "difference" you're trying to overcome. Afterall, early Al bikes, like the Vitus and Alan, were criticized for being too flexible and whippy. They were commended for their comfortable ride, but many felt they flexed too much when pushing hard while climbing or sprinting. Still, it didn't seem to slow Kelly down too much.

It was only later, with Klein's use of larger diameter (but thinner) tubing that Al got the reputation as being excessively stiff. Klein set out to overcome Al's reputation as being too flexible and was very successful in choosing both a tubing configuration and frame geometry that did so.

I have both steel and Al bike frames (large diameter tubing Cannondale) and don't notice any significant comfort difference. When I first got my current steel touring bike it had Spec. Armadillo 28mm tires with very firm sidewalls. The ride was noticeably harsher than that of my Cannondale with its 23mm but more compliant tires. But if I switched the wheels/tires around then the steel bike's ride improved. Can't say I notice any difference if they both have similar tires.
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Old 09-18-11, 08:20 PM   #4
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I don't think fatter tires would slow you down any when fully loaded,and I doubt that they slow you down when unloaded.
As for frame material I prefer steel,but that is most likely just a personal preferance.
I honestly don't think that there would be much of a noteable differance between steel or alluminium,especially when loaded.
Most of the differance would come from the frame builder and geometry rather than the material.
That said I still like the looks of a steel frame better,thats kind of a pathetic reason to be biased towards steel I know.
But these are just my thoughts.
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Old 09-18-11, 10:56 PM   #5
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I think the only possible answer to this is Mu

Steel can be harsh and unyielding, if it's maker wills it so, aluminum can be soft and wimpy, if the one who shapes it sees fit.

Although this is getting a little needlessly religious, so I'm going to stop.
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Old 09-18-11, 11:48 PM   #6
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The variables in AL and Chromo are a lot less than the variables in different bikes. I once went to a shop to buy a chromo MTB. I had one in mind, but decided to try one last test drive, walked out with a Canondale MTB. You can't really tell the difference in the materials, test rides will give you the info you need to choose a bike. If you don't test ride a bike first you are taking a huge gamble.

I think the reason that chromo has a reputation for comfort is probably more to do with the fact that there is a huge variety of tubing to choose from. Custom options galore, and there are a lot of chromo bikes over time to establish the reputation of comfort as people pick and choose suitable models. Today there are a lot of cheap Al bikes, but there are still more Chromo bikes in something like the touring segment, and over time.

Good wheels are the huge factor. Heavy wheels will slow you down a lot. I use 35 mm slicks, and they seem very fast and lively to ride, largely since I haven't owned a new racing bike in 25 years.

Last edited by MassiveD; 09-18-11 at 11:53 PM.
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Old 09-19-11, 01:53 AM   #7
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I have a Cannnondale Touring ultra Alu and Surly LHT steel ...now i have no idea why but the surly feels more comfortable on rough tarmack ...and here in the UK we have very rough grade roads we dont use a fine grade like the french seam to .... I use the same wheel set and tires in both as I cant afford new wheels for the LHT yet, so its not tire or tire pressure, maybe fit....though i suspect its geometry as the cannondale is a compact frame type, but the steel definitely feels smoother in this case.
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Old 09-19-11, 06:46 AM   #8
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My aluminum Specialized Sequoia with OEM 700x25s was really "buzzy" to the point of hand-numbing on certain surfaces like the chip-seal secondary roads around here. I installed some 32s on it (largest thing that would fit) just to make it more of a "light touring" bike that could handle dirt roads & rail-trails in a pinch and was amazed at how it smoothed out the ride on rougher asphalt as well. There's now not much ride difference between that bike and my carbon-framed roadie bike.
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Old 09-19-11, 07:35 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hybridbkrdr View Post
I don't know whether this is the "dumb question people don't want to answer" but here it goes. Would the difference between steel and aluminium be almost non-existant if you had larger tires like 700x38 or even 700x42? Of, do you think it would slow you down too much to want to go with 38mm or 42mm tires?

Maybe I should break out the popcorn. lol
While tire size plays a part, tire pressure has to be factored in also. If I ride my Cannondale touring bike unloaded with the tires pumped up to loaded pressure, it's harsh. I've also read of LHT owners experiancing the same. When I lower air pressure in the 35 mm tires the ride is much plusher. As far as tourers go, it's likely very much a draw.

A loaded touring frame, regardless of material, is going to be a stiff frame to deal with BB flex and to quell the tail wagging the dog syndrome that can be caused with a heavily loaded rear carrier.

Brad
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Old 09-19-11, 07:56 AM   #10
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I used to believe that frame material makes a difference, but I'm over it by now. It all depends on how good the manufacturer and/or designer is with the material.

If two bikes had the exact same geometry, same tire size, tire type and so forth, and the only difference is that one is steel and the other is aluminum with a CF fork, I seriously doubt you'd notice a big difference -- especially if you were not told which bike was which.

However, [strike]because of rampant retro-grouchism among tourists[/strike] for various reasons, there aren't a lot of aluminum touring-specific frames out there. You'd likely be looking at an aluminum cross bike that's slightly adapted for touring, in which case lots of other factors are more important, e.g.: touring purposes, non-touring uses for the bike, geometry, brake type, cost.
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Old 09-19-11, 08:54 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by hybridbkrdr View Post
Would the difference between steel and aluminium be almost non-existant if you had larger tires like 700x38 or even 700x42?
If you're talking about ride comfort, the answer is "Yes". My aluminum touring bike wears 700x32 or 700x35 tires inflated to 70psi. The ride is just as nice as my carbon fiber Cervelo RS, which uses 700x25 tires inflated to 100psi.
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Old 09-19-11, 10:07 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by wicki View Post
I have a Cannnondale Touring ultra Alu and Surly LHT steel ...now i have no idea why but the surly feels more comfortable on rough tarmack ...and here in the UK we have very rough grade roads we dont use a fine grade like the french seam to .... I use the same wheel set and tires in both as I cant afford new wheels for the LHT yet, so its not tire or tire pressure, maybe fit....though i suspect its geometry as the cannondale is a compact frame type, but the steel definitely feels smoother in this case.
Cannondale Touring vs Rodreguiz Steel Touring

Tires size and pressure made little difference unloaded on my old c-dale (28-38 tires). Fully loaded the c-dale smoothed out nicely. Note: The ride of the new C-dale (2008) is much nicer then the old (1994). Also, though both frames are xxl they very very different. The newer has wishbone rear triangle and a smidgen of modern compactness.

Honestly, loaded up I really like the alu c-dale better for road touring. There is just so little flex.
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