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Science behind the steele frame

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Science behind the steele frame

Old 08-29-20, 02:28 PM
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gthomson
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Science behind the steele frame

Have you ever had one of those discussions with someone who is only interested in the latest and greatest bike tech and when you start talking about how good a steele bike is they look at you with a distaste? The only thing I can say to respond is the ride is just so much smoother than newer bikes (can only attest to aluminum bikes as I've never ridden carbon) but is there any fact behind what I'm saying? Do the steel bikes have a more solid frame and give that smooth easy ride? There must be some data out there that would back up why these bikes are in some cases, better than new ones. Sure, I get new shifters are more convenient than down tube shifters, and group sets are better, etc... but the steel frames have a different feel to them.

Can anyone back me up or am I just sentimental to the bikes I rode when I was younger?
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Old 08-29-20, 02:43 PM
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People say a lot of things but it doesn't make sense to say that specific materials have a certain ride quality. The materials come in such a wide variety of alloys, tube diameters, wall thickness, and shapes that it's just silly to generalize about a material when it's really all of these factors plus the components and geometry that affect the ride quality, not the general fact that the frame is made of steel or aluminum or carbon fiber.
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Old 08-29-20, 02:46 PM
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If you happen to like old steel bikes and how they ride, you won't get a lot of argument from the C&V people.
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Old 08-29-20, 02:50 PM
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Just remember, if it wasn't for carbon, your steel bike would be a bunch of iron pipes.
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Old 08-29-20, 02:51 PM
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Steel is real and doesn't asplode.
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Old 08-29-20, 02:54 PM
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A regular occurrence on Cycle Oregon rides where chip seal and other less than "great" pavements are common - the pavement goes form good to chip seal (perhaps as we turn onto another road) and riders on modern bikes slow down. The joke among those of us on steel or titanium is that we have to be on the brakes for those pavement changes so we don't hit the riders ahead. Chip seal ends and there is always a chorus of "ahh!!"

This isn't a fair test. Those of us on the old school bikes tend to be riders of a lot of experience and at Cycle Oregon the vast majority of the new bikes are less than the top models being ridden by relatively inexperienced riders. (The experience riders on the good stuff left earlier than I am willing with my knees that love warmth.) Still, it's pretty funny.
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Old 08-29-20, 02:58 PM
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Originally Posted by wgscott View Post
Just remember, if it wasn't for carbon, your steel bike would be a bunch of iron pipes.
Nah. Too many bright engineer types. Bikes would have migrated to wood early. (Yeah, wood is carbon based, but then so are we so no carbon, nothing to discuss and nobody to discuss it with.)
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Old 08-29-20, 03:42 PM
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Wooden rims were the performance choice for a long time. Like artificial carbon, they tended to assplode. The move to aluminum was as much about safety as performance. I learned this from Coach Walthour, football coach at my high school. How's that for a name drop.
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Old 08-29-20, 03:58 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
Nah. Too many bright engineer types. Bikes would have migrated to wood early. (Yeah, wood is carbon based, but then so are we so no carbon, nothing to discuss and nobody to discuss it with.)
Even to smelt raw pig iron out of ore, you need a good hot form of carbon, like coke or charcoal. ”Green” electricity works for aluminum smelting and for making high-grade steel. But the developing world’s blast furnaces need coal (which we want to come from Canada.)
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Old 08-29-20, 04:04 PM
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Originally Posted by conspiratemus1 View Post
Even to smelt raw pig iron out of ore, you need a good hot form of carbon, like coke or charcoal. ”Green” electricity works for aluminum smelting and for making high-grade steel. But the developing world’s blast furnaces need coal (which we want to come from Canada.)
I'm glad you put "Green" in quotes. 62.7% of electricity in the US is generated by using fossil fuels.
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Old 08-29-20, 04:07 PM
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The main thing about carbon fiber is its MOE. It's much better than steel WRT stiffness to weight. No getting around that. This quality doesn't necessarily lend itself to the most comfortable ride. It is better from a performance standpoint, planing notwithstanding..

Quality CF also beats steel in most cases for fatigue resistance.

What it sucks at is toughness. Hit it with a rock or crash it, and it can't be trusted anymore. For me and most recreational riders, it doesn't seem worth it to save a couple pounds, just to have to worry if your bike will assplode cuz it got pinged with a rock. My bikes get pinged with rocks all the time. And frankly, lost 2 or 3 pounds would be a more prudent performance boost.

Also, CF bikes are noisy. I don't like the sound they make.

But bro, yer preachin to the choir here, obviously.
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Old 08-29-20, 04:17 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
This isn't a fair test. Those of us on the old school bikes tend to be riders of a lot of experience
Truth, truth, and truth.

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Old 08-29-20, 04:24 PM
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I don't know how to quantify it, but nothing is smoother than Steele.


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Old 08-29-20, 04:45 PM
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Originally Posted by gearbasher View Post
I'm glad you put "Green" in quotes. 62.7% of electricity in the US is generated by using fossil fuels.
Yes, hence the quotes, since it varies so much around the world. Canada does have a green electricity grid, which is why we can make such vast quantities of aluminum economically. Of the populous provinces, only Alberta burns much coal and gas for electricity. In my Ontario, it almost all comes from uranium and falling water, with gas turbines just for peak demand. Trivial wind & solar. Thing is, if our country was drier, and with higher population density, we would need more energy-dense sources, like fossil fuels. Anti-nuke sentiment remains strong even though our plants have never had an accident and CANDUs cannot melt down from loss of moderator.

All that said, Canada’s over-all emissions per capita are higher than the U.S., even though the grid is green.
Cold country needs a lot of (cheap, cheap!) natural gas for space heating and highly suburbanized population that likes pickup trucks & SUVs burns a lot of gasoline, diesel, and (pre-pandemic) jet fuel. And we export vast quantities of fossil fuel, extraction of which emits more than shale formations. Many U.S. states are miles ahead of Canada nationally, because nationally there are winners and losers at each other’s throats in any climate plan.(Small country = small politics.)

But carbon-fibre is the ultimate carbon-capture technology, eh? :-)
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Old 08-29-20, 05:09 PM
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Don't forget, with carbon fiber you have to remember to keep it away from dogs as they may chew through it. Especially bull terriers.

My cat started nibbling on the leg of a steel kitchen stool and I just smiled, "Chew away, buddy. That stool will be just fine."
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Old 08-29-20, 05:55 PM
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Originally Posted by gthomson View Post
Have you ever had one of those discussions with someone who is only interested in the latest and greatest bike tech and when you start talking about how good a steele bike is they look at you with a distaste? The only thing I can say to respond is the ride is just so much smoother than newer bikes (can only attest to aluminum bikes as I've never ridden carbon) but is there any fact behind what I'm saying? Do the steel bikes have a more solid frame and give that smooth easy ride? There must be some data out there that would back up why these bikes are in some cases, better than new ones. Sure, I get new shifters are more convenient than down tube shifters, and group sets are better, etc... but the steel frames have a different feel to them.

Can anyone back me up or am I just sentimental to the bikes I rode when I was younger?
Yes, no, all of the above.

Highly subjective, depends on builder. construction, materials and process, perception, predisposition, bias, voodoo, mojo and so much more.

We know what it is because it is what it is to us and we know it.

I always use the music analogy, vinyl has soul like steel, cd's, carbon fibre, plastic, aluminum do not.

The snobby bias has been here for a long time.

Its getting worse and is accelerating with the ever increasing threadless, cartridge, disposable cookie cutter mentality that has many things circling the drain that we used to be able think and work our way through.

Get off my lawn!

In other words I agree 100%

Last edited by merziac; 08-30-20 at 12:14 AM.
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Old 08-29-20, 07:00 PM
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I would think that modern carbon frames can be designed to be more comfortable than a steel bike. Trek is putting dampeners in some of their frames. It is a more versatile material.

Straight tube bikes are somewhat limited in shape and design plays a big role, and I would think titanium, that is not a steel, would be the next on comfort with all things being equal.

Next would be steel.

Aluminum would probably be the least comfortable, having a couple of Cannondales, and I put it at the back of the class. I’ve never ridden a Vitus 979, so I can’t rate how comfortable that flexible frame was to ride.

John
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Old 08-29-20, 07:42 PM
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I like my steel framed bike. I find it to be comfortable.
I like my aluminum framed bike. I find it to be comfortable.
I like my carbon fiber bike. I find it to be comfortable.
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Old 08-29-20, 08:04 PM
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531 Reynolds Comp build, comfortable with a neutral ride, more so now with 23-25c tyres than the 20c I used to run in the 90's.
Trek Emonda S6 build, comfortable and a far more responsive ride, better power transfer through a sizeable chunk of frame around the bottom bracket and 2.5Kg (5.5lbs) lighter than the 531.

I still do most of my riding on steel...
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Old 08-29-20, 09:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Salamandrine View Post
Wooden rims were the performance choice for a long time. Like artificial carbon, they tended to assplode. The move to aluminum was as much about safety as performance. I learned this from Coach Walthour, football coach at my high school. How's that for a name drop.
Jimmy Walthour?

Brent
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Old 08-30-20, 09:02 AM
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The worst bikes I have ever ridden were all made of steel.

Also the best bikes I have ever ridden.
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Old 08-30-20, 09:26 AM
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I only ride steel bikes, not because they are better than carbon fiber (which I have never ridden) but because they are easy to find, repair and restore. They are what I grew up with.

That said, I would prefer a properly designed CF bike over a poorly designed steel bike.
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Old 08-30-20, 10:47 AM
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Originally Posted by 70sSanO View Post
I would think that modern carbon frames can be designed to be more comfortable than a steel bike.
I'm sure they could be, but marketing long ago convinced people that "stiffness" is the paragon virtue in bike frames, and now customers look for that in high-end bikes. It's a vicious circle.
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Old 08-30-20, 11:03 AM
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You asked for it, you got it. Here's an engineer's perspective. Warning; math ahead.



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Old 08-30-20, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by TenGrainBread View Post
People say a lot of things but it doesn't make sense to say that specific materials have a certain ride quality. The materials come in such a wide variety of alloys, tube diameters, wall thickness, and shapes that it's just silly to generalize about a material when it's really all of these factors plus the components and geometry that affect the ride quality, not the general fact that the frame is made of steel or aluminum or carbon fiber.
TenGrainBread nailed it. I had an aluminum Raleigh pass through my shop and I think I lost a filling checking the thing out after refurbishing it due to that frame. I love my more vintage aluminum Vitus 979.
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