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carbon vs aluminum

Old 09-30-06, 10:51 PM
  #1  
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carbon vs aluminum

I am looking at getting a new bike when I get back to the states from my deployment. Being 6'0 230 would it be better for me to get a carbon or aluminum bike. I am an intermediate rider and I plan on riding roughly 50-60 miles weekly. any advice on bike type and frame size would be greatly appreciated. thanks
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Old 09-30-06, 11:19 PM
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If you can swing it, let it ride and get the carbon fiber. I really liked the ride over aluminum, and the aluminum with carbon fiber.
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Old 09-30-06, 11:43 PM
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It really should be what feels best to you. Both will handle your weight.
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Old 10-01-06, 03:22 AM
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Go for carbon, less likely to fatigue crack over time. Ensure you buy a frame with a good lifetime warranty like Trek etc.
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Old 10-02-06, 03:33 PM
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what?

Originally Posted by starshadow
I am looking at getting a new bike when I get back to the states from my deployment. Being 6'0 230 would it be better for me to get a carbon or aluminum bike. I am an intermediate rider and I plan on riding roughly 50-60 miles weekly. any advice on bike type and frame size would be greatly appreciated. thanks
You are big, strong and heavy, ride steel. New air hardening steel tubing in the proper guages is both light enough and strong plus, it won't fatigue crack like aluminum eventually will and it doesn't suffer from any of the CF catstrophic failures nobody wants to talk about that we'll see more of in the future!!!
You didn't mention the type of riding you want to do so I'll assume its road riding and reccomend any bike that is designed to take tires at least to 32mm wide with fenders. If you only want to ride in nice weather, on smooth clean roads, in a temperate climate, get any bike style you want. If you want to actually race on an amateur level thats a different story.
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Old 10-02-06, 03:37 PM
  #6  
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Originally Posted by DavisClydesdale
It really should be what feels best to you. Both will handle your weight.
+1

They both have very different "feels" when riding....so I'd suggest trying both types for a test ride and going with the one that feels best. I find the stiff suspension of aluminum to be a very rough feeling ride...you can feel every bump, so I prefer carbon. However, I am much bigger and opted to get a steel touring bike and still get the softer ride, but with the strength of steel (just at cost of a little weight).
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Old 10-02-06, 03:47 PM
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Originally Posted by DavisClydesdale
It really should be what feels best to you. Both will handle your weight.
+2
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Old 10-02-06, 04:24 PM
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An aluminum bike with carbon at the contact points will lessen the difference between the two. I am 240 lbs. I want a titanium bike but I can't afford what I want. I decided to go with an aluminum bike with a carbon fork and seat stays. I just want to get 10-12,000 miles out of that then go to ti.
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Old 10-03-06, 03:45 AM
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Ti
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Old 10-03-06, 03:55 AM
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Originally Posted by charles vail
CF catstrophic failures nobody wants to talk about that we'll see more of in the future!!!
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Old 10-03-06, 07:48 AM
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Originally Posted by charles vail
...it doesn't suffer from any of the CF catstrophic failures nobody wants to talk about that we'll see more of in the future!!! ...
I hang out with a lot of cyclists, racing and recreational. The only CF failure I've heard of was due to a crash...meaning crash first, then impact of crash caused the failure. So I guess my point is this...perhaps no one talks about castrophic CF failures because they are rare.

BTW, I second the Ti suggestion, but agree that you should ride several bikes and go with the one that fits/feels the best to you. Unless you are talking about SL type frames, anything will hold you up.
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Old 10-03-06, 08:09 AM
  #12  
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At 230, I don't see that you should have any limitations when chosing materials. I'd suggest that you not limit your scope, and try out some different materials. You can find strengths and weaknesses for each material, and the accompanying myths, but in the end, a well built bike of any material will work.
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Old 10-03-06, 11:41 AM
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company disclaimers

Originally Posted by DogBoy
I hang out with a lot of cyclists, racing and recreational. The only CF failure I've heard of was due to a crash...meaning crash first, then impact of crash caused the failure. So I guess my point is this...perhaps no one talks about castrophic CF failures because they are rare.

BTW, I second the Ti suggestion, but agree that you should ride several bikes and go with the one that fits/feels the best to you. Unless you are talking about SL type frames, anything will hold you up.
All I can say to that, is that, in a recent company disclaimer (a very well known one) they warned that if you were approaching 250 pounds that they would not warrantee any of their carbon fiber products at all!
The fact that CF is working for some of us bigger riders and hasn't cracked (yet) doesn't mean it won't in the future as the products age and take on more micro cracks. Failures are sudden and unexpected unlike steel, in that, if you see a crack forming you can take measures to repair it before you are injured.
I read of a rider who recently had his CF fork snap after hitting a modest chuckhole on a group ride and there have been others. The mere fact that manufacturers have specific disclaimers on their carbon fiber products leads me to believe that they have some doubts as to its long term durability and I believe them before I believe any consumer. Lawyers don't advise companies to write these things so specifically if there isn't some risk involved. For the lightweight racers yes....they can get away with using CF products since they often go through bikes every year and don't weigh over 170 pounds. In a recent racer mag I read that one of the larger pros had Bianchi re-engineer their aluminum frame that he prerferred because he was cracking the downtubes. Apparently the frame had very thin guage tubing and he produced so much torque that the life of the tubing was compromised. Everyone knows of aluminums low fatigue strength, unless it is very over built and despite this, the material has a more limited lifespan, unlike a proper guage steel tube which we all know can flex for years without developing cracks. Big guys need stronger frames and cyclists who want a bike for more than a season or two, need them as well. Steel remains a proven material for frame building as evidenced by the countless restored road bikes from fifty or more years ago that are still very rideable.

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Old 10-14-06, 06:09 PM
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I'm 6', 235#, ride a Giant TCR-C2. It's fast and smooth and accelerates like a rocket ship. Only 1 flat in 500 miles (700x23 tires), my own fault.
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Old 10-14-06, 07:03 PM
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Originally Posted by DavisClydesdale
It really should be what feels best to you. Both will handle your weight.
+3
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Old 10-15-06, 03:55 PM
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I agree with the "whatever feels best to you (and your bank account)" with a recommendation to stay away from any "ultralight" bicycle regardless of what it's made of. At our bodyweight it makes no sense to save a few pounds on the bike at a greatly increased risk of breakage.
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Old 10-16-06, 10:19 AM
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Hell, if your bike ain't steel then it's a "wanna be" bike.

If you're a soldier I don't have to tell you about "wanna be" equipment.
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Originally Posted by krazygluon
Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
Aluminum: barely a hundred, which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?
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Old 10-20-06, 08:15 AM
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I would also suggest riding different types and pick the one that works best for you. That said, if it were me I would go for steel. There's only a slight weight penalty and I would feel better about its' long term durability. I also like the feel of a steel frame. My ultimate dream bike would be built on a Brent Steelman custom steel frame and fork. My more affordable dream bike is a Rivendell Rambouillet. My present bike is a steel Lemond.

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Old 10-20-06, 08:20 AM
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Pick a price range you are comfortable with. Ride every bike you can find in your area in that range. Buy the one that feels best. Let other people worry about this endless material debate.
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Old 10-20-06, 08:35 AM
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50-60 miles a week is nothing in terms of fatigue on the frame, especially if the OP is under 250. If a CF frame is designed around a 170lb racer who rides ~300mi a week for one season (which I'll guess is 8 months) that's 10k miles for the expected lifetime of the bike. The op weighs 30% more than the ideal rider but is going to bike 80% less than the assumed distance engineered for the bike to withstand in one season...my suspicion is that at 50-60mi/wk any frame material is going to be fine and he should buy on how the ride feels.

That said, I advise you to take some good long test-rides...what feels good the first 5 minutes may not be the bike you want after an hour in the saddle.

My little experiment comparing old steel to new aluminum is currently at a stalemate. My new bike isn't any worse at taking the shocks of the road than my old bike (see my sig) My cyclometers don't show any great improvement in average speed or top speed. The only difference I can feel so far is that I'm not as tired at the top of hills on the new bike, and my speed at the top of the hill is lower on the new bike than the old one, but my downhill speed makes up for this because being not so tired at the top of the hill, I can easily spin 4-5mph faster on the downhill than I would on the older bike.

Some of my experience may be marred by the limitations of the commuting envrionment as well. I plan on getting up early and putting the new bike out on the open road to see how she really flies.

As for tires, I think 28's will be fine for your purposes.
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Old 10-20-06, 12:22 PM
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testing and materials

Originally Posted by krazygluon
50-60 miles a week is nothing in terms of fatigue on the frame, especially if the OP is under 250. If a CF frame is designed around a 170lb racer who rides ~300mi a week for one season (which I'll guess is 8 months) that's 10k miles for the expected lifetime of the bike. The op weighs 30% more than the ideal rider but is going to bike 80% less than the assumed distance engineered for the bike to withstand in one season...my suspicion is that at 50-60mi/wk any frame material is going to be fine and he should buy on how the ride feels.

That said, I advise you to take some good long test-rides...what feels good the first 5 minutes may not be the bike you want after an hour in the saddle.

My little experiment comparing old steel to new aluminum is currently at a stalemate. My new bike isn't any worse at taking the shocks of the road than my old bike (see my sig) My cyclometers don't show any great improvement in average speed or top speed. The only difference I can feel so far is that I'm not as tired at the top of hills on the new bike, and my speed at the top of the hill is lower on the new bike than the old one, but my downhill speed makes up for this because being not so tired at the top of the hill, I can easily spin 4-5mph faster on the downhill than I would on the older bike.

Some of my experience may be marred by the limitations of the commuting envrionment as well. I plan on getting up early and putting the new bike out on the open road to see how she really flies.

As for tires, I think 28's will be fine for your purposes.
Interesting test........I would be curious to know how much if any difference there is over a season of riding on the same course. The larger the sample the less chance for unintended favortism.
I've done the same switch between a recumbent and a upright bicycle and I can not detect much if any difference in average speeds over the same course unless one course favors one designs strong points over the other. (flat/rolling ground recumbent wins or lots of hills upright wins) Comfort being the only real advantage with the recumbent.
As far as a steel bike over a aluminum bike you'd have to have the same gearing and ride at the same wattage, over the same course, with the same amount of wind etc. to make a fair compairison.

As to the compairison of the race bike and 50-60 miles vs. 300 miles per week I'd say either way the lightweight aluminum frame will crack long before any steel bike would and when it does it will happen unexpectedly and quick! Kind of like the difference between an aluminum pop can and a old time steel one.....ever try tearing a steel can apart?
Lets face it, there is a big difference between a light racer riding 300 miles and a 300 pounder riding 60 miles per week. The heavy rider will flex the frame to a greater degree so its not quite the same compairison. I have friends who tried riding lightweight road bikes that weighed over 250 and they got alot of frame induced shifting......not a good sign. I'd rather have steel any day and my top choice for an affordable bike for a heavy rider would be the Jamis Aurora touring bike, Decent 36 spoke wheels, steel frame/fork, long wheelbase, slack angles, knee friendly gearing, ability to take fenders and wide tires and under $800. Money is no object Rivendell Atlantis or super budget, find an old mid 90's or mid 80's steel touring or mountain frame and build it yourself.
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Old 10-23-06, 07:03 PM
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Just thought i would throw something out there. I test road three bikes today on decent test rides. Roughly 8.5 miles on each bike, and about 35 minutes of saddle time on each. I thought I would like an all-carbon bike, but to my surprise, I did not. The carbon bike I rode was a Kestrel, and it was way to "soft" for my taste. I weigh in at 265 right now, and it had way to much give when trying to really crank on it. I would say it was akin to a sports car with a really soft suspension. Now I know that there are all-carbon bikes that are supremely still, a la Cervelo R3 or the Soloist Carbon, but those are beyond what I am willing to pay at this point. I also rode a Canondale CAAD 8 aluminum bike that was very nice, but for what felt good to me, it couldn't hold a candle to the Cervelo Soloist Team. The Soloist Team is very stiff, and the handling is impeccable. I will be picking it up next week if I can get around to deciding the components this week.

Now, for the big guys out there, I just want to reiterate my previous post, it really is about what feels best to you and what you want to pay. The CF Kestrel would have suited me just fine at 265, but it didn't handle the way I want it to. I like very stiff bikes where I can feel all of the bumps in the road. Others like softer rides that absorb more of the vibration and bumps. There is no right or wrong here. Go to a good LBS, and have them set up some bikes up for you to take out on rides. Take it easy for parts, crank as hard as you can for a bit, stand some, sit some, etc. Try it out. They only way you will truly know what is right is to get out there and try it.

Last edited by DavisClydesdale; 10-24-06 at 01:00 AM.
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Old 10-24-06, 01:20 PM
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Originally Posted by charles vail
<snip>Opinions are like belly buttons.......
Everyone has one, but few are as dark and deep as Hambone's...
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Old 10-24-06, 01:23 PM
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my current dream machine is an Aegis. It is a CF bike made in Maine. They make clyde versions. (You are within their non-clyde weight range, I offer the later part for discussion's sake.)
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