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Excited to start bike commuting! but will i hate a steel frame?

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Excited to start bike commuting! but will i hate a steel frame?

Old 07-29-12, 02:01 PM
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skadelphius
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Excited to start bike commuting! but will i hate a steel frame?

Hi all,

Finally going to be commuting, 20-25 minutes each way on urban streets.

I need a bike! my SS track bike is zippy and fun but precarious, uncomfortable, and dinky w/r/t potholes.

My mountain bike is my baby and it's never being left on any street.

I was first thinking of trying to find an old fully rigid mtb frame and swapping components as necessary, and putting slicks on it. Then i happened to see a Marin Muirwoods 29er in a store window and it seemed to have everything i wanted: disc brakes, tires that were somewhere between mountains and what come standard on most hybrids, and 29s! I ride a 29er hardtail for mountain and i love it, and i didn't think id be able to find a frame other than a Surly that would accommodate big wheels. Now that i know this Marin exists i've been looking more into this type of bike.

My question is: how much does bike weight factor into the day to day commute for y'all? The marin is cool but i did a quick test ride on it and it was as heavy as you'd expect for a big steel frame. I was planning on making weight a priority in searching for a mtb frame, but I want to be sure that that's the right thing to focus on as i negotiate the tradeoffs of price/quality etc.

Sorry for the somewhat rambling post, would really appreciate any advice!
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Old 07-29-12, 02:09 PM
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With tools and everything else, steel framer, etc, my old bikes are about 30lbs. Obviously weight is not an issue to me . . .
The only requirements I have are comfort and flat-resistant tires. Nothing else matters
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Old 07-29-12, 02:26 PM
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What would be the difference? 1 kg? 2 kg at most? It's a small fraction of your total bike+rider weight. I don't think it'd make any difference for commuting 20-25 mins.
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Old 07-29-12, 02:36 PM
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Believe it or not, back in the old Iron Age when I was just a kid, we thought that the heavier bikes were the best bikes. If it was heavy, then that meant that it wasn't cheap!

The average dad buying his kid a bike, would just walk around inside the LBS, looking at the bikes. Inevitably, he'd see one that looked like it might suit his kid. The first thing that he'd do, would be to pick it up. If it was feather light, he'd pass it up! If it was heavy, he'd just smile and brag about how the heavy bike was made of "good stuff"!

He'd then tell the LBS salesman, "I'll take it!"


Anybody remember those days?....
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Old 07-29-12, 02:44 PM
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I ride year round about the same distance as your commute. I ride on a Team Miyata from 87, a Focus CX-bike, a TI rigid MTB and in winter a rigid alu MTB with wide studs or the CX with 42 mm Marathon Winters. If I had to choose one it would be the CX, it is a little of everything and can handle all terrains and still be pretty fast. For commuting I would buy a Bikesdirect CX if I lived in the US.
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Old 07-29-12, 03:37 PM
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I do a crappy city street 20 minute commute daily and my 2 commuter bikes are both steel and fairly heavy. An 80's rigid mtb and a drop bar touring bike. I don't really have an issue with the weight of either, but I do prefer the drop bars over the straight bar mtb. I have a wide ergo bar with shallow drops on the touring.
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Old 07-29-12, 04:04 PM
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The rear cassette and front chainrings combine to offset any perceived weight issues, unless you have to carry it up and down flights of stairs everyday.

And FYI, there is a BF member that currently commutes on a Marin Muirwoods 29er in San Franscico.
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Old 07-29-12, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by no1mad View Post
The rear cassette and front chainrings combine to offset any perceived weight issues, unless you have to carry it up and down flights of stairs everyday.

And FYI, there is a BF member that currently commutes on a Marin Muirwoods 29er in San Franscico.

+1 ^ True Fact!

Get the Muirwoods 29er....It's a great bike! You won't regret it!
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Old 07-29-12, 05:55 PM
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With a heaviet bike your 25 minute commute might take 25 minutes and 30 seconds!
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Old 07-29-12, 06:05 PM
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Originally Posted by SlimRider View Post
Believe it or not, back in the old Iron Age when I was just a kid, we thought that the heavier bikes were the best bikes. If it was heavy, then that meant that it wasn't cheap!

The average dad buying his kid a bike, would just walk around inside the LBS, looking at the bikes. Inevitably, he'd see one that looked like it might suit his kid. The first thing that he'd do, would be to pick it up. If it was feather light, he'd pass it up! If it was heavy, he'd just smile and brag about how the heavy bike was made of "good stuff"!

He'd then tell the LBS salesman, "I'll take it!"


Anybody remember those days?....
Yep, your dad sounds exactly like my dad was.
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Old 07-29-12, 06:34 PM
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I do all my commuting on steel bikes - Lately it's been my Oryx equipe 2500 which has a nice True Temper OXII steel frame... it's a beautiful ride, even on my 40km (25 mile) each-way commute.

I hate commuting on aluminum... too stiff.
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Old 07-29-12, 06:37 PM
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The difference between a 20lbs bike and a 30lbs bike is probably in the ballpark of $1000. On a 25 minute commute, the extra $1000 might save you a minute or two daily.

I wouldn't worry about the weight. Marin 29ers are pretty awesome for urban bombing.
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Old 07-29-12, 07:11 PM
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I love my steel frame, and my commute is just as short as yours. Go for it.
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Old 07-29-12, 07:38 PM
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Weight is only a factor if you are racing. Is a 25 vs 27 minute commute going to matter? You mention potholes and crappy road. A light bike is going to have similar issues. Most light hybrids weigh 24-26 lbs. But wider wheels and tiers will give a more comfortable ride. Go for the Marin!
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Old 07-29-12, 07:59 PM
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Had to work today (Sunday). Showed the roadie weekend warriors how bike commuters kick butt on steel frames. Lots of disappointed guys on their high end CF road bikes.
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Old 07-29-12, 08:43 PM
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Had to work today (Sunday). Showed the roadie weekend warriors how bike commuters kick butt on steel frames. Lots of disappointed guys on their high end CF road bikes.
Done that a few times on my Aluminium mtb with a steel rack and kid seat on the back. Nothing gets the roadies moving faster than when they see a 35-40 pound mtb with off road tires, racks, AND a kid on the back pacing them. Of course when you start going up thats a totally different story,
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Old 07-29-12, 09:31 PM
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Originally Posted by skadelphius View Post
Hi all,

Finally going to be commuting, 20-25 minutes each way on urban streets.

I need a bike! my SS track bike is zippy and fun but precarious, uncomfortable, and dinky w/r/t potholes.

My mountain bike is my baby and it's never being left on any street.

I was first thinking of trying to find an old fully rigid mtb frame and swapping components as necessary, and putting slicks on it. Then i happened to see a Marin Muirwoods 29er in a store window and it seemed to have everything i wanted: disc brakes, tires that were somewhere between mountains and what come standard on most hybrids, and 29s! I ride a 29er hardtail for mountain and i love it, and i didn't think id be able to find a frame other than a Surly that would accommodate big wheels. Now that i know this Marin exists i've been looking more into this type of bike.

My question is: how much does bike weight factor into the day to day commute for y'all? The marin is cool but i did a quick test ride on it and it was as heavy as you'd expect for a big steel frame. I was planning on making weight a priority in searching for a mtb frame, but I want to be sure that that's the right thing to focus on as i negotiate the tradeoffs of price/quality etc.

Sorry for the somewhat rambling post, would really appreciate any advice!
When you consider that most of the weight in a commute comes from the rider and the stuff s/he's carrying, frame weight isn't that much of an issue. If you're riding on urban, somewhat densely traveled surface streets, I'm guessing you'll probably average 10-15 mph no matter what frame you ride with, once you factor in time stopped at traffic lights, slowing down in door zones, going up hills, etc.. In addition, on such a short commute, the difference between a blazing fast ride on a carbon race bike and a slow, leisurely jaunt on a Walmart monstrosity would be about 3 minutes.

Heres' a totally random aside: On my commute, if I ride my bike, my average speed is 10 mph (15-18 mph moving average). If I drive my car, my average speed is 9 mph.

Last edited by bragi; 07-29-12 at 09:39 PM.
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Old 07-29-12, 09:40 PM
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I've been riding on "heavy" steel for years for distances much longer than that, but recently got a bike about 10lbs lighter (still steel) ... I can't really tell the difference while riding it, especially when there's a loaded rack or backpack involved. You'll be fine no matter what the weight, it's a commute not a race.
The main factor is fit/comfort of the ride and the ability to carry all of your stuff with you.
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Old 07-30-12, 12:13 AM
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Originally Posted by SlimRider View Post
Actually, once you get going, weight becomes an asset. Momentum is equal to mass times velocity.
True but not that simple.

Originally Posted by SlimRider View Post
Therefore, the more massive of your bike, the momentum gets develops. That means, your bike requires less energy to keep moving in a straight line as compared to a lighter bike, all other factors being equal.
The momentum is right but not the rest.

Originally Posted by SlimRider View Post
The only problem with a heavier bike, is that it will be slightly more of a task to accelerate.
There's the rub. Physicists always reduce equations like P = MV to the simplest possible terms. They are usually only considered in a vacuum and on a frictionless surface. But, since we are always moving through a fluid and friction is always present , you can't reduce the momentum to a simple mass times velocity relationship. In air and with frictional forces, you are always accelerating to overcome the deceleration effects of both air and friction. More energy will have to be put into the heavier bike to keep it at the same speed as the lighter bike. The power required is proportional to weight and speed. It also increases as a cube function of the speed as the speed increases. At slow speeds, the power required is almost a linear relationship. So at slow speeds like climbing a hill, the power differences are less than at higher speeds.

While what others have said about the differences being small and can easily be overwhelmed by increases in the rider/luggage placed on the bike, you can't say that the heavier bike extra weight is an asset. It might be on a frictionless surface in a vacuum but not in the real world.
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Old 07-30-12, 01:13 AM
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Cyccommute says:

True but not that simple.
It's exactly that simple, Cyccommute!


The momentum is right but not the rest.
Alright! There was a very serious typo there, but I doubt that it makes much difference, as I feel compelled to explain anyway.

Let's just say that BallA and BallB are moving at the same velocity. However, BallA has a greater mass than BallB. That would mean that BallA has greater momentum.

P(A) = M(A)V

P(B) = M(B)V

Therefore, P(A) > P(B)

Since there momenta is different, but there velocities are identical, the only variable responsible for their momenta difference is mass. The Energy of each ball is given by:

E(A) = (.5)M(A) * Vsq

E(B) = (.5)M(B) * Vsq

But E(A) > E(B), because it's mass is greater. Therefore, it will take more energy to stop M(A) than it would to stop M(B), if they're moving at the same velocity. If using the same amount of energy to stop both, M(A) would require a greater distance in which to stop, than M(B).

There's the rub. Physicists always reduce equations like P = MV to the simplest possible terms. They are usually only considered in a vacuum and on a frictionless surface. But, since we are always moving through a fluid and friction is always present , you can't reduce the momentum to a simple mass times velocity relationship. In air and with frictional forces, you are always accelerating to overcome the deceleration effects of both air and friction. More energy will have to be put into the heavier bike to keep it at the same speed as the lighter bike. The power required is proportional to weight and speed. It also increases as a cube function of the speed as the speed increases. At slow speeds, the power required is almost a linear relationship. So at slow speeds like climbing a hill, the power differences are less than at higher speeds.
In comparing the more massive bike with the lighter bike. The more massive bike has greater linear momentum. It therefore, has more energy moving in one direction than the less massive bike. Logically therefore, it will require more energy to stop the more massive bike than the lighter one. If using the same amount of energy to stop both, the more massive bike will require a greater stopping distance.

While what others have said about the differences being small and can easily be overwhelmed by increases in the rider/luggage placed on the bike, you can't say that the heavier bike extra weight is an asset. It might be on a frictionless surface in a vacuum but not in the real world.
Again, the greater the mass, the greater the momentum developed when the velocities are equal. It will necessarily require the more massive bike to have a greater energy applied in order to stop.

Remember Newton's First (Inertia):

An object will tend to remain in motion at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by some outside force. The outside forces acting here, are frictional forces that are easily overcome by minimal additions of energy, provided that we're moving at a constant velocity.

Last edited by SlimRider; 08-04-12 at 07:40 PM.
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Old 07-30-12, 05:17 AM
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Originally Posted by SlimRider View Post
The average dad buying his kid a bike, would just walk around inside the LBS, looking at the bikes. Inevitably, he'd see one that looked like it might suit his kid. The first thing that he'd do, would be to pick it up. If it was feather light, he'd pass it up! If it was heavy, he'd just smile and brag about how the heavy bike was made of "good stuff"!

He'd then tell the LBS salesman, "I'll take it!"


Anybody remember those days?....


That explains it. My dad was an engineer. My first bike (Fleetwing) had aluminum fenders, narrower tires, and was notably more gracile than other kid's bikes, (Schwinns). The base of the seat was made with springs instead of a solid steel pan. I guess his criterion were more specific. He did indicate that part of the reason he bought it was that he viewed the bigger tires and wheels of the Schwinns to create greater drag. I also have visited where he grew up and it was quite hilly.



To answer the OPs question. All my bikes are steel. My commuter is a hard frame Specialized Hard Rock with street slicks, fenders, lights, trailer hitch etc. It weighs in at close to 40 lbs. I'm no racer, but it gets me to work quickly and reliably.
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Old 07-30-12, 05:32 AM
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Steel is still one of the best materials available for comfort, strength and durability, all big assets in a daily commuter. Unless you have a lot of big hills, you won't have a problem with the couple extra pounds.

Momentum is equal to mass times velocity.
Actually, Cyccommute is correct, that equation is oversimplified. Power (aka Energy) is equal to mass times velocity squared, divided by two. Sometimes it's expressed as half mass times velocity squared but the result is the same. Increases in mass have far less of an impact on kinetic energy than increases in velocity. In real world terms adding 10% to the mass of a bike has far less of an effect than increasing the speed by 10%, so if you reduce the weight of a bike by 10% and gain 10% in speed, you have a net increase in kinetic energy.

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Old 07-30-12, 05:49 AM
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My commuter bike weighs a ton, and would be to a racing bike what a donkey is to a racehorse. Nevertheless, a red traffic light would make more difference to a commuting time than any weight difference. It just isn't that important. Properly inflated, slick tyres have much more of an effect on your pedalling effort. On the donkey, I've coasted past 'roadies' going downhill before, much to their confusion
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Old 07-30-12, 06:09 AM
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Myosmith says:

Steel is still one of the best materials available for comfort, strength and durability, all big assets in a daily commuter. Unless you have a lot of big hills, you won't have a problem with the couple extra pounds.
This I do beieve is true!

Actually, Cyccommute is correct, that equation is oversimplified. Power (aka Energy) is equal to mass times velocity squared, divided by two. Sometimes it's expressed as half mass times velocity squared but the result is the same. Increases in mass have far less of an impact on kinetic energy than increases in velocity. In real world terms adding 10% to the mass of a bike has far less of an effect than increasing the speed by 10%, so if you reduce the weight of a bike by 10% and gain 10% in speed, you have a net increase in kinetic energy.
The equation is simplified, but not over simplied in our bicycle application. Energy is mathematically equivalent to Work, but not Power. Power is a function of time. Either the Energy expended, or the Work performed, over a period of time, determines Power.

If the masses are different, but the velocities are held constant, the greater momentum would be given to the higher mass. We don't have to square the velocities with respect to Energy, due to the fact that the velocities are equivalent for each mass.

As long as you can provide a force that is equal to the frictional force, constant velocity can be maintained.

E = W ---> Joules

P = E/t ---> Watts

P = W/t ---> Watts

Edited:
However, it is true that frictional forces are dependent upon the object's mass and the coefficient of friction that exists between any two surfaces (such as the tire and asphalt).

Last edited by SlimRider; 07-30-12 at 01:21 PM.
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Old 07-30-12, 07:27 AM
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Thanks everyone! Needed the reality check! The last time i was in a cycling community (or even riding frequently) was a couple years ago when i was racing bottom-barrel cross country classes on a top 10 ranked D1 collegiate team. Needless to say my peers there had a different opinion of bike weight. Plus the last place i lived where i biked anywhere for errands etc. was a notoriously hilly city and that experience kinda scarred me from a commuting standpoint. Now I definitely will feel a lot better about going steel if and when i end up doing so! I will repay your advise by posting here more once i'm commuting and have experience to contribute
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