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Aluminum or steel for gravel bike

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Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like : "Unbround Gravel". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

Aluminum or steel for gravel bike

Old 01-12-17, 10:12 AM
  #1  
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Aluminum or steel for gravel bike

My prefer is steel but there is a cost factor. I'm a fan of Jamis bikes and am interested in the renegade series.

Expat (steel frame) - $1199
Exile (aluminum) - $799

Or potentially Performance has the Access Old Turnpike (aluminum frame) for $649

Any racing I would be doing would be an afterthought so performance is not a high priority. Not that I want to be slow. most riding on flat roads and mostly reasonably well maintained gravel/fire roads.

Is the cost worth it to get steel frame? and opinions on above bikes are welcomed.
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Old 01-12-17, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by biketampa View Post
My prefer is steel but there is a cost factor. I'm a fan of Jamis bikes and am interested in the renegade series.

Expat (steel frame) - $1199
Exile (aluminum) - $799

Or potentially Performance has the Access Old Turnpike (aluminum frame) for $649

Any racing I would be doing would be an afterthought so performance is not a high priority. Not that I want to be slow. most riding on flat roads and mostly reasonably well maintained gravel/fire roads.

Is the cost worth it to get steel frame? and opinions on above bikes are welcomed.
Soooo.. where in tampa are you finding these roads? Cause I wanna come

Funny, I was just looking at the Renegade series last night and honestly I think the Expat is worth the extra money. The new Tiagra group is essentially the older 10s Dura-Ace, so it's very good and 10 speed. The brakes are better, the color is better, and steel has a better ride feel. For a bike that I'd likely have for a long time an extra $400 up front is worth it. Now, if you are strictly budget limited there is nothing wrong with the Exile either, it's a very capable bike.
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Old 01-12-17, 11:17 AM
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I have a chromoly bike and like it alot. Based on my personal experience riding gravel, I'd recommend steel. However, I have nothing to compare it as I've never ridden an aluminum gravel bike.
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Old 01-12-17, 11:42 AM
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You might look into Soma Fabrications for a steel frame. They have road, gravel, utility and CX models. They're very clean looking and priced well. I have their Smoothie frame which is a road fame (caliper brake bosses) but I made it into a no-mud gravel bike.
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Old 01-12-17, 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by shoota View Post
Soooo.. where in tampa are you finding these roads? Cause I wanna come

Funny, I was just looking at the Renegade series last night and honestly I think the Expat is worth the extra money. The new Tiagra group is essentially the older 10s Dura-Ace, so it's very good and 10 speed. The brakes are better, the color is better, and steel has a better ride feel. For a bike that I'd likely have for a long time an extra $400 up front is worth it. Now, if you are strictly budget limited there is nothing wrong with the Exile either, it's a very capable bike.
lol I am actually not in Tampa anywhere. I'm in Mount Pleasant, SC outside of Charleson, SC within about 5 miles of Francis Marion Forest which has, I believe 100s of miles of trails and service/forest roads. They have a stage race there https://www.facebook.com/pg/Hellhole...ageRace/about/

I definitely lean towards steel and it's likely a bike I would keep long term. I have a Jamis road bike but I can't get tires larger than 25s on it so it can't really function well even on the service roads. The Renegade would be my long term solution for having a bike I could ride on the road and gravel. I'm probably looking at end of year to purchase. I have an ironman I'm training for this year so I won't have much time for gravel riding. After this year, I'm planning to start riding in the forest more.
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Old 01-12-17, 11:53 AM
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Originally Posted by bikeme View Post
You might look into Soma Fabrications for a steel frame. They have road, gravel, utility and CX models. They're very clean looking and priced well. I have their Smoothie frame which is a road fame (caliper brake bosses) but I made it into a no-mud gravel bike.
cool. I'll check them out.
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Old 01-12-17, 11:59 AM
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Originally Posted by biketampa View Post
lol I am actually not in Tampa anywhere. I'm in Mount Pleasant, SC outside of Charleson, SC within about 5 miles of Francis Marion Forest which has, I believe 100s of miles of trails and service/forest roads. They have a stage race there https://www.facebook.com/pg/Hellhole...ageRace/about/

I definitely lean towards steel and it's likely a bike I would keep long term. I have a Jamis road bike but I can't get tires larger than 25s on it so it can't really function well even on the service roads. The Renegade would be my long term solution for having a bike I could ride on the road and gravel. I'm probably looking at end of year to purchase. I have an ironman I'm training for this year so I won't have much time for gravel riding. After this year, I'm planning to start riding in the forest more.
Interesting avatar then

Sounds like you're not the poke-a-long kind of person considering you're training for an Ironman. If the Renegade is going to be your one-bike-fits-all road and gravel bike then you may want to get a bike that has a little more road or cyclocross geo. The Renegade is designed to be super stable so it won't feel as lively on the road. Just something to keep in mind.
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Old 01-12-17, 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by shoota View Post
Interesting avatar then

Sounds like you're not the poke-a-long kind of person considering you're training for an Ironman. If the Renegade is going to be your one-bike-fits-all road and gravel bike then you may want to get a bike that has a little more road or cyclocross geo. The Renegade is designed to be super stable so it won't feel as lively on the road. Just something to keep in mind.
I'm sort of a middle of the pack racer so I'm not sure how lively a bike I need but it's definitely something I'm thinking about to make sure I make the right decision. It's not that I would want a slow bike but I'd primarily be using this bike for riding on gravel roads and I'm less concerned about being lively there. When I'm doing 21mph on my rides for 1-2 hours I'm doing pretty good. I mostly ride solo so no drafting help. I don't want to be slow like a mountain bike but don't mind being slower than my road bike or tri bike. If my road bike could handle tires larger than 25s I would give that a go on the gravel roads but it can't. My options are open though. looking at CX bikes too.
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Old 01-12-17, 01:42 PM
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Originally Posted by biketampa View Post
cool. I'll check them out.
I recently bought a Soma frame from Western Bike Works. Very positive experience. Still building the bike, but frame appears to be top notch. May end up buying another frame for a roadie.

BTW the Soma Wolverine is very popular, and most seem to love them.

Wolverine | SOMA Fabrications
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Old 01-12-17, 01:42 PM
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All my drop bar bikes(touring, road, and gravel) are steel, so I obviously have a bias here, but I would look beyond the frame material and see how you get a lot higher component level and offerings with the Expat. Im no component snob, but...

- The Expat has a carbon fork(vs Exile aluminum).
- The Expat has a thru axle front wheel/fork(vs Exile QR).
- The Expat fork has a ton of mounting options for gear(vs none for Exile).
- The Expat has TRP Spyre brakes instead of the Exile's Lyra.
- The Expat has a Tiagra drivetrain instead of the Exile's Claris. And a higher level crank too.


These are tangible improvements, not just vanity. For vanity, the Expat has Ritchey seatpost, stem, and bars. Being a Ritchey fan(the guy is an incredible talent) thats cool to me, but admittedly the stock Exile stuff is going to be perfectly fine.

The only drawback, to me, is the Tiagra drivetrain is incredibly limiting. It works with itself. You cant use higher or lower current components with it. If that doesnt matter to you(and it wont to 85% of riders), then cool.


So you get all that AND a double butted steel frame for $400 more.
I considered the Expat last summer but ended up with a Black Mountain Cycles Monstercross frame to build from because I wanted the option to run tires wider than 40mm. My current tires are 40 though so I clearly havent used that option yet and the Expat would have worked great!

Last edited by mstateglfr; 01-12-17 at 01:45 PM.
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Old 01-12-17, 03:03 PM
  #11  
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
All my drop bar bikes(touring, road, and gravel) are steel, so I obviously have a bias here, but I would look beyond the frame material and see how you get a lot higher component level and offerings with the Expat. Im no component snob, but...

- The Expat has a carbon fork(vs Exile aluminum).
- The Expat has a thru axle front wheel/fork(vs Exile QR).
- The Expat fork has a ton of mounting options for gear(vs none for Exile).
- The Expat has TRP Spyre brakes instead of the Exile's Lyra.
- The Expat has a Tiagra drivetrain instead of the Exile's Claris. And a higher level crank too.


These are tangible improvements, not just vanity. For vanity, the Expat has Ritchey seatpost, stem, and bars. Being a Ritchey fan(the guy is an incredible talent) thats cool to me, but admittedly the stock Exile stuff is going to be perfectly fine.

The only drawback, to me, is the Tiagra drivetrain is incredibly limiting. It works with itself. You cant use higher or lower current components with it. If that doesnt matter to you(and it wont to 85% of riders), then cool.


So you get all that AND a double butted steel frame for $400 more.
I considered the Expat last summer but ended up with a Black Mountain Cycles Monstercross frame to build from because I wanted the option to run tires wider than 40mm. My current tires are 40 though so I clearly havent used that option yet and the Expat would have worked great!
all good points and also stuff I'm definitely considering. The Tiagra drivetrain doesn't really concern me much. I'm definitely not a component snob for sure. My other bikes are either carbon fiber or aluminum but have wanted a steel bike for awhile now.
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Old 01-13-17, 12:50 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
All my drop bar bikes(touring, road, and gravel) are steel, so I obviously have a bias here, but I would look beyond the frame material and see how you get a lot higher component level and offerings with the Expat. Im no component snob, but...

- The Expat has a carbon fork(vs Exile aluminum).
- The Expat has a thru axle front wheel/fork(vs Exile QR).
- The Expat fork has a ton of mounting options for gear(vs none for Exile).
- The Expat has TRP Spyre brakes instead of the Exile's Lyra.
- The Expat has a Tiagra drivetrain instead of the Exile's Claris. And a higher level crank too.


These are tangible improvements, not just vanity. For vanity, the Expat has Ritchey seatpost, stem, and bars. Being a Ritchey fan(the guy is an incredible talent) thats cool to me, but admittedly the stock Exile stuff is going to be perfectly fine.

The only drawback, to me, is the Tiagra drivetrain is incredibly limiting. It works with itself. You cant use higher or lower current components with it. If that doesnt matter to you(and it wont to 85% of riders), then cool.


So you get all that AND a double butted steel frame for $400 more.
I considered the Expat last summer but ended up with a Black Mountain Cycles Monstercross frame to build from because I wanted the option to run tires wider than 40mm. My current tires are 40 though so I clearly havent used that option yet and the Expat would have worked great!
out of curiosity how many bikes do you have? I'm currently at 3. road, tri, mountain. I've really only gotten into cycling in the last 4 years when I started triathlons and quickly found that I enjoy cycling to be the most fun. If gravel/adventure bikes were more known (to me) at that point I would have gone that route and had just that and my tri bike. Instead I have road, tri, and mountain. The mountain bike is just a $400 jamis hardtail so not a huge investment and allows me to ride some rougher trails that I don't think an adventure bike would be right for. Steel is attractive to me for the durability and comfort so Expat is my leading candidate. Long term it's the bike I'm most likely to make most use of. Lots of gravel riding where I'm at and I can ride straight from my house.
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Old 01-13-17, 01:05 PM
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renegadeexpat

cable runs Under the top tube

https://www.jamisbikes.com/usa/renegadeexile.html

cable runs over the top tube , better if you have to shoulder the bike ..

but sloping top tube does not help ..





'/,

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Old 01-13-17, 02:01 PM
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Originally Posted by biketampa View Post
out of curiosity how many bikes do you have?
A couple 80s road bikes, an 80s sport touring bike, a classic full touring bike, a current gravel bike, and im building a 90s mtb frame up to replace another 90s mtb.

So 6.
Excessive when considering how much (or little?) a couple of them are ridden.
Part of what i love about cycling is refurbishing older bikes and building up frames. And japanese made bikes are an obsession. Those two things are why all my bikes but one (the mtb im building) are steel.

Steel gravel/adventure bikes are fantastic jack if all trades bikes. They may not master anything, but as long as you arent doing serious competition gravel racing, there really isnt a downside(weight being the 1) to steel as a material.

My gravel bike is 65cm and it weighs 25#. Not a sub 20# bike by any means, but at that frame size not much will be and itll be too costly. A 25# bike (with pedals, bottle cages, and pump included) for me is plenty light enough to feel quck and fun to climb.
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Old 01-13-17, 03:52 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
A couple 80s road bikes, an 80s sport touring bike, a classic full touring bike, a current gravel bike, and im building a 90s mtb frame up to replace another 90s mtb.

So 6.
Excessive when considering how much (or little?) a couple of them are ridden.
Part of what i love about cycling is refurbishing older bikes and building up frames. And japanese made bikes are an obsession. Those two things are why all my bikes but one (the mtb im building) are steel.

Steel gravel/adventure bikes are fantastic jack if all trades bikes. They may not master anything, but as long as you arent doing serious competition gravel racing, there really isnt a downside(weight being the 1) to steel as a material.

My gravel bike is 65cm and it weighs 25#. Not a sub 20# bike by any means, but at that frame size not much will be and itll be too costly. A 25# bike (with pedals, bottle cages, and pump included) for me is plenty light enough to feel quck and fun to climb.
cool. My triathlon bike is my only actual racing bike. I don't race with my road or mountain bike. Well I have with my mountain bike but I'm not skilled on it so the bike is not the limiting factor and I have no real plans for mountain bike racing. The road bike I ride would be fine for any racing I do but I don't race with it anyway. I train with it or just going out for fun rides or gran fondo type stuff. I have access to a lot of gravel roads near me so I'd like to take advantage of those.
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Old 01-16-17, 07:55 AM
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Considering the Expat. I live in flat South Florida so I am basically a roadie, but love going off the beaten path. So I get that but how is it for doing the road thing? Also what kind of pedals are folks using? I would like to stay with my MTB clips.
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Old 01-16-17, 08:50 AM
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Originally Posted by kshapero View Post
Considering the Expat. I live in flat South Florida so I am basically a roadie, but love going off the beaten path. So I get that but how is it for doing the road thing? Also what kind of pedals are folks using? I would like to stay with my MTB clips.
I've seen plenty of road cyclists using MTB clips (SPD pedals) so I don't see why you couldn't stick with those. The geometry should be similar to a road bike. I'm sure there are some subtle differences. it's the bigger tires that might slow you down a little on the road but from reviews it's not a huge amount. It just depends on how you're riding. You can always add skinny tires if you're just going out for road riding.
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Old 01-16-17, 09:15 AM
  #18  
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Originally Posted by kshapero View Post
Also what kind of pedals are folks using? I would like to stay with my MTB clips.
I use SPD pedals on my gravel bike, mainly because that's what I had but I've heard some riders prefer them as these have more clearance for mud/dirt, and it's easier to walk with mtb shoes on rough roads.
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Old 01-16-17, 09:34 AM
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Originally Posted by kshapero View Post
Considering the Expat. I live in flat South Florida so I am basically a roadie, but love going off the beaten path. So I get that but how is it for doing the road thing? Also what kind of pedals are folks using? I would like to stay with my MTB clips.
Yeah, SPDs are perfect for gravel riding. Easier to walk in shoes. My gravel bike as A530 pedals which are platform on one side and SPD on the other. I like this for being able to ride on loose downhill sections when riding the brake the whole time since I can get a foot(or both) down immediately. Also, it will run double duty when I want to ride the bike around town and dont want to use SPD shoes.
The platform side isnt used often, but ive found its useful. And there is no downside to me as its incredibly easy to lock in with the SPD even if its on just one side.

My road bikes all have A520s which are also one sided and much lighter(no platform side).

Since you already have a style, just use it for any new bikes. There are no rules in all this and if anyone says there are rules, thats good to know so you can identify who you dont want to ride with.
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Old 01-16-17, 10:09 AM
  #20  
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Originally Posted by biketampa View Post
...... Or potentially Performance has the Access Old Turnpike (aluminum frame) for $649
I just bought one of the Access, Old Turnpike gravel bikes from Performance. Not a bad bike... frame size is a little funny. But the bike has some nice features.

I like steel bikes. Right now... the only steel bike I own is an 88 Trek 360. But I really like that bike. But to be honest almost all my riding is done on modern/newer aluminum bikes.

For me... I wanted to try disc brakes. I want to try tubeless tires And I wanted to try gravel grinding. The Old Turnpike wheels are capable of tubeless.... but the bike came with tires that need tubes. But maybe in a couple years I'll give tubeless a try.

I am not attracted to the idea of jumps or fast downhill mountain bike courses. Or for that matter any course that would mean loading up the bike... and driving somewhere to then ride my bike. Although since I just bought the Old Turnpike last week I haven't found any local gravel yet... I feel confident I will.

But I already know the tires worked well in the local snow. And I don't have to worry about the road salt effects on the bikes frame either. I fully intend to... compared to the way I treat my other bikes... abuse the Old Turnpike. Gravel will mean chips and dings and damaged paint. Plus lots of dirt, dust, and potholes. But it also sounds like a lot of fun.
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