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Aluminum vs. Steel - Comfort

Old 01-04-21, 02:58 PM
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Noonievut
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Aluminum vs. Steel - Comfort

I'm looking at two bikes, each with the same reg price, for light-duty (pea size, fairly smooth) gravel riding (80% of my riding would be road). Each has the same 37mm tires (both frames/forks can go up to 42mm). The aluminum bike has Apex 1x and is on sale for $300 less. The chromo-steel bike has Tiagra but with FSA crank. Both have hydro's. I realize a number of factors play into riding comfort, but I'm wondering how much stiffer/rigid is the aluminum over the steel? I've ridden both over the years, and even the aluminum I had wasn't that stiff. I'm sure this varies frame to frame for the same materials. I'm thinking of going with the aluminum (after I try it out for fit), and if I want more 'plush' I can add 42mm tires later, but if it's fine as is then I'll leave it be for now. I'm setting it up tubeless in any case. This is a second bike for occasional use, so I'm not going to over-think it, but it's really down to these two options (supply during Covid a problem) and I unfortunately can't give each a full outdoor test ride in the winter.
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Old 01-04-21, 05:46 PM
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scubaman
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Based on the info in your post, I think there is zero way for any of us to know anything about the comparative ride qualities of these two bikes.
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Old 01-04-21, 09:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Noonievut View Post
I'm looking at two bikes, each with the same reg price, for light-duty (pea size, fairly smooth) gravel riding (80% of my riding would be road). Each has the same 37mm tires (both frames/forks can go up to 42mm). The aluminum bike has Apex 1x and is on sale for $300 less. The chromo-steel bike has Tiagra but with FSA crank. Both have hydro's. I realize a number of factors play into riding comfort, but I'm wondering how much stiffer/rigid is the aluminum over the steel? I've ridden both over the years, and even the aluminum I had wasn't that stiff. I'm sure this varies frame to frame for the same materials. I'm thinking of going with the aluminum (after I try it out for fit), and if I want more 'plush' I can add 42mm tires later, but if it's fine as is then I'll leave it be for now. I'm setting it up tubeless in any case. This is a second bike for occasional use, so I'm not going to over-think it, but it's really down to these two options (supply during Covid a problem) and I unfortunately can't give each a full outdoor test ride in the winter.

Itís almost like your asking whatís heavier, a pound of feathers or a pound of bricks? Not enough info.
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Old 01-04-21, 11:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Toadmeister View Post
Itís almost like your asking whatís heavier, a pound of feathers or a pound of bricks? Not enough info.
I used this example last week at dinner and my 10yo argued over and over that the bricks are heavier. My 14yo was losing her mind with frustration.

Finally after I explained it for 8th time, my 10yo said 'ok yes I know they weigh the same, but they are different and the bricks will feel heavier when they hit me.'
Couldn't really argue with that.
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Old 01-05-21, 03:17 AM
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Bike frames are basically trusses thus inherently stiff. According to some (I have CyclingAbout and PeakTorque in mind) the whole frame material stiffness/compliance topic is greatly exaggerated. In all likelihood components such as tyres, saddle, seatpost have a much bigger influence.

So go with whatever looks cooler and put some suspension seatpost/stem on it.
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Old 01-05-21, 08:37 AM
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The industry has decided that steel should be more expensive, so my bias is to go with aluminum if everything else is equal.

Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
I used this example last week at dinner and my 10yo argued over and over that the bricks are heavier. My 14yo was losing her mind with frustration.
I definitely agree that feathers are lighter if throwing is involved. I once found an item in the McMaster Carr catalog that had, "weight per pound" in the description table. I have always been curious where that came from.

At one time aluminum had the reputation of being too stiff. I think they have it worked out so that isn't really a concern any more. It was probably overblown in the first place.

Last edited by unterhausen; 01-05-21 at 08:45 AM.
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Old 01-05-21, 08:57 AM
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After 60 years of skinny steel tubes and skinny tires, about three weeks ago I switched to fat aluminum tubes and wider tires against my will because that was what was available and I needed a new bike. I think the biggest difference was from the tires and the lower inflation I can use on them. And I no longer notice the bottom bracket moving laterally, which I don't miss. Love the wider tires; never going back to skinny, and now I'm agnostic on frames.
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Old 01-05-21, 06:33 PM
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Higher quality aluminum frames are fine but the inexpensive aluminum frames err to the rigid side. The higher quality aluminum frames start to get up to the price of good steel or low-end carbon however so you just see aluminum mainly in the inexpensive (<$1200) gravel bikes.
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Old 01-05-21, 06:51 PM
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Sorry Keith...

Strong. Light. Cheap.

Pick aluminum. Get all three!
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Old 01-05-21, 06:57 PM
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I like both.
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Old 01-05-21, 07:09 PM
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Steel in my opinion has a nicer feel and ride quality to it while still being quite stiff and often, fairly light. That's not to say that an aluminum can't be comfortable provided that the frame is a good fit for you.,
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Old 01-05-21, 07:26 PM
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Of the two bikes in the original post, I'd pick the steel bike, mostly because of the drivetrain. I like/need wide range gearing (sub-1:1 low) and close ratios. Mutually exclusive with only one chainring. YMMV.
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Old 01-06-21, 07:41 AM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
At one time aluminum had the reputation of being too stiff. I think they have it worked out so that isn't really a concern any more. It was probably overblown in the first place.
As someone who rode a late 80s Cannondale crit bike I would agree, particularly when you're talking about smaller frames. I couldn't tell a difference between any of the frame materials used back then on my small framed bikes.
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Old 01-11-21, 03:41 PM
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Tire size & psi combined with geometry are far more significant than choice of frame material when it comes to creating comfort on any modern bicycle,.
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Old 01-11-21, 03:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Cpn_Dunsel View Post
Tire size & psi combined with geometry are far more significant than choice of frame material when it comes to creating comfort on any modern bicycle,.
Beat me to it by ONE post. The more comfortable bike will be the one with the larger, plusher tires.
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Old 01-11-21, 04:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Cpn_Dunsel View Post
Tire size & psi combined with geometry are far more significant than choice of frame material when it comes to creating comfort on any modern bicycle,.
Originally Posted by bOsscO View Post
Beat me to it by ONE post. The more comfortable bike will be the one with the larger, plusher tires.
A bike doesn't need to have cushy tires to be comfortable.

Other than geometry, it's mostly dependent on how well the bike fits you.
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Old 01-11-21, 04:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Moisture View Post
A bike doesn't need to have cushy tires to be comfortable.

Other than geometry, it's mostly dependent on how well the bike fits you.


While large tires aren't required for comfort, there is a direct connection between supple large volume tires at lower pressure and comfort.

Furthermore, you missed the point that both of the posters were making. They were saying that they view tire volume and pressure will play a larger role in comfort than frame material doesnt mean fitment isnt important, so why you felt it necessary to bring that into the equation is odd.
Bike fit being equal, they view tire volume and psi as more vital than frame material for comfort.

You tracking now?
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Old 01-11-21, 05:08 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post


While large tires aren't required for comfort, there is a direct connection between supple large volume tires at lower pressure and comfort.

Furthermore, you missed the point that both of the posters were making. They were saying that they view tire volume and pressure will play a larger role in comfort than frame material doesnt mean fitment isnt important, so why you felt it necessary to bring that into the equation is odd.
Bike fit being equal, they view tire volume and psi as more vital than frame material for comfort.

You tracking now?
I disagree .

Slapping thick tires onto an otherwise poorly fitting frame and expecting the ride to be cushy is silly.
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Old 01-11-21, 05:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Moisture View Post
A bike doesn't need to have cushy tires to be comfortable.

Other than geometry, it's mostly dependent on how well the bike fits you.
Please stop reframing other user's comments and creating straw man arguments.

Your second statement is silly and just plain ignorant. Have a nice day.
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Old 01-11-21, 05:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Moisture View Post
I disagree .

Slapping thick tires onto an otherwise poorly fitting frame and expecting the ride to be cushy is silly.
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Old 01-11-21, 06:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Cpn_Dunsel View Post
Please stop reframing other user's comments and creating straw man arguments.

Your second statement is silly and just plain ignorant. Have a nice day.
Allow me to elaborate my point of view.

A good fitting frame, at least from my perspective, would be something which ensures that you do not have too much bodyweight leaning fore and aft over either axle of the bike during any given time of your ride. Eg a frame which is too small, or simply has a stem too long for your needs would cause you to lean forward too much, ruining ride comfort over uneven surfaces.

In short, my idea of ride comfort is mostly associated with:

Stack, stem length and top tube length ensures you are not stretched over the frame and riding front heavy

Reach ensures your weight is properly distributed between the two axles when riding over obstacles which subconsciously motivate you to take some weight off the saddle.

The end result is an extremely smooth ride regardless of which frame material or tires you are using.

It really can't be any more simple.
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Old 01-11-21, 08:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Moisture View Post
Allow me to elaborate my ..... .

Allow you?

I cannot stop you and I will say this: I have zero interest in your point of view or in any further interaction with you.
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Old 01-11-21, 08:30 PM
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I'd also lean towards the double, its probably an FSA omega which seems to turn up with Tiagra. In my experience its a passable crank, nothing impressive and sometimes comes with an annoying 19mm spindle that only FSA makes a BB for but still reliable. Tiagra is a good groupset in my experience, for my money I'm happier with Tiagra vs. 105 and don't feel its a group you can go wrong with. 1x is nice but for a bike that can see a wide range of terrain and elevation I'd prefer 2x. Aluminum vs. steel; I have a 4130 cromoly road frame, a columbus genius road frame and a custom steel cross and like the ride of all of them, opposite that I have an aluminum c-dale mtb and an aluminum gravel and have no real preference between them, except the custom cross, that's a dream to ride but its more then a basic bike.
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Old 01-11-21, 09:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Cpn_Dunsel View Post
Allow you?

I cannot stop you and I will say this: I have zero interest in your point of view or in any further interaction with you.
Perhaps you're unaware that Moisture has been studying bikes for nearly two months now.
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Old 01-12-21, 03:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Russ Roth View Post
I'd also lean towards the double, its probably an FSA omega which seems to turn up with Tiagra. In my experience its a passable crank, nothing impressive and sometimes comes with an annoying 19mm spindle that only FSA makes a BB for but still reliable. Tiagra is a good groupset in my experience, for my money I'm happier with Tiagra vs. 105 and don't feel its a group you can go wrong with. 1x is nice but for a bike that can see a wide range of terrain and elevation I'd prefer 2x. Aluminum vs. steel; I have a 4130 cromoly road frame, a columbus genius road frame and a custom steel cross and like the ride of all of them, opposite that I have an aluminum c-dale mtb and an aluminum gravel and have no real preference between them, except the custom cross, that's a dream to ride but its more then a basic bike.
As far as I am aware, the differences in price between the different groupssts is really the biggest difference. They are all built to a good standard and perform commendably across the board. The only real difference between today's low end equipment versus vintage stuff is that today's should be avoided .

Originally Posted by Trakhak View Post
Perhaps you're unaware that Moisture has been studying bikes for nearly two months now.


You guys are the biggest trolls
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