Fifty Plus (50+) Share the victories, challenges, successes and special concerns of bicyclists 50 and older. Especially useful for those entering or reentering bicycling.


Old 06-03-22, 09:15 PM
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I get it now I have read many time that steel bikes flex giving them a smoother ride and that sounds good on paper but seriously how much "flexing" can you get out of steel? My previous bike was aluminum rode pretty good I thought but some bumps were seriously jarring and I could "feel" just about everything I ran over. But is steel really going to be a "big" improvement in ride quality? I bought a Kona Sutra SE and have ridden it enough now to say that I am really getting to know the bike and yes I have noticed the bike flex it really does, I can feel it, it is smoother. I get it now, it is not just on paper anymore, I know what I know from experience. Different bikes specialize in different things they all have their place, that is why we all need at least 4 right.

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Old 06-04-22, 06:08 AM
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Agree that a well engineered steel bike is smoother, the steel itself makes a difference also. Butting, grade of steel, design, all makes a difference. That being said, a neighbor is selling his 2002 LeMond Alpe d'Huez. The frame is 853 steel with a carbon fork. Too small for me, but I took it for a short spin anyway. Yes, it sure is smooooooooth!! My old is steel, but chromoly and rides nothing even close to the neighbor's LeMond. Good steel is for sure real!
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Old 06-04-22, 08:44 AM
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I never owned anything but steel bikes...1960s upright Schwinns, includng a Sting Ray, a 1976 Azuki 10-speed, A 1987 Schwinn Cruiser Supreme, a 1960s Schwinn Varsity and a 1997 Nishiki Blazer MTB, but they were all relatively stiff.

But I never experienced or noticed frame flex until I acquired a lovely, light 1984 Nishiki International 12-speed. The seat and chain stays are very thin, and the front fork tapers into a nice, thin curve. If I stand out of the saddle while coasting (or stationary leaning against a wall, I can bounce up and down on the pedals and the frame has a noticeable give and take. And under heavy pedaling uphill the front of the rear wheel will deflect a quarter inch or so towards the left chain stay. I briefly put a rack on the back last year using the gap by the rear drop-pit as a mounting point. But the rack stiffened the frame and the bike lost most of its 'bounce'.

I bought a 2015 Charge Plug skinny, steel tube framed "distance" bike in 2015. It's between a road bike and a touring bike with regards to wheelbase and stoutness. (They switched to Aluminum in 2016). While the frame looks only slightly beefier than the old road bike, it is indeed stiffer, and the uncurved front fork (for disc brake accommodation) has no disccernable give.

Last year I bought a 2007 Dahon Boardwalk 20-inch folding bike. It's steel, which is heavier than the aluminum frames, but desirable for longer frame life, especially in a folder. Ironically, the only flex on that bike is the super long, but kinda thick aluminum seatpost...I think it's aluminum.

All the bikes get light road tires with flexible sidewalls. I use tire liners for better puncture resistance (all tubes). In the wInter the MTB gets stiffer studded snow tires. On the Plug (700x35), the Blazer (26x1.85) and the Boardwalk (20x1.75) the lighter tires at slightly less than max psi really smooth out the ride (plus the Blazer seat has springs).

The Nishiki International gets 700x28s at 85psi, but on the International the frame provides most of the flex. When I first got the bike it had 700x24 tires and I ran them at 100psi and while the ride was harsher, there was still this lovely flex.

My wife has an aluminum "comfort" bike with 26x1.75 tires, a suspension fork, suspension seat post, and a seat with springs. It all works to dampen the bumps, but it just feels numb to me.

I'd rather have the organic flex of a thin-tubed frame.
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Old 06-04-22, 08:59 AM
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I have three steel road bikes, each of which feels quite different from the other two. Carbon fiber can be tailored to customize flex where you want it and prevent it where you don't. Modern aluminum frames are also more refined than the incredibly stiff ones common 25 years ago.

The frame material by itself won't guarantee a desired feel.
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Old 06-04-22, 11:44 PM
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Any frame material, each with a different physical sensation, can be made as compliant or ridged as a builder wants. Now in my 70's I favor compliance more so than stillness. This favors Ti because I in my experience have found Ti over steel, while still "lively", has less intense vibration, noticeable in both noise and vibration resulting is less impact on the three contact points, hands, feet, and saddle. .
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Old 06-05-22, 04:02 AM
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I have one CF, one aluminum, one titanium, and 5 steel framed bikes. They are all comfortable, with the CF Orbea Avant being the "harshest" ride. I think the most comfortable is my steel Soma Smoothie, much of that being the geometry and fit. The biggest differences between each bike are the components and the weight.
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Old 06-05-22, 06:23 AM
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I experienced a big increase in enthusiasm for riding after changing from one frame material to another, although in my case it was from steel to aluminum. Steel bikes for 40 years, then aluminum all but exclusively for the last 15 years.
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Old 06-05-22, 11:04 AM
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All my previous bikes were steel. Never owned any aluminum. I too use to be worried and paranoid about the lack of new steel bikes. Just getting my first carbon fiber bike in 2020, it turns out that all the hype about steel being real is just that, Hype. Sure you can feel differences in them, but only in the way you feel the road and handling feed back for things like turning on twisty trails.

Even riding my sons aluminum Trek Emonda, the only thing I can say about it is that it too feels different than carbon or steel. But not really in any uncomfortable for riding way. Just in the way you perceive the road surface and handling.

With any, you just get use to the new feel and handling. But only if you are willing to try them.
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Old 06-05-22, 01:39 PM
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We need to ride them all.
531, 531SL, 531c, 531cs, 531 straight gauge
SL, SLX, SP, TSX, EL-OS, Spirit, 9XX
Tange 1 & 2, Prestige
Ishiwata 022/019
So many more......

At least a dozen to be 'il cognoscenti'.

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Old 06-05-22, 01:55 PM
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Even HiTensile steel (these tubes from Oria) can deliver a lovely ride with nice wheels+tires.
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Old 06-05-22, 08:16 PM
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The stiffest, most bone jarring bike I ever had was steel and the whippiest wet noodle I ever had was also steel. I had 1 aluminum road bike (CAAD 5) and it was quite harsh. I have a titanium Seven now and it is close to the CAAD 5 but I have ridden a Moots and it was like a spring compared to my Seven.

The only cf bike I've had is my mountain bike but I don't think you can say a certain material will always ride a certain way. As others have said there are other factors beside material.

Other factors are rider weight and road surface. If you're on a smooth road anything will work. I don't believe a little bottom bracket flex is going to matter to most of us. A bike that's too stiff will beat up a light rider more than a heavier one, however.
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Old 06-06-22, 07:20 PM
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I have 6 steel bikes, a titanium bike, and I use to have a scandium bike, plus I have ridden many CF bikes. Here's what my arse and hands told me. The scandium bike was the worst riding bike by far over the others. Next comes CF, while CF does smooth o ut minor road imperfections, but once you get onto rough roads like where I live, the ride is no longer very good, the rougher the road gets the worse the ride gets, but I would place CF ahead of scandium, scandium was like riding on bricks, CF was more like riding on wood? Next comes steel, the comfort of steel is very good, day and night difference over scandium, but better than CF. Of course, CF is lighter than steel, and CF is stiffer, so it feels like a rocket when cranking hard, much like the scandium bike did, steel really doesn't have that effect, but if all you ride is steel some steel bikes will feel faster than others depending on the geometry, tubing used, and if the tubing has rifling or flutes inside. Now lastly is titanium, I think that titanium is the best riding material I have ever rode, both minor imperfections are fairly muted, as well as major imperfections, the ride is fantastic, the tracking is very good though that does depend a lot on the fork, mine is a Enve 2.0; I can ride on that bike for a hundred miles and not be as tired as I would be on steel or CF, but the scandium was like riding 100 miles after only doing 50!

Having said all of that geometry plays a lot into how a bike will feel, all the bikes I have are road geometry bikes, except for one, that one is a steel touring bike with a relaxed touring geometry, it also has 38c tires, that bike is very comfortable even though the frame tubing diameter is larger than other steel bikes I have. They also have improved AL frames a lot since I bought the scandium, they claim they have removed a lot of the harshness out of the ride, but I doubt it would still match TI, steel, or CF, but could come close. AL bikes are the best bang for the buck though, especially if you're a beginning race person, when a person starts out racing the chances of a crash is quite high, and unlike pro who get free bikes you have to pay for yours, and an AL frame is the least expensive frameset to buy.

But if you all you want is comfort, the best bang for the buck is steel; the TI is for those who don't mind spending a bit more.

Anyway, that is my opinion of the different types.
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Old 06-06-22, 07:31 PM
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I don't have enough experience to describe it but there's definitely a distinction between a good steel bike and other frame materials out there. I have 3 older steel bikes but the nicest is my Peugeot with Reynolds 453 butted steel frame which rides like a Cadillac over nice tarmac, compared to my aluminum Cannondale CAAD 8. I enjoy the ride of the newer bikes but it's not the same as a well made steel bike.
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Old 06-06-22, 09:34 PM
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Frame material and geometry made a lot bigger comfort difference back when I was riding 21mm and 23mm tires at 130 psi than they do now that I'm riding 32mm and 35mm tires at 50 psi.
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Old 06-07-22, 03:02 AM
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I started riding as a kid in the '80's in the "bicycle boom".
Steel was the only realistic choice. I got older and bought a car... Bicycles were forgotten.
A few years ago I was struck by the simple beauty of a steel frame. Heck, you can even get fancy lugs if you want!
Since them I've bought a few (too many) for nostalgia and exercise. It took me a long while to buy aluminum, but I find the old Trek 7200FX with those fat tyres quite comfortable.
I also have some older carbon bikes which feel ridiculously light in comparison to steel.
I guess we'll find out in 50 years if steel is real.
I just like them for nostalgia and beauty.
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Old 06-07-22, 06:54 AM
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A few years ago "I was professionally fitted" for an aluminum Bianchi road bike with a Sora drive train. The reach was too long and I constantly fought the shifting. I then found a $300 steel Miyata on Ebay. It was equipped with downtube friction shifters that were flawless. It fit like a glove. It was like riding in a big Lincoln Continental. Donating that bike to charity was one of the worst decisions I've made.
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Old 06-07-22, 09:51 AM
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I happily ride steel C&V exclusively (see signature). Different geometries and stiffness for different applications.
"Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." --Theodore Roosevelt
Capo: 1959 Modell Campagnolo, S/N 40324; 1960 Sieger (2), S/N 42624, 42597
Carlton: 1962 Franco Suisse, S/N K7911
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Old 06-07-22, 08:00 PM
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Steel is wonderful. The most comfortable bike I have ever ridden was a Trek 660 with a 531 frame. Not only was the frame comfortable, but the geometry was spot-on for me, and I have never been able to achieve the same pedal stroke on any other bike.
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Old 06-07-22, 08:41 PM
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Originally Posted by 50PlusCycling View Post
Steel is wonderful. The most comfortable bike I have ever ridden was a Trek 660 with a 531 frame. Not only was the frame comfortable, but the geometry was spot-on for me, and I have never been able to achieve the same pedal stroke on any other bike.
One of my steel bikes is a 84 Trek 660, I raced this bike for about 10 years. It was very comfortable and it also fit me like a glove. That frame was 531cs which stood for Club Sports. That special tubing was originally (my understanding) designed for the Trek 660 series at Treks request, but that tube set did find its way into a Holdsworth Triathlon frame, and into a few British Eagle touring bikes, which were light duty touring bikes. I bought my 660 as a frame and fork, the fork though was a bit different from the fully equipped factory 660, mine has Trek engraved on the top of each side of the fork, but there used to be a Reynolds sticker on the fork that said 531cs, so it's the same fork that the factory fully equipped 660 had just mine has the engraving. I built my Trek with 100% Suntour Superbe to try to copy the components on the 760.

I test rode the 760 and turned it down, because when I stood on the pedals to crank it up a grade, I found the rear wheel and stays would flex to hit the brake pads on both sides, and the chain ring would rub both sides of the front derailleur, when I test rode a 660 that did not happen, that was the reason I chose the 660 instead of the 760.
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Old 06-07-22, 08:59 PM
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My $.02 the frame material is not that important compared to design. 95% of my bikes were steel and a couple aluminum but that mostly reflects my age. When I test rode modern bkes in the last 20 yrs I was impressed by the ride. Had a small bike shop in the 80’s so I had some exposure to a range of bikes. There are springy bikes and not so springy ones. Right now I have a Clem Smith Jr with a Bafang BBSHD midrive motor that adds about 25 lbs to a 35 lb bike and that frame is getting bounced around. Hope it survives me.
I like BobbyG’s comment about the Nishiki International. That was the bike I wanted after getting a Nishiki Cresta in 1971.
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Old 06-08-22, 12:19 PM
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I honestly thing that frame geometry and fork rake have as much to do or more than frame material in the ride quality and certainly the handling.

But whatever the reasons, I really do like the springy ride of a high quality lugged steel frame bike. At this point, I have bikes that are Al/C, Ti/C and steel ... for different reasons, I love them all.

Proud parent of a happy inner child ...

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Old 06-12-22, 03:18 PM
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I gained a feel for how springy Reynolds 531 really is when we cold-set my frame. That is some springy stuff, alright.
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Old 06-12-22, 08:50 PM
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Similar to many people here. I have two steel road bikes, one carbon road bike and an aluminum road bike. The steel bikes are a mix of old small diameter Neuron tubed bike and a modern XCR tubed bike. The aluminum bike is stiff and fast but jarring and anything over a 90 minute ride is no longer in the books. The small diameter Neuron tubed bike is comfortable, feels fast but has a significant amount of flex at the BB. My carbon bike is a modern disc brake bike that is relatively light (7 kg) and stiff. It rides really well but has an almost soft feel in the back and feels unstable on rougher roads. The new XCR bike heavier (8.45 kg) and technically a gravel bike (but with 73/74 geometry). However, it is incredibly smooth, fast and confidence inspiring. I love climbing on that bike. I am not faster than my carbon bike but it feels so much better.

I think one of the benefits of metal bikes is the weight, which gives them a more "stable" feel and the ability to dampen vibrations.
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Old 06-13-22, 03:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Ttom View Post
I bought a Kona Sutra SE and have ridden it enough now to say that I am really getting to know the bike and yes I have noticed the bike flex it really does, I can feel it, it is smoother. I get it now, it is not just on paper anymore, …
It’s a touring bike. Not really the sort of thing you want to be “flexy”.

What are you comparing it to?

What size tires and what pressure are you using on the bikes you are comparing?
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Old 06-13-22, 04:23 AM
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IMO/E, tire size, inflation & suppleness (quality) can have far more to do with how 'harsh' a bike feels than frame material. My old Cannondale felt awful with the (cheap) 28c tires that were on it when I got it. Shoe-horning some Rene Herse Barlow Pass tires (38c, 45psi....$$$) on it was transformational in terms of ride & comfort.
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