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Excluding Tourers, are new steel framed bikes just about road buzz dampening?

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Excluding Tourers, are new steel framed bikes just about road buzz dampening?

Old 09-28-16, 12:36 AM
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Excluding Tourers, are new steel framed bikes just about road buzz dampening?

I was having a chat with a colleague at work today who was firmly of the belief that the only reason steel framed bikes are built today is due to steel's ability to absorb road buzz and provide a comfortable ride.


The demands of a touring bike was probably not on his mind, so for the purposes of this discussion, I wanted to get feedback on what reasons exist for someone to buy a new(so I am excluding old classic steel bikes here) steel frame bike that isn't a touring bike, over an aluminium or carbon framed alternative.
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Old 09-28-16, 03:27 AM
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Originally Posted by ColonelSanders
I was having a chat with a colleague at work today who was firmly of the belief that the only reason steel framed bikes are built today is due to steel's ability to absorb road buzz and provide a comfortable ride.
Steel doesn't absorb much of anything. It simply doesn't significantly dampen elastic deformation. This is a big part of why it makes good springs. Steel frames are frequently quite flexy, however, and it's possible that this sometimes filters road buzz in such a way that the cyclist winds up comfier. That wouldn't be anything intrinsic to steel, though, just an effect of a typical design choice/compromise.

If we suppose, though, that steel bicycle construction does frequently result in ride qualities that a lot of people like? Even if that were the only reason to build steel bicycle frames, it's not like that wouldn't be a HUGE reason.

//===================

It's far from the only reason, though. Aesthetics are a big part; the appearance of the skinny tubes, joined by lugs or otherwise, appeals to a lot of people. Relative to carbon, sometimes people like that it's somewhat more forgiving to wrench on, particularly with regard to clamping forces. Also relative to carbon, barrier for entry for custom frames is much lower. Many steels can also be bent by a significant amount without totally compromising their strength or causing them to break, which means you can get away with shenanigans like bending a frame to take a rear wheel with a different hub spacing.
And for many people there's the "why not?" aspect. Steel bicycle design is very mature and thus easier for some to have confidence in. What drawbacks exist relative to other materials aren't particularly catastrophic for most purposes.

The demands of a touring bike was probably not on his mind, so for the purposes of this discussion, I wanted to get feedback on what reasons exist for someone to buy a new(so I am excluding old classic steel bikes here) steel frame bike that isn't a touring bike, over an aluminium or carbon framed alternative.
Even if the demands of a touring bike were on his mind, there's no reason that you can't make an excellent touring bike out of aluminum and/or carbon fiber.
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Old 09-28-16, 05:41 AM
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I'd say the reason big manufacturers make bike frames out of any specific material is economic.

Steel was relatively cheap and easy to work. As I understand it, it is becoming more expensive, and while it can be bent and welded easily, it cannot be formed and shaped as easily as Al,or CF. Also, it lack strength for weight compared to the other two. This makes shaped Al or CF an equal to steel---considering the economics of large-scale manufacturing and marketing.

I'd say steel bikes from major manufacturers are likely built because at a given price point steel is cheaper for the level of performance expected---a level at which ride quality is probably not a huge consideration.

A well-designed Al frame with a CF fork (which is almost standard at the low (but not lowest) level of "entry-level" bikes) can be as comfortable as a cheap steel frame (based on regular comparisons between two such bikes I ride frequently.) Each feel different, but neither is unpleasant.

For people building more expensive steel bikes, likely the decision is again economic--trying to capture the share of the market that wants steel because of the old "steel is real" mantra. Jamis, for instance, produces some steel frames mainly because it has and because people who want affordable decent steel bikes are numerous enough to seek them out.

New cyclists probably don't care, and will appreciate whatever is readily available. So for most entry level offerings, Al makes more sense, since most big manufacturers are already commissioning Al frames---why mess with another material, finding sources, negotiating prices, etc.?

So ... I guess ... most mass-produced steel frames are being built precisely to offer consumers the "steel is real" ride quality----even if that exists as much in the consumer's mind as in the actual performance of the frame.
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Old 09-28-16, 05:57 AM
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Here we go.
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Old 09-28-16, 06:08 AM
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There are many reasons why people buy steel bikes.

Cost
Relative ease of repair
Ride quality
Aesthetics
The bike they want is only available in steel
Cost
Etc.
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Old 09-28-16, 06:08 AM
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Originally Posted by BillyD
Here we go.

Heh. I popped some extra for this one.
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Old 09-28-16, 06:08 AM
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Originally Posted by HTupolev
Aesthetics are a big part; the appearance of the skinny tubes, joined by lugs or otherwise, appeals to a lot of people.
That is a good reason that didn't come to mind when I was discussing this with my work colleague.
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Old 09-28-16, 06:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Maelochs
I'd say steel bikes from major manufacturers are likely built because at a given price point steel is cheaper for the level of performance expected---a level at which ride quality is probably not a huge consideration.
.
.
For people building more expensive steel bikes, likely the decision is again economic--trying to capture the share of the market that wants steel because of the old "steel is real" mantra. Jamis, for instance, produces some steel frames mainly because it has and because people who want affordable decent steel bikes are numerous enough to seek them out.
Looking at two bikes for example, the Jamis Coda Elite and the Kona Big Rove ST(which sadly has been discontinued for 2017), is their main selling point not that they are meant to be very comfortable bikes?

I know one of the guys who bought one on this forum after owning a Trek FX 7.5 and carbon Sirrus said that his Coda Elite was just on another level compared to those bikes when it came to dealing with rough roads.

The Kona Big Rove ST came with large tyres, so I don't know if it was appreciably more comfortable than it's aluminium sibling which continues to live on, but it would be interesting to see what the thoughts are of someone who has ridden both of them.
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Old 09-28-16, 06:22 AM
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In my case, it was because I needed a custom bike and local framebuilders only work with steel :v
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Old 09-28-16, 06:34 AM
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I really don't know why people choose what they choose.

I do know that why people buy and why manufacturers make products are not always the same, even idf the products are what the people actually want to buy.

I don't see much entry-level steel--$400-$600 steel-framed bikes, because I think at that price point Al is as economical.

Riders who like a particular aesthetic are not new riders buying entry-level bikes---they are willing to pay a little to get a specific thing. But I am not sure if say, Jamis executives think about why people buy their bikes, so much as they notice that people do indeed buy their steel frames and pay enough that making them is profitable, so they keep making those frames.

I know there are people who wax rhapsodic over the comfort of steel ... having ridden everything except wood and Ti, I think a lot of that is frame design and wheels and tires as much as it is frame material.

I rode a Cannondale 6-13 for a while, and that was eye-opening---it was all stretched out and rigid and racy, yet it was exceedingly comfortable. I switch regularly between an entry-level Dawes with Al frame/CF fork and an all-steel Raleigh and both are comfortable, though they feel very different (I ride the same routes so I can compare performance over the same sections of pavement.)

The Dawes has slightly lighter wheels, both run about the same tire pressures.

I can cover the same ground on my Cannondale tourer (Al with a steel fork) with slightly wider and softer tires (32 mm at 95 vs 23 at 115) and even though that frame is primitive and extremely stiff it probably eats most bumps better than either of the other two.

But of course, that is all subjective.

And I think a lot of the "Steel is Real" stuff is entirely subjective.

As for why the bikes are built though ... ultimately any product is built because the manufacturers think there is a market for it. Some accountant who doesn't even ride probably sends an email saying "Sales are steady on the model XP-455 so we should continue production," and the guys in manufacturing have to look up the number to see that it is a steel-framed bike.

As for the Jamis Coda Elite ... I think its main selling point is that it is a reasonably priced steel bike from a trusted manufacturer .... I think people buy it because it is steel, and because they expect certain things from steel, and think they get those things with that bike.

Whether it is quantifiably more "comfortable" than some other bike, I am not convinced.
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Old 09-28-16, 06:44 AM
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Originally Posted by kuroba
In my case, it was because I needed a custom bike and local framebuilders only work with steel :v
Same reason I am currently considering one.
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Old 09-28-16, 06:47 AM
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Maelochs' post no. 10 above says it all.
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Old 09-28-16, 07:44 AM
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I ride steel 'cause I'm cheap. Anytime I think my ride needs a little more "steel is real" I let a couple of psi out of my tyres....
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Old 09-28-16, 09:15 AM
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Steel bikes remind some people of their childhoods, 60 years ago.
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Old 09-28-16, 09:26 AM
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It really is as simple as steel is the best material to make bike with. There's just no diputing that.



There, I did it. Someone had to take this there.
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Old 09-28-16, 09:27 AM
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To be different. To stand out from the crowd. It's fun showing up to a group ride or race on a steel bike when (almost) everyone else is on aluminum or CF.
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Old 09-28-16, 09:34 AM
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Reel is steel.

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Old 09-28-16, 09:50 AM
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I personally will stay clear of carbon because I'm afraid of doing some damage myself or through some accident. Metal is much more forgiving even of a stray hammer blow. I don't have a preference between steel ad aluminum whichever frame fits better and holds tires wide enough to be comfortable.
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Old 09-28-16, 09:56 AM
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Originally Posted by ColonelSanders
I wanted to get feedback on what reasons exist for someone to buy a new steel frame bike that isn't a touring bike, over an aluminium or carbon framed alternative.
First of all, who here has put several thousand miles on modern steel framed bikes in the last couple of years? I have.

Based on that actual experience with them, I will say I was happy with my carbon fiber bike a year or two ago, then I rode a steel bike. I was shocked to find it was way more comfortable even though it was a 1/3 of the price. I figured it was some sort of anomaly, so I rode another one and another one and another one. Nope, they were all more comfortable. And less rattly. And smoother at high speeds. And quieter. Keep in mind, I ride on Texas chip seal roads. On a smooth road, I might have not noticed a difference between the two.

Other reasons I discovered over time while owning:

They are generally less expensive
They are really easy to work on
They are much more durable than carbon fiber
They handle heavier riders better than other materials
They don't fail catastrophically
They don't need special springs in the head tube or zertz or iso decouplers or big tires to be comfortable

Cons:
They are typically 1-2 lbs heavier than a carbon framed bike
If you leave them out in the rain for long periods of time, they can rust
They are harder to find new in stores than AL and CF
They can't be shaped into nifty aero designs that save you 50 seconds over 25 miles in head winds

Probably my favorite pro of steel is simply peace of mind.

I don't have to constantly inspect it for chips or damage that might suggest or lead to structural integrity problems. I dropped a chain once on my carbon bike and it sawed into my bottom bracket. Actually damaged it.

I don't have to worry about crushing it when a torque wrench isn't handy.

I don't have to worry hanging the bike by the frame on a car rack might induce some stress cracks in the tubes. (Happened to a friend's bike)

I don't worry about rocks kicking up on the road and causing cracks in my frame (happened to a friend)

I don't worry about my bike being damaged if accidentally tipped over.

I don't need to snap pics of a blemish and post it on BF asking "experts" if this is a problem I should be concerned about. (I've done it with my carbon bikes)

I don't have to baby the bike either. If I am riding and a rough gravel road pops up in my path, so be it. I don't have to turn around for fear of damaging my expensive carbon parts. (happens regularly on group rides with CF riders) At worst, I *might* get a paint chip. A friend of mine just ruined his carbon wheel on a bad gravel road during a ride.

I'm not a racer. If I was, I would definitely buy the bike the gave me the most competitive advantage. I'm just an avid recreational cyclist that wants to jump on his bike every other day and get in 100 miles a week while keeping my bike related headaches to a minimum. A modern steel road bike does that for me.
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Old 09-28-16, 10:00 AM
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In all of these steel vs xxxxxx debates, nobody ever mentions the one reason I prefer steel; it's easier for me to live with. Ever strip out a water bottle mount? Crack a seat post clamp? Not that it can't happen with steel, it's just not as likely. I hate working with aluminum because it's just too damned fragile against my ham-fisted wrenching skills. Seriously. I won't buy anything carbon fiber either for the same reason (well, that and the catastrophic failure mode). I don't want to be forced into carrying a torque wrench on a ride as I try to dial in my seat post height or handlebar angle. I just wanna tighten the snot out of it without worry. As many times as necessary with total reckless abandon.


-Kedosto
*fists of ham*
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Old 09-28-16, 10:02 AM
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I'm sorry that steel kills his buzz
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Old 09-28-16, 10:11 AM
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I bought a steel bike (Salsa Vaya) because I liked its ride way better than anything else I took a test ride on. Plus I think it is just a cool looking bike.
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Old 09-28-16, 10:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Jarrett2
First of all, who here has put several thousand miles on modern steel framed bikes in the last couple of years? I have.

Based on that actual experience with them, I will say I was happy with my carbon fiber bike a year or two ago, then I rode a steel bike. I was shocked to find it was way more comfortable even though it was a 1/3 of the price. I figured it was some sort of anomaly, so I rode another one and another one and another one. Nope, they were all more comfortable. And less rattly. And smoother at high speeds. And quieter. Keep in mind, I ride on Texas chip seal roads. On a smooth road, I might have not noticed a difference between the two.

Other reasons I discovered over time while owning:

They are generally less expensive
They are really easy to work on
They are much more durable than carbon fiber
They handle heavier riders better than other materials
They don't fail catastrophically
They don't need special springs in the head tube or zertz or iso decouplers or big tires to be comfortable

Cons:
They are typically 1-2 lbs heavier than a carbon framed bike
If you leave them out in the rain for long periods of time, they can rust
They are harder to find new in stores than AL and CF
They can't be shaped into nifty aero designs that save you 50 seconds over 25 miles in head winds

Probably my favorite pro of steel is simply peace of mind.

I don't have to constantly inspect it for chips or damage that might suggest or lead to structural integrity problems. I dropped a chain once on my carbon bike and it sawed into my bottom bracket. Actually damaged it.

I don't have to worry about crushing it when a torque wrench isn't handy.

I don't have to worry hanging the bike by the frame on a car rack might induce some stress cracks in the tubes. (Happened to a friend's bike)

I don't worry about rocks kicking up on the road and causing cracks in my frame (happened to a friend)

I don't worry about my bike being damaged if accidentally tipped over.

I don't need to snap pics of a blemish and post it on BF asking "experts" if this is a problem I should be concerned about. (I've done it with my carbon bikes)

I don't have to baby the bike either. If I am riding and a rough gravel road pops up in my path, so be it. I don't have to turn around for fear of damaging my expensive carbon parts. (happens regularly on group rides with CF riders) At worst, I *might* get a paint chip. A friend of mine just ruined his carbon wheel on a bad gravel road during a ride.

I'm not a racer. If I was, I would definitely buy the bike the gave me the most competitive advantage. I'm just an avid recreational cyclist that wants to jump on his bike every other day and get in 100 miles a week while keeping my bike related headaches to a minimum. A modern steel road bike does that for me.
With many of your above points, how many advantages that steel holds over carbon framed bikes, do you feel also applies to aluminium framed bikes.


Originally Posted by Kedosto
In all of these steel vs xxxxxx debates, nobody ever mentions the one reason I prefer steel; it's easier for me to live with. Ever strip out a water bottle mount? Crack a seat post clamp? Not that it can't happen with steel, it's just not as likely. I hate working with aluminum because it's just too damned fragile against my ham-fisted wrenching skills. Seriously. I won't buy anything carbon fiber either for the same reason (well, that and the catastrophic failure mode). I don't want to be forced into carrying a torque wrench on a ride as I try to dial in my seat post height or handlebar angle. I just wanna tighten the snot out of it without worry. As many times as necessary with total reckless abandon.


-Kedosto
*fists of ham*
As I own an aluminium framed bike, which parts are fragile that I could damage if I am similarly ham-fisted with my wrenching skills?
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Old 09-28-16, 10:52 AM
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Originally Posted by ColonelSanders
With many of your above points, how many advantages that steel holds over carbon framed bikes, do you feel also applies to aluminium framed bikes.
Despite the ribbing I give them, I like some carbon fiber bikes. If steel bikes disappeared tomorrow, I'd probably ride a carbon fiber bike. Carefully.

I might give titanium another try, but I'd likely end up on carbon fiber. One of the more durable (non racing) carbon fiber framesets.

Aluminum on the other hand, I have no love for at all. After owning a few, I wouldn't buy one again. It rides worse than carbon fiber and has many of the same issues. And they typically are not lighter than your average steel frame. I guess the one thing it has over steel is it doesn't rust.

I typically rate them for my purposes:

Steel
Carbon Fiber
Titanium
.
.
.
Aluminum
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Old 09-28-16, 10:58 AM
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Originally Posted by ColonelSanders
As I own an aluminium framed bike, which parts are fragile that I could damage if I am similarly ham-fisted with my wrenching skills?
Any threads - water bottle mounts, bottom brackets, seat post clamps, fender/rack mounts, derailleur mounts, etc. You're gonna get very experienced with your torque wrench - not as bad as carbon, but you don't wanna be tightening things without knowing the torque specs.

I cross threaded a bottom bracket on an old MTB. Didn't even go all the way but once the threads were boogered up there was no getting it back. Tried "chasing" the threads and put it all back together but the damage was done. Ended up junking the frame.

It's not all about being ham-fisted either. I unscrewed an allen head off the seat stay rack mount of my brand new Sirrus and the threads came out with the screw. There is a reaction that can happen between steel and aluminum where the aluminum decays** and that's what happened to the threads (I think). Brand spankin' new!

Steel is simply easy to live with. No drama. No special handling. It's a great frame material for the common man.


-Kedosto

**I'm no chemist but I think it's called "electrolysis" (not sure)
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