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Chromoly Steel versus Aluminum Frames?

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Chromoly Steel versus Aluminum Frames?

Old 07-18-14, 08:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Wilfred Laurier View Post
sometimes theres no point in arguing
considering his sig line states his opinon
that anything that used to be better
will always be better
Kind of sums up the whole "steel is far better than aluminum" argument. The steel folks won't admit it but steel lost out long ago...by about a 10 to 1 margin Mountain bike abandoned steel as a material of construction 20+ years ago. More so when mountain bikes needed more than 9 tubes to build a frame. With the exception of some BSOs from Helmart, you won't find any dual suspension mountain bikes made of steel.
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Old 07-18-14, 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
With the exception of some BSOs from Helmart, you won't find any dual suspension mountain bikes made of steel.
Well, not exactly true, as bikes like the fully steel Caminade One4all and semi-steel Cotic Rocket come to mind (uses an alu rear subsection).

There are probably others; don't underestimate the retrogrouchiness of the bike world!
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Old 07-20-14, 04:26 PM
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WTFH?
three pages with no major
insults or death threats
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Old 07-20-14, 10:32 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Kind of sums up the whole "steel is far better than aluminum" argument. The steel folks won't admit it but steel lost out long ago...by about a 10 to 1 margin Mountain bike abandoned steel as a material of construction 20+ years ago. More so when mountain bikes needed more than 9 tubes to build a frame. With the exception of some BSOs from Helmart, you won't find any dual suspension mountain bikes made of steel.
In the end, it mostly comes down to profit margins, supply/demand, and other bean-counter stuff. There's good steel and cheap steel; good aluminum and cheap aluminum. I don't think production numbers tell us anything about the quality of one material over another.

Steel vs. aluminum... I could care less, just give me a well made frame!

I personally prefer steel (mostly aesthetic reasons), but the hydroformed aluminum stuff makes sense for most low/mid-end bikes.
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Old 07-21-14, 10:07 AM
  #55  
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Originally Posted by headloss View Post
In the end, it mostly comes down to profit margins, supply/demand, and other bean-counter stuff. There's good steel and cheap steel; good aluminum and cheap aluminum. I don't think production numbers tell us anything about the quality of one material over another.

Steel vs. aluminum... I could care less, just give me a well made frame!

I personally prefer steel (mostly aesthetic reasons), but the hydroformed aluminum stuff makes sense for most low/mid-end bikes.
I disagree. In the end it comes down to performance. There is some of the bean-counter stuff going on but take a look at any major manufacturer and see how many steel frames they offer. Carbon is replacing aluminum in much the same way that aluminum replaced steel and for many of the same reasons but aluminum is still a large part of the market. Steel just isn't much of a player any more even when you consider that steel is an easier material to work with then aluminum.
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Old 07-21-14, 10:21 AM
  #56  
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Steel just isn't much of a player any more even when you consider that steel is an easier material to work with then aluminum.
I disagree
not that steel isn't much of a player
because it really isn't
except as a marketing tool for companies struggling to offer something different
im looking at you
jamis and qbp
but i disagree with the statement that
steel is easier to work with

aluminum is easier to machine
and not really harder to weld
if you have the right equipment

if you are talking about custom builders
and low volume or low cost startup builders
then it is easier to build a frame out of steel
with less expensive equipment
but on a mass manufacturing scale
aluminum beats steel on almost every point

also
aluminum is easier to recycle
and more valuable as scrap
so even wasteful processes can be less of a problem
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Old 07-21-14, 11:13 AM
  #57  
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Does that mean some aluminum products get recycled to become beer cans?
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Old 07-21-14, 11:34 AM
  #58  
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Originally Posted by Garfield Cat View Post
Does that mean some aluminum products get recycled to become beer cans?
probably goes the other way

look closely at your pbr can
and you can see a trek logo
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Old 07-21-14, 11:52 AM
  #59  
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Wow, my dental titanium implant post is Litespeed?
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Old 07-21-14, 12:03 PM
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Originally Posted by RPK79 View Post
Buy both. Then bash them together until one bends. Return the bent one.
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Originally Posted by krazygluon
Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
Aluminum: barely a hundred, which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?
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Old 07-21-14, 12:28 PM
  #61  
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Originally Posted by Garfield Cat View Post
Wow, my dental titanium implant post is Litespeed?
the process does not move as simply for titanium

your dental implant was once a crappy 1970s road bike
then a cover for depleted uranium mortar shells
then gears in a fishing rod
then a part of one of the blowed up space shuttles
then picked up on the beach by a dentist and made into part of your face
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Old 07-21-14, 01:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Wilfred Laurier View Post
I disagree
not that steel isn't much of a player
because it really isn't
except as a marketing tool for companies struggling to offer something different
im looking at you
jamis and qbp
but i disagree with the statement that
steel is easier to work with

aluminum is easier to machine
and not really harder to weld
if you have the right equipment

if you are talking about custom builders
and low volume or low cost startup builders
then it is easier to build a frame out of steel
with less expensive equipment
but on a mass manufacturing scale
aluminum beats steel on almost every point

also
aluminum is easier to recycle
and more valuable as scrap
so even wasteful processes can be less of a problem
I agree that aluminum is easier to machine but welding and post welding treatment make the material more difficult to work with. Custom builders work with steel because they don't have to do a post welding annealing of the frame. Mass manufacturers can afford the ovens necessary to do the annealing but the ovens are usually too expensive for a small builder to purchase.

The recycling of either material is rather straight forward and I don't think one is easier to recycle than the other. Aluminum is more valuable as a scrap material due to the cost of refining. Aluminum is horribly expensive to make from ore while steel is relatively cheap.
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Old 07-21-14, 01:33 PM
  #63  
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Originally Posted by Wilfred Laurier View Post
WTFH?
three pages with no major
insults or death threats
I did always wonder
Why all your posts
are formatted
To read like blank verse.

Very Artistic.
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Old 07-21-14, 01:55 PM
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I don't understand the argument that steel is easier for start up manufacturers by being more easily manufactured when manufacturers outsource the production of the frames in Taiwan and China. It's not as if Surly is manufacturing their frames in the states, nor is Raleigh, etc.

That said, I also think it's a bit weird to say that aluminum can have decent ride quality by playing with interesting shapes, but discredit the potential for steel to be light by playing with different tubings/wall thickness/etc.
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Old 07-21-14, 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Jas556 View Post
I don't understand the argument that steel is easier for start up manufacturers by being more easily manufactured when manufacturers outsource the production of the frames in Taiwan and China. It's not as if Surly is manufacturing their frames in the states, nor is Raleigh, etc.
those two companies
along with jamis
and a few others
are proving that there are still mass produced
good quality steel bikes being made

however
i think this is primarily a marketing decision
to try to offer something different
to cater to the minority of people
who prefer steel
and to offer something different


Originally Posted by Jas556 View Post
That said, I also think it's a bit weird to say that aluminum can have decent ride quality by playing with interesting shapes, but discredit the potential for steel to be light by playing with different tubings/wall thickness/etc.
the limiting factor
afaik
is that the tube walls for steel would have to be so thin
that the frame would be incredibly easy to dent
as well as difficult to weld

however
there are plenty of very light steel frames
and there will continue to be more into the future

if you have an idea
though
that you think can make a super light steel frame
talk to a frame builder and make it happen
because what might seem obvious to you
might be something that has been overlooked or forgotten by others
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Old 07-22-14, 03:25 AM
  #66  
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
I disagree. In the end it comes down to performance. There is some of the bean-counter stuff going on but take a look at any major manufacturer and see how many steel frames they offer. Carbon is replacing aluminum in much the same way that aluminum replaced steel and for many of the same reasons but aluminum is still a large part of the market. Steel just isn't much of a player any more even when you consider that steel is an easier material to work with then aluminum.
No argument that carbon is displacing aluminum, or the brief phase of aluminum with carbon stays. I'm also not arguing that aluminum didn't displace steel for racing bikes.

I should have drawn categories before my last response, the bean-counter stuff was more a reflection of the mass market ranging from dept store bikes to introductory road as well as hybrids, commuter stuff, bikes for students... bikes for non-aspiring racers. In those cases, aluminum wins because of penny pinching as we are comparing low grade aluminum to low grade steel. I guess my point is that you have to further divide the various metals into various grades and look at the economic reasoning behind one over another... more so than any performance gain (although, I do suppose that the non-rusting quality of aluminum is a huge advantage for the millions of bicycles that will be left in the garage over the winter and in the rain over the summer).

I just don't think that the market is a good basis on which to judge quality and performance. Just my take though. *shrugs*
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Old 07-22-14, 03:32 AM
  #67  
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Originally Posted by Wilfred Laurier View Post
those two companies
along with jamis
and a few others
are proving that there are still mass produced
good quality steel bikes being made

There's also the ebb and flow...
Even Specialized offered a steel tricross last year although it didn't last.
So it's not just a niche, big companies want in on it and just can't find a marketable option.
Trek(Gary Fisher) dropped the steel offerings, but they didn't really make sense, my touring bike was about as fun to ride as their version of a steel-cx bike (post Lemond).

Jamis manages to make steel bikes that are also fun to ride, which i would have thought would be an easy task... apparently not.

The QBP companies have certainly embraced steel and that seems to be the beginning of a trend to me and not a niche like Raleigh, Kona, and Jamis seem to be aiming for.
It seems like Salsa/Surly/Civia/All-City are trying to redefine the market in various ways, but mostly urban.

I haven't really payed much attention to the fat bike market, but most of those are steel, no?
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Old 07-22-14, 06:02 AM
  #68  
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Originally Posted by headloss View Post
No argument that carbon is displacing aluminum, or the brief phase of aluminum with carbon stays. I'm also not arguing that aluminum didn't displace steel for racing bikes.

I should have drawn categories before my last response, the bean-counter stuff was more a reflection of the mass market ranging from dept store bikes to introductory road as well as hybrids, commuter stuff, bikes for students... bikes for non-aspiring racers. In those cases, aluminum wins because of penny pinching as we are comparing low grade aluminum to low grade steel. I guess my point is that you have to further divide the various metals into various grades and look at the economic reasoning behind one over another... more so than any performance gain (although, I do suppose that the non-rusting quality of aluminum is a huge advantage for the millions of bicycles that will be left in the garage over the winter and in the rain over the summer).

I just don't think that the market is a good basis on which to judge quality and performance. Just my take though. *shrugs*
I think you are looking at the wrong end of the market. Aluminum, as well as carbon fiber, was introduced to the top of the market first because of the expense, then it moved down market as the technology for making the frame became more efficient. For example the Specialized Stumpjumper was a steel framed mountain bike when it was introduced. It remained a steel frame for many years as a top of the line bike provided to professionals. Aluminum was introduced as a frame material in the mid90s as a frame material for the Stumpjumper, more then 10 years after the introduction of the bike, while the rest of the Specialized line remained steel for a couple of years. Aluminum began being introduced down market a couple of years later with the lowest end of the Specialized line remaining steel until around 2000 or even a little later. Carbon follows a similar arc.

Aluminum really wasn't used for Helmart BSOs until only about 10 years ago. It was too expensive to retool for such a low quality bike.
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Old 07-22-14, 08:01 AM
  #69  
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
I think you are looking at the wrong end of the market. Aluminum, as well as carbon fiber, was introduced to the top of the market first because of the expense, then it moved down market as the technology for making the frame became more efficient. For example the Specialized Stumpjumper was a steel framed mountain bike when it was introduced. It remained a steel frame for many years as a top of the line bike provided to professionals. Aluminum was introduced as a frame material in the mid90s as a frame material for the Stumpjumper, more then 10 years after the introduction of the bike, while the rest of the Specialized line remained steel for a couple of years. Aluminum began being introduced down market a couple of years later with the lowest end of the Specialized line remaining steel until around 2000 or even a little later. Carbon follows a similar arc.

Aluminum really wasn't used for Helmart BSOs until only about 10 years ago. It was too expensive to retool for such a low quality bike.
the step you left out
in specializeds evolution
was from the early mid nineties
their use of metal matrix composite frames
or mmc
which in a nutshell
was aluminum with ceramic materials mixed into the alloy
you may be able to explain it better than me cyco

mmc was supposed to improve on aluminums
up until then deserved
reputation for fragility
but afaik
very few of those bikes are still around
as the mmc was not as big an improvement over plain aluminum
as they thought
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Old 07-22-14, 08:39 AM
  #70  
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Originally Posted by Wilfred Laurier View Post
the step you left out
in specializeds evolution
was from the early mid nineties
their use of metal matrix composite frames
or mmc
which in a nutshell
was aluminum with ceramic materials mixed into the alloy
you may be able to explain it better than me cyco

mmc was supposed to improve on aluminums
up until then deserved
reputation for fragility
but afaik
very few of those bikes are still around
as the mmc was not as big an improvement over plain aluminum
as they thought
The metal matrix was, and is, a method of changing up the properties of the aluminum. Aluminum really wasn't all that fragile prior to the use of MMCs (there are still lots of very old Cannondales running around that are structurally sound). The MMCs were used to make a lighter, stiffer frame with the same strength a thicker aluminum frames. Unfortunately, the early MMCs were too brittle and cracked easily. I had a 1998 Stumpjumper M2 which cracked at the brake bridge. The M2 used boron carbide as the stiffener which made for a wonderfully light frame but it wasn't all that durable. The M4 used a different different stiffener which wasn't as brittle.

The MMC is a huge improvement over regular aluminum, however. The M2 bike I had was superbly light compared with other bikes in its class. I still have a M4 framed Stumpjumper which is lighter than a 6000 or 7000 series aluminum but not quite as light as the M2.
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Old 07-23-14, 12:16 AM
  #71  
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My chromoly schwinn probe, and whatever kind of steel my 60's sear&roebuck is made from are both really light, as well as my nishiki prestige. The HiTen trek 800 sport single track is heavy. My mysterious torquois cruiser is fairly light- lighter than the 800S, it's a middle weight cruiser. My DK bmx bike is also fairly heavy. The first three use small tubing, the nashiki being the only welded frame. the others, sans the dk have large tubing.

My Diamondback response, and drifter1, and mongoose deception are all aluminum, have really large tubing. They are the heaviest ones, the 800s does tie at 40lbs. If those bikes usex small tubing like the schwinn, they too would be lighter.

An aluminum frame has little advantage over steel when the tubes are so big. Aluminum hit the cheap bikes in the 90's, next power climber, huffy break point, mongoose x series, blah, blah, blah. Thick heavy aluminum frames(plus steel rear linkages)for no reason. If it wasn't for carbon, we wouldn't have thozs funny looking 50's jetson future road bikes we have, it would outweigh a powerclimber. I don't see carbon trickling down anytime soon, carbon anything is always expensive. One reason I like steel; it's low tensile strength, it bends, and possibly can be bent back. Aluminum, titanium, carbon, with its higher tensile strength- breaks at some point.

I've thought about carbon forks for some of my bikes, or other parts, how many trips at the skate park, or curbs and steps will it take before it gives? Personally, I don't think I'd be brave enough to ride a carbon thruster.

I like aluminum bikes too, but the only advantages mine have are they wont rust. I think a better comparison would be two bikes of the same design, ergo two road bikes, same diameter tubing.

I think my ideal bike would be steel frame, carbon fork, aluminum stem/seat post/bars, titanium bottom bracket/cassette/hubs/hub internals.
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Old 07-23-14, 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Jax Rhapsody View Post

An aluminum frame has little advantage over steel when the tubes are so big. Aluminum hit the cheap bikes in the 90's, next power climber, huffy break point, mongoose x series, blah, blah, blah. Thick heavy aluminum frames(plus steel rear linkages)for no reason. If it wasn't for carbon, we wouldn't have thozs funny looking 50's jetson future road bikes we have, it would outweigh a powerclimber. I don't see carbon trickling down anytime soon, carbon anything is always expensive. One reason I like steel; it's low tensile strength, it bends, and possibly can be bent back. Aluminum, titanium, carbon, with its higher tensile strength- breaks at some point.
You need to go learn something about frame materials. Steel doesn't have a "a low tensile strength", at least not when compared to aluminum. You are confusing "fatigue limit" with tensile strength as well. A steel tube can certainly be bent to the point where it cannot be bent back. Steel and titanium can undergo stress of a certain amplitude (about 1/2 the tensile strength of the steel and titanium and about 0.4 of the tensile strength of the aluminum) under which they will not fail due to fatigue. Aluminum doesn't have that limit and will eventually fail, although the number of cycles needed is on the order of 500 million.

You also need to compare apples to apples, not cheese to chalk. A Huffy Break Point isn't the same as just about any higher end aluminum bike. Even a low end aluminum bike from a major manufacturer like Trek, Specialized or Giant are going to have a much lighter frame than a Huffy Break Point. The overall bike from Trek, for example, may be heavy, although not as heavy as the Huffy but that is because of the low end components used in the bike and not necessarily the frame.

Finally, the tubes on an aluminum bike are big for a reason. To get the same strength and stiffness...tensile strength is related to strength while modulus describes stiffness...in a tube with the same outside diameter, you'd have to make the walls of an aluminum tube very thick and the frame would weigh more. Old ALAN bikes from the 70s were aluminum but they used the same diameter tube as steel frames. The bikes rode like wet noodles. If you increase the diameter of the tube, you can use less material and get a reasonable strength and stiffness. Gary Klein recognized this is the 70's and introduced his bikes with large diameter tubes. Cannondale and others copied his ideas and the rest is history.
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Old 07-23-14, 12:50 PM
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Okay, thanks for the correction. I have seen aluminun frames with smaller tubing, I understand that the higher end bikes are probably under 40lbs. I guess the cheap bikes were a bad comparison, I'm not going to argue it and look stupid.

Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
You need to go learn something about frame materials. Steel doesn't have a "a low tensile strength", at least not when compared to aluminum. You are confusing "fatigue limit" with tensile strength as well. A steel tube can certainly be bent to the point where it cannot be bent back. Steel and titanium can undergo stress of a certain amplitude (about 1/2 the tensile strength of the steel and titanium and about 0.4 of the tensile strength of the aluminum) under which they will not fail due to fatigue. Aluminum doesn't have that limit and will eventually fail, although the number of cycles needed is on the order of 500 million.

You also need to compare apples to apples, not cheese to chalk. A Huffy Break Point isn't the same as just about any higher end aluminum bike. Even a low end aluminum bike from a major manufacturer like Trek, Specialized or Giant are going to have a much lighter frame than a Huffy Break Point. The overall bike from Trek, for example, may be heavy, although not as heavy as the Huffy but that is because of the low end components used in the bike and not necessarily the frame.

Finally, the tubes on an aluminum bike are big for a reason. To get the same strength and stiffness...tensile strength is related to strength while modulus describes stiffness...in a tube with the same outside diameter, you'd have to make the walls of an aluminum tube very thick and the frame would weigh more. Old ALAN bikes from the 70s were aluminum but they used the same diameter tube as steel frames. The bikes road like wet noodles. If you increase the diameter of the tube, you can use less material and get a reasonable strength and stiffness. Gary Klein recognized this is the 70's and introduced his bikes with large diameter tubes. Cannondale and others copied his ideas and the rest is history.
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Old 07-23-14, 12:56 PM
  #74  
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Originally Posted by Jax Rhapsody View Post
Okay, thanks for the correction. I have seen aluminun frames with smaller tubing, I understand that the higher end bikes are probably under 40lbs. I guess the cheap bikes were a bad comparison, I'm not going to argue it and look stupid.
graceful admission
not long ago pros rode on
light aluminum
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Old 07-23-14, 03:03 PM
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