Go Back  Bike Forums > Bike Forums > General Cycling Discussion
Reload this Page >

Chromoly Steel versus Aluminum Frames?

General Cycling Discussion Have a cycling related question or comment that doesn't fit in one of the other specialty forums? Drop on in and post in here! When possible, please select the forum above that most fits your post!

Chromoly Steel versus Aluminum Frames?

Reply

Old 07-12-14, 12:38 PM
  #1  
mountainwalker
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 120
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Chromoly Steel versus Aluminum Frames?

While Chromoly steel bike frames offer a smoother ride, steel rusts. Given the choice for an around-town errand bike and light commuter, and all other things being equal, like price, which would you prefer?
mountainwalker is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 07-12-14, 01:30 PM
  #2  
Retro Grouch 
Senior Member
 
Retro Grouch's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: St Peters, Missouri
Posts: 28,803

Bikes: Catrike 559 I own some others but they don't get ridden very much.

Mentioned: 7 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 963 Post(s)
Originally Posted by mountainwalker View Post
While Chromoly steel bike frames offer a smoother ride, steel rusts. Given the choice for an around-town errand bike and light commuter, and all other things being equal, like price, which would you prefer?
I'd pick whichever one came in the color I liked better.
__________________
My greatest fear is all of my kids standing around my coffin and talking about "how sensible" dad was.
Retro Grouch is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 07-12-14, 02:11 PM
  #3  
Darth Lefty 
Disco Infiltrator
 
Darth Lefty's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2013
Location: Orangevale CA
Posts: 8,335

Bikes: '76 Paramount, '98 C'Dale XR800, '04 Burley Samba, '17 DB Clutch

Mentioned: 38 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1012 Post(s)
Having a low-end modern aluminum bike and a high-end obsolete steel one, I think ride quality is first a matter of tires, and as far as the frame matters, it's probably more how well-designed it is, rather than what it's made of.

Rust is why humans invented paint.
Darth Lefty is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 07-12-14, 02:33 PM
  #4  
linnefaulk
Senior Member
 
linnefaulk's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2014
Location: florida
Posts: 1,804

Bikes: 1990 Trek 820, 1995 Trek 1220

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
I'd pick whichever one came in the color I liked better.
+1

i cannot find any rust of my 24 year old bike.
linnefaulk is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 07-12-14, 02:38 PM
  #5  
chaadster
Thread Killer
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Posts: 9,298

Bikes: '15 Kinesis Racelight 4S, '76 Motebecane Gran Jubilée, '17 Dedacciai Gladiatore2, '12 Breezer Venturi, '09 Dahon Mariner, '05 Novara Big Buzz, '12 Mercier Nano, '95 DeKerf Team

Mentioned: 19 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1007 Post(s)
Originally Posted by linnefaulk View Post
+1

i cannot find any rust of my 24 year old bike.
+1

I have a rust free 38 year old bike.
chaadster is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 07-12-14, 05:34 PM
  #6  
Rowan
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 16,369
Mentioned: 97 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1244 Post(s)
The rust issues are overstated, unless you are a complete idiot and leave your bike outside for the entire decade. There might be issues with salted roads in winter, but most people who live in those parts don't ride that often then, anyway. There are other components on any bike -- including aluminium and CF ones -- that are likely to corrode/rust before the frame, with the most exposed being the chain, then the cogs on the rear, and various bolts unless they are stainless steel (which mostly they aren't).

The only way to determine if a bike has a good ride is to test ride it over the same sorts of surfaces you intend to ride normally. Personally, aluminium doesn't do that much for me -- my one road bike made of that material left me feeling quite beaten up after a century, and my steel ones haven't. But then I don't dismiss aluminium as a future option, especially if I was looking for a bike to go racing with (because aluminium frames generally are cheaper).

How long a frame lasts also is a non-issue with most modern bikes these days. Aluminium frames and the materials (alloys) generally are designed to ensure they will last pretty well the lifetime of the user (yes, always exceptions, but not that many).
Rowan is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 07-12-14, 08:49 PM
  #7  
OldsCOOL
Senior Member
 
OldsCOOL's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: northern michigan
Posts: 12,293

Bikes: '77 Colnago Super, '76 Fuji The Finest, '88 Cannondale Criterium, '86 Trek 760, '87 Miyata 712

Mentioned: 12 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 374 Post(s)
My choice...for me....if I commuted on bike...aluminum. Responsive and light. Tires would be another subject...for me.
OldsCOOL is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 07-12-14, 08:52 PM
  #8  
martianone
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Northern VT
Posts: 2,090

Bikes: recumbent & upright

Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 50 Post(s)
For a while, I had both an AL frame and steel frame road bike. They both had 25 mm tires, but different wheel sets, the steel bike was custom fit. AL was quite comfortable, steel frame is more so. However not sure if the comfort is due tires, bike fit, frame material or geometry.
Have ridden steel frame bike year around in all sorts of weather, not concerned about them rusting. However, after riding in the rain or wet weather, when done - I raise the front wheel up so bike is perpendicular to ground to let water run out of the frame limber holes. I also might hang bike up by it's front wheel.
martianone is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 07-12-14, 09:44 PM
  #9  
NormanF
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 5,725
Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 138 Post(s)
They're both good tubing materials that will last. Properly taken care of, both a steel and an alloy bike will outlast you.
NormanF is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 07-13-14, 10:14 AM
  #10  
nfmisso
Nigel
 
nfmisso's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: San Jose, CA
Posts: 2,870

Bikes: 1980s and 1990s steel: CyclePro, Nishiki, Schwinn, SR, Trek........

Mentioned: 10 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 338 Post(s)
I like chrome-moly and 531.
nfmisso is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 07-13-14, 10:59 AM
  #11  
WrightVanCleve
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2014
Location: Dayton OH
Posts: 95

Bikes: 2013 Trek One Series

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
I commuted for years in all weather on a steel frame. Still have the frame, still not rusted. Only thing I didn't like was it was noodly when cornering hard, otherwise the ride was very comfortable and I felt I could go forever on that thing.
WrightVanCleve is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 07-13-14, 01:21 PM
  #12  
tcarl
tcarl
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: St. Louis, MO
Posts: 526

Bikes: Roark, Waterford 1100, 1987 Schwinn Paramount, Nishiki Professional, Bottecchia, 2 Scattantes, 3 Cannondale touring bikes, mtn. bike, cyclocross, hybrid, 1940's era Schwinn

Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 19 Post(s)
You are asking about an around-town errand bike and light commuter. Since I'd think most people would tend to buy a less expensive bike, rather than spend thousands of dollars on a bike for this purpose, I'd recommend aluminum. (If you're planning on spending big dollars, ignore everything else I say.) In lower price ranges, you'll have a much greater selection of bikes to choose from in aluminum. Also, higher end, and even mid-range steel bikes ride nicely and usually to rarely to never have rust issues, lower end steel will be (very) heavy, not ride as well, and be (more) prone to rust. I have a $200.00 aluminum frame which is very comfortable.
tcarl is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 07-13-14, 03:12 PM
  #13  
bikeguyinvenice
A tiny member
 
bikeguyinvenice's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Riverview, Florida, U.S.A.
Posts: 202

Bikes: 2013 Specialized Allez

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Aluminum = Lighter faster better.
bikeguyinvenice is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 07-15-14, 11:57 AM
  #14  
delcrossv 
Senior Member
 
delcrossv's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: Scalarville
Posts: 1,458
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Originally Posted by bikeguyinvenice View Post
Aluminum = Lighter faster better.
Not necessarily. A low grade aluminum frame could easily be heavier than a hi grade steel one. Heavier, slower, worse.
__________________
Lightning P-38 / M5 M-Racer/Ryan Vanguard
delcrossv is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 07-15-14, 12:32 PM
  #15  
Tundra_Man 
The Fat Guy In The Back
 
Tundra_Man's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Sioux Falls, SD
Posts: 1,995

Bikes: '81 Panasonic Sport, '02 Giant Boulder SE, '08 Felt S32, '10 Diamondback Insight RS, '10 Windsor Clockwork, '15 Kestrel Evoke 3.0

Mentioned: 42 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 208 Post(s)


After we've exhausted this topic, we'll move on to discuss which political party is the best.
__________________
Visit me at the Tundra Man Workshop
Tundra_Man is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 07-15-14, 12:43 PM
  #16  
mountainwalker
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 120
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Originally Posted by delcrossv View Post
Not necessarily. A low grade aluminum frame could easily be heavier than a hi grade steel one. Heavier, slower, worse.
Which grades of steel should you look for in steel bikes, and which types/grades of aluminum in aluminum bikes?
mountainwalker is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 07-15-14, 12:46 PM
  #17  
RPK79
Custom User Title
 
RPK79's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2013
Location: SE MN
Posts: 11,213

Bikes: Fuji Roubaix Pro & Quintana Roo Kilo

Mentioned: 40 Post(s)
Tagged: 1 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2836 Post(s)
Buy both. Then bash them together until one bends. Return the bent one.
RPK79 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 07-15-14, 01:03 PM
  #18  
BlazingPedals
Senior Member
 
BlazingPedals's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Middle of da Mitten
Posts: 10,459

Bikes: Trek 7500, RANS V-Rex, Optima Baron, Velokraft NoCom, M-5 Carbon Highracer, homebuilt recumbent

Mentioned: 8 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 682 Post(s)
Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
There might be issues with salted roads in winter, but most people who live in those parts don't ride that often then, anyway.
Yes, slushy salted roads are the big issue for a steel bike. My old Trek Sierra started rusting out after only 2-3 years, all around the BB area. I guess I should have applied rust-proofing to the inside when it was new. Chains would get destroyed in a matter of weeks during the late winter/early spring; I could oil the chain heavily, ride to work, and by the time I got home it would be rinsed clean and red. The requirements for its replacement included aluminum frame and top-routed cables. If not for salt, I think I'd prefer the steel as being stronger and less susceptible to fatigue.
BlazingPedals is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 07-15-14, 01:18 PM
  #19  
Retro Grouch 
Senior Member
 
Retro Grouch's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: St Peters, Missouri
Posts: 28,803

Bikes: Catrike 559 I own some others but they don't get ridden very much.

Mentioned: 7 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 963 Post(s)
Originally Posted by mountainwalker View Post
Which grades of steel should you look for in steel bikes, and which types/grades of aluminum in aluminum bikes?
I'm betting that most buyers are looking at the wrong end of the equation.

The purpose of using a stronger alloy isn't to produce a stronger bike frame. If the base line frame is strong enough, making it even stronger would be pointless. Manufacturers use stronger alloys so they can make a bike frame that is equally strong but weighs less.
__________________
My greatest fear is all of my kids standing around my coffin and talking about "how sensible" dad was.
Retro Grouch is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 07-15-14, 01:27 PM
  #20  
fietsbob 
coprolite
 
fietsbob's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: NW,Oregon Coast
Posts: 35,842

Bikes: 8

Mentioned: 132 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 5144 Post(s)
Both metals Oxidize, it's called Corrosion in everything But steel and Iron .. only then the corrosion is called Rust.
fietsbob is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 07-15-14, 01:53 PM
  #21  
ksisler
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 1,718
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 22 Post(s)
Originally Posted by BlazingPedals View Post
Yes, slushy salted roads are the big issue for a steel bike. My old Trek Sierra started rusting out after only 2-3 years, all around the BB area. I guess I should have applied rust-proofing to the inside when it was new. Chains would get destroyed in a matter of weeks during the late winter/early spring; I could oil the chain heavily, ride to work, and by the time I got home it would be rinsed clean and red. The requirements for its replacement included aluminum frame and top-routed cables. If not for salt, I think I'd prefer the steel as being stronger and less susceptible to fatigue.
'Pedals; The rust out at the bottom bracket (assuming you don't have a frame with cutouts in the bottom bracket) indicates that there is a leak somewhere such that salted water from the road is getting into the inside of the frame. Most likely spots are the little slot at the top of the seat post where the clamp is, the top of the headset around the stem entrance, and around the crank spindle at the cups. All of these areas should have had some axle grease applied to them during assembly to seal the gaps and keep water out. A second causal factor can also be not fitting a set of fenders for winter riding. Without fenders, the water from the road has a lot of opportunities to get sloshed onto the above mentioned areas. With these areas attended to, you should be able to ride a full month between major cleanups. Of course putting FrameSaver into the frame during initial build has a lot of long term merit also.

Regarding the chain; I am reasoned to guess that you need to do more than apply some oil to it. If it is washing off in a single day's commute, then the oil being used is not worth a damn for that purpose. Pick something more viable and see if it improves it. Might look for products specifically intended for bicycle chains.

Hope that helps (and apologize in advance if the above sounds preachy or condescending as its not so intended)

/K
ksisler is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 07-15-14, 02:22 PM
  #22  
delcrossv 
Senior Member
 
delcrossv's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: Scalarville
Posts: 1,458
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
I'm betting that most buyers are looking at the wrong end of the equation.

The purpose of using a stronger alloy isn't to produce a stronger bike frame. If the base line frame is strong enough, making it even stronger would be pointless. Manufacturers use stronger alloys so they can make a bike frame that is equally strong but weighs less.
Yep. Hence the drive for double (or triple) butted tubing. Stong enough, but lighter.
__________________
Lightning P-38 / M5 M-Racer/Ryan Vanguard
delcrossv is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 07-15-14, 02:32 PM
  #23  
delcrossv 
Senior Member
 
delcrossv's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: Scalarville
Posts: 1,458
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Originally Posted by mountainwalker View Post
Which grades of steel should you look for in steel bikes, and which types/grades of aluminum in aluminum bikes?
Only part of the answer (see above). There's a bunch of tubing manufacturers- Reynolds, Columbus etc. and a bunch of different aluminum alloys and heat treatments.

For a start: Reynolds 531 for steel and 6065 for aluminum. Either is strong enough to be made into a light ,stiff frame.
__________________
Lightning P-38 / M5 M-Racer/Ryan Vanguard
delcrossv is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 07-15-14, 02:33 PM
  #24  
Wilfred Laurier
Señor Member
 
Wilfred Laurier's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 4,025
Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 223 Post(s)
Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
Both metals Oxidize, it's called Corrosion in everything But steel and Iron .. only then the corrosion is called Rust.
however
the oxide layer on aluminum
protects the metal underneath from oxidising
unless it is rubbed off

while our orange friend rust
continues eating the iron even after the first layer has been converted
Wilfred Laurier is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 07-15-14, 02:35 PM
  #25  
Wilfred Laurier
Señor Member
 
Wilfred Laurier's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 4,025
Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 223 Post(s)
Originally Posted by delcrossv View Post
For a start: Reynolds 531 for steel...
great advice for anyone buying a bike in 1975

Originally Posted by delcrossv View Post
...and 6065 for aluminum.
or anyone ordering custom drawn tubing not normally made into bike frames
Wilfred Laurier is offline  
Reply With Quote

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us Archive Advertising Cookie Policy Privacy Statement Terms of Service