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Is steel as comfortable as titanium on long rides?

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Old 09-10-18, 12:51 PM
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jimmymcg
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Is steel as comfortable as titanium on long rides?

I own a giant defy advanced. It's carbon and I thought it was a fairly comfortable bike. That was until I started doing audax rides. It's still good for the 200km spins but anything over that i feel battered. It's worth mentioning that I'm from ireland and the road surface can be pretty rough.

I was looking at getting more comfort so I was all for getting a titanium frame but I came across an article online that said steel is just at comfortable as titanium but is only slightly heavy.

Do any of you have any experience on this? Should I just stay with me carbon frame?

I'm really interested with the "fairlight strael".
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Old 09-10-18, 12:57 PM
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Frame design is probably a bigger factor than material, per se. Most carbon frames tend to be stiff because that is what customers (think they) want.

If you can get very high-quality wider tires and run them at a lower pressure, you can probably make what you have significantly more comfortable.

Feeling battered after 200km isn't surprising.

I ride steel, FWIW.

I have something like this:
https://fairlightcycles.com/strael/s...v=7516fd43adaa

I don't know anything about Fairlight, but that looks like a great deal. A steal, really. (My Irish wife says the roads here are worse.)

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Old 09-10-18, 01:42 PM
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Originally Posted by jimmymcg View Post
I own a giant defy advanced. It's carbon and I thought it was a fairly comfortable bike. That was until I started doing audax rides. It's still good for the 200km spins but anything over that i feel battered. It's worth mentioning that I'm from ireland and the road surface can be pretty rough.

I was looking at getting more comfort so I was all for getting a titanium frame but I came across an article online that said steel is just at comfortable as titanium but is only slightly heavy.

Do any of you have any experience on this? Should I just stay with me carbon frame?

I'm really interested with the "fairlight strael".
A material doesn't have a specific ride feel. The practical realities of any given material will constrain a bike's design to some extent, but when you buy a bike, you're buying a design more than you're buying a material.

As far as the road situation, I haven't ridden in Ireland, but I've heard they use a lot of chipseal. What's your tire setup like? That can make a big difference for dealing with non-ideal road surfaces.
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Old 09-10-18, 01:49 PM
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I've ridden my Litespeed Vortex (titanium) as well as my All City Mr. Pink (steel) for 200K distances. Mr. Pink is more comfortable on rougher roads but that is likely due to the 28mm tires as compared to the 23mm tires on the Litespeed. The Litespeed is the better climber as it has better gearing and is lighter. The longest I've ever rode my Trek Multitrack 700 (steel) is 72 miles. It is a very comfortable ride on 35mm tires, but dang it is heavy! I have had to walk it up some of the steeper hills in Wisconsin.
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Old 09-10-18, 01:59 PM
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Tire size and pressure have a greater influence on ride comfort than frame material. Are you using the widest tires your bike will take? Are you running an appropriate pressure in your existing tires?

And going back to your original question, in 40 years of riding, I've tried steel, aluminum, "scandium" (7000 series AL with a touch of Sc), carbon and TI. Most of my bikes have been steel, but I'm currently on one steel bike and one scandium.

I just didn't get along with the carbon bike for various reasons.
The aluminum bikes were all unbearably harsh-riding.
The Ti bike climbed incredibly well, had the smoothest ride I've ever experienced and scared the living daylights out of me on descents - WAY too flexy.
My steel bikes have ranged from sluggish and "dead" feeling to "Sell my clothes, I'm going to Heaven!"
The scandium bike is the closest yet to two-wheeled perfection. Light, fast, smooth, always does exactly what I want it to do. Now if it would just take 47mm tires and fenders...

YMMV, but that's been my experience.

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ps - yes I know I spelled ALUMINIUM and TYRES incorrectly.
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Old 09-10-18, 02:41 PM
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Thanks guys.

I used to run 23mm, thinking that wider equals slower, but I recently moved to 25mm at 90psi. I noticed the extra comfort instantly.

The next step is to go for 28mm which is probably the most my bike can take.

My last ride was on was the "mile failte 1200km". A few of the guys I was riding with were raving about their titanium bikes.

I do intend on doing more long rides or even longer so wanted to know my best options.
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Old 09-10-18, 03:19 PM
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Originally Posted by jimmymcg View Post
I used to run 23mm, thinking that wider equals slower, but I recently moved to 25mm at 90psi. I noticed the extra comfort instantly.

The next step is to go for 28mm which is probably the most my bike can take.
If you're feeling rattled from a rough surface, wider and squishier is likely to be faster, since less energy is being wasted rumbling the bike+rider.

If you're not having serious issues with punctures, it's equally if not more important to run supple high-performance tires. Good racing tires tend to ride nicer than beefier or lower-end tires, and they roll very well even when pumped quite soft.

What's your bike+rider weight? That informs the appropriate tire pressure.
I've got one bike on 25mm tires, ~185lb bike+rider. I sometimes use over 90PSI in the rear tire for smooth roads, but if I was doing loads of harsh chipseal I'd definitely go lower.
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Old 09-10-18, 04:49 PM
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Originally Posted by rando_couche View Post
Tire size and pressure have a greater influence on ride comfort than frame material.
...
The aluminum bikes were all unbearably harsh-riding.
The Ti bike climbed incredibly well, had the smoothest ride I've ever experienced and scared the living daylights out of me on descents - WAY too flexy.
My steel bikes have ranged from sluggish and "dead" feeling to "Sell my clothes, I'm going to Heaven!"
The scandium bike is the closest yet to two-wheeled perfection. Light, fast, smooth, always does exactly what I want it to do.
Note that your "scandium" bicycle is actually almost entirely aluminum with a slight amount of scandium added to make a stronger alloy. Typically the alloy is only about 0.5% scandium.

I agree that tire size, pressure, and construction have the most effect on comfort with frame geometry second and both having far more importance than frame material.

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Old 09-10-18, 06:48 PM
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It's curious, I've been reading for years about how the material the frame was made of influenced how comfortable the ride was.

I've read in this forum several times the tyres make a way bigger difference and I agree, since I've passed from an old Aluminium bike with carbon fork to a 2014 Cannondale Synapse, which is supposed to be designed to be comfortable and I have to say I didn't notice that much difference I was expecting (and hoping). Going from 23 to 25mm wide tyres properly inflated to the road conditions was a huge difference.

Luckily I do feel the carbon bike is quite faster

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Old 09-11-18, 04:09 PM
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This past April I was riding on some rough chip seal in Texas. I had my folding bike instead of one of my other bikes to save on travel costs (flew Southwest, second checked bag was free), my folding bike has 40mm wide tires. The first day my hands were taking a beating and my GPS kept having battery problems. I think the AA batteries were moving inside the GPS because of the vibration. The first day I had between 55 and 60 psi in the front tire. The second day I dropped the front tire pressure to between 40 and 45 psi. The second day, my hands were happy, my GPS was happy and overall I was much happier. Kept the pressure that low for the rest of the week. On this ride, only the front tire was a bother, I kept my rear tire pressure up where I started with it, probably around 70 to 80 psi. My rear did not have a problem with the chip seal road, the Brooks Conquest saddle helped a lot on that.

My Titanium bike is a touring bike, large thick tubes and steel fork, so it is not applicable to the discussion on comfort for an unladen long distance Titanium audax bike. But I will say that I like the ability to drop my tire pressure on my 37mm tires on my Titanium touring bike and still not have to worry about pinch flats.
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Old 09-11-18, 04:42 PM
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@jimmymcg

I just found this: https://janheine.wordpress.com/2017/...e-steel-bikes/
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Old 09-12-18, 08:35 AM
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If you have not looked at this link, you might want to look at it.
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Old 09-12-18, 06:00 PM
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If I was looking at a steel frame/carbon fork to purchase near your location I'd be all over that Strael 2. Good geometry options.

Currently ride a ti frame and find it pretty incredible. That would be my first material choice for the long rides.

Reilly currently has this frame-only on sale:-
https://www.reillycycleworks.com/col...nt=31495081543

Planet-X has some ti frames also.
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Old 09-13-18, 06:20 AM
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I agree with that JH blog, the big advantage for steel is that it can be customized to exactly what you want. I keep watching for carbon forks that have the features I want, or that can be adapted in some way, and it seems like no carbon fork designer really thinks that the features I want are important. Whereas I can just build a steel fork that has everything I want.

Granted, that costs money, and there is a weight penalty, albeit small. I really don't think that steel is more comfortable. There are definitely carbon bikes that are more comfortable than most steel bikes.
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Old 09-13-18, 07:26 PM
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I ride a ti CX frame most of the time. Once a week I am on an 85 Miyata 1000 touring bike. Steel. The ti frame is splendidly comfortable, nearly the same ride quality at that old Miyata. As for tires affecting ride comfort, absolutely, no question about it. I have experimented a number of time over the years with tire width, composition, pressure and brand. Tires make a huge difference.

I got the ti frame from habcycles.com. Running it with a Surly Cross Check steel fork. Rides very nice. Won't scratch, chip or rust. Pretty much the perfect bike frame.
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Old 09-13-18, 09:33 PM
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Originally Posted by jimmymcg View Post
I own a giant defy advanced. It's carbon and I thought it was a fairly comfortable bike. That was until I started doing audax rides. It's still good for the 200km spins but anything over that i feel battered. It's worth mentioning that I'm from ireland and the road surface can be pretty rough.

I was looking at getting more comfort so I was all for getting a titanium frame but I came across an article online that said steel is just at comfortable as titanium but is only slightly heavy.

Do any of you have any experience on this? Should I just stay with me carbon frame?

I'm really interested with the "fairlight strael".
lots of If's here

If 1, you really like your Defy. If 2 If it really is about tire size pressure vs frame material. If 3, you want to stay light.

Then look at the new 2019 Giant Revolt Advanced Carbon. It is your Defy on steroids! Fitting 700x45 or 650. They also applied the D-fuse Tech to the handlebars.

Will it be better than Steel or Ti? I can't say, but If I apply what everyone says about tires, and put Compass 700C x 44 Snoqualmie Pass TC on the 2019 Giant Revolt Advanced. It seems like a winner here.
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Old 09-14-18, 12:13 PM
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Thanks all. Some interesting points. I'm happy with my bike but I was just looking for a bit more comfortable. It looks like wider tyres will do that.
However, I think I will get a steel bike next as it will give me more options. It doesn't look like titanium is worth the extra money.
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