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Aluminum Is More Elastic Than Steel

Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Aluminum Is More Elastic Than Steel

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Old 11-19-18, 01:13 AM
  #76  
Dean V
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Originally Posted by Spoonrobot View Post
Klein and Cannondale transformed aluminum into almost as good as steel for a significant price increase and lower durability.

This is a big part of why current metal bikes often ride so poorly compared to the frames from the 1990s and earlier. Designing bikes to pass a machine fatigue test has led to oversize tubing and a move away from what made bicycles so great that was learned through decades of trial and error. Now we have a ton of bikes that suck to ride but hey they'll last forever or at least pass 100,000 cycles on this here testing jig

I see this as nothing less than anti-steel propaganda to increase market share for new non-steel frame material. It would not surprise me in the least if this was another example of "Studies show sugar is a super important part of the human diet" (Paid for by a grant from Sugar Industry LLC).
What modern aluminium frames have you ridden any distance that makes you say they ride so poorly?
I have ridden a Giant TCR SLR, Emonda ALR, Allez Sprint, and I think they are very good.
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Old 11-19-18, 02:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Spoonrobot View Post
Preference for ride quality follows a normal distribution and could be measured.
Good luck with that.

Its like asking a colorblind person what color is best.

Last I checked, its damn near impossible to do a proper blind test with bicycles to eliminate placebo effect. (which is rampant in almost every discussion about bicycles)

That said, there are differences between modern mass produced factory frames, and hand built frames built decades earlier.

Most notably, consistency.

For some riders, only custom built frames will suffice.
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Old 11-19-18, 04:35 AM
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It's easy to build a girder of a bike that smashes fatigue tests yet rides nicely - just give it a long seatpost, preferably in carbon. Just won't fit the UCI silhouette, is all.
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Old 11-19-18, 05:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Spoonrobot View Post
Klein and Cannondale transformed aluminum into almost as good as steel for a significant price increase and lower durability.

This is a big part of why current metal bikes often ride so poorly compared to the frames from the 1990s and earlier. Designing bikes to pass a machine fatigue test has led to oversize tubing and a move away from what made bicycles so great that was learned through decades of trial and error. Now we have a ton of bikes that suck to ride but hey they'll last forever or at least pass 100,000 cycles on this here testing jig

I see this as nothing less than anti-steel propaganda to increase market share for new non-steel frame material. It would not surprise me in the least if this was another example of "Studies show sugar is a super important part of the human diet" (Paid for by a grant from Sugar Industry LLC).
That is some crazy conspiratorial blather. Wow. Your fiction writing is oppositional to the industry comprised of thousands of engineers. Did you go to engineering school? Of course not. I did.
I just bought...a warranty replacement. Specialized Allez Elite. It has excellent ride quality and is laterally stiff out of the saddle.
The Allez to let you know began at Specialized as 'a steel bike'. Specialized abandoned steel. They believe Al is better. I agree.
Now after 30 years, the new Allez which derives much of its design DNA from the slightly more aggressive carbon Tarmac, the new Allez is in its '37th' design iteration.
I prefer the performance of this bike to 'any steel bike'.

I likely have owned twice as many steel bikes as you.

Manufacturers can make bikes out of anything they want...marble, lead, copper, steel, cardboard or aluminum. They choose Al because it has the best relationship of density aka strength to weight ratio and low modulus of elasticity. Manufacturers can make all their top bikes out of steel or Ti but they don't. Aluminum is the chosen material...including being known its fatigue resistance as chicken little Dr. I reminds us who better not take an airplane ride if he wants to survive or drive an F150.

People that don't know why materials are chosen for their qualities can speculate until the cows come home because they don't get it and likely never will. Steel is heavy and if you built it light its as whippy as a willow tree in the wind.

Enjoy your steel bike and I am sure you do. But for performance, if not choosing carbon fiber, its Al and not steel or Ti. Find a guy with a beard to make you one of the latter.

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Old 11-19-18, 07:58 AM
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I don't know what the secret combination is to the perfect frame. Materials, material sizes and thickness, geometry, rider weights and riding styles, types of roads ridden on and how they all mash together and more? But I do have some steel frame of various materials all ranging in weight from 1750g to 1900. The most noodly is 1850g Columbus SL "except" the one perfect frame that become my grail frame.

My Olympia frame is only 1510g Columbus EL-os 56x53 fillet brazed. It has the stiffest bb for climbing yet has the perfect amount of spring through the frame feeling rigid or tight at lower speed and just the right amount of spring increasing up to 100kph on down hills.

The only bike slightly stiffer except in the bb is a Deda Zero 55x54 fillet brazed frame but that's 1750g. My only real point is saying there's more to weight in steel frames that makes them noodly.
I've only ridden alloy hybrids that jarr my spine and fatigue my body and one carbon Pinarello that was nice but now sold. I have found my perfect frame in steel. Just my thoughts or disregard

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Old 11-19-18, 09:03 AM
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All bicycles "ride" basically the same. But that is the beauty of it: the more similar different products are, the more their supporters will argue for/against them. It is good though, as it leads to excellent comedy.
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Old 11-19-18, 09:33 AM
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Originally Posted by PepeM View Post
All bicycles "ride" basically the same. But that is the beauty of it: the more similar different products are, the more their supporters will argue for/against them. It is good though, as it leads to excellent comedy.
I would just love to see some blinded ratings if someone could figure out how to do it. My bet is not one in ten aficionados would know rigidity or compliance from Shinola, at least within the range discussed here.
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Old 11-19-18, 02:26 PM
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Originally Posted by MoAlpha View Post
I would just love to see some blinded ratings if someone could figure out how to do it. My bet is not one in ten aficionados would know rigidity or compliance from Shinola, at least within the range discussed here.
How a bike sounds over bumps is part of the equation as well.
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Old 11-19-18, 02:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Campag4life View Post
How a bike sounds over bumps is part of the equation as well.
Certainly one of many reasons why a properly blinded test would be difficult. I have a Ti frame with oversize tubes, rolling on 40mm tires, which makes running over a chewing gum spot an audible event.
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Old 11-19-18, 02:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Campag4life View Post
How a bike sounds over bumps is part of the equation as well.
True. My TCR has external cables and one of the things I like about it is that it is absolutely noise/rattle free.
No drumming from the frame either.
However it does make a cool noise when the water off the front wheel hits the down tube on a wet road :-)
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Old 11-19-18, 02:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Racing Dan View Post
Why do you believe that? To me its weird ppl have such trouble believing a steel frame can alter properties with use.
AFAIK, nobody has ever put forward a plausible metallurgical explanation for the purported "softening" of steel frames.

Im sure all of you are perfectly willing to acknowledge steel frames can and do crack on occasion. Do you really believe such frames are exactly the same up until the very moment they fail. Of course not.
Failure is not the same as softening. Steel frames will fail for a number of reasons, but if routine "softening" is a precursor to failure, we should see evidence of this. If "softening" is a real phenomenon, we should be able to quantify it, e.g. measuring frame stiffness when new, and after use, especially if the rider perceives that the frame has gone "soft."

I'm not aware of any such study, but I'm open to evidence if you can provide some.

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Old 11-19-18, 03:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Campag4life View Post
How a bike sounds over bumps is part of the equation as well.
Interesting you say that-- I'm not dissing steel to think alloy bikes may have over time achieved the sort of 'comfort' we associate with our vintage steelies. I doubt we've eclipsed the cromo 'standard' with our latest alloy designs, although that probably easily can be said of CF frames. A lot of what I feel is based quite literally on... hindsight, and, my bike seems comfortable. Nevertheless, there is a sort of bump in the road -- can't say more about it as I only know it when I hit it -- but, it's a jolt in the bars that's so intense and abrupt it's almost like my wrists had ears that were suddenly deafened by the clang huge bell, so loud as to cause instant pain... like running into a wall. I put a 28 on the front and have some gel on the bars with a couple of wraps because of it. My alloy rig has CF forks with an aluminum steerer tube but it also has a pretty tall 220mm tapered head tube which imagine probably would be just as stiff if it was made of steel. I had grab-ons on the bars of the old Trek that I had for touring years ago so, it's not like it had zero issues with steel. I think part of the difference in ride might be that my old steel road bikes had much longer wheel bases but, I don't see that as a matter of material choice.

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Old 11-19-18, 04:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Campag4life View Post
People that don't know why materials are chosen for their qualities can speculate until the cows come home because they don't get it and likely never will. Steel is heavy and if you built it light its as whippy as a willow tree in the wind.

Enjoy your steel bike and I am sure you do. But for performance, if not choosing carbon fiber, its Al and not steel or Ti. Find a guy with a beard to make you one of the latter.
1- Yes steel is heavier than aluminum, typically. No it isnt as whippy as a willow tree in the wind if built light. 'Light' is relative, as its a heavier material. Of course, if you build an aluminum frame with tubes that arent overly massice(stiff) and it too will be whippy as a willy tree in the wind. Kinda true for both materials.
But this really isnt why I responded.

2- I have seen you comment on guys with beards when it comes to titanium and steel frames. Whats the deal there? Are you evoking some sort of stereotype imagery that is meant to be insulting? Based on your posts, I am guessing so, but cant figure it out since the 3 steel framebuilders I have met are all beardless.
Would love to know why the comment should be insulting because its just nothing right now.
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Old 11-19-18, 09:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Spoonrobot View Post




There's the world you experience, the world you idealize and the world as it actually is.

The amount of engineering invested in the intellectual property related to aluminum is literally, stratospheric… and, a lot of those engineers love cycling, one end result of which was... scandium for bicycle frames... just a dream I'm sure and it is amazing but mainly as a wall decoration because in my opinion, it's a bit too brittle for bicycle frames.
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Old 11-20-18, 05:34 AM
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Originally Posted by McBTC View Post
Interesting you say that-- I'm not dissing steel to think alloy bikes may have over time achieved the sort of 'comfort' we associate with our vintage steelies. I doubt we've eclipsed the cromo 'standard' with our latest alloy designs, although that probably easily can be said of CF frames. A lot of what I feel is based quite literally on... hindsight, and, my bike seems comfortable. Nevertheless, there is a sort of bump in the road -- can't say more about it as I only know it when I hit it -- but, it's a jolt in the bars that's so intense and abrupt it's almost like my wrists had ears that were suddenly deafened by the clang huge bell, so loud as to cause instant pain... like running into a wall. I put a 28 on the front and have some gel on the bars with a couple of wraps because of it. My alloy rig has CF forks with an aluminum steerer tube but it also has a pretty tall 220mm tapered head tube which imagine probably would be just as stiff if it was made of steel. I had grab-ons on the bars of the old Trek that I had for touring years ago so, it's not like it had zero issues with steel. I think part of the difference in ride might be that my old steel road bikes had much longer wheel bases but, I don't see that as a matter of material choice.
I think part of the problem is when it comes to comparing the 'venerable ride of steel' with other materials...again, I have owned 30 steel bikes, some believe this ride quality is the holy grail. They place this metric above all else. They love the springiness of steel. How the bike feels when riding. And then you have the performance guys. I am reminded of the people who in years past loved the ride of a Lincoln or Cadillac. They loved the compliance and 'springiness' aka under damped quality of the ride that was engineered for this target demographic. Meanwhile, Porsche ownership on the opposite end of the spectrum was alive and well.
I believe that is what we have here. In years past really predating carbon fiber where tube shapes were learned so much about, back in the day of the famous or infamous Vitus Al frame with its whippy quality, Al could be construed as a flimsy material. After all, of the four bicycle materials, Al has the lowest modulus of elasticity. Its the most flexible material of all of them. So an Al bike can be made flexible and light when tube shape and size was closer to that of steel. Carbon fiber came along and engineers started with straight section carbon tubes and even lugged straight tubes on the Look 555 I owned in the early 2000's, but then computer analysis...Look was on the vanguard of the this with asymmetric tube shape and even asymmetric carbon weave with anisotropic bending stiffness, so much was learned about section modulus and tube shape. This is what catapulted Al to a higher level. An Aluminum bike can be engineered like my new Specialized Allez with a 'springy' quality...feeling alive as the video states which is true, BUT, with greater lateral stiffness, much stiffer front end and lower weight than steel. So why can't this same technology be applied to Steel? Steel can't be formed as readily because of its higher modulus and yield strength compared to Al. In summary, you are stuck with more uniform tubing sections that you can create with Al and one can never make a steel bike as stiff in the desirable places as Al without making the weight disparity between steel and Al even greater.

Now, do you need a heavy science background to understand the above? Not sure. Moment of inertia and differential bending in perpendicular planes is based upon section modulus which needs to be asymmetric. Steel is more uniform, and Al is not. Ti is in the same trap. Not so with Al and Carbon fiber, what sets them free.

Here's the thing. A big company like Specialized or Trek or Cannondale understand the above implicitly. These are engineering based companies. These companies aren't comprised of artisan's, but guys who understand physics. This isn't romantic, it is fact based. These companies don't want to make heavier bikes for guys who love a springy ride quality. These companies make performance bicycles, the lightest bikes with the stiffness in the places that make them the fastest with 'an eye toward ride quality' but it isn't the 'be all' as with steel loyalist's who are less performance oriented. They don't want to make a 1960 Cadillac or Lincoln. They prefer to make a modern Porsche for guys who care about riding fast, including an old guy like me. Honestly, my Roubaix takes the bumps better than any steel bike I have ever owned. It is lighter, more laterally stiff and faster. Same with my Allez although carbon wins in terms of overall performance including ride quality.

When it comes to ride quality btw, some like it rough. Believe it or not. I tend to like my tires pumped up pretty hard. I want to feel the road. I prefer a Porsche to a Cadillac.
So people are different and have 'different priorities' in terms of what matters.

Moreover, the 'the industry has spoken' Almost no steel bikes. Steel dissolved in Europe even before steel started to disappear in the US. The industry has spoken 'for a reason'. It is based upon what people want including me. Do I have a beef against steel bikes? No, ride what you like. But for my money, I want a very light, laterally stiff and reasonably but perhaps not nth degree compliant 'springy' ride quality, I prefer a planted controlled ride for best possible control of the bike when hammering and that is precisely what big brand bike companies engineer and sell for guys like me and of course even better riders.

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Old 11-20-18, 08:14 AM
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Lighter bikes tend to roll over bumps easier, another point to consider.

Even the weight of water bottles becomes noticeable, on a light bike. (10KG or less)

Heavy bikes tend to plod along and over, if there is some flex, it can be a great combination, similar ride quality that older American body on frame cars had.

My deceased crown vic had a plush ride, not fast, but built for comfort.

An older fellow from Trinidad said, "damn son, this thing rides like a Rolls Royce". I just shrugged, and said, I wouldn't know.

My steel folder brings back those memories every time I ride it.

Its damn slow too.
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Old 11-20-18, 10:35 AM
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Some may cringe when it comes to this simple test but it still resonates with me-- facing the side of the bike with the closest crank down and step on the pedal while holding the seat and stem. A good sized bike is pretty easy to flex (if it's a road bike), whether the frame is steel, alloy or CF... don't know about Ti but I'm sure there will be plenty of compliance that's noticeable, given the travel of the bottom bracket.
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Old 11-20-18, 10:50 AM
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Given that there obviously is a market for quality-build steel bikes and thinking 853 certainly ought to be considered magical enough in my estimation and you'd think would satisfy the expectations of any loyalist... but, understanding cromo does corrode-- I'm surprised 953 never made much of splash. I can only guess that while a steely market surely must exist, it must be either be very small or large but easy enough to satisfy that Trek's 520 is about all that's needed.
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Old 11-20-18, 10:56 AM
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Originally Posted by SHBR View Post
Lighter bikes tend to roll over bumps easier, another point to consider.
.
They do? I've never noticed that. But my "light" bike is aluminum, "heavy" is steel ... maybe it's the carbon fiber that makes it seem so?
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Old 11-20-18, 03:13 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnDThompson View Post
AFAIK, nobody has ever put forward a plausible metallurgical explanation for the purported "softening" of steel frames.



Failure is not the same as softening. Steel frames will fail for a number of reasons, but if routine "softening" is a precursor to failure, we should see evidence of this. If "softening" is a real phenomenon, we should be able to quantify it, e.g. measuring frame stiffness when new, and after use, especially if the rider perceives that the frame has gone "soft."

I'm not aware of any such study, but I'm open to evidence if you can provide some.
Yeah, and steel springs never wear out ... oh wait ... they do? ... :-)
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Old 11-20-18, 04:13 PM
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I ride steel bikes.
I ride aluminum bikes.
I've owned a couple carbon fiber bikes in the past, but no longer own them.

I think aluminum bike frames got a bad rap in the early '90's when there were these super-stiff wide tubes out there on Canondales, Kleins, and the like. This characterization of aluminum bike frames has stuck, whether it's fair or not.

Personally I don't find my aluminum bikes that harsh. Yet my favorite bikes of all time, going back decades, are all steel bikes. I'm not sure how much of this is in my head vs. reality, but it saves me a ton of cash to just fix up 1980's roadies instead of buying modern bikes or framesets, so I might as well stick with it and be a half-second slower on my climbs (which no one is timing any way).

Steel is real! Maybe.
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Old 11-20-18, 04:29 PM
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A couple of counterpoints.

Notoriously noodly Vitus frames won lots of races. Sean Kelly alone won hundreds of pro races on Vitus. Although, in fairness, some of those were won on faux-Vitus by Sabliere, which were far lighter (5.5kg complete with pedals, clips, straps, bottle cages) and even more flexible than a Vitus. Kelly was a sprinter. Exactly the guy you'd think would want a stiff frame. He won on what they gave him.

Originally Cegedur-Pechiney did not want to assemble frames at all. They wanted to sell kits to bike shops who would do some simple cutting and gluing. Almost no one took them up on that. The basic design was simplified, dumbed down, and overbuilt so that bike shop guys could have done it. Part of the original sales pitch was racers trash lots of frames in a season, makes sense to put them on an easily replaced cheapie. Original pricing would have had them at about half the price of basic volume produced 531 frames and a small fraction of prestige frames. This is back in 1973. Not many here know much about what was going on in 1973, which is the standard by which a Vitus should be judged.

No one, and I mean no one, not myself, not Saint Sheldon, not Jobst Brandt, knows much about what role frame stiffness versus flexibility plays in operating a bike at speed. Stiffness has a big big role in sales and it is a darn good thing most of what the ad copy says about stiffness has never been mentioned to the engineers.

As for longevity I know two local Vitus 979s, one late 70s, one early 80s, that are still in use. Both owners keep expecting the bike to die on the next ride but are always disappointed. Which is not to say aluminum does not break. Up above some commenter said something about are you going to quit using aluminum parts because aluminum breaks. Then gave a list of usually aluminum parts. I've broken all of those. Some are better considered as service parts. Rims and handlebars are definitely service parts.

They all break. Titanium and carbon break rather a lot, mostly because they require superhuman perfection in their construction and errors slip in. The more it costs the less likely the owner is going to talk about it.

Most bikes never see much use at all. Most bikes are purchased as garage ornaments. Few actually ride the things. Those that do ride a lot tend to own a lot of bikes which cuts down on the wear and tear each bike sees. If everyone rode the bike they bought no manufacturer could afford the warranty charges.

Some seem to be catching on that the design possibilities of carbon titanium aluminum are very broad. What can be designed in steel is even more various. And if you can dream it up you can easily build it in steel. The number of people who have ridden steel bikes that were not mass produced, or did not conform tightly to a genre (80s Italian) is real small.
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Old 11-20-18, 06:03 PM
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Interestingly, Trek's steel 520 for 2019 comes with an aluminum fork...


Ok, the most controversial change to the Trek 520 is the new aluminium fork. Really, a steel frame and aluminium fork?

Aluminium is a dirty word in the bike travel world, but the thing is – broken aluminium forks that are designed for the purpose of touring are about as rare as hen’s teeth. Almost all European touring bikes employ aluminium forks on their builds, and it follows that if this material was inherently unreliable or dangerous, manufacturers would’ve switched back to steel over a decade ago.

From the outset, it might seem strange that Trek chose an aluminium fork for the 520, especially when it causes concern for some. I can’t comment on the precise reason why Trek would have chosen aluminium over steel, but it seems logical to me that they’ve managed to achieve increased fork stiffness with a tidy weight reduction of 318 grams.

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Old 11-20-18, 06:27 PM
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It could be that the trend to larger tires on road bikes somewhat eliminates whatever comparative difference in ride comfort that a frame and even a fork of various materials can be expected to provide.
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Old 11-20-18, 07:12 PM
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My $.02 . I have 5 steel bikes , each with different types of steel. One aluminum bike and one CF bike. Been riding steel for 50 years, only last year did I get a AL bike and this year a CF bike. Other than weight differences, the only the tires changed the ride quality. All my steel bikes , now sport 25 or 28 mm tires. My AL bike came with 25 mm and the CF bike has 28 mm tires. I though my CF bike was the most compfy, till I put on a set of 28 mm on one of the steel bikes, then the steel bike became real compfy. All bikes are properly sized . KB
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