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Bike frame material rankings!

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Bike frame material rankings!

Old 11-02-22, 10:43 AM
  #51  
PeteHski
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Originally Posted by tFUnK View Post
I see your point and agree that each material (including carbon) tend to conform to certain tube profiles. I guess I would argue that there's more room for creativity (and what the market find acceptable) for the metal bikes. What comes to mind are the custom/weird bespoke steel frames out there to keep things interesting, or the helix tube titanium frame, or even how different a Caad looks from an Allez Sprint. I get there are carbon aero bikes vs. lightweight climbers but to me the fat tubes kind of look similar, especially now that there's a trend towards carbon bikes designed to be both light and aero - Tarmac SL7 comes to mind.
Carbon is easily the most versatile material when it comes to tube profiling. Modern aero bikes only tend to look the same because they are subject to the same laws of aerodynamics and structural mechanics.
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Old 11-02-22, 10:44 AM
  #52  
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Originally Posted by tFUnK View Post
Carbon is nice but they all kind of look the same
Originally Posted by PeteHski View Post
Doesn't that also apply to steel/aluminium/ti bikes too?
I disagree with tFUnK 's statement, since cf can be shaped in all sorts of ways; just look at the Dogma for a striking example.

I think the answer to PeteHski 's question is "no," given that there are three common methods of joining steel tubes for bike frames, and they are each very distinctive; also, aluminum tubes come in different diameters (and shapes -- see hydroformed frame tubes) and, as indyfabz has pointed out, titanium can also be formed into interesting shapes and painted or cerakoted -- the latter finish is very distinctive and different from wet paint.

Really, a statement like "All _____ bikes look alike" seems weird on a bike forum, where most people are a bit more knowledgeable about such things than the general population.
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Old 11-02-22, 10:51 AM
  #53  
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Originally Posted by tFUnK View Post
Carbon is nice but they all kind of look the same ...
I'd say carbon exhibits the greatest variety in appearance, followed by aluminum, then steel, and then titanium.
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Old 11-02-22, 11:05 AM
  #54  
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One important consideration is the frame builder. A frame made by a talented frame maker is going to be more "comfortable" than whatever material is used by a mediocre builder. Material is only one factor. But if the same builder is constructing the frame, I'd be going with a top-of-the-line steel, such as Reynolds 853 for example. Just my opinion, don't think there is one absolute "correct" answer.
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Old 11-02-22, 11:24 AM
  #55  
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Originally Posted by Koyote View Post
I disagree with tFUnK 's statement, since cf can be shaped in all sorts of ways; just look at the Dogma for a striking example.

I think the answer to PeteHski 's question is "no," given that there are three common methods of joining steel tubes for bike frames, and they are each very distinctive; also, aluminum tubes come in different diameters (and shapes -- see hydroformed frame tubes) and, as indyfabz has pointed out, titanium can also be formed into interesting shapes and painted or cerakoted -- the latter finish is very distinctive and different from wet paint.
So you think there's more variation in the generic "look" of steel frames vs carbon? There are also several methods of joining carbon tubes which can look pretty disctinctive eg. Colnago C64. Also plenty of boutique carbon builders around these days if you want something more unique looking.
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Old 11-02-22, 11:47 AM
  #56  
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Originally Posted by PeteHski View Post
So you think there's more variation in the generic "look" of steel frames vs carbon?
I never said that. In fact, I don't have any idea what you mean by a "generic" look of steel frames. That's my point. To anyone who knows much about bike frames, a TIG welded frame looks quite different from a lugged frame. Fillet brazing is a bit lesser-known, and most would mistake it for TIG welding.

Originally Posted by PeteHski View Post
There are also several methods of joining carbon tubes which can look pretty disctinctive eg. Colnago C64. Also plenty of boutique carbon builders around these days if you want something more unique looking.
Yup. To claim that "they all look alike" is ignoring a lot.
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Old 11-02-22, 11:49 AM
  #57  
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Originally Posted by amazinmets73 View Post
Here are mine:

Speed/performance (ideal frame for racing.)

1: Carbon
2: Aluminum
3: Titanium
4: Steel

Comfort:

1: Steel
2: Titanium
3: Carbon
4: Aluminum

Durability:

1: Steel
2: Titanium
3: Aluminum
4: Carbon

Sustainability (environmental impact)

1: Aluminum
2: Steel
3: Titanium
4: Carbon

Opinions?
So, if you assign points to each of your rankings - 4 for 1st place, 1 point for 4th - you end up with steel as the overall winner, taking your considerations into account:
Steel - 12 points
Aluminum, Titanium - 10 points
CF - 8 points

Which works for me perfectly - Comfort and durability are probably my two most important concerns.

Originally Posted by freeranger View Post
One important consideration is the frame builder. A frame made by a talented frame maker is going to be more "comfortable" than whatever material is used by a mediocre builder. Material is only one factor. But if the same builder is constructing the frame, I'd be going with a top-of-the-line steel, such as Reynolds 853 for example. Just my opinion, don't think there is one absolute "correct" answer.
This has always been my hesitation in getting a BikesDirect Mercier bike - Sure, it's nice Reynolds 531 tubing, but if it's put together by a three-year old, it will suck regardless.

Last edited by Chinghis; 11-02-22 at 11:54 AM.
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Old 11-02-22, 12:21 PM
  #58  
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Originally Posted by Chinghis View Post
So, if you assign points to each of your rankings - 4 for 1st place, 1 point for 4th - you end up with steel as the overall winner ...
I made a similar list for chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla ice cream, and chocolate got the most points. Proof positive chocolate is the best.
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Old 11-02-22, 12:57 PM
  #59  
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Originally Posted by tomato coupe View Post
I made a similar list for chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla ice cream, and chocolate got the most points. Proof positive chocolate is the best.
Hope you like chocolate.
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Old 11-02-22, 03:31 PM
  #60  
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Originally Posted by tomato coupe View Post
I made a similar list for chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla ice cream, and chocolate got the most points. Proof positive chocolate is the best.
Strawberry can be seen further away and possibly is faster. Vanilla I'd think would be more versatile as you can always put strawberry or chocolate toppings on it.

30 years ago I'd be right there with you on chocolate. My tastes have changed through the years.
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Old 11-02-22, 03:54 PM
  #61  
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
Strawberry can be seen further away and possibly is faster.
Yes, red ice cream is faster; that goes without saying.
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Old 11-02-22, 06:42 PM
  #62  
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Originally Posted by Koyote View Post
I never said that. In fact, I don't have any idea what you mean by a "generic" look of steel frames.
I meant in the same generic way that someone said carbon frames all look the same. I was just observing that you can say exactly the same thing for any frame material in terms of generic aesthetic. To a casual observer traditional steel frames all look pretty much the same. Even more so with Ti frames as they are often unpainted. You see a bit more shape variation with aluminium and more so again with carbon. I would say there is far more variation in carbon tube profiling than with any other material. The two modern carbon road bikes I currently own are quite different in their tube profiles.
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Old 11-02-22, 06:53 PM
  #63  
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Originally Posted by Chinghis View Post
So, if you assign points to each of your rankings - 4 for 1st place, 1 point for 4th - you end up with steel as the overall winner, taking your considerations into account:
Steel - 12 points
Aluminum, Titanium - 10 points
CF - 8 points

Which works for me perfectly - Comfort and durability are probably my two most important concerns.


This has always been my hesitation in getting a BikesDirect Mercier bike - Sure, it's nice Reynolds 531 tubing, but if it's put together by a three-year old, it will suck regardless.
Not necessarily. It depends on what you prioritize I'm confident there isn't a cyclist on the planet who prioritizes all four attributes at complete parity. If you're a bike racer, you should ride carbon. If you're a bike racer on an extremely tight budget, you should ride aluminum.
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Old 11-02-22, 06:54 PM
  #64  
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Aren't steel tubes round? They all look the same to my eye

Aren't carbon "tubes" shaping differently? They are to my eye. A decade ago the shapes were narrow and NACA-like whereas they much wider with the trailing edge loped off (Kamtail). Most/many carbon frames are not symmetrical in way or another. Under the surface, the layup and fibers can make huge differences functionally. The murdered look of knockoff china bikes is generic and boring. A Dogma F? Exciting looking and unique bike.
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Old 11-02-22, 06:58 PM
  #65  
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Originally Posted by Chinghis View Post
So, if you assign points to each of your rankings - 4 for 1st place, 1 point for 4th - you end up with steel as the overall winner, taking your considerations into account:
Steel - 12 points
Aluminum, Titanium - 10 points
CF - 8 points

Which works for me perfectly - Comfort and durability are probably my two most important concerns.


This has always been my hesitation in getting a BikesDirect Mercier bike - Sure, it's nice Reynolds 531 tubing, but if it's put together by a three-year old, it will suck regardless.
Originally Posted by DaveSSS View Post
If you're using modern wheels that are hookless and wider, so you can use 50-70 psi tire pressure, the frame material makes little difference.
I can't argue. With the trend of increasing tire width and subsequently decreasing pressure, frame comfort is becoming increasingly less consequential. I can tell you from experience 33mm tires will smooth out the harshest alloy frame. However; that doesn't impact power transfer or durability.
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Old 11-02-22, 10:27 PM
  #66  
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Glad that one person's subjective opinion ("all carbon bikes look alike") can stir up such controversy 😁

I don't disagree with the counterpoints. I'm only pointing out how industry trends (and as someone pointed out: physics) result in convergence in designs, and subsequently, aesthetics. And the fact that when I'm watching the TdF I think all their bikes look the same. This isn't a good or bad thing, just my observation and opinion.

One of the smoothest bikes I've ever ridden was alloy with carbon rear stays. Of course, the industry has since moved on from that design.
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Old 11-03-22, 12:30 AM
  #67  
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All looking alike depends how far you "zoom out". I mean, all road bikes kind of look similar in the grand scheme of things, double diamond shape with 700c wheels. We're cyclists so we care about the details.

In practice, steel and titanium bikes are generally round tube double diamond things; without a distinctive paint scheme and some colourful details they look pretty mundane. There's the odd head turner which combines a distinctive paint scheme with a complimenting group set and well matched details, sure, but it's rare. Bare titanium with black fork and black components looks really plain.

So does most CF and alloy, though, especially the "yet another black aero race bike", which I say as a guy who rides yet another black aero race bike most of the time. I think it's a handsome bike, sure, but it's hardly unique. I've ran into a few really lovely put together Merida aero bikes with a striking colour scheme and some of the previous generation of Trek Madone Project Ones look pretty bling live, too.

Last edited by Branko D; 11-03-22 at 12:51 AM.
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Old 11-03-22, 04:49 AM
  #68  
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Originally Posted by tFUnK View Post
Glad that one person's subjective opinion ("all carbon bikes look alike") can stir up such controversy 😁

I don't disagree with the counterpoints. I'm only pointing out how industry trends (and as someone pointed out: physics) result in convergence in designs, and subsequently, aesthetics. And the fact that when I'm watching the TdF I think all their bikes look the same. This isn't a good or bad thing, just my observation and opinion.

One of the smoothest bikes I've ever ridden was alloy with carbon rear stays. Of course, the industry has since moved on from that design.

The only counterpoint I had was that it was the same with all other frame materials. Watch the TDF in any era and the bikes all look the same.
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Old 11-03-22, 05:00 AM
  #69  
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Originally Posted by freeranger View Post
One important consideration is the frame builder. A frame made by a talented frame maker is going to be more "comfortable" than whatever material is used by a mediocre builder. Material is only one factor. But if the same builder is constructing the frame, I'd be going with a top-of-the-line steel, such as Reynolds 853 for example. Just my opinion, don't think there is one absolute "correct" answer.
About 5 years ago, someone posted in the Framebuilders subforum about a conversation he'd had with a well-respected framebuilder. He'd asked him to confirm that all hand-built frames, even if not of a bespoke design, would ride better (e.g., be more comfortable, better aligned, etc.) than any factory-built bike. The framebuilder had told him that, no, that's not necessarily the case.

The guy was astonished at the reply and asked if any of the framebuilders on the forum agreed with the point of view that hand-built frames are not intrinsically superior to factory-built frames. Many did. A few noted that a custom-designed hand-built bike might of course be superior to a factory-built bike in some ways for a given rider's needs and preferences but that that had nothing to do with its being hand-built versus factory-built.
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Old 11-03-22, 05:05 AM
  #70  
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Originally Posted by Branko D View Post
All looking alike depends how far you "zoom out". I mean, all road bikes kind of look similar in the grand scheme of things, double diamond shape with 700c wheels. We're cyclists so we care about the details.

In practice, steel and titanium bikes are generally round tube double diamond things; without a distinctive paint scheme and some colourful details they look pretty mundane. There's the odd head turner which combines a distinctive paint scheme with a complimenting group set and well matched details, sure, but it's rare. Bare titanium with black fork and black components looks really plain.

So does most CF and alloy, though, especially the "yet another black aero race bike", which I say as a guy who rides yet another black aero race bike most of the time. I think it's a handsome bike, sure, but it's hardly unique. I've ran into a few really lovely put together Merida aero bikes with a striking colour scheme and some of the previous generation of Trek Madone Project Ones look pretty bling live, too.
Agreed. For those who crave something out of the current norm (black/grey carbon aero road bike), there are dozens of boutique builders out there doing things slightly differently. Perhaps ironically, the use of carbon has actually made the niche market far more creative than ever. Brands like Bastion, Festka and Werking come to mind. Often combining various materials in their frame designs. There are also some pretty distinctive carbon frames out there e.g. from the likes of Pinarello, Colnago, OPEN, 3T, Factor, Vielo to name a few. Even more mainstream brands like Trek have some fairly unique looking frames that would be easy to spot without branding.
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Old 11-03-22, 05:10 AM
  #71  
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Originally Posted by Trakhak View Post
hand-built versus factory-built.
Might as well say shed-built vs factory built. Pretty much a meaningless concept in regard to design, production and quality. Kudos to the frame-builder's honesty.
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Old 11-03-22, 06:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Trakhak View Post
About 5 years ago, someone posted in the Framebuilders subforum about a conversation he'd had with a well-respected framebuilder. He'd asked him to confirm that all hand-built frames, even if not of a bespoke design, would ride better (e.g., be more comfortable, better aligned, etc.) than any factory-built bike. The framebuilder had told him that, no, that's not necessarily the case.

The guy was astonished at the reply and asked if any of the framebuilders on the forum agreed with the point of view that hand-built frames are not intrinsically superior to factory-built frames. Many did. A few noted that a custom-designed hand-built bike might of course be superior to a factory-built bike in some ways for a given rider's needs and preferences but that that had nothing to do with its being hand-built versus factory-built.
That was pretty much my thought after reading that earlier post… I mean, really, welding and brazing are very mature technologies. A factory in Taiwan can put together steel tubes just as well as some “artisan“ in the United States. In fact, my custom built steel frame had to go back three times for repainting before they got it right. Never had that issue with any of my factory built frames.
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Old 11-03-22, 04:58 PM
  #73  
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Waiting on a CF version of these

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Old 11-03-22, 06:05 PM
  #74  
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I hope it never finds you but if Arthritis does the Comfort question will become serious. For a few years Rheumatoid was an slight discomfort but Osteo is serious and on the occasional bad days I ride a trike. A custom steel man for years I now have Ti as the ride is very similar but to my very sensitive hands and wrists my milage is much better on TI.
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Old 11-04-22, 12:36 AM
  #75  
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There's stiff racing CF bikes with an aggressive geometry and there's comfortable CF endurance bikes.

I've ridden a Specialized Ruby (the women's version of the Roubaix, now discontinued), over some broken roads, it's a magic carpet like ride with wide tires at low pressure and the flexy seatpost and the future shock suspension. I don't need it, but if I did, it'd be my pick.
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