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spinner1 04-08-03 08:49 PM

steel bike vs. aluminum ?
i am interested in buying a steel framed bike . i now ride an aluminum frame, and it doesn't take the road bumps too well. is steel lighter than alu? i heard it can corrode. is this true?

also wheelsets: i have heard that hand built wheels in steel is like buying them at K mart. is this true? what material should i look at for a new wheelset?


stokell 04-08-03 09:10 PM

Right on. I was sold an aluminum frame last year. It is light...BUT, it doesn't take the bumps like a steel frame. I have a 3 metre long steel framed tandem. When we go over a pump it flexes and gives a nice soft ride.

As far as corrosion is concerned, my tandem is 25 years old. It is still solid.

Waldo 04-08-03 09:55 PM

A decent alu frame will be lighter than a decent steel frame. Steel frames can corrode if not properly cared for. IMHO, the corrosion issue is somewhat overblown.
Your wheelset will be alloy unless you go with a super cheap wheel (of the xmart variety) or a ridiculously expensive carbon set. I'm a big fan of the sun wheels or Shimano's. Check out for some more info.

Raedeke 04-08-03 10:04 PM

On the same subject of Alumuminum versus steel...

How does carbon forks and seat posts offset the regidity associated with aluminum.
And is there a concern on larger bikes, like a 61 or 64cm, that a steel frame would actually flex too much.

bsande1 04-08-03 11:42 PM

Personally, I love steel. I have owned 2 steel Bianchi bikes and an old Bontrager, and I will never ride aluminum again. What steel losses in the weight department, it will make up for in a more comfortable ride leaving you fresher at the end to make that final sprint.
Good steel bike are out there in just about every price range available. My most important suggestion is to make sure you are getting quality steel (Reynold 853, Foco/ultra Foco, Dedaccaia, etc.).

Bianchi, Orbea and Lemond are all quality steel frame makers as well as many others.

Finally, take a test ride. Ultimately, it comes down to what feels best for you (But I doubt you will be disappointed with steel).

Good luck.

chewa 04-09-03 02:16 AM

Steel is real. I rode my 40 year old frame at the weekend and it is so lively yet absorbing of road shocks.

Any Ali frames I've ridden have not been as nice, and the weight benefits (for me as a tourer/commuter) don't outweigh the difference in feel.

i should say my 40 year old has been refinished but is largely rust free.

Merckxrider 04-09-03 02:42 AM

For whoever knows:

I'm just curious, since the Paris-Roubaix event was won in 2001-2002 on Scandium bikes (Merckx Team SC), are these frames also to be included in the "aluminum" category? If so, with the Roubaix being one of the most grueling events out there, including patches of cobblestones, ruts, uneven & unpaved surfaces (sometimes mud-caked), don't you think these pro-riders would demand a steel frame so they could be more comfortable? :confused:

ParamountScapin 04-09-03 04:40 AM

Pro riders ride whatever they get from the sponsor (unless you are Lance or Ullrich - even then they pretty much are at the mercy of the sponsor). As aluminum (Scandium, or whatever), graphite and titanium are the big marketing buzz now, that is what the pro's ride. These olther materials are all about 1 pound lighter than modern steel frames. And comfort is not that important in a 125 mile race. You are racing to win. If comfort was important than no one would ride the cobblestone races.

I have ridden steel since I got back into riding about six years ago. I tried a couple of aluminum bikes (Specialized Allez and Klein) and was 'shocked' at how uncomfortable the ride was. Only took two rides to convince me that I had made the right choice in my lugged steel frames. I have just purchased a new Scaping. And it is Columbus Nivacron. Good old comfortable steel. Weighs about 2.5 pounds less than my '87 Paramount. I put a carbon fork on same this spring and really can't tell much difference. Save a grand total of 6 oz. when I made the change. Not worth the cost/effort of making the change. But, does look pretty cool.

As mentioned above, corrosion is not a big deal unless you are totally against any bicycle maintenance. To start with, most manufacturers today prime the inside of their better steel frames with corrosion resistant primer. In addition, I always put in FrameSaver. I have not suffered any corrosion. Even if you decide not to do this, there are thousands of steel frames out there that are 20+ years old that are not corroded. Just keep you bike wiped clean (especially if you have riden with salt still on the roads) and wax occasionally. Like you would treat an aluminum bike. And it will remain corrosion free. And, your butt/body will thank you after every ride for having chosen steel.

Teding 04-09-03 04:43 AM


don't you think these pro-riders would demand a steel frame so they could be more comfortable?
Don't think comfort is very high on a racer's list.:)

captsven 04-09-03 05:46 AM

I am 6' 5" (1.96m) and ride a 60cm frame. I ride a Cinelli SLX (steel) bike. I had a Specialized Epic Allez (carbon Fiber). I rode the specialized for 3 years. I then picked the Cinelli up for $350 as a back-up frame. Well after riding the cinelli for a while the specialized got put on the shelf. No comparison. The cinelli did everything better. It even climbed better even though it was heavier by far. The carbon fiber was flexing and absorbing the energy i was putting to the pedals.

I have heard from other people that steel is better for larger frames. I have not tried Ti or any of the new scandium frames due to cost, but I hear they are impressive.

I have never riden an aluminum road frame because mostly what I hear is negative. If you are on it more than 2 hours, you are going to reget it!

For the money though you can get these old steel frames for cheap on ebay. They are not that light, but the ride is awesome!

D*Alex 04-09-03 05:58 AM

I'm 6'2", and have both steel and aluminium frames in roughly 62cm size.
The Cannondale (aluminium) is a touring bike, and is relatively stiff. However, in larger sizes, the road frames are not nearly so stiff.
My old 531 Trek (steel) is really quite light for such a large frame, but boy is it flexy!
I once tested an aluminium Bianchi in a 60 cm size. That frame was soo noodly, I doubt it would last even 1 year with my riding style..

shokhead 04-09-03 06:18 AM

I am looking right now for steel because of the better ride.Get 853 steel,its the best.I've looked at cervelo prodigy,LeMond buenos aires and zurich,jamis eclipse,scattante R-853fuji roubaix pro,all with at least 105's or better,as light as 17.5 pounds and yhe most is 20 i think,all under $1800.Anything esle i should add to my list?

Malvern star 04-09-03 08:29 AM

Steel frames are definately more comfortable IMO on the road.
Old 531 steel frames for racing are still quite light, They can rust , usually gotta repaint them every few years if they get riden often.
The latest standard steel frame is the 835 , supposed to be a bit lighter and stronger.
I like aluminium MTB frames but as far as road bikes go , aluminium is for holding alcoholic beverages :beer:

ImprezaDrvr 04-09-03 10:10 AM

I have a steel mountain bike and an aluminum roadie bike that's going on 4 years of riding now. New aluminum bikes, whether they use carbon in the rear end or, like the oft maligned on these boards Cannondale, use various tube shapes to soften the ride, are much better riding frames than the likes of my old CAAD3 'Dale. However, in shopping for a new frame, I looked at the likes of the Independent Fabrications Crown Jewel steel and the Orbea steel bike, among others. The weight difference between a high end steel frame and a high end aluminum frame won't matter to the average rider, and many riders, as you've seen here, prefer the ride qualities of steel over alu. I won't be getting a frame for at least another year, but I will definately look at steel bikes when I'm shopping. They're getting lighter and lighter, making weight a non issue most of the time.

As for corrosion, if you take care of a steel frame, it will take care of you. Both of the mountain bikes in my collection are steel and are fine. One's 11 years old and now serves as a beater, but it's fine. The other is still my trail bike, a '96 Specialized S-Works steel. A little frame saver occasionally and a steel bike will rock for years.

spinner1 04-09-03 11:54 AM

i went and checked out the Fuji Marseille. it is steel and just picking it up, it feels much lighter than my alu. is the weight difference really only a few pounds? my alu is about 19 pounds and a little more with all my gear on it.

bsande1 04-09-03 12:35 PM

To be honest, the weight difference is frequently less than 1 pound.

Captain Crunch 04-09-03 01:10 PM

I am currently looking at the Marinoni Piuma (steel) with the UltraFoco tubeset and it is only about 200 grams more than their top aluminum frames. With a carbon rear end it is lighter.

shokhead 04-09-03 03:26 PM

fuji roubaix pro-19.7 pounds,jamis eclipse around 19 pounds and most good 853 steel are under 20 pounds.Some around 18 and a few 17.5 or so.

Merckxrider 04-09-03 11:18 PM

[QUOTE][i]Originally posted by ParamountScapin

"As aluminum (Scandium, or whatever), graphite and titanium are the big marketing buzz now, that is what the pro's ride."

"And comfort is not that important in a 125 mile race. You are racing to win. If comfort was important than no one would ride the cobblestone races."

Okay, what I'm hearing is that the pro-riders are given whatever trash is available on the market to ride in the TDF etc... Apparently these unbelievably uncomfortable bikes make them so angry during the race, that the additional adrenaline boosts their performance, thus making them get to the finish line faster. How's that for a theory! :D


froze 04-10-03 01:01 AM

You can say what ever you want about steel vs al and all your going to get are those that own AL love it and those that own Steel love it. BUT AL does not have the longer life expectancy that steel will have AND this fact is brought out in " VeloNews Buyers Guide" on page 42 and I copied below for your reading pleasure.

As anyone familiar with beer cans can tell you, AL is softer land less stiff than steel. AL is easy to draw and form into shapes, easy to machine, and relatively easy to weld. Its density is about a third of steel and half of TI, so it is not hard to build a light bike with it. It will oxidize, and should be painted powder coated or anodized to prevent corrosion, but it does not rust away rapidly.

AL has downsides, too. Its tensile (breaking) strength, yield (bending) strength and elongation (the % of its length it can stretched before itís unable to return to its original shape) are far less than those of high strength steel and TI alloys. AL is more vulnerable in a crash. AL has no fatigue limit, a property that steel possesses, often expressed as a % of its tensile strength. Below this limit, the material can be cycled indefinitely without breaking. This means that AL can be less predictable than steel as to when it will fail after long use.

Back to our beer can: compare a can of beer to a can of olives and itís apparent that the AL container has much less stiffness than a steel can of similar thickness and diameter. Yet many AL bikes feel stiff. Why? Itís because ALís density is so low; tubes can be made large and thick for stiffness and light weight.

bmw_maniac 04-10-03 01:16 AM

I ride a 7005 Aluminium 2003 Raceline Performance (56cm) and im 180cm tall. When I stand up to ride, the bike flexes so much that you can hear the drink bottle creaking and crunching as the bottle cage flexes (i use those 750 ml plastic bottles that purified water comes in). Kinda freaked me out at first, but I'm getting used to it.

shokhead 04-10-03 07:55 AM

I have a 7005 felt i mine dont do that.Steel is getting lighter now with the 853,i guess air hardening lets them use smaller and thinner tubes for lighter frames.As for lasting longer,doesnt most people get new bikes before 10 years?Any frame should last that long without abuse.

Merckxrider 04-10-03 12:53 PM

Thank you Shokhead,

My sentiments exactly. I have no intention of keeping a bike around for 40 years or whatever. A frame that wears out is just fine with me...then I have an excuse to get a new ride! ;)


ChipRGW 04-10-03 01:06 PM


Originally posted by Merckxrider
A frame that wears out is just fine with me...then I have an excuse to get a new ride! ;)


Unless, when it fails, it does so catastrophically. In which case you have an excuse to get titanium. (implants that is)


I think either material is fine. It seems to me it depends much more on frame geometry and specific tube design as to how well the bike rides. And how sensitive you are to differences.
A C'dale R400 (caad 4) I rented in Las Vegas, felt like I was riging on rocks. A C'dale Caad5 I rode last weekend felt like buttah!
My older steel Specialized Sirrus rides NICE.

shokhead 04-10-03 01:41 PM

The more i read on the LeMond,the more that i like it.Not only steel but it seems the geometry is set up for a better ride. Also i guess a longer wheelbase and chainstays make for a better ride to,right?

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