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rolling efficiency: carbon vs. aluminum vs. quality steel

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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

rolling efficiency: carbon vs. aluminum vs. quality steel

Old 10-03-10, 07:22 AM
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rolling efficiency: carbon vs. aluminum vs. quality steel

I am sure this has been discussed elsewhere here, but I can't find quite this, so please indulge me.

I usually ride solo in the country, so I only have to keep up with my self. and I happily ride my collection of high quality (531,753, Columbus) steel frames.

Occasionally though I ride with a group of 50-somethings like me on a weekday evening. They being high earning professionals who can afford the latest and greatest and also being relative newcomers to the sport who haven't yet discovered the tradition and value of older bikes, most ride carbon. the rest ride aluminum or alu-carbon mixes. None ride steel.

So, while I might feel foolish showing up on 30 year old Reynolds 531, what I would like to know is how much actually objective mechanical rolling advantage they have on their 7kg carbon versus say an 8.5kg aluminum or my 9.5kg steel setup. besides my mental handicap, how much more effort do I have to expend over 50k in order to keep up?

Last edited by pstock; 10-03-10 at 08:45 AM.
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Old 10-03-10, 07:30 AM
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Minimal.
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Old 10-03-10, 07:37 AM
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Originally Posted by pstock
I am sure this has been discussed elsewhere here, but I can't find quite this, so please indulge me.

I usually ride solo in the country, so I only have to keep up with my self. and I happily ride my collection of high quality (531,753, Columbus) steel frames.

Occasionally though I ride with a group of 50-somethings like me on a weekday evening. They being high earning professionals who can afford the latest and greatest and also being relative newcomers to the sport who haven't yet discovered the tradition and value of older bikes, most ride carbon. the rest ride aluminum or alu-carbon mixes. None ride steel.

So, while I might feel foolish showing up on 30 year old Reynolds 531, what I would like to know is how much actually objective mechanical rolling advantage they have on their 7kg carbon versus say an 8.5kg aluminum or my 9.5kg steel setup. besides my mental handicap, how much more effort do I have to expend over 50k in order to keep up?
Idiocy and low IQ will take a lot of effort and cannot be taken beside.

Now if you meant metal, rolling efficiency is centered on your bearings and the rubber on your tires which probably the other carbon bikes have. If you have the earning capacity (not all 50 somethings do) then you can upgrade your steel to 853 or stainless 953 or Titanium and the metal handicap will disappear.
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Old 10-03-10, 07:37 AM
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If there is a ton of climbing, it adds up. Otherwise, not much.
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Old 10-03-10, 07:40 AM
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Logic tells me that the frame material makes no difference and that rims and hubs make more of a difference. That said, I have no explanation as to why I'm faster, longer when riding my CF Giant instead of the aluminum Cannondale or the chromolite steel Bianchi or the Tange 2, 86 Nishiki Prestige (that's been upgraded with brifters and aero wheels).
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Old 10-03-10, 07:46 AM
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The frame doesn't roll. At least it shouldn't.

If it does roll, then I'd guess it's not very efficient.
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Old 10-03-10, 08:50 AM
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Maybe the OP is getting ready for accidents? in that case u could apply the term "rolling resistance" to a frame.
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Old 10-03-10, 08:54 AM
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" besides my mental handicap,"

I phrased this poorly.
what I meant was " the handicap I bring into my own head as a result of my feeling of inadequacy from showing up on an antique".
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Old 10-03-10, 09:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Yaniel
The frame doesn't roll. At least it shouldn't.

If it does roll, then I'd guess it's not very efficient.
I really haven't been very clear. (should have had coffee before posting.)
imagine complete bikes indentically equipped but with carbon, alu or steel frames.
by "rolling efficiency" I was trying to say "OK, if you just pick these units up, the weight difference is startling. But how much does that weight advantage affect the energy you have to expend to move the complete bike over 50k -- our typical evening distance-- or100k"
if my steel framed bike weighs 30% more than my buddy's carbon job, am I working 30% harder to keep up?

Peter
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Old 10-03-10, 09:01 AM
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Dude if you are fit you should not have a single problem keeping up and even teasing up those guys using your old steel bike. Well all depends of the bike anyways
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Old 10-03-10, 09:29 AM
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175lb rider on a 17lb bike = 192lbs
175lb rider on a 22.1lb bike (30% more) = 197.1lbs (2.7% heavier overall)
So no, you won't be expending 30% more effort.

Maybe it takes a little more effort to get up to speed and a little more effort to maintain speed (on flats or inclines) but you have advantage on declines. Overall it probably evens out. As previously stated, the tires, the efficiency of the hubs, as well as the resistance in your "old" drivetrain could be making a difference also.
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Old 10-03-10, 09:44 AM
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Originally Posted by pstock
I really haven't been very clear. (should have had coffee before posting.)
imagine complete bikes indentically equipped but with carbon, alu or steel frames.
by "rolling efficiency" I was trying to say "OK, if you just pick these units up, the weight difference is startling. But how much does that weight advantage affect the energy you have to expend to move the complete bike over 50k -- our typical evening distance-- or100k"
if my steel framed bike weighs 30% more than my buddy's carbon job, am I working 30% harder to keep up?

Peter

it would only be 30% harder if the road was very steep and you weighed 0 lbs.
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Old 10-03-10, 09:47 AM
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Originally Posted by dstrong
175lb rider on a 17lb bike = 192lbs
175lb rider on a 22.1lb bike (30% more) = 197.1lbs (2.7% heavier overall).
A difference you'd barely notice if you were lifting straight up. Convert that to movement on more level surfaces and you really won't notice. To illustrate this point, try pushing an empty car on a level surface. Then have your wife get in the car and see how much harder it is to push. Even though the total percentage increase is greater, you won't tell the difference at all. A physics geek could give you some calculations, but even without doing it myself, the difference is so small as to be completely insignificant.

Originally Posted by pstock
They being high earning professionals who can afford the latest and greatest and also being relative newcomers to the sport who haven't yet discovered the tradition and value of older bikes, most ride carbon....

So, while I might feel foolish showing up on 30 year old Reynolds 531, what I would like to know is how much actually objective mechanical rolling advantage they have on their 7kg carbon versus say an 8.5kg aluminum or my 9.5kg steel setup.
The real question is why you'd feel foolish for not following the example of newbies?
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Old 10-03-10, 09:58 AM
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I have multiple steel bikes (Reynolds 531 & True Temper Prestige) and added a contemporary titanium road bike this year.

Has the titanium frame road-bike improved my long distance cycling substantially over the steel framed bikes? Yes, but not in any radical way. The slightly lighter weight and stiffer construction of the titanium bike improves climbing and sprinting, but makes very little difference on flat roads over larger distances. I do feel more confident in a group ride, and have substantually improved my acceleration and climbing, but part of this is the training I’ve established for myself this year.

I’m faster this year, but I’ve improved my speed on all my bikes. I have a 19 mile loop that has just two traffic lights, and the steel bike is within 3 minutes of my best time on the titanium road-bike, less than a 5% difference. As is often said, it’s the motor that matters.

Wheels can play an important role in performance. If your wheel set is old-school, you might want to update to lighter & more aero. If seeking greater speed, also improve your training effectiveness and fuel & hydration patterns. The human motor is always the greatest determinant of cycling performance.

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Old 10-03-10, 10:00 AM
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Originally Posted by pstock
I usually ride solo in the country, so I only have to keep up with my self.

how much more effort do I have to expend over 50k in order to keep up?
It sounds like you're trying to figure out why you're having trouble keeping up on group rides. It has nothing to do with your frame material. Over 50k the difference might be equivalent to spending an extra 30 Seconds on the front during one of your pulls, essentially negligible. Since you don't have any big hills to contend with your tire and tube selection will have a much bigger impact.

Spend more time riding with the group and it will get easier or push yourself a little harder (i.e. intervals) when riding solo.
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Old 10-03-10, 10:10 AM
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for what its worth, I restored an old nishiki that was made out of HI-Ten. I got it down from 32lbs inits stock state to 24lbs. It was only 1 lb lighter than my 2010 Giant rapid but it was a hell of a lot faster. Reason being,slightly lighter wheels and a much more aero position on this bike than my flat bar. In a 6 mile loop in central park, I was a full minute faster on the old vintage bike. Aerodynamics and rotational mass in the wheel make ahuge difference. the flat bar had 500+ gram armadillo tires on it while the nishiki had some 25c 250 gram tires on it
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Old 10-03-10, 10:16 AM
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Originally Posted by gregf83
It sounds like you're trying to figure out why you're having trouble keeping up on group rides. It has nothing to do with your frame material.
Spend more time riding with the group and it will get easier or push yourself a little harder (i.e. intervals) when riding solo.
I suppose in theory it could be the material as it pertains to the stiffness of the frame and the ability to get the power of the legs to the pavement
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Old 10-03-10, 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by pstock
I am sure this has been discussed elsewhere here, but I can't find quite this, so please indulge me.

I usually ride solo in the country, so I only have to keep up with my self. and I happily ride my collection of high quality (531,753, Columbus) steel frames.

Occasionally though I ride with a group of 50-somethings like me on a weekday evening. They being high earning professionals who can afford the latest and greatest and also being relative newcomers to the sport who haven't yet discovered the tradition and value of older bikes, most ride carbon. the rest ride aluminum or alu-carbon mixes. None ride steel.

So, while I might feel foolish showing up on 30 year old Reynolds 531, what I would like to know is how much actually objective mechanical rolling advantage they have on their 7kg carbon versus say an 8.5kg aluminum or my 9.5kg steel setup. besides my mental handicap, how much more effort do I have to expend over 50k in order to keep up?
All of this is moot if you learn how to draft properly and take the cheesiest, shortest pulls when you are on the front .
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Old 10-03-10, 10:27 AM
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Last edited by HazeT; 10-03-10 at 10:29 AM. Reason: wrong thread
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Old 10-03-10, 12:48 PM
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I bet there's less difference, everything considered, than there would be between a good fit and a poor fit.

Tell them that you invested in the good stuff 30 years ago and this is the proof to take to their wives that these high end bikes are worth it .
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Old 10-03-10, 04:46 PM
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No difference. If it makes you feel any better, then you could as well look at it this way that high quality steel doesn't cost much less than carbon fiber nowadays. Yet, as your Columbus or Reynolds frame might be up to task, you could take a second look at your hubs or may be wheels in general. Well serviced hubs or newer hubs could significantly improve your "rolling efficiency".
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Old 10-03-10, 07:18 PM
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I regularly do a 20+ mile loop on various bikes - Steel, Ti, Al and CF, all with close geometrics. The differences are only a few seconds. Change the wheels between aero and box rims and it's a little more. But when I push as in a TT effort, the CF pays off.
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Old 10-03-10, 07:25 PM
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"Rolling efficiency" is a function of wheels and tires, not frame material. Frame design and material can affect other important aspects of riding, but has minimal influence on rolling efficiency.
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Old 10-03-10, 11:56 PM
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If you want to fix your "mental handicap", get some aero wheels and work on fitness training, not just casual or social rides. Then you'll kick the 50-year-olds' arses on the weekends.
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Old 10-04-10, 12:38 AM
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When he says mental handicap, I believe the OP means the psychological effect that he gets because he believes he may have an inferior bike, and therefore is more prone to giving up and getting dropped by the pack or riding at a slower speed than his usual solo speed. This does not refer to his IQ at all...or metal for that matter.
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