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Dream touring bike: steel or aluminum?

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Dream touring bike: steel or aluminum?

Old 07-04-14, 08:45 PM
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headwind15
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Dream touring bike: steel or aluminum?

I'm thinking of building up an ultimate touring bike and can't decide between a steel or aluminum frame. I know that an aluminum frame is a bit lighter, but steel seems to be more popular for touring. What would you prefer?
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Old 07-04-14, 09:02 PM
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steel hands down. BUT if money is no object because you are building the ultimate touring bike, then Titanium, if you want light. Keep in mind, the whole reason steel is the choice of touring bikes is things can break due to stress. Finding someone to weld steel is fairly simple anywhere in the world. Finding someone to weld Titanium or Aluminum is a whole different story.
Also, I think that most will agree, it's not the frame that makes your bike ultimate. It's the whole kit that makes it ultimate. It's whether you add a Dynamo, kickstand plate, pump peg, in-tube cable routing, how many speeds, gearing, component types, etc. And even if you put top of the line everything on it, the bike will still only be Ultimate to you. Because I may not agree with your choices. hahaha!
Have fun with the build!
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Old 07-04-14, 09:05 PM
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Originally Posted by headwind15 View Post
I'm thinking of building up an ultimate touring bike and can't decide between a steel or aluminum frame. I know that an aluminum frame is a bit lighter, but steel seems to be more popular for touring. What would you prefer?
Steel is real! Plus the whole steel is heavy is a myth. Yes there is heavy steel, just as there is heavy aluminum and heavy carbon fiber but there is also lightweight options in all of those categories. Columbus xCR stainless tubing is ultra light as is True Temper S3 tubing as is Reynolds 953 stainless.

I have two steel bikes, one aluminum and have ridden various carbon and aluminum bikes and I love the ride of my steel bikes best. It is also more easily repairable in more parts of the world and is just in general badass. If this is a dream bike than you have to go with the dreamy ride of steel : )
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Old 07-04-14, 11:13 PM
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Steel, ride, ease of welding on tour if there is a problem with the frame, but mainly the ride is better IMO.
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Old 07-05-14, 01:11 AM
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Originally Posted by veganbikes View Post
Steel is real! Plus the whole steel is heavy is a myth. Yes there is heavy steel, just as there is heavy aluminum and heavy carbon fiber but there is also lightweight options in all of those categories. Columbus xCR stainless tubing is ultra light as is True Temper S3 tubing as is Reynolds 953 stainless.

)
Yeah, but you wouldn't dream of building a touring bike out of those materials. They're too light, they wouldn't stand up to putting racks and 30lbs of luggage on them. At the very least you'd want the stays made out of heavier-duty tubing.

OP, I'm with the majority in preferring steel to aluminium. If you intend to travel light I might suggest carbon forks, as you won't need to put panniers on the front and it would further improve the ride. But really, on a touring bike a few extra pounds weight doesn't matter. You're carrying your gear anyway, you need to prioritize robustness and reliability over weight.
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Old 07-05-14, 02:27 AM
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Most of the builders who understand touring, work in steel.
Koga make Aluminium custom tourers.
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Old 07-05-14, 03:44 AM
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I don't give any thought about frame material, really. I tailor my bike to the type of ride I'll be doing. My current tour bike, a Bianchi Volpe is steel. But if I can find a lighter bike that will carry same load, and handle the road better, I would welcome it with open arms, irregardless of frame material. I've read many arguments that even with chromoly, you'll be hard pushed to find welder up to the job, to put you back on the road safely. I personally believe that better tyres (+air pressure) mean much more to ride comfort, and momentum retaining, than what supporters of chromoly will try to persuade you. If I were to build a serious light touring bike, I'd get a good titanium frame like the Cooper CMT.
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Old 07-05-14, 03:59 AM
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Originally Posted by headwind15 View Post
I'm thinking of building up an ultimate touring bike and can't decide between a steel or aluminum frame. I know that an aluminum frame is a bit lighter, but steel seems to be more popular for touring. What would you prefer?
I've had a long association with aluminum bikes including two aluminum Cannondale touring bikes. That written, an ultimate bike is simply one where the owner is confident and satisfied with the entire package of individual parts.

My two Cannondales weigh 26.5 and 26 lb. That's 2-4 lb. lighter than most comparable steel framed touring bikes, add even only the weight of the rider and the difference becomes a moot point.

Brad
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Old 07-05-14, 05:22 AM
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Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
Yeah, but you wouldn't dream of building a touring bike out of those materials. They're too light, they wouldn't stand up to putting racks and 30lbs of luggage on them. At the very least you'd want the stays made out of heavier-duty tubing.

OP, I'm with the majority in preferring steel to aluminium. If you intend to travel light I might suggest carbon forks, as you won't need to put panniers on the front and it would further improve the ride. But really, on a touring bike a few extra pounds weight doesn't matter. You're carrying your gear anyway, you need to prioritize robustness and reliability over weight.
I probably wouldn't build a touring bike from those specific materials either because of my weight plus weight of gear but I might go with it for top tube and down tube and then use more robust steel for the stays and seatpost tube if I was a lightweight and not a borderline Clyde.

If you are going for carbon fiber for the fork I would then use xCR or something like that, again as you said robustness and reliability but without the weight.
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Old 07-05-14, 05:29 AM
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Either for me. I have two 'ideal' bikes. One is steel (soma double cross) and the other is alumium (Fuji mtb). Both are fine rides. Depends on the day. The Soma is faster, but isn't as forgiving of offroad or poor roads as the Fuji.
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Old 07-05-14, 06:01 AM
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I have three bikes that are suitable for touring, one is carbon fiber, one is aluminum and one is steel. The carbon fiber bike can take 700x35 tires and has eyelets for a rear rack. It has been used for short credit card tours and can carry about 25 lbs. Both the aluminium and the steel bikes have front and rear eyelets for touring racks and have more load capacity than I'll ever use.

First ask yourself what kind of tours you will take in terms of duration and what level of self sufficiency you are seeking. Then select a bike for that usage.

2012 Pedal Force CX2

Carbon fiber frame and fork, size 59cm
Velocity A23/Shimano 105 32-spoke wheelset, 23mm wide rim for tires up to 700x35
Shimano 105 triple crank, 50, 39 & 26t chainrings
Sram 11-32 ten speed cassette
Shimano Deore rear derailler, 105 front deraillier, Shimano 105 brifters for triple

The bike has 425mm long chainstays and two attachment eyes for a rear rack and fender.





The aluminum Trek DS.1




The steel Origin8 CX700

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Old 07-05-14, 09:34 AM
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Aluminum. I'm not a fan of the weight and flexiness of steel frames. Aluminum has a reputation for delivering a harsh ride, but if you use high-volume tires (ex: 700x32) the frame material stops mattering much. My aluminum-framed touring bike seems pretty comfy. The fact that it puts more energy into moving the bike forward rather than flexing the frame doesn't hurt. For every backwoods welder capable of properly repairing today's thin-walled steel frames I'm sure there are 100 who couldn't do anything other than turn it into swiss cheese, so I wouldn't count on steel being any more repairable than aluminum. Weight of a touring bike is dominated more by the weight of the components (and load!) than the weight of the frame so I wouldn't spend much time worrying about that.
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Old 07-05-14, 09:56 AM
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Carbon fiber for me, then steel and finally aluminium. I find CF to be the most comfortable ride.
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Old 07-05-14, 10:03 AM
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Carbon.
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Old 07-05-14, 10:27 AM
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dreaming? take off 35 years to halve my age and put a pile of cash in the bank for One.


If Steel , hand made, Custom, by Bruce Gordon. Ive taken multiple tours using his racks
on other frames/forks ..
I would choose some non standard tube shapes .. ovals, on top wider across
stiffen then against rear load bending the top tube.


or Tout Terrain's Silk Road sounds good ... German made.
http://www.en.tout-terrain.de/bicycles/silkroad/
or in 700c.. the 5th avenue
http://www.en.tout-terrain.de/bicycles/5th-avenue/


Koga Signature by Koga


Whole built bike ..racks lights mudguards ring lock the whole works ..frame: 7005 Heat treated Aluminum ..
frame is not custom, but the build up is menu based, and you pick from the various options
on those sets of options offered.

Mark Beaumont rode his around the world faster than any one else had.

as of 14 February 2008, .. in 194 days and 17 hours.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Beaumont_(cyclist)

Around the world cycling record - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I bought a 3rd hand Koga WTR, in 2008.. fits not ideal though..
a bit too sporting a seat tube angle & bar height.. but Love the Rohloff ..

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Old 07-05-14, 10:29 AM
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Originally Posted by nun View Post
Carbon fiber for me, then steel and finally aluminium. I find CF to be the most comfortable ride.
But you're an ultralight tourer, aren't you, nun? Would you change your view if you were a softie like me, and carrying 30-40lbs of gear?
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Old 07-05-14, 11:24 AM
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Ah its not the bike its the pilot that makes the difference.
but saying that steel is by far the better choice i reckon 725 or 853 or even 531 will give you a super ride.
are you going with rohloff gearing ?
what size wheels 700c or 599
light touring or around the planet.
if you have big money to spend man your gonna have some fun with this project .
very best of luck.
anto.
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Old 07-05-14, 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
But you're an ultralight tourer, aren't you, nun? Would you change your view if you were a softie like me, and carrying 30-40lbs of gear?
An amazing carbon touring frame would be possible for touring, even heavy touring. If built close to the weight of the typical steel touring frame it could be very bullet proof. There are none on the market that I know of though. I suspect we will see something like that on the market eventually.

At present I'd be touring on carbon if I wasn't too cheap to spring for it, but I pack very light.
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Old 07-05-14, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by LuckySailor View Post
BUT if money is no object because you are building the ultimate touring bike, then Titanium, if you want light.
I haven't ridden many titanium bikes but did get a chance to ride one (a rigid MTB) some years ago. I found it to be too flexible to suit my tastes. I do not know how typical that is, but given the properties of the material it would seem to be pretty easy to wind up with a noodley frame if built light.
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Old 07-05-14, 11:32 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
An amazing carbon touring frame would be possible for touring, even heavy touring. If built close to the weight of the typical steel touring frame it could be very bullet proof. There are none on the market that I know of though. I suspect we will see something like that on the market eventually.

At present I'd be touring on carbon if I wasn't too cheap to spring for it, but I pack very light.
OK, let's explore this a bit further.

I ride a number of bikes, from a fifteen pound carbon Giant TCR to a heavy-duty Thorn Nomad expedition tourer. Of course it would be possible to engineer a carbon frame to be as robust as the Thorn, but in doing so one would lose most of the weight benefits of the carbon frame. And it is by no means clear to me that a heavy carbon frame would have any advantages over a steel frame of similar weight.

I have no strong views about frame materials. They have different characteristics, but I don't doubt the testimony of framebuilders who tell me they can craft a soft-riding bike out of any material. But steel offers a range of possibilities from the very light (too light for a tourer, as observed above) to the nearly indestructible, like my Nomad. I'm not sure what advantage is obtained, for the touring cyclist, by going with more exotic materials.
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Old 07-05-14, 01:32 PM
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I have a steel frame and am now looking to build up an aluminum. I know frames differ greatly, but overall it is my understanding that steel is going to flex more. I prefer that in a road bike with narrow tires where I want a nice smooth, comfortable ride. I don't want that in my touring bike that's going to be bending around under the weight of the panniers/gear. I don't like my bike flopping around when I stand to climb, etc. As mentioned, the higher volume tires will smooth out the ride. And contrary to what others have said, I do think the weight matters. Why would people be talking about trying to reduce pannier weight because you're not hauling as much weight, but the bike weight not matter? Cutting 2-4lbs is cutting 2-4lbs no matter where you cut it. And if I cut 2-4lbs from my frame, then some wheel weight, then another 5lbs from my gear weight, I'm getting some noticeable gains when you add it up. I'd rather haul 10lbs less over many miles, up hills, etc. I also ride my touring bike as my main road enjoyment bike on the local bike paths, so it's nice to have a lighter, faster bike when it's not loaded with touring gear.
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Old 07-05-14, 09:31 PM
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It doesn't matter
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Old 07-06-14, 12:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Barrettscv View Post
I have three bikes that are suitable for touring, one is carbon fiber, one is aluminum and one is steel. The carbon fiber bike can take 700x35 tires and has eyelets for a rear rack. It has been used for short credit card tours and can carry about 25 lbs.

First ask yourself what kind of tours you will take in terms of duration and what level of self sufficiency you are seeking. Then select a bike for that usage.

2012 Pedal Force CX2

Carbon fiber frame and fork, size 59cm
Velocity A23/Shimano 105 32-spoke wheelset, 23mm wide rim for tires up to 700x35
Shimano 105 triple crank, 50, 39 & 26t chainrings
Sram 11-32 ten speed cassette
Shimano Deore rear derailler, 105 front deraillier, Shimano 105 brifters for triple

The bike has 425mm long chainstays and two attachment eyes for a rear rack and fender.




I hope I'm not stealing the thread. If I do, my sincere apology. Very interesting light touring bike if I may say so. How is its performance as pictured? Does it perform like a sporting CX bike? I'm lusting for one. With 28c tyres, I would love to hound young inexperienced road riders.
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Old 07-06-14, 01:20 AM
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Originally Posted by 3speed View Post
I have a steel frame and am now looking to build up an aluminum. I know frames differ greatly, but overall it is my understanding that steel is going to flex more. I prefer that in a road bike with narrow tires where I want a nice smooth, comfortable ride. I don't want that in my touring bike that's going to be bending around under the weight of the panniers/gear. I don't like my bike flopping around when I stand to climb, etc. As mentioned, the higher volume tires will smooth out the ride. And contrary to what others have said, I do think the weight matters. Why would people be talking about trying to reduce pannier weight because you're not hauling as much weight, but the bike weight not matter? Cutting 2-4lbs is cutting 2-4lbs no matter where you cut it. And if I cut 2-4lbs from my frame, then some wheel weight, then another 5lbs from my gear weight, I'm getting some noticeable gains when you add it up. I'd rather haul 10lbs less over many miles, up hills, etc. I also ride my touring bike as my main road enjoyment bike on the local bike paths, so it's nice to have a lighter, faster bike when it's not loaded with touring gear.
I don't altogether disagree. If I were to have only one bike, I'd probably make it a light tourer - enough carrying capacity for most purposes, little off-road capability, light enough to be fun when not touring. The last bike I had that fitted this description was steel, made of reynolds 725. With a rack and mavic 319 touring wheels it weighed in at 24 lbs, which I thought acceptable. It wasn't especially flexy, pretty much rock-steady with up to 25lbs of gear, though if one really loaded up at the rear one could feel it move.

Nowadays I either do very light credit card touring on a road bike (steel again, columbus spirit, total weight including open pro wheels 19.7 lbs) using a saddlebag with a bagman support, or much longer trips with camping gear and as much junk as I want to carry, on a Thorn Nomad with a Rohloff hub. The latter (admittedly with very heavy marathon plus tyres) weighs in at 36 lbs. I certainly wouldn't use that as a road bike when not touring, but it's geared very low and given that I and my baggage account for maybe 240lbs I find the extra 10 lbs on the bike weight to be an acceptable trade-off for rigidity and near-indestructibility.

So it depends on one's circumstances, and what sort of touring one wants to do. And all of this is achievable with either aluminium or steel. the trouble with "dream bikes" is that people's dreams differ, and even the same person dreams different dreams at different times.
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Old 07-06-14, 02:28 AM
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Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
I don't altogether disagree. If I were to have only one bike, I'd probably make it a light tourer - enough carrying capacity for most purposes, little off-road capability, light enough to be fun when not touring. The last bike I had that fitted this description was steel, made of reynolds 725. With a rack and mavic 319 touring wheels it weighed in at 24 lbs, which I thought acceptable. It wasn't especially flexy, pretty much rock-steady with up to 25lbs of gear, though if one really loaded up at the rear one could feel it move.

Nowadays I either do very light credit card touring on a road bike (steel again, columbus spirit, total weight including open pro wheels 19.7 lbs) using a saddlebag with a bagman support, or much longer trips with camping gear and as much junk as I want to carry, on a Thorn Nomad with a Rohloff hub. The latter (admittedly with very heavy marathon plus tyres) weighs in at 36 lbs. I certainly wouldn't use that as a road bike when not touring, but it's geared very low and given that I and my baggage account for maybe 240lbs I find the extra 10 lbs on the bike weight to be an acceptable trade-off for rigidity and near-indestructibility.

So it depends on one's circumstances, and what sort of touring one wants to do. And all of this is achievable with either aluminium or steel. the trouble with "dream bikes" is that people's dreams differ, and even the same person dreams different dreams at different times.
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