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    Thread: steel vs aluminum: can't tell the difference.

    1. Member digraph's Avatar
      Join Date
      Jul 23rd, 1999
      Bay State
      '12 Impreza, '10 Forester, '09 Matchbox Unimog
      04-05-2012 02:24 PM #1
      I don't get the difference except from reading what others say. Aluminum is more rigid, steel has some give that makes for a more comfortable ride.

      I've had both and couldn't tell any difference, maybe because I'm a light guy or I'm not going over rough terrain? It seems to me that Al 1) doesn't rust and 2) is a lot easier to get on the roof of a car 3) a few dollars more in the budget bikes I'm looking at.

      What am I missing?

      (I have to add I'm buying a bike for my b'day, mostly to ride 5 mph in the neighborhoods & on trails with my kids, and maybe on 10/20 mile rides for exercise)
      Last edited by digraph; 04-05-2012 at 02:26 PM.
      Not an enthusiast.

    2. 04-05-2012 03:25 PM #2
      If you're rolling budget status, both will ride similarly enough in that they'll both be heavy and dead riding in the name of cost savings and durability. If you're getting something with high-volume tires and/or suspension, it'll make even less of a difference. Where you'll see a difference in ride quality will be on a road bike or your fancier MTB stuff.

    3. Member Steveo989's Avatar
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      Jan 21st, 2006
      Minneapolis, MN
      2005 Ford Crown Victoria
      04-05-2012 05:04 PM #3
      Yeah, I think there is a huge difference depending on what platform you are riding. My road bikes a ghetto Trek form the late 80s early 90s has a much more comfortable ride then my Cervelo S1.

      I think a good comparison is the suspension characteristics of a Formula 1 car to a Chevy cobalt. The Formula 1 car is going to have much less forgiveness, but will handle far better than the cobalt.

      Similarly my Cervelo's Aluminum frame inspires confidence while cornering and I feel like I can pretty much lay the bike on its side and it will remain planted. Whereas, my Trek I feel like if I lean it over just a littl e bit too much it will end in disaster.

      Lately, I've been riding this, and it handles like a wet noodle when ridden slow, but is alright around 20mph when you can lean it over a bit more than you can while riding at, say, 6 mph.

    4. Member SpeedyD's Avatar
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      Jun 9th, 1999
      Lexington, KY
      2010 VW CC Sport
      04-05-2012 05:51 PM #4
      What price range are you looking in? That will tell us a lot.
      Sent from my basement using two tin cans and a string.

    5. Banned
      Join Date
      Sep 14th, 2004
      04-06-2012 03:58 AM #5
      As someone who has a steel winter bike and an aluminum non winter road bike, I find this laughable. My steel bike climbs like I'm towing a boat anchor while my aluminum bike feels like it wants to climb.

    6. Member merckx56's Avatar
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      Feb 12th, 2004
      South Carolina
      2014 Chevrolet Traverse LT 2006 GMC Yukon XL SLT
      04-06-2012 07:53 AM #6
      I have all three. Steel, alu, and carbon.

      The steel bike (Jericho custom cx) is a swingset, but it's very predictable and stable.

      The alu bike is a Salsa Las Cruces CX bike. It's really stiff...almost harsh. Twitchy at higher speeds and doesn't like to be tossed into a turn.

      Carbon is a Ridley Helium. Stiffer than both, but uber-stable.

      A lot of the handling and comfort issues with bikes have to do with geometry as well. The construction f the bike makes a difference too. Materials and tube orientation affect the ride. My old CAAD9 Cannondale race bike road like a steel bike.
      ... you're not a hipster. But you definitely have hipster tendencies. Stay vigilant... like diabetes, you can manage this.

      This thread sucks -Quattro Krant

    7. 04-06-2012 09:28 AM #7
      Quote Originally Posted by merckx56 View Post
      The alu bike is a Salsa Las Cruces CX bike. It's really stiff...almost harsh.
      Taint jackhammer. I have one built up as a commuter/bar bike, and it is unbelievably harsh even compared to my Blue Norcross, which has a far larger diameter DT and a tapered HT. I truly hate the Salsa.

    8. Member
      Join Date
      Nov 17th, 2009
      04-06-2012 11:03 AM #8
      i used to feel the same way, until i rode GOOD steel. aluminum is really really stiff, which can be good on smooth enough pavement, but even my aluminum frame with carbon fork and seat post was rougher than another full steel bike of mine.

    9. Member woodrowstar's Avatar
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      Jun 17th, 2005
      Southern Md
      86 Cabbie, 82 Rabbit
      04-06-2012 11:19 AM #9
      I have ridden many different types on this trek, the one thing I noticed it comes down to AIR PRESSURE, in the tires.

    10. Member simple's Avatar
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      Mar 29th, 2001
      Golden, CO
      Subaru OB XT, Sportsmobile Van, Mazda CX-5
      04-06-2012 12:01 PM #10
      Quote Originally Posted by digraph View Post
      (I have to add I'm buying a bike for my b'day, mostly to ride 5 mph in the neighborhoods & on trails with my kids, and maybe on 10/20 mile rides for exercise)
      If that is your target then yes, an aluminum bike is great for you. Steel is heavier and but responds better to rider and surface forces. Just part of the metal's properties. You can have a nice aluminum bike that doesn't beat you up. As the previous poster mentioned your tire and air pressure choice really will make a difference. Handle bar grips and seat will as well.
      If you can't measure it, you can't understand it; if you can't understand it, you can't control it.

    11. Member A1an's Avatar
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      Mar 22nd, 2007
      Bought not built.
      04-06-2012 12:35 PM #11
      I regularly ride both steel and aluminum hardtails offroad. Setting aside the geometry and weight differences the only difference is really my aluminum frame being much stiffer than my steel frame.

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