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PostPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2012 12:09 am 
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I'm sure this has been discussed here before but I can't find anything using the search feature after wading through many pages so if someone can point me in the right direction please feel free to do so. I realise that this topic could be a can of worms, hopefully a good can of worms!! :D

So as per the subject header which frame material and why? I've been investigating steel frame manufacture recently and have come across some new technology in steel that I wasn't aware of. It seems that steel has become lighter and a light steel bike is encroaching on the weight of regular carbon frames. What really intrigued me about steel bikes is that a fellow WW member enjoys his steel road bike more than any other he's ridden. Now obviously I'm aware that carbon is very stiff and very light, but is also dependent on the way the carbon is laminated into the frame for it's stiffness. Titanium I know very little about other than it looks great but is expensive.

I tend to prefer what I call 'point and shoot' type bikes, which are very reactive and carbon tends to be the material of choice for these types of bikes, or at least so I've seen.

So, who prefers what and for what reason? (details of the frames ridden might help and please bear in mind I'm talking about light, latest tech, steel frames)


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Posted: Sun Oct 28, 2012 12:09 am 


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2012 12:31 am 
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Location: Mountain View, California
Carbon!

I have ridden all 4 and owned all 4.

Aluminum Specialized sworks with the m5 alloy
old Brodie steel... can't even remember the model name
Titanium Lynskey M230 (26") hardtail <--- i still own this
Aluminum Kona Hei Hei Supreme Full suspension from 2007 (stolen)
Titanium Lynskey Pro29SL <--- I own this too
2011 Rocky Mountain Element Team RSL.

The carbon fibre Rocky Mountain Element Tream RSL is the best mountain bike I've ever ridden. Torsional stiffness is amazing. Headtube stiffness is amazing. The front end tracks perfectly. The bike soaks up both high and low freq vibrations (not just the terrain).

You can't beat carbon, unless you are after the nostalgia of the other materials.

Plus you own Fibre-Lyte. How can you not support carbon fibre. You guys should make your own frame!

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2012 6:56 am 
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I very much doubt steel frames will ever get down to the 1300g a cheapish carbon frame weighs, let alone the 850g a good one weighs, the walls would be wafer thin and very dent prone!

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2012 7:15 am 
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What about aluminium?

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2012 12:13 pm 
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Cheers!, I don't own fibre-lyte, I just work for the company at the moment. Our special projects engineer who does all the repairs has made his own frame before and his own wheels but they are time consuming to do and as silly as this might sound, when you're around carbon fibre and manufacturing it all the time, it's nice to think about something different such as alloys that we don't use. Of course, if we wanted to manufacture the lightest, stiffest frame around, carbon fibre would be what we would choose, but I always find it interesting to see what other materials there are and how people feel about them. Boo bicycles in the US for instance manufacture bamboo frames. I also really like all the frames that Rob English at English cycles builds and I think they're all steel. I'm sure there are a fair few frames at the NAHBS that aren't carbon as well. That Rocky Mountain does look a nice bike although I was predominantly thinking hardtail, although I didn't mention it.

I hadn't really included aluminium alloy as it's not really a material that I've seen used on custom or high end builds, it seems more mass produced, but there's no reason not to include it.

@TheRookie, from what I've read, steel frames do seem to be getting down to sub 1.5kg frame weight. As for the top end, we've seen our share of sub 1kg frames and they are taking minimal to a new level. On a custom, hand built hand laid frame, by a specialist, sub 1kg is fine. On a mass produced frame built by a production line worker with few skills, I'm not so sure. Just my opinion :D What has swayed myself towards alloys is the number of riders/customers who love their alloy frames over carbon ones, despite the extra weight. I get little opportunity to ride mtb's, but my view of road bikes varies. I love my carbon Storck but I've ridden other carbon frames that I've really disliked. My day to day ride is an alloy Litespeed (9 years old I think) and that's very comfortable but a bit flexy and certainly not as fast feeling as the Storck.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2012 1:19 pm 
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Ive always been a fan of the feel of Steel frames.

Mainly used to riding Chromoly frames in the past, but more recent years Reynolds 531 for road bikes and my MTB frame is a Curtis Reynolds 853.

I prefer steel because of the small amount of flex you can quite happily get from the stays etc which help absorb some of the bumps etc.Steel frames tend to look more appealing to me because of the small tube diameters that can be achieved,whereas Aluminium and Carbon Fibre tend to look bulky and large.Joining methods for steel are also more versatile it's a good material to work with,when brazing various different types of steel can make up one frame.When steel breaks it tends to start off with a nice little crack (a for warning) whereas Aluminium will just shear which for MTB'ing can be pretty harsh if you crash.Again with regards to the construction steel can quite easily be repaired within any small town there is bound to be a workshop of engineers that would happily TIG or braze (depending on how the frame was made) a crack up.Materials like Aluminium and Carbon fibre are more difficult.


My preference anyway.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2012 1:43 pm 
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Your quite right, the steelists (manu's) have been beavering away under the radio of alu then carbon, always refining the chemical matrix, lightness, strength and so on to a fantastic level. They are by far the strongest frames, and for racers( bikes) this is essential for cruddy road city use, or country use as well in my case.

Some figures; the top steels ( reynolds 953, columbus XCR) have a tensile strength of over 2000 MpA. My frame, a zero replica from Dedacaia ( sic) has 1400 MpA. The most you will get out of Ti is around 1000MpA. Carbon is far below this, (Alu is around 700 MpA) and is used mainly for Cat 3 and above racers. Lightweight non racers generally use them for weekend blasts, never or seldom as a daily beater, unless they live in a part of the world with baby smooth roads.

The modern steels absorb the road shocks while letting you know the road surface, a neat trick, so your getting a Lotus feel without the jarring. Alu tends to give you the jarring. My bike, to me, rides with zero flex as well. It is also hand made by an artisan, which gives a more personal feeling of ownership, and, I guess, a longer feeling in your estimation.

You can buy super light steel frames, but they tend to be silly money. Independent Fabrications do one IIRC.

I would never bash carbon, i have a mainly carbon groupset, but because I'm a tubsie and no racer, and ride on sxxt roads, i would never ride a carbon frame. I had a test ride on one, and it was lighter, with about 2-3% better climbing, but I can live with that.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2012 2:15 pm 
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Good posts! Makes for very interesting reading :D

ticou wrote:
It is also hand made by an artisan, which gives a more personal feeling of ownership


There is something quite appealing about that. Although it has no bearing on the riding of a bike, in a world of mass produced frames, there is something great about a bike with 'history' or that 'tells a story'. Of course, it can be made from any material with that in mind, but steel still seems to be the material of choice for hand building, may be as it's so easy to work with?


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2012 2:31 pm 
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Agree 953 and XCR bikes are better than Ti at comparable cost. Ti is the least best material in my opinion. For a hardtail carbon or high end steel would be the best material depending if you want 2-300 grams lighter or the feel of steel.

The reason you only see aluminum on mass produced bikes is because the state of the art in aluminum is to use hydroforming. This requires large up front investment in the tooling so you have to make a lot of frames to recover the investment. (carbon has this same problem to some extent but the up front costs are not as high and the margins on each frame are much higher). On a full suspension bike you can get 90% as light as carbon with aluminum but the cost of a good design is probably 1/5 th. The aluminum suspension will soak up most of the bumps except some small chatter.

So if you are looking for a hardtail, my opinion is either custom high end steel that is basically stainless steel so rust, etc. are not really a problem. Or a name brand high end carbon frame that is around 900 grams.

If you are looking full suspension then either high end carbon like a Jet9 RDO or high end aluminum to save loads of money that you could spend on other improvements like Enve wheels.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2012 2:51 pm 
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I would say a custom steel frame is the way to go.

It really comes down to what kind of riding/racing your planning. If your doing XC racing under 2 hours, carbon is best as it is stiffer and transfers power better. If your doing more endurance type events, then custom steel is more forgiving and will be better for you. I do appreciate a nicely made steel frame although it will never been as light as a nice carbon frame.

The price point of titanium just doesn't make sense to me. You can get a high end steel frame that will only be a few hundred grams heavier and will be just as compliant over the bumps.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2012 4:22 pm 
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stephen@fibre-lyte wrote:
Good posts! Makes for very interesting reading :D

ticou wrote:
It is also hand made by an artisan, which gives a more personal feeling of ownership


There is something quite appealing about that. Although it has no bearing on the riding of a bike, in a world of mass produced frames, there is something great about a bike with 'history' or that 'tells a story'. Of course, it can be made from any material with that in mind, but steel still seems to be the material of choice for hand building, may be as it's so easy to work with?



Thats very true,My Curtis is bespoke by Curtis bikes and is steel.Within Curtis steel is used because it's the companies history same way in which they fillet braze their frames over TIG welding them again because it goes back to the companies roots of building motorbike frames.

Carbon and Titanium are pretty new in comparison.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2012 6:45 pm 
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There is a place for all materials. Personally being an engineer I can see pros and cons for each. But the one material that has the most Pros vs Cons is Carbon.

Yes you can make bad carbon frames. I've ridden friend's ebay carbon hardtail frames. Yes they are light, but they ride poor. Not enough torsional stiffness when really putting the watts down, and no vertical compliance. I found those ebay carbon frames feel like that chatter while being pushed hard.

My Lysnkey Ti hardtail is nice. But when you are pushing it hard through the single track I can't really feel what the front end is doing. It feels like the bike is wanting to tuck the front end and low side, but there is no transition from yes... i'm going to make this corner to I don't think I'm going to make it at this speed. The feel goes to from ok to bad instantly. While the Rocky Mountain Element RSL I can feel the transition of the front losing grip and giving me time to either change my line, speed, or lean of the bike to make it through.

Also when I stand on the pedals on my Ti hardtail, I can hear the front derailleur rub the chain because the bottom bracket is swaying under power. I can feel this too on my 2006 Cervelo Soloist which is made from Aluminum. But my 2008 Cervelo SLC-SL has none of this happening.

I nicely engineered carbon frame in my opinion beats a nice handmade steel or ti frame in performance.

But a lot of times we are not after performance. We are after exclusivity or uniqueness. Then a hand made Ti or steel bike can't be beat.

Maybe one day I will have a hand made KVA stainless hardtail made by independent fabrications... But the cost is too high and the performance is not high enough compared to a carbon frame that is on sale or closeout.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2012 8:56 pm 
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I would very much trust Carbon frames like the latest Superfly (849g for a medium) from Trek, mass manufacturing with the correct quality control turns out stuff more reliably than anything hand made short of paying ridiculous money, it always has done and probably always will do, to put the same resources into a single frame puts the piece cost right up!

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2012 10:41 pm 
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A carbom MTB frasme is on list of bike to build and ride. Persoanlly I like Steel and alu MTB's equally. They are equaly good to ride.

As carbon technology devlops and carbon nanotubes fibres become mass produced then you will have incredilally strong and stiff frames with very low weight. Graphene is also another material which revolutionise frame manufacture like carbon fibre has. I can't wait for that.

It also surprises me that basalt and kevlar fibre matrix's are not used more in frame production.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2012 11:24 pm 
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carbon nanotubes are already used in mass production. They aid interlaminar strength as far as I'm aware but won't do anything to reduce the weight. Basalt and kevlar won't be used as much as carbon because they're not as stiff. Kevlar is very tough and difficult to cut cleanly, but not very stiff. Basalt is a lot cheaper than both but also not very stiff.

TheRookie wrote:
I would very much trust Carbon frames like the latest Superfly (849g for a medium) from Trek, mass manufacturing with the correct quality control turns out stuff more reliably than anything hand made short of paying ridiculous money, it always has done and probably always will do, to put the same resources into a single frame puts the piece cost right up!


'the correct quality control' is the pertinent phrase there. The Trek might be a brilliant frame, but what technical insight leads you to believe that and why would it be any better than a hand built one off frame? I'm not meaning in general, I'm meaning in particular. In reality without cutting a brand new mass produced frame to pieces and knowing about its method of construction there's no way to know how well it has been put together. The same can be said of a bespoke frame, but you can get step by step photos of a bespoke frame being put together.

Every mass produced frame could be better than any bespoke frame, but how do you know?


Last edited by stephen@fibre-lyte on Mon Oct 29, 2012 5:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Posted: Sun Oct 28, 2012 11:24 pm 


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