Frame material.

Discussion in 'Bicycle Mechanics and Repairs' started by MichaelM, 2 Aug 2007.

  1. MichaelM

    MichaelM Veteran

    I ride a steel frame, which is apparently has the advantage of being compliant, but the disadvantage of being (relatively) heavy.

    Looking at steel frames with carbon seatstays, these stays seem to offer the advantage of weight reduction yet loosing nothing in the compliance dept.

    Aluminium frames - lighter than steel, but give a harsh ride. So add some carbon seatstays - possible weight reduction with reduced road buzz.

    So, on to full carbon frames. I'd think that this would give a lightweight frame, without any compromise in strength, but a comfortable ride.

    I think that makes sense, but misses the effect of the build of a carbon frame - which could be built light but very stiff if reqd. Would that be a fair(ish) summary of frame material/construction? Where does Ti come in the equation? Light, stiff, both ???

    Can anyone shed more light????

  2. Smokin Joe

    Smokin Joe Legendary Member

    I've never had an aluminium frame which I felt gave a harsh ride, and that goes for one that I had as far back as the late sixties as well as todays kit. In my opinion ride quality is 90% down to geometry and the way the tubes are butted, the material itself plays very little part.

    I can't comment on carbon as I've never had a full carbon frame.
  3. roshi chris

    roshi chris New Member

    As I understand it, carbon frames are not necessarily any lighter than other materials, it all depends on the qualities of the material and how the tubes are formed. Some steel frames can be very light indeed, some carbon fibre frames relatively heavy. I think carbon just gives frame builders a lot of control over various characteristics.

    For my money, at a sensible price point you can't beat alu with carbon stays/ forks for light/stiff/compliance balance in a race bike. And I love steel frames for everyday riding.

    Titanium apparently marries the compliance of steel with light weight of alu, but I dunno i've never ridden one .... :rolleyes:
  4. llllllll

    llllllll New Member

    I think it's way more complicated than that. You can make a frame out of any material that's compliant or stiff/heavy or light etc..... You need to look at tube shape, diameter and thickness and frame geometrey as well as material. Not to metion the different grades of Steel, Aluminium etc... and frames made with more than one material.
  5. I've just changed from aluminium/carbon stays to full carbon. Although I didn't think the alu/carbon was a harsh ride, when I compare it to the full carbon, there's a fair bit of difference. The carbon is a much smoother ride.
  6. asterix

    asterix Comrade Member

    Limoges or York
    My 62cm Reynolds 531 frame was definitely on the 'whippy' side when ridden in hilly areas. When it was stolen I replaced it with a 531ST bike that has more bottom bracket rigidity and is more suitable for the purpose.

    Roberts Cycles built me a compact audax bike that was specced to be good up the hills. It certainly is a good rigid climber. The frame material is Columbus Nivacrom(sp?); it's not as light as many racing bikes, but I can live with that!
  7. Paul_Smith SRCC

    Paul_Smith SRCC Veteran

    You do of course find many different versions of each type of frame material but here are some very general guidelines that I have tried to put across in a plain and simple manner, they are my opinions based on 26 years as a club cyclist and 20 years as a specialist cycle retailer:

    Aluminium Alloy: Often simply referred to as ‘Alloy’ Light, cheap, reasonably robust although not as comfortable when compared to the others, which is why most will have carbon forks. Alloy supposedly has the most performance drop off, which in fairness only really effects a racing cyclist where a few percent reduction in performance can make the difference (especially in their heads) of winning or coming second, in reality that applies more to the older lighter frames when Pro’ riders used extremely light versions (now most pro teams use Carbon), the modern budget frames use a heavier, more robust alloy and are of course aimed at a different style of riding. They are now the most common option in the mid range and upwards frame sets, fairly robust, as they will normally dent as apposed to crack. Normally the price dictates a purchase of a frame built in alloy, that does not mean that you will not be satisfied, you will see quite a few older frames still being ridden by club cyclists who find them perfectly adequate, plus many don’t have any complaints re’ comfort or performance drop off. Although most refer to these frames in general terms as ‘alloy’ if we are being pedantic then strictly speaking this is wrong, as steel is an alloy of carbon and iron, titanium is normally aluminum and vanadium, for example Airborne (now Van Nicholas ) use mainly 3% Aluminium, 2.5% Vanadium and 94.5 Titanium in most of their models.

    Carbon Comfortable, very light, efficient at transferring energy into propulsion as the material does not flex as much as other materials. Although strong they can be delicate, where other materials dent, Carbon will often crack, a friend of mine had a Colnago Carbon C40 that he had just finished cleaning in the garden, he stepped back to admire his pride and joy, just out of reach it caught a gust of wind, fell over, caught the chain stay on the rockery and cracked. As such not normally the choice for audax/touring bikes where robustness may be preferred. Most common rider is either a racing cyclist or someone who still likes to ride a racing bike down the cafe on a sunny Sunday morning, especially when you are feeling a little bit frisky in the speed department (as I get older this happens less, normally one week in May and one in August, except of course when I have a tail wind), plus it can be rather pleasing to sit with your mates remembering how good you once was and how super your new bike is; no harm in that, it's what cycling is all about

    Steel: Comfortable, very durable (if built correctly) with low performance drop off with age. These days only really used by club cyclist when the frame is built by a craftsmen, you are really paying for the workman ship. Many cyclist like to know who built their bike, they like the fact that they are having something built often to their own specification, you can personalise your frame with your own braze on items, light bosses, extra bottle bosses etc, you can even chose your own colour. In the past all top quality frames were purchased this way, as it was how you got exactly what you wanted, both in quality and especially frame size. The old diamond shape frame being less adaptable interms of variations in riding position than the modern sloping top tube frames; even Lance Armstrong uses an off the peg frame size. Although I fall into this category, as in uses as steel frame, not Lance Armstrong, I have to admit that modern off the peg frames are now so good both interms of production quality and the flexibility that the modern geometry gives you to achieve the perfect riding position, that the necessity to have a bike made to measure is less of an issue; but I still like them, I have some that are twenty years old and still going strong. Normally purchased by traditional types who still relate to when this was the way things were and if it was good enough then well......Ok Ok, I admit riders like me.

    Titanium: Becoming more popular, virtually no performance drop as they don’t even rust, comfortable, light, yet robust. Performance wise not quite as responsive as carbon or alloy (alloy when new that is), although really it is that not far off, some pro riders now even use Titanium like Magnus Baksted a former Paris Roubaix winner, especially in races where comfort can become an issue, for example over the cobbles of the Paris Roubaix, as riders are bashed about so much it can lead to fatigue. The down side is that Titanium is very hard to work/build with; so most don't! On the upside because of this the workman ship simply has to be of top quality and it shows, Titanium frames do look and are very well made. Most common used when someone wants a fast, responsive, light comfortable (ideal for longer day rides/audax), yet robust bike and of course where price is not so much of an issue.

    Most titanium manufacturers use the 3AL 2.5V grade, the 6/4 grade is usually only used for pure race bikes, it is also as a finished frame more expensive, as the raw material is more difficult to both make into tubes and then to build. Many also believe the 3AL 2.5V grade is more suitable, especially for Audax frames where riders are not looking for something quite as stiff as a full on race bike.

    Paul Smith

    Some links you may find useful

  8. OP

    MichaelM Veteran

    Thanks Paul.

    It's quite clear that what I really need is a handbuilt steel frame and an off the peg carbon and a Ti frame as well. One day maybe....
  9. Blue

    Blue Legendary Member

    N Ireland
    I've been riding my carbon frame since April but took my Alu bike out today as I've changed the 53T ring for a 49T and wanted to see how it felt. I liked the gearing, but the roads seemed to have deteriorated markedly overnight!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Think I'll stick a 49T ring on the carbon frame and leave the Alu for the grime of winter. Carbon is soooooooooooooooo much nicer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  10. fossyant

    fossyant Ride It Like You Stole It!

    South Manchester
    Don't forget the new 953 steel - very light and strong and doesn't rust as it's stainless... hmmmmm
  11. Paul_Smith SRCC

    Paul_Smith SRCC Veteran

    It is a shame though that 953 appears to be aimed more at the mass production builders who will chose to weld the tubes, as apposed to the traditional craftsmen who will not, completely understandable of course, yet a shame none the less.

    Reynolds 953 builders include Cliff Shrubb from Wallington Surrey and Dave Yates as can be seen from his webs site. I know Cliff found it very difficult to work with so I was also assume that others do as well, plus although he liked the 953 tube he was less keen on some of the comparible stays and lugs/shells. He opted to build with lugs to keep the cost down, to build luggless in the traditiuonal (ie not welded) would have cost considerably more, as in hundreds of pounds.

    The bikes that I linked to above for Cliff are not all 953, only the black single speed is, he has also built one for him self in battleship grey ( I mean Ferrari matt platinium) as he wanted it to be very understated, finished off with the new Sram group as he also wanted to keep the 'let's do something completelly different thing going'. He has actually built quite a few unusual bikes in his time, one for Sean Yates that he used in the 1982 World Pursuit where the bars joint straight onto the forks, a bike he starting to use again years later for fixed wheel time trials after he retired as a Pro (by then Sprayed Red, in 1982 it had peugeot stickers on an unpainted frame).

    A Cliff Shrubb frame I think also still holds the British speed record, that if I recall is held by Dave Le Grys, with a gear so big he had to be towed behind a car to get it going, he then sat in the slip stream behind a special fairing that was attached to a works TWR Rover Vitesse, like the one in that link but white with a huge enclosed fairing on the back. The attempt was over two days an unopened new stretch of the M42 motorway near Alvechurch.

    Trivia that I hope is still correct, the record was 126 mph set in 1986. Incidentally Cliff still owns the bike as he never got paid for it I believe, but he has not got a clue where it is, unless anyone else does??


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