Road Bike, Cycling Forums banner
1 - 18 of 18 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
72 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have really enjoyed reading this forum and gaining knowledge about this sport that I fell in love with a couple of years ago but one thing that I constantly notice is the frequent "bashing" of AL frames. My knowledge of frame material is limited at best but am I incorrect in the opinion that ride quality and charecteristics are more based on other things like geometry, tube shaping, fit, tire pressure or even the type of AL used? It just seems like AL has become a disrepected frame material even though professional riders seem to continue to use it. I just bought the 2004 Specialized Allez comp and while I may not be savvy enough to discern the minute details - I find it to be a smooth responsive bike and no more harsh than the steel Lemond or Trek with Carbon and AL.

Again - just wanted to get some feedback and gain some knowledge

Tks
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
591 Posts
bigriderblack said:
I incorrect in the opinion that ride quality and charecteristics are more based on other things like geometry, tube shaping, fit, tire pressure or even the type of AL used? It just seems like AL has become a disrepected frame material even though professional riders seem to continue to use it.



Tks
Yeah, other things make a difference. Pros use it because it's light and stiff,
 

·
$4000 bike - two bit legs
Joined
·
1,433 Posts
You would have to compare

bigriderblack said:
I have really enjoyed reading this forum and gaining knowledge about this sport that I fell in love with a couple of years ago but one thing that I constantly notice is the frequent "bashing" of AL frames. My knowledge of frame material is limited at best but am I incorrect in the opinion that ride quality and charecteristics are more based on other things like geometry, tube shaping, fit, tire pressure or even the type of AL used? It just seems like AL has become a disrepected frame material even though professional riders seem to continue to use it. I just bought the 2004 Specialized Allez comp and while I may not be savvy enough to discern the minute details - I find it to be a smooth responsive bike and no more harsh than the steel Lemond or Trek with Carbon and AL.

Again - just wanted to get some feedback and gain some knowledge

Tks
...side by side to note a difference. I own an all CF bike (Aegis) and an AL bike with CF fork (Tsunami). In fairness, the Aegis is a much, much higher quality frame. When I ride the bikes one day after another, I really notice how much smoother and more comfy the CF frame is. I feel more road vibration with the AL frame but it's not uncomfortable, just not as smooth. I've never ridden the AL frame more than 40 miles at a time (its' new) so I can't compare on a long ride.

As one poster mentioned - the pro's like AL and they ride 10's of thousands of miles per year. Want a comfy bike?? Then make sure it fits, get a good saddle that makes your butt happy, use a CF fork, make sure your shoes fit then the AL vs CF vs steel vs Ti won't mean that much. IMHO.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,749 Posts
Wheel and tire psi and big factor..

I think you pretty much answered your own question in regards to aluminum. Wheel and tire selection plays a big role. My old bike is a Klein Quantum Race and I found the best thing I can do to enhance the ride is to lower the psi on my tires. I find my Klein to be very smooth, rigid, but not too stiff. Weight is the main reason that you see pro's riding a lot of aluminum bikes. Another reason is-that's what thrown at them. My other (main ride) is a steel bike. I find (for me) the al bike seems to accelerate faster and better for climbing. It has a more zoot feel to it. My steel bike handles better, especially on the descents, I can take one curve on one of my ride routes 10MPH faster on the steel bike, but that might have more to do about geometry than frame material. I feel more confident riding the steel bike, but that might all be in my head. No matter what you ride someone will bash it. Just ride what you like and go with it....I kinda prefer steel myself, but I would not pass up a good deal on another al bike..
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
766 Posts
The Pros may have bikes thrown at them, but if a Steel or Ti frame actually contributed to comfort so much that it made a performance difference as some people claim ("I feel fresher at the end of the day, etc..") then the Pros would all be riding Steel or Ti.

There are soooo many other variables. Take someones super comfy bike, put stiff wheels on it, put the pressure up to 120+ psi in the tires, mess with the positioning just slightly, and all of a sudden the bike is no longer comfy and they may have crotch problems, knee tendonitis, carpal tunnel, etc..

Ben
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
14 Posts
Pro's opinion

There is an article on Cyclingnews about the Lotto-Domo team bike (Merckx scandium), and here is something the team mechanic said:

"Some riders, like Serge Baguet who suffers from back problems, have found the carbon bike to be too stiff, so Serge went back to the aluminium model after last year's Tour," added Vandercauter. (from: http://www.cyclingnews.com/teamtech04.php?id=tech/2004/probikes/lottodomo_merckx)

So it seems like one can't generally say Al = harsh and carbon = comfortable.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
766 Posts
I think Carbon actually messes with your head.

I have been riding a mid-range/low-end bike for the last 4 years and rarely went into the shop and looked at trick parts.

I just bought a new bike, picking up all these insanely light carbon parts in the store, they are so light it's almost impossible to believe that they are strong/safe/harsh, when the engineering & science data actually shows them to be stiffer than the same thing in Al or Steel and to last longer.

Just amazing stuff, but a lot of it to me triggers the "Holy Sh*t that is way too light to be safe & strong" reaction.

Ben
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,655 Posts
As Dinosaur says

A lot of it's in the tire pressure and geometry. I've had a number of steel frames over the years, a couple of Litespeed's (Vortex and Merckx EX), C40 and a cheapo straight guage Al frame with CF fork.

The Al is not much harsher than my TSX Marinoni custom steel. I'm light at 60kg and still, the ride of the AL is okay unless I were riding on a lot of cobbled or extremely rough roads. Not my first choice for rides over 50 miles but its the only bike I've ridden for the last 3 months while the C40 and Vortex gather dust.

That being said, as the weather improves over the next 30 days, I'm swapping the Al for a NOS Colnago Tecnos frame I bought 60 days ago and have finally finished prepping and installing the BB and HS. I'm sure the ride will be better FWIW.
 

·
eminence grease
Joined
·
18,538 Posts
I think frame ride quality is all about tires, wheels, saddle and frame design parameters and to a lesser extent about the metal itself. I've got 5 aluminum bikes, one each in SC6110, Starship, U107, V107 and Airplane. All use the same tires and a couple of different kinds of wheels. All have different design considerations in terms of angles and tubing shapes. While the Airplane is a bit more harsh under some conditions (as in the one bumpy section of road I ride is worse on it,) they all provide a pretty comfortable ride. Certainly comfortable enough for me to do a 100 miles on. Compared to the steel bikes I own, they're not so radically different that they force me to say, "gee, I'm sure glad I'm riding steel today." Some of the steel bikes I own seem to ride just as stiffly.

Biggest wowie for me was the one time I rode at 125 psi instead of my normal 110. That day that aluminum bike felt shrill as hell. In general, I think if you buy any higher end frame and hang good components on it, it's going to give you a pretty nice ride. To your experience, you like how your bike feels and I really doubt that if you hopped on something else, your eyes would roll back in your head. Hasn't happened for me at least.
 

·
Old, slow, and fat.
Joined
·
3,897 Posts
bigriderblack said:
I have really enjoyed reading this forum and gaining knowledge about this sport that I fell in love with a couple of years ago but one thing that I constantly notice is the frequent "bashing" of AL frames. My knowledge of frame material is limited at best but am I incorrect in the opinion that ride quality and charecteristics are more based on other things like geometry, tube shaping, fit, tire pressure or even the type of AL used? It just seems like AL has become a disrepected frame material even though professional riders seem to continue to use it. I just bought the 2004 Specialized Allez comp and while I may not be savvy enough to discern the minute details - I find it to be a smooth responsive bike and no more harsh than the steel Lemond or Trek with Carbon and AL.

Again - just wanted to get some feedback and gain some knowledge

Tks
To add another voice to the fray, my E5 S-Works compact frame rides nicer than my Bontrager Road Lite steel compact frame. When I jump from one to another (every other day or so) I notice that the AL bike rides smoother.

AL harshness came from the days of the first gen C-dales and Kleins. Back then AL WAS harsh riding. I know, I owned an '88 vintage Crit frame. Got off the bike with a sore lower back, etc.

The funny thing is, in Europe, AL is "noodly." Their experience with AL was Vitus and Guercitottis. Go figure.

Note: this is my opinion on the state of bicycle design. In the intervening 20-ish years, bike frame designers have been working to make AL frames ride like the good steel frames, and the steel frames have been trying to ride a little more like the AL frames... Funny, huh?

Mike
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
240 Posts
bigriderblack said:
I have really enjoyed reading this forum and gaining knowledge about this sport that I fell in love with a couple of years ago but one thing that I constantly notice is the frequent "bashing" of AL frames.

Big rider, you are on to something.

This series of message boards is helpful, interesting, fun, and sometimes useful. But very often, myths are perpetuated that build into something that has little or no grounding in reality.

To be quite honest, I am getting sick and tired of the overuse of such terms as "stiff". After countless examples of misuse, words like that lose all meaning.

Aluminum is a great choice for making a lightwieght bicycle frame. AL is very light and less expensive than Carbon Fiber. I do a lot of riding on an AL bike (also have CF and Steel in the stable), and I find to to be very comfortable. But that doesn't mean that it is the optimal frame material for me or for anyone else. A well-fitted bike goes a long way.What should concern you: the strength of the welds as they determine frame life.

I have come to think that if you are racing and need some kind of edge, AL is great way to go. But for the average cyclist who wants a strong long lasting frame, there are better options. You can go light with just about any frame material these days.

Over time, I find myself working back towards practicality. Most of the cyclists on RBR need to justify the multiple thousands of dollars spent on their latest bling bling bike. Another group has to justify their bargain basement frame that's tig welded in Taiwan or China. In the case of the former, people must argue that TI is compliant but still "stiff" while much less expensive aluminum frames are "harsh". For the latter, they have to argue that frames welded in Tawian or China have the same quality as any other Aluminum frame.

If you are going to buy an AL frame, make sure it's good quality!

As a result of this kind of RBR mishmash, we have 280 lb riders fretting over 32 or 36 hole wheel builds! Club riders are looking for "stronger" rims to offset their desire (need?) to go with 28 hole wheel builds. We've got guys getting dropped on club rides who are worried about frame "stiffness" when they can't hit 26 mph in their best sprint!

If you are riding an AL bike and it's working for you, then don't worry about what anyone on this board says. If you are looking to get a new bike, first of all, figure out what kind of rider you are and then the match the frame material to those needs. AL could work great for your application. Then again, it might not.

Of course, if people start listening and responding to advice like mine, then the bicycle marketers are going to be knocked onto their heads. Hope they are wearing their helmets.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
453 Posts
Old v New Al

I agree with MShaw. Al used to be harsh. I remember riding my friends Cannondale in the mid-90's (the bike was a few yrs old at the time). Ouch! I thought I was going to break my wrists on every road imperfection.

Fast forward to 2004. After 9 years with my Trek 5000 OCLV, I decided it was time for something new. I didn't want Al due to my memories of that ride. I test road three bikes in the $2500 area for around 20 minutes each - A Ti Litespeed (some sort of quasi aero frame), Ti Merlin & a Specialized Alez Pro. I was shocked at how nice the alluminum Alez Pro felt. Light, lively and no harsher than the Ti bikes. The bike has full Dura Ace and is lighter than the other Ultegra bikes for the same price. Guess what I bought!

Truth be told, I didn't notice much difference between bikes. Do you ski? If so, try demoing a few pairs in a row. You'll notice the diffence in the first two turns (must buy K2 Axis XP's!). Bikes, on the other hand, feel fairly similar.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
33 Posts
I had problems with getting comfortable on a no-name saddle. A shop owner recommended 3 saddles, and pointed to the Fizik Pave CP Ti for the best comfort. It has a Gel insert. On the first ride I was amazed how it smoothed out the rough spots in the pavement. In the past, I'd stop pedaling over rough stuff so I could unload the saddle. After installing the Fizik saddle, I breezed over the stuff.

I bought a new bike in December and decided to go with a regular Pave saddle, thinking I was too much man to ride a saddle designed for riders who ride less than 4000km/yr. Well, the Al frame and race geometry might make me go back to the Pave CP (stands for comfort performance). Cool thing is the CP Ti saddle weighs only 8 grams more than the standard Pave saddle (280 vs. 272). I'll gladly give up 8 grams to make my butt happy again. :)

Jürgen
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
72 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks to all for the opinions - It seems that all those who replied to my thread are pretty balanced (really good stuff from Plus Vite - You better be careful - The bike Mfg are going to be looking for you :)

I guess in the end it all ends up right back at where my riding buddy said it would

Quote "Nobody gives a **** what you ride - They only care if you can hold thier wheel"
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
777 Posts
There are a few different issues here.

First is the issue of appropriate stiffness. I happen to like what a bit of flex does for a bike, others hate it. I'm 5'11" and 215 lbs, and ride a full Columbus SL bike, which many would assume would be too flexible for someone my size. Most modern AL frames are designed to be as stiff as possible, to satisfy the "stiff = efficient" meme.

The biggest issue for me, at least if we confine the discussion to fast road bikes with skinny tires, is the nature of the vibration the frame transmits. What I feel from stiff Al bikes is a high-frequency vibration that I don't like. To use a poor analogy, it's like the feel of a four-cylinder motorcyle, vs. a twin or a triple. I don't dig 4-bangers, either. Flexible Al, like a Vitus, changes the equation completely, and everyone should ride one, at least once. Carbon bikes, at least the two I've owned, vibrate quite differently, presumably because CF is a "lossier" material than metal. Steel vibrates differently again. I prefer steel for road bikes.

All that having been said, my tandem, my touring bike, and my MTB are all Al. All are running big tires, so frame differences vanish.

The short version is, different materials and designs will feel different, but which one you prefer is up to you.

--Shannon
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
22 Posts
My 02

I think a large amount of Al’s reputation of being overly stiff was generated in the early 90’s because of Cannondale and Klein. The theory was bigger+thinner let’s you use lighter tubes, those huge tubes also were really stiff. Now people, what you have to realize is that 15 years later high end Al frames are more than fatty thin wall Al tubes. If you look at the amount of shaping and butting on a new Klein or Cannondale you will not see a single tube that is even close to strait gauge round tubing. Even among the generations of Kleins I’ve owned the ride quality has increased tremendously(96-03). In reality you can make a steel feel like carbon, carbon feel like Al, Al feel like steel. In addition I’d have to say a fair amount of a materials stereotypical “feel” can be attributed to marketing. If you’re looking at buying a carbon frame you don’t want to be told its stiff like Al. In the end it all directly depends on how a material is used in the fab of a frame, that gives it it’s “feel.” And then you throw in components spec and setup….
 

·
Administrator
Joined
·
13,006 Posts
For what its worth- I rode (am selling) a carbon/ti combination frame. Very smooth, very nice, very expensive.

I bought a cheap Redline cross frame- straight gauge Al, and a all Al fork. But with a set of 25's and a nice WTB saddle the thing rides great on the road. In fact, I like it more than the more expensive bike. So, my next bike will be Al most likely as the weight, drivetrain stiffness and value are all outstanding.
 
1 - 18 of 18 Posts
Top