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i'm looking at buying my first road bike in the price range of $1,000 - $1500 and would like some opinions on steel frames vs aluminum with carbon fiber forks and posts. i plan on doing long distance rides.
 

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BS the DC
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steel
 

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in your price range

eburke said:
i'm looking at buying my first road bike in the price range of $1,000 - $1500 and would like some opinions on steel frames vs aluminum with carbon fiber forks and posts. i plan on doing long distance rides.
definitely steel. Most low end AL bikes are fairly harsh. You could get a more comfortable AL frame but it would set you back more $$$$$$
 

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Ethical Nihilist
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Get AL

eburke said:
i'm looking at buying my first road bike in the price range of $1,000 - $1500 and would like some opinions on steel frames vs aluminum with carbon fiber forks and posts. i plan on doing long distance rides.

Definitely aluminum. Steel framed bikes in that price range will be real pigs, weight wise. Corresponding aluminum bikes will be 2 lbs lighter, at least. You will be on a group ride, get dropped on your steel pig, and wish you had gotten AL. I've been riding aluminum for many years and if you are fit (both conditioning and bike sizing) the ride quality will not be an issue. Of course, the carbon fork helps.
 

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Find a used steel bike. Unfortunately for $1500 there are a lot of comprises on new bikes to keep the cost down. I'm getting a custom steel bike made and am planning to use Campagnolo Centaur on it. I think I can do it for about $1800. I'm getting the frame and fork for $750.
 

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BS the DC
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vol245 said:
Find a used steel bike. Unfortunately for $1500 there are a lot of comprises on new bikes to keep the cost down. I'm getting a custom steel bike made and am planning to use Campagnolo Centaur on it. I think I can do it for about $1800. I'm getting the frame and fork for $750.
Sounds like a nice build. Who's building your frame?
 

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Semi-Custom steel

Like vol245, I am building up a new steel bike for around $1900. I decided on the Gunnar Sport ($875 frame/fork) with a Centaur build kit from the guys at Yellow Jersey ($1000 w/o pedals). The components are all in, now I'm just waiting for the frame to be done.

I really doubt I could tell a significant difference in the ride quality (or weight for that matter) between good steel and good aluminum. But I am something of a traditionalist, and the uniqueness and longgeviity (sp?) of steel appeals to me.

As most people will agree, fit is more important than frame material. As for "You will be on a group ride, get dropped on your steel pig, and wish you had gotten AL", this assumes that you care about being the fastest, which is not always the case.

Just my $.02 worth.

Scott
 

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I'll give a little bit of an indirect answer. I'm far from an expert, but I honestly believe you can't just say "steel" or "Alu".

Problem is as much as steel and ALU are different, so much else might depend on the ride qualities of the bike (roads you ride, rider weight, riding style, frame design, saddle, seat post, wheel build and type and so on, etc, you get the picture).

I'd think a good generalization is that steel has more potential to be more forgiving, but you're probably going to get more of a lighter bike with better components on an ALU frame (and I know that's a very rough generalization!), but the bottom line is that you've got to get out and try the bikes.

Many riders seem to be happy with steel or ALU, so I think you have to get out and try yourself. You'll probably find out what's best for you when you do this.
 

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hi, I'm Larry
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Steel

For long distance you might even look at a relaxed geometry or even a touring bike.

Don't get all hung up on a pound or two of weight. Try some bikes out and go with what feels comfortable. Even in low level racing I believe there is too much emphasis on weight. One or 2 pounds is NOT a factor.

There are are also some comfortable aluminum bikes out there but those are ussally at the high end of the alluminum market. There are some comfortable lower end steel bikes out there that are very durable. Just a little heavier. Not an issue unless you plan on racing up mountains.
 

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Ti me up
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Steel for long distance

eburke said:
i'm looking at buying my first road bike in the price range of $1,000 - $1500 and would like some opinions on steel frames vs aluminum with carbon fiber forks and posts. i plan on doing long distance rides.
As one poster noted, lower-end aluminum frames do tend toward harshness. I'm told that the higher-end Al frames are quite nice, but the lower-end ones I've ridden were not as comfortable as my steel bikes, particularly over rough pavement - steel smooths it out some, where the aluminum bikes transmited every bump and rut right to my body.

I'm not clear from your sentence whether this is your first road bike, and your price range is $1-1.5K, or whether you've had lower end road bikes and this will be your first one that's in that higher price range. If it's the latter, and you have some riding experience, have your position down, and you're pretty clear on what size you need, there are lots of good used steel frame bikes available via eBay in the $800-1000 price range. I don't have the money to spend on really high-end bikes, but I picked up a 2000 Lemond Zurich that's now my main ride for about $900, and it's quite comfortable. I want to try Ti or CF frames sometime, too, but given available funds, those'll probably come used as well. Meantime, steel has been good to me.
 

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Lets see,my pig,er,2003 853 steel Fuji Marseille,18.5 pounds,all Ultegra with a ritchey crank,$1099. Dont let the bitter alum riders talk you into a bad ride. Get the steel.
 

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After looking for a couple of months for a bike in your price range this time last year, it came down to Specialized Allez. I rode the same bike (Allez Elite) geometry+drivetrain) in steel and aluminum and the steel won hands down, even though it was a few bucks more. After some experience and hanging out with very educated riders (cycling wise--otherwise they are very stupid--you know who you are too ;), I learned enough to pull the trigger on a used steel cx bike, make unknown but I believe one of the deals of the century (it's early).

Unless I begin doing 10 or so races/year I will likely stick with steel (or Ti if I win the new Tennessee lottery).

Gregg
 

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bsdc said:
Sounds like a nice build. Who's building your frame?
Oasis Custom Cycles in Glendale, AZ. He normally charges $1000 for frame and fork, but was discounting the next 5 to $750 so I jumped on it. I called Lickbikes.com about a week ago and they said a Centaur build kit would be around $800 and Chorus around $1200. I may upgrade the bb and hubs, not sure yet. I'd like a Phil Wood bb.

The LBSs will try to fit you in what they have in stock. I really wanted the frame to fit properly and not have a 13cm stem compensate for lack of frame size. My bike will be built so I can use a 10cm stem. I can go 11 if I want to be more stretched out or 9 if I want to be more upright.

I just sold a Litespeed Tuscany with Campy Chorus and Reynolds Ouzo Pro fork a couple months ago. It was a great ride, but the 57 cm frame was too small for me. In hindsight, I should have just bought a new frame.

I'm sure this bike will be heavier, but it doesn't matter that much to me since I donor race. It will be lugged steel with a threaded steel fork (which he also makes). He is a one man shop and is very meticulous in his work.
 

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I'll be contrary

I'd say go with an aluminum framed bike. Lots more choices, some of which are quite good. I'd suggest looking at Felt. They have a few very nice Al framed bikes in your $$ range with full Shimano groups (and not invisible replacements, like BB etc).

I think the whole steel vs aluminum thing is over-done. The contact points (seat, handlebars, pedals, tires) will have more effect on comfort than material.
 

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your text here
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i just built up my first bike and chose to do an aluminum road bike. the only other road bike i have ridden was an old steel bridgestone. while the bridgestone is heavier and doesn't fit me as well as my new build, the ride quality feels better in the rear.

one reason i chose to build from scratch rather than just upgrade the steel bike was fit. the AL fits better, but i have noticed a much harsher ride. several companies have adapted their AL frames by adding a CF seatpost, curved seatstays, or CF seatstays. trek has a touring bike this year with CF Seatstays and a CF seatpost. they also have a sub-$1000 road racer with CF seatstays. giant has some bikes with curved seatstays, which is supposed to help dampen the ride. i know many people like the KHS or fuji road bikes, which i think are steel.

i would say, however, that steel is my favorite. if i didnt have a tight accountant (read: wife). if you can swing it, you can get a pretty good steel frame that is somewhat light. not as light as AL in most price ranges. the decision all depends on your philosophy. longer rides may warrant more forgiving rides. you may need to get a slightly, and i mean slightly, heavier steel frame and step down in a groupo. plus, steel has a nice thin tube stock, and the welds seem to look better, if youre into that thing.
 

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I think it doesn't matter - just about any ride property associated with frame materials can be compensated for with a really good saddle and a good set of tires set to the optimum pressure for the roads you're riding. I've got steel bikes, aluminum bikes and a carbon fiber bike. I can dial in anything by moving around saddles and wheels. I prefer steel simply because I prefer steel. I do centuries on steel (or CF) mainly because that's the way I've always done them. Most of the advice you're going to get here is based on those kinds of habits - mine included.

Pick the one that has the best component set you can afford, throw some money at a good saddle (chances are in your price range, the stock saddle will not be the best) and play with tire inflation. The most important thing you can do when buying a bike (second only to picking the correct fit) is pick the paint job you really, really like.
 

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lyleseven
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Steel, steel, steel, no question

Sure, it is going to be a little heavier. So what? Are you racing? By the time you compensate with aluminum for its generally harsher ride in that price range by adding a seat, fork, etc. you might as well spend $1,500 on another bike... like a steel bike. I am biased, but I have owned 3 aluminum bikes, 2 steel and one Ti. There isn't even a hint of doubt in my mind.
 

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You say long distance riding, do you mean touring? If so, have you looked at a Trek 520? It's a steel touring bike that I think cost around $1500 with Shimano 105 stuff.

But steel is a more comfortable riding frame material than AL for longer rides...for most people.
 

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Check out the Specialized roubaix!

If you will be doing some long rides and price and comfort are your main goals, give the Specialized Roubaix a test ride. I have been testing bikes for the past month now, and by far the Specialized Roubaix was the most comfortable aluminum bike I tried. It has an columbus aluminum frame and in my size (62cm) weighed only 19 pounds. The roubaix is an all 105 bike for around $1200 and the roubaix elite is an all ultegra bike for around $1600. The ride is absolutly plush and it has definately succeded in doing what it claims. They market it as a road bike were comfort is key and the viscoelastic dampers in the forks, seatstay, seatpost and handlebars really seem to work. Another comfortable bike in your price range that I tried was the Orbea Marmoladda, it has an aluminum frame and carbon seatstay with campy components. However I feel the Specialized gives you more for your money. My price range was very similar to yours, and I had a hard time deciding on a bike, in the end I ended up with a Lemond Buenos Aires. I chose it for a few reasons. I am a big guy and the extra weight the steel/carbon construction over aluminum, is not too much of an issue for me since in the end the bikes total weight is still less than 10% of my weight. It also felt the best as far as fit goes. I also wanted the strength and longevity of the frame the BA offers. I know it's a bit out of your price range, but I got my BA with a tripple for just over 1700 plus tax. It may be worth a try. If not, then definately try the roubaix.

I'm going nuts waiting for my bike to arrive, should be here in a week.

Best Regards,

Marc Webster
 
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