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Whats so good about steel framed hardtails?

mwillsbrmwillsbr Posts: 5
edited February 2010 in MTB buying advice
Newbie question but ive never ridden one .
Whats so special about a steel framed bike compoared to a similar priced aluminium one? Need some opinions as after something different for summer.
thanks,

Posts

  • konanigekonanige Posts: 115
    hi there, welcome to the forum. A good steel frame will be very strong like aluminium but crucially will be more pliant and damp out a lot of trail buzz. I have both and if you ride one bike after the other on a bumpy fireroad you really can notice the difference. Hope this helps.
  • The feel of a steel frame is something to fall in love with. It has an 'alive' feel' to it on the trail, a sort of organic connectedness as it yields and complies with the terrain underneath you.

    When descending at speed the frame is at its best. It will deform, bend, and flex in such a way that will carry you over you over the rough stuff in a floating, momentum carrying, fun affirming way that will have you addicted, will make you ride more, and will make you leave your FS at home collecting dust.

    Aluminum will feel dull & lifeless. Ti will have a duller thud feel. Steel has the most soul
  • NorthwindNorthwind Posts: 14,682
    Honestly, nothing really- different frames feel different based on how they're built, and the material's only a part of that. I have a super-stiff steel frame (an ancient Saracen Rufftrak) and I had a fairly compliant alloy frame (a Scandal) and none of the steel frames I've ridden feel the same as each other. I got the Soul not because it's steel but because of the overall ride, if there was a cheaper lighter aluminium Soul I'd probably have got that.
    Uncompromising extremist
  • supersonicsupersonic Posts: 82,708 Lives Here
    As NW says -totally depends on how they are made. To say that steel is more compliant than alu is, to be frank, BS. They can be: many are - a lot are.

    Steel tubes, size for size are THREE TIMES stiffer than alu. So it is design, taking into account the properties of the material, that counts.
  • nicklousenicklouse Posts: 81,520 Lives Here
    just a side bar on the steel tubes used.

    even if the frame has a sticker on it saying 853 that is most likely to be just the 3 main tubes.

    so please check what your are getting.
    "Do not follow where the path may lead, Go instead where there is no path, and Leave a Trail."
    Parktools :?:SheldonBrown
  • supersonicsupersonic Posts: 82,708 Lives Here
    I remember in the 90s when many 'cromo' frames were just the seat tube lol
  • Andy BAndy B Posts: 8,115
    nicklouse wrote:
    just a side bar on the steel tubes used.

    even if the frame has a sticker on it saying 853 that is most likely to be just the 3 main tubes.

    so please check what your are getting.
    Yup IIRC Curtis are one of the only manufacturers who do make a frame completely from 853, it's a pretty expensive frame too @ £875, but it can be custom built : http://www.curtisbikes.co.uk/xc-reynolds.html

    Generally as Nick says the main tubes will be the one the manufacturer shouts about & the rest will be of a lower grade.
  • NorthwindNorthwind Posts: 14,682
    Though on that subject, Cy from Cotic:

    "So after all the slagging we've just given cromoly, you're probably wondering why the rear end of the Soul is made out of the stuff instead of 853 now that 853 stays have become available (late 2005). Well, any structural problem is simply a matter of working to the limits of the material, and the rear end of the Soul is as strong and responsive as it can be through careful design and tube specification, backed up by more than 4 years of riding through prototyping and into production. Reynolds are only offering their 853 stays in the same profiles and wall thickness as our cromoly stays so they wouldn't any lighter, just an awful lot stronger (when our cromoly rear end is perfectly strong enough) and an awful lot more expensive. For the moment, we'll stick with what we've got."
    Uncompromising extremist
  • nicklousenicklouse Posts: 81,520 Lives Here
    Northwind

    I was waiting for that, so if they had used the 853 stays the back end would also have been stiffer/harsher.
    "Do not follow where the path may lead, Go instead where there is no path, and Leave a Trail."
    Parktools :?:SheldonBrown
  • NorthwindNorthwind Posts: 14,682
    I'm a predictable internet robot :lol: I have no idea if it's really the case or not, but it's a nice wee insight into what goes into these things.
    Uncompromising extremist
  • supersonicsupersonic Posts: 82,708 Lives Here
    853 is the same stiffnress as standard cromo, just a higher tensile stength. I guess they could have used lighter stays that would be just as strong, but they would flex more.
  • nicklousenicklouse Posts: 81,520 Lives Here
    the 853 profiles were/are the same as the Cromo, so no lighter just stiffer.
    "Do not follow where the path may lead, Go instead where there is no path, and Leave a Trail."
    Parktools :?:SheldonBrown
  • supersonicsupersonic Posts: 82,708 Lives Here
    Nah, still same stiffness! The modulus of both materials is nigh on identical.
  • bomberesquebomberesque Posts: 1,701
    no lighter, no stiffer but stronger in a place that they aren't suffering failures and more expensive. Hence he didn't bother

    today's alu frames (many of them anyway) go a long way to exorcising the demon of the "harsh ride" for which they have been correctly criticised in the past. And they're almost always lighter. Not to mention often cheaper (weird, as alu is a lot more expensive per kilo than steel, but high costs of specialist steels, plus mahoosive economies of scale in alu frame manufacturing figure into it).

    try some out, buy what suits you. I own steel, alu and carbon bikes (it's a disease I tell you), they're all interesting in their own right, but in a modern bike the construction and design will have as big an effect as material choice on the ride so you really need to get on it and see.
    Everything in moderation ... except beer
    Beer in moderation ... is a waste of beer

    If riding an XC race bike is like touching the trail,
    then riding a rigid singlespeed is like licking it
    ... or being punched by it, depending on the day
  • bike-a-swanbike-a-swan Posts: 1,235
    smaller tubes on a steel frame hold less mud...
    Rock Lobster 853, Trek 1200 and a very old, tired and loved Apollo Javelin.
  • bomberesquebomberesque Posts: 1,701
    smaller tubes on a steel frame hold less mud...

    ^ I like it! :D
    Everything in moderation ... except beer
    Beer in moderation ... is a waste of beer

    If riding an XC race bike is like touching the trail,
    then riding a rigid singlespeed is like licking it
    ... or being punched by it, depending on the day
  • blister pusblister pus Posts: 5,780
    edited February 2010
    Northwind wrote:
    Though on that subject, Cy from Cotic:

    "So after all the slagging we've just given cromoly, you're probably wondering why the rear end of the Soul is made out of the stuff instead of 853 now that 853 stays have become available (late 2005). Well, any structural problem is simply a matter of working to the limits of the material, and the rear end of the Soul is as strong and responsive as it can be through careful design and tube specification, backed up by more than 4 years of riding through prototyping and into production. Reynolds are only offering their 853 stays in the same profiles and wall thickness as our cromoly stays so they wouldn't any lighter, just an awful lot stronger (when our cromoly rear end is perfectly strong enough) and an awful lot more expensive. For the moment, we'll stick with what we've got."

    Do you by any chance know what the cromoly rear stay wall thickness's are on the Soul? And seat stay tube diameter?
  • that curtis is loverly!
  • NorthwindNorthwind Posts: 14,682
    Do you by any chance know what the cromoly rear stay wall thickness's are on the Soul? And seat stay tube diameter?

    I'm a nerd, but I'm not that much of a nerd :lol: Tell you what, I'll crack out the hacksaw when I get home and find out.
    Uncompromising extremist
  • blister pusblister pus Posts: 5,780
    Northwind wrote:
    Do you by any chance know what the cromoly rear stay wall thickness's are on the Soul? And seat stay tube diameter?

    I'm a nerd, but I'm not that much of a nerd :lol: Tell you what, I'll crack out the hacksaw when I get home and find out.

    just thought you might have encountered and logged such detail along the way. Worth a punt. 8)

    Reason I ask is because pipedream have done exactly the same and I'm assuming for the same reasons mentioned. Main triangle 853 and stays cromoly. The only thing they've done is increase the seat stay diameter (I think) from 16mm to 19mm but kept the wall thickness the same, which will obviously effect the final ride.
  • Right , thanks for the replies , seems a case of try one one out then try a simarly priced aluminium. Any reccomendations for a good value steel framed setup. Components are not a major issue as i want a frame thats upgradable in the future.
  • AnonymousAnonymous Posts: 79,678
    Is aluminum HT frames is that bad now? I have an eye getting the Giant Alliance XTC mtb sometime in summer and wondered if aluminum have improved these days compared to steel?

    I have ridden both steel and aluminum in the past, both have good points, I think aluminum is better on climbing off road trails and tarmac riding due to lightness, but steel is better when going downhill on rocky off road trails due to frame flex's soaking the bumps.
  • supersonicsupersonic Posts: 82,708 Lives Here
    As previously, depends on the tube profiles. But frames flex in the vertical plane much less than most people imagine - big tyres, long seatposts and comfortable saddles have a more pronounced effect on comfort.
  • i have a steel onone 456 and love the feel its my FIRST steel frame, after i cracked a few alu frames i wanted to try steel because its retro and strong and i soon fell in love gas pipes.
    i also have a meta 55 and that has been colecting dust since i got my inbred.
    its easy to say find this or that type of steel, but its down to what your going to do with it.

    its hard to pin down into words what a steel frame feels like as "flex,spring,liveley,buzz"are all words, best to try and hire or borrow one and give it a go.
    or the inbred is only around £150 for the frame and if you did not like you could sell it and get half that back easy
  • Steve_b77Steve_b77 Posts: 1,680
    "Whats so good about steel frames?"

    Mines called a Handjob :lol:

    But seriously it's got a kind of forgiving rear end but still feels zippy on single track, also takes landings off jumps/drop-offs pretty well.
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