Steel or Aluminium

MickTup
MickTup Posts: 159
edited June 2010 in MTB buying advice
Is it true that steel hardtails offer a far more superior ride in terms of comfort over aluminium frames, and if so which frames are the best e.g. Cotic Soul, Orange R8, On-One etc
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Comments

  • supersonic
    supersonic Posts: 82,708
    No. Basically speaking.

    While they often generally offer a more supple ride it depends on the contruction too. Steel is THREE times stiffer than aluminium, but three times denser. So you can see a lot is to do with the manipulation of tubes. Aluminium is oversized to improve it's stiffness, which can be easily done due to the lower desnity - and to improve fatigue charecteristics. Steel frames don't need to be made as stiff as alu ones.

    BUT many alu ones now can offer supple rides too.
  • Pudseyp
    Pudseyp Posts: 3,514
    Hi Mick...I cannot see how, to me it's the quality of the components and the set up that make the real difference (fork, bars stem combo for reach etc.....)

    I was at Merlin a while back looking at the RockLobster....in their words the Alloy frame was better than the steel and they sell 3 times more of the Alloy frame...I guess its preference...looking at the mechanics...steel is generally harder and stiffer than alloy...so I cannot see how the ride would be better, but taking more abuse...probably yes
    Tomac Synper 140 Giant XTC Alliance 1
    If the world was flat, I wouldn't be riding !
  • nickfrog
    nickfrog Posts: 610
    Ridden a Colombus Sunn Exact steel frame for 12 years and switched to alu this year.
    I was convinced that steel was more comfy. Not true in this case, my alu frame is as supple but offers a better acceleration and more direct/fun handling at the same time. And it's lighter.
    Not sure the alu frame will live for as long though.
    For comfort, things like tyres, bars and seat post are more important than frame material.
  • MickTup
    MickTup Posts: 159
    So you are saying I would get no benefit fro changing my current Speci Stump jumper comp from to a Cotic Soul for example? Even though the lovely people at bike radar say the following.

    But plug a longer fork in, set it up soft and there’ll be times when you discover yourself getting pulled into the sort of riding that would usually demand 120mm of suspension out back too. It’s a bit pricier than some other decent steel frames, but we reckon it’s worth it.
  • MickTup
    MickTup Posts: 159
    So you are saying I would get no benefit fro changing my current Speci Stump jumper comp from to a Cotic Soul for example? Even though the lovely people at bike radar say the following.

    But plug a longer fork in, set it up soft and there’ll be times when you discover yourself getting pulled into the sort of riding that would usually demand 120mm of suspension out back too. It’s a bit pricier than some other decent steel frames, but we reckon it’s worth it.
  • supersonic
    supersonic Posts: 82,708
    With that frame maybe, but you can't say it about all frames.

    Ideally you should try and test them if possible to try and feel the nuances yourself.
  • Northwind
    Northwind Posts: 14,675
    MickTup wrote:
    So you are saying I would get no benefit fro changing my current Speci Stump jumper comp from to a Cotic Soul for example? Even though the lovely people at bike radar say the following.

    I've not ridden a stumpy hardtail for a long time, but the Soul is a pretty compliant bike. NOT because it's steel, or not just because it's steel, but because it was built that way. But it doesn't follow that all steel frames are like that. My On One Scandal (aluminium frame) was also pretty comfortable, and rode a lot like most people's idea of a classic steel frame.

    The Soul IS the best though ;)
    Uncompromising extremist
  • peter413
    peter413 Posts: 5,120
    Northwind wrote:
    The Soul IS the best though ;)

    Except for the fact the 456 costs way way way less and is 99% as good :wink:

    I don't see me getting rid of mine for a while
  • supersonic
    supersonic Posts: 82,708
    The soul is a pound lighter! And just as strong. Amazing what they have done with that frame.
  • peter413
    peter413 Posts: 5,120
    supersonic wrote:
    The soul is a pound lighter! And just as strong. Amazing what they have done with that frame.

    But then alot of alloy frames (Chameleon and Stiffe spring to mind) are lighter still and just as strong :wink:

    Don't get me wrong, the Soul is an amazing frame but the cost of it compared to a 456 just makes it look way to expensive especially when you work out for the price a Soul build, you could make a 456 lighter since you have like an extra 300 quid to play with
  • supersonic
    supersonic Posts: 82,708
    But then alot of alloy frames (Chameleon and Stiffe spring to mind) are lighter still and just as strong

    Then that surely makes the 456 look even worse, not better :wink:

    I think both frames are great value in their respective areas. As above nothing comes close to the Soul for a steel frame in the strength to weight stakes. Not much comes close to the 456 in price.
  • Northwind
    Northwind Posts: 14,675
    Don't disagree with anything you have to say tbh, except that Souls are made of magic and pixie dust and therefore worth every penny :lol: The 456 is better value without a doubt. But the pound-and-a-bit difference is worthwhile once you're building the things up nice.

    If I could have got a cromo Soul, or an aluminium Soul, I probably would have- I don't think being 853 is what makes it great, I think it's the overall handling. But Cy doesn't want to do either apparently which is a shame. I guess a cromo Soul would mean tangling with On One.
    Uncompromising extremist
  • peter413
    peter413 Posts: 5,120
    supersonic wrote:
    Then that surely makes the 456 look even worse, not better :wink:

    Not when you see the price :wink:

    But yes, the Soul is a very very nice bike and I would gladly use on if I was given it as would most I think but for me, the 456 will always win just because it is such damn good value
  • supersonic
    supersonic Posts: 82,708
    It depends how you look at it peter. You can't say alu frames make select steel frames look worse [or better] as it also applies to what you ride too.

    Value wise the 456 is very good, but for those who like a bit less weight, the extra money is worth it. So on that front they are both equally good value - especially when compared to the P7.
  • darren555
    darren555 Posts: 194
    supersonic wrote:
    Value wise the 456 is very good, but for those who like a bit less weight, the extra money is worth it. So on that front they are both equally good value - especially when compared to the P7.

    Even better compared to the R8 :shock:
  • peter413
    peter413 Posts: 5,120
    The way I would look at it, if I am spending that much to go lighter but still very strong, I would get one of the alloy options like a Chameleon.

    And I'm not saying that alloy frames make steel ones look worse because, as you say, it depends entirely what you ride which dictates what is best.
  • supersonic
    supersonic Posts: 82,708
    The Chameleon weighs more than the Soul. So does the Stiffee.
  • Northwind
    Northwind Posts: 14,675
    Haw haw, pwnt.

    On the other hand, there's the carbon 456... Lighter than a Soul, cheaper than a Soul, built for the longer fork. Very interesting that.

    Back to the OP... If you have decent sized tyres on, and maybe a carbon seatpost and bars to take out some sting, and a sensible saddle, the whole comfort thing changes completely. I reckon even a stiff-as-a-board monster like a Chameleon would be comfier with that sort of setup than a Soul with skinny XC tyres and stiff bars etc.
    Uncompromising extremist
  • Torres
    Torres Posts: 1,266
    Northwind wrote:
    Haw haw, pwnt.

    On the other hand, there's the carbon 456... Lighter than a Soul, cheaper than a Soul, built for the longer fork. Very interesting that.
    And when you consider the damping properties of carbon, it might well offer quite a nice ride... if it handles well (big if), then without a doubt it's going to become one of the most popular long travel frames on the market.
    What We Achieve In Life, Echoes In Eternity
  • bike-a-swan
    bike-a-swan Posts: 1,235
    Had carbon seatstays on ally on my last frame, moved to steel, and there is a definite spring in both, although it feels different for each. Couldn't even try to explain why though.

    Northwind, you find you've stopped noticing the 'ping' as you've got used to it? It's only when I take a stiff frame down a rattly descent (very rarely) that I suddenly get reminded of what the steel does!
    Rock Lobster 853, Trek 1200 and a very old, tired and loved Apollo Javelin.
  • yoohoo999
    yoohoo999 Posts: 940
    have you actually seen the 456 carbon built up though?

    It's absolutely horrible. I was in love with it when I saw it at the world cup at dalby, but now i've seen it built up.......eeewwww :?

    1264156154948-y5s3u47hd5i7-500-90-500-70.jpg
  • bike-a-swan
    bike-a-swan Posts: 1,235
    I quite like it- that down tube looks like it should have a champagne bottle cracked against it and be launched down a slipway, but I quite like it!
    Rock Lobster 853, Trek 1200 and a very old, tired and loved Apollo Javelin.
  • peter413
    peter413 Posts: 5,120
    It looks much better in the flesh I can assure you.

    Saw it at Glentress a few weeks ago and it was gorgeous 8) except for the white tyres :lol:

    If only I didn't crash so much I would trust getting a carbon frame, although for the price of it I would possibly try it.

    No...wait...no I won't since I still owe myself about 500 quid for my current build and I haven't stopped yet :lol:
  • supersonic wrote:
    It depends how you look at it peter. You can't say alu frames make select steel frames look worse [or better] as it also applies to what you ride too.

    Value wise the 456 is very good, but for those who like a bit less weight, the extra money is worth it. So on that front they are both equally good value - especially when compared to the P7.

    I would imagine that the 456 ride is quite a bit stiffer/harsher than the P7 through the legs though.... The only thing I didn't like about my NS was the uber stiff rear end.
  • peter413
    peter413 Posts: 5,120
    bigbenj_08 wrote:
    supersonic wrote:
    It depends how you look at it peter. You can't say alu frames make select steel frames look worse [or better] as it also applies to what you ride too.

    Value wise the 456 is very good, but for those who like a bit less weight, the extra money is worth it. So on that front they are both equally good value - especially when compared to the P7.

    I would imagine that the 456 ride is quite a bit stiffer/harsher than the P7 through the legs though.... The only thing I didn't like about my NS was the uber stiff rear end.

    Strange, I find my 456 very forgiving over rough stuff, especially going down Inners. My arms are always first to go and that takes a while
  • peter413 wrote:
    bigbenj_08 wrote:
    supersonic wrote:
    It depends how you look at it peter. You can't say alu frames make select steel frames look worse [or better] as it also applies to what you ride too.

    Value wise the 456 is very good, but for those who like a bit less weight, the extra money is worth it. So on that front they are both equally good value - especially when compared to the P7.

    I would imagine that the 456 ride is quite a bit stiffer/harsher than the P7 through the legs though.... The only thing I didn't like about my NS was the uber stiff rear end.

    Strange, I find my 456 very forgiving over rough stuff, especially going down Inners. My arms are always first to go and that takes a while
    i know what you mean... I didn't actually notice how stiff the NS was until the P7! Its definately made my rides 100% more comfortable!
  • peter413
    peter413 Posts: 5,120
    Well I moved from a full susser to it and didn't really notice how harsh it was so it obviously isn't I suspect. :wink:

    Only notice when I hung up on jumps and stuff and when I took a really bad line ,the whole point why I got a HT, so thats a good thing in my eyes
  • GHill
    GHill Posts: 2,402
    I quite like it- that down tube looks like it should have a champagne bottle cracked against it

    Down tube looks like it's been melted in a fire to me :lol:
  • MickTup
    MickTup Posts: 159
    Cotic Soul test ride it is
  • Pudseyp
    Pudseyp Posts: 3,514
    All to be honest we could debate this still we look like smurfs.....I still cannot see any significant benefits between steel and alloy...surely it's the geometry that makes the diffeerence...The Cotic gets rave reviews because they have managed to nail it in the design....do you really think if they also made an alloy version it would ride totally different...errr probably not..

    Ummm also like the carbon 456....the pic is a naked frame..would look a dam site better with some of the graphics they had on their site...
    Tomac Synper 140 Giant XTC Alliance 1
    If the world was flat, I wouldn't be riding !