Alumminuim and Steel frames? Whats the differences?

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  • Alumminuim and Steel frames? Whats the differences?
  • smiffy

    Al wears and is easily damaged. Al can be a harsher ride, but this is less true these days. Steel can be a wee bit heavier, it's super-tough and very repairable.


    Both have been superseded by Titanium and Carbon.

    hmmm steel is still a great medium, loads of "natural" flex to play with

    Not at my price point they haven't, druidh 😀


    Smiffy: 'aluminium wears' ? what do you mean by that? (not trying to cause a fight here, just interested…)

    Premier Icon Rusty Spanner

    Partner has a Rock Lobster SL (Easton Ultralight) and I've got a Rock Lobster 853 (Reynolds Steel). Similar specs, although mine has slightly heavier wheels, and hers has slightly heavier forks. Mine also has an oversize bar and stem.

    After 3 years of swapping between bikes, I've come to the following conclusions:

    1. The alloy bike is a nicer colour.

    2. The alloy bike is about a pound lighter, therefore easier to lift over gates.

    3. The alloy bike feels like it accelerates much quicker, although I have no way of verifying this.

    4. The steel bike is comfier over long distances, has a 'softer'feel to it, and seems to 'pinball' slightly through rock gardens rather than smack on through regardless. Tend to feel less 'beat up' at the end of the day when riding the steel bike.
    This may all be a load of old toss, but that's how it feels to me.

    5. The biggest difference we've made to either bike is to fit Thomson seat posts to both bikes.
    This has resulted in a much stiffer ride on both bikes, but the alloy one still feels harsher.
    However, the steel one with the Thomson feels harsher than the alloy one with an Easton EA50 post did.

    6. Tyre pressures make much more of a difference than you think.

    7. I used to be a steel frame snob and wouldn't consider riding anything else. This is no longer the case, and if (when?) I need to buy another frame, I won't be so dogmatic.

    And before anyone starts, we didn't buy 'matching' bikes deliberately. 😀
    The alloy one was a cancelled order on display at Merlin at a masive discount (£850, Hope bits, XT,- those were the days eh?) when I went to order my bike. Being a steel snob at the time, I didn't buy it, but Sue, being a sensible woman snapped it up. Bargain.

    Premier Icon Onzadog

    I think rusty sums it up nicely.
    Depending on your preference, steel is supply and lively or bendy and flexi.


    Al frames are harsh and unforgiving or direct and efficient.

    However, there's so much more that determines the ride other than the metal it's made from.

    Might be better to look at your build, weight, riding style and type and not worry too much about the material.

    The only frame material I've never broken is carbon, but that's only because I've never owned a carbon bike. I always get a big rock bike in front of the bottom bracket within the first 3 rides of every bike I ever buy! Guess that's the peaks for you.


    What are the pros and cons of aluminium and steel frames?

    Premier Icon nickc

    What are the pros and cons of aluminium and steel frames?

    Less than you'd think that would make any real difference. Weight mostly. Buy on Geometry and fit first, then worry (if at all) about what it's made of.

    Premier Icon theotherjonv

    aluminium is for racers who can't afford carbon

    Steel is for beardy nichemonger types who can't afford titanium.

    (Rusty has it about right, supposedly there are pros and cons to each but they are both perfectly good materials for making bikes out of)


    Smiffy: 'aluminium wears' ? what do you mean by that? (not trying to cause a fight here, just interested…)"

    Just as I say. Trying not to sound sarcastic, but it, well, wears. When cables rub, chains drop on the BB, chain slap on the stays etc. it wears. Scratches that would be just paint damage on steel or Ti are into the metal on Al as it is softer.

    I have a steel and and Al bike. The steel one is almost without paint after a good battering but is intact underneath, the Al one has had less use but is chipped, dinged and abraded by anything that touches it. I still like it, it's just a bit more fragile.


    i also have both i think i prefer my steel ns society its got better geometry and just feels right.its also 5.5 lbs if it was as light as my aluminium frame 3.6 i would just have the steel one.saying that ive just put a deposit on an mm bop aluminium frame,mainly as ive been so impressed by my friends titanium version.
    titanium would be my preference best of both worlds but out of my price bracket.
    if you get a sorted geometry you will enjoy your bike whatever its made from some bikes just feel right.


    Rode a Kinesis maxlight – great frame, good geometry and really liked the bike. Switched to a Soul and noticed how I could ride all day and not have the shocks transmitted thru the frame. Might be down to design, geometry etc. no emperical data to back it up. Looking at a road bike at the moment and not going aluminium, maybe carbon or titanium for lightness and maybe steel.

    Premier Icon Northwind

    You can get stiff and flexy aluminium bikes and stiff and flexy steel bikes, is the thing. My Scandal (scandium alloy) had quite a compliant frame, very nice, quite steel-like, whereas my brother's old Saracen Rufftrak is the stiffest gate I've ever ridden despite being steel. Design and construction has so much to do with it.

    Steel is stronger, steel lasts much longer and steel tends not to fail catastrophically.

    Basically, steel is better.

    b r

    Steel rusts…

    My 6 month old 456 has had a real battering, a combination of rocks and carriers – numerous rusty bits…

    I really need to strip it and re-spray it, except what I'm going to do is strip it, throw it in the attic and…

    build up the Titanium version my wife's just bought me from the One One sale – yee hay!

    Premier Icon Garry_Lager

    Ridden aluminium frames almost exclusively – all the steel frames I've tried have been quite a bit heavier, maybe there's steel frames out there that are just as light these days but I've not had opportunity to ride them. I'm used to the look of a fat-tubed alu bike and don't appreciate the thinner tubed steel ones – just taste really.

    Whilst I'm more of an aluminium man, it definitely fatigues in a way that steel does not. I've cracked just about every alu frame I've owned – always a hairline by the bb. I'd expect to get about 3 / 4 years out of an alu HT frame – I buy frames with a lifetime warranty so it's not a particular problem, but it's worth noting. Aluminium frames are at risk from cracks over time, and cannot be reliably repaired.


    Steel has soul. More alive feel on the trail

    Sounds like mamby pamby crystal waving BS I know

    Comfort – my ali frame is as comfy as my steel (has curved seat stays)

    Steel may not have the 'snap' of ali

    ade ward

    steel if kept inside it's elastic limits will go on for ever

    but aluminium has a finite fatigue life ,, given enough cycles however small it will crack,, eventualy

    but saying that all my bikes are aluminum of some type or another

    the only bike i have ever cracked was actualy a magnesium one , and it wasnt a kirk


    Alu you appreciate going up, steel going down. Used to think weight was most important but have gone back to a steel HT after 15 years and not regretting it.


    Less than you'd think that would make any real difference. Weight mostly. Buy on Geometry and fit first, then worry (if at all) about what it's made of.

    i'm firmly in this camp.


    tinribz – Member

    Alu you appreciate going up, steel going down.

    Like it. that is a good comparison

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