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Aluminum: are there any fans left?

Old 06-12-20, 09:18 PM
  #76  
gear64
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My biggest hang up with aluminum is the chunky design of many/most modern bikes, and at least in my price range the fat welds. I was somewhat surprised to see some older bikes with more typical steel proportions in this thread. I doubt I'm a sensitive enough rider to notice a difference in feel. I just like the way older bikes look, more particularly the paint jobs and little detailed accents. Occasionally I'll go in LBS and look at a Giant Contend 3, which would be my price point; then think nah I'm pretty happy with what I got. As long as bike is of good enough quality to be reliable and easy to maintain, aesthetics appeal to me more than increased performance. I've kicked the tires on a few Craigslist Canonndales, but sellers sure are proud of them even in pretty sad condition, so I've always passed. I did have a Trek aluminum MTB, but ended up giving to my son when he was looking to start riding.

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Old 06-12-20, 10:42 PM
  #77  
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Originally Posted by gear64 View Post
My biggest hang up with aluminum is the chunky design of many/most modern bikes, and at least in my price range the fat welds. I was somewhat surprised to see some older bikes with more typical steel proportions in this thread. I doubt I'm a sensitive enough rider to notice a difference in feel. I just like the way older bikes look, more particularly the paint jobs and little detailed accents. Occasionally I'll go in LBS and look at a Giant Contend 3, which would be my price point; then think nah I'm pretty happy with what I got. As long as bike is of good enough quality to be reliable and easy to maintain, aesthetics appeal to me more than increased performance. I've kicked the tires on a few Craigslist Canonndales, but sellers sure are proud of them even in pretty sad condition, so I've always passed. I did have a Trek aluminum MTB, but ended up giving to my son when he was looking to start riding.
The ďchunky designĒ has a purpose as do the fat welds. I understand the need for these features and appreciate aluminum bikes with that understanding. An thin tubed aluminum bike can be either noodly...if the thin cross section tubes also have thin walls...or overly stiff if the thin cross section tubes have thick walls. The large tubes on an aluminum bike give the bike itís stiffness with a thin enough wall to make them light. Those large tubes and thick welds are just as aesthetically pleasing as detailed lugs on steel bikes and those marvelously thin welds on titanium bikes for the same reasons...they have a purpose.
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Old 06-12-20, 10:55 PM
  #78  
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
I always recommend an aluminum frame as a starter bike because its cheaper and almost as good as other materials, but nobody aspires to own an aluminum bike. They settle for it.
Absolutely untrue. I rode steel mountain bikes up until 1998 when I aspired to own a Specialized Stumpjumper M2. It was a fantastic bike. Yes, the M2 aluminum/boron composite was the material that breaks but it was a fantastic ride until it broke. More recently (2003), I aspired to own a Cannondale touring bike. I had, in fact, aspired to own one since they first came out but could never quite swing the cost. Itís a great touring bike and has 10,000 miles of loaded touring under its belt. I also got a dual suspension bike in 2003 and I could imagine a dual suspension bike in steel. The complicated frames of duallies would make for a 50 lb bike at the very lightest.

I also have a Salsa Las Cruces that I actually paid a pretty penny for. Itís a scandium/aluminum alloy but itís still an aluminum bike that I actually went looking for. Finally, I have a cruiser bike that looks like a Schwinn Phantom that doesnít weigh like a Schwinn Phantom because it is aluminum. I really love that bike.
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Old 06-12-20, 10:56 PM
  #79  
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I've never had an aluminum bike I liked, but I am not sure it had anything to do with the frame material.

My cynical view is that full-suspension mountain bikes became popular because they mitigate the harshness of the frame material.

My kid sold his carbon Canyon Spectral frame and bought an aluminum stumpjumper evo. He thinks it is a major improvement, and I think it is the nicest-looking aluminum frame I have seen.
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Old 06-12-20, 11:09 PM
  #80  
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Originally Posted by wgscott View Post
My cynical view is that full-suspension mountain bikes became popular because they mitigate the harshness of the frame material.
Thereís more to suspension than comfort. Iíd say that comfort is actually the least important reason for suspension. Front suspension increase control. If youíve ever gotten a rigid bike trapped in a rut, you learn the lesson of staying out of ruts fairly quickly. To get out of the rut with a rigid fork, you have to counter steer but the wheel is trapped against the rut. You are probably going to crash if you canít come to a stop.

With a suspension fork, the bike will almost climb out of the rut by itself. The fork provides give and allows the side knobs to catch the edge of the rut and climb out. The give of the fork allows that little bit of counter steer you need.

On the rear, suspension aids greatly with traction. The bike squats on the rear wheel and forces the tire into the dirt which shoots the bike and rider forward. On a hardtail (or rigid), the rider has to physically move rearward to get more traction on the rear wheel but moving rearward unloads the front wheel which can wheelie so the rider needs to move forward which unloads the rear wheel and it starts to spin. Repeat as needed. You really canít adjust quickly enough and, most of the time, you just grind to a halt...hopefully without falling over. A dual suspension bike simply adjusts better to the trail without (hyper)active input from the rider.
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Old 06-12-20, 11:37 PM
  #81  
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Sorry, I know. It was just a snarky aside.

BTW I am really impressed with how much stuff you have broken. I thought I was hard on my bikes. You put me to shame.
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Old 06-12-20, 11:43 PM
  #82  
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
People are under the mistaken impression that aluminum is a brittle material that "shatters" when it breaks. That doesn't describe aluminum (or carbon fiber or fiberglass or a number of other materials that are "known" to shatter on impact). Aluminum is a very soft metal. Yes, it can crack but that crack propagates as a tear in the metal. It seldom just shears off without warning. In fact, shearing off without warning is something that describes steel's failure mode much more than aluminum's.

I've broken steel frames and parts and I've broken aluminum frames and parts. Steel has always just gone "ping!" and it's broken...think of how a spoke breaks. I've broken pedals...the spindle just sheared off without warning or bending or gentle release of energy. The spindle was attached one minute and broken in two the next. Steel frames have broken on me the same way. There's not warning. The frame is just broken. I've had a steel fork break on me which I discovered while I was changing bearings but the crack never manifested as anything that could be seen as a warning that something was wrong.

On the other hand, I've broken a fair share of aluminum parts as well. I broke a crank. When I thought back on it, the crank was making a creaking noise long before it broke. I've broken numerous rims from cracks at the spokes to cracks down the middle of the rim on the inner wall to side walls. They all made noise prior to failure. Same with frames. The frames creak and groan prior to me noticing cracks. I also broke an aluminum fork and it made a lot of noise before it broke. Often I've ignored the noise but it was there and noticeable even if I didn't note it.

This makes sense if you consider the way that both materials behave under load. Steel, being stiffer, doesn't really bend until such time as there is too little metal to hold the tube in place. When the last little bit of metal breaks it does so rapidly because the material is stiff and strong. The steel can handle bending even as the crack propagates because of the stiffness and strength.

Aluminum is strong as long as the tube is solid but when a crack develops, the crack will will open and close as the frame flexes. The ends of the crack rub against each other and the noise resonates through the metal. We just usually ignore those warnings.

But, honestly, there's nothing wrong with aluminum as a frame material. The vast majority of mountain bikes are made of aluminum. I haven't noticed piles of shattered mountain along the trails nor do I see that many aluminum mountain bikes that are broken in my local co-op...and I see a lot of bikes per year. On the other hand, I don't see a lot of broken steel bikes either. I've broken 4 frames...2 of each material...out of 39 bikes I've owned. I consider a broken frame of any material to be more of an aberration than proof that there is something wrong with the material of construction.

Finally, let me ask: If you worry so much about aluminum's failure mode, do you ride steel wheels with steel hubs? Steel cranks? Steel handlebars? If you use aluminum for any of those applications, why aren't you worried about those parts failing?
I'm talking frames, not parts. As I said, I ride them until they die. I have no qualms about replacing aluminum parts before they do. (No, I don't always get it right, but I haven't had many aluminum failures on the road. I have bars, stems, seatposts and cranks I won't use any more. Replaced a lot of rims. Hub failures aren't common and in my experience, rarely dangerous (in wheels with lots of spokes).

The place I worry most about frame breaks is the fork and the headtube to downtube joint (and that breaking and taking the headtube to top tube joint with it. So the front end is no longer attached to the bike. One of those a lifetime is plenty. That failure is rare on lugged steel frames, even cheaply built ones. Yes I do think about that on my ti bikes. Maybe I'm a fool but I trust the guy who did the welding. There's also nothing light or marginal on those frames.

As I said, I've been there. I'm to old to need to go with anything that doesn't give me peace of mind. The ride of 531 and the like steel bikes works just fine for me. So does bullet-proof ti. I am going to get off clinches and go back to the tubulars I trust far more at high speeds as my current rims wear out.

(Notice I haven't said anything about what anybody else should ride. None of my business. Just what I am comfortable riding and why.)

Ben
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Old 06-13-20, 12:36 AM
  #83  
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I'm primarily a steel guy. I've even started considering that chromoly might be ok for all year use on salted roads as I had the pleasure of servicing a bb in a chromo frame that had been ridden all year for a few years in our conditions. The inside of the frame was as orange as the paintjob on the outside but all the surface rust just wiped off with some oil. The frame was not rustproofed.

I almost became a carbon guy but Salsa has this weird policy that if a bike shop does not order at least 5 pieces of a certain frame size they get none. So no carbon beargrease for me. Had to 'settle' for an Surly ICT..

Why I prefer materials other than aluminum for my fun bikes is because aluminum clicks/creaks. As I said, no experience with carbon but I've heard it's a bit creaky too.

All the aluminum bikes I've owned have developed an annoying and persistent click/creak at some point. Usually sooner rsther than later. I've typically managed to track down and eliminate said noise, but then they often develop a new noise later on.

My steel bikes don't click or creak for some reason. The ICT I mentioned had a loose headset after a fork swap and I didn't notice until after a lengthy ride as it just wasn't making a sound.

For touring bikes aluminum is an instant pass for me because of threads (among other things). Aluminum M5 threads are delicate and break easily. On the other hand I've done some very bad things to certain threads on my LHT (a drill was involved) and they still work no problem. Yes I know I can helicoil but it's one thing among many others I don't like stressing about when on tour.

So in short. Aluminum: good for cheap utility bikes and bikes I don't care all that much for. Steel is for having fun. Carbon tbd
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Old 06-13-20, 12:41 AM
  #84  
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I have Chinarello just because the frame look sweet and there was a spanish forum page with a lot buyers - testers - posting pictures. After 5 years is still in one peace but "one day" I will make very hard chose - shoud I go back to alluminium (there have being push on china copycat frames makers, you can not find a lot afordable fake frames this days like Pinarello)...
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Old 06-13-20, 01:07 AM
  #85  
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Meh my fat bike and three of my wife's bikes are aluminum. They all work just fine.

Most of my bikes are steel, only because that is what popped up with everything else I wanted when I was buying.

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Old 06-13-20, 01:23 AM
  #86  
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Originally Posted by teplickyjan@gma View Post
I have Chinarello just because the frame look sweet and there was a spanish forum page with a lot buyers - testers - posting pictures. After 5 years is still in one peace but "one day" I will make very hard chose - shoud I go back to alluminium (there have being push on china copycat frames makers, you can not find a lot afordable fake frames this days like Pinarello)...
You should check out Performer and Totem/Upland for some interesting stuff.
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Old 06-13-20, 01:36 AM
  #87  
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Originally Posted by Metieval View Post
Leaving the Down tube open ended with a raw edge at the BB... is a huge no
And it was that gaping hole at the BB end of the downtube that sealed the fate of my old 7.3FX, a bike I was already rapidly losing interest in after I got my first 7.6FX. I put it up for sale the same day I noticed that half-open end for the first time (and took a closer look at the 7.6 to see if it had the same hole.)
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Old 06-13-20, 01:42 AM
  #88  
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Originally Posted by sjanzeir View Post
And it was that gaping hole at the BB end of the downtube that sealed the fate of my old 7.3FX, a bike I was already rapidly losing interest in after I got my first 7.6FX. I put it up for sale the same day I noticed that half-open end for the first time (and took a closer look at the 7.6 to see if it had the same hole.)
Same with my Trek crossrip.

I was also a fan of Cannondale CAAD until all the BB issues made sense when I found out they hired the guy that screwed up the Cervelo bikes BB.
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Old 06-13-20, 05:16 AM
  #89  
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Originally Posted by Metieval View Post
Same with my Trek crossrip.

I was also a fan of Cannondale CAAD until all the BB issues made sense when I found out they hired the guy that screwed up the Cervelo bikes BB.
The creaky BB is a PITA. I am able to tune it out...mostly. But, it is annoying.
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Old 06-13-20, 05:32 AM
  #90  
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Originally Posted by 70sSanO View Post
Youíre not that rich if you have to tell someone.

John
Maybe I should use emoticons when I am not being serious.
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Old 06-13-20, 05:59 AM
  #91  
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Originally Posted by sjanzeir View Post
Hey, either one of my two 2014 7.6 FX hybrids have a far nicer ride feel than my (admittedly crappy gas-pipe) 1991 Raleigh Flyer road bike, but no! If it's old and it's steel, it'll always rank up higher on the totem pole that's Bike Forums. There's always someone who'll be happy to tell me that I'm an idiot for not recognizing that old, cheap Raleigh's crappy ride as "character" and that those "new-fangled, cookie-cutter" alloy bikes "will always suck" and "kids these days!"
I do find the views on old raleigh, schwinn and other cheap crap bikes to be funny. I worked in a Schwinn shop with a guy that had been building them through college at that same shop, he didn't have much good to say about them and from my experience with the endless numbers that seemed to come through the door neither did I. They are just ridiculously heavy made from the cheapest materials and people will tout them as the best. They might be better then nothing but not by a lot.

Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
Aluminum is the minivan of bike frame materials. It's not the lightest, not the cheapest, not the must durable, not the most anything. It occupies the functional sweet spot in the middle of everything. It's an excellent choice for anybody who is more interested in riding their bike than in bragging about it.
I don't know, I find I'm happy to brag about my bike and I've seen plenty of others worth bragging about. Although I used to bag on aluminum from an experience testing out a Trek 2300 in 99 or 2000 which went very badly due to the stiffness and then a Schwinn Fastback the first year they were made in which I thought I would die from the bike barely staying on the road at 40+mph on a route I'd hit 55+ on multiple times.

Originally Posted by sjanzeir View Post
And it was that gaping hole at the BB end of the downtube that sealed the fate of my old 7.3FX, a bike I was already rapidly losing interest in after I got my first 7.6FX. I put it up for sale the same day I noticed that half-open end for the first time (and took a closer look at the 7.6 to see if it had the same hole.)
I was a little adverse to that at first till the first time I pulled a der cable without thinking about it, that was a nice thing and I haven't noticed any adverse issues with it.
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Old 06-13-20, 09:21 AM
  #92  
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
I'm talking frames, not parts. As I said, I ride them until they die. I have no qualms about replacing aluminum parts before they do. (No, I don't always get it right, but I haven't had many aluminum failures on the road. I have bars, stems, seatposts and cranks I won't use any more. Replaced a lot of rims. Hub failures aren't common and in my experience, rarely dangerous (in wheels with lots of spokes).
I'm less concerned about frames than the other parts. Aluminum bars have a very small diameter and are more likely to fatigue than the frame is. The newer 31.8mm diameter handlebars are better but they still have a rather small cross section compared to the frame and considering what they have to do. I agree that hub failures are rare but they could certainly be catastrophic. If a flange on the front wheel broke, it would be as bad as a frame breaking. A broken crank is a particularly bad hazard because cranks can break while the rider is out of the saddle, leading to a crash. The broken bits are dangerously close to parts of your anatomy that are can lead to some pretty severe injuries if you happen to nick the proper vein.

I'm don't ride in fear of these failures but I do consider them. They are rare but, then, so is a frame failure.

Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
The place I worry most about frame breaks is the fork and the headtube to downtube joint (and that breaking and taking the headtube to top tube joint with it. So the front end is no longer attached to the bike. One of those a lifetime is plenty. That failure is rare on lugged steel frames, even cheaply built ones. Yes I do think about that on my ti bikes. Maybe I'm a fool but I trust the guy who did the welding. There's also nothing light or marginal on those frames.
​​​​​​​
I think about frames breaking at the head tube/downtube joint but I don't obsess over it. There are plenty of examples of steel bikes breaking there. Lugged frames don't do it all that often but welded ones can. Frames in general don't break all that often either. In 40+ years of riding and having owned 38 bikes, I've only broken 4. Only 3 of those were actually the fault of the manufacturer. I count only one break on a steel mountain bike but the fork cracked, the chain stay cracked on both sides and the dropout broke. I haven't had any other bike with as many frame problems.

By the way, I've owned 16 steel bikes, 19 aluminum bikes and 3 titanium bikes. Percentage wise, the steel bikes have performed very poorly compared to the others. Even mileage wise, the steel ones have performed poorly. The steel mountain bikes had 3800 miles and 3100 miles on them before they broke. One of the steel bikes...the one with 3100 miles...broke the fork long before reaching 3100 miles. The aluminum mountain bike that broke under warrantee had 6600 miles on it before it broke.

In terms of longevity, the 5 bikes with the most miles on them are an aluminum Stumpjumper that broke (6600 miles, 5 years), a steel Miyata 610 (8600, 19 years), a T800 that was mostly used for loaded touring (9600, 12 years), a steel Rockhopper (9900 miles, 8 years, stolen) and an aluminum Salsa Las Cruces (21,500 miles, 14 years). The Las Cruces has twice as much mileage as anything else I own and it's still going strong.

Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
As I said, I've been there. I'm to old to need to go with anything that doesn't give me peace of mind. The ride of 531 and the like steel bikes works just fine for me. So does bullet-proof ti. I am going to get off clinches and go back to the tubulars I trust far more at high speeds as my current rims wear out.
​​​​​​​
Ride what you want. I'm not trying to convince you otherwise. But I am trying to convince you...and others...that there is nothing inherently wrong or dangerous about aluminum frames in my experience. If one of my aluminum frames failed tomorrow, I wouldn't hesitate to replace it with another aluminum bike.
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Old 06-13-20, 04:05 PM
  #93  
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Originally Posted by Paul Barnard View Post
Maybe I should use emoticons when I am not being serious.
I took it as a joke.
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Old 06-13-20, 04:14 PM
  #94  
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I ride both steel and aluminum bikes...There is nothing wrong with aluminium frames. My most hard used and abused bike is an aluminium framed MTB with a rigid steel fork, it's build like a tank and refuses to break, I am surprised that it hasn't disintegrated yet from all the exposure to road salt.
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Old 06-13-20, 04:16 PM
  #95  
bruce19
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Originally Posted by gear64 View Post
My biggest hang up with aluminum is the chunky design of many/most modern bikes,
I don't mean this as a criticism. I am curious about what "chunky" means to you. Is this chunky?
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Old 06-13-20, 04:31 PM
  #96  
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Originally Posted by friday1970 View Post
Here's a good question. How does aluminum frames hold up against areas close to salt water? I plan to ship a bike to Okinawa, as something to use when I visit my in-laws. I'm assuming for the hot, salty air there, aluminum would be the most preferred material. Am I wrong in thinking this? Steel would rust, and I don't know how well carbon fiber would do in humid heat like what we have there. .
I have used my aluminium framed MTB for winter commuting and riding for the past 14 years, in an area that gets a lot of road salt during winter months.. The aluminium frame is holding up great and I don't even wash that bike.
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Old 06-13-20, 04:41 PM
  #97  
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Took the road bike out of its frame for the first time since last fall. Knocked off 57 gorgeous miles. Reminded me how sublime it is to ride a custom-designed, expertly-crafted, singularly-beautiful titanium frame. Put it on your bucket list.
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Old 06-13-20, 05:13 PM
  #98  
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Aluminum bikes are pointless now for serious road biking. A bike as good as a Pinarello Gan goes for just under 2 grand without disk brakes.
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Old 06-13-20, 05:20 PM
  #99  
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Originally Posted by Mulberry20 View Post
Aluminum bikes are pointless now for serious road biking. A bike as good as a Pinarello Gan goes for just under 2 grand without disk brakes.
$2,000 still is a lot of money to a lot of people.
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Old 06-13-20, 05:20 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
Took the road bike out of its frame for the first time since last fall. Knocked off 57 gorgeous miles. Reminded me how sublime it is to ride a custom-designed, expertly-crafted, singularly-beautiful titanium frame. Put it on your bucket list.
That's exactly how I feel about the 15 hours I rode over the last 4 days, with the exception that I rode my off-the-rack aluminum bikes: a road bike for three of those days and a track bike for the other.
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