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Confused on Materials

Old 10-02-18, 05:39 PM
  #1  
BirdsBikeBinocs
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Confused on Materials

I'm getting up there in age and I'm finding that the single most important quality in a bike is the ride. I want a nice ride. A truck that goes down the highway like a Cadillac. A bike that doesn't notice the cracks and the holes and the gravel and the debri that city, town and and trails present.

These days Aluminum seems to be king yet many find out that Aluminum is too stiff. It pounds. It beats you up. The cracks and holes win...everytime. So some go back to Steel. Some turn to Carbon Fiber. Others love their Aluminum.

Talk to me about Carbon Fiber. It too is described as stiff, like Aluminum. Is it.?? Is Aluminum too stiff for you.?? Is Carbon Fiber the best of all worlds.?? Does Carbon Fiber ride like a Cadillac. Is Steel still the king of a nice ride.??

Bring me up to speed. It's been a long time since I bought a bike. Talk to me about Carbon Fiber. And it's ride.

I've always rode a bike. Always. But now I am becoming a bike rider. There's a difference. I'm getting serious about it at age 56. I want a nice ride...
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Old 10-02-18, 05:49 PM
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Originally Posted by BirdsBikeBinocs View Post

Bring me up to speed. It's been a long time since I bought a bike. Talk to me about Carbon Fiber. And it's ride.
Metal rings when hit. Carbon goes "thud." Beyond that they're both stiff. If you want to soak up road roughness, get fatter tires.
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Old 10-02-18, 05:55 PM
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Want a smoother ride-like Blazing Puddles said- "Fatter tires'. A semi-fat tire bike (3" tires) will amaze you.
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Old 10-02-18, 06:02 PM
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Fatter tires with less air will provide more cush than any frame material.
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Old 10-02-18, 06:13 PM
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As I understand it, there has been an evolution of all frame materials and frame designs.

Back in the 80's and 90's, Aluminum apparently had a reputation for being too noodly.

In the early 2000's, stiffness was key.

Then, back in the 2010's, there has been a re-emphasis on flex where you want it, and stiffness where you want it to be stiff. And, that is hitting several different frame materials and bike styles.

Of course, as mentioned above, tires are also very important.

There are a lot of different bikes from pure racing road bikes to endurance road bikes to flat bar bikes to hybrids to mountain bikes.

Before giving any specific advice, one would have to consider your personal goals. Steep Hill climbs, distance, "centuries", fast group rides, casual bike path rides by the river, GRAVEL, etc.

I still am partial to the skinny tires, but I am willing to consider viability of wider options.

But, back to your analogy, I'd rather pedal the ragtop convertible sports car down the road than try to get the semi-truck up to speed.
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Old 10-02-18, 06:19 PM
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Like CK said above, I too prefer (super) skinny tires, but they're definitely not for comfort. I agree with the others - fatter tires and lower pressures are more forgiving. As far as frame materials carbon is much stiffer than steel, imo. But the key is your tires and pressures for what you seem to be looking for, OP.
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Old 10-02-18, 06:27 PM
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big tires and dual suspension.
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Old 10-02-18, 06:33 PM
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Again, it depends on the use. I don't want a truck... unless I have to carry a truckload of stuff.

Bikes like the Specialized Roubaix are supposed to have a sporty feel with extra vibration dampening.
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Old 10-02-18, 06:34 PM
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Well alrighty then... I like the replies. It's mostly about tires. And air pressure.

I want an Endurance type of bike that has a good roll, 85% asphalt, 15% gravel, grass, compact dirt and little mud. Mostly a road bike with 700 x 32c tires.

Will the 32c be a big enough tire to run at a lower pressure.?? 35c, 38c.... How wide can I go to still have a moderately fast road roll.??

I want to keep this bike out of the conversation... I have a Schwinn withfront suspension and 42c tires. I run the front tire full of air(it has suspension) and I run the rear tire at about 60lbs which gives a better rubbery ride. Just saying, that's what I have now. I want an endurance road bike for better speed averages and longer miles. Example would be a Giant Defy Advanced 3.
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Old 10-02-18, 06:43 PM
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IN my opinion, one of the leading causes of N+1 is the rider not getting the right feel or optimal bike fit.
frame material is only a part of that. Have ridden Al frames that were pretty stiff, others almost springy. Same with steel, some are very forgiving, some ride harsh. Have tried CF and TI, both good and no so nice. For a while, had a nice steel frame bike that felt pretty good but almost a little too springy. Took it on a several hundred km credit card tour, on a pretty rough section of road broke a couple of spokes which lead to a rear wheel failure. New wheel on, ride was too stiff- sent every bump right up my spine. Tire width and pressure are obvious ride feel factors. Have a custom steel road frame, tweaked just right - ride with 28 mm tire in the back and 25 mm in front. Like the feel of Conti 4- season tires on this bike, have tried several other brands.
Beginning to think about retiring and reducing the bike herd to fit our warm climate retirement house. Think I am going with three bikes, the above road bike. An Townie beach cruiser and Fuse mtn bike. The latter two have pretty fat tires and soft rides.
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Old 10-02-18, 07:12 PM
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full carbon with good size tires, or aluminum with carbon fork and good size tires

full carbon is going to be the lightest, just make sure you can fit big enough tires
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Old 10-02-18, 07:17 PM
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Carbon fat tire front suspension
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Old 10-02-18, 07:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Troul View Post
Carbon fat tire front suspension
​​​​​​​I can picture it
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Old 10-03-18, 05:43 AM
  #14  
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Consider a bike with 650B wheels and tires that are 42 or 47mm wide, with a high TPI rating. A rando or gravel bike with this wheel and tire combo can be both lively and forgiving at the same time.
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Old 10-03-18, 05:59 AM
  #15  
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My aluminum frame road bike would rattle the teeth out of your head with 23mm tires pumped up to 110-120 psi (i.e. Old School). Finally saw the light and moved up to 25mm tires (biggest that will fit) and lowered the front to ~70 psi and the rear at 110 psi (I used an online calculator, entered my weight, and got those pressures). Night and day. Bike rides much nicer now (though still no Cadillac) and turns much quicker.

Ride lots of different bikes at the local bike stores to get a feel for them. Make sure the pressures are adjusted correctly, it makes a huge difference. Buy the bike that feels best to you.
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Old 10-03-18, 06:01 AM
  #16  
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Originally Posted by BirdsBikeBinocs View Post
These days Aluminum seems to be king yet many find out that Aluminum is too stiff. It pounds. It beats you up. The cracks and holes win...everytime. So some go back to Steel. Some turn to Carbon Fiber. Others love their Aluminum.
I have bikes in all three materials. Tire size/pressure has way more to do with it than frame material.
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Old 10-03-18, 06:01 AM
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I've been riding for years on a 1993 steel frame. Having just bought a PlanetX Pro Carbon Evo bike it provides an interesting comparison. The carbon bike provides much more feedback through the steering, etc, and yet the ride isn't harsh. Perhaps not quite as compliant as the steel frame, it's hard to say. Unfortunately there turned out to be a manufacturing fault on the PlanetX frame and it has to go back so I'm back on my steel bike again. It certainly lacks the immediacy of the carbon bike. Most noticeable is that when accelerating away from lights it felt as if I had the handbrake on, so to speak. I was surprised it was so noticeable; I reckon the difference in weight is only around 2kg, which is very little when you factor in my 77kg so it must be down to the stiffness of the frame meaning that much more of your effort gets transmitted to the road.

I know there was a time when aluminium frames gave a very harsh ride but I doubt that's the case now. They've been around a long time and I imagine manufacturers have found ways to temper out the undesirable characteristics without losing their benefits. It was also true that the earliest ones were a bit 'noodly'. I rode one - made before frame builders had discovered oversize tubes - and synonyms like 'ripe banana' spring to mind. I think you need to try one or two and decide what you think.

Hope that helps.
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Old 10-03-18, 06:07 AM
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Originally Posted by BirdsBikeBinocs View Post
I want an Endurance type of bike that has a good roll, 85% asphalt, 15% gravel, grass, compact dirt and little mud. Mostly a road bike with 700 x 32c tires.
I'd go at least to 38 mm to get enough volume to be comfortable without pinch flatting. Get a quality tire w/a high thread count. Soma has some high-end tire models like the Shikoro. Also look at offerings from Compass and Panaracer. Be open to the new crop of 650b x 47 mm bikes that I'm seeing more and more of. Are there any shops near you? Maybe visit and ask to look at gravel bikes.
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Old 10-03-18, 06:32 AM
  #19  
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Start at the top. The most important thing is fitting the bike. You can have the best frame material in the world with big fat cushy tires and 10 miles into every ride your back starts to hurt and your knees get sore.

1. Proper frame size.

Once you get the correct frame, you can start playing with your fit. I was listening to the guys on cycling tips talking about testing bikes and if testing them over a longer period (2 years vs 2 months) made a difference. One thing that was mentioned was that changing out a stem on a bike that was thought to be uncomfortable suprisingly made a big difference in the comfort feel of the bike.

2. Dial it in. Properly setup your touch points and adjust to comfort.

Riding a bike with a cheap set of wheels can be like trudging through the mud. Especially if the hubs are not maintained. Replacing a 100$ set of wheels with an 800$ set of wheels can make a bike feel like going from a family car to a sporty 2 door convertible.

3. Spoil yourself with a good set of wheels

Last, the feel of the road under your butt, feet and hands is going to be most affected by the tires. This summer I went from a pair of 15$ Schwalbe Lugano 23mm tires @95psi to a pair of Corsa Open 25mm tires @85 psi. The difference was immediately noticable. Right away the feel of the road was completely different. The bike was not any slower but much more comfy.

4. Get a comfy pair of tires that fits your riding style..

Last I will mention that having the 4 things above dialed in will make a much bigger difference than frame material alone. Carbon fiber no doubt absorbs more of the vibration than Aluminum or Steel but that does not always transfer into comfort for longer miles. The geometry and design of the frame itself can make a bigger difference than the materials used in the frame. Get a bike fit for you that fits your riding style with a good set of wheels and comfy tires and youll be good to go regardless of the frame material.

-Sean
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Old 10-03-18, 07:22 AM
  #20  
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Originally Posted by BirdsBikeBinocs View Post
Well alrighty then... I like the replies. It's mostly about tires. And air pressure.

I want an Endurance type of bike that has a good roll, 85% asphalt, 15% gravel, grass, compact dirt and little mud. Mostly a road bike with 700 x 32c tires.

Will the 32c be a big enough tire to run at a lower pressure.?? 35c, 38c.... How wide can I go to still have a moderately fast road roll.??

I want to keep this bike out of the conversation... I have a Schwinn withfront suspension and 42c tires. I run the front tire full of air(it has suspension) and I run the rear tire at about 60lbs which gives a better rubbery ride. Just saying, that's what I have now. I want an endurance road bike for better speed averages and longer miles. Example would be a Giant Defy Advanced 3.
Ill go another direction and suggest that frame geometry is how you get to the bike you want.

You want a Caddy? A bike with longer than average chainstays and a more relaxed front end will get you there. Bonus is that typically the bikes with longer than average chainstays and a more relaxed front end are also built to handle wider tires.

Steel isnít as jarring as aluminum. Carbon isnít as jarring as steel. Steel will Ďflexí more than Carbon.
All my drop bar bikes are steel, so I am admittedly biased, but they can be made light enough and stiff enough for me to not feel like I am losing anything while still being comfortable.

As mentioned though, wider tires will absorb road imperfections the best. Its just that proper frame geometry allows for those wider tires to be used.
QUALITY wider tires can still roll as fast or actually faster than mid-tier thin road tires. You then get comfort and speed- the best of both worlds.

If you run quality 35mm tires on a bike with 435mm chainstays and 55-60mm of trail, you will have something that is stable, soaks up bumps, and handles fine at both lower and higher speeds. Itll be the big boat of a Caddy you mentioned earlier, while still capable of going plenty fast.
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Old 10-03-18, 07:43 AM
  #21  
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$800 wheel set makes it into a convertible, lol
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Old 10-03-18, 10:28 AM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by martianone View Post
IN my opinion, one of the leading causes of N+1 is the rider not getting the right feel or optimal bike fit.
This opinion is in no way even vaguely threatened by any proximity, even the most minor, to any fact.
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Old 10-03-18, 10:42 AM
  #23  
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I had a steel Bianchi that got killed by a car. I bought a new aluminum Allez, which I eventually thought was too stiff and beat me up. I installed a carbon fork, which was better than the aluminum one. Eventually I test rode a carbon Roubaix, loved it and bought one. After a few years, I test rode a more racy carbon aero bike, a Culprit, and my Roubaix felt too comfy after that. So I bought the Culprit. I still have all the bikes, except the Bianchi. I have three vintage steel bikes, and as for ride quality, they are "just right". I'd look around for a Raleigh Super Course or similar. The 531 frame is comfy on the rough roads I ride, pretty responsive. You can also go to bigger tires, less pressure depending on your weight. I'm 200 lbs, so I run about 100 psi in everything.

Last edited by Slightspeed; 10-10-18 at 09:42 AM.
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Old 10-03-18, 11:07 AM
  #24  
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Aluminum isn't stiff, but aluminum frames tend to be. It's all about the design.

TBH I can't feel any difference in ride quality between my Nashbar aluminum frame and the Chromoly frame of my Dawes SST. Or the overbuilt "stiff" frame of my GMC Denali for that matter. The one difference is I was flexing the SST enough for a brake rub last week, but that's a minor issue and not "ride quality".
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Old 10-03-18, 11:13 AM
  #25  
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I have a CF frame that has a super-rigid bottom (bottom bracket and down and seat tubes and chain stays), and has a flex coupling where the seat tube meets the top tube and seat stays. (A Trek Domane Series 6, 2014, FWIW). Very comfortable, quite zippy. I ride on 26mm tires but pump them up to 116 (their max) as I weigh 240.

I also just retromodded a Lemond Zurich steel (853) frame, and it gives a very nice ride too.

I just snagged 1978 Schwinn Superior, a 4130 steel frame that was hand fillet brazed. Heavy, but probably the most comfortable of the three.

My understanding of the engineering aspects of aluminum are that it's susceptibility to fatigue requires a thicker tube and this adds perhaps too much stiffness. In favor of Al, it can more easily be hydroformed which allows some selective control of stiffness with adequate strength.

But if I were going to get one bike to be on the road and some gravel and wanted to go fast with comfort, I'd probably get a good used steel bike frame and retrofit it. My 2 cents. Happy to be corrected if my "facts" are wrong.

Good luck!
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