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Title says it all. Lots of good steel and aluminum hardtail frames are available, but factoring out preferences for specific builders who may do only do steel or only aluminum, which material would you pick for an AM hardtail and why?
 

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Eh, no preference.

Good overall design trumps any one element. But any Alu frame ridden hard will crack eventually. Could take two years, could take ten, sooner or later it'll go 'bink'.
 

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Get what feels best to you. I strongly prefer Al over Fe for just that reason. I'm not worried about fatigue life, as I have multiple bikes that only see a certain number of days each year, so any frame I have will probably see 7+ years of active life before being given away or sold for cheap. If a frame does crack, woo-hoo! New frame! In 10 years we'll all be riding beryllium anyway.
 

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I just switched my AM hardtail from Al to Ti and it's fantastic. I had two other Al hardtails before that. The Ti softens the sharp hits and it's springy too giving a 'lively' feel.

I imagine Fe (steel) is like Ti but with more weight. If I had to pick an AM hardtail frame on a budget I would choose Fe. For a full suspension where you want the suspension to be compliant and not the frame, Al is a good choice.
 

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I've got an aluminum 1996 Specialized Ground Control ridden a mix of daily commuter and mountain bike, and it's still going strong with no breaks. It's psuedo-full suspension, but the frame is still in perfect shape. It has many, many, many miles on it.
 

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I had an aluminum all mountain hard tail and cracked the frame, can't really weld or repair aluminum so I was SOL. Then I got a steel all mountain hard tail. Better ride, not much heavier and if you crack steel, you can repair it and keep riding. Go with steel.
 

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well, I like steel personally. I have both Al and Fe frames and I find the steel to be way more of a damp ride on the rough stuff. I don't really ride the Al frame much anymore but a lot of that is due to geometric preference though.

Ride what makes you happy.
 

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VTSession said:
I had an aluminum all mountain hard tail and cracked the frame, can't really weld or repair aluminum so I was SOL. Then I got a steel all mountain hard tail. Better ride, not much heavier and if you crack steel, you can repair it and keep riding. Go with steel.
Welding alu and cromo fe is about on the same difficulty level. Steel will fail eventually just like alu or carbon or ti.
Buy new and use the warranty on frames.
 

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slap happy
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and nobody is welding steel, alum or whatever on the trail ;)

you crack your frame anywhere away from your garage (or repair shop) your dead in the water anyhow.
 

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local trails rider
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Fix the Spade said:
Good overall design trumps any one element.
This.

Some frame brands do otherwise similar frames, in geometry, in both alu and steel. Then you might start weighing aluminum's lighter weight and "steel is real".
 

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Ragley Blue Pig and MmmBop, same exact frame but made from steel and aluminum. Mmmbop frame discontinued in the second version because the steel Blue Pig outsold it, by a far margin according to Brandt. Just saying.
 

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dumbaSS said:
Ragley Blue Pig and MmmBop, same exact frame but made from steel and aluminum. Mmmbop frame discontinued in the second version because the steel Blue Pig outsold it,
Just because it is hard to get "aluminum" to rhyme with anything... :skep: :p
 

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I ride both. I have an xc race geometry hardtail in aluminum and a am hardtail in steel. I find the steel to be more compliant. This is good, but sometimes I like the crisper feel or the aluminum frame... it is a snappier ride.

Granted as has been said, I think it is more about the geometry than the material. Find the angles that suit you best and then look for a frame. In my opionion it does not matter that much.

John
 

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I've ridden HTs in AL, Fe, Ti, and carbon. I found Al to be light and great for pedalling but too harsh on the descents. Ti was light and less harsh on the descents but could feel like a wet noodle at times, make sure the design is right with Ti. I didn't like the carbon bike I rode, it made funny noises on the descents and didn't flex when it should. I have liked all my Steel HTs, steel has a nice feel on the descents but you pay for it with weight and less pedalling efficiency.

I think steel HTs still tend to be nicer because there is more history and knowledge on what tubing to use and how to set it up. I think Carbon will be the material to watch over the next 5 years as it has more potential as builders get used to using it in DH and AM applications.
 

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dumbaSS said:
Ragley Blue Pig and MmmBop, same exact frame but made from steel and aluminum. Mmmbop frame discontinued in the second version because the steel Blue Pig outsold it, by a far margin according to Brandt. Just saying.
...and now Ragley is making the Bagger and Troof out of Fe and Al respectively. I recall that the build cost for the MmmBop was too high, which made retail too high, resulting in poor sales. Now that the Troof has goodies like ISCG mounts and a 1.5 HT, plus rec. fork length of 160mm. The Bagger is basically the same, just heavier and with a std HT.
 

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Steel vs aluminum. You should add carbon and ti in there too. For me it isn't the material it's made out of it's the purpose you intend it to be used for. If you wanna do more xc type if all mountain riding than get a light aluminum or carbon frame. Or even TI if it's in the budget. However for the more aggressive free ride, dh, or dj than I would pick steel.
 
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