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Been thinking about getting a new bike for light trails and maybe some touring. Some of the bikes I’ve found online are steel bikes.

I have a Trek Marlin 29er, so I know the benefits of aluminum (lightweight and no rust). Steel rusts and is heavy. I wonder what are the benefits of steel in 2019 ???
 

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Ride quality is hard to describe without riding a good steel frame.

Rust is really not an issue. Steel frames generally don't rust unless you leave them outside in the rain all the time or do similarly irresponsible things. Many current steel frames have rust-protecting treatment in the tubes anyway.

Heavy, sure. How light do you think you need your bike to be?
 

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Bikesexual
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Yeah, you really have to try to notice the difference.

I prefer steel, and I'm a fairly new rider. I love their style of frames, and everything they have to offer.

Very personal decision.

I went from aluminum to steel on my gravel like, and it was night and day. Now all my bikes but one are steel.
 

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since 4/10/2009
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I now have 2 steel bikes (one road, one mtb), and one bike that's aluminum/carbon (full suspension mtb).

I like steel's ride quality. Not hi-tensile steel that you find on department store bikes. I'm talking decent quality cromoly steel.

The weight of steel is enormously variable. Sure, cheap steel bikes are usually heavy (just like cheap aluminum bikes). But a high end one? Can be extremely light, if it's not overbuilt for hard riding. Same as any other material.

IMO, you can't find a much worse ride quality than cheap aluminum. Though I haven't ridden a cheap carbon bike yet, so I could be proven wrong on that.

Rust is a non-issue. Chains are steel. Most spokes are steel. Most cassettes have at least some steel on them. I ride in an area that's nearly a temperate rainforest. None of my steel stuff is rusting.
 

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The perfessor
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- I like steel and Ti better than AL, and as all have said, both have better ride quality than aluminum........
 

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The differences in ride quality between steel, aluminum and carbon stand out on bikes with skinny high pressure tires, like traditional road bikes. The fatter the tires and lower the tire pressure, the less difference frame material makes to ride quality. Add suspension and it's nill, IMO. Eight years ago I still had steel, aluminum and CF road bikes and an al FS mtb. Now I just have CF road bikes and al and CF FS mtbs. I'll stick with CF on the road bikes but am completely happy with al mtbs.

Agree that corrosion with a good steel bike is not really an issue. High quality finishes and internal anti rust treatment basically solve that. You can do an internal anti rust treatment yourself if the bike doesn't come treated.
 

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high pivot witchcraft
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The differences in ride quality between steel, aluminum and carbon stand out on bikes with skinny high pressure tires, like traditional road bikes...
Agreed. I would add hardtails to the list as well.

Contrary to a lot of serious seasoned riders at this site, I steer clear of aluminum period, but especially on road bikes and hardtails. That said, I do have an older high end aluminium cyclocross (a Made in the USA C-dale with a carbon fork). Compared to my inexpensive steel fixed gear road bike (a Kona Paddy Wagon), the difference is night and day.

I have developed a real appreciation for steel for road bikes and hardtails. I go for carbon for full suspension bikes, although I notice the harshness of aluminum a lot less (bordering on negligible) with big tires and suspension.

And yes - not all aluminum, steel or carbon is the same. I am speaking in generalities, based on my personal experience to date, which I am sure is quite limited compared to some at this site.
 

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U sayin' Bolt ?
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Yep Harold is right, stay away from hi-ten steel. 4130 chromoly is a sweet spot for price and performance. If a frame is chromoly, it usually means it was intended to allow more flex than an aluminum frame.

Aluminum is stiffer and can have a brittle ride quality, if that makes sense. A well made steel frame will flex in the right directions and feel more alive. With low pressure high volume tubeless tires though, it does not make as big a difference as it used to.
 

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I've owned & ridden aluminum, steel, and high-end titanium (but no carbon) frames. The aluminum (Cannondale) was light & fast, but good-quality 4130 is what I absolutely love. The titanium rode decently, but not what the dollar-to-quality ratio would have implied (the two I owned were Seven Cycles frames, BTW). At least the new Surly frames are coming with an internal ED coating to help with corrosion resistance, even though I've been diligent treating the insides of all of my steel frames.

The only aluminum bike I own is a freebie Gary Fisher that I'm building into a crap-weather commuter...so I don't have to subject my nice steel bikes to the rain, snow & salt. It's the perfect frame material for that application, IMHO.

Craig
 

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Up In Smoke
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I love steel(not interested in carbon) but have never ridden a FS steel bike. I noticed a few boutique steel FS frames out there recently being produced, anyone with experience on one. I can see the benefits of riding a steel HT but are there really any for riding a steel FS?
 

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I've had both and it's very hard to generalise, but I guess you kinda want us to? ;0)

Weight:

Typically, a steel frame will weight a couple of pounds more than the equivalent aluminium alloy one. But that's if all else is equal. A cheap alloy bike can easily weight more than a good steel one.

Durability:

Modern quality frames of either type last well but a steel frame will probably outlive you. Bottom line, it's nothing to worry about either way.

Comfort:

Tricky. Steel is nice. The resonant frequency of the metal is different and steel feels less 'jaring'. It depends on what the terrain is like how noticeable this is though. Also, modern manipulation of alloy allows allo frames that behave...rather unlike alloy, so there is much more variation in the way alloy frames behave than in steel ones.

Efficiency:

For me this is quite a big deal. Virtually all steel frames are made out of round tubes with the main difference being the quality of the steel. Alloy can be hydroformed and made into shapes which suit the job in hand. If you look at a good alloy frame you'll see all kinds of bends and variations in tube thickness on different parts of the frame.

The result of this is that alloy frames generally turn your effort into forward motion much more effectively than steel ones do. It's very noticable.

Neither frame type is 'better'. It's about what you personally like and prioritise. I like the ride of steel. I don't like the weight and loss of responsiveness. It's worth noting that at one time virtually all bikes were made of steel. When alloy frames could be manufactured cost effectively they took over and that situation have never been reversed. While steel frames remain popular for some riders, especially for long distance road touring, alloy remains what most people want to ride.
 

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high pivot witchcraft
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I've had both and it's very hard to generalise, but I guess you kinda want us to? ;0)

Weight:

Typically, a steel frame will weight a couple of pounds more than the equivalent aluminium alloy one. But that's if all else is equal. A cheap alloy bike can easily weight more than a good steel one.

Durability:

Modern quality frames of either type last well but a steel frame will probably outlive you. Bottom line, it's nothing to worry about either way.

Comfort:

Tricky. Steel is nice. The resonant frequency of the metal is different and steel feels less 'jaring'. It depends on what the terrain is like how noticeable this is though. Also, modern manipulation of alloy allows allo frames that behave...rather unlike alloy, so there is much more variation in the way alloy frames behave than in steel ones.

Efficiency:

For me this is quite a big deal. Virtually all steel frames are made out of round tubes with the main difference being the quality of the steel. Alloy can be hydroformed and made into shapes which suit the job in hand. If you look at a good alloy frame you'll see all kinds of bends and variations in tube thickness on different parts of the frame.

The result of this is that alloy frames generally turn your effort into forward motion much more effectively than steel ones do. It's very noticable.

Neither frame type is 'better'. It's about what you personally like and prioritise. I like the ride of steel. I don't like the weight and loss of responsiveness. It's worth noting that at one time virtually all bikes were made of steel. When alloy frames could be manufactured cost effectively they took over and that situation have never been reversed. While steel frames remain popular for some riders, especially for long distance road touring, alloy remains what most people want to ride.
I was with you right until the end.

First, I suspect, although I may be wrong, that in certain circumstances, many who have never ridden a steel frame, may prefer it over aluminum. The issue is that many have never ridden a steel frame.

Second, and related to the first point, I would be surprised, monetary differences aside, if most/many/any would prefer alloy over ti or carbon, provided they have ridden ti and carbon.

That said, it's tough to generalize. Too many differences in the same frame material, bike style/use, trail/road conditions, suspension style and on and on and on.
 

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The result of this is that alloy frames generally turn your effort into forward motion much more effectively than steel ones do. It's very noticable.

I used to be think the same and kind of still do because my carbon road bike is a rocket on climbs but I saw a GCN video about a year ago that swayed my opinion some.

"perhaps it's not as important as people once assumed." https://youtu.be/BH_AL4rxrp8


Si (gcn presenter) likened It to the once long held belief that skinny tires and high pressure are faster, and the fact that even though they feel faster studies have since proven otherwise.

My carbon frame is faster on climbs than my old Columbus SLX steel road frame but maybe that's because it's over 5 pounds lighter and has nothing to do with frame flex?

Anyway, food for thought.
 

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Not a role model
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Is rust really that big of an issue? I use Fluid Film to protect the unpainted surfaces, such as the interior of the tubes, on my steel frames. It's fine if it has a coating--see crank spindles, chains, cables, bolts, small parts like RD springs, etc.

I consider weight to be a fair trade-off for toughness, ride characteristics, and affordability. I'm no longer racing (ran carbon for that) and I get used to what I run.

I currently have a Niner ROS9, Swobo Sanchez, and will receive a steel FS by the end of this month. I kept these over aluminum options, such as a Gary Fisher Rig, Trek Crockett, and Yeti ASR7. Should sell my carbon stuff...
 

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I have two steel bikes and two carbon bikes. Both of my carbon bikes are heavier than my steel bikes. My best carbon bike is worth about four times my best steel bike and weighs about 10# more, so it's not just what material the frame is made out of but also what you bolt onto it that matters. I grab my heaviest bike 99 rides out of 100 because it's the most fun.

For "light trails and touring" I'm not sure you'd be able to discern the subtle but better (IMO) ride quality of good steel, especially if you're carrying loaded bags on the bike.
 

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My lightest bike is steel. Not exactly fair comparing a full ridgid True Temper XC whip to my carbon enduro though. Its funny that aside from bottom of the line steel bikes, steel bikes now often cost as much as anything else, having become boutique handmade things of beauty. I am awaiting delivery of a cross frame. Rust is evil though, i didn’t immediately address chips so there ate now spiderwebs under the paint :(. Note that aluminum corrodes too, ive got parts that are chalky.
I think steel is the material of choice for hand builders as its easiest to handle and build with. Aluminum some grades you cant weld without having to heat treat again.
 

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My new steel hardtail is more harsh than my old aluminum hardtail. I suspect it's due to the short chainstays. It does feel smoother on small trail chatter but anything larger feels harsher on the steel bike.
 

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alloy remains what most people want to ride.
I think most people don't even know or care what their frame is made out of. "It's blue and was on sale."

Enthusiasts however, people who really get into bikes, I think want to ride carbon. Whether they want to pay the higher price for it or not is a different matter.
 
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