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What IS the real difference in performance between steel and aluminum frames. Is it really worth paying a little extra for a steel frame (Surly Crosscheck) over an aluminum frame (Kona Jake)?
 

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Aluminum frames are typically stiffer when compared to steel, but have high corrosion resistance (i.e. aluminum doesn't rust). Choosing really depends on what enviorment you ride, but you can't go wrong with either the Surly or the Kona (my vote is for the Surly, however).
 

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Just to be the devil's advocate...

Aluminum frames tend to be 1-2 lbs. lighter than their steel equivalent. With a Thudbuster on the back end, you have a way more supple ride than the whole "steel is real" camp. Even though the Thud weighs in more, you're still ahead of the game weightwise.
 

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Aluminum frames are usually lighter and stiffer compared to a similar steel frame and within a similar price range.

However, there something to that "steel is real" camp. There is a noticeable difference when riding the bike. It isn't anything like suspension, but it does make everything feel smoother. You will still feel the bumps, but they wont feel so harsh because it takes the jarring edge off.
 

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For a cross bike, I'd vote for steel. You sorta need an aluminum bike to fully appreciate steel in the end though, so I guess you can't go wrong. :D Either way you are going to have a fun bike!

In the normal world, steel frames are cheaper than aluminum. If the Surly costs more, and we are just talking frames here, there must be some premium for the name, or the Kona is a killer bargain,, or "steel is real" is for real.

One thing to consider with cross bikes (unless you only intend to race) is to be sure it has bosses for fenders or racks. These bikes look like they both do but many cross bikes are so race oriented that they will leave them off. For commuter bikes, they come in handy though.

I have a steel Gunnar Crosshairs and I ride it to work every day. On the weekends I ride it for fun - I'm working up to the on/off road double century this summer. My back couldn't take that on aluminum!
 
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