Thursday, March 19, 2009

Is steel really real?

So this year I have been riding the SS a lot. And, the most likely change in bikes this year will be a different SS frame. I am in no hurry, but it will happen at some point. I am a real fan of steel as a material for a hardtail frame. Nice steel at least. And frankly, I had not even considered aluminum as a material for the new SS.

But now, I am wondering if that was a mistake. This is why.

  • Other than a track frame, I can't think of another type of bike that so requires good energy transfer from pedal to ground. Now I know that all bikes need that, but how often to you sit down and pedal an SS up a long and difficult climb? Not in my part of the world. Or how about short power bursts? I do a lot of them on a normal ride, pulling hard on the bars, pushing down hard on one pedal, pulling up hard on the other pedal, power bursts.
  • If that premise is at least mostly true, than it seems reasonable that stiffness at the bottom bracket, pedaling response, etc, is key on a single speed.
  • 29ers are naturally smooth over rough terrain and hold momentum well, so although a smoother ride is always welcome off road, is it still as critical on a 29er that we look for that smoothness in the frame construction?
  • Is aluminum really that much harsher than steel? Scandium sure seems like it has a lot to offer. I keep thinking GT Zaskar/Klein harshness of old. Perhaps a new paradigm is upon me?
  • How much can a rigid frame flex (as far as bump compliance) anyway? Can we not get more comfyness out of a larger, lower pressure tire (within reason, of course)? If a 2.3 tire can deform 1/4" more than a 2.1 tire when it rolls over something, what does it take to get a frame to absorb that 1/4 inch of bumpiness?
  • How much of this is all horse feathers?
Could be most of it, I don't know. But I am sure curious about finding out.


Jason said...

I've always sort of subscribed to the horse feathers. When folks talk about "flexing", I just don't feel it in frames. I'm just TOO busy on the trail to notice. I can see frame material "dulling" trail chatter (HT), but "flex"? not sure.

If I ever get another HT it will be Ti or Steel to soak up a little. I lean towards Ti because of it's longevity, but towards steel for its AFFORDABILITY. I will say my Mamasita was the best of both, with the carbon stays. Then I added a carbon post and it got even better. Then I sold it for my Big Mama, so I could roll over everything in my path! :)

grannygear said...


So you think a steel frame would ride nice enough compared to a 'Sita to give up the light weight and snappy ride?


Guitar Ted said...

MT, if I might make an observation: The thing with steel is that it can be nice and comfy- (Milwaukee Bicycle Company 29"er), but that verticle compliance is also manifested in lateral compliance to some degree. You have no "free lunch" with steel in that regard.

Something like the Mamasita/Selma, on the other hand, is vertically compliant due to the stay design, and stiff under power due to the Scandium construction/design. The ultmate in this regard is the Dos Niner.

So I think you can have your cake and eat it too, but not so much with a steel frame.

grannygear said...

GT...see, that is what I am thinking too. I am leaning more and more to the best performance under pedaling and less to the smooth as silk, but noodly.

The thing is, I think that, true to the nature of a good spring, the steel frame puts some of that 'swing' at the BB into forward motion at some point, but I could be wrong.

I am going to borrow a Dos Niner for a putt when it gets it's Reba fixed. Should be interesting.

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking alot about this lately. I love my steel frame (XXIX), but I've had my eye on adding a Misfit Dissent. The XXIX will be with me for years, but I'd love to drop a little weight and maybe add a little stiffness to the frame.
I ride in the mountains of Utah and either stand and climb or hang back and roll the descents. I'm wondering how much the steel does for me when I don't spend that much time in the saddle.
Or maybe I'm just going through that time of year when the slopes are turning to mush and the trails are still melting. I think I just need to ride.

Anonymous said...

Steel IS real.
Aluminum IS real.
Carbon IS real.
Titanium IS real.
Scandium IS real.
People’s false perception of reality IS real.
Riding Mountain Bikes IS real fun.

Ride any of the above that are poorly designed & they will ride harsh, rigid, flexible in the wrong place or too stiff in the wrong place. You can buy any of the above that are extremely heavy or light. If you want a well-designed bike that is comfortable to ride, handles well, & accelerates well, it will cost you. Qualified engineers make decent money & quality materials are more expensive than inferior materials. A frame that works for you may not work for me, materials, geometry, and material manipulation all affect the way a frame works. Just as important is your size, height, weight, ride ability & geography you ride in.
If you have it ride it. If you’re purchasing, ride it before buying it.

Forget Medical Marijuana, legalize PCT.