Author Topic: Steel versus Ti  (Read 13947 times)

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Offline momonbike

Steel versus Ti
« on: October 08, 2005, 05:37:41 pm »
Help!  I'm in the process of designing my "last bike" and am stuck at the pros/cons of ti vs. steel.  I'm trying to determine what would be the tipping point to make the jump, given the 2X cost factor!  (Or, conversely, why should I stick with steel?)  I have been riding a steel for some time(downtube shifting) and really like the feel of the ride.  I plan to ride cross country sometime in the next several years, with many centuries and distance rides in the years in between!  I am 5'2", not too many years from being able to ride whenever I want (read retirement!), East coast salt air, mountains, etc.  I'm looking hard at the Independent Fabrication bikes, as I have yet to find an out-of-the-box that fits me.  Need lots of thoughts!!  TIA!


Offline DaveB

Steel versus Ti
« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2005, 07:55:57 pm »
First, rid your self of the notion this is your "last bike".  The technology changes too much and too fast to ever assume that.  

Think of a guy who bought his "last bike" in 1980.  By now, three materials (Al, Ti and Carbon) that were pretty much laboratory curiosities then are common and  a current frame and fork weigh half of what their 1980 counterparts did.  Also, dropout spacing has changed twice, rear clusters have gone from 5-speed freewheels to 10-speed freehubs, shifting technology has gone through several generations and head tube, fork steerers, headsets and stems have all undergone major design changes.  

Yes, some of the modern improvements can be added to an older frame but most can't.  You don't know what the future will bring so don't plan on being wedded to the past.

Finally, the cost of a bike, even a relatively exotic one, isn't such a big deal.  Your new bike will probably cost less than the down payment on a typical family car and will do you much more good both economically and healthwise.  


Offline momonbike

Steel versus Ti
« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2005, 12:01:27 pm »
Good points - thanks for helping me keep open mind! No question re: technology advances - on a recent ride with 1000s of riders, I saw few downtube shifters with "only" 21 speeds!  So, if I take a step back and recognize that this is only my "next" bike, I'm still looking for pros and cons of Ti vs. Steel.  And, I know it will ultimately be a personal choice, but I'm looking for input from folks who ride the long distance tours.  Again, appreciate the grounding of thought.  


Offline DaveB

Steel versus Ti
« Reply #3 on: October 09, 2005, 12:25:34 pm »
OK, now that my diatribe on historical perspective is over, let's see if I can give you some ideas on the steel vs Ti question.

Cost: Steel is the clear winner here both for stock and custom frames.  However, the frame isn't the only cost for a bike.  Even if a Ti frame costs 2X an equal quality steel frame, the complete bike would probably cost less than 1.5X.

Availability: There aren't very many stock steel frames available these days as the volume sales have gone to Al and Carbon.  A quality steel frame is almost certainly a custom proposition.  Ti frames are available both stock and custom.

Fatigue Life:  No winner here.  Properly designed and constructed both steel and Ti have nearly infinite lifetimes unless you crash.

Repairability:  The myth is than anybody with a torch can repair a steel frame.  This may be important if you are riding in remote parts of the Third World but a non-issue in the US, Canada and most of Europe.  If you have a good frame, you will want it worked on by experts and both steel and Ti can be repaired by those who know what they are doing. Besides, breakage of quality frames is extremely rare.

Weight:  For a given size and stiffness, a Ti frame will be lighter.  There are exotic thin wall steel tubesets available that approach the weight of a Ti frame but Ti still wins.

Ride Quality;  There is a huge amount of myth and misinformation about the effect of material choice on ride quality.  "Steel is real" (what ever that means.)  Ti has a "plush ride".  "Carbon is dead feeling."  "Al is harsh riding". The truth is you can have any stiffness and responsiveness you want by choosing the right design parameters and working with the builder. Design completely trumps material choice.  If comfort is a big issue, fit larger tires and run lower pressure.

Frame Maintenance: Ti is the clear winner here. Steel must be painted and the paint must be maintained and chips repaired to prevent surface rust. Inside "undercoating" of the tubes is also necessary to stop interior rusting from water incursion. Ti is impervious to almost everything.  Water, sweat, salt, spilled drinks, etc.  Nothing hurts it and there is no paint to chip so you can lean the bike against any convenient prop with no worries about damage.

My choice?  Ti unless initial cost is the overriding concern but you can't go wrong with either material from a good builder.    




Offline rulon

Steel versus Ti
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2005, 04:59:06 pm »
Wow!  You said it all.  All the facts that is. I love my steel touring bike.  Sometimes it is a subjective matter.  When I got on my bike the first time it "felt" right.  It is balanced and stable under a heavy load.

This message was edited by rulon on 10-19-05 @ 1:00 PM

Offline SoNouveau

Steel versus Ti
« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2005, 01:58:56 pm »
Hi. I'm just a little confused by the initial post. You said, "I plan to ride cross country sometime in the next several years, with many centuries and distance rides in the years in between!" You're thinking that you'll use the same bike for touring AND centuries?!?! And you're creating (or expecting) this new bike to do both?!? Personally, when I ride centuries, or double centuries, I just use my road bike. I suppose you could ride a touring bike 100 miles, or 200 miles, but wouldn't you be swapping tires, taking off racks, etc?!?! That's my confusion. I don't think you'll find the best of both worlds in one bike--due to chainstay lengths, tire sizes, fenders, racks, etc. And just FYI, it sounds as though we might be close in age; I'm 58 and live in Seattle. I do the STP each year, Seattle to Portland (200 miles in a day) and...I don't think I'd want that much rolling resistance below me over the course of 200 miles. (Indulge yourself--have 2 bikes, or 3, or 4!)

PS My vote is for steel because of the ride--and the fact that life is short. LOL


Offline biker_james

Steel versus Ti
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2005, 07:34:55 am »
I use my Cannondale touring bike for both touring and recreational rides. It has taken me on 200km day rides with friends, and 3 week tours with 70 pounds of gear. I suppose I could go faster with a road bike, but I guess I never worry too much about the speed. Now I wonder how much faster I could go if I stripped off the racks and fenders, put on narrow(er) tires and light wheels, maybe a carbon fork.


Offline Roubaix

Steel versus Ti
« Reply #7 on: November 19, 2005, 10:45:39 am »
My dad was riding into his 80's,a CD R600 and would hook up with some guys that rode in the 32? Oly. They would cruise down to San Diego from Long Beach. I'd go for Ti is you have the money.


Offline momonbike

Steel versus Ti
« Reply #8 on: November 21, 2005, 08:19:56 pm »
Wow, some great thoughts!!  To clear up any confusion, I hoping I can design a bike that will do both relatively comfortable centuries and light touring.  (As much as I'd love to have a full stable of bikes that fit, I can only whine to my husband so much about the NEED for a new bike!!)  I've learned that a true touring bike might be almost too stable without a load for enjoyable distance rides, while a fully loaded Ti  bike would become a noodle under full load.  (Someone, please jump in here if I have this wrong!)So, I'm focusing in on a Ti road bike with geometry (including the design for fenders, racks and wider tires when desired) that will be comfortable for day rides, centuries, and light (overnight) touring.  All the input here has been a big help.  Thanks!!


Offline DaveB

Steel versus Ti
« Reply #9 on: November 22, 2005, 10:09:01 pm »
 ...while a fully loaded Ti  bike would become a noodle under full load.  (Someone, please jump in here if I have this wrong!)...

OK, you're wrong.  A Ti frame can be designed to be as stiff as a railroad track if you wish.  Hey, they make tandems out of Ti and nothing is as "under a full load" as a tandem.  

As I said above, a frame can be built for your needs out of any material. Pick a suitable maker and a suitable frame design and the material becomes (wait for it) immaterial.

As a starting point, Moots and Litespeed both make Ti frames suitable for both light and fully loaded touring and there are many others.  

As to comfort under light or heavy loads, as long as the geometry is suitable, frame stiffness is way over rated as a source.  Use larger tires and run moderate pressures if you want comfort.  


Offline SoNouveau

Steel versus Ti
« Reply #10 on: November 23, 2005, 01:25:03 pm »
My earlier confusion regarding building a bike for both centuries and touring remains, but the two don't seem soooooooooo far apart now that you've said that the touring will be somewhat lightweight touring.

In the end, I think the situation is something like this: Say you can only buy a horse or a mule, but you want to ride into town from time to time, and over the hills into the next valley on occasion, too. But you also have fields to plow!!! So, yes, you could have a horse pull a plow, or a heavy wagon--but it's really not what he's designed to do (so to speak). But he'll be a great ride into town. And similarly, you could ride a mule up and over the mountain and down into the next town, but (again) he's better at pulling plows and heavy loads.

They're both lovely animals, of course, and they can both get the job done, but they're oriented somewhat differently. Sooooooooo, I'm still of the opinion that you should buy both. (LOL) Life really IS short and if you're out there breezin' down the highway, be it Long Beach to San Diego, or any other measurable distance (as in centuries+), I would think you'd want to go in style--that is, on a bike that just sails (i.e., a horse).


Offline Roubaix

Steel versus Ti
« Reply #11 on: November 24, 2005, 12:21:59 pm »
One of each,one new and one used.


Offline froze

Steel versus Ti
« Reply #12 on: November 25, 2005, 09:48:28 am »
Sure a bike made specifically for touring could be used for centuries especially if comfort on a long fast ride more important then actually winning.  All touring bikes if equipped with 700c wheels can easily be converted to handle a century simply by removing all the racks and fenders of course, but by having a second set of lightweight either expensive racing rims, or for cost reasons a set of light Mavic Open Pro or similar.  Sure the bike may be a tad heavier then what others may be using, but so what?  The weight of modern steel touring bikes is not that much more if any then bikes that raced centuries 30 years ago and the wheels could actually be lighter!  And a TI framed touring bike could actually be lighter then those that raced centuries 30 years ago!!!

This message was edited by froze on 11-25-05 @ 5:50 AM

Offline mcslain

Steel versus Ti
« Reply #13 on: December 08, 2005, 03:02:40 pm »

I rode a steel frame S-works from west to east on the trans-am route back in 99.  My frame broke in the middle of Kentucky... but the local garage's mechanic, Cooter I believe his name was, simply welded it back together for me and away I went.  Try doing that with Ti. I bring this up just cause someone said earlier this kinda thing was a myth.  It's really not.  All that said though, I ride a Ti MtBike and love it.  Basically you could go either way and be fine, I'd probably lean towards Ti though if your wallet is big enough...



Offline DaveB

Steel versus Ti
« Reply #14 on: December 08, 2005, 09:31:18 pm »
Quote
My frame broke in the middle of Kentucky... but the local garage's mechanic, Cooter I believe his name was, simply welded it back together for me and away I went.  Try doing that with Ti. I bring this up just cause someone said earlier this kinda thing was a myth.  It's really not.

I never said it was a myth, I said it was a rarity. Also, how did "Cooter" do at welding thin wall Cr-Mo and how well did he maintain your frame's alignment?  The bike got you through but I'd be very surprised if it was a good repair.  BTW, any well-equipped welding shop can also properly weld Ti.