Steel Aluminum Carbon Titanium, Oh My!

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Steel Aluminum Carbon Titanium, Oh My!

Postby homedespot » Sun Mar 06, 2011 1:05 pm

I realize as I write this that I am at risk of revealing myself as uncool and uninformed. I am a first-timer, 52 y.o. generally fit woman, registered for CO by her spouse. I don't own a bike! So, what should I be looking for?
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Re: Steel Aluminum Carbon Titanium, Oh My!

Postby Rchan » Sun Mar 06, 2011 5:10 pm

Here is a suggestion. I just did an exhaustive search for a good, comfortable, and sexy bike, in that order. I fell in love with a Bianchi Infinito Ultegra. I found out later it was really cool to have a Bianchi, I had never heard of them before, but it is an Italian made bike, company has been in business for 125 yrs. And , my goodness, it is gorgeous and rides like a dream. I have been riding a hybrid before the Bianchi. And it is like the difference between driving a farm truck and a sportscar.
You definitely want a road bike, most bikes in the $2000-4000 range will be great for an enthusiast. I'm 54 and new to cycling in the last 2 yrs. Love it, love it, love it.
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Re: Steel Aluminum Carbon Titanium, Oh My!

Postby nelsonm » Sun Mar 06, 2011 9:14 pm

Good for you for asking - and for riding CO! You'll love it! I am 53 and got back into cycling a few years ago after riding casually for many years. I agree that you'll probably want a road bike - I ride a Gunnar Sport (steel) road bike (made by Waterford Cycles in Wisconsin). I love it - it's sleek, fast, and rides like a dream. My husband, a serious cyclist, has customized the gearing and components for me, but you can always have that done by a good bicycle shop mechanic if you want. You can find lots of info in cycling magazines and in on-line forums about choosing a bike. If you have a bike shop near you, visit them to get sized correctly and then test ride some bikes - pick the one that feels best. The advice given to you by Rchan was great too. Have fun choosing your new bike and hope to see you on the ride!
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Re: Steel Aluminum Carbon Titanium, Oh My!

Postby HalfBent » Mon Mar 07, 2011 1:50 pm

Congratulations and welcome to the fun. Whatever you choose, whether it be new or used (many excellent used bicycles out there), make sure it fits you the way you want it to. Ask for long test rides or rent before you buy. Many bikes are designed for racer fit. This doesn't necessarily equal comfort for everyone on long days such as during the Cycle Oregon week ride or on century type rides. Start with the handlebars level with the seat and go up (higher) or down (lower) as it fits your body. If you have a professional fitting, don't let them force you in to a "racer" fit unless you want that. I also recommend reading all you can on the Rivendell Bicycle Works website (pop it into a search engine). Grant Petersen, the founder of Rivendell has some practical information out there for touring style riding. My personal bias is towards steel frames. I've ridden 2 decades of Cycle Oregons - all on steel, whether single, tandem or recumbent (but the next time I bring a recumbent it will be aluminum - 'bents are just heavy!).

Enjoy the whole experience - it'll be even better if you LOVE your bike!
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Re: Steel Aluminum Carbon Titanium, Oh My!

Postby johnncarol » Mon Mar 07, 2011 3:56 pm

Just curious, are you new to riding, does your husband ride? Sounds like you are a newbie or this is one of the regulars pulling our leg.

In any case, a big welcome to CO. It is one of the best if not the best rides in the country and good preparation will help you get the most possible enjoyment from it.

I started riding in 1991 at age 54. Over the years I have owned and ridden 4 regular bikes and three tandems. I have ridden steel, aluminum and carbon. I have ridden touring frame, race frames and the new comfort frames. My current bike is a Trek 6.2 Madone with the new H3 comfort frame. I think the so called comfort frames are the best thing that could have happened to the recreational rider and would strongly encurage any new rider to give them consideration. Less strain on the back and less pressure on the hands. A comfort frame along with the ability to put in spacers on the new head sets allows you to get pretty much the exact position you are comfortable with. I have my handle bars about an inch above my seat, a great position for long days on CO. As to frame material, steel has a great ride but at the price of weight. We have 20,000 feet of climbing this year. If you had to climb up stairs that reached 4 miles into the sky, would a couple of pounds make a difference? Aluminum is light but at the expense of ride comfort. With the 409 miles you will spend about 30 hours on the bike, a long time to be uncomfortable. Carbon gives you the lighter weight plus the comfort of steel. I'm not an expert but for me, carbon is the only way to go and I doubt you will find a carbon frame with the comfort design in a bike that is more than a couple of years old. After the frame, it is down to drive train and I think any newbie should have a triple. There is no better feeling than knowing you have that good old granny gear if the legs get rubbery.

It is going to be a great year and a great ride and I am positive you will thank your husband. :D

"Life is too short to not ride a great bike".
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Re: Steel Aluminum Carbon Titanium, Oh My!

Postby mytrot » Mon Mar 07, 2011 11:39 pm

Lots of good advice above. I have always ridden aluminum. As noted it is stiff but it is very responsive. Test rode a carbon last year and on rough pavement they are much nicer than AL.

As a newbie spending 2-4k may be excessive unless you have to have carbon. Trek makes some nice 1-1.5k rides. Better to spend the money on a fitting, something I wish I had done.

JC is spot on with the comfort frames. As a new rider, uhhh , over 40, consider that carefully. If you start racing, get that 4k racer and keep the old one for lousy weather.

As for frame weight, I hate to disagree with some others, (especially JC!), but the weight of the frame is not likely your biggest issue. Most CO riders carry more weight in gear than their frame weighs as most are less than 5 lbs.! And for me I could cut more wieght by drinking less beer (not happening!)

Like JC I like triples. They have changed the gearing on most and they are less appealing than my '93 and some of the doubles have quite the range. Bottom line is work with someone who understands gearing and pick what works for you!

Have a great CO!!
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Re: Steel Aluminum Carbon Titanium, Oh My!

Postby johnncarol » Tue Mar 08, 2011 1:46 pm

Had to make a quick run to my local Trek dealer this AM and I asked him what he would do if someone came in to buy a first time bike and was planning a big ride. He would reccomend either 4 or 5 series carbon. He said he could get them set up with a nice bike for $2k. If however there was any doubt about continueing to ride he would suggest renting or buying a lower end Aluminum until you know you want to continue riding. If the original writer lives in Oregon she has access to a great Trek dealer, the same one that support the CO ride.

As to weight, I think we can agree that weight does matter. I also agree that the weight problem is not the bike. Most of us have plenty of excess body fat. If you weigh 170 pounds and have 20% (not unusual) body fat, you are carrying around 34 pounds that doesn't help to propel the bike. If however, you have worked your weight and body fat down, then that two or three pounds of difference between steel and carbon can make a difference.

And I still say, life is to short to not ride a great bike.
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Re: Steel Aluminum Carbon Titanium, Oh My!

Postby Force 5 Robert » Tue Mar 08, 2011 8:53 pm

johnncarol wrote:And I still say, life is to short to not ride a great bike.


No matter what style of bike it is.. +10 to that!

:D
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Re: Steel Aluminum Carbon Titanium, Oh My!

Postby mytrot » Tue Mar 08, 2011 9:43 pm

If you spend 2k on a road bike, whatever the material, it better have a frame weight of not much more than 3 lbs. Most the weight is elsewhere. Even Treks superlight carbon is near 2 lbs.

By the material you like, but weight is a minor factor.

From Rivendell:
Frame weight is 1/4 as important as bike weight, and bike weight is 1/10 as important as body weight.
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Re: Steel Aluminum Carbon Titanium, Oh My!

Postby dougnlis » Wed Mar 09, 2011 3:07 pm

I have some different notions.

First, best bang for the buck is aluminum. The metal is cheaper than the competition and the methods used to turn metal into a frame are at least as cheap as used for steel, titanium or carbon. And it performs perfectly well, as thousands of happy CO riders can attest.

Second, follow your heart in this matter. You're starting an affair that you want to last for at least six months, with a lot of time invested in it. You want a bike that makes your heart go pitterpat whenever you look at it, and makes you want to show it off to everyone you know. Get it in your favorite color, with nice trim lines so you think it looks quick just sitting in the garage and you'll think you look quick when you're on it. Follow your heart and you're likely to choose a bike that you will gladly spend the necessary time on, getting ready for a long week of riding.

Third, act your age (just a little bit). Sure your bike will be trim and sexy, but make it practical as well. Past fifty, we realize that trim and sexy isn't worth much if it can't carry the groceries
home or the books back to library. Or if a passing rain shower means you'll spend a boring April day indoors instead of touring around looking at all those new flowers pushing up. After you have tested a few and found one that's sexy and comfortable, have the dealer put fenders and a rack on it. Unless of course you live somewhere that it never rains in springtime or early summer. Fenders will make a short ride in the rain a reasonable proposition instead of an ordeal. The rack will let you add incredible numbers of reasons to your list of why you want to hop on your bike to get in a few miles every day: places to go, things to do, errands to run.

I could get more specific about styles I would suggest (hybrid style, with tires at least 32x700c). But that would just provoke more technical debate than is needed at this point. Go visit a good dealer, tell the sales woman (chances are better she will be able to relate more to your fears and interests than the dude next to her) what you have in mind, and test several that she recommends until you really feel that pitter pat.

Then do a lot of riding in the next six months.
Steel is Real
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Re: Steel Aluminum Carbon Titanium, Oh My!

Postby teaspoon » Wed Mar 09, 2011 10:24 pm

There is a lot of information coming across and a lot of advice...some of it conflicting...not wrong just a difference of opinion. For CO, most riders seem to ride slow and for good reason. I don't think frame weight is much of an issue because most people tend to load their bike up with several pounds of stuff like cameras, munchies, clothing, etc. I think it is more important to be comfortable than most anything else while riding for a week. Nothing worse than having a really light expensive bike but not enjoying it. I always say as mentioned earlier if you want to shave pounds off your bike start with the belly. For me, if I lost 15 pounds before CO my ride would be easier and more fun. That is my goal. If bike weight is really an issue and you really want to make a difference in your performance then focus on the rotating weight as that is where you will get your biggest bang for the buck. What ever you choose do it early so you get plenty of saddle time and get really comfortable with your ride.
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Re: Steel Aluminum Carbon Titanium, Oh My!

Postby Matt VanBuskirk » Fri Mar 11, 2011 11:29 am

Welcome to cycling. Last year was my first CO, and I have only been cycling for 2 years, and I am 56. I started out with a borrowed steel Pugot that had to weigh over 30 pounds. After 6 months I got comfortable enough to upgrade. I tested a few and ended up on an entry level Trek. I even chose it over the others that were 3 times more expensive. It just felt the best. Aluminum frame, carbon forks, but most important is that I love the bike...everything about it. I'm riding it again this year's CO. Find one you love to ride, and is fit to your body. Pay to have a pro fit, and then, just ride. Work up to 30 milers, and then keep riding until you can double that. Practise shifting, up and down hills. No one seems to mention the bike seat, but you will spend many, many hours, perched on that seat. Find one you hate the least. That's just gonna take time. Ride with someone who won't just leave you in the weeds, and have fun together. This is not a race, and we don't get paid to do it. So, go out and get yer bike, and have a blast.
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Re: Steel Aluminum Carbon Titanium, Oh My!

Postby cheneyt119 » Sun Mar 13, 2011 10:45 am

I read a posting stating you need to spend $2000-4000 on a road bike. Well I didn't. I never buy much of anything new. I find a frame that fits on E-bay then I piece together parts that fit what I'm trying for. For example a triple for my touring bike, compact for racing bikes, barend or bifter etc. I havn't spent more than around $900 on any bike and I get to spec them. You can find weight weenies that have to have Dura Ace. Well they sell their Ultegra for almost 25% of retail on ebay as an example.

If you aren't up to that just look on e-bay or Craigslist for unridden bikes that fit you. I have a theory that is 100 times easier to buy something than it is to do something. I joke that treadmills should have more hooks on their hand rails because you should get a better value in an $1200 coat hanger. I'm not even talking about CO riders, we'd wear out our treadmills. You need to take advantage of the people that for whatever reason purchased a nice bike a few years ago and haven't ridden it 15 miles. Ask any bike mechanic and he'll tell you there are a lot of these sad dust collectors and they deserve to be ridden, and their owners taken advantage of.
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Re: Steel Aluminum Carbon Titanium, Oh My!

Postby Force 5 Robert » Sun Mar 13, 2011 11:00 am

I have and only will ever buy used bikes. Last year I bought a trike for my wife that was only a year old and had literally been ridden around the block a few times. Paid their full asking price - which was 1/2 of what the exact same trike would have cost brand new. In fact, I think the used one I bought was in better shape than the models on the floor at the shop - it had less miles as it was a custom build.
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Re: Steel Aluminum Carbon Titanium, Oh My!

Postby cheneyt119 » Sun Mar 13, 2011 11:21 am

Entry Level, sport touring, and assorted other perjoratives are phrases designed by bike manufacturers and retailers to make you feel bad about yourself and spend more money. There is no such thing as an entry level bike, bikes have different purposes. I have an old Giant Nutra that is speced with the cheapest components available (6 speed drive train 28-38-48) and that's all it needs to do rain rides, collect trail dust and or go to the grocery store. I wouldn't ride it more than 30 miles or even consider it for CO, I have other bikes for that. I had a Dawes 1200 lighning from Bikesdirect.com (cheapest new road bike available) and other than a little extra chipseal vibration (nearly alievated by larger 700x28 tires) it was indistinguishable from other nicer road bikes.

There's nothing entry level about this issue except being entry level to retail manipulation. Why spend a ton of money for a bike I intend to thrash? I guess my point is it's not about bikes it's so much more about riders. I'm sure Lance does just fine on any bike he gets on. On the other hand the folks that show up for the STP and their longest ride to date has been 30 miles; they're in for a long day (or a very short one).
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