Steel bikes vs aluminum: Which is the best frame?

If you haven’t noticed yet, the frame of a bike plays an essential role in the quality and abilities of bikes. These frames can be made from a variety of materials such as Steel, Aluminum, carbon, and alloys. However, Steel Vs. Aluminum remains to be the most famous rivalry. Cyclists of different backgrounds and experience ride these bikes. But which is best for you? Let us find out.

Pros of Steel Bikes

Durable                                                                 

When it comes to the durability Steel frame is the best. In fact, there is no other material that is durable more than Steel. On top of that, a steel frame can bend, dent, or even scratch, but the structural integrity will remain to be the same. A steel frame can last a lifetime if you take good care of your bicycle.

Easy to repair

The bike frame fails after being used for a long time. But, if you have a steel frame, almost any welder can repair it. So it doesn’t matter which corner of the world that you are in because you cannot lack a welder to repair the frame for you. Even if the welder does not have much experience, he/she can manage to fix and get it back on the road.

Best for Mountain biking, touring and commuting

If you are going to participate in any of these three activities, then what you need is a steel frame. This is because of mountain biking, touring and commuting needs a strong frame rather than a heavier one.

Cheap to repair

Steel frames are cheap to repair compared to other metals. There is no better option than a steel frame for wilderness exploration and long-distance traveling. Besides, even fixing such a frame is way cheaper than Aluminum. You can also do the repairs by yourself as long as you have a welding machine and other appropriate tools.

Smooth ride

The sturdiest frame is one that is made from Steel. This means that it will not transfer any road bumps or shocks to your points of contact. Also, you will not feel any vibrations as you ride on steel frames because they are not 100% rigid. But if you are riding an aluminum frame, then you will experience the vibrations and shocks because it is entirely rigid.

Steel is safe

When it comes to failing, frames do it in different ways. For example, Aluminum fails catastrophically without sending you any warnings. But Steel will start failing by bending a bit or cracking instead of just breaking into half at once. So if you always inspect your bike then you will easily know whether it’s safe for riding or not. On the other hand, Aluminum will not show you any weakness signs. So even inspecting your bike will not bear any fruit. It can break into half and throw you on the ground as you speed down the hill.

It’s easy to fly with a steel frame.

If you want to fly to another country or location with your bike, then you can install S&S couplers on a steel frame. It helps you in breaking the frame into two parts so that it can fit into a sizeable airline bag. Doing this will save you a lot of cash instead of using large, expensive oversize bags. 

S&S couplers are not compatible with Aluminum. This means that you will mostly end up paying more for travel. However, it can be used on some titanium framed bikes.

Cons of Steel Bikes

Heavy

Steel is heavier than all the metals used to make bicycle frames. The main reason why people opt for carbon, Aluminum, or Titanium frames is that they are lighter than Steel. Besides, heavy frames ca limit you from participating in some activities.

Steel frames are expensive.

Although it’s easy and cheap to repair a steel bike, buying a new one is very expensive. The reason is that the steel frame takes a lot of time to produce. Conversely, Aluminum frames are cheap to manufacture. They were introduced as an alternative for the expensive steel bikes.

Less efficient

Steel is not completely rigid, like the other metals. So you will end up wasting energy every time your frame flexes. This is the energy that you could have used to move forward, but it’s consumed by the frame. However, it may not be a big deal if you are using the steel bicycle for recreational purposes. But, if you are going to participate in racing, then you need to think twice before purchasing a steel bicycle. You will end up using more energy than other racers using different kinds of frames.

Steel rusts

With aluminum frames, rusting is not something that you are supposed to worry about. But steel frames can catch rust easily. This is not good because rusty frames are unsafe to ride. The inside part of the frame is the one that is most likely to rust.  However, you can prevent this by applying a rust inhibitor.  

You can also prevent your steel bike from rusting, storing it in dry place always.  The paint is important because it prevents a steel frame from rusting. So it’s important to seal the areas that you have scratched using nail polish.

Pros of Aluminum Bikes

Aluminum bikes are lighter

When compared to Steel, Aluminum is about three times lighter.  However, Aluminum is used together with other materials so as to make a durable frame. Still, the frame remains to be lighter than a steel frame even when the extra material is used.

Cost-effective

Aluminum is a very cheap metal. Bicycles with aluminum frames were initially introduced because they are easier and cheap to produce. Aluminum frames are the best for people on a budget. They offer a decent value for the price. Besides, an aluminum frame is better in terms of durability and performance than the carbon frames.

Fast

Aluminum is lightweight, and that is what makes a bicycle using such a frame faster than the others.  It also has increased efficiency hence boosting the speed. If you are looking for a racing bike, then I highly recommend Aluminum. 

Aluminum does not rust.

Aluminum does not rust like Steel and other metals such as Steel. It only corrodes a little but in a beneficial way. When it corrodes, it forms a thin layer of Aluminum oxide. This layer is not harmful but rather helpful because it prevents the inner parts of the frame from further corrosion. Besides that, the aluminum oxide that is formed after corrosion is stronger than rust. This means that the frame will not become weak and unsafe to ride, like in the case of Steel.

More efficient

The aluminum frame is so rigid; hence less energy can be lost because of the frame flexing. So you will get a chance to use this energy to drive you forward without necessarily getting tired. Although it’s not a big difference, it can add you a few seconds boost than a person racing with a steel frame bike.

More fashionable

It’s easy to mold aluminum tubes into aerodynamic shapes hence giving the bicycle a nice modern look. Some cyclists are more interested in the appearance of the bicycle.

Cons of Aluminum Bikes

It requires professional repairs

Unlike steel frames, Aluminum very hard to maintain and repair. On top of that, it will need some special equipment for the repairs. Not all welders around you will have enough expertise in repairing aluminum frames. So you will be forced to look further, and you may even end up paying a lot of cash.

Aluminum frames are dangerous.

When it comes to safety, aluminum frames can break into two halves without warning. Steel frames are safe because they will bend first before breaking into two halves. If it breaks while you are speeding, then you might hurt yourself very badly. Steel frames will show you signs of weakness early enough so that you can start making repairs. But this doesn’t mean that Aluminum will always fail violently.

Less comfortable

The aluminum frame is so rigid; hence it does not absorb the bumps and shocks like the steel frames. This can hurt your contact body parts. However, this problem can be reduced by the use of suspensions. Aluminum Bicycle without suspension will be less comfortable because of the harsh shocks.

Aluminum from is not long-lasting

Aluminum frames fail easily than steel frames. It cannot take much beating like the steel frame without getting weak and eventually breaking into two. However, if you manage to take good care of an aluminum.

Verdict

Both steel and aluminum frames are good in different ways. So the best frame will be determined by how you intend to use it. For example, you want a bicycle that will last for a very long time, and then Steel is the best. Conversely, if you want something that is fast, light, and more fashionable, then Aluminum bikes will be the best option for you. These two frames also have their own disadvantages. For instance, Steel is heavy, and Aluminum is difficult to repair.  These two types of frames are not 100% perfect. But you can find a way to live with their flaws.