Video: Testing the Difference Between Steel & Aluminum Frames

Jun 3, 2023
by Ed Spratt  

bigquotesWe finally have our steel frame in and had some riders test the material vs our alloy frame. Neko Mulally

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Member since Mar 16, 2017
2,722 articles

  • 17 0
 I would love to see an episode following Asa at a race, at least while Neko is out.
  • 3 0
 Right. He’s such a rad kid and so humble! So insanely fast too. Haven’t figured out yet why Neko hasn’t shown anything of him. Sure would be cool to see
  • 3 0
 His POV looks more like drone footage. So smooth.
  • 3 1
 @stormracing: maybe he doesn't want to be on video?
  • 4 0
 @Mtbdialed: He's also only 16. Let the kid rack up some results and experience before shoving a camera in his face all the time.
  • 3 0
 @pisgahgnar: that too.

people that like being on camera cannot comprehend people that don't, and it's hilarious.
  • 14 0
 Oh it's real. It's absolutely real.
  • 6 1
 I would have thought 8" of travel on a DH bike would be enough to "mute" the difference; apparently not. So, if steel feels better than aluminum, I wonder if you could replicate this test vs a carbon frame? If aluminum gives a stiff ride - doesn't the same apply to carbon? And wouldn't the cost of building steel be cheaper than carbon these days? Obviously there's the weight issue - but on DH bikes, seems bikes can get too light... Also, makes me wonder - why do they make most test mules I see from aluminum (instead of steel)?
  • 9 0
 Make everybody happy with a bike featuring:
- a steel front triangle
- lugged carbon + alloy rear suspension
(- titanium options if it makes sense)
- and stop being a dick about materials.
  • 8 0
 @danstonQ: if I had my druthers I'd like to be tooled up sufficiently to work in every material. I'm tooled up for carbon. I'd love to weld metal under the same roof! I can't get zoned for it without a massive untenable increase in overhead, and those same type of words apply to other businesses - you get in a groove (barely), and then you press hard. It is absurdly hard to avoid. Meanwhile when I get a customer willing to buy a carbon component, sometimes they are TOO enthusiastic about the wonder-properties of carbon and they want a bar that weighs like 90 grams and I'm all heeyyyyyy, bring the idealism down a notch, we have to deal with real life forces here.
  • 1 1
 @danstonQ: I would love to see a bike with all materials in it,like 1 tube titanium,other steel,some carbon and so on hehehe. Do not forget about some magnesium in the mix,a DH bike made of magnesium would be the rarest bike on the market.
It would be ace if more bike companies make a frame for Frameworks. Good way to make your company some publicity and some good DH knowledge for the cost a making a few frames,not even design or develop them. Being an open program regarding the frame,is a win situation for any part involved. You could sell a WC proven DH frame geo.
  • 3 0
 @trillot: Most brands don't make even prototypes or mules themselves, they have to get their frame vendors to do it. And most aluminium frame vendors aren't set up at all to manufacture in steel. Also, if they mainly use aluminium and are comfortable and experienced using it, and they have half an eye on a production run, that would be another reason to go aluminium for mules.
  • 2 0
 @danstonQ: a Reeb sst but with a titanium front triangle
  • 2 0
 @stationaryisdead: a REEB... yum yum!!!
  • 15 0
 Bamboo is the business.
  • 19 1
 You wood know...
  • 5 1
 I can’t cell-u-lose, too expensive
  • 5 0
 Shoot, you beat me to it.
  • 13 0
 If Frameworks makes a bamboo DH frame, I’ll definitely invest in their stalk.
  • 6 0
 Definitely against the grain
  • 4 0
 it would feel more planted for sure.
  • 5 0
 All these puns, I won't panda to it
  • 2 0
 @rufus26: They just steel your time...
  • 1 1
 This thread is my hands-down favorite invasive species.
  • 12 1
 Step 1: Choose a frame/components material
Step 2: B*tch about all the other materials.
Step 3: Success !

But seriously thanks Neko and the crew. This series is so great !
  • 19 11
 “Pick a frame material and be a dick about it.“
  • 2 0
 @sfarnum: I understand the reference
  • 1 1
 @sfarnum: hahahahahahah! best reference right here
  • 8 2
 I just replaced my old aluminum Whyte G160 with a 140mm Starling Swoop. The immediate difference I noticed on the downhill was how stable it was on loose rock at high speed. I’m also generating much more speed. I swapped all the parts over so the only difference is frame and I’m just going faster. Also my brakes work better. It almost seems magical. I think I’ll be sticking with steel from here on out
  • 12 0
 Could it be the newer parts and tech and that the starling is just a better bike rather then what type of metal the frame is?
  • 4 3
 Just built up a Reeb. Will also be sticking with steel from here on out.
  • 7 12
flag xciscool (Jun 4, 2023 at 20:57) (Below Threshold)
 @NERyder: nope, a good steel rigid bike is more supple than 160mm of suspension
  • 8 0
 Love this type of content. Thanks Neko for doing this. Go with steel. Your body will thank you for it.
  • 5 0
 Reading between the lines, I wonder how much the steel experiment is about durability. I also wonder if they weighted the alloy frame to make it the same weight. You could argue that is the material, but for race performance purposes I think those are two different things. Sprung vs unsprung weight distribution is real too. Think what Neko is doing is awesome and greatly appreciate getting to follow along. Kudos to him and the team. Would love to see him get a full, healthy season.
  • 2 1
 The alloy certainly could be lighter, but for the strength and durability requirements of downhill and enduro frames, a steel frame is probably close enough in weight to the aluminum, especially if its 853 steel. For an xc frame no doubt the aluminum will be much lighter, but the advantage decreases as the frame bulks up.
  • 4 0
 I think that's also the story if you look up the Geek Pages of Cotic ( Aluminum has a lower density so for components subject to bending and/or torsion (where larger tube diameters are helpful), aluminum could be the more favorable option. The thing is, space is limited on a bike, especially around the highly stressed area around the shock, linkage, bb etc. So increasing diameter is limited and you end up using thicker tubes for aluminum. And there, steel could actually give you a lighter solution as you can work with those small diameters and still have enough strength and stiffness without needing thicker walls. So yeah, especially for those longer travel "harder hitting" full suspension bikes, steel could make for a comparably light frame.
  • 7 0
 The steel project definitely started out as a discussion about how to inject some reliability into the frames after last season, but it's moved on from there. Through iteration of the details Neko has overcome the aluminium durability issues, so now it's all about which will make a better race bike. I don't actually know what the weight delta to the aluminium front end is, but based on the tubing specs I was designing against, it's not going to be much, and where it is heavier it is stronger.
  • 2 0
 @cotic-bikes: Huge thanks for the reply. Very helpful info. And props to the other two commenters who knew a lot more than I did.
  • 3 0
 Neko’s channel and what he is doing are great to watch

If the purpose of Neko’s bike development project is to win DH MTB races, it seems like the most important test is how fast the bikes are relative to each other. At a race, the clock care little about how you felt coming down the track.

It would great to see a test on how the steel and aluminium bikes do against each other, with the same ride doing multiple laps on the same track for time.

Rest that hip Neko. Thank for the great videos and look forward to watching race as soon as your are ready
  • 6 1
 Thanks for letting us peek behind the curtain Neko. Heal up quick Team Murica needs you.
  • 2 0
 Hardtail Party, 'Steel vs Aluminum - Getting experiMENTAL With the Ragley Big Al vs Bigwig'

I enjoyed this video by Hardtail Party, less shred, more nuance. He seems to favour the aluminium version. I ride the steel version... If I'm honest I think it's just because all my bikes are steel, I like how it looks and how it feels, not overly fussed about grams/seconds.
  • 2 0
 I was kinda hoping for something more quantitative... It is cool to know that this is a thing even on a DH bike, but I am sure that there is some way to quantify what is happening, like with suspension kinematic curves. I would be fine if it was just measuring vibrational resonances on some rig and comparing those between frame materials and what the suspension can account for, which I believe is mostly low frequency things (if shock strokes can only go a few m/s).

Still cool to hear about, but I think that this is kinda a song that has been sang before...
  • 6 3
 So steel frame deadens out the chatter, aluminum is a harsh ride and carbon is, well not trusted for me. Better just keep it real on my old steel DH yoke then..
  • 4 0
 Don’t pick a frame material and be a YouTuber about it.
  • 1 0
 youtuber = tuber = spud

Don’t be a spud about it.
  • 3 3
 I find my aluminium frames have a soft feeling on the trails and the bike tracks well as opposed to my carbon frames that ping pong down the trails as the stiffness seems to reflect impacts more resulting in the importance of shock tuning on the said carbon frames. I also like the fact that the aluminium has a natural warning before failure. Anyone here that has ever snapped a bar, seatpost or other plastic parts know what im talking about the incident is immediate and unavoidable. I am done with carbon.
  • 4 0
 I ride a steel frame. I’m going to be a dick about it.
  • 3 1
 Steel is real!
There I did it…

This series continues to be excellent, thank you for putting out great content.
  • 2 0
 Super interesting. Love this project Neko. Heal up!
  • 1 0
 Awesome vid on a really cool project! Heal quickly, I can imagine the frusteration!
  • 1 0
 Interesting a story. As everything, mtb is very subjective.
  • 1 0
 Huh. How about that. I don’t see him testing plastic bikes for some reason.
  • 1 0
 Awesome series this, good to see your healing up well Neko.
  • 3 2
 Steal is real yeah so is aluminium
  • 4 3
 Beskar wins by far... but steel is real - this is the way
  • 1 0
 Most obvious difference is the spelling
  • 1 0
 Can’t wait for the ti frame episode!!!
  • 4 4
 Pick a frame material and be a dick about it
  • 3 1
 I love the reference!
  • 1 0
 @scottgray: apparently others didn’t get it
  • 2 2
 The difference is that they’re different metals.
  • 4 5
 We already know your all carbon fiber pussies
  • 2 3
 pink bike perfers Chinese carbon fiber

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