Aluminum Vs Carbon Fiber vs smoking crack
May 25, 2006 12:30 PM   Subscribe

Compliant-vs-speed filter: Aluminum vs Carbon Fiber, aggressive vs less-aggressive? Steel junkies leave your opinions at the door please.

So I cracked a 2004 Specialized Allez Elite (62) near the bottom bracket. While the warranty replacement bike was being rebuilt, LBS loaned me a 2006 Specialized Roubaix Comp (58), which is allegedly a more compliant ride. I rode the Roubaix for a few days, including a Century, and was amazed by how 'good' it felt. It was like riding a full-suspension road bike. It felt like a dream compared to the rattle of aluminum.

Fast forward a few days later (and 170 miles!!) and I'm back on the aluminum replacement. Obviously the ride wasn't as plush as the CF Roubaix. However, I did notice that I was definitely faster and climbed better after getting back on the Allez.

Now here's my question?

Was I faster on the Allez/Slower on the Roubaix because:

1) The Allez is a more compact/aggressive geometry where the Roubaix is designed to be more compliant?
2) The Allez(62) is the right size and the Roubaix(58) was too small? Remember how comfortable I was on the Roubaix. The ride was a dream.
3) I was faster because I did a lot of miles recently
4) No difference, I was smoking crack.

Here's the kicker - Even though I perceived myself to be slower, the ride of the CF bike was just too good to be true. Of course, I have been snookered by my LBS and now I *must* ride CF :). I'm not (yet) a racer, more of a club rider and canyon climber and pain-enjoyer. I've been debating a few CF options and want to know if I should stay in a really aggressive geometry, like a low-end Tarmac, or go for the more luxurious ride of the Roubaix. Now that I've had a taste of a CF ride, I can't fathom getting used to aluminum again.

My cycling goals are to 'go fast' and 'climb better'. Possibly crits. I'm looking for a good marriage of speed + comfort.

Also, I'm looking to stick with Specialized because I'm very happy with LBS and Specialized's service/warranty terms. I could also consider (gah!) Giant.

posted by neilkod to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total)
CF will always be more comfortable, it flexes way more than aluminum.

You say that the Roubaix was too small, yet it felt more comfortable? Whenever I've ridden smaller bikes for any distance longer than 5 miles I get back problems. Do you feel stretched out on the Allez? The top tube length difference is about 23cm and that's not insignificant. How tall are you? How long are your arms, torso? Are you sure 62cm is the right size?

You probably were faster back on the Allez, if it's fitted to you correctly you were getting more efficient strokes, and the aluminum frame didn't flex, transfering more of your power to the wheels.
posted by splatta at 12:57 PM on May 25, 2006

I'm guessing it would be option 4, but I don't have any experience on cf.

regardless, because of the way you've written this, it's apparent you have already decided you like the cf. man, yr lbs suckered you right into that one.

i'd go aggressive. if i wanted a cushy ride, i'd buy a motorcycle.
posted by lester at 12:57 PM on May 25, 2006

Response by poster: i'd go aggressive. if i wanted a cushy ride, i'd buy a motorcycle.

I love it! Great quote lester.

splatta, I'm 6'2.5". On the 58 roubaix, I showed a LOT of seatpost. I was at my 'normal' seat hight. I found that it was a lot easier to sprint out of the saddle on the Roubaix because the handlebars are up higher. The 'ride' of the Roubaix was more comfortable. I seem to be more stretched-out on the allez but the allez is bigger AND the handlebars are lower.
posted by neilkod at 1:01 PM on May 25, 2006

Response by poster: Ok, yes, I wholeheartedly admit that LBS pulled on me! I gave them so much crap when they pulled out the CF and gave it to me, right before a century. I told them they were worse than drug dealers handing out the first crack rock for free! Of course, they are giving me the 'sucker' discount should I decide to go CF. Money isn't the biggest factor, enjoyment is. I ride about 125-200 miles/week.
posted by neilkod at 1:06 PM on May 25, 2006

Response by poster: pulled one on me that is!
posted by neilkod at 1:10 PM on May 25, 2006

There are enough variables here that option 4) is probably out.

I'd suspect a combination of 1) and 2) account for the bulk if not all of the difference, with the flex eating more energy when you're out of the seat while fit issues would be more responsible for slowing you down in steady pedaling.

I really don't know enough to comment on the "lots of miles" option but given the short period on the other bike I'd suspect anything really dramatic would be more a function of the first two options. That's a completely wild-assed guess though.

Do you have the option of trialling a Roubaix that's been fitted to you? That could answer your question and I'd do that before making any decisions.

And then I'd probably go cushy anyway, but I'm a slow, fat old man.
posted by Opposite George at 1:37 PM on May 25, 2006

Now that some people who probably know more than me have answered, I would go with geometry over frame flexibility as to why you liked the CF so much better. The real test would be if you could ride an aluminium frame with the exact same geometry. But that's probably not possible.
posted by GuyZero at 1:51 PM on May 25, 2006

You could look into upgrading your handbars and seatpost to carbon and keeping the alu frame. It's a small upgrade comparatively and might be just what you're looking for in terms of cushy and fast. Plus they can easily be moved to the new bike if you decide to go with that option. A nice ergo carbon handlebar would be an improvement over almost any stock bar.
posted by hindmost at 2:48 PM on May 25, 2006

I'd like to also ask if you're sure the 62cm frame is the right size? I only ask this because I'm also 6'2" and a 62cm frame is too large for me. 58-60 is more my size, but my torso is what gives me my height, my inseam is 32cm.
posted by splatta at 3:23 PM on May 25, 2006

err re-reading this, i meant 32inches of course.
posted by splatta at 7:11 PM on May 25, 2006

Response by poster: my inseam is a 34-25. When I rode the 58, people said i was showing WAY too much seatpost.
posted by neilkod at 7:30 PM on May 25, 2006

You could look into upgrading your handbars and seatpost to carbon and keeping the alu frame.

A carbon fork (if you don't already have one) might make a significant difference, too.
posted by Opposite George at 7:34 PM on May 25, 2006

Response by poster: Yeah, i have a CF fork and seatpost.
posted by neilkod at 9:54 PM on May 25, 2006

probably (3) or (4), but there is some notion out there that you expend extra energy when pedaling hard (particularly when off the saddle and climbing) on a bike with a softer frame.

i used to have a specialized allez (stolen, wah) from '03 or something that had an aluminum frame and carbon fork + stays. it was a nice combination since the triangle didn't flex much on climbs but all the little road jarrings were absorbed.

if you're looking for both comfort and go-fast, have you thought about titanium? i've never ridden a ti bike but it's apparently some kind of magic material that endows your ass with high velocity vibration-free climbitude. and it's probably a comparable price to a full-carbon frame.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 12:44 AM on May 26, 2006

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