Nothing is as hottly contested among road cyclists as frame stiffness and comfort. No week passes in which not at least one of the users of the TOUR-internet forum ( www.tour-magazin.de ) provokes a quarrel about this subject - and always a huge number of extreme points of view can be found: Fans of the stiff aluminium- or carbon frame squabble with adherents of the classic steel frame, because they think steel was per se comfortable. And can a frame also be too stiff? Arguments ignite over this question just as well as over the judgement of the steering head stiffness: Some tell horror stories about frames wobbling wildly downhill, others have never made this experience and dismiss it as nonsense.
Also while having a beer after the Sunday tour, discussions almost always lead to the question if and what of the technical characteristics you really feel on the bike. Stiffness of bottom bracket and steering head - do you notice it? Do you feel if a bike is light while riding it? Does it make a difference whether you ride on a steel frame or one made of aluminium, does a carbon frame lean better into a bend than a titanium one? Or is maybe too often the wish father to the tought? Who wants to admit that he rides slowly and timidly down the hill on his bike paid for with his hard-earned money, because it starts wobbling severely at 60 km/h? Particularly, if a really cool, image-bearing brand-name is printed on it... (...)
Short and crisp
All is permitted that pleases
TOUR-readers have disenchanted the myth of the diamond frame's comfort. If all components are the same, hardly any difference will be noticeable. Stiffness is no disadvantage, but the decisive safety plus at higher speeds and in difficult situations.
Conclusion: The choice of material when buying a frame is a question of taste. Given a sufficient steering head stiffness of at least 75 Nm per degree, the individual preferences may decide whether the money is spent on a technically solid, slightly heavier steel frame or on a weight reduced carbon frame with large volume tubes whose noise generated while riding it is not everybody's cup of tea. In order to have as much fun on the bike as possible, you should, however, concentrate on the frame's geometry.
Author: Dirk Zedler