Last Night's Sales Pitch, continued. From the Speaker

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Anonymous's picture

"I'm glad my presentation to the NYCC generated this variety of responses.
Apparently, the battle of “the best” bicycle frame material is alive & flourishing, based upon a mix of research, scientific data, pride of ownership and/or ride quality & feel.
To begin, a few facts which may help clarify my statements as well as my preferences & motives:

1. Airborne does not only produce titanium bicycle frames; currently, they offer 2 aluminum frames, work with carbon fiber & is adding a double butted steel frame within a month or so as well as expanding carbon to meet cyclist’s demands.

2. I’ve been a sales representative for Airborne for less than a year, yet, my personal choice bicycle frame material has been, & still is, titanium since I purchased my first titanium bike on July 3, 1991. Since the 1980’s, I’ve also owned 3 aluminum bicycles & 3 steel bicycles, 2 of which are current models (aluminum & steel), taking into account current technological advances. In addition, I’ve ridden numerous other bicycle frames in my size/fit, past & present models, of all materials, except vanadium. Therefore, this salesperson recommended what he believes in & rides – perhaps more than a mere “sales pitch”.

In connection with the second statement, I recall suggesting, at least 4 times during the presentation, that for those interested in the topic of frame ride quality & feel, the best thing to do would be to go to a good bike shop that will let you ride 3 or 4 different frames of different materials. I said this to the Cannondale rider, originally from the UK, the Ironman Centurian, steel, rider (this bike was made in the 1980’s &, yes, the characteristics of steel & all materials have changed, since that time) as well as at least 2 other times. This would help each of you buy a bike that feels the best for you. It is how I decided on my first & many subsequent bike purchases. In fact, the first bike I bought without test riding was one a disliked quickly & sold within about a year.

Since none of your responses reference my recommendation, I can only hope that some club members have done this to actually compare the feel of the bike materials. I will take this recommendation further & suggest that you choose bikes within the same price range so the test is reasonably fair & that you choose a bike shop that has space for you to do more than merely ride on a sidewalk for a couple of minutes. This will probably be a shop out of the city; I know that Piermont Bicycle Connection, High Caliper Bicycle (on Mamaroneck Ave. in White Plains) & Julio Bicycles (in Chappaqua) all have ample outdoor space & encourage their customers to ride a variety of bikes to make their decision.

Different frame materials suit different purposes. I often recommend aluminum to racers as a viable alternative since a racer’s bike will go through abuses rarely seen by a non-racer & useful life is different. Presently, 2 CRCA racers are racing on the Airborne aluminum bikes [& 2 on ti].

If ride quality & feel is a major purchase decision, safety & material fatigue is at least as important. This is where the science & facts become critical.

Perhaps the best starting point is to read the Warranty Policy, & details for the bikes you’re considering. That's a company putting its money where its mouth is & not mere marketing chatter! Even lifetime warranty language varies from one manufacturer to the next.

Also, for those interested, the following web sites may be helpful. The first group, below, compares frames materials; the sources are a mix of scientific, academic & bike related sites -Airborne information has been intentionally deleted.
The cynics may contend that the academics & scientists don’t understand bikes or that the bike companies have a vested interest. However, all of these sources, combined, seem to follow the same"

Anonymous's picture
Mr. Squinty (not verified)
Where can I purchase a Cliff Note's version of your post?


Anonymous's picture
Doubter (not verified)
Frame ride quality and feel?

"Cmon, you don't ride a frame, you ride a bike.

5-10 lbs more or less pressure in your tires will affect ""ride quality and feel"" far more than swapping frames.

You must know that..."

Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)

Thanks for the in-depth follow-up to your presentation at the club meeting (which I couldn't attend). You've given us a lot of useful information that will remain accessible in the archive. I plan to use it when I eventually get around to replacing my aluminum frame (probably with titanium!)

Anonymous's picture
<a href="">Peter O'Reilly</a> (not verified)
challenge this

Apparently, the battle of “the best” bicycle frame material is alive & flourishing, based

upon a mix of research, scientific data, pride of ownership and/or ride quality & feel


So which is it? 3,917 words (thanks MS Word) of blather. A nebulous post, lacking any strong assertions, coupled with clipping post bits from another thread and incomplete citations from other sources to start a new self serving thread, I'd say you are definitely the mark of a salesman. That's perfectly ok.

If someone walks into your shop espousing the virtues of aluminum, any salesman worth their salt would be quite foolish in trying to convince her a titanium frame is what she really needs.

Talk is cheap. Douglas, here is a challenge for you! At a future club meeting, please provide us with two like Airborne bicycles: one aluminum frame and the other titanium. The two bicycles must don precisely the same setup/components, tires/tire pressure, etc. and the frame of the same size/geometry. Be sure the titanium frame is painted, i.e. indistinguishable from the aluminum frame to setup a true blind test.

Take a sampling from the meeting and ask them to test ride both bikes. Afterwards ask them if they can tell the difference between the two bikes. I'd be willing to bet quite a few green backs that one is unable to tell the difference. If I'm wrong, my money will be donated to say recycle-a-bicycle. What's your wager? (I'd also be willing to take up a bet whether one can really appreciably distinguish the feel of different wheelsets, too.)

Anonymous's picture
Richard Rosenthal (not verified)
I agree: we, likely, can't tell frame material from a bike's..

"In the parlance of politicians, I wish to associate myself with Peter's writing:

""Be sure the titanium frame is painted, i.e. indistinguishable from the aluminum frame to setup a true blind test.

""Take a sampling from the meeting and ask them to test ride both bikes. Afterwards ask them if they can tell the difference between the two bikes. I'd be willing to bet quite a few green backs that one is unable to tell the difference.""

July 11 I posted a note in the thread about the presentation of the Airborne speaker in which I stated Dan Empfield, creator of Quintana Roo (which was bought by the company that now owns Merlin and Litespeed) wrote in a recent TRIATHLETE he couldn't tell the difference in the rides of bikes of comparable quality built with different frame mateirals.

If you want to alter the way your bike rides, change your tires; better better yet, just change your air pressure.

As for the b.s. that someone who writes ads for the bike industry thinks pervades the marketing of high end bikes and components, read my July 11 post.

I do want to say I am respectful of the Airborne speaker's having taken, seemingly, a great deal of time and thought to compose his exegesis here. I do, however, take very mild issue with his writing, ""(This) bike was made in the 1980’s &, yes, the characteristics of steel & all materials have changed, since that time.""

While that is a literally true statement,we might keep in mind the skies are filled with airplanes flying militarily and commercially that were built in the 1960s and '70s. They manage to stay aloft without any decrease in their air speed and, presumably, are subjected to somewhat greater stresses than we apply to our bike frames.


Anonymous's picture
don montalvo (not verified)
what about tour de france riders?

i read they ride steel, aluminum, carbon, titanium, bonded, tig welded, lugged, etc...etc...etc...

oh, that's right...they ride whatever they get paid to ride....hmmm...


Anonymous's picture
Michael (not verified)
But it's the best of the best and durability is little concern

The TDF riders get the best Carbon, Vandium, Aluminum etc... their bikes are checked every night and if they trash during a ride they pull a new one off the roof of the car. Fatigue is no issue for them but to be sure they ride what they consider best. The fact that there are a variety of material in the race proves what we have been saying here... everything has its attributes, ride what you like best (and can afford... I'd rather take my steel bike to Tuscany than stay home with a fancier frame)

Also, We don't have a team car on my rides... On Sunday my proud old 853 steel frame fell over during lunch and took quite a bounce... I got up and righted it with no agita.

Anonymous's picture
John Z (not verified)

I am relieved to report that my disposable light-weight (very) aluminum bicycle last Saturday survived descents of both Perkins Drive and Arden Valley Road, although there were moments on these treacherous, pot-holed roads when I thought the frame might collapse under me. This Saturday, I am planning 4 ascents of Bear Mountain, which means 4 descents of Perkins. Let me ask the message board experts: will my disposable light-weight aluminum bicycle survive another weekend? Since I am no long employed in the Aerospace field, where I would routinely lead teams of metallurgists, physicists and chemists to solve complex failure analyses, I don't have anyone to consult with. Being 6 months old now, my disposable light-weight aluminum bicycle may be getting near end-of-life, I just don't know. Perhaps I should have a friend owning a car sag me, and more importantly be there should catastrophic failure occur on the descent and I am injured.

Anonymous's picture
Doubter (not verified)
Next Weekend? Six months?

"Check back in 10, 20, 30 years from now, OK?

Spare us your ""complex failure analyses""; there are thousands and thousands of old steel bikes still on the road. And they'll still be out there long after your frame has been reincarnated into Bud cans.


Anonymous's picture
John Z (not verified)
Don't Care about 30 years

At least ever other year I purchase a new road bike frame and not for reliability reasons -- I like to have the latest design. BTW, I have an aluminum framed hybrid bike that is already 11 years old and in perfectly good condition. I expect it to be around many, many more years. Same goes for my aluminum framed mountain bike, now 6 years old.

Keep checking your down tube (inside) and bottom bracket for rust, you wouldn't want a failure. I also know of someone recently having a steel stem crack, check that too. Interestingly, none of my aluminum, titanium or magnesium stems have ever cracked...

Anonymous's picture
Doubtful Too (not verified)
Don't Care for an aluminum framed hybrid bike that is already 11

"years old or aluminum framed mountain bike, now 6 years old.....

The question is...

How often do you ride your ""aluminum framed hybrid bike""??? or ""aluminum framed mountain bike"" ????

Once a year?
When the moon is blue?
Once every Leap Year?
During a transit strike (30+ moons ago)? or
When the Cows come home?

Why would I worry for my bottom bracket for rust if I hardly ride my steel frame(just like you hardly ride your hybrid/mountain aluminum frames)?

Just beyond a reasonable doubt...


Anonymous's picture
John Z (not verified)
Not for Sale

I was not trying to sell you one of mine, and you could not give me a steel bike. My brother rides the hybrid, but not much about 100 miles a month. I ride my mountain bike exclusively in December, January and February. As the days and available time to ride are shorter, I ride the mountain bike just to make my winter workouts harder. I do not ride my road bike during these months. I also ride the mountain bike 3-4 times per month during the summer months for something different to do. It will be around in 10 years, with significant miles accumulated.

Anonymous's picture
Keith (not verified)
Your recall links

Most of your Bike Retailer links with recalls are over 2 years old. Many of these problems have been corrected by the manufacturers.

BTW, I own or have owned bikes of every frame material with similar components. They all ride differently.

Anonymous's picture
Douglas Kalb (not verified)
Recalls Ongoing

Between the hard copy & web site for Bicycle Retailer, there is a fairly constant flow of recalls. This is not a surprise for any manufatured product, particularly where bodily damage is at risk. Planes, trains & automobliles do not have a monoploy on design & manufacturing flaws! Of course, recalls are corrected or remedied in one of many ways but the objective is to avoid the risks entirely & avoiding life & limb dangers. Ultimately, we each make this decision for ourselves.

Here's another recall, today!

Regarding frame materials, it's great that you've actually ridden various bikes/materials so you make your choices by what you've experienced. Like you, I feel dramatic differences, even between 3/2.5 & 6/4 titanium or one steel from another; I favor 853 steel. Others would think this is merely our imagination...

Anonymous's picture
<a href="">Peter O'Reilly</a> (not verified)
outstanding challenge

"Like you, I feel dramatic differences, even between 3/2.5 & 6/4 titanium or one steel from another; I favor 853 steel.

And is your frame material ""feel"" comparison based on using the same

  • frame size & geometry,

  • tires,

  • tire pressure and

  • to a lesser extent componetry

from one bike to the next? The idea is to keep everything else constant; it's fundamental. Without otherwise, how else can one logically attribute ride feel of a bike to its frame?

Others would think this is merely our imagination...

No just delusion, hyperbole, and false pretense. Or course you have an opportunity to prove otherwise. That challenge is still outstanding....



Anonymous's picture
Douglas Kalb (not verified)
"YOUR ""Challenge""...."

Your ""challenge"" is as unlikely as a time trial around the rings of Saturn!

1. You asked for ""... two like Airborne bicycles: one aluminum frame and the other titanium...and the frame of the same size/geometry...."" It is impossible for Airborne, or any manufacturer, to produce like frames in these different materials. Airborne tried to come as close as they could in the design of the aluminum Thunderbolt to their titanium Zeppelin (it's a great seller so why not make the same thing in aluminum), however, the different metals required different shapes/angles/curves to the seatstays & chainstays as well as the shapes of other tubes, most obvious being the downtube.

2.You then go on to request, ""...Be sure the titanium frame is painted, i.e. indistinguishable from the aluminum frame to setup a true blind test."" Well this is even more impossible - have you ever looked at the two or read about them?
Aluminum & titanium Tube diameters are very different for bicycle frame purposes, aluminum being much larger diameter than steel or titanium. The welds also look entirely different. These differences are visible not only to the bike enthusiast but to most anyone looking at the frame & no amount of paint will hide the differences!

Aside from these 2 differences, assuming your challenge could be carried out, then you might dispute that the sizes were off for some of the riders...or were you suggesting that Airborne provide a dozen or so of both titanium & aluminum bikes (with different stem lengths, crankarm lengths, etc.)?

As for your wanting to know the specifics of my comparison of 6/4 & 3/2.5 titanium:

? frame size & geometry,:SAME SIZE, SIMILAR GEOMETRY
? tires, :SAME
? tire pressure and: SAME
? to a lesser extent componetry : ALMOST THE SAME

I could give you the minute details of my comparison but I really think your challenge has to do with something else, entirely, & your decision was made a long time ago. Have you ever ridden a variety of bike materials? I only ask because you've never mentioned this at all.

Your ""challenge"" is an interesting strategy of requesting the impossible so that you can be satisfied in the inability to deliver that which is not possible.

While you stand firm that frame material makes no difference, keep a few well documented facts in mind:

From 1991 forward, while on the Motorola team, Lance Armstrong was riding Litespeed titanium with the Eddy Merckx name. Even riding for US Postal, those Treks weren't always Treks but $6,000 Litespeeds which Trek purchased for Armstrong:

Richard Verinque also rode ti, dressed & painted so that we wouldn't know.

This year, Trek made about 8 special bike frame's for Armstrong. That's right, we can't have them but that's OK, the rest of US Postal didn't have them either!

If you're right about frame material being meaningless, these companies go to great length & expense for something as insignificant as frame material.

As a side note to contemplate, 8 or 9 bikes for Armstrong this year gives us some indication as to the team's expectation of bike life cycle, even considering time trial, standard road stage bikes, etc.
We now know Armstrong broke one bike at the chainstay.


Anonymous's picture
<a href="">Peter O'Reilly</a> (not verified)
doesn't matter - challenge remains

We'll make it real simple, ok, then. Forget blind test. Just bring two Airborne bikes to a club meeting (that's all I every wrote to begin with - nary your attempts to obfuscate matters more). One Al frame the other TI with the same components and both of the same size - one that's pretty common, say a 56 cm or equivalent.

Simple enough? What's to lose? You get to demonstrate what a great product you are selling to a very captive audience. If you are unwilling to budge then I'd be more than inclinded to go ahead and contact the suits at Airborne to make it happen.

What's the excuse now? Side bet: Whose willing to bet me Doug will not take such challenge. Any takers!?!?

Anonymous's picture
Douglas Kalb (not verified)
Now We're Making Progress...You Can Do This 7 Day's a week!

Now that you've altered the conditions of your ""challenge,"" we're in total agreement!
One of my 2 objectives from the start was, & is, to get people to ride various bikes & decide for themselves if there’s a difference & what they are (the 2nd objective being safety, material fatigue, etc.). After all, each cyclist feels (or doesn’t feel) the difference for themselves, regardless of what you or I may believe!

However, doing so at a club meeting, where we could spin around Vanderbuilt Avenue is certainly far from an ideal cycling setting. There’s a far better & easier way to accomplish this. Piermont Bicycle has most, or all, of the road models in stock & built up for a cyclist to test ride; same wheels, tires, etc. The aluminum Thunderbolt is most similar in geometry to the titanium Zeppelin. The Valkyrie is a bit more relaxed & the 6/4 seamless Torch is far more aggressive for those who favor the benefits of compact frame technology.

The locations, in both Piermont & Tenafly surely provide better roads than the Grand Central Station area & you can ride the bike for more than a couple of minutes around the block. I don’t know the shop’s policy but they may let you climb Ash or Bradley & Tweed, in Piermont or Clinton Road, in Tenafly if you’re inclined to experience the bike’s climbing characteristics.
Regardless, this is certainly more realistic riding & you’ll have the benefit of being warmed up on your own bike!

In consideration of Piermont Bicycle, I do ask that you have at least some bona fide interest in buying a bike (any bike since they sell many brands) at some point or at least are open minded enough to learn.

In response to you reference to being “more than inclined to go ahead and contact the suits at Airborne to make it happen…,” I can tell you that every person at Airborne, from the President & Founder down, is an avid rider & races throughout the season, nationwide. During the hard Ohio winters, the founder of Airborne frequently trains on rollers from about 5am till 9am, before his work day commences as do most employees. During the season, they do not even allow themselves the luxury of a single light beer-cycling & racing are their passion, love & priority.

The only “suits” I saw when I was at the factory were their skin suits for time trials!

I hope I’ve been able to provide some useful information for you & all club members.

Anonymous's picture
richard rosenthal (not verified)
Time was Airborne sold direct, not through shops. Why the change

I learn from Doug's posts--I didn't hear him at the meeting--Airborne is now sold through bike shops. That's a change. It wasn't always so. When they first came to market, they did an end run around bike shops and sold direct to the consumer. This, of course, pissed off shop owners. So I wonder what accounts for the change. Doug?


Anonymous's picture
Doug Kalb (not verified)
Airborne at bike shops in NY area


You're absolutely right - when Airborne was founded in 1997 & until about a year & a half ago, Airborne bikes were sold on their web site & not at shops.

The reason for the change was simple; it allows cyclists to see the bikes & ride them, before they make their decision of what to buy. This, and good service, are the benefits a bike store offers a cyclist. Airborne is now sold in the New York area at 3 shops in NYC, 1 in Rockland County, 1 in Northern NJ, 1 in Westchester & 1 on LI.

I suppose this gets back to the point of a cyclist's riding, feeling & seeing the bikes before buying so they can decide what feels best, & is the best value, for them, not what's best for anyone else.

I'm sure you're also right that some shop owners were not happy with the prior web site sales approach. Although I have not heard of specific shops by name, one bike store owner has told me that in the past, some shops badmouthed Airborne since they could not sell them & that they would now have difficulty in backpedaling on their prior talk, now endorsing the Airborne name & bikes, to many of the same cyclist's who had listened to them criticize the bikes in the past, when they could not sell them. Fortunately, this shop owner did not criticize the Airborne bikes in the past, although he sold the head on competition, so he was not faced with the self-imposed conflict. I suppose Karma catches up to us...

Airborne's policy is now to sell through bike shops & on it's own web site, only to those parts of the US & Europe without a local dealer. They will not sell through catalogs! In January '03, there were about 170 US Airborne dealers.

Since I believe you do some work in the bike industry, I hope this has been helpful.


Anonymous's picture
R Bander (not verified)

not gonna work, guys. the 2 frames would also have to have identical GEOMETRY to give a fair 'test'.

Anonymous's picture
John Z (not verified)
Right On

"Well written and I agree 100%. Anyone that can ""I feel dramatic differences, even between 3/2.5 & 6/4 titanium..."" all else being equal has a far more sensitive butt than I."

Anonymous's picture
Bill Vojtech (not verified)

"Different materials lend themselves to different designs- there are things you can do with carbon that you can't do with any metal. To get the desired ride characteristics, aluminum is usually made with larger diameter tubes.

If I remember my ""ad hype"" correctly, Cannondale had a novel way of positioning their bottom bracket shells so that their center was not in a direct line through the center of the seat tube, as it is in most traditional steel frames. So how do you find a steel frame that ""is the same geometry as"" a Cannondale? Or a Trek carbon frame?

If we want to do a truly blind comparison, I guess we'd have to make a lycra fairing to cover the frames, or fit the rider with a large disc shaped collar that prevented them from looking down at the bikes while riding them. Of course, the collar or the fairing could influence the air drag. We could pump the air out of an indoor velodrome, hook up an oxygen mask to the rider and....

It's all pretty silly. Go to the shop. Do your analysis. Then buy the pretty one and ride it. That's what any sane person does. When, (if), it breaks, hope it does not do you in and go buy another one."

Anonymous's picture
<a href="">Peter O'Reilly</a> (not verified)
it's very clear why

Different materials lend themselves to different designs- there are things you can do with carbon that you can't do with any metal.


To get the desired ride characteristics, aluminum is usually made with larger diameter tubes.

You mean to not be a noodle like the Vitus frames of the Sean Kelly era were known for. As long as the frame is stiff enough not to be a noodle - you would not know if its AL, Ti, Steel, Carbon or even bamboo.

You can't possibly feel the difference. Quite simply - that's the point.

If we want to do a truly blind comparison, I guess we'd have to make a lycra fairing to cover the frames, ...

Not so. It's been done before as Richard has pointed out. Other periodicals have done the same, like defunct Bicyclist. No wonder it is not done more often and publicized for obvious conflict of interest reasons.

Anonymous's picture
Bill Vojtech (not verified)

"""Different materials lend themselves to different designs- there are things you can do with carbon that you can't do with any metal.

Besides the Cannondale example in my post, Trek makes or made a carbon frame that had no seat tube (or seat stays either, I beleive). Try that with steel.

Also, carbon frames can be designed with the direction and layering of the fibers varied, so as to give maximal strength where needed and minimal structure where it's not needed. The degree of fine tuning is much greater than can be done with butting in metal frame tubes. Of course, you have to be sure your computer generated models work in the real world."

Anonymous's picture
John Z (not verified)
The Continum

Bill is correct, carbon fiber lends itself to the most design possibilities of any bicycle frame material. Aluminum is next. It can be drawn and butted more easily than any metal used for making bicycle frames. After welding, strength is obtained by heat treating. Then comes Titanium followed by steel. There is, however, a big gap between what can by done to Aluminum and what can be done to Titanium and Steel.

Anonymous's picture
John Z (not verified)
Disguise the Tubes


Our test could employ foam tubing typically used to insulate hot water pipes to disguise the test bicycles' tubes!

Anonymous's picture
jeff (not verified)

John Z, our prayers are with you!

Anonymous's picture
Michael (not verified)
Way too much time on a feckless arguement

"When comparing materials for their ride qualities we should compare them in their ""best"" geometries. The blind / same geometries test is a fool's errand.

When one heads for lunch we often think hmmm pizza or a burger... do we ask ""well if we bake both I can truly decide what I want""... no, we think about a grilled burger or baked pizza since that brings out the best qualities of the raw materials (I know there are grilled pizzas, rather good ones in fact but still a coal oven might be the best)

Likewise when shopping for a frame wouldn't it make sense to test each material in its optimal geometry?... (that is what you'd buy isn't it) aluminum with oversized tubes, steel in full size and perhaps compact (they don't do compact Carbon do they) carbon and Ti in their best manner????

First figure out what sort of rider you are and what you need... and buy that type of bike. Race frames are often sexier and easier to be lured to but if you're a sport touring, Sunday century rider they are probably the wrong frame. (and why do so many casual riders and wanna be Ironmen have aeroes on these days... and insist on being in them when they are following too closely in a crowd though curves???? now that is a thread worthy of grinding our axes over)

In the end test what is out there, feel what you will, add what you know about various materials attributes and buy what is priced right.
As has been pointed out... your butt and hands will tell you what feels right... your eyes will tell you what is pretty (those Colnago paint jobs are mighty slick). Then get out and enjoy the day.

cycling trips