Today I was reminded why I dislike aluminium as a frame material on hardtails, especially for longer rides.
I didn't go far, just 27 miles, 12 on the road and 15 miles of dirt, all on a favorite bike that I developed for a large company and keep in Florida. The frame is designed for abuse, in fact it's geometry and its intended use were not that far away from the Penhale B'Stard. Slack geometry, ability to use a ridiculously long fork, but still useable every day. The big difference though, is the super stiff aluminium frame v's the nice comfy cromoly of the B'Stard.
To be perfectly honest, it beat the crap out of me, in its previous life the non ferrous beast was used at bike parks and trail centers, it was a tool with one purpose - get me down the nastiest trails with the least amount of issues. In its current incarnation it has a 1 x 9 drivetrain, big 180mm rotors, floaty 2.4 tires and a monster 160mm Rockshox DH Lyrik fork. Its fun, but give me my nice custom drawn cromoly tubes any day.
For many manufacturers aluminium is the material of choice, its light, strong, but most importantly cheap. I used to spec out a nice frame for less than half of a the price of a B'Stard frame, sure it was a little lighter, but that came at the cost of comfort, and if I dare say it soul…
Before you roll your eyes, there's something special about the comfort and resilience that steel provides, something that translates into a personality and a ride that many people enjoy. This is why I developed a specific custom drawn cromoly tubeset for the Penhale frames, to give the best ride I could at a price that was still reasonable and had a soul.
You may think I'm all elitist, but the truth is I still love my aluminium trail hard tail, it does its job admirably well and its extremely fun to ride. I've designed aluminium, titanium and carbon fibre frames for a few companies, they all have their benefits. But for right now the Penhale Bicycle Co. is a steel bicycle brand. We'll be introducing some Tange and maybe even some Reynolds steel frames in the not too distant future to complement our custom drawn Japanese cromoly, all built with the same attention to detail that the current frame are, maybe we'll branch out into other materials at some point, but for now steel is where its at - if you want to ride one, shoot me an email and we'll get you set up.