Steel or Aluminum?

Dad and I were wondering if switching my steel 20" rim to a aluminum rim would help improve my balance or if it would only make it worse. My actual rim is pretty rusted and we were considering a replacement. Thank you!

I don’t see it having an effect on balance, but a good aluminum rim will be a ton stronger.

ohhh yeah tell me why

Double or tripple walled, engineered to be lighter and stronger. Last steel rim I saw on anything was a walmart mountain bike, mine actually, and I killed that rim in 2 days. That wheel went from a near perfect true to wobbling to the point that I can barely ride no handed in about an hour and a half of light rock hopping, my other, aluminum wheeled bikes have held amazingly well through much greater abuse. Even single wall aluminums are stronger than any steel rim I’ve seen.

That’s interesting…aluminum is a lot stronger then…So it’s better?


It’s not necesarily stronger, it depends on the rim.

I doubt that changing out your rim for one made of a different material will help or deter your balance at all.

If I ever learned tricks would steel hold? Gosh, this is just like an interview about…metal. I’m excited! Tomorrow’s Talk Like A Pirate Day! So awesome!

Single-word or single sentence posts are useless. People come to this forum for information, not opinion. Let’s “rewind” this thread and start over with some hard facts so that we may come to an answer for the question at hand.

Spudman hit the nail on the head with his post: it depends on the rim. You can make a rim out of any alloy you like, but if it is poorly designed, it will crumble faster than a stale cookie. To compare the two alloys, we can start with quantitative facts…

Here are two links to, an excellent web site full of “engineering fundamentals”. The two alloys I’ve linked to are commonly used in the manufacture of cycling components.


Looking at the numbers, one sees the first advantage of aluminum. It is almost three times less dense than steel. This helps make for a lighter wheel, except that aluminum isn’t as strong as steel. If you look at the tensile strength for the two materials, you’ll see that steel is about five times stronger than aluminum… of course if you look at different alloys of these two materials you may find the difference in tensile strengths isn’t this large, but in most cases, steel wins over aluminum.

So how can aluminum rims end up stronger than comparable steel ones? Bulk! More aluminum (by volume) is used to make up for the difference in strength. Since aluminum is less dense than steel, the aluminum rim can still end up lighter than the steel rim, even though more aluminum is used in the design.

Aluminum has its drawbacks, however. For one, it does not conduct heat very well. For those of us that use rim brakes, we’ll experience brake fade much quicker than those who ride on steel rims, since steel can conduct heat away from the rim edge and towards the rim center.

The biggest drawback in using aluminum is its tendency to break when stressed. Steel has an elastic modulus that is more than twice as high as aluminum; steel will deform long before it breaks. Even though most people don’t want to ride on a “tweaked” rim, steel’s ability to deform allows one to fix a bent rim, whereas aluminum rims aren’t always reperable.

To answer the original question… until you’re doing 6 ft drops, your choice of rim won’t make a noticable difference in your riding, rust or no rust. You should only consider replacing your rim if it is bent, twisted or otherwise.

You’ve got these two switched, aluminum conducts heat much better than steel. I leave single word/line responses when that’s what’s required to answer the question. I gave him the basics of it, he didn’t seem to need or want the metallurgy of them… You an engineer by chance? You reply like one.

you cant compare a double wall rim to a single wall rim there not the same thing ofcorse double is better

Alumunum is better than steel. Its lighter, and doesn’t rust. A double walled aluminum rim is as good as it gets. Nobody uses steel for their rims anymore for a reason. For the most part Wauni has it right. Just get aluminum.

i have a set of steel rims that came on my bmx bike and didn’t bend them until I bent the aluminum frame :slight_smile:

when i did bend them … i did a huge 90 (trying to stop as i had no brakes) and landed extremely hard, and so bent the crap out of my bike/rims (now i look on it as a good thing)

aluminum rims can be better or worse than steel rims, if they are the exact same rim in steel and aluminum the steel one will be MUCH better in almost every way

aluminum rims are made a ton better tho, and a triple walled aluminum rim is the ultimate rim :slight_smile:

Doh! Good catch. I was swamped in numbers and these two figures got switched in my head.

What’s better for B.C. foot plates? Steel or aluminium?

My GOD your comparing wrought alluminum to 4130 BIG difference so the 5 times stronger is off (in a way) this steel compared to this aluminum is stronger but if you get a good alloy aluminum (in the 20 series) you can get awsome strenght about 600ksi-700ksi which is even stronger then 4130 steel. So it all depends on what you make the rim out of.


My advice don’t upgrade the rim upgrade the WHOLE uni. :smiley:

Well my only advice, would be that, the rim, unless its bent or sommit, will have nothing to do with ur balance. Upgrading to a larger tyre will though, so maybe u want to look at those… I upgraded my tyre from a 1.75" to a 2.4" and the stability change was incredible.

Honestly dont bother changing ur rim, plus it’ll be a pain to build the wheel again…

I believe what maestro was doing was showing two commonly-used-in-cycling forms of aluminum and steel. 6061 Aluminum is what my two mountain bike frames are made of (and probably my KH frame, too), and my road bike and older muni frame are made from 4130 cromoly steel. I’m not a metallurgist or an engineer, but I do know that “wrought” is simply the past tense of “work,” so a wrought alloy is one that’s “worked” as opposed to being cast. But I’d be happy to be corrected about any of this.

BTW, I don’t think this discussion merits blood-red shouting or a bunch of “by gods.”

I would agree. thats why computers have aluminum heatsinks. I took a heat sink and held a soldering iron to it and touched it an inch away and it was only mildly warm. steel is the exact opposite. when i weld some steel the metal will be hot allong the whole piece.

Oh, I guess I should read the rest of the posts before I say something. :roll_eyes: Guess I was kinda redundant.:o