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I am looking to a buy a single speed commuter bike which I can also use through the harsh winters here. I have narrowed it down to two bikes - One has a 6061 Aluminium frame while the other has a hi-ten steel frame.

So my question is, given that I will use the bike through winter and have to park it outside in heavy snow with all the salt and grime on it (for about 5-6 months), is having a steel frame bike a bad idea or is it not a big issue?

Specifically this question is about Sweden, where temperatures range -5 degrees C up to 23 degrees C (23F to 74F) in Stockholm, but further north the temperature has been recorded below -42 degrees C (-52 degrees F) (from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_extreme_temperatures_in_Sweden)

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    The best bike is the one that gets ridden - which is generally the most comfortable bike. Realistically over the life of the bike it makes little difference. The alloy one might be lighter, but not by a lot. If you can store it inside, or at least under shelter it will have much longer life. – Criggie Jul 10 '17 at 20:11
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    High tension steel isn't exactly the best steel for bikes. It rusts worse than more expensive steels and probably will have a paint quality to match the steel. – Chris H Jul 10 '17 at 20:12
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    Offtopic, but slicks and heavy snow are a bad combination. I'd recommend something with room for winter tires. – ojs Jul 10 '17 at 20:26
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    Yes, steel rusts. But it is exceedingly rare for rust to progress to the point of endangering the integrity of a steel frame. Other components will succumb long before the frame is compromised. – Daniel R Hicks Jul 11 '17 at 3:28
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    @nomad You should get two studded tires— if you lose traction on your front tire, you'll slide out and crash. – Alan Gerber Jul 11 '17 at 17:18
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I've ridden quite a few different bikes on salted roads for over three decades, and it's more a case of preferences than objective benefits.

The steel bike will get chips in the paint, then rust and look really ugly after a season or two. It will probably take decades until it's rusted enough to make much of a structural difference, but it'll be really ugly quite fast. Ugly bikes get stolen less, so this may be a positive if you don't care about looks.

Aluminium bikes in salt will stay rather good looking, but the steel bolts will react with the salt and aluminium and seize quite properly unless you change them all to stainless. If you don't change them, make sure you get good at drilling out bolts and re-threading if you plan to do your own maintenance.

  • Applying something like copperslip to the threads helps a lot, but can change the torque characteristics of the bolt. I always use a very miserly smear on pedal threads and BB housings, but not wheel axle nuts – Criggie Jul 11 '17 at 21:57
  • Steel bolts screwed into aluminum are an orthogonal issue, since most of them are not screwed into the frame but into other components (stem, derailleurs, etc). – Mike Baranczak Jul 13 '17 at 2:50
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I think the best bike is more comfortable, more soft-gearable than the other bikes, which is not heavy, light for women and child. So Aluminum is the best material to make bike. and that is the best way to make high-ranking bikes. I wish you will choose aluminum bike.

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    Hello and welcome to the site. How does your answer relate specifically to winter riding, in freezing temperatures with snow, and salted roads? – Criggie Jul 11 '17 at 7:27
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Aluminum should be less hassle to use in your case. if you park your bike under the sky very long time, there is water and such. so you need to maintenance steel frame. less maintenance on Aluminum. -- PS: if you like steel frame so much, don't care or even like to maintenance. you should buy a chromoly steel frame.

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