Frame Options for Strong Riders

Dear Richard-     
I have read your article "What Is the Most Comfortable Frame Material?" You appear more knowledgeable about frame materials that even the manufacturers. After reading your article, I just had to write to know what is your opinion and seasoned advice.
I am somewhat perplexed. I ride a high-end carbon bike (Specialized SL2) that is equipped with Campagnolo Record components, Mavic ES wheels (clinchers) with 25c tires. (I have received too many flats on 23c tires.) I weigh 260 pounds and during hard accelerations it feels as though the frame is flexing.

I am also concerned as one custom builder has told me that even the best carbon frames usually have rider limits of 220 lbs, even when the manufacturer claims there are no weight limits.
I am a strong rider. Even though I do not compete, I am able to put out many watts. Almost on every ride, I will accelerate to 30 mph with little effort. I have reached speeds exceeding 42 mph on flat terrain. I commonly ride at speeds in the low- to mid-20s.
I have looked into the materials that are used in making road frames. I have considered purchasing a high-end road frame made of another material. A custom aluminum, Reynolds 953 and titanium frame was considered, but I am confused as to which would yield the best characteristics I am seeking.
Is there a material that is "safer or more safe" than another? Money is not an issue, craftsmanship and ride quality with safety are. What do you suggest? Would custom serve me better than stock? (I am 5'9" with a great deal of muscle mass. I used to be a bodybuilder but have gone back into cycling due to sore joints and tendons.) I have a long torso and short legs. My current bike is 54 centimeters with compact geometry.
I want a light bike that is strong and has good vertical compliance. (I don't want to feel like I have been beaten up after a two- to three-hour ride.)
Thanks for your time,

You have a couple of choices for frame material—more if you don't care how much your bike weighs. I still maintain that carbon is the first choice for frame materials because of its phenomenal strength-to-weight ratio. Titanium would be my second choice.

From your explanation, I understand that you possess extraordinary strength. To get the lateral stiffness to counter your high torque output requires larger diameter frame tubes and, possibly, greater wall thickness in some critical areas. The weight penalty for this puts steel out of the game, and aluminum is not a good choice because at the proper diameter, the tubes would be too stiff to provide the good riding qualities you desire.
I suggest you pop for a Colnago Extreme Power or Extreme Carbon frameset and get fit for it, because Colnago's compact frames run long. My Colnago Compact size is a 48-centimeter frame while my level-tube frame size is a 53.

My second suggestion is to have a titanium frame made custom for you by a reputable builder like Lynskey, Serrota, Lightspeed or Moots.

Contact Richard Cunningham for questions or comments, or just to talk bikes at:

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