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bobknh

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Reply with quote  #1 
There have been numerous posts about acquiring new bikes - and specifically about frame material. I, and several others have contended that material is not the primary determinant of quality. Currently, I am personally infatuated with neo retro steel bikes. Bikes with high quality steel frames, carbon forks, and up to date components. I'm currently running a eTap Red drive train on my neo-retro Ritchy Swiss Cross. Here is a good and unbiased discussion of the virtues, and limitations of steel as a frame material from the boys at GCN: 


A
t the end of this video, there are links to GCM's take on carbon, and alu alloy frames. IMHO very good primer on the topic of frame material.
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bwepps

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Reply with quote  #2 
Agreed!

My last 5 or so road bikes have all been carbon including my Diverge Expert.  They are wonderful and light bikes, but after a long day (6 hours+) of gravel the carbon feels a bit harsh.  I bought the new Specialized Sequoia for exactly this reason (and bigger tire clearance).  The Sequoia certainly isn't as light or fast as my Diverge, but it's buttery smooth and compliant.  I'm really enjoying the steel frame, carbon fork, 1x11, and SRAM Force Hydro brakes.  It's a great bike and I'm really enjoying it.  Should be a great tool for the DK200 and some other gravel rides I have scheduled this summer. Spec Sequioa.jpg 

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bobknh

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Reply with quote  #3 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bwepps
Agreed!

My last 5 or so road bikes have all been carbon including my Diverge Expert.  They are wonderful and light bikes, but after a long day (6 hours+) of gravel the carbon feels a bit harsh.  I bought the new Specialized Sequoia for exactly this reason (and bigger tire clearance).  The Sequoia certainly isn't as light or fast as my Diverge, but it's buttery smooth and compliant.  I'm really enjoying the steel frame, carbon fork, 1x11, and SRAM Force Hydro brakes.  It's a great bike and I'm really enjoying it.  Should be a great tool for the DK200 and some other gravel rides I have scheduled this summer. Spec Sequioa.jpg 

Nice lokin' ride. Very clean and mean. "Horses for courses". Thanks for the post, and good luck at the DK200.
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bobknh

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Reply with quote  #4 
Quote:
Originally Posted by 1eanda
I really like the 2017 Fairdale Weekender Drop. I ordered it and it was delivered to a local bike shop and
the mechanics were really impressed with the build quality. When I picked up the bike several employees were
researching the Fairdale Bikes website and are interested in purchasing from Fairdale. One of the employees
is seriously considering purchasing the Fairdale Goodship Frame set and building a custom bike.

http://fairdalebikes.com/bikes/2017-weekender-drop-bar/

After my Fairdale Weekender Drop was assembled, I added the following:

Brooks C17 Cambium Saddle
Shimano PD-A530 Pedals
Bontrager BackRack Deluxe L
Two Bontrager RL Water Bottle Cages

d5.jpg 

+1 on the Brooks C17. B 17 comfort without the hassle of an all leather saddle. 6 oz. heavier than my old favorite Selle Italia Flite - but worth every ounce.
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chas

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Reply with quote  #5 
I'm enjoying a stiff bike with compliant seat/and seat post, and of course supple tires at the right PSI.  I have a wonderful steel race bike, and while it rides wonderfully, it isn't snappy.  nice for a long day in the saddle, not ideal for a zippy 30 minute romp.

As for carbon, I road a aluminum and a carbon GT Grade.  The compliance of the carbon bike was amazing - it had 28mm tires on it, but felt like it had 2" tires on it.  So cush.  But again, not very zippy...
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bobknh

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Reply with quote  #6 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chas
I'm enjoying a stiff bike with compliant seat/and seat post, and of course supple tires at the right PSI.  I have a wonderful steel race bike, and while it rides wonderfully, it isn't snappy.  nice for a long day in the saddle, not ideal for a zippy 30 minute romp.

As for carbon, I road a aluminum and a carbon GT Grade.  The compliance of the carbon bike was amazing - it had 28mm tires on it, but felt like it had 2" tires on it.  So cush.  But again, not very zippy...

Thanks for the comments. The subjective "feel" of any bike -- is subjective. And the interaction of the various components can effect this subjective "feel". Tires, tire pressure, frame and fork design, bike fit, saddle ... When I see bikes put to the test in lab's. I'm frequently surprised by the difference between reviewers subjective - but honest -assessments and numbers from the lab. Right now, my favorite ride is steel Ritchey Swiss Cross. But as a past long time road racer and TT specialist, and total weight weenie, in all honesty, I have to say the "best" performing bikes on the planet- ignoring cost- have carbon frames. You will not see a single metal frame in the pro ranks - road, mountain, CX. That being said, I'm no longer racing, and I love the look and feel of my Swiss Cross. My next bike? Probably carbon!
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hipsteronabike

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Reply with quote  #7 

Switching over from my Salsa Casseroll to a DB Haanjo Carbon bike with remarkably similar geometry I think 100% of the difference in feel is negated by switching from 35mm tires to 40mm tires.  The only difference I can feel is the thru-axles.  Tires and geometry will always make a significantly more important difference.

In a similar vein, this is an example of an aluminum bike being compared with a carbon fiber bike for road use. ~"we could feel the bike immediately after switching, but beyond that we noticed nothing).

 

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bobknh

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Reply with quote  #8 
Quote:
Originally Posted by hipsteronabike

Switching over from my Salsa Casseroll to a DB Haanjo Carbon bike with remarkably similar geometry I think 100% of the difference in feel is negated by switching from 35mm tires to 40mm tires.  The only difference I can feel is the thru-axles.  Tires and geometry will always make a significantly more important difference.

In a similar vein, this is an example of an aluminum bike being compared with a carbon fiber bike for road use. ~"we could feel the bike immediately after switching, but beyond that we noticed nothing).

 


Yup - too bad you can't do "blind testing" on bikes. I bet once you set up identical positions, and run identical tires and wheels, most of us can't tell the difference between bikes. This goes for the "expert" testers as well.

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ljsmith

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Reply with quote  #9 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobknh

Yup - too bad you can't do "blind testing" on bikes. I bet once you set up identical positions, and run identical tires and wheels, most of us can't tell the difference between bikes. This goes for the "expert" testers as well.



To be honest, especially for road bikes, carbon and aluminum don't feel much different.  Carbon CAN be built with much more compliance, but usually they try to make them super stiff for all the wanna be Lance Armstrongs.  I did used to have a Giant Carbon OCR1 with flattened chainstays that rode amazingly smooth though.  But you can blindfold me and I will definitely be able to tell the difference between an aluminum and a steel or titanium bike.  There is a huge difference in ride feel from steel or titanium versus aluminum, especially offroad. This assumes all other components are the same between bikes.  With aluminum frames you pretty much have to use stiff oversized tubes to get the strength needed for a long lasting frame.  Any built-in flex in aluminum will just shorten its lifespan.  Obviously you could put larger tires on an aluminum frame and make it ride smoother.  
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drwelby

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Reply with quote  #10 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ljsmith
With aluminum frames you pretty much have to use stiff oversized tubes to get the strength needed for a long lasting frame.  Any built-in flex in aluminum will just shorten its lifespan.  


Not really true, some of flexiest production bikes were aluminum. The Vitus frames would seem suicidal to someone coming from a modern aluminum frame.
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ljsmith

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Reply with quote  #11 
Quote:
Originally Posted by drwelby


Not really true, some of flexiest production bikes were aluminum. The Vitus frames would seem suicidal to someone coming from a modern aluminum frame.


What I wrote is true, you just have to comprehend it.  I didn't say that you couldn't build a flexy frame with aluminum.  I said a flexy aluminum frame will have a much shorter life span, which is why very few aluminum frames are flexy.
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bobknh

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Reply with quote  #12 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ljsmith


To be honest, especially for road bikes, carbon and aluminum don't feel much different.  Carbon CAN be built with much more compliance, but usually they try to make them super stiff for all the wanna be Lance Armstrongs.  I did used to have a Giant Carbon OCR1 with flattened chainstays that rode amazingly smooth though.  But you can blindfold me and I will definitely be able to tell the difference between an aluminum and a steel or titanium bike.  There is a huge difference in ride feel from steel or titanium versus aluminum, especially offroad. This assumes all other components are the same between bikes.  With aluminum frames you pretty much have to use stiff oversized tubes to get the strength needed for a long lasting frame.  Any built-in flex in aluminum will just shorten its lifespan.  Obviously you could put larger tires on an aluminum frame and make it ride smoother.  

I'm not an expert on Alu. alloy fabrication, but I believe that Alu fabrication processes have improved significantly - especially hydro-forming which permits the fabrication of purpose specific tube shapes, and TIG welding. Accordingly, high quality Alu frames can mimic the properties of high quality carbon frames at a significantly lower cost; with perhaps some minor advantages of carbon like slightly lower weight, and slightly improved ride and performance qualities. The closing assessment from the boys at GCN was that all things being equal - and cost not an issue - they would prefer carbon over Alu. If the choice was between a high quality Alu bike with top line equipment, with a carbon bike at the same price but with lower cost build; then they would chose the the Alu. I would disagree; because it is much easier to eventually upgrade components, than to change your frame. My theory is to get the best frame you can afford, then upgrade components when you can afford them.
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drwelby

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Reply with quote  #13 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ljsmith


What I wrote is true, you just have to comprehend it.  I didn't say that you couldn't build a flexy frame with aluminum.  I said a flexy aluminum frame will have a much shorter life span, which is why very few aluminum frames are flexy.


I comprehended it just fine. The problem with your statement is that the most flexible aluminum bikes didn't have shorter life spans. The Vitus frames as well as the early bonded Treks and Raleigh Techniums would mostly fail at the glue in their joints, not at the tubing itself. Nobody bothers glueing up aluminum bikes anymore though since if you're going to mess with that process you might as well use carbon fiber tubing instead.

Welded aluminum bikes don't fail in the middle of the tubes, they fail almost exclusively at the stress riser at the edge of the weld. You can help this out buy using a bigger tube to get a lower joint stress, and as a byproduct you'll have a stiffer bike. 
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DarKris

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Reply with quote  #14 
I actually changed my alloy/carbon fork on my Nashbar to the steel version (Along w. everything else): 

IMG_20170128_213640.jpg  IMG_20170222_224636.jpg 
I instantly noticed the weight, but I also noticed the increased compliance the front end. When I made this bike I picked the carbon fork for looks, but I felt like I couldn't throw the bike around as much. 

I also rode the base model of the Sequoia with the steel fork and it made me outgrow my aesthetic dislike for steel. Now to make sure it doesn't rust....

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NoCoGreg

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Reply with quote  #15 
Interesting discussion...  I recently converted the Dean steel fork on my Torres to a Ritchey CF fork and I felt a huge improvement in the ride due to much less high frequency vibration. My connotation of "compliance" is flex that absorbs shock - not the same as different materials which absorb high frequency vibration.

As for frame materials, IMO the CF frames are far more responsive due to the reduced weight and reduced bottom bracket flex. This is most advantageous while sprinting or out of the saddle climbing/accelerating.  Under lighter loads (long rides such as centuries and touring) there is less flex in the bottom bracket and steel performs well.  

I own CF, steel, Ti, and aluminum bikes - each of these frame materials has a unique feel. With the same geometry and comparable stiffness I believe the handling/cornering of the bikes would be identical. But alas this isn't the case so each bike has it's own personality. My two favorite bikes to ride are my steel Specialized Allez and my Ti Dean Torres CX/gravel bike, but I'd never consider racing on anything but my CF Tarmac.
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bobknh

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Reply with quote  #16 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DarKris
I actually changed my alloy/carbon fork on my Nashbar to the steel version (Along w. everything else): 

IMG_20170128_213640.jpg  IMG_20170222_224636.jpg 
I instantly noticed the weight, but I also noticed the increased compliance the front end. When I made this bike I picked the carbon fork for looks, but I felt like I couldn't throw the bike around as much. 

I also rode the base model of the Sequoia with the steel fork and it made me outgrow my aesthetic dislike for steel. Now to make sure it doesn't rust....

I'm glad that switching out forks - metal for carbon - worked out for you. My personal experience in the past, with switching out forks was very mixed. Unless the new fork has exactly the same geometry as your old fork specified by the bike manufacturer, you may effect the handling and stability of the bike. Even if the geometry of the fork is identical, the difference in the flexibility of the fork may cause other issues like high speed undamped oscillations during descents and cross winds. I once built up an old steel race bike and replaced the steel fork with a carbon model to reduce weight, and smooth out road bumps. Big mistake! At any speed over 30 mph, the bike would start to vibrate and wobble uncontrollably. I was fortunate not to crash. My best advice is to be very cautious about changing out forks.
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bobknh

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Reply with quote  #17 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NoCoGreg
Interesting discussion...  I recently converted the Dean steel fork on my Torres to a Ritchey CF fork and I felt a huge improvement in the ride due to much less high frequency vibration. My connotation of "compliance" is flex that absorbs shock - not the same as different materials which absorb high frequency vibration.

As for frame materials, IMO the CF frames are far more responsive due to the reduced weight and reduced bottom bracket flex. This is most advantageous while sprinting or out of the saddle climbing/accelerating.  Under lighter loads (long rides such as centuries and touring) there is less flex in the bottom bracket and steel performs well.  

I own CF, steel, Ti, and aluminum bikes - each of these frame materials has a unique feel. With the same geometry and comparable stiffness I believe the handling/cornering of the bikes would be identical. But alas this isn't the case so each bike has it's own personality. My two favorite bikes to ride are my steel Specialized Allez and my Ti Dean Torres CX/gravel bike, but I'd never consider racing on anything but my CF Tarmac.

Thanks for the comments. See my previous comments about the risks of switching forks. I'm glad that your experiment worked out. I'm a big Ritchie fan and love my steel Swiss Cross Canti. But, even though I no longer race, there is a part of me that yearns to have the "very best". I've been eyeing several next bikes as my entry into the world of disc brakes and wheels - the Parlee Chebacco, the Salsa War Bird, the Litespeed G250 Disc. Steel may be real, but he who dies with most toys wins!
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NoCoGreg

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Reply with quote  #18 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobknh
 See my previous comments about the risks of switching forks. I'm glad that your experiment worked out.


Yeah I did see your experience with forks.  I can say that I was careful to keep the same rake, because as you pointed out a different rake would affect the steering - something I didn't want to do.

Speed wobble (or any of the other names used for when one's bike starts to oscillate) is both interesting and complex.  Increased flexibility definitely contributes. I have a Dean El Diente Super-lite which I affectionately refer to as my "Flexible Flyer".  It's got very light weight relatively small diameter titanium tubing which gives the bike a wonderful compliant ride, but it is easy to put it went into a speed wobble when a friend was borrowing the bike.  When riding no-hands I've had it start to shimmy, but it's never been a problem when I've been riding with at least one hand on the bars.  I also have a '92 Dave Moulton Fuso which in my frame size (59cm) is stiffer than the El Diente but much more flexible than my CF Tarmac.  The Fuso is much easier to get to shimmy than the rock-solid Tarmac, but the shimmy dies out much faster with the Fuso than the El Diente.  FWIW, to induce a shimmy one can whack the top-tube on the side while riding at a SLOW speed with no-hands on the bars.  At low speeds the shimmy will die out quickly.  On a high speed descent, a sudden burst of wind from the side can also induce a shimmy but at high speeds and the much greater braking forces the shimmy (oscillation) will last much longer or could increase.

Long discussion, but my point is that shimmy is a system response so changing parts can make a bike more or less susceptible to speed wobble.  As you found, changing a fork changed the system which made it more susceptible to shimmy.  Similarly people have found that changing to lighter or heavier wheels can make a bike more or less susceptible.  One of the legendary steel frame builders wrote that heavier wheels can cause speed wobble. My experience has been the opposite that heavier wheels reduce the tendency for shimmy or speed wobble with my El Diente.  From an engineering/physics perspective, the extra weight lowered the natural frequency. 



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DarKris

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Reply with quote  #19 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobknh

I'm glad that switching out forks - metal for carbon - worked out for you. My personal experience in the past, with switching out forks was very mixed. Unless the new fork has exactly the same geometry as your old fork specified by the bike manufacturer, you may effect the handling and stability of the bike. Even if the geometry of the fork is identical, the difference in the flexibility of the fork may cause other issues like high speed undamped oscillations during descents and cross winds. I once built up an old steel race bike and replaced the steel fork with a carbon model to reduce weight, and smooth out road bumps. Big mistake! At any speed over 30 mph, the bike would start to vibrate and wobble uncontrollably. I was fortunate not to crash. My best advice is to be very cautious about changing out forks.


The old fork had an A/C of 391 whereas the steel for is 425. That was exactly what I wanted because for the last year I felt that the front end was too steep. I admittedly use this bike almost like a rigid MTB and the increased stability gives me more confidence and comfort so it worked out well for me [smile]
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chas

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Reply with quote  #20 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NoCoGreg
I own CF, steel, Ti, and aluminum bikes - each of these frame materials has a unique feel. With the same geometry and comparable stiffness I believe the handling/cornering of the bikes would be identical. But alas this isn't the case so each bike has it's own personality. My two favorite bikes to ride are my steel Specialized Allez and my Ti Dean Torres CX/gravel bike, but I'd never consider racing on anything but my CF Tarmac.


I'm curious about Ti.  (Ti Curious?)  How would you describe it?  The damping of Steel with the stiffness of...?   

I have a '94 steel Allez.  It is a nice riding and handling bike.  Not the best for sprinting, but if I'm not racing, who cares?
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chas

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Reply with quote  #21 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobknh

Yup - too bad you can't do "blind testing" on bikes. I bet once you set up identical positions, and run identical tires and wheels, most of us can't tell the difference between bikes. This goes for the "expert" testers as well.



I think I could.  I have steel, carbon, aluminum.  Certainly the steel and aluminum are quite different.

Taking a GT grade as example.  I don't care how much hydroforming is done, the Aluminum grade rides pretty similar to any carbon bike I have.  It is a very familiar feel - alive, snappy, responsive.  Similar with Steel - it is a very familiar feel to me.  Solid, planted, well damped, not snappy.

The carbon GT grade I road was very different.  Even with 28mm tires on it, it felt like it had 40mm tires on it at about 35psi.  Very very smooth in comparison.  Felt like night and day to me.

Carbon bikes can be tuned in a lot of different ways.  I've ridden some that are very stiff and felt like an aluminum bike.  I have ridden some that felt solid and well damped like a steel bike (but lighter and more responsive).
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NoCoGreg

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Reply with quote  #22 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chas


I'm curious about Ti.  (Ti Curious?)  How would you describe it?  The damping of Steel with the stiffness of...?   

I have a '94 steel Allez.  It is a nice riding and handling bike.  Not the best for sprinting, but if I'm not racing, who cares?


Yes I'd describe the ride of Ti to be very similar to steel -BUT- Ti is not as stiff as steel so tubing with the same diameter, shape and thickness will be more flexible with Ti than steel and the Ti will absorb slightly more high frequency vibration.  The end result of the ride is in the hands of the builder - my Ti CX bike is very stiff, but road bike is very flexible.  My favorite properties of Ti are that it doesn't scratch easily or corrode, and is extremely resistant to fatigue failure and denting.  In Colorado we have LOTS of rock and debris on the road shoulder so all my painted bikes have paint chips.  Yes, a skinny race tire can shoot a rock with a lot of force.  Not a mark on any of the Ti bikes I've owned. 

There is a different "feel" to the various frame materials, but I would say Steel and Ti are very similar.  Aluminum and CF are much more distinct.  Again the "feel" is in the high frequency vibration damping or transmission.  By definition, a stiff frame will not absorb an impact (ex. expansion joints, hole, etc).  
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chas

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Reply with quote  #23 
Thanks Greg!
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