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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Might the near-mythic ride quality of older steel bikes come less from the frame itself than the parts on that frame?

Think about it:

A quill stem isn't as stiff as a modern threadless setup. It flexes, adding a little bit of give and suspension to the handlebars, especially if you've thrown on a set of wider bars.

A more traditional saddle (like a rolls or a regal) has a little more padding.

A set of 32 spoke 3 cross wheels on traditional box-section rims are a little less harsh than low-spoke/aero rimmed wheels.

An older steel racing frame (even as recent as the early 90s) had room for larger tires- my 90/91 Serotta will fit 28s comfortably, and it's running 25s now.

Add all these things up and you've got a ride that's a bit more comfortable- the flexy stem takes the edge off some of the road buzz, the wheels and larger tires give a little more, and next thing you know, you've got this absolutely incredible ride that you're attributing to the steel...

I suppose the best way to test it would be to build 2 identical frames, one with a threaded fork, one threadless and see if there really is a difference.

anyway, just a thought.
 

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When I started riding in the 80's, my first bike was a Mercian 531 with NRecord and Barum tubulars. It rode nice. My second bike was a Nottingham Raleigh 753 and it was stiffer but essentially felt the same on descents and the tubulars still made the bike feel like it was floating along.

I rode Ti for a few years and relegated the Raleigh to a commuter. The Ti was not very stiff and I have to say that I enjoyed the commuter more than the race bike. I got rid of the Ti and bought a Merckx MX Leader. It was a completely different ride from any bike I had ridden before. It was stiff and responsive while still being comfortable. It wasn't the cadillac that the Mercian or Raleigh had been. It was more of an SUV. It had a quill stem and newer campy parts, but it was otherwise similar.

I still have the Merckx but I primarily ride modern steel in the form of a Pegoretti Big Leg Emma. Side by side with my old Mercian, there is no comparison. The chainstays on the BLE are bigger than the downtube on the Mercian.

I think steel has evolved and still offers an excellent value and ride. I may be a dinosaur, but I have yet to see a carbon or Ti bike that appeals to me more than the steel I have now.
 

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I buy everything but the wheels. I never believed that one wheel flexes vertically any more than another. Whatever the vertical flex is, I'll bet it's very small.

It's also about tube size. Those bikes had very small diameter tubes which are inherently more flexy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
cmg said:
"Might the near-mythic ride quality of older steel bikes come less from the frame itself than the parts on that frame?"

nope, it's the frame.
C'mon, that's all you've got? do explain.
 

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more about frame geometry. older steel frames tend to have longer chain stays unless it's a colnago or gios. Longer stays knock some of the edge off. Most had slack seat tube angles. bike racing developed during the time of cobbled roads. the frames had to be comfortable.
 

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Interesting points. I agree with the gist that the qualitative "ride" is the function of a lot of factors, only one of which is frame material.
 

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bigbill said:
I still have the Merckx but I primarily ride modern steel in the form of a Pegoretti Big Leg Emma.
Great way to compare since you have the Sherman Tank of semi-classic frames in the MX Leader and the Tank of modern frames in the BLE. How do they compare to each other as far as ride quality/smoothness -- if that term could be applied to the BLE? Would you attribute any smoothness to the quill stem?

By the way, I think it should be against the rules to mention your bikes without pictures. How about a few from your stable?
 

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buck-50 said:
C'mon, that's all you've got? do explain.
I have a 1990 Cannondale 3.0 with all the old-school parts you describe.
I've had lugged steel, tig'd custom steel, ti, and carbon.

While they do matter some, It ain't the parts. And as a rule, 'realness' isn't about cush. It's something less definable, more related to religion than science.

But it ain't the material, anyway. At least not as the main driver. Tube size is prolly the big driver, though since materials have different requirements for sufficient strength, it's an interactive problem.

Oh, and 'dead' carbon? Most often, that's about foam mandrels left in the lug areas. That deadness has little to do with comfort or performance, but a lot to do with perception of same. Depending on what someone wants / expects, it's either good or bad.

I can say categorically that the floppiest, most 'is there a tube broken?' bike I've ever ridden was made of the same material as the stiffest, sharpest, most harsh-riding frame. Carbon.
 

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My Phillips plumbing pipe lugged steel bike doesn't absorb imperfections in the road, I know because the 40 year old brooks squeaks like crazy on bad roads and the bars will be slightly lower at the end of a ride (got to knurl it).
-Quill stem, 40cm nitto bars, brooks b72, campy hubs 36h 3x with straight gauge 14 spokes to Mavic Open pros wrapped in continental 23c rubber pumped to 110 psi, cottered cranks, a cm or two of saddle-bar drop.

My period correct Holdsworth made from Reynolds 531 does soak up some road, but it feels slow.
-Suntour Superbe Pro all the way around, Avocet touring II saddle, Nitto quill stem, vintage Phil hubs 36h 3x to 27in Weinmann concave rims wrapped in period correct rubber (larger+lower psi), saddle and bar are almost even, was a racing bike in it's day.

And the Sekai 4000 made from lugged double butted Tange Champion No.1 tubing, is responsive and fast, but my back hurts after 70+ miles.
-Cinelli 26.4 bar+stem, stiff Cane Creek wheels (25mm profile, straight pull+high tension spokes, inverted nipple) same tires as the Phillips, newer saddle with light padding, ~2cm of bar drop.

So, all three bikes have the same general qualities that you describe in the OP. However, they are all different tubing, and made in different parts of the world from the early 70's to the early 80's, therefore have different geometries, and all ride quite differently. So, it is an incredibly flawed, apples to oranges comparison, and by now I've forgotten my point. Something about there being more than just materials and components in the equation, things like construction quality, tubing, geometry, etc.

For the most part I agree with you, old bikes are great, and provide a great ride.
 

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it ain't the parts, its the frame. I rode a moser world hour record LE with Campy athena, and Giordana polaris SLX frame with Dura-ace for another 5-6 years, then trek 5500 oclv then aluminum for a couple, and now Fondriest Status, with Deda EOM 16.5 steel, and back to campy, with 1.25" fork, fsa stem and bars and the frame is absolutely heavenly. The bar/stem is carbon, but VERY stiff. The frame is stiff, but still has that classic snappy "alive" feeling that I missed so much while on the trek and abici aluminum.
I'd trade a kidney for a BLE, and am strongly considering a Scapin or 05 Pinarello Opera NOS.
I'm planning on developing a "stable" of different bikes, and hope to get competitive. Steel frames is what makes the magic. Sure, the components may take some of the edge off, but I recall riding my uncles masi with MAX big tubes, and it wasn't far off from the old cannondale 3.2 I borrowed for a century years back.
 

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I have a set of Cane Creek Volos TI wheels...

I have a set of used Cane Creek Volos TI wheels that I bought almost as soon as I got into road biking. These wheels have titanium spokes up front, laced radial. The rear wheel is laced radial on the NDS and cross two or three on the DS. The rims are Velocity Aerohead front and Aerohead offset on the rear.

I had this same set of wheels mounted to three different bikes. The first was an aluminum Leader 735R with a carbon fork. That bike jarred the crap out of me. The second bike, my Pedal Force RS full carbon frame and fork, rides like butter. I transferred the components straight across from the Leader to this frame. The third bike, and the bike that these wheels will remain on, is an old Colnago International complete with chrome moly frame and fork. The ride is a little more harsh compared to the Pedal Force but way smoother than my 735R. This frame is lively. It rides wonderfully. It handles great. It absorbs impacts phenominally. I'm sold on steel. I haven't tried a titanium frame, yet.
 

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Vertical flex in wheels is real and it can be dramatic. I used to race BMX in the late 70s and early 80's. Around that time a product came out on the market called Motomags. These were aluminum wheels that were essentially 5 extremely large aluminum spokes and rim cast as one unit. I replaced my spoked wheels with the Motomags and to say the difference in ride was noticeable would be an understatement. Every jump I went off or bump I hit sent a shock wave through the bike and me that made me feel like I just jumped out of a two story window and landed on all fours on concrete. I got rid of the Motomags right away. I also noticed that when I changed to heavy duty rims with largeer diameter spokes, the ride was harsher although not to the level of the Motomags. I've ridden modern road wheels that use thick low count aero spokes and they typically have had higher spoke tension to give the wheel lateral strength. This eliminates the suspension-like qualities a higher spoke count wheel has, resulting in a harsher wheel. At least that's been my experience.
 

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buck-50 said:
Might the near-mythic ride quality of older steel bikes come less from the frame itself than the parts on that frame?

Think about it:

A quill stem isn't as stiff as a modern threadless setup. It flexes, adding a little bit of give and suspension to the handlebars, especially if you've thrown on a set of wider bars.

A more traditional saddle (like a rolls or a regal) has a little more padding.

A set of 32 spoke 3 cross wheels on traditional box-section rims are a little less harsh than low-spoke/aero rimmed wheels.

An older steel racing frame (even as recent as the early 90s) had room for larger tires- my 90/91 Serotta will fit 28s comfortably, and it's running 25s now.

Add all these things up and you've got a ride that's a bit more comfortable- the flexy stem takes the edge off some of the road buzz, the wheels and larger tires give a little more, and next thing you know, you've got this absolutely incredible ride that you're attributing to the steel...

I suppose the best way to test it would be to build 2 identical frames, one with a threaded fork, one threadless and see if there really is a difference.

anyway, just a thought.
Yebbut... OK. There's definitely some credence to what you say. But my "old fashioned steel frame" has a Thomson stem (X2) and post (Masterpiece), both known for their equally mythical apparent "stiffness"; threadless King HS; and the narrowest carbon bar I could find (at the time, 40 cm EC90 Equipe).

I ride a Fizik Arione, which admittedly is fairly cushy compared to some of the competition; I tried a Rolls, Regal, etc., and haven't liked anything as much as the Arione, so it's whatever fits, says me.

I don't believe that crap about normal wheels being more flexible or comfortable or whatever than machine-built, low-spoke-count jobs. I'm sorry, but it's just crap; if you can find anything to support a claim to the contrary, I'm all ears. And when I say support to the contrary, I mean real, objective tests (which themselves are fairly rare in the cycling world), not some fat bloke trying to justify the cost of his Zipps to the Saturday-morning shop-ride.

That my frame fits larger tires doesn't mean that I actually use them, and I find it at least a little odd that you think that, de facto, should be the case. I mean, your bike will fit a triple and a flat bar, and a Softride stem and suspension seatpost, no? I run 23c Michelin Pro 2 Races all the time, and I always run them at 100f/115r, unless I get lazy and don't bother topping them up for weeks on end.

In other words, I think your "old steel bikes are more comfortable" theory applies more to the retro-grouch rider who chooses traditional or classic parts than to a machine designed and built by traditional or classic means and spec'd with traditional parts. Do I think steel is the end-all, be-all? No, not at all, but I like my bike; I don't really care what you ride. Do I think that the whole steel-is-real thing hangs on threaded stems and Regals and Rolls? Definitely not.
 

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yup

Fivethumbs said:
Vertical flex in wheels is real and it can be dramatic. I used to race BMX in the late 70s and early 80's. Around that time a product came out on the market called Motomags. These were aluminum wheels that were essentially 5 extremely large aluminum spokes and rim cast as one unit. I replaced my spoked wheels with the Motomags and to say the difference in ride was noticeable would be an understatement. Every jump I went off or bump I hit sent a shock wave through the bike and me that made me feel like I just jumped out of a two story window and landed on all fours on concrete. I got rid of the Motomags right away. I also noticed that when I changed to heavy duty rims with largeer diameter spokes, the ride was harsher although not to the level of the Motomags. I've ridden modern road wheels that use thick low count aero spokes and they typically have had higher spoke tension to give the wheel lateral strength. This eliminates the suspension-like qualities a higher spoke count wheel has, resulting in a harsher wheel. At least that's been my experience.
low spoke hi tension
vertically stiff (doesn't help) but laterally flexy
when I owned a set of Ks I could actually feel them dishing when I drove them hard in corners. The wheelflexing would push me wide in turns I could drive right through on 32 spoke 3x

oh and like Big Bill I own an MXL(2005), it has modern parts (threadless stem, oversized bars) and lemme tell ya, it's the frame
 

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mandasol said:
Great way to compare since you have the Sherman Tank of semi-classic frames in the MX Leader and the Tank of modern frames in the BLE. How do they compare to each other as far as ride quality/smoothness -- if that term could be applied to the BLE? Would you attribute any smoothness to the quill stem?

By the way, I think it should be against the rules to mention your bikes without pictures. How about a few from your stable?

To compare and contrast the MXL versus the BLE is hard. The MXL is by far the most stable and powerful feeling bike in existence. Everything you put in the pedals goes to the rear wheel. The BLE has almost the same feel but it "feels" lighter on the front end. The BLE feels different when you dive into a corner, especially on fast descents. It really snaps around easy. If either bike was my only bike, it would be fine with me.
 

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Applesauce said:
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I don't believe that crap about normal wheels being more flexible or comfortable or whatever than machine-built, low-spoke-count jobs. I'm sorry, but it's just crap; if you can find anything to support a claim to the contrary, I'm all ears. And when I say support to the contrary, I mean real, objective tests (which themselves are fairly rare in the cycling world), not some fat bloke trying to justify the cost of his Zipps to the Saturday-morning shop-ride.

.

Quite true, and the exact same "contrarian" question can be asked regarding the multitudes of blokes who babble on and on and on and on about the "imagined" self perceived, often ego motivated "mythical steel ride qualites" they endlessly harp on regarding their "mythical" lugged steel frames. And the last time I checked these so called multitudes of claims (most often made by typically low levelskill amateur riders - gee what a friggin surprise? NOT, LOL) of being able to perceive all these multitudes of road feel differences from frame to frame to frame are supported by exactly what "real, objective tests" to back up their claims??????????????????

Again, please refresh me on all the ----- real objective tests ------- supporting these loads of BS claims and where these frame ride quality test results are located???????????????? Is that silence I hear?????? :)

And when I too say """support""" I also mean "real objective tests", not some fat bloke trying to justify his ovrpriced overhyped lugged steel frame to the Saturday-morning shop-ride either. Afterall, since one just laid out the cash for their umpteenth frame one is now obligated to post their "qualitative and professional RIDE REPORT" about it as well aren't thye???

The funniest part is I think most of these blowhards, after posting thousands of times in here, actually start believing their own drivel after a time regarding RIDE REPORTS, that's where the real comedy and psychoanalysis kicks in, or at least should kick in? LOL :) Buttttt it certainly does make for some comical reading in here. cheers
 

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I can directly compare:

An '82 Bianchi Columbus tubed (Tre-Tubi) frame, 36h 3X tubulars, Campy N-Record w/ Cinelli bar and threaded stem,

An '06 Colnago Master XL, (Lugged steel, carbon fork) Chorus, w/ ITM bar and threadless stem, Mavic K SL3 tubulars.

An '07 Kestrel RT700, (Full carbon) DA, w/ Ritchey threadless stem and FSA K-Force bar, Mavic K SL3 Tubulars.

I use the same wheels on both the Kestrel and the Colnago, just swap the freehub bodys. The same saddle on both the Colnago and Kestrel, and an old school Concor on the Bianchi.

I have Dugast Roubaix 23mm cotton tubulars on the Bianchi and also the Mavic K's I swap around.

The Bianchi is the sum of its old, well cared for parts, and is the buttery smooth ride of the three. I would have to say that the little bits of flex here and there are probably contributing much to the over all softness. But it's almost 22 lbs.

The Colnago is the all-day ride. Light (17.4) smooth, and a bike that just feels great after 4+ hours in the saddle. Handles like a dream, sprints well, and is a great all 'rounder.

The Kestrel pretty much matches the Colnago in the handling and weight (17.1) departments, has a slightly dead-er feel, and is a harsher ride. But it out sprints the other three hands down, and climbs exceptionally well. I feel more beat up after 4+ hours in the saddle on the Kestrel, but not sure I am any faster.

On shorter (under 50 mile) group rides with lots of jockeying and quick sprints, the Kestrel is the bike of choice.

If I'm doing a Century on smooth roads (I mean REALLY smooth) the Kestrel wins again.

If I'm doing a Century on typical New England roads, lots of chip & seal, pot holes, patches, rippled pavement, the Colnago wins.

Light poseur rides with non-biking friends and GF's, the retro Bianchi is just fun to play with.

Different horses for different courses.
 
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