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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have been happily riding high quality steel bikes for 30 years - Serotta's, Marinoni's, etc.
My present 10 year old ride has a nice 56cm Reynolds 853 frame with curved seat/chainstays, Kinesis full carbon fork, 9sp Dura-Ace/Ultegra, and an Ultegra/OpenPro wheelset w/ 25mm Conti ultra-Duraskin tires - it probably comes in somewhere between 19 and 20lbs (I've never weighed it, but it feels slightly lighter than the 20.5lb bikes I raced in the '80s - mostly due to the carbon fork). Based on my experience with steel bikes, I think this is a VERY smooth-riding set-up with little BB flex... but I've never ridden anything but steel on conventional spoke wheels.

10 years ago, my bike was considered a great century bike that "rivaled Ti for comfort, but retained the lively ride of steel." However, my riding buddies have recently upgraded from c. 2000 aluminum sport bikes (Schwinn Fastback, Giant TCR, Canondale CAAD3) to new "cushy" carbon fiber bikes (Spec. Roubaix, Orbia Orca, Canondale Synapse) and keep telling me how unbelivably better the new bikes are (although that is to be expected - my bike was clearly better than their old rides). The Synapse is my size and I've switched pedals and taken it for a spin... other than the different positioning and very rigid feeling BB and front end, I didn't notice any better ride quality during the short ride.

My past experience with steel bikes has taught me that forks (carbon vs steel vs OS alu), wheels (box, aero section, spoke count) and rubber (tubulars, tpi, clincher width, etc.) have a huge influence on ride quality on moderate bumps, and that frame design (geometry and tubing) was felt on bigger hits.

Can anybody who switched from a nice steel bike to a "cushy" carbon bike like the Roubaix/Synapse/Defy Advanced/CR1/Cervelo RS/etc. chime in on the differences on long rides - is it just weight and efficiency of the "cushy" carbon or is the ride significantly better than top quality steel from a decade ago?
 

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ckilner said:
chime in on the differences on long rides - is it just weight and efficiency of the "cushy" carbon or is the ride significantly better than top quality steel from a decade ago?
They cost more but my old 1995 Waterford is just as good as any CF bike today in ride quality. Sure it's a lttle heavier but the ride is great.
 

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ckilner said:
Can anybody who switched from a nice steel bike to a "cushy" carbon bike like the Roubaix/Synapse/Defy Advanced/CR1/Cervelo RS/etc. chime in on the differences on long rides - is it just weight and efficiency of the "cushy" carbon or is the ride significantly better than top quality steel from a decade ago?
It's really about the design details rather than just the materials, just as it has always been. You can't make blanket statements. Your best bet to satisfy your curiosity is to find a shop that will let you test ride a candidate bike for 30 minutes or so. You should have a good feel by then. Use your own wheels so that variable is out of the equation.
 

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Kerry Irons said:
It's really about the design details rather than just the materials, just as it has always been. You can't make blanket statements. Your best bet to satisfy your curiosity is to find a shop that will let you test ride a candidate bike for 30 minutes or so. You should have a good feel by then. Use your own wheels so that variable is out of the equation.

What Kerry said..........
 

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A well designed and built steel bike can give you the best possible ride. I have a few bikes, including a half dozen of some of the fancier CF offerings. I have an equivalent number of steel bikes and as I look forward to what I want in the future, it will always be steel. But I'm open minded to custom carbon, for the reasons stated in the first sentence - a talented builder can design and build one to your liking.

The description of your bike from 2000 still stands. The only way you're going to find yourself on a "cushier" CF bike is by stumbling upon it or getting a good case of new bike-itis.

There is not a thing wrong with what you're riding that some other bike is going to solve.
 

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Terry-B, you are a wise sage. Of my rides and those I've tried over the past couple years, my trusty Italian steel bike is my most favorite.
 

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back before I broke my steel Italian bike I switched pedals one day and rode my friends Trek OCLV carbon. Was it as smooth as Steel, no way. However the increased BB stiffness to me is huge. I like the fact that the same amount of power from my legs makes the CF bike just leap forward. Ultimately what drove me crazy is the noise, every gear shift and bump in the road produced a loud THUNK in the frame.
I really like my Alum. frame now, stiff, dead quiet, and very efficient. A 60 mile ride yesterday evening produced much less fatigue than my steel frame and at a much faster pace. I think it depends on what your doing, I like to ride fast so AL is my choice but if you like to do Century's or multi-day tours I would still choose Steel.
 

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One more time, with feeling

lama said:
Since y'all are comparing, how about steel vs. Ti?
At the risk of repeating myself, it is not about the material. Steel and Ti can be made to feel essentially identical - my current Ti bike felt like "no change" when switching from a steel bike with the same dimensions and design goals.

However, the Ti bike has a 3 lb frame vs. 4 lbs for a comparable steel frame, plus the Ti doesn't need paint and never scratches. Neither of these has much of anything to do with the ride qualities.
 

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I have an Orbea Opal, Merlin Extralight, an aluminum Specialized S-Works and a Independant Fabrication steel Crown Jewel w/steel fork. The Independant is 2-2 1/2 lbs heavier than any of them. It's my favorite ride absolutely absorbs expansion cracks that all the others transmit the majority of the shock to your hands. Could be partly due to differing wheelsets and it's certainly not scientific but aside from the weight penalty steel rules.
 

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I have a custom geo Tange Prestige steel frame that is about 15 years old. Also have a 2010 Roubaix Pro. Campy on both, identical wheels on both. Both get pretty even road time, and provide quite different rides. I find the steel frame is so lively, wonderful to ride. It does everything well, and looks good ding it. My Roubaix is quite different. Every time I get on it I am blown away at how smooth and fast it is. I have much more confidence in descending now on the Roubaix. I think the stiffness contributes to this. There is no flex anywhere. Anywh ere. I won't say either is a go-to, each offer very different rides and I sure enjoy them both. If funds allow, having both is the only way to go.
 

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I second Kerry above; the differences between my steel bikes and my Ti seem small and don't seem related to material as much as frame dimensions. The aluminum frame, however, feels quite a bit different. That being said, if I needed another frame, and who doesn't at some point, it would be another Waterford steel.
 

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The longer i ride my 2002 Lemond Buenos Aires with 853 select tubing, the more i'm convinced i don't need a CF bike. I've ridden a couple and they were both completely different. I rode a Masi that didn't feel that much different than my steel bike, but i have better wheels on the Lemond. With an upgraded wheelset, i could see riding that bike, but it wasn't better.

I also rode a Pinarello FP2, which i hated. Felt like a rattletrap. Wouldn't trade my Lemond for that bike in a million years. Need to try one of the Specialized bikes next.
 

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I echo everything said here. My Chas Roberts from 1995 is still a joy to ride with its bump absorption, stability, resistance to crosswinds and outright speed. When you wind it up or descend it really builds and keeps going. It is time to have my (also 1995) Mavic CXP30 wheels serviced and tuned too as a precaution rather than anything else. Hope titanium hubs by the way. Part of my comfort will come from the facts that about 3 years ago I replaced the old steel forks with Deda Black Force carbon forks, moved to an FSA Wing Pro flat top bar, use both gel on the tops and inside the drops and use Spec cork wrap. This really soaks up the bumps and gives relief to the hands. The mix of old and newer Dura Ace and Ultagra SL is incredibly smooth. This bike is my preferred steed for winter and anything without steep hill climbing so I keep a 12-25 and 29-52 on it. The recent chainset upgrade can be felt compared with the old 7401 square tapered BB chainset I removed.

Chas Roberts 1995 (showing recently removed DA 7401 chainset)



My carbon Viner can't compete with the virtues of the Roberts. However, it responds really fast so it handles and changes line much quicker, it is lighter (and lighter at the back end) so it is much the better bike for climbing in or out of the saddle, it handles better when descending and at those times when the surface is particularly bad and upsets the Roberts, the Viner soaks it up. I use the same Wing Pro bars and have just re-wrapped with gel inserts and Spec tape to give me a direct comparison (not shown in this pic). I only did this because I did not like the Fizik plasticcy feeling tape I put on recently so that had to go. The SRAM rival by the way is functional and the fighter-jet inspired levers (if I understand the origin correctly) are perfect in the hands. The frame BB area and the SRAM chainset are both really stiff and you can feel the benefit of every ounce of effort. However Rival is crude compared with the Shimano set up on the Roberts. Since this bike is my preferred steed for summer and hill climbing I keep a 12-27 and 34-50 on it.

2009 Viner Magnifica



So, I don't think it's as simple as better or worse Ckilner. Aside from the ability of bike builders to make materials / designs feel similar or not, I think it's simply possible to enjoy the virtues of different bikes for different reasons.

So much of our riding is what do we fancy riding today and where do we want to go so in my case and being totally honest it's all about mood and the contrast counters the boredom that perhaps you are feeling?
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thanks for all the input, folks. I'm used to the lively feel of steel and love the way my bike rides. It helps that I double-wrap the bar tape.
I suppose I can see the benefit of CF for racing and climbing, but I don't do much of either these days. That being said, I'll still probably add a plush CF bike like a Specialized Roubaix to the stable in the future...
I suppose it really is about what we feel like riding today...for shorter rides, I still love to jump on my '77 Raliegh Grand Prix fixie conversion - it rides great even with its hi-ten "2030" tubes, and the comfort of the slack angles and long wheelbase come in handy on a fixed gear bike where it can be difficult to un-weight the saddle over bumps.
 

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ckilner
If you're still open to options, I'm a long time steel fan, though there was a slight gap between the Bob Jackson I raced in my native England and the Gunnar I bought some seven years ago.

Like, 29 years...

The Gunnar is a delight. It does it all - even raced it once, though the engine was pretty pathetic. Nearly five years back, I bought it a bike rack mate - another Bob Jackson. This is a little advanced over the last one, Reynolds 853 and a CF fork. It doesn't actually require thinking about corners and so on, it just goes round then. Though it goes much slower than my previous BJ, it is pretty obvious that it would withstand vastly more wattage than it endures ;) now.

It also matches my need for a shorter TT than 'bike in a box' frames come with - custom is really the only way to go.

Last year, I found myself in a position to treat myself. Went, if not all out, a fair ways - convinced myself that a Trek Madone 6.9 would fit my geometry needs and make a real big error in buying a bike in a box from the local Trek boutique.

First off, it didn't really fit. 1000 miles, with as much time spent adjusting about everything, then EBay'in the SRAM stuff for the Shimano I should have got anyway, then its head tube cracked.

Okay, Trek replaced it. Shame the second had this odd bad habit of developing a wobble at speed. And that's my 60 year old definition of speed too.

It was a plain old all-round bad decision. I'm sure that I could do better, but am now tainted by wondering why I should buy another CF frame when the steel one I have works fine for the riding I do. Not like we're talking peanuts here. Though there's a Guru dealership around the corner, I still have all the oily bits off that miserable Trek misadventure and Guru's custom build would deal with my fitting issues.

Back then, it was 'I want a CF frame'. After going there, I'm like others now - 'Do I really need one that bad'?

Think lots, research lots, spend once?

D
 

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That's a really nice story Dereck. Out of interest why the swap from SRAM to Shimano?
I confess I have fallen out of love with the shifting of my black RIVAL set-up, it's so damned clunky so I am thinking about a similar change.

Dereck said:
Think lots, research lots, spend once?
+ get to know other people Ckilner and ride their bikes!
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I'm a huge believer in long test rides before buying. When I bought my current steel bike, I rode over a half-dozen bikes. For the one I chose, I rode the same bike in 2 sizes (I have a long torso and went with the larger bike).
I love my current 853 steel bike for my typical riding these days - 20 miles out (to the brew pub) with a couple of buddies and then home again. The interest is CF is more for the local racing club's weekly group rides I started doing recently - lots of sprinting and climbs - I was spat out the back again last night on the second set of climbs about 12 miles in and ended up helping pull the other straglers via a shortcut (this isn't the first time I've been dropped) to rejoin the group at the 20 mile point. I also noticed that steel was over-represented in the stragler group (my bike, a German woman on a Indy Fab, a guy on a Cervelo Superprodigy, another on a Colnago Master(Lite?), and 2 or 3 others on Alu frames).
 
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