Quick Take: 2010 DeRosa Corum - Steel in the Peloton - By Kurt Gensheimer
From the pro peloton to local USCF races, carbon fiber is the material du jour these days. Forks, wheels, components, water bottle cages, headset spacers; they're all made of carbon. And of course, the frame, the nucleus of every bicycle, is where most of the carbon fiber craze is focused.
But what about good old steel? Is there a place in the modern peloton for the tried and true material which has been manipulated by man since 1300 years before the birth of Christ? The Men of Steel Racing team, an Indiana-based USCF club thinks there is. And in order to prove it, they turned to one of the most legendary names in steel - DeRosa.
We recently got a chance to ride a Men of Steel Racing team bike on a rainy Indianapolis afternoon; a 2010 DeRosa Corum, TIG-welded by hand in Milan, Italy by Doriano DeRosa himself. If you want a custom, steel Italian race bike, it doesn't get any better than this.
The Corum was introduced in 2003 during a time where most serious riders and racers had written off steel as a viable material for racing bikes. However, since its introduction, more and more cyclists who are reaching Masters-category age long for the days of their lugged steel beauties, and they're turning to bikes like the Corum.
But the Corum isn't just for older riders trying to relive the glory days. With a weight of just 16 pounds for a fully equipped 59cm bike, the Corum is catching the eye of younger riders who've grown up only knowing carbon fiber, titanium and aluminum. It's also attracting riders who are tired of mass-produced carbon fiber bikes which are designed to the most common denominator - often times being too stiff or not stiff enough depending on rider weight and height.
You also get the peace of mind in knowing that if you crash, a steel bike won't have a 'catastrophic failure', and you can repair it with confidence, especially considering the fork is carbon - an easy replacement in more serious crashes.
The race-ready, 16 pound Men of Steel Racing DeRosa we rode was equipped with a SRAM Red group, H.E.D. Ardennes wheels and carbon bits like handlebars and seatpost. At first glance, the oversize tubing and lugless design would indicate aluminum or titanium, especially when you lift the bike for the weight test. But make no mistake; this racing machine is TIG-welded by hand with Dedacciai steel.
What we noticed immediately upon rolling down the Monon Trail was the liveliness and responsiveness of the Corum. The feedback is like every steel frame - you feel the bumps in the road, but you don't feel them all they way up your spinal column. The frame interacts with you; tells you what's beneath your wheels without hammering it into your skull like aluminum does. Compared to the vivacity of the Corum, a carbon fiber bike feels as stiff and dead as a rigor-mortised corpse.
Out of the saddle, the bike springs forward without hesitation. It saddles a fine line between eagerness and jumpiness. This is definitely not your lugged Columbus SLX DeRosa. There is zero delay. When you jump, so goes the Corum.
The Corum's aggressive geometry does not confuse matters; this bike was designed and built to be raced, but its forgiving demeanor also enables you to bang out a century and arrive home without looking like you got beaten senseless with a painter's pole.
Team organizer Jim Kruse couldn't be happier with how the team has grown over the past year. He and his teammates are proving that even in a carbon fiber world, steel is still a viable material for race bikes. In their inaugural year, Men of Steel Racing has proven that you can finish on the podium, even top it, as they did in their very first race. With racing season hitting full stride in the Midwest, Kruse expects the early success to continue.
"Our mission is to prove to people that steel is still alive and well. You can have a sub-16 pound bike which delivers the light weight of carbon fiber without sacrificing the incredible feel and handling characteristics of steel. And we're elated to have such a legendary name in Doriano DeRosa helping support our mission."
Even if you aren't in the market for a brand new steel race bike, Men of Steel Racing is also a club, inviting riders of all ages to dust off their classic steel bikes and get them out on the race course. The club has vintage-specific rides and races, with a quickly-expanding calendar across the Midwest.
For more information on the team, their vintage races and how you can get your own DeRosa Corum, check out www.menofsteelracing.com