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Litespeed/Merlin vs. Airborne/Douglas Question(11 posts)

Litespeed/Merlin vs. Airborne/Douglas Questiondavee
Apr 26, 2001 3:02 PM
Conventional wisdom is to buy the "best" frame because components can be esily upgraded. (Conventional wisdom also suggests buying complete bikes, because component upgrades can end up costing more than a complete bike.)

Let's assume that FIT is not an issue, and compare value. Does this mean a Merlin or Litespeed with Tiagra or 105 is a better choice than an Airborne with D/A or Douglas with Chorus?

Seems to me that at some point, buying a low/mid level frame with high end componentry would be wiser than going the other direction. And yes, I am only seriously considering Ti for my next bike.

Your Thoughts???
First: Forget Cost/Benifitgrz mnky
Apr 26, 2001 3:46 PM
If you go get all analytical it doesn't take long to realize that a $5,000 bike is not twice as good as a $2,500 bike (what objective are you going to multiply against anyway?). Nor is it easy to justify DA over Ultegra, Ultegra over 105, etc. Forget the Campy Shimano thing for a moment: I'm going to use Shiman in my example, but switch the lines to Campy if it makes you feel better (of course it's a bit harder to justify since it's more expensive).

It ultimately comes down to you and your subjective values. Wanna ride a $5,000 bike on $10 legs? Fine. Wanna ride a mid 80's steel sled and dust the Gucci crowd on your quads o' steel? Fine.

People from outside the cycling world can't even comprehend spending $2500 on a bike, let alone a $5K exotic ti machine. You'd have an even harder time trying to justify it to them.

If you're coming at it from the wanting to get good value for your money then forget Ti. Think aluminum production bike with 105 (or the like), maybe Ultegra. To put top of the line DA components on a value oriented frame seems a bit contradictory. I don't know why you'd do either one of your examples other than being on a fixed budget and deciding that either your components will work the best, last the longest, and be the lightest, or your frame will have the "best" ride qualities. If you can't tell the difference between the mid and high level frames then why spend the money - unless you're trying to impress. What does "wise" have to do with it - unless you're competing you can spend just as many calories on a Huffy as you can on a Merlin, although the Merlin will get you there faster, more comfortably, sooner, etc.

Decide early if you want the ultimate or just something that's pretty good.
First: Forget Cost/Benifitdavee
Apr 26, 2001 4:29 PM
I realize this is a subjective decision, that is why I solicited opinions. I want a titanium bike with decent or better components. (No aluminum, please.) I could afford a Palmares, but have set my budget at about $2500, and I am not trying to impress anyone, least of all a 39 year old wrench who is proud to act 17.

I don't wear Gucci's. I understood how to burn calories before I bought my first steel sled in '72. I have at least $12 legs,and know how to spell benefit.

Thanks for your thoughts.
First: Forget Cost/BenifitSkip
Apr 26, 2001 9:15 PM
Great reply! Well said.
you get what you pay forMarkar
Apr 26, 2001 4:59 PM
It is my understanding that the big difference between the high and low end titanium frames is the shaping of the tubes. This is where the added cost comes in. Anybody can weld a bunch of pipes together but manipulating the tube shape to achieve strength and ride quality is the trick. I would probably go with a high end Reynolds 853 frame before I would get a low end Ti frame. I think there is also a certain amount of marketing hype about Ti for Ti's sake. But if you are going to go I would go all the way. Consider the Serotta Ti Legend. You can get custom geometry at no extra cost and paint/decal choices out the wazoo.
re: yesSteveS
Apr 26, 2001 6:12 PM
For some reason, I can't avoid these kinds of questions and having first hand experience with a couple of your mentioned frames and high end steel, I think I can answer. (Aluminum I have had and it would take a miracle of proof in my own hands before I returned. No thanks)

My Zeppelin is Dura Ace equipped, totally fine-tuned in fit, and an outstanding ride. My new Spectrum steel is equipped with a mix of DA/Ultegra/and Ritchey, about 99 percent perfect in fit and an outstanding ride as well as beautiful. It is not, however, in any degree signifcantly better a ride than the Z. It is significantly prettier to look at in my opinion. And Tom Kellogg is generally recognized as one of the master builders in the U.S. so it is not a question of welding/brazing skill.

What you might do is pose your question at the Airborne website forum for a variety of owners to answer, it might help you whatever frame you are interested in. Fit, however, is critical and there are some big differences in the frames you mentioned.

I don't seen any real reason to spend more for a high priced frame unless thats what you want, whatever speed that your legs move. Now, I am leaning towards Campagnolo Record components for an upgrade if for nothing more than the aesthetic beauty. And if some guy on a Huffy passes me averaging 10mph more than I do, so be it. As long as I enjoy my ride, thats all that counts. Good luck.
re: yesdavee
Apr 26, 2001 6:59 PM
Thanks for your reply. Airbone with D/A seemed to me to be the best bang for the buck, which you seem to confirm. Thanks again.
Go with the better frameSimpleGreen
Apr 26, 2001 6:51 PM
The best compromise is to get as good a frame possible and Ultegra. Build kit price differences are only 150-200 between 105 and Ult. So you'd benefit from stepping up and spending the extra $$.

As for Ti. Sampson and Dean seem to be making fine frames for less than the Big Brands with comparable quality. Check out sampson's lineup. For 2500 you could get a nice Ti frame and DA, with cool wheels. Not much compromise there.

In my opinion, the 2500 price range is great. You can get really nice stuff with Ult or even DA and nice wheels. The returns for your money really diminish after 2500 from a value standpoint.

Good luck!
Go with the better framedavee
Apr 26, 2001 7:27 PM
Thanks for your reply. Sampson is on my short list for "budget ti". I will probably "settle" for ultegra, because the difference in quality/weight doesn't seem to justify the $$ for a rider like me. I am old and slow, but want a nice light bike. I have a 2 year old "entry level" roadbike with Shimano Sora. It weighs in at about 26#, but is light years ahead of the 10 speed Raleigh I bought in '72. I suspect an 19# bike with ultegra would seem like another quantum leap to me.
Speaking of Douglas . . .Andy
Apr 26, 2001 9:44 PM
Since you mentioned "Douglas" I am curious as to the quality of their Ti bikes. I recently purchased a high end road bike and I considered the Douglas Ti bike as advertised by Colorado Cyclist. I didn't choose the Douglas but Colorado's two page catalog spread sure made me take a closer look.
nothin like swingin the leg over the C-40pmf
Apr 27, 2001 5:02 AM
But there are diminishing returns to what you pay for. The difference between $500 and $1000 is huge. Go from $1000 to $2000 and its big. From $2000 to $3000 still noticable. From $3000 on up, it gets pretty slight. You still have to pedal all of them. And the technology changes so quick that whats really cool and light now will be a boat anchor in 5 years.

I think you're wrong on the "conventional wisdom". Why buy a bike with lower end components and say "I'll upgrade someday". In the end, you'll ride around hating the crappy stuff you bought until you break down and replace it even though it probably will still be functioning fine. In essence, you'll be paying for components twice. And doesn't it sound silly to be putting Tiagra on your Merlin?

Which brings me to my second point ... buy components that compliment your frame. If you're buying a high end frame, go for the high end components and vice versa. A huffy with Dura Ace? A Colnago with Tiagra? What's the point of doing that? So I disagree with your idea of buying a low end frame with great components. You'll just be dissappointed in the end.

I think the best strategy is to set a budget constraint and consider what you can get.

Is a Merlin or Seven better than a Litespeed because the welds are prettier and it costs more? Is a Macalu exactly the same as a Litespeed because its built by the same people? No here can really answer these questions and a lot of it depends on you. The Litespeed is probably just as good as the Merlin, but if you really feel great having a Merlin, then that's what you should get. Just don't put Tiagra on it.