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Steel! Yikes! My head is spinning(34 posts)

Steel! Yikes! My head is spinningjtolleson
Jan 6, 2002 12:09 PM
OK. Say, for example, I wanted to shop higher end steel. I have a pretty good idea who the reputable builders are (though your suggestions are always welcome). But even within that, I get overwhelmed by the different kinds of tubing. Reynolds, Columbus, Foco... what?

Who's on first? Do each of these have a lineup much like Campy and Shimano do in components?

What to look for?

PS, does anyone know anything about a framebuilder called Guru?
re: Steel! Yikes! My head is spinninggtx
Jan 6, 2002 12:17 PM
never heard of Guru.

Regarding tubing--as long as you're dealing with a good builder, it really doesn't matter all that much. These guys sum it up pretty well--"Look at the sticker on the downtube that tells you who made it, not the sticker on the seat tube that tells you what tubing it's made of."

Anyway, steel is real! Have fun!
re: Steel! Yikes! My head is spinningwalter
Jan 6, 2002 12:58 PM
I've seen Guru frames featured by a catalog shop called Schwab cycles. Pretty pictures and certainly not cheap, that's the extent of my knowledge. is a useful link as it describes much of the Columbus offerings.

I've heard good things about Reynolds 853 and there's a reason 531 has been around forever. However, the previous poster is right, the builder is all important.
Guru, Torelli, and Schwab Cyclesjtolleson
Jan 6, 2002 1:06 PM
Well, one of the reasons I asked is that I was at the Schwab store (I'm a Denver local) and they had a ton of 'em and spoke highly of 'em but I was wondering if it was basically their own label and someone else builds it. I had never heard of Guru. And I have a bit of a bias against house brands (even high end ones). Name snobbery. Call me shallow.

They also push the Torellis bigtime. Any thoughts?
Steel bikesJB
Jan 6, 2002 1:51 PM
the steel Torellis are nice, I used to have a Countach and it was my favorite for a long time. I don't know anything about Guru. If I were you and looking for high end steel you should call Don at Anvil Bikes as they are in Denver. I bought one of his custom Foco frames about a year ago and it is a unbelievable frame for the money.
A little off topic...TJeanloz
Jan 6, 2002 1:59 PM
There's currently a discussion on the components board about Empire Cycles and how they can sell more bikes. It seems to me that Don Ferris at Anvil is an example that they might want to follow- having a knowledgable builder weld good bikes at relatively inexpensive prices. He's built quite a reputation for himself after only about 3 years of building bikes.
A little off topic...JB
Jan 6, 2002 3:19 PM
What sold me was that I have a friend who bought a cross bike from him for like 600 on sale a couple of years ago. I compared that bike to my Ritchey cross bike and could not figure out how he cut the other 400 off what I paid. When I needed a new road bike I called him and he sent me a buch of information and that was it. His base frame came with a clear coat and stainless steel dropouts for 725. I upped to Foco and some paint options and the bike still cost less than 900. It took almost a month longer to get than I thought it would but I didn't regret it when I saw it. It really is amazing. I think he gets real busy in the summertime. The final thing was that struck me was that he sent me the frame a couple of weeks before he sent me a bill for it so don't know if he is a good businessman and don't care, he builds beautiful bikes. I'm thinking about ordering a new mountain bike from him but I'm not sure if I want to go back to a hardtail.
A little off topic...gtx
Jan 6, 2002 3:30 PM
Sounds cool. $725 base/$900 Foco frame only or frame and steel fork?
A little off topic...Don Ferris
Jan 7, 2002 9:15 AM
Thank you all for the positive comments both here and in personal email. After reading them I feel obliged to make a few of my own.

I try to get all the frames out on time, though I'm the first to admint I have had checkered history with it. It was always a struggle balancing the workload of the framebuilding (all aspects done by me save the paint which is typically done by Spectrum) with the manufacturing of the framebuilding fixtures and tools we sell. As a result of that and unforeseen demand, by July last summer I had to quit taking custom frame orders for 2001 delivery since I was already booked up orders for the rest of the year. With the changes we made in our business such as a bigger shop, upgrading our machine tools (CNC), etc. to streamline the tooling manufacter, it now allows me more time for framebuilding. So while I won't promise I'll never be late again, it should be rare.

Related to that, I don't make a habit of sending frames out without first receiving payment for it. With custom frames you usually develop a relationship with the customer so there is a higher level of trust. Unfortunately, I have been burned on that now and learned my lesson so anymore I am only so free with payment with my repeat customers. I guess I'm becoming a better business man. :) Lastly, the prices on this thread are close, but a little dated. If you have any questions, feel free to email me. For any Denver folks who'd like to meet, I'll be at the Wheatridge Pro night on the 12th.

Thanks again!
Guru, Torelli, and Schwab CyclesRusty Coggs
Jan 6, 2002 3:11 PM
Torelli is ok.They have been around awhile and are made by a known builder in Italy. Guru is overpriced,IMHO,considering they seem to have appeared from nowhere,and have no track record that I am aware of. or can build a Foco bike for alot less.
Jan 7, 2002 7:31 AM
I'm from Montreal. I am not sure if you are refering to Quebec made GURU bicycles; if so, I recommend them, especially if you can get the frame from the builder here in Montreal.
The welder use to work for Giuseppe Marinoni, and had for ages. When Marinoni turned to cheap alu and buying frames to save cost, the guy went his way to continue with nice steel frames.

I have seen many and personnaly know half a dozen of riders from touring to racing.
Even here they are tought to find as they are sold from production to customer, so you have to go to the warehouse. I even got to chose my dad's tubes with the maker. That was nice.

I suppose they'd be very affordable in U.S. currency. So you can easily put on excellent componentry... And yes, they favore Campy as far as I know.
Just had 2 steel custom bikes madezelig
Jan 6, 2002 1:34 PM
And yes, it's a confusing array of steel. I've have 3 custom steel bikes made in the last 12 years. As many people have suggested, you should first pick a builder who is building in a style you need, one with a good reputation and experience, and one whom you feel comfortable with building your frame. My personal opinion is that you should have the builder fit you. The next best thing is to have someone who's good at fitting doing the measurements fit you and lastly, doing the measurement yourself. Some builders will just do it by measurement and conversation, others will put you on a fitting jig and others want to see you ride. If you're not sure what you're comfortable with, know your preferences and communicate them clearly to a builder with a good reputation. Don't be intimidated as any good builder is going to be able to put his years of experience to work in your favor. However, he needs to know your style, your needs, your preferences and ultimately your use.

As for types of steel, the big tubing manufacturers are Reynolds, Columbus, Dedacciai and True Temper. There are also Excel, Ishiwata and others. R, C & D all have websites which are worth visiting. Also remember that builders also have their preferences. I've ridden Ti for the last three years but the Deda SAT 14.5 frame I just built up is forcing a major reassessment in my view of steel. It's nearly as light, responsive and nearly as comfortable as Ti. I was riding a 1999 Vortex. Weight, purpose of bike and riding style are also going to figure in the right tubeset as are the skills of the builder.

The methods of joining the tubes are mainly three. Brazing with lugs, which can use brass or silver braze and utilize lugs at the tube joints, used to be the most popular. Arguably the strongest, it's also probably the heaviest. The next method is filletbrazing which is done without lugs. The tube joins are very smooth. This methodology is generally lighter than lugged construction. The last is Tig (tungsten gas) which in reality is welding. Probably the lightest and arguably the hardest to do well. Many of the tubsets introduced in the last 10 years such as 853, Genius and onwards for Columbus, the Deda HT lines were designed for TIG joining as they wouldn't lose strength from the temperature of the method.

My first custom steel was by Marinoni, lugged using Columbus TSX. I recently bought a custom road bike made out of Deda SAT 14.5 which was Tig'd. Made by Corrado in Liverpool I drove from London, a 7+ hour roundtrip, to get fitted and discuss the frame with the builder. Corrado was started by some guys from the now defunct Cougar shop who built for Boardman and others, even when they were sponsored by others. I also bought a custom single speed road bike made from custom drawn Columbus Nivachrom, similar to Genius but not as light as Foco or Ultra Foco which are Columbus Thermacrom. This bike was made by Chas Roberts, now run by the late Chas' son, they're been building frames since the 60's, have a tremendous reputation in the UK and I went to Croydon to get measured at the shop.

Where do you live? People on this forum can generally suggest someone local with whom they've had a good personal experience.

Good luck and enjoy.
Jan 6, 2002 2:36 PM
I had a custom foco bike built this year. Wow. 3 ounces heavier and over 1500 less than a vortex and the ride is excellent. Just as stiff as my old colnago master and it rides way better(I took all components and wheels off the colnago). Ride has a little more road feel than ti but the difference is not significant. Got frame and ouzo pro for 1049 shipped.
bought today roberts mastertony39
Jan 6, 2002 5:10 PM
christ - first road bike for me, these frames with columbus tubing are top quality - th fillet brazing is amazing
You've got some great options ...bianchi boy
Jan 6, 2002 1:45 PM
In the Denver area for custom builders. I would talk to Dan Ferris at Anvil about frame materials. I was considering a custom steel frame for a while and he sent me some very nice e-mails with lots of information. His prices are also very competitive. Also check out Dean cycles. I saw one recently on a group ride that looked fantastic, and their prices are also very good. Dean can build steel as well as ti.
re: Hey .....SteelRusty Coggs
Jan 6, 2002 3:04 PM
Each maker has a line up from low end to top end.There are differences and DO they matter.Although, a good custom builder will take into consideration many factors and use them to hopefully select the optimum tubeset for you, you may be presented with choices or may need to have some knowlegedg to make informed desisions.There are also cost considerations. There is a reasonable but incomplete blurb at A few of the descriptions are a little off base so do't hang your hat on then. Haven't you been paying attention to the 'other guy' at the 'other forum'?...your bad.
re: Hey .....Steeljtolleson
Jan 6, 2002 3:12 PM
Actually, the brain power here is much better. I have read that thread (the inquiry was posted by my housemate, in fact) but I decided to ask over here.

OK, next part of the inquiry. What about the big steel manufacturers... bikes from Bianchi's Reparto Corse, or Colnagos. I here lots about both custom builders or smaller American builders IF, Waterford, Gunner, etc. But what about the bikes I can walk into one of our big roadie shops and put my hands on?
re: Hey .....SteelRusty Coggs
Jan 6, 2002 5:09 PM
Gimmie a break on the brain 'power'. Look at the responses ya already got.TJean is good but the others....I'm not sure I understand the second part. Wheatridge Cyclery,Schwab, Turin Bicycles and Denver Spoke handle some good stuff. Not sure who in the Denver area handles the better Bianchis,maybe Turin or Treads. Have you checked Peter Vecchios Bicicletteria shop in boulder?Waterford seems to work with reynolds,mostly 853 and 531.You will find more of the Columbus and Dedacciai steels in italian and other foreign makes, and from custom builders.
Trust mejtolleson
Jan 6, 2002 6:24 PM
It is all relatively. There's bad info all over the 'net, but if you have ever read a discussion on the forums on a substantive issue (whether buying or maintenance-oriented) you'd understand why I clearly don't want advice from there.

There are some pretty knowledgable folks here on rbr ... I'll try to sort through it all!
Trust meRusty Coggs
Jan 6, 2002 8:40 PM
Maybe yer right...your call. BB and AAE might disagree.
I'd never disrespect BB and AAEjtolleson
Jan 7, 2002 6:59 AM
but otherwise over there...
Another option ...tarwheel
Jan 7, 2002 5:46 AM
Also check out the Gios frames at Excelsports, since they're in your area. Excel had the Compact Pro (frame only) on sale for about $450 that last time I looked. It's a little heavier than some frames, but with the Gios carbon fork ($250), you could have a beautiful reasonably light frame and fork for $700. The Gios has a relatively short top tube so it might fit you better than something like Lemond.

(Disclaimer: Yes, I own a Gios Compact Pro, but I have no connections to Gios or Excel.)
do you really need to shop for a custom? nmnaf geezer
Jan 6, 2002 5:27 PM
Hope not.jtolleson
Jan 6, 2002 6:22 PM
Well, I've got an appt for the Serotta size-cycle gig, and frankly hoping to be well accomodated by some nice off-the-rack options.

Which actually leads me to ask ... what about a higher end Bianchi (say, maybe the Boron). I'm skeptical that Lemond will work (I'm female) but would certainly look at the Zurich (nothing lower). It is hard not to feel lustful about some of the Italian options, for aesthetic reasons if none other. So, I'm not sure if small-shop custom is in the cards or not.
Hope not.theBreeze
Jan 6, 2002 7:42 PM
I just bought my first road bike after several years on mountain bikes. After researching and riding lots of bikes I ended up choosing steel. Surprisingly one of my finalists was a Lemond. I am a fairly short female and everyone told me that the top tube would be too long, but riding it felt good. I ended up with a Gunnar Roadie. Built up with Ultegra triple and other choice parts it came out at $2K. It is a BEAUTIFUL bike and I love it. Didn't have to go custom and got a lot of bike for the money. The LBS I dealt with was great.
Hope not.gtx
Jan 6, 2002 8:12 PM
I've seen quite a few a few broken Boron Bianchis (this was a number of years ago, but from what a shop owner told me recently this hasn't changed much). If you're in Colorado, maybe check out the Tommasinis at Colorado Cyclist. The Serotta sizing should be very useful. Good luck and have fun!
Hope not.Rusty Coggs
Jan 6, 2002 9:07 PM
Well, if you are really thinking 'better steel' in a production bike(and with all due respect to the Lemondites and Bianchiohpiles), think Waterford or Serotta.For Italian,there is Tomassini,Mondonico(maker of Torelli) Colnago,like maybe a Technos, DeRosa, and for something a bit out of the ordinary, there is Carrera and Moser. Merckx may still make some nice steel bikes.Deal is, they just aren't as available as the Lemonds and Bianchis.. For my nickel, www.anvilbikes is hard to beat, and the advantage there, is that he is local.
very minor correction...TJeanloz
Jan 8, 2002 12:04 PM
Mondonico only produces the two most expensive Torelli frames- the rest are built by 'lesser' (but still Italian) builders.
Zurich's and the female rider...dsc
Jan 7, 2002 3:05 PM
Just thought I'd give you my .02 on the Zurich.

I'm female and ride a '99, 55 cm Zurich. At 5'10", I'd be more inclined towards a 56-57 on some other manufacturer's bikes (bought this one used), but this Zurich fits me great.
With a non-set back seat post and 172.5 crank arms, my knee to pedal axel position is perfect. However, to dial in my reach, I did have to go with a 90 mm, 100 degree stem. This gives me about a 6 cm drop from saddle to top of the bars -quite comfortable for me.

I believe that for 2002, Lemond is offering 'woman specific' geometry on the Zurich, but only up to 53 cm. Also no idea if it would be a custom order or not.
Good luck in your search!

Why NOT Custom?sherpa23
Jan 8, 2002 7:43 AM
There is a big myth propogated by big bike companies that you only need custom bikes if your body is "wierd." That is pure bull. Fit is only a small part of having a good bike: balance and ride are the rest of the equation and are much sacrificed when the fit is tweaked on an off the peg bike. When you have too much or too little seat post extension for your body, too much or too little stem length for your posture, the balance and performance of the bike is severely compromised. Just about every professional in the world (including every Mapei rider on a C40) has a custom measured bike with a customized ride. I got an Anvil at the end of November and I put 2500 miles on it in December here in Colorado and I have to say that custom bikes are the only way to go. I used to ride a Litespeed Palmares which fit me really well but when I got the Anvil, I realize that while the Litespeed had fit me, the balance was off and the performance was compromised. It was not nearly as stiff as the Anvil and I realized that I had been riding a generic bike all along. Even a bike with tube length differences of less than .5 cm make a difference with balance, I have determined and furthermore, with a builder like Don, you can have the ride custom tuned to fit your style and type of riding. I don't understand how people would pay more for off the rack bikes unless they are concerned about the brand name or riding "what the pros ride." With a custom bike you get a bike that fits PLUS is balanced for your body and posture, and you can have the ride tuned to fit your style. When you start talking about custom paint, better workmanship, AND lower prices how you say you want something off the rack?
re: Steel! Yikes! My head is spinningbigcat
Jan 6, 2002 5:33 PM
Guru is a Canadian company that has already some history behind it from the tri side as it was the bike riden by the Olympic champion. They have been making bike for some time but just because they are only now braking in to the US market they are a worthy option to look at.

They were one of the first companies in North America to be able to use Columbus Starship tubing (3 years ago) and have bikes made out of steel, Alumiun and Ti. They are located in Montreal, a cycling hot bed. I myself ride a custom Marinoni Leggero (another great Canadian company with lots of history and 10000's of frames) and was also considering a Guru and it just didn't work out.

Another great Canadian steel bike is the Cervelo Prodigy. They get their tubing custom drawn for them by Columbus in their own shape and thickness. If you can find one check it out as well. I think Excelsports carries them. as you can tell "I am Canadian" and feel that our bikes are some of the finest in the world. as well with your dollar you should be able to a great price on a Canadian bike.
re: Steel! Yikes! My head is spinningJon
Jan 6, 2002 6:41 PM
The Cervelo Renaissance is even nicer than the Prodigy--all Thermacrom tubing and nicer welds. It
comes in around 17.5 lbs. I believe, in D/Ace. The Prodigy, which is Thermacrom main triangle and
Nivacrom rear triangle, is probably the best value on the market at its price point. Checking out
the Cervelo website is an educational experience in itself.
re: Anvil, Serottabike_junkie
Jan 7, 2002 5:45 AM
If you're local to Don @ Anvil, you won't get a better frame for the money, not even close. Great guy who does great work. If you want to spend more and have better brand recognition (if that matters to you, be honest) then nobody builds a nicer steel bike than Serotta, IMO. The tig-welded CIII has 95% of the CSI's ride (same tubeset save downtube) without the lugs and much higher price. They also have a new, more affordable Fierte model for around $750 frame only. Absolutely wonderful handling bikes and a top-notch dealer network.

Dean's Ti is a bargain, but there is better steel for the money (see Anvil!).

Forget Schwab, plenty of better shops. Excel, Colorado Cyclist, Wheat Ridge...

Forget the tubing itself... The builder is what matters, and the good ones all use good stuff!
Jan 7, 2002 6:21 AM