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Reasonable Steel Frame ideas....(23 posts)

Reasonable Steel Frame ideas....AlphaDog
Apr 2, 2002 10:49 PM
Hey all,

I got back into road riding last year. I bought a Cdale R600 with some assistance from you all. Its a great bike, no real issues other than ride quality. I recently switched my MTB to Steel and love it. I'm thinking about just switching most of my componets on to a reasonably priced Steel frame. I'm thinking something like the Jamis Eclipse, Salsa LaRaza, maybe even splurg a bit and do a Serotta ColoradoIII. Any one have advice as to who makes a good, cheaper steel frame?

More about the rider:
37 years old, male, somewhat overweight, 6'1", 215lbs down from 235lbs last year, heading to 180lbs. 35" inseam on a 60cm frame. No serious interest in racing, althought cyclocross looks like good fun if I get to 180!

I mainly ride road to train for long MTB rides and fitness. I prefer rides over 20miles with hills. I often ride on rough city roads. I usually do 60 - 100 miles per week.

In an effort to make the Cannondale ride smoother I've moved to a 25mm tire(Conti with Duraskin). Would any other changes help the ride quality of the Cannondale? Wheels are either Cosmos's or CXP33's.

Any comments would be appreciated!
re: Reasonable Steel Frame ideas....tarwheel
Apr 3, 2002 5:04 AM
If you are reasonably sure of your correct frame size and geometry, this should be no problem. The best place to view a wide selection of nice steel frames is, which has many Italian and American frames ranging from about $500 to $1500. If you're trying to save money, you can get great deals on frames by diligently following the auctions at eBay, particularly if you know what you're looking for and do searches regularly. It is not uncommon to see high quality Italian and American frames sell for much less than $500 on eBay and some folks even snag nice ti frames for about that amount.

If I were in your situation, I would seriously consider ordering a custom steel frame. Although some of these can be quite expensive, you can buy quality custom steel frames for about $1,000 from a few shops -- including Dean, Anvil, Steelman, Strong. Some other good options to consider include the Tomassini Sintesi sold by (900) and the Gios Compact Pro sold by (550 w/out fork). Finally, it will probably cost you $100-250 to have all of your components swapped between frames at a bike shop. The lower figure might work if you don't have to buy any new components like a stem, chain, headset, bottom bracket -- which is unlikely. The higher figure is probably more realistic. How do I know? I did the same thing last year, although I had the components from an aluminum frame switched to an old steel Bianchi frame I already owned. A steel frame is much more comfortable than aluminum, based on my experience.
everything tarwheel said plus...koala
Apr 3, 2002 5:18 AM
check out tom teesdale at He built me a great frame and gave me a price break from his web prices. He has a lot of experience with steel and will figure out what is best for you given your needs. From order to delivery was about 6 weeks, though.
Riding before you buy....AlphaDog
Apr 3, 2002 7:10 AM
I was looking at Steelman already....Like his bikes.

I really would like to ride before I buy. This is a huge problem. Most dealers don't carry many steel frames instock and built up to ride. This makes me lean towards what I have ridden, Serotta. I'm sure any well made 853 frame would make me happy. Not sure how the other steels ride. The Steelman in 525 seems like a good price for a handmade frame. I just have no idea how 525 rides compared to 853. I hear 853 is nicer, more of the claimed steel livelyness. I also hear that the 525 is heavier.

The shop I bought the Cannondale at is also the shop that carries the Serotta and Seven. They will make me a trade in deal.
when you ride a 62cm nobody carries anything in stock (nm)ColnagoFE
Apr 3, 2002 9:49 AM
Holy Giant Bike, Batman!!JBurton
Apr 3, 2002 9:47 PM
That is TEN CENTIMETERS larger than mine! Of course, I am quite Pantaniesque...size, not climbing ability or looks...
Riding before you buy....Mike Prince
Apr 3, 2002 10:34 AM
525 is marginally heavier (a whopping 3-4 ounces) than 853 and rides very similar. The main difference is weight. The 525 will be a bit stiffer (thicker tubes) which would probably benefit a heavier rider. The 853 is lighter but the ride quality will be virtually identical (you won't be able to tell a difference). Steelman (and others) has some stuff on their web site that talks about 525 vs. 853. Or just call him. Brent is a great guy and will spend plenty of time helping you. I would not hesitate to make my next bike a Steelman.
re:focus on cyclocross bikesdzrider
Apr 3, 2002 5:16 AM
It's easier to put thinner tires on a cyclocross bike and use it for road riding than it is to squeeze fat tires into stays set up for road racing. The Jeff Lyon Excursion or Sportster work very well for both and are available at The Gunnar Crosshairs is another good choice. There are others but these are the finalists from a similar search I did last year.
re:focus on cyclocross bikesAlphaDog
Apr 3, 2002 6:55 AM
I was kinda heading down this path too. Seems like a nice steel Cross bike would work fine for me, and serve double duty if I make it down to fighting weight. The Gunner seems like a deal, but honestly, I looked at one at our local shop and the welds seems pretty sloppy. Not sure if I just saw a bad example, of it thats normal. I know at Gunnar's price point I shouldn't expect too much.
re:focus on cyclocross bikesMJ
Apr 3, 2002 8:55 AM
make sure you check BB height on a cross bike that's going to serve double duty on the road - alot of cross bikes have a high bottom bracket - like a track bike you can push through corners but it's a bit unnerving

FWIW the Gunnar has a a low BB for a cross bike

somebody from the board (Climbo?) had a bad experience with Gunnar recently
Lemond BB heightRay Sachs
Apr 3, 2002 10:34 AM
The Lemond Poprad has the lowest bottom bracket of any cross bike I've seen (74mm of drop, compared to 70 on the gunnar and 65 or less on most cross bikes). It also has a great road ride - good sport touring geometry with just a slightly more relaxed front end for off-road stability. Pretty cheap bike, but aside from upgrading some of the parts, I've been really happy with mine as an all-rounder type of bike. If you want to spend more, the Litespeed Appalachian/Blue Ridge frame has the same bb height as the Gunnar and also pretty good relaxed road geometry.

reGod pointdzrider
Apr 3, 2002 11:45 AM
The Jeff Lyon also has a low bottom bracket and the Excursion, which is set up for touring has a some long chainstays for smooth, comfortable riding. I now finish many of my rides with six miles of rolling down hills at high speed on a route I used to avoid because of the bumps and chatter.
Get one that fits...Mike Prince
Apr 3, 2002 5:34 AM
Before you get your heart set on a particular frame, I would recommend getting a professional fitting. Tarwheel/Bianchi Boy lists several reputable builders in his post and you won't go wrong with any of them. I did a similar switch last year going from a C'dale to a Steelman SR and have never missed my now-sold Cannondale.

I would think you have a few options. #1 is to buy a new bike through a good, full-service shop that includes a fitting as part of the sale. You may pay $25-$50 extra for this, but it's money well spent. #2 is to work with Anvil, Strong, Steelman, Teesdale, etc. directly and they should be able to do a good job fitting you based on a bunch of body measurements they will ask you about. They are also very knowledgable about components and should be able to provide a fully built up bike. #3 is to go through GVH or a similar on-line retailer and either buy a frame or complete bike. Depending where you end up on this option you may or may not get the right guidance to result in a good-fitting ride. #4 is to buy used either through a shop or e-bay/classifieds. Again you will need to know what geometry you are looking for and you may end up "inheriting" a problem or two that may need attention.

So, a seemingly bewildering array of choices. I personally would use either option 1 or 2 as you should get a lot of support from the seller. Steelman offers his frame with Reynolds 525 (vs. 853) for around $1000 and Teesdale has posted some sales on rec.bicycles.marketplace regularly for frames in the $600-$700 range. If you know what you are doing, the last 2 choices can save you some cash. It all depends on your budget and confidence about making the correct decisions on geometry and the overall purchase.

My other advice is to keep the Cannondale intact and buy a complete bike. Either keep the R600 as a backup ride or sell it whole. You won't get much for a lower-end frame if you try to sell it. In the long run you'll get upgrade fever and spend more over a whole new bike. Also, your options on improving the ride of the Canny are pretty limited as you've already gone to bigger tires. You may be able to play around with air pressure a bit to soften the ride, but the next steps get more expensive (suspension seatposts, gel seats) and the jury's out on how effective these are anyway.

Have fun. Sorry I wrote so much for you to read :)
Get one that fits...AlphaDog
Apr 3, 2002 6:44 AM
The dealer I bought the Cannondale from put me through a "Serotta" fitting. We took many measurements, setup the fit cycle, etc. I think thats why I bought the Cannondale in the first fit! The Lemond dealer was good, but no real knowledge of proper fit, they just wanted to "eye ball" my fit. I have strange measurements, all legs, no torso and long arms. I have the results of my Serotta fitting, but I have lost 20Lbs since then, and gained alot of muscle. I would think it makes sense to get measured again.

I think your right about keeping the R600 together. Its probably worth $600 maybe more to the right buyer. I can almost get a Ultegra groupo for that. I already have an extra set of wheels to use on the new frame.
Get one that fits option 3djg
Apr 3, 2002 7:08 AM
Here's a variation on option 1: find a shop that has a good rep. for fitting expertise and pay them for a good, thorough fit assessment. This may cost anywhere from 30-75 bucks and for someone who's not sure what size/geometry he wants can be money very well spent (even if it's just background information for conversations with a custom frame builder). If the shop has what you want in a bike, then by all means consider buying from them. They'll likely deduct the cost of the fit session from your purchase. But there's no reason not to shop around. And if they don't have what you want, you leave with very useful information and they got paid for their time and expertise.
Lamond ZurichOwenMeany
Apr 3, 2002 6:28 AM
I went from a Cdale to a Lamond Zurich...I will NEVER go back to Alum....I am very happy with this frame..can't comment too much on other steel frames (I got the Lamond for super cheapo when I was on a team). But if you are a smart shopper I think you could find this framset in the 750 range.....very ridable, smooth and still responsive..
Lamond ZurichAlphaDog
Apr 3, 2002 6:38 AM
I was acutally going to buy a Lemond Buenos Aires when I bought the R600. I felt like the fit just wasn't as good as the Cannondale. The Lemond does have a nice ride though.
I love my Zurich!KLM
Apr 3, 2002 8:43 AM
I also went from a 'Dale to 853 steel and will NEVER go back to aluminum. The slightly longish top tube fits my body perfectly. I weigh in around 225 and the Zurich is more than stiff enough for me. I'm going to try ti next.
I love my Zurich!AlphaDog
Apr 3, 2002 9:04 PM

I liked the Zurich, it didn't like me! The very rearward steating position just didn't seem to fit me well. I did think the Zurich rode much smoother than my bike, yet it still felt plenty stiff when hammering.

If you try Ti I would highly recommend the Serotta Legend Ti. I got to ride one for a whole day last year. What a nice bike. Very smooth, yet still very stiff. The bike made me seem like a great climber(which I'm not). I really think this bike would make someone a much better rider. I like the fact that this bike didn't beat you up yet still felt very nimble and racey. This would be my dream ride.
Cross frame the way to gobadabill
Apr 3, 2002 8:26 AM
If you plan to race some cross you are better off looking at cross frames. Surly, gunar, lemond, Soma,and a bunch of others make inexpensive steel cross frames. I built up a Surly last year using parts off an old Giant I had laying around. Besides being a blast to ride it makes a great second bike.
re: Reasonable Steel Frame ideas....Trent in WA
Apr 3, 2002 8:29 AM

Just curious: What about the ride quality on your Canny do you not like? If the bike fits you well and you're happy with how it rides and handles, I'm a little skeptical that an identically appointed and configured steel racing bike will have a significantly better ride quality than the Canny. It might transmit less road buzz, but I'd think that the carbon fork you likely have on your current bike is going to dampen a lot of that anyway.

IMHO, you should see if you could take a touring bike (such as the Trek 520 or the Cannondale T800) for a test ride over some of the streets you usually ride over. Not that you'd necessarily want to buy a touring bike (though they can also be used for 'cross), but if you note a significant improvement in ride quality, you might look seriously at a bike that has longer chainstays, more fork rake, and the capacity to fit larger tires. I just built up a custom Mercian to replace a LeMond that was too long for me (like you, I have long legs and a shortish upper body), and between the longer wheelbase and the 700x32c tires, I really don't notice rough roads like I used to.

Trent in WA
re: Reasonable Steel Frame ideas....AlphaDog
Apr 3, 2002 8:57 PM
Hey Trent:

I'm on the fence about changing frames. I think the steel bike will ride much smoother than my cdale. I'm alittle afraid that a steel frame will have to much seatstay flex and have a tendancy to rub the rear rim on the brakes when climbing. I like the R600's geometry. The bike turns nice and seems pretty stable on twisty roads at higher speeds. I don't want to go larger than 25mm tires and I'm not sure I would like a more relaxed geometry. I have ridden wider tires before and they just seem to slow for fast training rides. I am open to changing the seatpost and seat. Most people seem to think a seatpost change will have little effect on the ride quality. The steel frame seems the best choice to make the bike ride smoother. I must be honest, I don't like the feel of a carbon fork. To flexy for a guy my size. I'm hoping if I change to a steel frame a nice steel fork will come with it!
Voodoo 853 frame for $299Lon Norder
Apr 3, 2002 2:25 PM