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Which steel bike to choose?(25 posts)

Which steel bike to choose?rengaracchi
May 3, 2002 7:10 PM
A while ago, I posted a thread about choosing a new bike, and I got a reply that suggested that I should give a serious consideration to steel bikes. The reply turned out to be true and important: I realized the recent emergence of steel bikes is real, and steel now competes head-to-head with titanium, aluminum and carbon thanks to the availability of new types of steel based alloy and the designing improvements of the manufacturers. After many hours of study, I narrowed my choices down to the following three alternatives: Pinarello/Opera, Cervelo/Renaissance, and Independent Fabrication/Crown Jewel. They come out to be roughly the same in price, and they all seem to enjoy very positive reviews in the board. I think I could be extremely satisfied with any one of the three, but do you have any strong point (either positive or negative) about them? I basically ride hilly mountainside of Japan and am considering doing a long distance tour this year. Thank you very much.
re: Which steel bike to choose?rwbadley
May 3, 2002 8:43 PM
Of the three I sure like the look of the Pinarello Opera. One other bike you may look into is the Serotta. Excellent riding, very nice frame.
re: Which steel bike to choose?rengaracchi
May 4, 2002 2:58 AM

Thanks for your input. Yes, Opera looks beautiful, and that was the first reason why I felt attached to the bike. I haven't thought of Serotta, though. I will look into it. What is their biggest selling point?

re: Which steel bike to choose?rwbadley
May 4, 2002 11:57 AM
Serotta build quality is very high.
If you have a local framebuilder of high quality, I would encourage you to support his effort!
re: Which steel bike to choose?DKF
May 4, 2002 2:26 PM
2nd, 3rd, and 4th Serotta. No one can touch their quality, attention to detail, fit system and customer service (except Andy, sorry, not your calling). Working in a Pro shop I see a LOT of high end frames and nothing even comes close to the awe of examining a Serotta fresh from the box.
re: Which steel bike to choose?cycleguy
May 3, 2002 9:11 PM
"I realized the recent emergence of steel bikes is real, and steel now competes head-to-head with titanium, aluminum and carbon thanks to the availability of new types of steel based alloy and the designing improvements of the manufacturers."

Not be be a smart ass, but that will be news to those who have been making and or riding bikes made from steel for over a hundred years. :)
May 3, 2002 9:53 PM
I know that Cervelo takes 3 to 6 months to arrive if you're living in Japan. And I think it's last year's stock at this years prices, but don't quote me. I love the Cervelo bikes and was thinking about the Soloist or Rennisance but the waiting time was just too long.

I recently rode a bike from a custom frame builder based in Japan. It was a steel bike, light (Even with training wheels) stiff in the bottom braket but was sooo smooth on the road. I'm going to have a frame built for my needs ASAP. The frame builders name is Nakagawa, I highly recommend you check him out. I don't have any contact details but your local bike shop should be able to help you out.

By the way, which tour are you going to do? I'm in Ishikawa and am going to do the Tour de Noto in September.
May 4, 2002 12:16 AM
Dear Hayaku,

The Tour de Noto IS the one I am considering participating!! Also, you live right next to me since I live in Toyama. It's great to know that someone who loves biking lives so close.

I didn't know that it takes that long for a Cervelo to come to Japan. That's a pain (thus your name, I figure). I've been having a lot of troubles getting an Opera. I haven't checked with IF, but these bikes are surely hard to get hold on to. I learned a lesson that timing is very crucial.

The bike builder, Nakagawa, you mentioned sounds great. I will check with my lbs. If they can build a good bike for me, I will consider asking for one. Thanks a lot for your input.
May 4, 2002 5:41 AM
I checked with my bike shop today, as I said I too am interested in a frame from Nakagawa. There are a couple of difficulties there too however.

Nakagawa san is considered one of the best frame builders in Japan, his frames are ussually around 150,000yen (That's amazing compared to any quality mass produced frame) and he takes great care to fit a frame specifically for you.

That's all good but today I found out that he lives in Osaka, he comes back to Ishikawa for the Obon festival in august, otherwise I assume you have to go to Osaka to be fitted. After you've been measured and ordered the frame it takes about 4 months to get back...

I can't stand the thought of waiting 4 months for a bike frame but I'm going to have to tough it out. After what I've seen and heard, it'll be worth it.

my email address is I'll have a look for Nakagawa's contact details and get back to you.

and I know how you feel about finding someone in your area!

sorede wa, Ma-ku
re: Which steel bike to choose?Woof the dog
May 4, 2002 12:48 AM
IF, just get it in a nice color and with a carbon fork please.


Woof the "what if" dog.
re: Which steel bike to choose?rengaracchi
May 4, 2002 2:54 AM
Woof the dog,

I love the corporate philosophy of IF, and it would be cool to own their bike just for that reason. I was told from MeTech, the Japanese distributor of IF bikes, however, that Reynolds Ouzo Pro fork doesn't mach their frame correctly. It was hard to believe since, as immaculate as they are at IF, they wouldn't have chosen such a fork at the first place. Did you feel anything like this? Do you think that the people at MeTech felt that because they didn't get the correct offset of the fork to their frame? I really wonder. If you have any idea on this, please explain it to me. I will appreciate it greatly.

can we get some help over here?Woof the dog
May 4, 2002 11:06 AM
its a good question but I am not a techie, I am just a dog, so my guess would be either of the two:
1. Fork rake - you can get all kinds of forks with all kinds of rakes
2. Aesthetics? - i am sure these come with steel forks, some say carbon forks don't look good on steel frames.???

it never hurts to just send them a question. See
can we get some help over here?gtx
May 4, 2002 2:05 PM
it's just a question of rake. Read more here
re: Which steel bike to choose?RadicalRonPruitt
May 4, 2002 4:02 AM
KHS Flites are a good bargain.
re: Which steel bike to choose?rengaracchi
May 4, 2002 7:27 AM

Great. I will do research on KHS. My bike shopping ordeal is getting really complicated, much more so than what I anticipated, and I am almost up to the point of saying "Just give me anything!" I am half serious. It is almost impossible to get the Pinarello with my size. The Cervelo is just as hard to get here in Japan, or even if you can, it costs a lot more than what they say it costs in the States. Finally, the IF is no easier than Pinarello or Cervelo to get. I don't know what to do at this point.
re: Which steel bike to choose?gtx
May 4, 2002 8:35 AM
from your list I'd personally go with IF, and the Reynolds fork is matched--it's just a question of the right rake. There is info on their web site about this under the ti Crown Jewel. But again I think I'd take their steel fork, which is very nice. For another great American builder check out Steelman:

I'd also look at options in Japan. What's the latest on 3Rensho? These bikes used to be quite popular in the US in the 80s. Also, Ritchey has his road frame built in Japan--I believe he uses the same people Rivendell uses for their production frames. You might want to look into that. Have fun shopping!
May 4, 2002 8:44 AM
Now I remember--Yoshi Konno was badly injured in a car crash. Very sad.
May 4, 2002 3:46 PM

It was unfortunate that the accident occurred. I give my condolence to the people who lost their lives in it. I also hope that Mr. Konno recovers and starts building his bikes again.

I've never heard of 3Rensho bikes before, but they are beautiful looking machines. I understand that Mr. Makino took over the brand and continues its legend. Wonderful. What a story.
I have both the OPERA and a 3RenshoOperaLover
May 4, 2002 10:59 AM
Since you are in Japan, I woud reccomend without hesitation the 3Rensho or the builder's own frame under his name of Makino. I lived in Japan from 86-88 and and rode the with the 3Rensho Asaren Club (Morning Practice) every Sunday while I was there. Makino (the builder) brazes a beautiful lugged frame and I am sure that they have updated it from when I bought mine. I still have my 3Rensho Katana and would not sell it for anything. Extremely stable and stiff it is a wonderful bike wtih beautiful, fully chromed, lost wax 3-point lugs, and fork crown (hand filed), and the beefiest lugs you will ever see. With tubulars it was a hair under 21 lbs. with 7400 Dura Ace. The shop is in Chiba and the service was and probably still is great, if you buy the top of the line I think there is no upcharge for custom geometry. This frame has plenty of heritage with world championships and Keirin wins to its credit. I recently posted on the retro page board and would love to hear from others who own this bike. E-mail me for more info.

The Opera, which I bought for my 40th birthday, is also incredible. I can understand the difficulty in getting one. Steel is real and steel with carbon is UNREAL! Probably the nicest steel bike I have ever ridden. The geometry is dialed and the bike handles beautifully with Neutrons and Record 10.

As many here have posted, fit is the most important so find a shop that can do that for you. In Japan, the pro shops are there, but you need to seek them out. You will always pay more for an imported frame based on the Japanese import and tariif structure, so buy local! The other brand I would reccomend is the Nagasawa.

I have both the OPERA and a 3Renshorengaracchi
May 4, 2002 4:52 PM
OK, so you like your Opera very much. Actually, there is a bike shop in Osaka that has an Opera in silver, the color I want. The problem I have is the frame size; theirs is 50 c-c. My size is 54 c-t. They told me to add 2.5 to 3cm to convert c-c to c-t, but even after the calculation, the size is a bit too small for me. The next frame thay have is 54 c-c, which is obviously too big. Do you think this matters? If it doesn't matter that much, I will go for the frame. Considering how difficult to get hold on a Pinarello, I don't have luxury of time and choice.

Several people commented on 3Rensho bikes. It's great that you have built close ties with them while you were here. You probably met them during their pinnacle years. That's envious.
I have both the OPERA and a 3Renshorwbadley
May 4, 2002 10:38 PM
That Opera may be a perfect fit.

>You really need to determine if the top tube length will work for you.<

50 c-c seat tube on that frame should be very close to 53 c-t. Remember the tubing is large diameter. By the time you get c-t you are nearly there, and the proof will be if you can get the length right for you using a 10-12cm stem.
I would definitely take another look.

Bike fit is most important, be objective, take measurements,
If you can get on the bike, and have an experienced third party evaluate your position, so much the better!
Good luck!
I have both the OPERA and a 3Renshorengaracchi
May 5, 2002 5:58 AM

Thanks for your advice.

>You really need to determine if the top tube length will work for you.<

I see your point very well now. I felt that my old Cannondale has a top tube that is slightly longer than what fits me the most. I think you are right that the Opera coulb be a perfect fit for me. If that is the case, my problem is solved. The biggest obstacle I have is that I cannot test ride any one of the frames that I consider purchasing. This is a very difficult situation.
I have both the OPERA and a 3Renshotmguy
May 6, 2002 7:06 AM
Pinarello OPERA is sized very strangely. I have a 54, but c-c it is actually 53. C-t where top tube intersects with seat tube it was 54.5. The only way I could confirm the size was based on the tt length. My dealer, gvhbikes, confirmed this. So, the 50 c-c might just work for you. Too bad they won't build it up for you to ride.

I did not realize you were in or near Osaka. That makes a trip to Tokyo and 3Rensho in Chiba a bit problematic. Another shop I can reccomend, also in Tokyo, is Cycles Yokoo in Ueno (if you are ever there). Bought a custom from him in '83. Might not still be in business, but his bikes were beautiful and elegant.

Good luck, I understand your frustration. I tried to get a nice bike when I was there as a student in '83 and it took me 3 months just to fine a nice shop.

OperaLover a.k.a. tmguy
re: Which steel bike to choose?Cliplessjoe
May 5, 2002 7:14 AM
I just picked up my Crown Jewel a couple of days ago, and got a short ride in yesterday. IF does beautiful work, and the fit I got through my dealer is just about perfect. If there's no dealer in Japan who works with IF, I'm sure you can communicate with them directly, via email or phone; they are very professional and eager to please.

I can't say a lot about the ride, since the bike is still new to me, except that it is smooth, fast and incredibly accurate in its steering. You just think about where you want to go and you go there. And the bike is light -- as light as many titanium frames. I found myself in the big ring at times when I would have been in the middle ring on my Bianchi Eros.

Whatever you choose, enjoy the search.

re: Which steel bike to choose?rengaracchi
May 5, 2002 5:16 PM
That you found Crown Jewel as light as titanium is very encouraging. I heard that people at IF are meticulous about perfecting details, and I think that is what you felt. Congratulations!