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Performance Differences (Ignorant Question)(7 posts)

Performance Differences (Ignorant Question)Borg
Jun 3, 2002 5:19 AM
In general, what are the performance differences between a steel road bike that costs $600-800 and a steel road bike that costs $1200-1500? Is the more expensive bike typically much lighter, faster, more reliable, and more responsive than a cheaper bike? I will be using the bike for century's and triathlons. Not a serious rider, but would like to get the most performance I can for the $$$. I've been out of biking for several years and need to catch up on price/performance issues with new/used bikes in the $600 - $1500 range.
Steel differences...Cima Coppi
Jun 3, 2002 5:31 AM
When you talk about more expensive steel frames, often you are getting a greatly higher quality tubeset in the build. Expensive steel is often oversized, thin walled, sometimes ovalized (Reynolds 853 for example), and blended with certain percentages of elements to make them lighter and stronger than your basic chromium/molybdenum steel. There are definite performance advantages to having these light steel framesets. Alternatively, like aluminum, thin-walled steel is prone to dents and dings, so more care needs to be taken with such a frame. You can read more about the different steels on these websites:

Good luck

Here's another link Borg.Sintesi
Jun 3, 2002 9:16 AM

My feeling is with more money you generally get lighter weight, better finish and attention to detail. All steel pretty much rides the same, however, certain tubing designs are stiffer (OS or STAR)and a good frame builder can "tune" a frame to emphasize certain characteristics.
My takeNessism
Jun 3, 2002 10:21 AM
It's really hard to judge a bike based on price alone. The frame is really just a component and depending on the total cost, it may or may not be better on a more expensive bike.

For example, some mfgers offer different bike models using the same frame - Trek/Lemond comes to mind. The more expensive model typically uses better components.

So to answer the question, yes, the more expensive model will likely be a nicer bike overall. How much nicer depends on the specific parts involved.

In my opinion, the brand/model of the frame tubing DOES make a difference in the bike overall. Not as much difference as the fork, but a noticable difference none the less.

more $...what you getColnagoFE
Jun 3, 2002 10:32 AM
if you are just starting out with a limited budget it's not as big of a decision. just get one that fits and ride it. if you get serious you start to know how you like a bike to ride for your purposes and specific to your size and weight. once you know that you can get a bike to fit those needs. there is a huge difference between a $500 and a $1000 road bike, but once you pass a certain point the differences are much more subtle. best things to put your $ into are the frame because all components will eventually wear out and you have to replace them anyway.
one more thing ...tarwheel
Jun 3, 2002 12:58 PM
I would add that many of the more expensive steel frames use thin-walled steel that may be more prone to dent and even break than heavier steel frames that may be less expensive. I have seen some beautiful, light (<4 lb.) steel frames with dings and dents that may not have occurred with heavier steel frames. I also have heard that you should not clamp some of the newer steel frames in a bike stand (using the seatpost instead) because the tubing can dent or crush so easily -- something that was not an issue with older steel bikes.

If you are concerned about reliability and longetivity, you can buy some very high quality steel frames in "heavier" tubesets for very reasonable prices. Check out the listings at, models such as Cinelli Supercorsa, Viner, Casati, Pinarello Vuelta, Colnago Classic. These frames may not be super light, but they can be very high quality nonetheless. I ride a Gios Compact Pro that Excelsports sells for $550 w/out fork and $700 with the stock steel fork. It is not the lightest frame around, but not a porker either at about 5.5 lb for the frame and fork. The steel in this frame is very solid and I have no concerns clamping it in my bike stand. The quality of finish and construction is great and would compare favorably with many more expensive frames. The Tommasini Sintesi sold by coloradocyclist is another example of a high quality steel frame available at a reasonable cost.
There are excellent older steel bikesdjg
Jun 4, 2002 1:39 PM
to be had in the $600-800 range. Something like a Guerciotti, Pinarello, or Serotta (the first 2 Italian, the third US) can often be had in excellent condition, with parts in good working order. We're talking about bikes that have a decade or so on them. These likely lack the new STI or Ergo shifting, but the downtube shifters work fine. Also, they'll be a bit heavier, and likely not quite as stiff (smaller diameter tubes generally) than modern steel, but they can roll and handle quite well.

New Steel: Bikes in the 6-800 range will work fine, and will serve your purposes, but may be somewhat heavier than even the older bikes and quite a bit heavier than new steel. Think: maybe 24 lbs for a budget steel road bike and 19-20 for your 1500 dollar price point. My little brother had a cheaper AL Trek before deciding to stick with cycling and trading up a year ago. The bike was heavy. I think most folks get too hung up on minor weight differences, but an extra 5 lbs on the bike is absolutely noticeable. Components: the Sora kit worked, but not all that smoothly. Also, moving up in price will likely get you not just a lighter tubeset but one with some tricks in it to beef up the ride without putting on too much weight or making it harsh. At 1500 bucks you are looking at some pretty nice new steel bike offerings from Lemond, Bianchi, Gunnar and others. You'll get a good frame and decent components too--likely Daytona (Centaur) from Campy and either 105 or Ultegra from Shimano. Better wheels, too. So, yes, a lighter, faster, and even more durable (components) bike than a 6-800 dollar new bike.

Now, a $1500 used steel bike can be pretty prime--I've seen, e.g., newish Serotta Colorado IIIs with Ultegra going in that neighborhood and even a little less. With used, you need to know what you are looking for. If you do (or have a friend who does and is willing to help) you can get something excellent. I've also seen very nice used Ti bikes for under 1500.