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Question regarding custom vs. off the rack frame performance(16 posts)

Question regarding custom vs. off the rack frame performanceUSMC LogO
Nov 9, 2002 10:03 AM
I have been in the market for a new bike for several months and have become somewhat bewildered by all the marketing hype. Every manufacturer seems to claim to have the best/lightest frame around, Ti is better than steel, carbon is better than Ti, nauseum.

That being said, I am able to purchase a entry-level Litespeed Ti for essentially the same price as a Seven Cycles custom steel frame with the same componentry.

Ultimately, given the supposed weight penalty of steel and the issue of relatively higher maintenance (rust prevention) my question is whether the custom steel frame will perform as well or better than the off the rack Ti frame and/or is it better/worse value for the money.

What are your opinions?

Semper Fi and Happy Birthday to the Marine Corps and all Marines past and present!

Scott S.
supposed weight penalty of steelgtx
Nov 9, 2002 10:36 AM
LS Tuscany 57 c-t - 3.4 pounds
Steelman SR 853 56 c-c - 3.5 pounds
IF Crown Jewel 853/Nivacrom c-c - 3.57 pounds

For my 7, 12, 14 and 17 year old steel frames rust prevention has just been a squirt of Boeshield (or oil) down the tubes from time to time when I've had the bikes apart. These bikes are all ridden frequently in the rain.

Regarding custom vs. stock, you might not need custom. Most people don't. Are you having problems finding a bike that fits properly? I have one custom frame but it very standard/generic in terms of dimensions--I get a very good fit on my other non-custom frames. Also, you can find top quality custom steel for quite a bit less than Seven. And for custom ti at a great price, check out Dean.

Good luck!
re: Question regarding custom vs. off the rack frame performancesprockets2
Nov 9, 2002 11:49 AM
It sounds like you are asking two questions, one about customs, one about materials. That latter one provokes lots of chat, see the archives!

As the first respondent indicates, customs are great if you need one, but you often are paying a premium that you don't necessarily have to pay. They do give you the ability to custom spec tube length, obviously, but customs are also good for things like if you are a relatively short guy but built like a fireplug and very powerfully, tubes with more robust dimensions can be custom fitted.

There is nothing wrong with off-the-shelf frames though, most of us ride them. Don't be afraid to seek custom if you need it as getting a bike that doesn't fit is a really bad move. You mention Litespeed, and I just wanted to add the comment that they will build custom bikes, too. Although it is popular to enthusiastically (unrealistically so in my experience) support small builders on this forum, there is a lot to be said for a builder like LS who has more total experience with Ti bikes than most smaller builders combined. This is true for any frame material, but somewhat more so with Ti.

As to frame materials, I think that if you have the budget, and are not going to race (where you can legitimately be concerned with every crazy gram of excess weight), the frame material is not as critical to overall bike performance as one would initially suppose, but that choice may be important from a personal point of view.

I think that the general perception that steel bikes tend to be heavier than those of other materials is largely, but not entirely, due to the price point of bikes examined, which dictates the type of steel chosen, parts spec, and so on until the bike IS heavier than other bikes. In other words, if every steel bike you ever heft is an 853 framed beauty, you start to change your mind about steel's weight.

I feel that I have to say that in spite of the frame weights cited by another poster, it is generally true that top steel frames (OX, 853, UltraFoco, EOM 16.5) are just slightly heavier, in actual, real weights than the other frame materials, but my response is SO WHAT. For one thing their ride and handling will be terrific, if well designed, and more importantly, the Rivendell site makes a great case to weight weenies to not worry about the slight differences between steel frames and others because the overall rider/bike weight absolutely dwarfs the very small frame weight differences.

My own continuing love for steel (yes, I'll say it proudly, it is love) is undiminished even with a Ti Litespeed Classic in my stable. The LS is a great bike, even in my size-the largest frame size-it is a good performer. Smaller frame sizes in the Classic are outstanding performers, and the Vortex model in those mid-50 sizes must be ridden to be appreciated-wow. The advantage that Ti brings to the road is a slight weight advantage-usually-and a ride quality that is, frankly, shockingly good, perhaps best described as performance-plush. It is a great material if done well, as LS does. I am saving now to get an LS custom that fits me better given my recent history-back problems.

Having said that, In the meantime I have purchased a Gunnar Roadie steel frame with a carbon fork-everyone seems to be making forks of venerable but beyond-its-time 531 steel or its moral equivalent, and I couldn't abide having a fork on my new bike that is essentially the same as that on my 40 year old Raleigh. I painted the fork the frame color to preserve the classic look of an all-steel frame. The Gunnar, which is below the radar for many steel lovers around here, is built by the Waterford people-you know: Paramounts, Schwinn, Premium Quality steel bikes. The Gunnar is a wonderful bike (built by folks with, again more experience than most smaller builders combined) and the Gunnar gives me more pleasure than even my fine LS Classic. The Gunnar has great handling and a great steel ride,
Gunnar Warningjtlmd
Nov 9, 2002 5:33 PM
Just one warning about Gunnar frames. My MTB frame is not sealed. Gunnar claims that the holes allow water to drain out. In reality, after a wet ride or a washing, the bike drips brown, rusty water out of the drain holes for weeks. I can't imagine the frame lasting a long time this way. My other two premium steel frames, a Fat City Yo Eddy and a Ritchey Road Logic have no such drain holes. The Yo Eddy is 8 years old and going strong. Interestingly, the Gunnar frame goes for about $600-700. The Yo Eddy and Road Logic each ran $1000 for the frame. Probably the difference between a good steel frame and a premium steel frame.
nothing wrong with drain holesgtx
Nov 9, 2002 6:06 PM
I think there are two schools of thought on this one. I've heard that some builders think sealed tubes are actually worse. I have no idea. My Ibis Mojo has a few sealed tubes. But there's no way to seal the seat tube and water is going to get in there no matter what. My Merckx, which sees duty as my rain bike, has a big drain hole in the bb and I have no problems with rust--but then I treat it with Boeshield once per year.
Maybe you didn't get the memo...sprockets2
Nov 10, 2002 11:20 AM
but if you are gonna soak your steel bike down regularly, it is generally accepted that you will treat the tubes with some sort of rustproofing substance. Gunnar even mentions it in their literature. It works. I live in wettest climate in the lower 48 and my steel commuting bikes are in excellent shape.

Drain holes have been a traditional aspect of steel frames for a LONG time, and most of those steel bikes are still chuggin' along. While I would prefer to have my small tubes sealed, it is not a badge of mediocre build quality or questionable parentage.
re:Maybe you didn't get the memo...jtlmd
Nov 10, 2002 5:31 PM
A mountain bike needs and occasional washing to keep it running smoothly. I only stated my experience. Yes, I know all about treating the frame with T9. My two sealed bikes were treated prior to assembly and get retreated when maintenance work is done. Last time I took apart the Yo Eddy the tubes were in good shape on the inside. I can't imagine what is going on inside the Gunnar. If they are going to put the drain holes in then they ought to consider painting the inside of the tubes to protect them. Like I said, it seems to me that my premium bikes don't have drain holes and the cheaper steel bike has them.
I agree bikes with holes should be factory treated nmsprockets2
Nov 10, 2002 8:36 PM
Maybe you didn't get the memo...xcandrew
Nov 10, 2002 11:59 PM
I have also read arguments for both sealed and unsealed tubes. If the small holes are sealed, I assume that they are sealed from the bottom bracket too because most of the water entering a frame comes in from the seat tube/ seatpost interface. If not, beware. I have read(from probably) that bikes stored by hanging from the front wheel never have rust problems because water drains out after every ride.

As for rust prevention, here's a reply from Jobst Brandt:

> If the water went out ther's no problem.
> The problems are when the water stays inside.
> If your frame is recent and from a good brand it has surely an
> anti-rust treatment. If you want, you could pour oil inside the
> frame.

These "rust treatments" are so much snake oil. If you doubt it try
oiling a piece of steel and putting it into a container of water.
Water has a greater affinity for steel than oil so it will find its
way to the metal and cause rust.

As others have said, they have old steel bicycles that have no rust
problem in spite of riding in the rain often. My 15 year old frame is
also witness to this.

Jobst Brandt Palo Alto CA
re: Question regarding custom vs. off the rack frame performancerdbkr
Nov 9, 2002 11:54 AM
There should be very little, if any, weight penalty between well made steel and entry-level ti. As for rust prevention, you can use J.P. Weigle's Frame Saver inside the tubes of the steel frame.

I would suspect the ride quality of the Seven would tip the scales in its favor. Only a test ride would tell for sure. As always, fit and ride are the key factors.
re: my take on steel and rustThirtyFive
Nov 9, 2002 3:03 PM
if it lasts 10 years (which it will unless you park it under water) im happy. if youre worried store the bike by hanging from the front tire. the water will not collect in the bb
Went from Merlin Cyrene Ti to Custom Steel CasatiBNA_Biker
Nov 9, 2002 4:40 PM
Two different bikes, 2 different rides in feel and responsivness. If I could afford only ONE bike, it would be the custom steel. I went from a C'Dale to Merlin to Casati and what the say is so true.....STEEL is REAL. And even better if custom. Needless to say I made the Ti my rain bike. Ride on!
Ditto what other posters have said, I'll take it a step furtherLone Gunman
Nov 9, 2002 4:50 PM
on the finish work and rust. Yes water will damage a steel frame if left in the tubes. Again Boesheild or JP Weigle framesaver will keep the rust out of the tubes. If you do go custom or small frame builder, get the frame powder coated as opposed to wet paint. Tough stuff, don't have to worry much about rust on the outside of the tubes with PC.

And take a look at Sampson if you are looking at Ti.
Nov 9, 2002 5:05 PM
I've got a powdercoated Strong frame that was treated with framesaver. I've put over 13,000 miles on the frame and don't have a single chip or scratch on it. I'm constantly amazed at how well PC holds up. My Torelli is a great bike, but I developed rust at the seat tube/top tube junction after my frame pump made some small chips there. I doubt that will ever be a problem with the Strong.
It's all about fit.Juanmoretime
Nov 10, 2002 5:03 AM
Yes, I love my Litespeed Vortex. Material isn't as important as fit. I don't care what a frame is made out of, if it doesn't fit correctly, you lose. If you fit correctly on a off the rack frame, then a custom will have zero advantage for you. If you have a fit problem then you need to look to a custom. LoL
Match man and machine!cyclequip
Nov 11, 2002 2:35 AM
Forget materials. Little else compares to cycling when it comes to the importance of the fit. The more perfect the fit, the better the performance.