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new road bike(6 posts)

new road bikebmb
Jan 20, 2003 10:02 AM
I'm a 35 y/o ex-racer who wants to buy a new bike. My current bike is an 11 year old Lemond SLX frame. I ride in a hilly (not mountanous) part of Maryland and hang with the fast training rides. I'm ~165 lbs and 5'8". I'm trying to decide between carbon and Ti. I'm considering litespeed/trek/lemond. Any thoughts on carbon vs Ti, ride comfort, frame durability, price vs value. Also, any better manufacturers I should consider?

Brian in MD
Cant go wrong with a Merak w/Record 10 and a nice Cartier.(nm)onespeed
Jan 20, 2003 10:09 AM
Carbon vs. Tibsdc
Jan 20, 2003 10:17 AM
Ride comfort: I would think they'd be about the same.
Frame durablity: Titanium.
Price: They'll both be expensive.
Value: Your 11 year old Lemond SLX frame.
re: new road bikeCaseysdad
Jan 20, 2003 11:51 AM
I'm in a similar decision-making position and am attempting to research these issues thoroughly myself. I can't yet speak from personal experience with each of these materials/makers, but the conventional wisdom that I've gathered from this board and lots of conversations with the "experts" at some lbs's in my area is as follows. Naturally, opinions on each of these points will vary significantly from person to person.

Carbon: Potentially very light. Generally very rigid. Potentially very expensive. Tends to have a more "neutral" (some say "dead") feeling, as much of the road vibration is absorbed. Definitely one of the more distinctive-feeling materials. Some love it, some hate it, few are in between. Although many people claim to have carbon frames that easily last as long as those of other materials, others have reservations about its durability. In general, carbon seems to be fine as long as it's undamaged, but once the integrity of the fiber is compromised in any way, it can have a nasty tendency toward catastrophic failure. I'm not up to speed on specific carbon frames, so I'll leave recommendations to those who are better informed.

Ti: The general perception is that ti can provide a very comfortable ride, offering some of the vibration-dampening qualities of carbon (but to a lesser degree), plus some of the more attractive qualities of a good steel frame. On the down side, it has a reputation for being a bit flexy. The general trend is for ti to be more popular among people who ride tours/distances and appreciate its comfort than among hard-core racers who object to its potential flexiness because of efficiency concerns. However, as with any frame, how it will perform is going to be determined to a great extent by the frame's geometry and type of tubing. A good ti bike can be just as rigid as a poorly designed ti bike can be noodly. It's all in the build. Weight, stiffness, comfort, durability - it's all a matter of deciding what your priorities are and finding the frame that offers the right combination for you. In terms of ti's value, a good ti frame can be expensive. However, many will argue that a well-built ti frame will last a lifetime - and probably the lifetime of your kids - making it an exceptional value in the long run.

Some of the major manufacturers of ti bikes include (in no particular order) Merlin, Serotta, Seven, Litespeed, Merckx, Dean, Spectrum, Airborne, plus anything custom-built by one of the ti "masters" like Tom Kellog. These frame builders/welders tend to migrate from one company to another, so lots of people recommend bikes built by an individual, as opposed to a given company.

Of course,the decision is futher complicated by the option of mixing materials. There are a number of frames on the market that mix carbon and ti. In many cases, this translates to a ti frame with carbon seat stays. (Steel and aluminum frames with carabon stays are also increasingly common.) There are many opinions regarding whether this is a meaningful step forward in bike design or simply a passing fad created to sell more bikes to people who already have bikes. You'll have to make up your own mind. For an interesting diversion, check out the Merlin Cielo. It's a beautiful lugged frame that mixes carbon and ti in a very artistic way. Again, lots of debate as to whether it's a bike whose ride can justify its price tag or if it's just something pretty to hang on your wall and adminre. Interesting conversation piece at the very least.

Lastly, I recently had the owner of my lbs tell me, "Lots of people come in here wanting a ti frame. Most of them leave with a steel frame with carbon seat stays." He claims they can be stiffer, more comfortable and last forever. Don't know if that's true, but it's something to think about. Bottom line, go ride as many different frames of as many different materials as you can, then pick whatever works best for you. Try not to get too caught up in what the
re: new road bikebmb
Jan 20, 2003 6:20 PM
thanks for your thoughts. I'm concerned that the Carbon/Metal junction in the mixed frames will fail. Any justification, or just retro-grouch worries?????

I think the Cielo is beautiful to look at, and definitely well beyond any amount of money that I'm willing to spend on a bike. There are 2 good LBS's which stock LS/Lemond/Trek. For something else I'll have to order from the catalogs. I'm going to try really hard to by locally, its just the right thing to do (when possible)

Brian
re: new road bikeCaseysdad
Jan 21, 2003 1:46 PM
I don't have any empirical data regarding carbon/metal bonding, but I have to admit that I'm pretty skeptical myself. I've seen some comments suggesting that carbon/ti bonding should be slightly more reliable than some of the other combos - something to do with the properties of both materials and how they react to the bonding processes commonly employed. I think that reliability depends in part on where the carbon component is located. I'd be slightly less nervous about introducing a carbon seat stay into a frame than I would about other possible locations. Of course, that would knock the Cielo out of the running right off the bat, wouldn't it?

Personally, it would take a LOT of convincing from someone that I trusted a whole lot to get me to purchase a mixed-material frame. Particularly given that there are a lot of authoritative sources that recommend against them. (See Tom Kellogg's comments at http://www.spectrum-cycles.com/62.htm.) However, there are obviously a lot of people who have taken the plunge and have no regrets about having done so.

I definitely understand your desire to do business with your LBS and I try to adhere to the same principle myself whenever possible. However, when it comes to something as substantial as a frame purchase, I think you owe it to yourself to get the frame that's best suited for you regardless of where you purchase it. I'd make it a point to ride as many different types of frames from as many different makers as possible. If it turns out that the frame you like best is one that your LBS sells, that's great. However, is it really worth it to commit yourself to years of riding a bike that's only 75% "right" for you just because it's all that your LBS sold if you have options that give you access to a bike that would be 99% "right" for the same investment?