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  1. #1
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    Modern-ish Steel frame: What should I look for?

    *** Skip below if you don't want background info ***
    I just upgraded my "race bike" from a mix of 2009-2011 SRAM Force to 2013 (10s) SRAM Red. Looking to build up a "daily trainer" so that I don't have to risk my nice bike when dodging cars on the highway...basically this new frame will build up into a daily trainer.

    I'm currently riding a mid-late 80s KHS John Howard Professional frame. I think it's Tange or Columbus tubing but I can't say for sure. All I know is that it's very flexy and slow compared to my carbon racing frame.

    *** Recommendation info ***
    Should I keep the KHS or look to upgrade to something stiffer that I can race in local crits and other rides where I'm worried about wrecking my nice frame.

    ...Still beating myself up for passing on a 2001 Lemond Maillot Jaune frameset for $240 shipped (only 1000 miles ridden) and thinking that a similar frame would be ideal for my needs.

  2. #2
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    Keep the KHS and race your carbon. That's what carbon is for!...Right?
    Last edited by Zeet; 07-01-2013 at 02:14 PM.
    A chromoly steel bicycle will last just as long as titanium, if kept dry.

  3. #3
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    I'll definitely keep the recommendation in mind...though I'm still looking for a "diamond in the rough" type of upgrade.

    I'm just very interested in the idea of having a nice steel frame and want to know what materials I should be passing on and which I should be keeping an eye open for...that way, when a deal comes along I don't pass on it again.

    Another question I have is how a "classic geometry" fits compared to a compact geometry on a racing frame but I can leave that for another thread on a another day.

  4. #4
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    Real world performance differences between various frame materials are so small, in my opinion, that they're not worth spending money over. Personally, I'd continue to race the KHS until it breaks; I'm one who doesn't believe a stiffer bike makes you measurably faster, despite any flex you may feel. If you're not winning races on your KHS, it's not the bike's fault. For a point of reference, my friend won a training series 2 years in a row riding a steel framed bike. In fact, it was the only steel frame in the field. Granted, it's one data point, but you get my idea.

    So what do you look for in a "modern" steel frame? Most of the modern frames have larger diameter tubes so they'll feel less flexy and perhaps more like your carbon bike. I don't think anyone can tell the difference between brands of tubing so I wouldn't sweat that. Small increases in diameter produce greater increases in frame stiffness than increasing wall thickness, and since there are greater limits to increasing chainstay size due to tire and chainring interference, I'd focus on a frame with larger main tubes. Those diameter limitations also include seat tube diameter, since you'll find most manufacturers still stick with a 28.6mm seat tube to fit a common 27.2mm seat post. So if you're a stickler for gaining the max stiffness, find a frame with an oversize seat tube as well. Soulcraft is one framebuilder that uses a 30.9mm seat tube with a sleeve to fit standard seat posts.

    Some people gravitate toward the new stainless steels. They polish nicely, don't rust, although they will stain from sweat, and are very expensive. Different steels can only be brazed or TIG welded which may be why certain builders work with certain materials. I'd recommend you not worry about the brand and model of steel and let the builder decide.

    There are no performance differences between standard and compact frames. As long as the head tube is the same length, you can put the bars at the same height relative to the seat height. The bike will feel different as you toss it side to side in say, a sprint because the lower top tube will lower the center of gravity. Framebuilder Tom Kellogg explains it well here.

    Since you mention looking for "deals" I have to assume you're not interested in ordering a custom frame. In stock frames that would have greater stiffness, try finding a used Steelman. Brent Steelman used a whopping 34mm downtube on my buddy's frame. The top tube was 28.6mm oversized. As mentioned earlier, Soulcraft is another brand with modern tubing dimensions. Gunnar makes an inexpensive, quality frame with OS tubes.

  5. #5
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    A great frame to use as a low risk but capable racer is a Cannondale CAAD3 or 5 (avoid 7's, they ding/dent extremely easily). They're light, stiff and have a good racing geometry and can be found in great shape for cheap.

    Training on a bike that's more similar in feel (stiffer) to what you'll race is a good idea.
    Côte du Petit Pas d'Ane - Best climb name ever.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter P. View Post
    Real world performance differences between various frame materials are so small, in my opinion, that they're not worth spending money over. Personally, I'd continue to race the KHS until it breaks; I'm one who doesn't believe a stiffer bike makes you measurably faster, despite any flex you may feel. If you're not winning races on your KHS, it's not the bike's fault. For a point of reference, my friend won a training series 2 years in a row riding a steel framed bike. In fact, it was the only steel frame in the field. Granted, it's one data point, but you get my idea.
    This! I've noticed very little to no difference in end of ride times and averages between my steel and carbon rides. Of course, I'm older and slower now than I remember being. Biggest difference I noticed when I went from a SLX frame to a Neuron frame, was the "springier" feeling in the Neuron frame. It just felt better.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by jordo_99 View Post
    *** Recommendation info ***
    Should I keep the KHS or look to upgrade to something stiffer that I can race in local crits and other rides where I'm worried about wrecking my nice frame.

    ...Still beating myself up for passing on a 2001 Lemond Maillot Jaune frameset for $240 shipped (only 1000 miles ridden) and thinking that a similar frame would be ideal for my needs.
    Short answet: Keep the KHS!

  8. #8
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    I'd u go for a new steel frame, I'd recommend holding out for one that uses a 1 1/8" fork. They are 10x more abundant & a lot cheaper than carbon 1" forks. Keep an eye out for low priced gems made from Reynolds 853 such as the khs flite 800 (circa 2000), lemond Zurich, Malliot Juane, Schwinn peleton, jamis eclipse, & many others. Good luck

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