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  1. #1
    Senior Member ecovelo's Avatar
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    Carbon Fork with Steel Frame

    I rarely see a carbon fork on a steel frame and was wondering if there is an obvious reason for this? Is it just that riders who love steel are typically purists or is there an incompatibility issue as well?

    More specifically, I want to know if a carbon fork would do well on a Surly Cross Check or a Bianchi Volpe, for example. And is there really greater "road dampening qualities with carbon over steel?

    I welcome all opinions and experiences.... thanks!

  2. #2
    Pwnerer Wordbiker's Avatar
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    There's no incompatibility issue...other than the norm of 1" vs. 1-1/8" standards, fork offsets, lengths, threaded/threadless and integrated versus pressed headsets.

    One thing I do know: Once the money is spent on carbon, there's lots of justification for the price and mismatch.

    That said, I don't run a carbon fork on a steel frame, but I did swap one for an aluminum and noticed a smoother feel. Aluminum is pretty harsh though. I guess whether you'd notice a signifigant difference would depend on what forks you're comparing rather than just materials in general.
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  3. #3
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    As Wordbiker noted, there is no fundamental incompatibility. As long as the steerer diameter and other dimensions are compatible it works very well. I expect the rarity is only due to tradition as you surmise.

    A couple of years ago I retro-fitted a threadless Kestrel EMS Pro carbon fork to my steel frame Co-Motion to replace it's OEM threaded Al fork. The combination works just fine but there was no dramatic improvement in ride quality.

  4. #4
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    Generally, bikers who want steel frames are philosophically opposed to carbon. Very generally. They would argue that the qualities of a good steel frame make carbon unnecessary.

  5. #5
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    It's also not unusual to see production road racing type bikes/frames, Lemond comes to mind, where a steel frame will have a carbon fork. In this case it's usually cost driven as the manufacturer doesn't want to deal with a separate inventory of steel forks for steel frames only, with carbon forks for the aluminum and carbon frames. This is less likely with manufacturers who only make steel and will then only manufacture a steel fork.

    Steve B.

  6. #6
    Senior Member rdtompki's Avatar
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    Our steel tandem (daVinci) has a CF fork, a really beefy one. Seems good at absorbing road noise, but certain types of chipseal still transmit vibration to the handlebars. The strange thing is my hands will start to go numb in this situation even though I'm very light on the handlebars: something about the frequency.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member ecovelo's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the input. I've seen only a few occasions where someone has replaced a Chro-Mo fork with carbon, and was wondering about the rational. I'm still shopping for a light tourer/commuter/cyclocross bike with a extra-small frame. Whatever I finally choose I will likely upgrade components as there are very few small complete bikes out there that will a.) fit me B.) that I like the looks of and c.) that will serve my riding purposes. Thanks again!

  8. #8
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    A CF fork upgrade on a bike that originaly had a steel fork will do two things

    1) be much lighter
    2) make the ride more comfortable

    This was evident even with a $40 Taiwanese OEM fork.
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  9. #9
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    I swapped a carbon fork (from an older Lightspeed) onto my steel bike (Davidson) a couple years ago when I began to suspect the original steel fork was failing. It was the best thing I ever did for the rie of that bike.

  10. #10
    Fresh Garbage hairnet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rdtompki View Post
    Our steel tandem (daVinci) has a CF fork, a really beefy one. Seems good at absorbing road noise, but certain types of chipseal still transmit vibration to the handlebars. The strange thing is my hands will start to go numb in this situation even though I'm very light on the handlebars: something about the frequency.
    I think I have a similar situation between my steel bike and Al+carbon fork bike. On the Al bike I do get numb hands occasionally, even on my short commute, but my hands are fine on the steel bike. I can really feel every bump on the road with the Al bike while the steel bike seems to take a lot of shock since it rides very smoothly.
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  11. #11
    Senior Member ecovelo's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the input. I think I will test ride more options before considering an "upgrade" on a bike I don't even have yet (cart before the horse is my specialty)! It's fun learning all this stuff!!

  12. #12
    biked well well biked's Avatar
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    An example of steel frame/carbon fork on stock production bikes can be seen in the Jamis line. The models are the Satellite, Quest, and Eclipse (30th anniversary edtion). All very nice bikes at their respective price points.

  13. #13
    Steel Member fiataccompli's Avatar
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    diving into this sorta old thread, can I ask how significant it is to swap from a threaded to threadless? I was thinking of trying a carbon fork on one of my steel frames...really just to see how light it would end up. I guess maybe the actual *weight* difference may be something to measure...but even if the weight is a wash & the ride is not greatly improved, I guess modern stem options and changeability would be nice....hmmm..

  14. #14
    slow as I ever was Ex Pres's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fiataccompli View Post
    diving into this sorta old thread, can I ask how significant it is to swap from a threaded to threadless? I was thinking of trying a carbon fork on one of my steel frames...really just to see how light it would end up. I guess maybe the actual *weight* difference may be something to measure...but even if the weight is a wash & the ride is not greatly improved, I guess modern stem options and changeability would be nice....hmmm..
    No issues at all, as long as you have a threadless headset and stem to go along with the fork. And it can definitely save some weight.
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  15. #15
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    I have a 2003 Fuji Marseille - Reynolds 853 with double butted main tubes. Full carbon fork (Carbon steerer) 853 has been called "the poor mans titanium"

    I think it rides like a dream though I don't have experience with other road bikes. Both of my mountain bikes are aluminum but tire size and suspension makes them impossible to compare.

  16. #16
    Have bike, will travel Barrettscv's Avatar
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    I put a Carbon Fiber Fork on my Soma Double Cross. I'm very happy with the ride quality and do not have brake shudder issues.

    A Carbon Fiber Fork will not always be better than a steel fork in terms of weight or even ride quality. Steel can be light and ride well. Not every Carbon Fiber fork is an improvement over steel. I would avoid heavier low cost Carbon Fiber forks.



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  17. #17
    Steel Member fiataccompli's Avatar
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    In my case, it would probably be a Columbus Matrix lugged steel frame with a 1" steer tube. All said, my hunch is the weight/price/ride quality wouldn't make it all worth it, so maybe my question is still only in the realm of "academic" at the moment.

  18. #18
    Senior Member ecovelo's Avatar
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    Nice bike Barretscv.... I love the SOMA double cross What year did they make the frame that gorgeous gray? I am accustomed the the BR Green and Black. Do you use the bike for commuting/touring?

    I'm jealous...

    Thanks for all the feeback everyone!

  19. #19
    Senior Member billallbritten's Avatar
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    My Bianchi Veloce came with a carbon fork. Jamis' steel frames do as well. Works fine for me.


    Quote Originally Posted by ecovelo View Post
    I rarely see a carbon fork on a steel frame and was wondering if there is an obvious reason for this? Is it just that riders who love steel are typically purists or is there an incompatibility issue as well?

    More specifically, I want to know if a carbon fork would do well on a Surly Cross Check or a Bianchi Volpe, for example. And is there really greater "road dampening qualities with carbon over steel?

    I welcome all opinions and experiences.... thanks!
    His: Trek 7500FX
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  20. #20
    cyclonaut spin4130's Avatar
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    I am also currently considering a carbon/steel steed. I got rid of a Salsa La Raza steel bike with carbon salsa fork. It had such a fantastic ride quality. Only reason I sold it was an injury that made me change to a smaller frame size. I have a Pogliaghi and a Bridgestone both from the 80's with steel frames and forks now. The B'stone is a speedy commuter and I will keep the steel fork, but with the Pogliaghi im considering a threadless conversion with a carbon fork. I've noticed some front brake chatter out of it and the LBS suggested the cromo was just too springy for my taste. My reason for going to carbon is for stiffer breaking and diversity of modern threadless systems. The LaRaza was easily one of my favorite rides, and it would be great to bring a little more of its lively feel to the Pogliaghi.

  21. #21
    Senior Member vredstein's Avatar
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    I think there was a crossing of paths. Carbon forks were becoming standard on production road bikes at the same time production steel road bikes began to disappear.
    That said, I've had four steel bikes with carbon forks. I loved the ride of my Torelli steel bike, and the switch to a carbon fork seemed like a good cost/weigh loss ratio. I now buy used steel frames and then outfit them with carbon forks myself. Except for a NOS Fuji Roubaix Pro 853 steel frame that came with a King headset an uncut Kestrel EMS Ti carbon fork for under $300 off Ebay.
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  22. #22
    Senior Member Legnano47's Avatar
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    '83 Specialissima

    Did help smooth out the ride a bit.
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  23. #23
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    cf fork is the best upgrade done to my bike (and no, not for cosmetic reasons)

    i won't deny it i'm a straight ridah

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by ecovelo View Post
    Thanks for all the input. I think I will test ride more options before considering an "upgrade" on a bike I don't even have yet (cart before the horse is my specialty)! It's fun learning all this stuff!!
    Be sure to look at the Specialized Cross bikes. They have clearence for fenders and mounts for racks front and rear. The fork is carbon if that's what you want.
    I garaged my bike (had in on the roof rack and drove in) and destroyed the fork. Until I could have it rebuilt I bought a cheap one from Nashbar. I couldn't tell much difference between the two. When you ride if you look at your front axle you will see the fork flexing because of bumps in the road. They all will flex. Al. forks are too soft for my liking.

  25. #25
    Senior Member ecovelo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidad View Post
    Be sure to look at the Specialized Cross bikes. They have clearence for fenders and mounts for racks front and rear. The fork is carbon if that's what you want.
    The Specialized Tri-Cross bikes are nice... and I was gonna say, they don't make one small enough for me; but I just looked at their 2010 line... and they now make a 45cm!! It even has a 4 position adjustable stem (the Comp anyway).

    Well... since my original post I found a 44cm 2006 Bianchi Castro Valley and I absolutely love it! Had to make the cockpit a bit longer and get used to the trail (had a carbon road bike that was just too fast for my style riding as of late), but I just love it. Even got used to the "Gang-Green" color.

    So few companies make small cross/touring type frames - Bianchi, Trek for a few yrs in the mid 2000's, SOMA and Surly... I'm glad to see Specialized joining in on accommodating us shorter legged riders!
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