What's better - a more stable bike that has a larger amount of trail, or a 'less' stable bike that has less trail? By stable I mean 'self steering'.
I'm asking because I have two bikes (both 1980's vintage) that are pretty similar in size, except they differ in the amount of trail. I haven't measured it, but the one bike has more of it because that bike tends to steer into a turn much more easily at low speeds (the bars literally 'fall' into the turn if I lean into the turn). As well, the bars flop from side to side if I lean the bike over (standing next to it) far more than the other bike. The high trail bike also has a longer wheelbase by about 1.5 cm, but yet it has shorter chainstays! I can only guess it has a lower head tube angle.
So, I was expecting the 'less stable' bike (the one with the shorter front end, steeper head angle and less fork offset) to be harsher and more difficult to ride, but I think I'm finding the opposite to be true! But I'm not sure if I'm fooling myself because I prefer the color or brand of that particular bike. Is the handling really going against what I 'think' should happen? I even rode them with the same wheels and tires just to get that variable out of the equation.
Any opinions from some of people out there with LOTS of experience riding lots of bikes? My riding is mostly solo riding 20 to 50km distance as I don't have the time for 5 hr rides. Which one should I keep? Which one would be better when I finally do get to do that 5 hour ride?