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  1. #1
    Senior Member Clyde1820's Avatar
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    Steel frame for hybrid/commuting build -- recommendations?

    My question is: what decent steel frames would you recommend I look for on the used market, for this sort of build? (see below)


    Am just not familiar with all the little "gem" frames out there that might suit, from over the last 35yrs or so. Presume the frame is available in the right size, and presume I can find one. Prefer a great steel, fairly bomb-proof build quality.

    Have been getting back into the cycling arena again, over the past few months. Much has changed, with materials and quality, since I last looked.

    Am considering finding a great steel frame on the used market, for building up a decent commuter bike. Can be a hybrid/MTB style. Would prefer with a shorter-travel suspension fork, though a get steel or carbon fork will work. Possibly a mixte road frame. Prefer a somewhat more upright flat-bar road/hybrid type posture, edging away from the more straight-up posture "comfort" bikes have. Prefer to end up as a 2x10spd or possibly 8-11spd IGH, though have no troubles starting with a more-standard double or triple road or MTB component group to get it rolling.

    Have standover height issues, with 28" max. Have somewhat shorter legs, with decent reach (~23-24" ETT, <28" standover). Prefer a longer wheelbase (>43"), but not vital. Prefer <28 lbs overall, with a light rear rack and full fenders; so, not a superlight but definitely on the lighter side. Am not familiar with the many suitable frames that are out there in the past 30yrs or so.

    Examples of the sort of bike I'm looking to end up with, of the contemporary offerings: what Surley does on their Ogre and Troll "touring", or even their Krampus and Karate Monkey bikes; Soma Saga, perhaps, if only it had a step-thru standover height; possibly even bikes of this sort, CorraTec Shape Urban One. The Cannondale Bad Boy Ultra also grabs me, but it's just too darned big/tall. These concepts, but in a step-thru, step-over, mixte or otherwise lowered TT arrangement to the frame. However, most of these modern variants are simply too tall for me, let alone being more expensive than I want to go. I'd adjust the stem, bars, seat and post accordingly, of course. I'd get it rolling, then add the "right" components after. I just need a great starting point.

    Many thanks for the assist.
    Last edited by Clyde1820; 06-28-14 at 11:12 AM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member due ruote's Avatar
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    I would consider an older steel hybrid frame, eg. a Bridgestone, Specialized, Trek, Schwinn. I have a Trek 720 Multitrack errand bike that's a great rider. I have it set up with flat bars, 1 x 6 drivetrain (I'm in the flatlands), racks and a front basket. The possibilities are endless with these bikes and they come up frequently on CL for not a lot of money. Put a decent wheelset on them and they will surprise you.

  3. #3
    自転車整備士 oldskoolwrench's Avatar
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    Clyde,

    As dueroute said, there are a plethora of older bikes that would fit the bill quite nicely, depending on your personal preferences. If you're leaning towards a Hybrid, I would personally lean towards bikes like the Specialized Crossroads, Miyata Triple Cross, or the Trek Multi Track 730. All three of these were good, solid Hybrids that were equipped with serviceable components, and came in smaller frame sizes that would accommodate your build nicely. They also have the handlebar set up you desire, with flat bars and relatively upright riding position.

    As far as MTB's go, There's nothing better than a late 80's or early 90's Rockhopper or Stumpjumper as a commuter. There are creampuffs out there, and there are ones that have been ridden into the ground... but they're plentiful, and relatively cheap. Pay close attention to the suspension; many of the older forks don't have a good spare parts pipeline, and the fork could be shot, so look for one with a rigid fork instead.

    Save the 2 x 10 and IGH drive trains for a future project; the high tech nature attracts more attention to your bike as a target, which is exactly the opposite of what a commuter bike should portray.
    (Just my personal opinion.)
    Last edited by oldskoolwrench; 06-28-14 at 12:32 PM.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Velocivixen's Avatar
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    Specialized made some nice mountain bikes. Stump jumper top of the line, then Rock Hopper, then Hardrock. Late '80's-early '90's esp. Rock Hoppers & Hardrocks are on craigslist in my town all the time. Often in smaller sizes. I bought a 1992 Hardrock Ultra, upgraded the components with era specific. It fits me well & rides like a dream.

    IMG_3160.jpg

  5. #5
    Still learning oddjob2's Avatar
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    Fuggedaboutit as far as front suspension forks. Heavy and many are unrepairable. I'd also stick to MTBs, given your SOH requirement. They look proportional in the smaller sizes, where the short seat tube hybrids look kinda funky. You'd probably want a 15-17" frame.


    Run 1.5-1.75 wide road slicks on a MTB and you will have a nice road bike with a longer wheelbase. Bianchi Grizzlies run long chainstays and the Marins do as well. But the recommendations above for Specialized and Trek are fine too.

    If you can act quickly when a new bike is posted on craigslist, you can find candidates for $25. Otherwise, be prepared to shell out $50-$150 for a decent complete MTB. I recently bought this minty PDG Series 50 for $40. Frame is small but the parts are great, and the chainstay is designed to look bent.



    Lots of ideas in this thread.
    Show Your Vintage MTB Drop Bar Conversions

    Here is my converted Miyata Terra Runner. I call it a poor man's LHT, as it cost me about 1/10th of a new Surly. I find I ride just as fast on the 26 tires as I do on my 27" and 700c upright bikes.

    Last edited by oddjob2; 06-28-14 at 01:09 PM.
    Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. Albert Einstein
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  6. #6
    Senior Member miamijim's Avatar
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    Clyde I have a Paramount PDG70 that will work well for you and I have a LOOK Mi90 mtb frameset that would work well.
    WWW.CYCLESPEUGEOT.COM 1984 Schwinn Paramount; 1987 Schwinn Paramount; 1975 Tom Ritchey, 198X Vitus

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    I have a Trek 720 Multitrack and it is an awesome bike for running errands and or commuting.

  8. #8
    Disco Infiltrator Darth Lefty's Avatar
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    One thing I learned from this forum is that mountain bikes can vary a lot in their posture. At the low end of the lineup it's quite neutral but at the higher end it's probably racy unless you get a touring bike. The racy ones look very long in the cockpit.

    Also I've learned that nice suspension forks and nice steel frames pretty rarely go together. Suspension forks appear about the same time as aluminum and they move down the lineup through the 90's together. So in 1993 there are nice dedicated steel downhill bikes with suspension forks, and aluminum cross-country bikes without; by 2000 the low end bikes are getting suspension forks and aluminum frames. There are exceptions, to this day, but they are mostly from the smaller companies and will be harder to find and more expensive on your local Craigslist than the late-80's early-90's mountain bikes.

    Finally, I've learned that it's easier to start with the bike you want and tweak it, than it is to turn your bike into something it isn't. I have a (2001, aluminum, suspension fork) Hardrock with slick tires and the only real troubles I've had are that it seems very draggy, and it's geared too low for the street. This bike is worth maybe $150 or maybe not, so putting money into a new fork or disk brakes or what-have-you is sort of pointless. $40 for the Acera trekking crankset is kind of a splurge, only justified by the un-detachable worn-out granny ring on the original crank.
    Last edited by Darth Lefty; 06-28-14 at 04:09 PM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Clyde1820's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
    Finally, I've learned that it's easier to start with the bike you want and tweak it, than it is to turn your bike into something it isn't.
    Exactly why I'm considering the many decent early frames out there.

    Much prefer how a good steel feels. Though I prefer a suspended fork, I can do with a great steel one. I like what Soma, Surley, Rikulau, Rivendell and a few others do with steel. I appreciate that in the 'value' end of the spectrum that Trek, Bianchi and a handful of others have crafted some great steel frames in this category. I'm just unaware of what most of them are. (Learning curve.) I just also like how responsive a fairly light bike can be. Which brings me to light and strong, quality steel frames.



    Many thanks, everyone. Keep the ideas coming, on what "gem" frames are out there that I should consider.

  10. #10
    spondylitis.org kunsunoke's Avatar
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    For general-purpose commuting an older mountain bike with slick tires and drops is probably what you'd want.

    Recommend you look at the late 80s-mid 90s era bikes, as these seem to be well-positioned price-wise right now. Suspension forks are to be avoided (too heavy; too spongy) unless you can ensure you're getting something decent (Rock Shox Mag 20/21).

    If you get lucky you should be able to find something quite good for under three hundred bucks.

    Best ones available in 26":
    - Specialized Stumpjumper
    - Bridgestone MB-1, MB-2, MB-3; XO-1. MB-4 - MB-6 should be just fine if you're desperate and the price is right.
    - Trek 950; 970; 990
    - Paramount PDG 30; 50; 70; 90
    - Bianchi Grizzly; Peregrine; Osprey (particularly in Celeste)

    Avoid anything with elevated chainstays, chainstay-mounted U-brakes or non-standard headsets (such as Fisher mountainbikes).

  11. #11
    Senior Member Clyde1820's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by miamijim View Post
    I have a Paramount PDG70 that will work well for you and I have a LOOK Mi90 mtb frameset that would work well.
    Do you mean these, the 1991-94 examples from Schwinn's Paramount Design Group: click? Schwinn's Paramount catalog info: click.


    Interesting looking frames ...

    1991 Schwinn Paramount (PDG) Series 90, 70 or 50 MTB frameset -- SuperLite Oversize PDG G-force butted CrMo steel frame; CrMo steel rigid fork; Shimano Deore LX DX and XT; 27 lbs Series 50, 26.8 lbs Series 70, 26.4 lbs Series 90.

    1992 Schwinn Paramount (PDG) Series 90, 70, 50 or 40 MTB frameset -- Tange Prestige butted CrMo steel, except Tange base CrMo steel in the 40 series; Shimano LX DX or XT in 40-70, with Suntour XC Pro in 90. Shimano Deore and Diacomp 987 brakes.

    1993 Schwinn Paramount (PDG) R80 MTB frameset -- Tange Prestige CrMo steel; Paioli suspension fork; Shimano Deore XT components.

    As with any frames, standover height max would be vital for me.

  12. #12
    Senior Member miamijim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clyde1820 View Post
    . Which brings me to light and strong, quality steel frames...... what "gem" frames are out there that I should consider.
    Look for a frame constructed with Tange Prestige or Ritchey Logic tubing. That's as light as you'll get in a steel frame.
    WWW.CYCLESPEUGEOT.COM 1984 Schwinn Paramount; 1987 Schwinn Paramount; 1975 Tom Ritchey, 198X Vitus

  13. #13
    Still learning oddjob2's Avatar
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    How tall are you and where are you located?
    Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. Albert Einstein
    2015 Additions: 2001 Eddy Merckx AX Titanium, 1981 Peugeot PKN10, 1987 Centurion Ironman Expert, Raleigh Super Course MKII

  14. #14
    Senior Member bikemig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clyde1820 View Post
    Exactly why I'm considering the many decent early frames out there.

    . . . Which brings me to light and strong, quality steel frames.



    Many thanks, everyone. Keep the ideas coming, on what "gem" frames are out there that I should consider.
    I wouldn't lose any sleep over finding the lightest steel vintage bike I can get my hands on. A good bike is--ahem--hard to find, . If you find a great bike with tange prestige or similar tubing great. Otherwise, just get something good with chrome moly preferably double butted tubing. If you hold out for the "perfect" steel frame on the used market, you will miss out on a lot of really great bikes.

  15. #15
    Senior Member bikemig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clyde1820 View Post
    Exactly why I'm considering the many decent early frames out there.

    . . . Which brings me to light and strong, quality steel frames.



    Many thanks, everyone. Keep the ideas coming, on what "gem" frames are out there that I should consider.
    I wouldn't lose any sleep over finding the lightest steel vintage bike I can get my hands on. A good bike is--ahem--hard to find, . If you find a great bike with tange prestige or similar tubing great. Otherwise, just get something good with chrome moly preferably double butted tubing. If you hold out for the "perfect" steel frame on the used market, you will miss out on a lot of really great bikes.

    This is my steel commuter for example. It is not the lightest bike you will find but it is a 1989 stumpjumper comp made out of quality double butted tange tubing set. I found it 2d hand on CL:

    IMG_0065.jpg

  16. #16
    Senior Member neo_pop_71's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clyde1820 View Post
    My question is: what decent steel frames would you recommend I look for on the used market, for this sort of build? (see below)


    Am just not familiar with all the little "gem" frames out there that might suit, from over the last 35yrs or so. Presume the frame is available in the right size, and presume I can find one. Prefer a great steel, fairly bomb-proof build quality.

    Have been getting back into the cycling arena again, over the past few months. Much has changed, with materials and quality, since I last looked.

    Am considering finding a great steel frame on the used market, for building up a decent commuter bike. Can be a hybrid/MTB style. Would prefer with a shorter-travel suspension fork, though a get steel or carbon fork will work. Possibly a mixte road frame. Prefer a somewhat more upright flat-bar road/hybrid type posture, edging away from the more straight-up posture "comfort" bikes have. Prefer to end up as a 2x10spd or possibly 8-11spd IGH, though have no troubles starting with a more-standard double or triple road or MTB component group to get it rolling.

    Have standover height issues, with 28" max. Have somewhat shorter legs, with decent reach (~23-24" ETT, <28" standover). Prefer a longer wheelbase (>43"), but not vital. Prefer <28 lbs overall, with a light rear rack and full fenders; so, not a superlight but definitely on the lighter side. Am not familiar with the many suitable frames that are out there in the past 30yrs or so.

    Examples of the sort of bike I'm looking to end up with, of the contemporary offerings: what Surley does on their Ogre and Troll "touring", or even their Krampus and Karate Monkey bikes; Soma Saga, perhaps, if only it had a step-thru standover height; possibly even bikes of this sort, CorraTec Shape Urban One. The Cannondale Bad Boy Ultra also grabs me, but it's just too darned big/tall. These concepts, but in a step-thru, step-over, mixte or otherwise lowered TT arrangement to the frame. However, most of these modern variants are simply too tall for me, let alone being more expensive than I want to go. I'd adjust the stem, bars, seat and post accordingly, of course. I'd get it rolling, then add the "right" components after. I just need a great starting point.

    Many thanks for the assist.
    Hey Clyde1820,

    There is a really nice Stumpjumper frame near me that comes with a bunch of usable parts. I think it fits all your specifications. If it meets your needs, I could probably facilitate picking it up and sending it to you. Check it out:

    Specialized Stumpjumper M2 FS, 15.5" - FRAME ONLY

    Specialized Stumpjumper M2 FS, 15.5" - FRAME ONLY - $50 (Huntington Beach)

    1995_Stumpjumper_M2_FS.jpg

    Specialized Stumpjumper M2 FS Frame, 15.5", composed of M2 Metal Matrix. Lightweight, complete bike weighed only 25.1 lbs. before I removed parts Included with Frame is: Rock Shox Magnesium 21 front shock (currently locked out), Shimano Deore derailleurs, shifters, crank, and brakes. NO WHEELS, TIRES, SEATPOST , SADDLE, PEDALS OR HANDLEBARS! A solid, super nice Specialized $1,500+ mountain bike back in 1995, makes a great foundation for a lightweight hardtail! $50

    As far as the Mag 21 fork goes, I have a rigid fork that I can send with the frame. I know I have a a light flat bar for you, I may have the correct size seat post as well as some other components. Let me know if this is something you'd like me to follow up with the seller.

    Peace,

    -D-
    I'd rather add more life to my years, than years to my life.

  17. #17
    rigamortis tortoise LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    There's an IBOC Zero-G on our local CL asking $100 right now. 25 lbs complete. That's the kinda rig you're looking for. If you want front susp. Make sure you get 1-1/8. I'd skip suspension if I were you however.

    By the mid 90s 25 lb mtbs were getting affordable. Trek 900 series, nicer Konas, rocky mountain, etc had 25 lb mtbs.

    Cruise through bikepedia 95, 96 listings to find more.

    Have to get 15" or smaller frame to meet your standover req. Some 15 will be too tall.
    1980ish Free Spirit Sunbird fixed * 1996 Mongoose IBOC Zero-G * 1997 KHS Comp * 1990-ish Scapin * Lemond Buenos Aires Triple

  18. #18
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    loook for a reynolds sticker and you can't go far wrong..

  19. #19
    Senior Member Bicycle Addict's Avatar
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    Trek Multitrack almost the same geometry as the Trek 520's, but with wide chain stays, I have 700 x 40c's on mine which will do pretty much what I need, they ride very nicely.
    I have heard guys on here getting them off eBay or C/L for under $100 which is good coin for something that should pretty much work for your situation, after a service that is, Giant Innova's and Fargo's are quite nice too.
    Where are the Bikeaholic meetings? . . . . . I need help!? I just don't think I can do this alone.

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  20. #20
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    Univega made a nice 700C hybrid bikes that fit wider tires. There are several lowish end Univega bikes that are basic chromoly frames with good geometry if you like longer chainstays and headtubes without paying a premium

    Also some of the lower end Schwinn frames had 700c wheels. There are some nice old bikes to build on if you can find them.

  21. #21
    Still learning oddjob2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by theculture View Post
    loook for a reynolds sticker and you can't go far wrong..
    Pretty rare among hybrid and mtb frames.
    Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. Albert Einstein
    2015 Additions: 2001 Eddy Merckx AX Titanium, 1981 Peugeot PKN10, 1987 Centurion Ironman Expert, Raleigh Super Course MKII

  22. #22
    Senior Member Clyde1820's Avatar
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    Many of the "typical" MTB type bikes, though, have far too high of a standover height for me. (Size, medical issues.) As I said, max standover height is sub-28", though shorter is better. Most MTB's in my correct size (ETT) result in 30" standover or taller. No can do, period, sadly. There seem to be lots of great frames in steel for MTB's, back when, but most are just too tall for me to deal with.

    Pretty much relegates me to drop-tube (TT) arrangements, mixte formats, "ladies" frame formats, or some of the shorter hybrid/MTB styles.



    I've been mulling the idea of mixte frames in a decent steel, as well. Most of these are much more of a road frame than hybrid/MTB, of course. And that's fine. There seem to be a few decent examples over the years, such as the Lotus Excelle or Challenger SX mixte frames from the 1980's. Don't now of other "decent" steel examples from the era.

  23. #23
    Still learning oddjob2's Avatar
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    @Clyde1820 where are you located? I ask because we can quickly spot deals nearby to save you $50-$100 in shipping alone.

    I have both Lotus Mixtes in my stash. They are unique mostly because of 700c tire sizing. Other quality Japanese mixtes include: Miyata, Fuji, Shogun, Centurion, Nishiki, Bridgestone, Zebra. I'd pass on a Panasonic Villager or a Kabuki.

    Raleigh Super Course MK II mixtes are rare, but out there. They have Reynolds 531 main tubes.

    Peugeot and Motobecane mixtes ride qualities are hard to beat, no matter their age or frame tubing. Beginning about 1983, they even adopted conventional parts standards.

    Late 1980's Schwinn Le Tour mixtes are decent. Also, Trek mixtes, which are as rare as hens teeth.
    Last edited by oddjob2; 06-29-14 at 05:19 AM.
    Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. Albert Einstein
    2015 Additions: 2001 Eddy Merckx AX Titanium, 1981 Peugeot PKN10, 1987 Centurion Ironman Expert, Raleigh Super Course MKII

  24. #24
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    IMG1562.jpg

    Soma double cross. disc/v brake compatible. Runs 26 or 29 inch wheels. In the picture she is wearing 26 but I have 29 as wel. Running a 48-38-26 triple and 11-34 running SRAM x9 shifters. Old tech deore hydros and some nice older xtr rotors. Slx hubs. Bars are my own custom recipe. Probably a bit nice to park outside but the nicest commuter/brevet bike I've.yet built.

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    I recently paid 50 english pounds for an early 80's Coventry Eagle Reynolds 531 triangled, chrome tipped forks. perfect commuter ready to roll. Loads of them kinda things on ebay over here (uk) am bidding on a 90's raleigh ss. should get it for around the same price, I wouldn't pay any more for a commuter/beater unless I was going to be doing more than 20 miles a day.

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