Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: Fleetwood, PA
Bikes: '90 Bridgestone MB-1; '85 Trek 600; '72 Peugeot PX-10; '89 Bridgestone RADAC 3100; '89 Bridgestone MB-3; '82 Vista Espada mixte; '96 Trek 930 singletrack; '87 Tommasini Super Prestige; '94 Specialized Stumpjumper; '90 Bianchi Boardwalk gravelpig
A few things to add:
- Ride quality of a steel bike depends on a lot of things - geometry, tube thickness and mass, and the synergy of the frame with the parts used for the build. My experience has taught me that lighter, butted steels of normal diameters tend to provide the best rides in most cases (e.g. unladen or lightly-laden riding).
- For city and touring applications, "slack" geometry (sub 72 degree head-tube angle; long wheelbase; reasonable fork trail) tends to work better, since riding speeds tend to be slower. Bike messengers may see things differently, since they ride fast pretty much all the time and have to avoid NYC's taxi drivers.
- Tire carcass width and tire pressures are extremely important, as a few PSI can make a difference between refreshment and numb hands and other body parts at the end of the day.
- Grip tapes are not created equal. Neubaum's tape looks cool and vintage, but does nothing to isolate road shock. Cinelli Gel or Selle Italia are often better for hardcore road use. This assume you decide to stick with drops vs. upright bars.
- Touring bikes tend to use thicker steels than sport/race bikes. This means the ride suffers when the bike is unladen. Mountain bikes and hybrids occasionally had the same problems, particularly during the "OS" tubing era.
- Saddles have to be selected carefully. Sometimes the ones that seem like they would be comfortable are horrid after ten miles. Other saddles (ones that look uncomfortable and thin) actually can be better in the long term. When selecting these, it's often best to avoid gimmicks and go for the basics - e.g. where your sit bones are going and suitability of the saddle for the riding position and bike use. Brooks leather saddles tend to be more flexible than others.
Brands to look for (IMO)
- Schwinn (80's vintage; made from Columbus tubing)
- Trek (late 70's vintage; made from Reynolds 531, Ishiwata 022 or Columbus SL tubing)
- Bridgestone RB-series; or anything numbered above 400.
- Miyata 610; other high-end Miyata
- high-end Panasonic
- Miele (tend to be more common in upstate NY)
- Japan-made Bianchi (not in Celeste color, though)
- early-mid 80s Centurion
Ones to avoid (IMO)
- Aluminum Trek
- Raleigh Technium
- late-80s Fuji
- any French bike (Peugeot; Motobecane; Gitane)