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  1. #1
    Peddlin' Around Detroit Motorad's Avatar
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    Steel or Carbon Forks for Cyclocross Bike?

    Anticipated riding on a cyclocross would be club rides offroad, such as dirt roads and unpaved bike paths. The rides would be at moderate speeds (but not racing).

    The rides could also include winter rides on trails ... that isn't salted and would better cushion my fall better than asphault would.

    Originally, I thought that the default-forks for a cyclocross bike would be steel. But the more I've been reviewing the cyclocross forum, the more I see the popularity of carbon forks. I'm looking at the Waterford X-14 cyclocross frame. Of the few carbon forks that are highly recommended in the cyclocross forum ... one of them is Waterford's "true temper alpha Q cyclocross". Apparently, it is commonplace for carbon forks to come with cantilever bosses, so that gives me an idea of how much the biking industry has embraced carbon cyclocross forks.

    The two main things that I've read (but can not verify) about carbon forks on cyclocross bikes:
    1. Possible increase in "chatter" noise when applying brakes, because carbon forks are not as stiff as steel?
    2. The carbon forks would limit your being able to use the cyclocross bike as a touring bike ... because ... carbon forks do not come with eyelets for mounting racks or fenders?

    What is your preference of forks for a Waterford X-14 cyclocross ... steel or carbon? And why do you choose your preference of forks for a cyclocross bike?

  2. #2
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Do you think you will ever want to mount a lowrider front rack and panniers?

    Other than that, I think it is purely a matter of personal preference. I doubt you would notice any performance or comfort difference between a good carbon fork and a good steel fork.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  3. #3
    Senior Member George's Avatar
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    The carbon forks that they put on bikes with disk brakes are beefed up compared to others, and I think they put the same on cyclocross bikes, but like BD says you can't mount racks on them. They do make a special bracket and I think it's an Old Man Mountain. Good luck.
    George

  4. #4
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    Take a look at the Fork on the Lemond Proprad or the Trek Portland. Same fork on both bikes. There IS a Front Panier mount on these forks. The are straight gage Carbon tubes epoxied into the crown and fork tips. They are strong and durable. Maybe TSL will chime in with his ride report from his Portland.

    Chris

    P.S. This fork is equipt for DISC BRAKES
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  5. #5
    Ti #18 Senior.
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    There is a Reynolds Ouzo Pro Cyclecross fork that should be pretty good.

  6. #6
    tsl
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    I have a road bike with a CroMo (steel) fork and another with carbon. (Both frames are aluminum, BTW.) There's a *HUGE* difference in ride comfort. Go with carbon.

    The carbon fork, BTW, is on my Trek Portland. The very same fork is on the LeMond Poprad Disk, a CX bike. This isn't a lightweight carbon fork (although it is lighter that the steel one on my other bike) it's a good, strong fork made for CX racing and commuting.

    Oh--Now I see Chris asking me to comment. Yes, the Portland/Poprad carbon fork (Actually, it's called the Bontrager Satellite Elite fork) has mounts for a lowrider rack. I'm using them for my full-coverage fenders. It's also a disk-brake-only fork. No provisions whatsoever for other braking systems.

    Here's a pic:

    Note the fender mounts screwed to lowrider rack mounts on the inside of the fork legs.

    Here's a squirrel's-eye view of the whole front end.

    Note here how much room there is in the fork. You can easily fit 700x45 tires into it. My snow tires are 700x35/38 and there's plenty of room, even with the full-coverage fenders.

    In conclusion, choosing carbon forks does not mean you have to give up CX use, wide tires, low-rider rack mounts, full-coverage fenders or the braking system of your choice. Carbon forks are available for all these choices.

    In my experience on the same roads day-to-day, the carbon fork is a *MUCH* nicer ride than steel. I even prefer it to the suspension fork on my hybrid. The ride was what really sold me on this bike.

    In another thread you were asking about braking systems. With this bike I've become a convert to disk brakes. I love my other road bike, and thought it had really good brakes--in fact, I was really impressed with them as compared to the V-brakes on my hybrid (which are about useless.) Now when I ride it, I'm very aware of how much less stopping power I have with rim brakes.

    But more than that, the disk brakes have a wonderful feel to them. It is a tactile pleasure every time I use them.
    Last edited by tsl; 12-10-07 at 09:21 AM.
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  7. #7
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tsl View Post
    I have a road bike with a CroMo (steel) fork and another with carbon. (Both frames are aluminum, BTW.) There's a *HUGE* difference in ride comfort. Go with carbon.
    <snip>
    In my experience on the same roads day-to-day, the carbon fork is a *MUCH* nicer ride than steel. I even prefer it to the suspension fork on my hybrid. The ride was what really sold me on this bike.
    What bike and what steel fork are you comparing to the carbon fork? There is a huge difference between cheap, unbutted, low grade steel forks and higher end, well made, quality steel forks. I'm sure there are some crappy carbon forks out there as well.

    Nothing against carbon forks. But let's keep the comparison fair.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  8. #8
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    This is a very interesting thread. I've been looking at cross bikes, I've had my sister's Specialized Tricross on loan for about a month, and really like it. It has a carbon fork, talking to my LBS, he has recommended a steel Lemond Reno, because of the comfort (I really like and trust my LBS). I will keep checking this thread, I love getting this kind of info from so many people that actually have direct knowledge.

  9. #9
    tsl
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    Quote Originally Posted by BluesDawg View Post
    What bike and what steel fork are you comparing to the carbon fork? There is a huge difference between cheap, unbutted, low grade steel forks and higher end, well made, quality steel forks. I'm sure there are some crappy carbon forks out there as well.

    Nothing against carbon forks. But let's keep the comparison fair.
    My other road bike is an '00 Trek 1000. I have no idea as to its merits relative to other CroMo forks.

    Now, keeping the *commentary* fair, yours says with "I think" and "I doubt", where mine says, "In my experience." So do you presently own and ride two bikes, one with a steel fork and one with carbon (preferably also with similarly-constructed frames)? If so, what is your experience?

    If not, then while you're perfectly welcome to your opinion and to share it publicly, you're postulating and hypothesizing.
    Last edited by tsl; 12-10-07 at 11:12 AM.
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  10. #10
    tsl
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    Quote Originally Posted by LynnH View Post
    This is a very interesting thread. I've been looking at cross bikes, I've had my sister's Specialized Tricross on loan for about a month, and really like it. It has a carbon fork, talking to my LBS, he has recommended a steel Lemond Reno, because of the comfort (I really like and trust my LBS). I will keep checking this thread, I love getting this kind of info from so many people that actually have direct knowledge.
    Are you sure about that? The LeMond web site says the Reno is aluminum frame with carbon fork. And it's not a CX bike. Their Poprad CX bikes are steel frame with carbon fork.
    My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything.
    The perfect day: Riding a bike to the library.—Peter Golkin


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  11. #11
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tsl View Post
    My other road bike is an '00 Trek 1000. I have no idea as to its merits relative to other CroMo forks.

    Now, keeping the *commentary* fair, yours says with "I think" and "I doubt", where mine says, "In my experience." So do you presently own and ride two bikes, one with a steel fork and one with carbon (preferably also with similarly-constructed frames)? If so, what is your experience?

    If not, then while you're perfectly welcome to your opinion and to share it publicly, you're postulating and hypothesizing.

    Be nice.

    I said "I think" and "I doubt" in reference to the perception of the differences between the forks that the OP would experience. I have no way of knowing that.

    "In my experience", I have owned and ridden thousands of miles on steel forks of different quality and price levels. The cheaper forks on low end bikes were fairly harsh and unrefined or floppy and loose. The good ones, like the Ishiwata tubed, full crown, lugged fork on my Bridgestone RB-1 and the Tange "Big Fork" on my Trek 970 MTB provide a very refined ride and smooth out road and trail irregularities very well. As they are made for different purposes, they handle bumps very differently from each other, but they both handle them better than the lesser steel forks I have ridden. So a blanket statement about how steel forks ride has no hope of being accurate.

    My experience with carbon forks is less extensive. I have ridden (but not owned) a few bikes with carbon forks and found most to be smooth and stable. Others were somewhat flimsy and still others were excessively harsh, attibutable either to cheapness or to design objective. My overall impression of carbon forks is very positive. For a given dollar amount, you can probably get a better carbon fork than steel fork (but pretty good steel forks from Salsa, IRD and Surly are not expensive). But if you like steel enough to pay for quality, you can get it.

    I think (there I go again) that many people now have had very little exposure to good steel forks. steel forks are found mostly on lower end bikes now as the market demands carbon on higher end bikes. The good steel forks are usually found on more expensive, custom frames and on frames that do not fit the popular styles of the day. I think() that much of the popular perception that steel forks ride harsher than carbon is based on experience with lower quality forks. Other factors are people repeating what they have heard or read and by technical reports giving measurements of certain frequency vibrations and such that may or may not really relate to the experience of riding.

    That's all I meant by being fair.
    Last edited by BluesDawg; 12-10-07 at 06:19 PM.
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  12. #12
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    I've never ridden a cyclo course, so do not profess any expertise on the OP's question. That said, I have taken 6 test rides on bikes that had the same CF fork that tsl referenced above, the Bontrager Satellite Elite, and must say that I liked it a lot. It produced a very smooth ride over rough surfaces, I took it through potholes, on dirt roads, over train tracks, and on graveled surfaces and was very surprised by how it handled them. I took test rides on bikes using at least 10 different CF forks and this one was my favorite.
    "Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen." Louis L'Amour

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  13. #13
    tsl
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    Quote Originally Posted by BluesDawg View Post
    Be nice.
    I am. You were comfortable enough to question the basis on which I'd formed my opinion. I responded, and turned the question back on you. Sorry if you think that's not being nice.

    The earlier one-liner left doubt as to whether your opinion was formed from experience, or from the much more common "forum conjecture" method. Your response clarifies your position nicely and adds significantly to the discussion.
    My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything.
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  14. #14
    Senior Member
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    tsl-now I don't know the answer to my own post. I will go asking more questions!

  15. #15
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tsl View Post
    I am. You were comfortable enough to question the basis on which I'd formed my opinion. I responded, and turned the question back on you. Sorry if you think that's not being nice.

    The earlier one-liner left doubt as to whether your opinion was formed from experience, or from the much more common "forum conjecture" method. Your response clarifies your position nicely and adds significantly to the discussion.
    Fair enough. I suppose I stepped on your toes first.

    I just want to make sure that we don't give the impression that the characteristics of one steel fork, used on a $600 road bike, compared to a carbon fork, used on $1700 commuter and cyclocross bikes, is a good basis for a general recommendation to choose carbon over steel for a cyclocross bike.

    I do think your experiences and opinion of that particular fork make a good case for recommending that fork, regardless of the materials involved. It sounds like it was well designed to be suitable for the kind of use the OP described for his bike. It even has the mid-fork rack mounts he was concerned about.

    Back to the OP and the question, "What is your preference of forks for a Waterford X-14 cyclocross ... steel or carbon? And why do you choose your preference of forks for a cyclocross bike?",

    my answer comes from Waterford's site:

    "Waterford's Steel Fork
    No builder creates a steel fork with the ride of a Waterford fork. The combination of stiff crown and soft blade tips combines to offer what many riders characterize as the best ride you can buy!
    * The Waterford cross investment cast fork crown minimizes weight while offering exceptionally responsive steering and excellent tire clearance. Our in-house fork-building capability lets us offer handling packages that fall outside the range of the available composite forks.
    * Custom-engineered Reynolds 531 constant wall thickness fork blades as well as our special fork rake offer excellent shock damping.
    * The 22-series fork receives Waterford stainless steel dropouts. Your dropout faces stay clean - no rust or peeling of the finish."

    Why? Because I like steel and Waterford has among the best reputations for knowing how to use it for making bicycles.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  16. #16
    Small Member maddmaxx's Avatar
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    This thread and many others point out that a large number of variables effect the feel and handling of a bicycle (or most other vehicles). In many cases what is "common knowledge" turns out to be something different when investigated. In addition you can safely state that what feels good to one rider may feel just awful to another. Other variables not accounted for may creep into the study unannounced and spoil the results causing one to draw the wrong conclusion. As a hypothetical example, you might ride a test bike once with a carbon fork and once with a steel fork but with (unknown to you) 2 different tire pressures or perhaps on two different size frames with different vibration dynamics.

    Because of this, reviews, opinions of others and all other sources of information should be used more like guidelines than rules when picking components. The bottom line is the test ride (yours...and sometimes many of them). In the end you will have formed some opinion as to what is appropriate for you and your riding style, using the input values that are unique to yourself at that time and place. (its amazing how much better Dura-Ace feels when you know its on the bike then when its there but you don't know it.)

    Be warned though that the solution is dynamic and changes with time and experience. There is no such thing as the perfect solution.

  17. #17
    Senior Member donheff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Motorad View Post

    The two main things that I've read (but can not verify) about carbon forks on cyclocross bikes...
    2. The carbon forks would limit your being able to use the cyclocross bike as a touring bike ... because ... carbon forks do not come with eyelets for mounting racks or fenders?
    I bought a Specialized Tricross Comp with carbon forks. They come with eyelets and I have a rack mounted on the back for light touring.
    Every man is, or hopes to be, an Idler. -- Samuel Johnson

  18. #18
    Hypoxic Member head_wind's Avatar
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    Another choice is a Ti fork. When I got my Dean, Alpha Q just wouldn't
    deliver with the eyelets on the dropouts in spite of their promises.
    Instead of waiting forever the Dean guys made me a Ti fork (and of
    course frame) with eyelets. You can sorta see the bike at
    http://www.deanbikes.com/menu.htm and select 'cross'. The picture
    of the Torreys Traveler is of my bike.

    To answer your chatter question I do have chatter when the brakes
    and rims are dirty. As long as they are clean there is no chatter.
    Here in CO we don't have enough water to make mud so I have no
    experience with that crud.

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