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  1. #1
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Thoughts on frame options

    So I am thinking seriously about going with a custom build, or something close to it. Based on a mountain bike frame, but one with a shorter top tube than most MTB frames. Plan on using a rigid carbon fork.

    So far I've found three good candidates.

    The Gunnar Rock Tour, an "off-road touring" frame that is very much in the line of what I'm looking for. Made of OS X steel. A bit pricey at $975, but had lots of nice braze-on options.

    http://www.gunnarbikes.com/rocktour.php

    From Salsa the Ala Carte frame, uses OS X steel in the main triangle, with fewer braze-ons, for example it only takes disc brakes. A Minnesota company that has the frames made in Taiwan. Much cheaper at $550, which includes the cro-moly fork. Also available as a complete bike that is very close to what I'm thinking about, except for it having a steel fork, and a couple other changes, like thinner, smoother tires, and a more upright stem.

    Also from Salsa, a nice looking aluminum/carbon combo, the Moto Rapido. I find these frames to have a ride very similar to an all-steel frame, with the carbon seat stays smoothing out the vibrations nicely. I believe this one lists at $750.

    http://www.salsacycles.com/frames.html

    The complete Salsa Ala Carte bike is a pretty sweet deal at $1470.
    http://www.webcyclery.com/product.ph...&cat=79&page=1

    Anyone have any thoughts on these frames? Other suggestions?
    Last edited by Tom Bombadil; 02-03-08 at 09:02 PM.
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  2. #2
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    The steel is True Temper OX Platinum. I think Gunnar/Waterford refers to their spec of that tubing as OS. Salsa does not.

    You are planning to castrate some damn nice offroad bikes (imho).
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  3. #3
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    I will be providing a home and some usage for a poor, unused, unsold frame.

    MTB frames fit my needs better than road bike frames. The geometries are closer to my needs, they can be more readily modified to my desired riding position, they have lower standover heights.

    And it is easier to match my desired components to them, such as MTB compatible shifters, cranksets, derailleurs, cassettes.

    So if I'm going to go in that direction, why get an all aluminum hardtail frame & fork? I don't want that. Might as well get something nice and that yields the smoother ride that I desire.
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  4. #4
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    I could go with the stock Salsa Ala Carte bike and then if I'm not satisfied with the cro-moly fork, I could replace it with a carbon fork. Well, stock except for changing the tires. I sure don't need 2.3" knobby tread tires. Would go with a 1.25-1.50" slick or semi-slick.
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  5. #5
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    If you ever wanted racks and fenders on the Salsa bikes, you would have to use alternate mounting methods as they don't have eyelets.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member BengeBoy's Avatar
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    Thanks for the link - the new Salsa bikes are interesting. If you want eyelets, what about their Salsa Casseroll cyclocross bike? You said you were going to put on "smaller" tires anyway -- it will take tires up to 38c; has disc brakes; appears to have eyelets and braze-ons for fenders. w/knobby cyclocross tires would appear to be solid off-road; w/smoother tires would make a great commuter. (see link at webcyclery address you provided above)

  7. #7
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    The geometry on the Casseroll is off for me. The frame that has the right top tube for me, has a standover that is about 30-35 mm too high. And the complete bike Casseroll Triple is a road bike. It has all kinds of components that I don't like, like drop bars, brifters, road triple crankset, etc.

    So that bike is not the one for me. Nor is any road bike.
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  8. #8
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BluesDawg View Post
    If you ever wanted racks and fenders on the Salsa bikes, you would have to use alternate mounting methods as they don't have eyelets.
    Yes, this is what I was trying to say in my original post. One of the reasons why they can offer some of their frames at lower prices is by stripping them down to basic frames.

    Of course as none of my present bikes have fenders or racks, that's not a high priority. But it is nice to have the option.
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  9. #9
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Bombadil View Post
    Yes, this is what I was trying to say in my original post. One of the reasons why they can offer some of their frames at lower prices is by stripping them down to basic frames.

    Of course as none of my present bikes have fenders or racks, that's not a high priority. But it is nice to have the option.
    Braze ons don't add much cost. These frames are not stripped down to be cheap. They are stripped down to be racing frames, which is what they are. Earlier versions of the Ala Carte had V-brake bosses. They were removed because most racers use discs and the bike is cleaner without unused braze ons.

    <edit>
    Not saying the Ala Carte won't be good for your purposes, just noting that it was designed for something else. But steel MTB frames are versatile. This one slightly less so due to being more purpose built. I don't think the Moto Rapido would be as good a choice with its Scandium frame.
    Last edited by BluesDawg; 02-04-08 at 04:29 AM.
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  10. #10
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    Of the two, I'd incline toward the Gunnar -- if only because it's quite clearly designed from the outset to be 'road' as well as 'off road' friendly (one e.g. the chainstay positioning of the rear disc mount for rack clearance).
    Two more possibilities: 1) Rocky Mountain Blizzard -- Reynolds 853/rack mounts/a long pedigree; 2) Jamis Dragon Comp (08 model) -- complete bike, but Reynolds 631 frame/rack mounts etc/easy to swap out parts as desired/good pricing.
    Still, if I could afford it I'd look at the Gunnar.

  11. #11
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    How about the Nashbar 853 tube frame? Heck of a deal for under $300. I have their Chromoloy Version that I paid $40 bucks for last year, and I'll tell ya, I LOVE that bike! I have an LX touring crank, wide range rear cassette running a SRAM X-7 rear and an LX Front derailluer. Bought the Nashbar Carbon fork with Disc mounts on it and run Avid BB5's front and rear. I just changed out from 2+ inch nobbies to a Michelin Country Rock in a 1.75 width.

    Set up like this, The bike is stable and fast for what it is. Might not be the lightest thing on 2 wheels, but she's my solid Clyde Bike!

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  12. #12
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    I've read multiple posts that claim the Rocky Mountain Blizzard frame is essentially the same frame as the Nashbar 853. I've looked at the Nashbar and it is a very good value. Haven't eliminated it as yet.
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  13. #13
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BluesDawg View Post
    Braze ons don't add much cost.

    I don't think the Moto Rapido would be as good a choice with its Scandium frame.
    Braze-ons add some cost if you get them from Waterford/Gunnar! Add V-brake mounts is $75. Others are around $50/pr.

    From what I've read, Scandium (aluminum alloy) has a bit more vibration dampening than a standard aluminum frame. As the Moto Rapido comes with carbon seat stays, and then say we pair that with a carbon fork, and a carbon seat post, I think it would yield a smooth ride.

    Obviously the proof is in the pudding and one would need a test ride to confirm. But the parts suggest that it would have a nice ride. My experience in riding on aluminum frames with carbon stays, fork, and seat post was that those had smooth rides. I thought they were smoother than the four all-steel bikes that I rode.

    Of course it also depends upon how the frame was tuned. If for performance, then it would likely be more rigid and thus less smooth.

    That's what leads me back to the Gunnar Rock Tour, which I have been told by Richard Schwinn, was tuned for longer distance riding comfort, in both its geometry and ride. It's design is closer to a Rivendell'ish riding philosophy. I think this frame is almost spot-on what I'm looking for. But even in a standard color, stock frame w/o fork, it's $975!!
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  14. #14
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Similar to you Tom in that I am short. I do give you an inch or so on leg length but I have been riding compact frames for around 8 years now. The Bianchi MTB is only a 15" frame and this was bought after the bypass to give me a more upright stance on the bike to take the strain off the chest. Then when I went road- I got a small compact frame again. In fact- I did go too small and the TCR was the next size up. I know you have probably looked at the geometry and sizing- but link to the Giant specs are below. In fact my first Giant- The OCR- was an XS and the TCR is an S. Now both of these bikes feel right to me- but on the OCR I put on a longer stem- 80mm to 110 but with a higher rise aswell.

    And just in case it worries you- There is a lot of standover clearance on each of these bikes- If I ever get off the saddle.


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  15. #15
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Bombadil View Post
    Braze-ons add some cost if you get them from Waterford/Gunnar! Add V-brake mounts is $75. Others are around $50/pr.

    From what I've read, Scandium (aluminum alloy) has a bit more vibration dampening than a standard aluminum frame. As the Moto Rapido comes with carbon seat stays, and then say we pair that with a carbon fork, and a carbon seat post, I think it would yield a smooth ride.

    Obviously the proof is in the pudding and one would need a test ride to confirm. But the parts suggest that it would have a nice ride. My experience in riding on aluminum frames with carbon stays, fork, and seat post was that those had smooth rides. I thought they were smoother than the four all-steel bikes that I rode.

    Of course it also depends upon how the frame was tuned. If for performance, then it would likely be more rigid and thus less smooth.

    That's what leads me back to the Gunnar Rock Tour, which I have been told by Richard Schwinn, was tuned for longer distance riding comfort, in both its geometry and ride. It's design is closer to a Rivendell'ish riding philosophy. I think this frame is almost spot-on what I'm looking for. But even in a standard color, stock frame w/o fork, it's $975!!
    Adding options to hand made frames vs. building them in as standard equipment in a production environment are very different things. You could probably find a qualified welder to add fender and rack eyelets to the Ala Carte frame for that or less.
    My doubts about the suitability of the Moto Rapido are based more on the durability of a race designed lightweight Scandium frame with its super thin wall tubing. A test ride won't tell you that. I have no doubt that it would be comfortable.

    The Ala Carte complete would be very hard to beat for value. Buying components of that quality to build up a Nashbar frame would likely cost more.
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  16. #16
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    I agree. My preliminary estimate for a Nashbar 853 build is very close to the cost of the Ala Carte complete. Thus the attractiveness of the Salsa option.
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  17. #17
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Stapfam, I've ridden several Giant bikes, and frankly, haven't fallen for any.

    Only one left on my "consideration" list is the XTC Alliance. If I had the suspension fork replaced by a rigid carbon fork, then it's in the neighborhood of what I'm thinking about. I'd have to change out some of the minor parts, like the Shimano clipless pedals & the fat tires, but I'm sure my LBS would do these at no cost at the time of sale.
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    FWIW, I can comment on Giant: my bike is a 3-year old Rainier (U.S. 2004.5 model/Canadian 2005), which I've modified/upgraded over time, and which I use pretty much exactly in the way you're contemplating. I've yet to change out the stock (and heavy, though functional) susp. fork, but that's this Spring's project -- to a rigid (White Bros. or Bontrager) carbon disc fork. I've been putting between 4 and 5,000 kms. on mine each of the past three seasons, using it as a 'daily driver' commuter and for fitness/distance rides. Although I have a very good wheelset on it, with v. good 1.5" folding road tires, now, I've never noticed any particular harshness to the (all alu.) frame. I do use a carbon seatpost, and a saddle w/titanium rails, and to my mind these things cumulatively (correct fit, wheel/tire quality, seatpost and saddle quality) make more difference to 'ride' than does frame material, PROVIDED the frame is at least 'very good' to begin with (i.e. butted/tapered etc., and not plain-gauge).

  19. #19
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    I've ridden three bikes equipped with the Bontrager Elite carbon disc fork, the one with the round carbon tubes. Took them over several bumps, gravel, broken pavement, metal drainage grills, and it handled them all very nicely. I really like that fork.

    It is standard on the Gary Fisher Mendota bike, which is the bike I would get if I wanted an aluminum frame. It is also found on the LeMond Poprad Disc cyclo bike.
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  20. #20
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Other options out there are to find special deals on hardtail mountain bikes that have comfortable geometries. Scanning lists like this one from Jenson USA:
    http://www.jensonusa.com/store/sub/153-Hardtail.aspx

    A frame like the one on the 2006 Jamis Dakota Elite, aluminum but with carbon seat stays. The top tube is a bit on the long side, but not terribly. A pretty good deal at close to $700 off.

  21. #21
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    OK, I've done some more pricing comparisons.

    Salsa Ala Carte vs Gary Fisher Mendota

    - Put the Bontrager Switchblade carbon disc fork on both.
    - Same saddle
    - equivalent tires
    - slight edge to Salsa on wheels, but nothing that would make any difference to me.
    - Mountain bike crankset of equivalent quality to hybrid 48/36/26 crankset on Mendota

    The Salsa would have a small edge in the following components
    SRAM X.9 vs SRAM X.7
    Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes vs Avid BB5

    Mendota has a carbon seat post vs the alloy post on the Salsa

    All of these add up to give a small edge to the Salsa

    Now we come to the major difference ... the frame

    Salsa frame uses OX Platinum steel in the main triangle, standard 4130 cro-moly on stays

    Mendota frame is Fisher's higher grade aluminum.

    Overall "fit" to the frame's geometry looks to be a bit better on the Mendota, unless I could find an '07 Ala Carte 17".

    Final price difference is approx $700-$750 higher for the Salsa - Final cost of around $1750 vs $1000.

    For the most part, the small differences in the derailleurs, brakes, etc., would make little to no difference in my usage.

    So how much is a mostly OX steel frame worth over aluminum frame, with the same fork and essentially the same wheels & tires? I suspect the ride difference would be slight.

    (note my evil practical side is influencing me ... which it always does if I give it enough time)
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  22. #22
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Bombadil View Post
    OK, I've done some more pricing comparisons.

    Salsa Ala Carte vs Gary Fisher Mendota

    - Put the Bontrager Switchblade carbon disc fork on both.
    - Same saddle
    - equivalent tires
    - slight edge to Salsa on wheels, but nothing that would make any difference to me.
    - Mountain bike crankset of equivalent quality to hybrid 48/36/26 crankset on Mendota

    The Salsa would have a small edge in the following components
    SRAM X.9 vs SRAM X.7
    Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes vs Avid BB5

    Mendota has a carbon seat post vs the alloy post on the Salsa

    All of these add up to give a small edge to the Salsa

    Now we come to the major difference ... the frame

    Salsa frame uses OX Platinum steel in the main triangle, standard 4130 cro-moly on stays

    Mendota frame is Fisher's higher grade aluminum.

    Overall "fit" to the frame's geometry looks to be a bit better on the Mendota, unless I could find an '07 Ala Carte 17".

    Final price difference is approx $700-$750 higher for the Salsa - Final cost of around $1750 vs $1000.

    For the most part, the small differences in the derailleurs, brakes, etc., would make little to no difference in my usage.

    So how much is a mostly OX steel frame worth over aluminum frame, with the same fork and essentially the same wheels & tires? I suspect the ride difference would be slight.

    (note my evil practical side is influencing me ... which it always does if I give it enough time)
    You might be over thinking it.

    I think that it's just like picking a presidential candidate. You select the one that you want based totally on image, then fish around for an objective reason to justify your choice.

  23. #23
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Tough call. That's a big difference in price. I think the Salsa has a bigger edge in quality of frame and components than you suggest, especially the wheels, but is it $700 better? I don't know. If the Mendota had carbon seat stays, it would be easier to choose. I would expect the steel Salsa frame to be significantly smoother than a full aluminum frame over sharp jolts. Possibly a bigger difference than the carbon fork vs. the OX Platinum steel fork. And of course, keeping the stock fork on the Salsa would make the cost difference smaller.

    Only comparing test rides would tell you for sure. Is there a stocking Salsa dealer near you?
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  24. #24
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post

    I think that it's just like picking a presidential candidate.

    Oh no! Don't say that!

    I'm much worse when it comes to that.
    "Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen." Louis L'Amour

    There are two types of road bikers: bikers who are faster than me, and me. Bruce Cameron - Denver Post

  25. #25
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BluesDawg View Post

    Only comparing test rides would tell you for sure. Is there a stocking Salsa dealer near you?
    Nope. Closest one is about 250 miles away.

    One factor that is influencing me is that I did once ride the Mendota and a 2007 Jamis Coda Elite (631 cro-moly steel with carbon fork) on the same day and the Mendota had a noticeably smoother ride. The Jamis had 700x28 tires vs the Mendota's 700x32, which made a difference for sure, but the 28mm's on the Jamis are known for being smooth riding and I had them at 100 psi.

    OTOH, my rides on a Gunnar Rock Hound, with steel fork, were very smooth.
    Last edited by Tom Bombadil; 02-07-08 at 09:09 PM.
    "Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen." Louis L'Amour

    There are two types of road bikers: bikers who are faster than me, and me. Bruce Cameron - Denver Post

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