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  1. #1
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    educate me on custom frames please if you can

    I have had a bunch of (mostly mid 80s to 90s Italian jobs crashed during training rides) frames over the years. Still, my favorite is the newer carbon frames. I think I am ready for a custom steel frame. Tell me the difference between a 853 LeMond frame (my last steel frame) compare to a newer custom steel frames. What triggered this crazy idea was the Torelli web site. They have some of the most beautiful steel frames. There are just so many tubings out there (I have not ridden in the past 10 years) that's causing lots of confusion for me like OS, Brain, Life and so on. Beside the better fit, how does it perform compare to my old LeMond? Lighter, faster, stiffer? If so, by how much and is it something I can feel? For example, the immediate feel when I ride my carbon bike compare to my old beat up Cannondale. Any of you custom builders care to share? I like to have no lugs (tig welded? like those Independent Fab. frames they once made with really smooth joint transitions) with a non sloping top tube. This time, I will get what I want unless suggested by the builder. Light is better but not all that important and do not want a boat anchor.

    I am not sure if this is the place to ask this question?

  2. #2
    Senior Member calstar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by look171 View Post
    ........is it something I can feel?
    The following is obviously just an opinion, mine. I don't think most riders can easily differentiate between the same type of frame materials made by the various manufacturers(columbus steel vs. reynolds, etc.) or between steel "varieties" from the same manufacturer. Blind side by side test rides would be great but thats not going to happen. I'm not saying you(this is a general you, not specifically you) can't tell the difference between steel, alum, carbon, light or heavy tubing, but within the same type of frame materials(and design parameters) most folks would be really hard pressed to notice a difference. No one can tell you how a particular material will feel to you. What they can tell you is how different materials react in response to the loads and forces placed upon them. The only way to determine how a frame will feel is to ride it in the configuration designed as you want it under conditions of intended use. I think you have to ride a frame material(in this case different types of steel) for a minimum of 100 miles or so under the conditions it was designed for to develop a feel for the ride; loaded touring, commuting, criterium, centuries/casual riding(not that all centuries are casual), etc., and even then it probably would be tough. This most likely doesn't help you a bit, but while others may offer general guidance you need to decide what is right for you and just go for it.

    good luck,

    Brian
    Last edited by calstar; 06-10-12 at 10:25 AM.

  3. #3
    Randomhead
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    I think if someone is looking for a radical difference between steel bikes, they are likely to be disappointed. My current frame (oversize Spirit for lugs) and previous frame (early 80's Italian Columbus SL) couldn't be more different, but I don't think I could tell the difference other than the steering geometry. Maybe if I was a little stronger, there would be more difference. My criteria for a good frame is that you don't have your attention called to it while riding.

  4. #4
    Andrew R Stewart Andrew R Stewart's Avatar
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    Two very good replies above. Agree with all. But neither mentiond what the OP asked about: "Custom" frames compared to his production Lemond. Here the common belief is that a custom frame (and by custom I mean dimensioning specific to the rider, not an off the shelf geometry) will provide some fit or purpose advantage that a production frame won't. These advantages could be "better" body positioning, nicer ballance/handling with the needed fit or component/braze on arrangements that aren't common. All of these aspects are independent of the tubing choices. But tubing choice can effect the over all package. A touring bike with too flexy a top tube or fork come to mind. For most riders and the general sport recreational (weekend club/wanna be racer) riding public the two above replies are spot on. Andy.

  5. #5
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    I agree. I don't think there's any difference to feel as far as Columbus or Reynolds tubes. I am looking for stiffness when jamming off the saddle. My Gios and my Benotto (both SL)from the 80s do feel different but I can't really put my finger on it. This was a time when I was training like heck and racing. The LeMond was bought much later so there we nothing I can compare to but my Look frame, a noodle, which I likes for those long drawn out rides getting completely beat up by better riders. I will say this, the LeMond felt a lot lighter.

    do you guys feel that a custom frame, dimensioning specific to me, will perform similar to my old LeMond? HOw about weight? Do you think its that much lighter by using the latest and the greatest tubings?

  6. #6
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    I don't think you are going to notice a difference between 853 and other high end tubing that is in production now in terms of ride quality. Maybe a discernible difference between standard diameter and oversize/double oversize though. I think modern steel is plenty stiff and light. High end steel frame these days are lighter than middle of the road carbon frames. If you want a featherweight bike then frame material is almost moot, its all in the wheels/components. The biggest factor in ride feel between your old 853 and a new custom steel frame is going to be geometry. A new steel frame will feel like your Lemond 853 if it has the same geometry. That being said, if this is an early late 90s early 2000s Lemond you are talking about they had pretty funky geometry (slack seat angle combined with steep head angle.) If there is something you don't like about it then I am sure you can get a custom frame you will be much better but it will not be because of different tubing.

  7. #7
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    Yeah, they are pretty much typical French geometry of the old days or what they call stage racing bikes. I like to have a shorter top tube and a higher BB. I went from my "slow" LeMond to the first Giant, slop top tube, alum. bike imported to the US. It was given to me. That thing was dangerous coming down hill at speed. it taught me to pay attention. i think I like to have something in between. I am shock to hear that modern steel is as light as mid price carbons. My LeMond has to weight much more then that. If I am going to have a frame built, I like to have it all weight, looks (simple single color), and performance and etc..


    This thing will be a toy only. My racing blood stopped boiling a long time ago. I like to get back in shape for the hammerhead club rides. No centuries, touring or anything like that.

  8. #8
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    As for as weight goes, I've heard that True Temper had a bike built for them that came in at about 1 kilogram. I don't know which joining method or how it actually rode but that's how light you could go.
    If you search on the C&V sub forum you might be able to find an old article that detailed a comparison of two bikes built identically but with different tube sets and paint. One of the tube sets was Tange Prestige. When test ridden by quite a few riders, most guessed wrong when asked which was the Tange bike, based on the ride qualities that the Tange tubing was supposed to have. That tells me that it's more about the builder than the tubes.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Cactus's Avatar
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    Don't worry about the tubing. Worry about the builder. Tell s/he what you want and stand back.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cactus View Post
    Don't worry about the tubing. Worry about the builder. Tell s/he what you want and stand back.
    This. An expert builder will be able to build the type of ride into the frame that you want. Quick steering, stable, stiff, cushy, etc., etc. Tell them what you want in a bike and let them do the rest.

  11. #11
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    Check out Waterford, which is as good a custom steel frame maker as you will find -- http://waterfordbikes.com

    If you want to go less $, they also sell custom Gunnars.
    Seven Elium Race, Gunnar Roadie, Gunnar Sport, Surly LHT, Gary Fisher Genesis, Miyata 610.

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