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  1. #1
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    School me on drop bars please!

    I'm reminded that I know nothing about them every time I see a handlebar thread. I've searched, I've read thread after thread, but there's still something I don't understand.

    I'm using Nashbar "Oversized" drop bars which I selected simply because, other than about 50-100 grams weight I didn't know of any advantage for the more expensive ones. I don't even know what "oversized" refers to - the clamp diameter is standard, the reach and drop more or less normal. It seems comfortable enough - I have about 3000 miles with it - and if it has ever flexed I didn't notice.

    Nashbar has a number of choices, a large range of price including a couple of carbon fiber bars. Disregarding the CF bars, what makes one worth more than the other?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Nermal's Avatar
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    I imagine it's more a matter of cost than worth. The cost of the forming dies has to be spread over the number of bars sold.

    Which is best for you depends on how much drop you like. Also, the width and amount of flair. Kind of like asking what makes one saddle better than the rest. Beyond simple durability, it becomes a very individual decision - not to mention that very few of us can afford and test a half dozen or more saddles - or bars, for that matter.
    Some people are like a Slinky ... not really good for anything, but you still can't help but smile when you shove them down the stairs.

  3. #3
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nermal View Post
    I imagine it's more a matter of cost than worth. The cost of the forming dies has to be spread over the number of bars sold.

    Which is best for you depends on how much drop you like. Also, the width and amount of flair. Kind of like asking what makes one saddle better than the rest. Beyond simple durability, it becomes a very individual decision - not to mention that very few of us can afford and test a half dozen or more saddles - or bars, for that matter.
    I don't want to come across as contrary, but the $25 nashbar vs $85 Ritchey Logic II Pro? You can find all sorts of varying amounts of drop, some cost more and some less. With all due respect I'm not sure that I buy that the Ritchey costs $60 more because it has 2 cm less drop or the die cost, but in any event, I'm wondering what makes one worth more, to the cyclist using it, than the other.

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    Shape, weight, color, size, brand, material, and feel...in any particular order. Those are what give bars worth. Well, those, and the fact that riding a bike without one ain't much fun.
    Chaad--'95 DeKerf Team SL, '02 Lemond Buenos Aires, '05 Novara Buzz, '73 Schwinn Collegiate, '06 Mountain Cycle Rumble, '09 Dahon Mariner D7, '12 Mercier Nano, '12 Breezer Venturi

  5. #5
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
    Shape, weight, color, size, brand, material, and feel...in any particular order. Those are what give bars worth. Well, those, and the fact that riding a bike without one ain't much fun.
    Now we're getting somewhere. We can consolidate this, if we're being logical. Feel depends on shape and size, stiffness (although "noodly" is a complaint on the more pricey ones, so leave that out(?), and what else? Vibration damping? I've seriously pondered that before (vibration damping), but to my knowledge from most reviews that's not much of a factor even between CF and aluminum, and even less between types of aluminum. Maybe if someone here knows otherwise, let's hear it!

    I think you can get particular shapes and sizes in any price range ... so brand, color and weight. With apologies I'm going to throw out color, seriously. There's chrome and black, and they don't seem correlate with price. So inferring from your list, the willingness to pay more for one than another comes down to primarily brand consciousness and weight?

    Now if someone would expound upon a quantifiable functional advantage of some aluminum handlebar over the other I'm interested in that as well. I know we're missing something, otherwise we wouldn't see handlebars 3-5 times the cost of others - the brand isn't all that impressive. Anyone? Does it really boil down to $X/gram on this? I'm honestly curious here. What is the tangible, objective benefit of spending more than the minimum on similarly shaped aluminum drop bars?

  6. #6
    Senior Member Mobile 155's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
    I don't want to come across as contrary, but the $25 nashbar vs $85 Ritchey Logic II Pro? You can find all sorts of varying amounts of drop, some cost more and some less. With all due respect I'm not sure that I buy that the Ritchey costs $60 more because it has 2 cm less drop or the die cost, but in any event, I'm wondering what makes one worth more, to the cyclist using it, than the other.
    Weight, In cycling if it weighs less it cost more. Your bars weigh 350 grams or more. The Ritchy Pros are about 230 to 240 depending if you get the WCS. Your bars are made from less expensive 6061 aluminum the Ritchies tend to be made with the lighter stiffer 7025 aliminum. They have some aluminum bars that are almost as light as CF. The goal for many is to get the bike down to 15 pounds or so. The difference between stock wheels and the next step up is about 400 grams. The difference between a racing saddle and a touring saddle is about 200 grams. Look at the cost of those items. Stock wheel my go 100 or 200 bucks for 2200 grams wheels. Upgraded wheels go for about 500 bucks for 1800 gram wheels. 1300-1450 grams wheels tend to go for about 1000 bucks. You can drop weight by about a pound to a pound and a half with wheels and tires. But it takes a boat load of other light weight parts to drop more. And just look at light weight brake set compared to 105 or less. 105s work great but they are less than half the cost of Dura Ace or SRAM Red.

    As I said earlier light weight on a road bike tends to cost more and a 100 grams in the bars is a lot of weight. Those 300 dollar CF bars are close to 200 grams lighter.
    Life is like riding a bicycle - in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving. ~Albert Einstein.

  7. #7
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mobile 155 View Post
    Weight, In cycling if it weighs less it cost more. Your bars weigh 350 grams or more.....
    Mobile, thanks. That's a straightforward answer.

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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Bend styles proliferate, and have changed over the decades..
    bend radii, length of ramp, drop , angle of drop in relation to top.
    and splay and flare on the way to the drop.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
    Now we're getting somewhere. We can consolidate this, if we're being logical. Feel depends on shape and size, stiffness (although "noodly" is a complaint on the more pricey ones, so leave that out(?), and what else? Vibration damping? I've seriously pondered that before (vibration damping), but to my knowledge from most reviews that's not much of a factor even between CF and aluminum, and even less between types of aluminum. Maybe if someone here knows otherwise, let's hear it!

    I think you can get particular shapes and sizes in any price range ... so brand, color and weight. With apologies I'm going to throw out color, seriously. There's chrome and black, and they don't seem correlate with price. So inferring from your list, the willingness to pay more for one than another comes down to primarily brand consciousness and weight?

    Now if someone would expound upon a quantifiable functional advantage of some aluminum handlebar over the other I'm interested in that as well. I know we're missing something, otherwise we wouldn't see handlebars 3-5 times the cost of others - the brand isn't all that impressive. Anyone? Does it really boil down to $X/gram on this? I'm honestly curious here. What is the tangible, objective benefit of spending more than the minimum on similarly shaped aluminum drop bars?
    Honestly, I don't even understand what you've written. I think you're caught up in a bunch of poorly executed mental gymnastics in an attempt to feel good about being cheap. Why bother? Who cares? You like cheap stuff, don't care about weight, don't understand or get "feel", don't distinguish differences in shape, think color is silly, and aren't impressed by brand...looks like you're free and clear to buy the cheapest bar you can find!
    Chaad--'95 DeKerf Team SL, '02 Lemond Buenos Aires, '05 Novara Buzz, '73 Schwinn Collegiate, '06 Mountain Cycle Rumble, '09 Dahon Mariner D7, '12 Mercier Nano, '12 Breezer Venturi

  10. #10
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
    Honestly, I don't even understand what you've written. I think you're caught up in a bunch of poorly executed mental gymnastics in an attempt to feel good about being cheap. Why bother? Who cares? You like cheap stuff, don't care about weight, don't understand or get "feel", don't distinguish differences in shape, think color is silly, and aren't impressed by brand...looks like you're free and clear to buy the cheapest bar you can find!
    Nope. A word to the wise: if you don't understand something, don't insult someone about it.

  11. #11
    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    Handlebars cost whatever the mfg can charge and get away with. Brand names tend to cost more but concentrate on the higher-end part of the market where there is more profit. The difference between that and a store brand might be a stronger alloy, lower weight, or it might be nothing at all except the name stamped on it.

  12. #12
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlazingPedals View Post
    Handlebars cost whatever the mfg can charge and get away with. Brand names tend to cost more but concentrate on the higher-end part of the market where there is more profit. The difference between that and a store brand might be a stronger alloy, lower weight, or it might be nothing at all except the name stamped on it.
    I'm kind of thinking that now myself. Stronger allow and lower weight go together, since it's hardly likely for anyone to manufacture road bike bars that will easily break or are bendy, not anything but something utra-light anyway. Weaker alloy must be thicker, thus heavier. As far as weight goes, the bars are low-hanging fruit and obviously you'd start there if you had 100 grams or more slack, before a groupset or wheels. So I suspect they capitalize on that perhaps, selling grams as compared to pricier parts.

    What I don't know about are any other tangible, price-correlated advantages. If "feel" is a mainly a couple of (x,y,z) hand coordinates along with the bar angle at those points, then it's quantifiable and not all that subjective, and also subject to replication by moving and re-orienting bars of different geometries. Hood's dont count, flats don't count, because those hand positions won't vary that much between drop bar styles. Right? Now I do know for example that I prefer the "feel" of deeper drops to the shallow, and I don't like the ergonomic flat segment of the bend, but those honestly don't correlate with price. We get them either way, at most price points. So "feel" of the handlebars isn't really working to explain price differentials in general.

    You touched on fashion, and on weight. That's apparently all there is.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Mobile 155's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
    I'm kind of thinking that now myself. Stronger allow and lower weight go together, since it's hardly likely for anyone to manufacture road bike bars that will easily break or are bendy, not anything but something utra-light anyway. Weaker alloy must be thicker, thus heavier. As far as weight goes, the bars are low-hanging fruit and obviously you'd start there if you had 100 grams or more slack, before a groupset or wheels. So I suspect they capitalize on that perhaps, selling grams as compared to pricier parts.

    What I don't know about are any other tangible, price-correlated advantages. If "feel" is a mainly a couple of (x,y,z) hand coordinates along with the bar angle at those points, then it's quantifiable and not all that subjective, and also subject to replication by moving and re-orienting bars of different geometries. Hood's dont count, flats don't count, because those hand positions won't vary that much between drop bar styles. Right? Now I do know for example that I prefer the "feel" of deeper drops to the shallow, and I don't like the ergonomic flat segment of the bend, but those honestly don't correlate with price. We get them either way, at most price points. So "feel" of the handlebars isn't really working to explain price differentials in general.

    You touched on fashion, and on weight. That's apparently all there is.
    Weight may be first. To drop a pound off of your road bike takes 455 grams. In your OP the bars you have are 100 grams or close to a quarter of a pound different. You can cut another 250 grams by ditching a B-17 for a Selle Italia, not saying it would be a better saddle but much lighter. You can drop another 100 grams on cranks and bottom brackets and then you have the hard fought pound. If you remember my first example you already lost more than a pound on wheels. now you have a 17 pound Tarmac, Madone, TCR, BMC down to 15 pounds. You can get a 20 pound plush road bike down to 18.

    The next part might be reputation and quality control. Who makes the store brand bar? Many companies spend a lot of time building a reputation for quality and offer a warrentee to prove it. Store brand bars, frames, wheels are often made by different manufacturers based on a price point and have never developed a reputation people trust. Yugo and BMW are both cars but most people would rather have a BMW or if that is too big of a spread a Honda.

    And style does play a roll. People can get serviceable Tennis shoes from Payless or they can by Ascis at Foot Locker. The Asics will more than likely look better and in my case the bigger toe box makes them more comfortable. How much would I be willing to pay for the more comfortable toe box and better looking shoe? For me it is worth it, to some maybe not. I could get a good Timex watch for 60 bucks, but I might rather have a Movado because of style. It all depends on how important and how much passion for the objects you have are. People that are passionate about Tennis shoes are willing to spend more for better looking stylish tennis shoes. People that are passionate about time pieces are willing to buy better looking watches. People that are passionate about their road bike will be more interested in a flat top aero road drop bar even if it cost more. That is just how the world turns. You can eat a meal at Mickey Ds and it will fill you up. You can also eat a Meal at Spagos in LA and it will fill you up. One will cost you more and one you will enjoy more.
    Life is like riding a bicycle - in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving. ~Albert Einstein.

  14. #14
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mobile 155 View Post
    ... People that are passionate about their road bike will be more interested in a flat top aero road drop bar even if it cost more. That is just how the world turns. You can eat a meal at Mickey Ds and it will fill you up. You can also eat a Meal at Spagos in LA and it will fill you up. One will cost you more and one you will enjoy more.
    This part is interesting. I didn't know there were any flat-top aluminum road bars, unless someone is hydroforming them? But anyway, one big difference between the Big Mac and Spagos is flavor, another is service. Easy to put your finger on. Relating that to aluminum drop bars - no let's expand to an aluminum and carbon fiber - other than fashion and weight which you mentioned, what would you enjoy more about say, the 3T Ergonova Team Road Handlebar over the Ritchey Design comp curve handlebar? ($320 vs $25 if you're curious). The former is carbon fiber, 100 grams lighter, and -?

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    Quote Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
    Relating that to aluminum drop bars - no let's expand to an aluminum and carbon fiber - other than fashion and weight which you mentioned, what would you enjoy more about say, the 3T Ergonova Team Road Handlebar over the Ritchey Design comp curve handlebar? ($320 vs $25 if you're curious). The former is carbon fiber, 100 grams lighter, and -?
    The carbon might be slightly more comfortable (on longer rides, especially). It's easier and cheaper to make simple bars out of AL.

    Anyway, you know (or should know) that bicycle stuff has a diminishing return for performance versus cost and that there is a sweet-spot price (stuff can be too cheap and stuff that is very expensive isn't really worth the minor performance enhancement).

    Also, stuff for normal size people is going to be more cost-effective (the market is bigger and there's more competition). If you are on the small or large size, you might be required to pay more for parts that best fit you.

  16. #16
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    The carbon might be slightly more comfortable (on longer rides, especially). It's easier and cheaper to make simple bars out of AL.
    Yep. You're the first one to suggest that the carbon might be more comfortable (probably because I'd been trying to limit the question to aluminum). Have you found this to be so? All I've seen is "maybe" as you say here, but not a definite "the CF handlebars are more comfortable". Have you?

    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    Anyway, you know (or should know) that bicycle stuff has a diminishing return for performance versus cost and that there is a sweet-spot price (stuff can be too cheap and stuff that is very expensive isn't really worth the minor performance enhancement).
    Of course.

    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    Also, stuff for normal size people is going to be more cost-effective (the market is bigger and there's more competition). If you are on the small or large size, you might be required to pay more for parts that best fit you.
    That could be true depending on supply and demand, but you know some of them that I've looked at which have the wider ranges (38-46mm Easton for example) are all the same price regardless of width. I'm curious about standard sized bars, apples to apples.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Mobile 155's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
    This part is interesting. I didn't know there were any flat-top aluminum road bars, unless someone is hydroforming them? But anyway, one big difference between the Big Mac and Spagos is flavor, another is service. Easy to put your finger on. Relating that to aluminum drop bars - no let's expand to an aluminum and carbon fiber - other than fashion and weight which you mentioned, what would you enjoy more about say, the 3T Ergonova Team Road Handlebar over the Ritchey Design comp curve handlebar? ($320 vs $25 if you're curious). The former is carbon fiber, 100 grams lighter, and -?
    I have small hands so it doesn't make a lot of difference to me. I believe you will find the Easton EA 30 bars are both Aluminum and considered a wind bar. But for the avid riders in my group the flat top road bars made of CF offer some relief for the wrist for those times they are on the tops. So comfort and weight are a big factor. They have shaved a very hard to lose .5 pounds off of their bike. I have had both Aluminum and CF bars with some of the more traditional shapes but for me a shallow drop works best. What did I enjoy about Cf bars? The CF bars reduce vibration, or at least mine did. Some I know didn't care for the feeling of flex when in the drops and pulling up for a climbing sprint. I have to work so hard climbing I don't notice. where do I notice the difference most? On less than perfect pavement and once again in that dreaded climbing because in my bar design the part right behind the hoods is less harsh than my old bars were. Seems as if the top of the bar in that area is a little less rounded than my old stock Lapierre bars were. That difference helps relieve some of the numbness that occures on longer road rides in my experience.

    So in my opinion the Ritchy super Logic and 3T Ergonova would work well because of my small hands. And the way I rest on the Hoods. I have a Specialized bar designed a bit like those two. And Bontreger Race Xlite? has a bar much like them as well. Obviously the style and design fits my riding better, at least to my comfort than stock round bars. (The taste, flavor, quality Difference) Not that if I were only riding my town bike that I couldn't live with my Cinelli bars on my Klein. It is just for rides in excess of 40 or 60 miles a good saddle and good bars seem worth more than they would for a 10 mile trip to a friend's house or to the pharmacy and back.
    Life is like riding a bicycle - in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving. ~Albert Einstein.

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    My favourite bars were some parts-bin specials that had been gathering dust in the shop for years. Old school touring bars with shallow drop, recurved tops, external shim with scalloped edges and those elaborate stampings. They were unbelievably cheap and I was very happy to pay little.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
    Yep. You're the first one to suggest that the carbon might be more comfortable (probably because I'd been trying to limit the question to aluminum). Have you found this to be so? All I've seen is "maybe" as you say here, but not a definite "the CF handlebars are more comfortable". Have you?
    (Some one else mentioned it.)

    Eh, I'm too cheap! I also think that AL bars are a bit safer in crashes. I'm not really having any comfort issues with the bars (and bike) I'm using at the moment.

    Quote Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
    Of course.
    Then, you already can answer your question (to some extent). You/we already know (some) people spend lots of money on bikes and components for no really-good reasons. Some people will pay extra for crabon merely because it's crabon.
    Last edited by njkayaker; 09-04-12 at 04:20 PM.

  20. #20
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    Then, you already can answer your question (to some extent). You/we already know (some) people spend lots of money on bikes and components for no really-good reasons. Some people will pay extra for crabon merely because it's crabon.
    Heck even I've done that: carbon fork because it's lighter, I think smoother, and looks good. I'd do seatpost and stem if I thought it would make a whit difference.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Mobile 155's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    (Some one else mentioned it.)

    Eh, I'm too cheap! I also think that AL bars are a bit safer in crashes. I'm not really having any comfort issues with the bars (and bike) I'm using at the moment.


    Then, you already can answer your question (to some extent). You/we already know (some) people spend lots of money on bikes and components for no really-good reasons. Some people will pay extra for crabon merely because it's crabon.
    I think many cyclists spend money on what they value. If it is light weight it might be carbon fiber if it is traditional it might be steel. If we feel it makes a difference then in most cases it makes a difference. SRAM Red shifts better than SRAM Apex. If you count smoothness as better. Dura Ace does better or is smoother than 105s. Those that have had both realize this and that is often why they pay more. CF forks have been used to smooth out Steel, Aluminum and Titainium bikes and those that convert to them seem to agree. If If cost outweighs smoothness or lightness it may not seem as much of a value. But what is one whit worth of difference? Does style count or is style not important in any facit of someone's life?
    Life is like riding a bicycle - in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving. ~Albert Einstein.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mobile 155 View Post
    You can eat a meal at Mickey Ds and it will fill you up. You can also eat a Meal at Spagos in LA and it will fill you up. One will cost you more and one you will enjoy more.
    This is a false dilemma. It's not a choice between McDonalds and Spago.

    We'd have to look at the actual costs. A meal at Spago might be as expensive as multiple meals at some other very-good restaurant that isn't as "fashionable". That is, it's quite possible that one could get more enjoyment at going to some high-quality place other than Spago. (It's quite possible that one reason people go to Spago is to brag about it. There is nothing that establishes that one has to spend that sort of money to get the same level of quality.)

    Things like Spago are really targeting people who have money to burn (the wealthy). For people of more limited means, there are, almost certainly, more effective ways to spend that money (ways that would provide much more enjoyment for the cost).

    Quote Originally Posted by Mobile 155 View Post
    I think many cyclists spend money on what they value. If it is light weight it might be carbon fiber if it is traditional it might be steel.
    People are free to spend money on whatever they want. That, though, doesn't really mean there's a rational reason behind it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mobile 155 View Post
    If we feel it makes a difference then in most cases it makes a difference.
    As a general principle, this is false since typically people are poor judges of what "makes a difference".

    Quote Originally Posted by Mobile 155 View Post
    SRAM Red shifts better than SRAM Apex. If you count smoothness as better. Dura Ace does better or is smoother than 105s. Those that have had both realize this and that is often why they pay more. CF forks have been used to smooth out Steel, Aluminum and Titainium bikes and those that convert to them seem to agree.
    You are ignoring the cost. A rational decision is based on benefit and cost. If you are wealthy, then cost really doesn't matter but, I'd guess that most people here are not wealthy. It would be unfortunate if people thought that spending money on Red and Dura Ace was necessary (it isn't). And, of course, 105 is very good (Dura Ace might be better but it's only a bit better for a lot more money).

    Quote Originally Posted by Mobile 155 View Post
    Does style count or is style not important in any facit of someone's life?
    Some people buy things for style (it's their choice!) but too-commonly rationalize their purchase by arguing that they get unrealistic performance benefits. It's the rationalization that is bad (it's dishonest and leads to other people being misinformed).
    Last edited by njkayaker; 09-05-12 at 08:01 AM.

  23. #23
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mobile 155 View Post
    ... If cost outweighs smoothness or lightness it may not seem as much of a value. But what is one whit worth of difference? Does style count or is style not important in any facit of someone's life?
    If you ask me, there is a difference if it makes it faster or easier, more convenient, more durable and reliable, more comfortable in use, or easier to maintain. Style is important in some circumstances, but for me personally for a bike, the machine is the style. What it looks like is dictated by what it does and how it does it.

    Weight is a known and measurable of course, and you can decide on an actual dollar value for how much shedding a gram is worth to you, and you can refine your selection of parts right there. A hundred grams is not worth a whole lot to me, so I like to look in more detail at particular advantages of one piece over another, leaving appearance as the final deciding element other things being equal.

    I mentioned seat post and stem because, given two posts that can hold the saddle in the desired position, after accounting for weight there aren't many functional advantages. One performs as well as another. I've learned that here on BF Naturally, with an all carbon bike I'd have a carbon seatpost and carbon stem, because I'd have already set that $/gram high enough to eliminate other options (and for the carbon to aluminum interface problems).

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