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Old 02-24-13, 08:43 AM   #1
downwinded
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steel/alloy fork vs carbon

What differences are there in a steel or alloy fork compared to a carbon fork? Obviously price and weight. Think along the Trek FX line for the type of bike I would like to use for comparison. I have never ridden a bike with a carbon fork, so I'm kinda clueless.
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Old 02-24-13, 09:43 AM   #2
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I'm no expert but from the ridding I've done, my "steel" forks have a smoother ride than the alloy forked bikes I've had, steel absorbs road shock better than alloy, jmho. Carbon Fibre gives you the "smoother ride" of steel but the lighter weight of alloy, kinda the best of both worlds. My wife has bikes with both steel and carbon fiber forks and she tell's me that see does not notice a "real" difference in the "ride" but the carbon forked bike is a bit more lively feeling. YMMV.
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Old 02-24-13, 10:33 AM   #3
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IDK what you do with your bike , you need to be careful with damaging the carbon in handling the bike,
when not riding, putting it in the back of car/truck, fork tip supported bike racks, and so forth ..

Steel , there is durability, in those situations and, .. an individual can make a fork of steel components,
like, Frame builders with small shops.. you can ask for specific fittings 'braze ons' to be added, as they build a fork for you.

Then there is the issue of .. which steel.. expensive alloy steel is stronger
so the blades can use less , for springy ness..
Cheaper steel alloys, safety for the rider is achieved by using more of it.
The wall thickness goes up, as does the weight.

a factory and economy of scale, mostly, in Asia is responsible for making Carbon stuff
cheap enough to be a consideration... for the masses..

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Old 02-25-13, 04:40 PM   #4
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IDK what you do with your bike , you need to be careful with damaging the carbon in handling the bike, when not riding, putting it in the back of car/truck, fork tip supported bike racks, and so forth ..
Yes,the CF must be babied or the bike will suddenly catch fire and explode. Lots of full carbon MTB's and cross bikes getting banged around without disintegrating. I've had/have numerous bikes with carbon forks and zero issues. Note:most non-racing CF forks have metal steerer tubes and fork ends.

Both steel and CF are good materials for forks due to their ability to absorb road vibrations. Alloy forks are very common because they're cheaper and lighter than steel. Returned a Road Buzz(perfect name) to REI because the pinpoint alloy fork aggravated my carpel tunnel even with 42mm tires. Swapped the alloy fork on my old Absolute for a carbon cross fork and it made a world or difference. My Dew Deluxe and Dr Good both have P2 forks;the Dew's is steel,the Dr's is alloy. The Dr rides ok with 37mm tires,and Dew rides better with 32's.

Also note that the design of the fork makes a difference. The alloy pinpoint on the Road Buzz was horrible,the curved alloy on my old Big Buzz wasn't too bad. The beefy curved fork on my Pt Reyes is pretty good;this and my old Swobo Otis are the only alloy forked bikes I've ever owned that I could stand to commute on for an entire week.
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Old 02-25-13, 09:15 PM   #5
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The only measurable difference are cost and weight, the rest tends to be subjective and very debateable. The design of the fork plays a big role in how the bike feels and rides, much more so than the material it is made of.
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Old 02-25-13, 10:02 PM   #6
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The only measurable difference are cost and weight, the rest tends to be subjective and very debateable. The design of the fork plays a big role in how the bike feels and rides, much more so than the material it is made of.
This.

And wider tires will make a more noticable difference in road vibration than any difference in fork material.
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Old 02-25-13, 10:23 PM   #7
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The only measurable difference are cost and weight, the rest tends to be subjective and very debateable. The design of the fork plays a big role in how the bike feels and rides, much more so than the material it is made of.
Well, assuming a reputable brand, the CF fork will be stronger for a given weight. Which is nice.
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Old 02-25-13, 10:34 PM   #8
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Tires

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This.

And wider tires will make a more noticable difference in road vibration than any difference in fork material.
Not always true, I went from 700 x 25 to 700 x 23's and it was like a different bike.. Tire make plays a HUGE roll in this, GATORHARDSHELLS ride very very smooth.. Like a 38 might feel, but faster rolling. But your going to pay around 65.00 dollars each at your local LBS.

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Old 02-25-13, 10:42 PM   #9
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To stay on the OP topic, till you hit a full carbon bike. I don't think just the fork will make it much smoother, just lighter.. I have tried all 3 forks on the same frame, Aluminum, steel, and carbon.. all rode about the same.
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Old 02-26-13, 10:23 AM   #10
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I have ridden all three. The aluminum will transmit every crack and bump in the road, the carbon will transmit less than the aluminum and be just as responsive, and the steel will be the smoothest and most comfortable, but weighs the most and is the least responsive. I like the carbon for the weight and the ride is OK, steel next, and aluminum last, but it depends on which bike I'm riding and for what reason.
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Old 02-26-13, 05:13 PM   #11
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The only measurable difference are cost and weight, the rest tends to be subjective and very debateable. The design of the fork plays a big role in how the bike feels and rides, much more so than the material it is made of.
The pain in my wrists is definitely not "debatable".
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Old 02-26-13, 10:18 PM   #12
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Well it's good to get that topic put to rest! Seriously folks, thanks for the replies. This will help when I start riding some different bikes.
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Old 02-27-13, 01:41 AM   #13
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Not always true, I went from 700 x 25 to 700 x 23's and it was like a different bike.. Tire make plays a HUGE roll in this, GATORHARDSHELLS ride very very smooth.. Like a 38 might feel, but faster rolling. But your going to pay around 65.00 dollars each at your local LBS.

Obviously we have completely different ideas of what 'wide' means. Personally I'd consider both 23 and 25c tire pretty skinny. Ones just slightly more anorexic than the other
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Old 02-27-13, 05:07 PM   #14
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Obviously we have completely different ideas of what 'wide' means. Personally I'd consider both 23 and 25c tire pretty skinny. Ones just slightly more anorexic than the other
(anorexic) that's funny ! I knew that you meant much wider, 3 years ago I thought 38's where small.. Now that most all my riding is city, I wouldn't want anything bigger than 38's in 700c. My Sirrus will only take a 25 max, maybe a 28.. But with 26" wheels 1.5" is about right for me. Tire quality must have a lot to do with it, had a bike with carbon fork, 700 x 28 Kendra Kwick Trax (how ever you spell it) sidewalk cracks felt like speed bumps. I can still feel them with my Trek with 26" x 1.5" Bontrager, and My Sirrus with 700 x 23's glides right over them. Go Figure
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Old 02-27-13, 05:59 PM   #15
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it really depends on the bike. on a proper road bike, 25, 23, even 21mm are quite normal. on a hybrid, 25 is very narrow, and 32-38 are more normal. on a mountain bike, 50-70 is normal (2-2.8")
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Old 02-28-13, 06:41 AM   #16
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(anorexic) that's funny ! I knew that you meant much wider, 3 years ago I thought 38's where small.. Now that most all my riding is city, I wouldn't want anything bigger than 38's in 700c. My Sirrus will only take a 25 max, maybe a 28.. But with 26" wheels 1.5" is about right for me. Tire quality must have a lot to do with it, had a bike with carbon fork, 700 x 28 Kendra Kwick Trax (how ever you spell it) sidewalk cracks felt like speed bumps. I can still feel them with my Trek with 26" x 1.5" Bontrager, and My Sirrus with 700 x 23's glides right over them. Go Figure
Well thanks for the recommendation - haven't tried those Hardshells and I'll look some up. Probably in a 25c size though. The streets of Montreal are more like a war zone than proper streets and thats the main reason I moved to really wide Marathon Supremes. There seems to be some kind of competition between the construction industry (currently under investigation for corruption) and the tourist industry (every year we get free guided tours of road construction sites) to see who can promote the sales of most 4x4 automobiles!
So my road bikes had pretty much taken a back seat. Widest tires I can fit are 700x25c and they currently both run Conti Grand Prix 4000's. How do you figure the ride quality of a Conti Hardshell would compare?
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Old 02-28-13, 06:46 PM   #17
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Well thanks for the recommendation - haven't tried those Hardshells and I'll look some up. Probably in a 25c size though. The streets of Montreal are more like a war zone than proper streets and thats the main reason I moved to really wide Marathon Supremes. There seems to be some kind of competition between the construction industry (currently under investigation for corruption) and the tourist industry (every year we get free guided tours of road construction sites) to see who can promote the sales of most 4x4 automobiles!
So my road bikes had pretty much taken a back seat. Widest tires I can fit are 700x25c and they currently both run Conti Grand Prix 4000's. How do you figure the ride quality of a Conti Hardshell would compare?
I wouldn't really know how they compare, never tried them. (BUT) am glad that I took a ride before posting, hit some huge pot holes. Now I remember why I thought 38's were small, and picked up my first flat with those Hardshells not sure what flatted it though. Didn't go flat till after I put it away, changed the tube and it was a puncture in the sidewall. Did ride through LOTS of broken glass, generally I take the Trek on this rough route, but my son was gone on it.. Anyway I replaced the tube with a 700 x 26/32 , all I had. Never done this before on a small tire, should it be okay ? I have 23's on my Sirrus..
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Old 03-01-13, 12:07 AM   #18
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Carbon for road only unless I have a steel frame, then it would be steel fork.

Offroad? steel for a rigid fork. Steel frame, too My Rockhopper single speed is a blast, though I really only use it on the canal path
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Old 03-01-13, 04:42 PM   #19
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Carbon for road only unless I have a steel frame, then it would be steel fork.

Offroad? steel for a rigid fork. Steel frame, too My Rockhopper single speed is a blast, though I really only use it on the canal path
I can get you a good deal on steel rims if you want an all steel package !
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Old 03-01-13, 05:58 PM   #20
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the rest tends to be subjective and very debateable.
Where you ride is a big part of the equation. Fork + Tires + Road = Buzz?

So if you plan on riding on smooth concrete get aluminum or any. But if you plan on riding on a rough surface such as washboard asphalt or packed gravel stick with steel or carbon.
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Old 03-01-13, 06:45 PM   #21
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I can get you a good deal on steel rims if you want an all steel package !
Your Bad
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Old 03-02-13, 01:57 AM   #22
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Your Bad
Moi???

I was kida yanking someone's chain about there steel fetish but actually I myself kinda like some of the all stainless steel bikes that are offered in Japan and a few other countries. Yeah - they're heavier, but more durable and maintenaince free than the light weight stuff that seems to be so popular here.
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Old 03-02-13, 04:48 AM   #23
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the top line steel frames from the mid 70s were really nice frames, the forks on the better ones were amazingly springy, while staying very tight.
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Old 03-02-13, 09:14 AM   #24
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I can get you a good deal on steel rims if you want an all steel package !
I think I will have to pass! I remember steel rims from childhood...I will not go back to that! The first bike I had with aluminum rims/canti brakes I almost went over the handlebars first time I grabbed the brakes. OOPS!

My old "steel" rockhopper frame is classic. And it was $25 for frame, fork, headset, stem, bars, bar ends, and shifters (which I don't use). Couldnt pass up the deal, and If I could find new decals, I would get it blasted and powdercoated. I wouldnt put a steel fork on an aluminum road bike, though. Carbon fiber is better, IMO.

And remember, tires make a big difference, too. Cheap tires usually ride like bricks. Some expensive tires ride like bricks, too. I prefer a balance of supple casing and puncture resistance.
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Old 03-02-13, 03:47 PM   #25
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I think I will have to pass! I remember steel rims from childhood...I will not go back to that! The first bike I had with aluminum rims/canti brakes I almost went over the handlebars first time I grabbed the brakes. OOPS!

My old "steel" rockhopper frame is classic. And it was $25 for frame, fork, headset, stem, bars, bar ends, and shifters (which I don't use). Couldnt pass up the deal, and If I could find new decals, I would get it blasted and powdercoated. I wouldnt put a steel fork on an aluminum road bike, though. Carbon fiber is better, IMO.

And remember, tires make a big difference, too. Cheap tires usually ride like bricks. Some expensive tires ride like bricks, too. I prefer a balance of supple casing and puncture resistance.
Yeah - I have a couple steel frames that I like a lot myself, and a couple full CF frames as well. But this year picked up a couple all aluminum babies. In my experience its possible to build a terrible frame out if anything - steel, CF, aluminum or titanium. Its really the design, engineering and workmanship that make a difference and better quality always comes at a higher pricetag. I'm actually impressed with how well that new aluminum rig rides.
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