I am in the process of (in my head at least) figuring out what I want for a custom steel bike. Apologies in advance for peppering this forum over the next few months+.
The question I've been looking at recently is carbon vs steel fork. Is a steel fork going to be just as comfortable over the long haul? Does a carbon fork really dampen the road that much? Will the carbon be as reliable in the long term? Lastly, can a carbon fork work with a fronk rack (carrying a Berthoud type bag)?
The main issue I have w/CF forks and custom frames is that you're pretty much restricted to one fork rake: 43mm, and forget about fenders. The only advantage I've found w/CF over steel forks is weight - steel is probably 1/4 to 1/2 lb heavier. Could be more than that. Don't have any hard numbers handy.
But if you're getting a rando bike, and want to use a big front bag, you'll want reduced-trail steering geometry, which means WAY more than 43mm of rake, and fenders are a good thing to have, even if the weather doesn't always suck quite as bad as it did on the ORR 600k last year (10 solid hours of heavy rain on day 1, and showers on day 2). All of that pretty much makes CF forks a non-starter in my book.
i'd go with the steel fork, which is what i'm riding now (not a custom bike, an older miyata 312). and since you're getting a custom job done you could get a fork with two sets of eyelets (for fenders, and rack separately), and of course clearance for full fenders. (fenders are a must out here in the PNW)
you probably could get a front rack on a CF fork using p-clamps (they sell these at velo orange btw), but i'd just go with all-steel since your frame is anyway.
and i have a notion that a steel fork would do better in a crash than a CF fork, but i could be totally wrong on that one, just a gut feeling..
Fenders, of course! That's definitely a deal breaker. I don't know how I forgot, but the question of clearance never entered my head. If no carbon forks come with clearance for full fenders, then steel is the only optiton for me. Are there carbon forks with plenty of clearance for full fenders? Thanks,
1975 Schwinn Voyageur II (Made by Panasonic), 1988 Schwinn Voyaguer (touring)
Carbon forks seem to be designed for speed versus more general riding, i.e., no bosses, limited fender space, limited rake, no eyelets. Therefore, a steel fork seems to better a choice for long distance riding.
There are at least a few carbon forks that have fender clearance, and some that even have eyelets for fenders. The IRD 57 Mosaic Carbon comes to mind. I think Wound Up has a new touring fork with eyelets.
Your major problem is finding something that will let you mount a front rack. Most people seem to prefer rack mounted front bags, so the bag has a lower center of gravity... but I know at least a few riders who use small handlebar bags without a front rack, like an Arkel or similar and it doesn't seem to worry or bother them at all.
I'm a big steel fan too, but if you want a carbon fork I think you'll be fine, so long as you can make the sacrifice of not having a rack mounted front bag. Carbon probably absorbs as much road noise as using slightly larger tires and a steel fork, so you can make up for it by running 28s or 32s with w/ steel fork and you probably wouldn't notice a difference. My experience is limited, I ride a steel fork on my steel rando bike with 32s, but have an aluminum tandem on 25s with an Alpha Q carbon fork.
i just put a carbon fork on my salsa casseroll. it replaced the steel fork that was damaged when i was hit by a car. i used a bontrager fork that is made for the trek pilot. it retains the same geometry and allows for my long reach calipers. it has eyelets for fenders and plenty of clearance.
i prefer the ride. more shock absorption, yet stiffer. these can be had for $70 from wheel and sprocket. weight with uncut steer tube is 560 grams
Rodriguez Toucan tandem, Rodriguez Rainer Lite sport/touring
My Rodriquez Rainier has a carbon-fiber fork, standard-reach brakes and plenty of room for fenders. R+E also makes a touring bike with a steel fork with 26" wheels (actually, it's a tandem fork) that has plenty of braze-ons and room for fenders. See www.rodcycle.com