I think mostly that all illustrates the point that we are all different. Pretty deep thinking, eh?
But I find that I really value stability in a bike. Even as a young criterium racer I wanted a stable bike that I could ignore if I wanted to. I took some rides on the aggressive "crit" bikes of the day and hated them, because they were so squirrely. I did once manage to build a frame that was too stable - it "plowed a furrow" and I had to force it to do anything but go straight, which was surprisingly disconcerting. That was a pretty extreme case, though, and interestingly enough, was greatly improved by fitting narrower tires run at higher pressure. At any rate, the truly low trail bikes that Jan says are perfection on two wheels are unpleasant to me. I have a harder time riding no-hands with those bikes than I do with "standard" trail bikes fitted with handlebar bags. C'est la vie.
The short version, I suppose, is that there is no such thing as one "perfect" geometry. I still am firmly of the opinion that "British" geometry perfected in the 1950s and 60s (73 parallel with two to two-and-a-half inches of rake) should be adequate for most people under most circumstances, but I wouldn't guarantee that, either.
I think you are absolutely correct when you note the issues with individual proportions and body weight. Most of my frames are built with 9/6/9 tubing, which is quite heavy, according to Jan. It is what I raced when I was 158 pounds, and I never felt that it was too stiff or flexible. And it also worked for me decades later, at 220 pounds, but capable of putting out far less power. When I built a bike with 8/5/8 (still heavier than Jan likes) I found that the handling was quite poor until I lost 50 pounds, at which point it performed perfectly. But any time I get beyond 190 pounds, it starts acting funny again, and I start preferring my 9/6/9 frames.
Which is all a long, drunken, rambling way of saying that I suspect it's possible to worry about all of it far too much. I really am to the point that I think Grant Petersen may have it all figured out when he says that he refuses to discuss geometry at all anymore. As long as we've got room for the tires we want to use, we should probably all shut up about it and just go for a ride.
Oh, and I am essentially a self-taught framebuilder. I bought a Paterek manual and just started goofing around, eventually ending up with functional frames. Nothing has yet fallen apart on me, but I still tell people they maybe shouldn't ride behind me in the paceline. :D
I still remember vividly one day when I was riding in a pack and suddenly there was a piece of shiny metal that bounced off the road and was flying toward my face. I managed to avoid it without crashing (or crashing into anyone), but it sure got my adrenalin going. Turns out the rack had come apart on a rider's Bagman rear rack.
Originally Posted by Six jours
Did you teach yourself to do lugged joints, fillet brazed, or TIG-welded? (Is there any other alternative to these three?)
This is an interesting discussion, its been informative to follow along. I will add my two cents based on my own experience.
I have only one road bike, a 1981 Bianchi Limited. I rode it for a couple years with 700x28mm tires. About a year and a half ago I converted it to 650B and have since been riding on 650Bx38mm tires.
The 650B version of my bike is better in all respects. The smoother ride and overall comfort difference is huge. What was surprising is the handling became more responsive so that it was easier to choose a line and hold it, and together with the extra traction and smooth ride I quickly became way more confident when descending. I used to be very tentative on descents but now I can really let it fly. Brevets are much more fun on the 650B version and I will never change it back to 700c.
For years I've carried my gear in a Carradice saddlebag. A few months ago the curiosity about handlebar bags finally got to me so I set up a front rack and got a Berthoud decauler and the Ironweed handlear bag. This experiment failed miserably. The bike handled like an overfilled wheelbarrow, it was even a struggle to take one hand off the bars to reach the downtube shifters. However, I can strap a U-Lock to the front rack and the handling is fine. I think the problem was that the geometry of my bike and the particulars of the rack and decauler resulted in the bag being pushed too far forward. Since the bike handles great with a ton of gear in the saddlebag I will stick with that setup.
I wish I knew more about why my 650B experiment went so well, and my handlebar bag experiment went so badly, so that I could make better recommendations to others who are interested in trying those things.
At least now there are bikes at decent prices such as the Soma GR that you know in advance will fit fat tires, fenders, and a handlebar bag and everything will work out nicely.
Here's mine; built up by Silva Cycles. Most of the drive-train is Campy Veloce except for the VO Grand Cru (46x30) crank.
GB Decaleur & handlebar bag
Nitto campee rack
Son Schmidt dynamo w/ Cyo
Thomson seat post
Brooks Cambium saddle
Tubus airy rack
Ortlieb back rollers
It makes commuting quite comfortable -- haven't done any randos yet. I do have a complaint about the fork. It's heavy enough for a porteur, and has a bit of shimmy, so I'm having Silva construct a custom fork.
Note on the crank: the large chain ring suffered a catastrophic failure when starting at an intersection. This is unusual, apparently, as the guys at the bike shop and VO were both a bit freaked. VO replaced it without any hassle though.
Has anyone tried the Campy CX carbon cranks on a Rando? I might switch just to save some weight; although, it would mean going to a 46x36. Right now, I'm at 30.5 lbs without the handlebar and tool bags (but with panniers).