Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Montréal (Québec)
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With current technology, there is no real [/i]cycling[/i] advantage going either way. A good steel frame is, in theory, heavier than a good aluminium frame, but one talks of a 0.5 lb difference, i.e. a trivial one. In terms of rigidity, a good touring frame like the Trek 520, the Bruce Gordon or even the Mikado won't flex and therefore will be as little "forgiving" as an aluminium frame. Resilience and shock absorbsion will come from tires, and a good touring frame for Asia should accept wide tires like 26"x 2" (or more), or 700 x 40 to 45, even with fenders.
So the real advantage of steel comes with its ability to be welded on the road. Not a real advantage in North America or Europe, but an interesting feature in Viet Nam.
BTW, make sure the derailleur hanger is reparable or carry some replacement part. Also, if you prefer STI, bring replacement downtube shifters.
As for racks, I have broken the original Blackburn (vintage 1980) but not the EX-2. Still, I'd prefer a rigid steel rack like the Tubus.