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Anyone Here PREFER LowEnd/Heavy/HighTen over Light/SL/531?

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Anyone Here PREFER LowEnd/Heavy/HighTen over Light/SL/531?

Old 12-22-16, 10:38 AM
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armstrong101
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Anyone Here PREFER LowEnd/Heavy/HighTen over Light/SL/531?

Hi folks

This isn't intended to ask whether you own low-end/heavy/HiTen bikes, or if such a bike is your daily rider. My question is given the choice, do any of you actually prefer to ride/own a "low end" heavy steel bike over a "high end" light steel bike. If so, why?
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Old 12-22-16, 10:56 AM
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For some applications like loaded touring, you don't necessarily want the thinnest, lightest tubing. But for a "go fast" bike, I'll generally take the lightweight stuff.
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Old 12-22-16, 11:08 AM
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With the exception of the Raleigh Sports or Superbe 3 speeds, Nope! And nostalgia explains my fondness for the Raleigh as I commuted daily to & from work and grad school on one back in early 80's Portland, OR.Fortunately, East Portland is flat. I recently picked up a Superbe and overhauled it. Will likely be ridden a bit when warm weather returns. Don

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Old 12-22-16, 11:56 AM
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There are some low end French or Italian frames of the 60's-70's that handle as well because the geometry is very similar. But it is difficult to eliminate the difference in component performance.
If you took a well designed cheap frame and assembled it with top tier components many could not tell the difference.
Unless they got to look
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Old 12-22-16, 12:04 PM
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If I am going to leave a bike in a place where it could get stolen, such as at the train or the T, I'll take an old Raliegh Gran Prix or an old French bike.
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Old 12-22-16, 12:06 PM
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I ride a Gitane Grand Sport 1970 28lbs. Its a "big" French bike and I love the way it rides. Very different from my '84 Italian. Its quick and fast, and when the road is smooth, it flies.
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Old 12-22-16, 12:11 PM
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No, but not the other way around either.
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Old 12-22-16, 12:13 PM
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Performance wise, there really are no advantages.

However, many times a utility bike is the right tool for the job. I'm quite fond of old 3 speeds myself. Also, an old beater or cheaper bike is both more theft resistant and less of a loss if it is stolen.
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Old 12-22-16, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Salamandrine View Post
Performance wise, there really are no advantages.
I guess in one sentence, this what I was looking for as an answer.
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Old 12-22-16, 01:12 PM
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This really gives my pea brain a good workout...

I'm going to say YES and leave it at that.
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Old 12-22-16, 01:17 PM
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Having wrecked my 40-y-o Raleigh GP with 40 years of upgrades in 3 major rebuilds, and wholesale moved all the components over to a new International frame, I have some recent observations.

Even though the geometry is identical on these bikes, they are apples and oranges.
The GP is a lively frame and makes a great touring bike with a rear load.


The double-butted 531 frame is not significantly lighter in a built bike, but flexes much more in both main and rear triangles.
I don't think the bike would be safe with heavy rear load - I think it could oscillate at speed.

While both frames "plane" per Jan Heine's description, the flex is much more pronounced in the International.
First set up with my rear brakes too narrow, I could make the rear brake rub just by mash on a short bluff climb.
That said, I can make the same climb a full-gear-step taller than I could make it on the GP.

It handles a front load very well, which is mostly a result of the same fork geometry on the two bikes.
(I also sold my canvas panniers and Nitto rear rack to pay for more than half of the International frame)



simply put, both bikes are equally fast, but the International is quicker

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Old 12-22-16, 01:19 PM
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My Bianchi Eco Pista (built with plain-gauge seamed Columbus Aelle chromium-manganese tubing) was a great-riding bike---maybe my favorite of all the bikes I've owned in the last 50-plus years.

Weirdly, a bottom-feeder bike that I picked up at a pawn shop and was originally sold through a discount store chain also has a mystifyingly great ride.

It's an AMX Patriot "racing" bike with 8-speed Sora with indexed down-tube shifters, so it's decently equipped, but the frame is built of some low grade of thick-walled aluminum that makes the bike quite the boat anchor---easily equivalent in weight to a low-end carbon steel bike.

I don't ride it much, since the weight makes it too much of a dog at climbing the hills in northern Baltimore County, but the handling is absolutely superb---it's got that "riding on rails" feel that you always hope for in a road bike.

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Old 12-22-16, 01:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Salamandrine View Post
Performance wise, there really are no advantages.
Not entirely true. A heavy load or a strong rider can make a light frame flex in unpleasant ways. I toured on a 1975 Raleigh Gran Sport (all 531 butted) with panniers and handlebar bag, and the bike shimmied at low speeds. It wasn't a huge problem, but it might be a deal killer for some.
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Old 12-22-16, 01:29 PM
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I think it has less to do with the material and more to do with frame construction. Higher end frames with attention to detail are typically built with higher end tubing....with appropriate $$ attached.

Assuming same build quality, the cheaper steel would likely only be heavier, with very minor (if any) ride quality differences.

I wouldn't use the term 'prefer' with giving the caveat to how it's used. I do prefer saving money on frames that are used for commuting / utility and see no reason to spend more for that use.

I wouldn't hesitate to get a cheaper steel frame if it worked for its intended use.
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Old 12-22-16, 01:33 PM
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Schwinn's Varsity s and Flash welded Cruisers used basic steel and were not cheap on the quantity.
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Old 12-22-16, 01:33 PM
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I have some high-quality heavier wall thickness steel bikes. I also have Reynolds 531. Columbus SPX has thicker tube walls and helical reinforcements and it's stiffer than other tubesets , but with a weight penalty. I really like the SPX frame while climbing and descending. The frame is ultra stable and predictable at 40 mph (plus) and climbs with minimal flex on extra steep routes. My Reynolds 531 bikes ride well, but I avoid using them on extreme rides due to moderate flexing when climbing and descending.

Having said all this, double butted 4130 tubing (or equivalent) is my threshold for acceptable steel tubing quality. I have a bike built with Columbus CROMAR, a moderately priced double butted tubeset formed from rolled panels of high quality steel. It's a little heavier and significantly stiffer than Reynolds 531. It's a great quality frame and contributes to one of my favourite bikes. However, I would pass over a straight gauge high-ten bike. I put real time and money into the bikes I use and a high-ten frameset is not a good starting point for a quality restoration.

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Old 12-22-16, 01:39 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
Not entirely true. A heavy load or a strong rider can make a light frame flex in unpleasant ways. I toured on a 1975 Raleigh Gran Sport (all 531 butted) with panniers and handlebar bag, and the bike shimmied at low speeds. It wasn't a huge problem, but it might be a deal killer for some.
That's an insight that is surprisingly seldom mentioned in discussions of frame material. Cannondale touring bikes, with their large-diameter aluminum frame tubes, have a small but fervent fan club of riders who know that those bikes handle very predictably with loaded panniers.
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Old 12-22-16, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by armstrong101 View Post
I guess in one sentence, this what I was looking for as an answer.
You were not asking absolute performance, but preference.

A well designed bike that fits is always preferable.
The rest is what motivates one to select THAT particular bike over others.
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Old 12-22-16, 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Trakhak View Post
That's an insight that is surprisingly seldom mentioned in discussions of frame material. Cannondale touring bikes, with their large-diameter aluminum frame tubes, have a small but fervent fan club of riders who know that those bikes handle very predictably with loaded panniers.
I understand that larger diameter tubes compensate for the wobbliness that thin walls create. Of course, to maintain the low weight, the walls need to be even thinner, making them dent-prone.
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Old 12-22-16, 02:02 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
Not entirely true. A heavy load or a strong rider can make a light frame flex in unpleasant ways. I toured on a 1975 Raleigh Gran Sport (all 531 butted) with panniers and handlebar bag, and the bike shimmied at low speeds. It wasn't a huge problem, but it might be a deal killer for some.
I can understand this point of view, and I agree with you, but what you are talking about is a matter of tubing gauge and/or construction, not low end vs high end steel. The Young's Modulus of all steel is effectively the same, and fancy or cheap steel makes no difference as to flex. Only the strength changes when you go to the 'good' stuff. Fancier steels like 531 are much stronger.

Sure, if you build to a thicker gauge (all else equal) a bike will be stiffer and have less flex. I suppose the argument could be made that if you want to build a thick tubing stiff bike, there's no point in using fancy material, because the cheaper stuff will be strong enough.

I guess to summarize a cheap steel frame might have the advantage of being stiffer than a (for example) 531 frame, but it's not because it is cheap steel, it's because a thicker gauge tubing was used.

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Old 12-22-16, 02:05 PM
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@Salamandrine, I thought that goes without saying, but it's good you said it, because not everyone knows. People talk about high end frames being pleasantly stiff, and I think what they're really talking about is the opposite. As you said, you can gain stiffness through increased thickness. People refer to low end bikes as feeling dead, and it's probably the added stiffness that create that feeling.
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Old 12-22-16, 02:10 PM
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stiff became a marketable quality in bicycles when they were marketing aluminum bicycles

Aluminum frames must be stiff (and have redudant support) so they can sustain a crack without breaking.
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Old 12-22-16, 02:20 PM
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OK. While those who are interested in the subject are gathered here, I have a question:

Why was the American version of the Gitane TdF - which has been identified to be one the best-riding bikes of its era - made with a full set of Reynolds 531 tubes, whereas the European version only had a 531 main triangle? Did the Americans have bigger budgets? Did the Europeans know something the Americans didn't?

Just curious.
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Old 12-22-16, 02:28 PM
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From my perspective, I think the all 531 is going to climb better, but the stiffer rear triangles could handle better at speed.
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Old 12-22-16, 02:43 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
@Salamandrine, I thought that goes without saying, but it's good you said it, because not everyone knows.
Yeah, that was more directed at the OP than you and other experienced forumites. I find it sometimes helpful to start with the obvious even if you know.

While we are on this, I will concur that very high end steel frames could get quite noodley, as the thin gauges allowed by high strength steels are simply too thin. Standard tube sizes and gauges with 531/Columbus/etc were an optimum combination. Going to thinner gauge tubesets because you can with modern high strength steel can be counter productive. The result is a light noodle.

The answer to this seems to be OS tubesets, as it allows thin gauge tubes and light weight while maintaining stiffness. As pointed out, the downside is the thin tubes are more susceptible to dents.

Last edited by Salamandrine; 12-22-16 at 02:53 PM.
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