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DB 531 v. 631OS v. SLX Tubing for Speed & Comfort

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DB 531 v. 631OS v. SLX Tubing for Speed & Comfort

Old 05-03-20, 12:44 AM
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Kilroy1988 
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DB 531 v. 631OS v. SLX Tubing for Speed & Comfort

Hello folks!

No reason to go into lots of personal details, despite there being many on my end - the question is simple enough (though the answer may not be). I have plenty of experience riding Reynolds butted 531 frames and enjoy them thoroughly. However, I'm currently looking at a couple of different frames, one of which is made with Reynolds 631 with oversized top and down tubes, and another from Columbus SLX. I have no experience with either technology, and would like some opinions on the matter.

Maintaining speed over rough pavement and remaining comfortable in the process are the most important factors for me. I'd like to have a frame with better power transfer and minimal loss of comfort... Will the 631 or SLX do that? Assuming the frames all have similar size and geometry, if that's not almost certainly going to be the case, then I'll just stick to the DB 531. Thanks for your thoughts!

-Gregory
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Old 05-03-20, 01:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Kilroy1988 View Post
Assuming the frames all have similar size and geometry.
Read this:
https://bulgier.net/pics/bike/Articles/SteelShootOut.pdf
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Old 05-03-20, 01:44 AM
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This such a subjective thing, you and I could ride the same bike, if we rode the same size, weight similar, fitted and setup correctly, one, both or neither of us may love the ride.

I do believe some builders and companies got it very right and figured out some formulas, plenty of builders can do amazing things when you work closely enough with them and make sure as best you can that you understand each other.

If you do that and all goes well, you can get this.

531 DB main tubes, I think Columbus fork blades and some big seat stays to fit Andy's crown, not sure about chain stays.

Rides like a dream all around and has the amazing feel that you look and hope for.

Last edited by merziac; 05-03-20 at 02:53 PM.
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Old 05-03-20, 05:15 AM
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Assuming all other factors remain the same, SLX will be slightly stiffer than 531. 631OS came in multiple gauges and diameters, so there will be variance but it will be the stiffest frame. Consequently, it should also have the best power transfer but it should also be the most fatiguing from transmission of road shock. So, even if all the other parameters remain the same, there are still the unknown factors of riding distance, road conditions and how sensitive you are to stiffness and road shock. Even if we knew these factors, outside of riding distance, they are subjective and therefore it's impossible to predict what your personal experience will be. This is why we live for N+1.
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Old 05-03-20, 05:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Piff View Post
Thatís a great article, thanks for posting.

I wonder whatever became of those bikes?
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Old 05-03-20, 06:07 AM
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Old 05-03-20, 06:27 AM
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I would suggest the best value option for increasing comfort over rubbish roads would be to get wider tyres.

What are you riding at the moment? 23c? 25c? I think 28c is the sweet spot, wider than that and they just feel a bit balloony and I find them a bit sluggish at getting up to speed. If you can fit 28's in your frame I'd just get them and keep your current bike, but you will need to check that your frame has enough clearance to fit them in your frame without rubbing.

That does not of course scratch the itch of wanting a new bike, in which case I would suggest fitting the widest tyres you can fit in your current frame, and then indulge yourself and purchase an SLX one or the OS one anyway, both are capable, and its always nice to ride frames of different materials so you can make up your own mind, and then report back

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Old 05-03-20, 07:59 AM
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My bikes are pretty much all touring bikes so none of this may apply but....
i have a full 531 frameset that is very comfy and kinda noodly, great as a cross town traveler. I have a 631 bob jackson world tourist. Its a huge difference. The bob is os except for the seat tube and unloaded its a nice ride but not as comfy as the 531db. Loaded its the bomb. It eats miles and is very stable. My only negative about it is i feel like i will never be the rider the bike deserves.

The bob doing what it does.
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Old 05-03-20, 08:02 AM
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To complicate matters, I’ve ridden lots of bikes that were fully double-butted 531, and some were certainly zippier than others. A few felt absolutely dead. Frame geometry and fit play a big role as do tires and road surfaces.
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Old 05-03-20, 08:23 AM
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Originally Posted by nlerner View Post
To complicate matters, Iíve ridden lots of bikes that were fully double-butted 531, and some were certainly zippier than others. A few felt absolutely dead. Frame geometry and fit play a big role as do tires and road surfaces.
yep, the frame is not the tubing
the fit, geometry, tire capacity, aesthetics are where to look.
the oversized Reynolds will be probably welded, not lugged.
there are some frames that are just power consumers- they feel like everything you put in never makes it to the ground. Fortunately not that often.
the 531-SLX ... SLX was created to in my view fix the flexibility of the seat tube at the then new braze on front derailleur mount. The early ones were stamped- the SLX tube helped but what helped more was the introduction of investment cast parts that attached with a longer arc to the tube and stiffened the system up that way.
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Old 05-03-20, 08:57 AM
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Great information, guys, and more or less the sort of responses I've come to expect around here. I know it will be a very subjective matter in the end, but without being able to ride the frames without buying them, what else can a bloke do?

The roads I ride on in the countryside frequently have tarmac that's splitting up due to tractor/truck traffic, but overall things are usually smooth. I have a Raleigh Super Course with 531 straight gauge tubing and 35mm tires that eats all of this up nicely, but is quite ponderous. The current DB 531 rider is a 1972 Raleigh Professional wearing 700x25c Continental Gatorskins, and it does the job rather well without sacrificing much in the way of speed or power transfer.

The two frames I'm comparing to the Raleigh Professional are a new Bob Jackson Olympus road with 631 OS, or a late 1980s Tommasini Super Prestige with SLX. Cheers!

-Gregory
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Old 05-03-20, 09:12 AM
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I don't get to ride much more than 100 miles per week unless if I get a good Sunday outing, and most of my rides last less than two hours, so I've shied away from the idea of wanting a ride with much cushier tires or geometry for the sake of comfort on the roads. I feel rather certain that I would be sacrificing too much of the acceleration out of the stops and speed on the long stretches of tarmac that I enjoy having during my shorter rides. Going back to 25mm tires on the Raleigh Pro has been a revelation - I haven't ridden tires this narrow in years, and can feel an enjoyable difference.

At the end of the day I need a frame that's justifiably better for what I do than the Raleigh Pro, ideally still built from steel with classic geometry, and which I can equip with a much more modern group set to suit my desires. I can't imagine spending more than $750 on a frame set, whether it's new or used. A modest Bob Jackson (when they reopen) would fit that description, as would some used Tommasinis I've come across. I've admired both frame builders for years, and that's why they top the list.

-Gregory
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Old 05-03-20, 09:18 AM
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Originally Posted by T-Mar View Post
This is why we live for N+1.
I really wish I could and look forward to the opportunity sometime in the future! I'm 31 years old living in an apartment with my wife, simultaneously paying off credit card debt and saving for a house, and trying to keep her satisfied that I can still happily live a rather minimalist lifestyle! I'm challenging myself to be down to three or four functional bicycles by the end of 2020 (that means dumping almost half a dozen more).

I can justifiably use the funds from about half of the stuff I have to sell and put it back into the hobby, which would just about build me up a little dream like the one I'm asking about now.

Cheers!

-Gregory
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Old 05-03-20, 10:15 AM
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I'm a frame builder and painter so over many years I've had the opportunity of riding a variety of bicycles that have come through my shop. The reason I point out that I paint frames is because in the past it would be common for someone to get a steel frame repainted and then I would also put new parts on it and then I would take them out for a test ride. Some of my observations would also include how the bike would ride before and after being realigned. In many cases classic frames were not well aligned when they were made. Not every customer noticed a difference but some could really tell. Some frames I could align with little effort while others took all my strength.

The problem with your question is that classic Reynolds 531 was made in many wall thicknesses. It was often used with a lighter gauge top tube. Without knowing what specific tubes were using in a frame, cross comparisons between frames are pointless. Columbus SLX wasn't available on the market for all that long. It was a later generation model to SL - which was .9mm/.6mm/.9mm top and down tube and .9/.6 seat tube. SLX included spiral reinforcements on the end of the tube like their steerers always had. Part of the reason for these spirals was marketing and part of it was to provide reinforcement for front derailleur bosses that added stress to the bottom of a seat tube. I used to weigh SL chain stays individually when I put them into inventory. They could vary 30 grams each. Seat stays came in various diameters and wall thickness so of course that is another variable in a frame ride's formula.

I believe tubing wall thickness and diameter does have a major effect on ride characteristics. Furthermore the ride quality formula is actually a lot more complicated than thickness and diameter because how long the butts are and where they are located (longer on one end than another) as well as where a builder puts them also has some impact. In my frame building classes I have students mark where the curvature of the tube is located for alignment purposes (a 1/16" to 1/8" curve is typical) as well as where the butts are located so they can place the miters in the most effective place (the butt can be longer towards the head tube or BB shell).

My point is that the more one understands about the variables in a frame, the more complicated it becomes to judge what is the best choice. My favorite riding steel frames have a 1" top tube with a 7/4/7 wall thickness. I can certainly tell the difference between that and frames with heavier, bigger tubing. I'm also not that big and pedal smoothly and was never all that powerful of a rider. YMMV.
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Old 05-03-20, 02:11 PM
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Doug Fattic

Excellent, fascinating info, so glad you are here and take the time to help us, priceless.

I just had Dave Levy at Ti Cycles build me a Strawberry after Andy bowed out and we used 531 butted main tubes, not sure about the others or the exact ones as options were limited with Andy's fork crowns we used that needed bigger tubes.

The old and the new, the ying and the yang, the good, bad and the ugly, you decide.

I'm pretty sure others would be scratching their head after riding this but it seems to be exactly what I wanted, rides like a dream for me.

I think its a very good example of what it can take to get what you want and you still don't really know until the rubber meets the road, is why we need wizards like you and Dave and I'm glad you do what you do.

Last edited by merziac; 05-03-20 at 02:51 PM.
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Old 05-03-20, 02:48 PM
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Originally Posted by merziac View Post
...I just had Dave Levy at Ti Cycles build me a Strawberry after Andy bowed out and we used 531 butted main tubes, not sure about the others or the exact ones as options were limited with Andy's fork crowns we used that needed bigger tubes...
No disrespect, Merziac, but do you really need to provide a picture of your bicycle twice on the first page of a thread? I think most people here have seen it by now... It's lovely, but the picture is very large on the screen and like I said, you posted it just here twice already.
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Old 05-03-20, 02:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Kilroy1988 View Post
No disrespect, Merziac, but do you really need to provide a picture of your bicycle twice on the first page of a thread? I think most people here have seen it by now... It's lovely, but the picture is very large on the screen and like I said, you posted it just here twice already.
No and sorry, tx, my picture taking and editing skills are sorely lacking but the big pics allow those of us with old eyes to see better what we are trying to look at, especially when trying to suss out details and things we are scratching our heads about.

Both were for reference to the questions at hand about specs and design which this one is a bit unusual so I thought it a good visual.

The second was solely for Mr Fattic's benefit since we are lucky to have him generously share his thoughts and experience here regularly.

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Old 05-03-20, 03:08 PM
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merziac I really like the Strawberry build, as I mentioned in the thread you have dedicated to it. In fact, if I were to get a Bob Jackson I would probably have them use Richard Sachs Newvex lugs, which have that characteristic tall section on top of the head and seat lugs, extending the elevation a bit above the top tube. It's not as extreme as the Strawberry, of course, but I'm fine with the aesthetics and think it would help offset the fact that I would like the stem to appear low without necessarily being so.

As far as the tubing choices go, I don't think Bob Jackson has access to the fresh 531 tubing (they're only doing "off the peg" frames and not full custom builds these days) so the 631 is my choice there. The current Raleigh Professional with butted 531 throughout is a gorgeous rider, and I may have been unclear earlier. I am not looking for something MORE comfortable than the Professional with 25mm tires... I simply don't want something much less comfortable. However, a bit of extra stiffness in the BB and stays would be nice!

-Gregory
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Old 05-03-20, 03:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Kilroy1988 View Post
merziac I really like the Strawberry build, as I mentioned in the thread you have dedicated to it. In fact, if I were to get a Bob Jackson I would probably have them use Richard Sachs Newvex lugs, which have that characteristic tall section on top of the head and seat lugs, extending the elevation a bit above the top tube. It's not as extreme as the Strawberry, of course, but I'm fine with the aesthetics and think it would help offset the fact that I would like the stem to appear low without necessarily being so.

As far as the tubing choices go, I don't think Bob Jackson has access to the fresh 531 tubing (they're only doing "off the peg" frames and not full custom builds these days) so the 631 is my choice there. The current Raleigh Professional with butted 531 throughout is a gorgeous rider, and I may have been unclear earlier. I am not looking for something MORE comfortable than the Professional with 25mm tires... I simply don't want something much less comfortable. However, a bit of extra stiffness in the BB and stays would be nice!

-Gregory
I know, tx again, just really pleased with how it turned out and want to share what I can where it seems to directly apply since it is not always as simple as it seems.

I missed plenty of things during the process and still got a fantastic result tx to Dave and Andy.

I think Andy sells 531 still, that's where Dave got it maybe NOS, not sure. I wanted Newex lugs but none were to be had. I don't think RS is making them anymore, maybe BJ has or can get some. Dave was willing to make them but with the extended HT and monostay in the back it would have been more labor and $$$ intensive.

You can probably get 531 from Andy but it would be $$$ all around to get it to them.
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Old 05-03-20, 03:39 PM
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Originally Posted by merziac View Post
I think Andy sells 531 still, that's where Dave got it maybe NOS, not sure. I wanted Newex lugs but none were to be had. I don't think RS is making them anymore, maybe BJ has or can get some...
Huh, well they're still currently advertised and available to purchase on Richard Sachs's website. I just went through almost the entire checkout process up to putting in my payment information with nothing stating otherwise.

https://www.richardsachs.com/product...x-series-lugs/

They were definitely an option on most Bob Jackson frames right up until they had to close shop due to the pandemic a couple of weeks ago, without anything to state otherwise.
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Old 05-03-20, 03:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Kilroy1988 View Post
Huh, well they're still currently advertised and available to purchase on Richard Sachs's website. I just went through almost the entire checkout process up to putting in my payment information with nothing stating otherwise.

https://www.richardsachs.com/product...x-series-lugs/

They were definitely an option on most Bob Jackson frames right up until they had to close shop due to the pandemic a couple of weeks ago, without anything to state otherwise.
Guess maybe I should have drilled down more. This seemed like one of those things where the expertise is steering you so I didn't want to muck up the process anymore.

We were struggling a bit already with the crowns, big tire clearance and short reach brakes so I figured I better pick my battles.

I would be hesitant to do any frame without face to face interaction with the builder, I realize it is probably moot with an off the peg build, but still.
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Old 05-03-20, 03:53 PM
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Originally Posted by merziac View Post
I would be hesitant to do any frame without face to face interaction with the builder, I realize it is probably moot with an off the peg build, but still.
I spent a number of years as a medieval reenactor and also as a craftsman making armour and other goods for folks. I placed orders and completed orders for dozens of custom made objects ranging from glassware to underwear, from Australia to France to Japan, all based on photographs of other sorts of things that they (or I) had made. So I guess you could say my confidence in professional craftsmen getting things right to at least a satisfactory extent is rather high! Perhaps I'm fortunate in that experience, after all, despite it being a bit of a money pit...
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Old 05-03-20, 03:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Kilroy1988 View Post
I spent a number of years as a medieval reenactor and also as a craftsman making armour and other goods for folks. I placed orders and completed orders for dozens of custom made objects ranging from glassware to underwear, from Australia to France to Japan, all based on photographs of other sorts of things that they (or I) had made. So I guess you could say my confidence in professional craftsmen getting things right to at least a satisfactory extent is rather high! Perhaps I'm fortunate in that experience, after all, despite it being a bit of a money pit...
if you go the bob jackson route they will do a grand job im guessing. Mine was perfect as near as i could tell.
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Old 05-03-20, 04:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Kilroy1988 View Post
I spent a number of years as a medieval reenactor and also as a craftsman making armour and other goods for folks. I placed orders and completed orders for dozens of custom made objects ranging from glassware to underwear, from Australia to France to Japan, all based on photographs of other sorts of things that they (or I) had made. So I guess you could say my confidence in professional craftsmen getting things right to at least a satisfactory extent is rather high! Perhaps I'm fortunate in that experience, after all, despite it being a bit of a money pit...
Well then you would have a far greater perspective than most and the ability to navigate the nuances in the extreme, a great skill to possess to be sure.

I am similar in that I've been a mechanic/technician all my life and have studied framebuilding quite a bit, still gets in my way sometimes when I think I understand but don't.
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Old 05-08-20, 01:54 AM
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RiddleOfSteel
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Doug Fattic stated it extremely well. Finding the 'God particle' for frame nirvana is an exercise in continually finding more and more variables.

I've ridden three race-geometry frames made from Tange Prestige--a 1987 Schwinn Prologue (63.5cm), a 1988-ish Land Shark Road Shark (66cm), and a 198x Davidson Impulse (64cm). The Prologue is sinuous, the Impulse a hill-climb and watts-handling genius, and the Road Shark a magic blend of steel springiness and carbon fiber vibration absorption. "Same" tubeset!

An SLX-SP-tubed Masi Nuova Strada that caressed its rider, and an SLX-tubed Battaglin that is all about the business of speed. Again, "same" tubeset!

Some frames "shine" through both good and bad components, and will always let you know they are good and happy to be a bike. Others are sensitive to component choices in a make-or-break fashion. Still others are quasi-chameleon-like in their ability to adapt to their components (namely wheel/tire combos), taking on a plusher or racier (to name two) character depending on the outfitting. And we haven't begun to discuss wheelbase variations, brake hood/hand position height (trust me), or anything else.

I am inclined to say a good 531 frame will allow you the highest degree of ride quality 'tune-ability'. 531 did come in many flavors, but on upper-end frames, many of us have spoken to their qualities. And this is across many different rider styles. It's crazy how symbiotic a relationship between the bicycle and its rider can be. Maybe you can take the stiffer, more race-oriented 631 and SLX bikes (well, I'm guessing here since we don't have links to the frame) and tune some plushness into them via tires (at least) and wheels (perhaps...if going for period correct matching to the frame). Depends on the tire clearance they'll give you.

Good luck!
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