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Road Test/Bike Review (1988) TREK 560 vs TREK 1200 (steel vs aluminum)

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Road Test/Bike Review (1988) TREK 560 vs TREK 1200 (steel vs aluminum)

Old 06-26-23, 06:00 AM
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Road Test/Bike Review (1988) TREK 560 vs TREK 1200 (steel vs aluminum)

Includes a sidebar about the TREK aluminum frame building process.
A pdf of the article is available here: https://1drv.ms/b/s!AgHfxA8atbGnnhp6...GooKN?e=fCIens









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Old 06-26-23, 06:46 AM
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Thanks for posting that terrific article. As the editor notes in the Counterpoint panel:

"For the first time, we have been able to directly compare two almost identically equipped and dimensioned bicycles---identical save for the critical difference in frame material. Remarkably, the results are unanimous, unequivocal, and plain to see. That is the sort of consensus editors are supposed to like. I suppose I do, but it is a bit sad to see the faithful steel bike taking it all on the chin. After all, steel has served us well for decades; most cyclists tend to think it will continue to do so for some time."

The consensus he's referring to is made clear in the concluding paragraph, which notes that, since the components and geometries of the bikes are effectively identical, the evaluation has entirely to do with the differences in ride characteristics:

"In this area, there is no doubt. The aluminum 1200 has a suitable confluence of resolute rigidity and protective comfort. The steel 560 is stiff enough to charge ahead, but its susceptibility to punishing pavement leaves a lot to be desired."

Interestingly, the two suggestions for improvement of the 1200 were to decrease the rake of the fork (the overly stable ride being described, deliciously, as "Midwestern") and to upgrade to an aluminum fork. (That aluminum forks are to be scorned is dogma in Classic & Vintage, but three of my favorite bikes, one with a steel Reynolds 853 frame and two with aluminum frames, including my no. 1, have such forks.)
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Old 06-26-23, 10:09 AM
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They ran those 25mm tires at 115psi, which in hindsight is much too high. I think the steel frame would have performed better at 95psi (and they would have gone faster).
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Old 06-26-23, 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by icemilkcoffee
They ran those 25mm tires at 115psi, which in hindsight is much too high. I think the steel frame would have performed better at 95psi (and they would have gone faster).
That's what everyone who was racing did at the time. And, of course, whatever effect lowering the pressure would have had for the steel bike would have been true for the aluminum bike as well. I don't think there's any way to reinterpret the results where the steel bike comes out on top. Interesting.
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Old 06-26-23, 11:26 AM
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I had an '88 560 five or so years ago, 25.5", original 105 componentry, nice shape. I modernized it as well as put 7400 on it, but now I would have just kept the 105 on it and ridden as-is (save for removing the Biopace rings, which don't cooperate with my knees). True Temper and Trek may have copied 531C for whatever 531 magic it would have provided, but that RC-1 tubing was exactly how they described. It really needed to calm down. The trail figure was also substantial, but I liked that. Anymore now, frameset weight, for me, is a really good indicator of ride quality. ~3000g is really good for a race frame at my size range, and that will produce a bike with calmer manners. The 560's frame I had was over 3200g, which makes sense as it was quite bulldog-ish. A 3500g touring frameset will ride "strong" but need 35mm tires to take crummy roads satisfactorily. An under-3200g touring/sport touring frameset, however, will be a lovely, responsive ride. It won't "need" a 35mm tire, but it will be a delight with one.
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Old 06-26-23, 11:50 AM
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It really sounds like the 560 gets roasted for its poor handling much more than the 1200 would outshine a better steel frame (like Columbus SL).
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Old 06-26-23, 12:18 PM
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Originally Posted by SurferRosa
It really sounds like the 560 gets roasted for its poor handling much more than the 1200 would outshine a better steel frame (like Columbus SL).
Dunno. As the article pointed out, the two frames had effectively identical geometries, so the poor-handling description pertained equally to the two.

Anyway, I was racing on a Bianchi Specialissima Supercorsa (i.e., their top of the line) and worked at a Trek dealership back then. Both the 560 and the 1200 felt sluggish for my taste, and that was enough to put me off either. Better tubing wouldn't affect the handling.

In fact, come to think of it, there's that Bicycle Guide article on "The Magnificent Seven," where they had an Italian frame builder (Mondonico, I think) build seven frames with seven Columbus tubesets without decals. All had the same standard Italian racing geometry. Turned out that none of the test riders could reliably guess which frames were built with the upper-level sets and which with the lower sets.

Which jibes with my experience. My all-time favorite steel bike was a Bianchi Eco Pista, built with straight-gauge Columbus Aelle tubing.
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Old 06-26-23, 12:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Trakhak
the two frames had effectively identical geometries, so the poor-handling description pertained equally to the two.
That's what's confusing. The similar geometries, but the multiple writers' glowing reports of the 1200, not the 560.
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Old 06-26-23, 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by SurferRosa
That's what's confusing. The similar geometries, but the multiple writers' glowing reports of the 1200, not the 560.
Yes, that is weird. These days, GCN would do a video about the comparison, so you could at least see how they ran the tests.
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Old 06-26-23, 04:52 PM
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SpeedofLite - Not sure if you're currently looking for a Slingshot mountain bike, but one was just posted in the "Are you looking for one of these?" thread in C&V---post no. 77366.

It's in Nevada, unfortunately. On the other hand, it's only $120.
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