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Carbon with the feel of steel??

Old 09-01-21, 04:19 PM
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gregario
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Carbon with the feel of steel??

I've been riding a custom steel road bike (Seven Axiom) for many years now. The components are Dura-Ace 9 speed and my lowest gear is 39 x 24 and I think I can go maybe one tooth lower. As I'm getting older (60 in a month) I'd like more compact gearing plus I'd like a frame that has better tire clearance and lighter than steel. I have 25mm on the rear and 23mm on the front. So, I'm thinking about a new bike with compact gearing, and possibly disc brakes for better tire clearance. My riding style is go fast all the time, no coasting, don't stop and smell the flowers, try to set a new personal best on every ride, etc. I also ride solo if that matters. The stock geometry that works for me aligns more with an "endurance" frame, not a "racing" frame, thus the custom steel. I'd rather have a agile, responsive fast bike than a more possibly plodding ride. Stock carbon bikes that would sort of fit me would be a Specialized Roubaix for example and a Trek Domane. The problem is this: my first choice for a carbon bike upgrade was the Roubaix, but none could be had in my size for months and months. The local shop had a Domane SL6 that they said would work for me so I bought it. Well, it sucked. The bike was a dog and a dead one at that. I did four rides on it for about 125 miles and it (or I) was slow and uninspiring. After those four rides I went back to my Seven and was blown away by the difference in ride quality. The Seven had that springy steel ride quality that the Domane just did. not. have. Since the shop owner knew I was compromising and knew what I was hoping for, I was allowed to return the bike. I'd still like to try a carbon bike, but are they all like that? If I got a Roubaix would it feel the same as the Domane, dead and lifeless? Basically I'm wondering if an off the shelf stock geometry carbon bike can have a steel bike-like feel, because if not, I may just get another custom steel but with more tire clearance and lower more modern gearing. Thanks
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Old 09-01-21, 04:31 PM
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This is a difficult problem, because you're dealing with one point of reference. For one, carbon can have a muted feel which may have given you the impression that it was 'dead' feeling. Other carbon can kick you in the nads. All depends on layup and design. I have both Ti and steel bikes, and it still comes down to design more than anything. All else being equal (and it never is), two steel bikes, one made from butted 853 and the other made of generic CrMo 'gas pipe' are going to ride and respond night and day differently. A great steel bike is a thing of wonder, yet even better (IMO only) is a great Ti bike which has all the great steel qualities except even more lively feeling. Even modern aluminum frames can have a great ride and feel, though a lot more rarely in my experience.

Bottom line you have to swing a leg over everything you can find to compare, which is impossible right now. You may even consider a domestically made steel bike from a small builder. Good luck, there are a lot of choices out there.
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Old 09-01-21, 04:46 PM
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I'd been on harsh Aluminum forever and had always found carbon to feel dead. Eventually carbon came around, but not all carbon.

I really like cannondales himod carbon. Then again their take on building carbon follows their philosophy on the CAAD 9 , 10, 12. Too stiff for most people, but if you love it you love it.

If you can test ride a hi-mod Synapse. It won't let you down on performance, but it might let you down as it won't have the vibration muting that steel will give you. However those SAVE chain stays are absolutely amazing!

The kingpin on the Topstone is amazing too. But for all paved roads I'd rather be on a synapse with 28c tires.
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Old 09-01-21, 04:57 PM
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In over 50 years of riding steel race bikes and, later, aluminum and carbon bikes, I've come to believe that the frame material counts for almost nothing in how a bike rides. My shorthand approach to buying road bikes for myself is to look for those with a head tube length of around 110 to 120 mm, a wheelbase very close to 97 cm, and a C-to-C top tube measurement of 55 cm. [Edit: of those dimensions, the wheelbase seems to be the main determinant of whether I'll enjoy how the bike rides.]

All my bikes with those dimensions---steel, aluminum, and carbon---feel effectively identical. As it happens, I prefer the torsional stiffness of an aluminum frame and the effect it has on the bike's handling, so my steel and carbon bikes get very little use, but most people aren't as picky as I am about that aspect of a bike's ride.

So you might want to consider using the Seven's dimensions as a template in your search for a carbon bike that would make you happy. If you have a chance to test ride some candidates with plausibly similar measurements, it would also make sense to measure the distances between all the contact points on the Seven first so that you can replicate them on the bike you're planning to test.

Last edited by Trakhak; 09-01-21 at 05:15 PM.
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Old 09-01-21, 05:09 PM
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Why buy a carbon bike that rides like steel? Just buy a steel bike if you want it to ride like steel.
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Old 09-01-21, 05:31 PM
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Originally Posted by tomato coupe View Post
Why buy a carbon bike that rides like steel? Just buy a steel bike if you want it to ride like steel.
Fair point. I want to know what I'm missing. Also, buying an off the shelf carbon bike would be easier, more resistant to corrosion, possibly lighter and stiffer. That's the short answer.
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Old 09-01-21, 05:37 PM
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Originally Posted by BadgerOne View Post
This is a difficult problem, because you're dealing with one point of reference. For one, carbon can have a muted feel which may have given you the impression that it was 'dead' feeling. Other carbon can kick you in the nads. All depends on layup and design. I have both Ti and steel bikes, and it still comes down to design more than anything. All else being equal (and it never is), two steel bikes, one made from butted 853 and the other made of generic CrMo 'gas pipe' are going to ride and respond night and day differently. A great steel bike is a thing of wonder, yet even better (IMO only) is a great Ti bike which has all the great steel qualities except even more lively feeling. Even modern aluminum frames can have a great ride and feel, though a lot more rarely in my experience.

Bottom line you have to swing a leg over everything you can find to compare, which is impossible right now. You may even consider a domestically made steel bike from a small builder. Good luck, there are a lot of choices out there.
Thanks for the response. However, the geometry that works for me is the reason I go custom. A comparable stock bike would be a 61-62cm "endurance" frame, and I'm not necessarily looking for the endurance fit. Even when there aren't supply issues virtually no bike shop stocks frames that large. The only reason the shop had a Domane in a 62cm was because they got it in for someone else and THAT person ended up returning it for the same reason I did. Slow, heavy, and dead.
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Old 09-01-21, 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Metieval View Post
I'd been on harsh Aluminum forever and had always found carbon to feel dead. Eventually carbon came around, but not all carbon.

I really like cannondales himod carbon. Then again their take on building carbon follows their philosophy on the CAAD 9 , 10, 12. Too stiff for most people, but if you love it you love it.

If you can test ride a hi-mod Synapse. It won't let you down on performance, but it might let you down as it won't have the vibration muting that steel will give you. However those SAVE chain stays are absolutely amazing!

The kingpin on the Topstone is amazing too. But for all paved roads I'd rather be on a synapse with 28c tires.
The C-dale is something to consider, but I require a pretty big frame size that virtually no shop will stock. Makes test riding nearly impossible.
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Old 09-01-21, 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by gregario View Post
Fair point. I want to know what I'm missing. Also, buying an off the shelf carbon bike would be easier, more resistant to corrosion, possibly lighter and stiffer. That's the short answer.
Okay, but "possibly lighter and stiffer" usually translates to "doesn't ride like steel." it sounds like you determined that with your Domane.
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Old 09-01-21, 05:42 PM
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Originally Posted by gregario View Post
The C-dale is something to consider, but I require a pretty big frame size that virtually no shop will stock. Makes test riding nearly impossible.
On a frame of that size. C'dale might fail you too?
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Old 09-01-21, 05:44 PM
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...and we're off.
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Old 09-01-21, 05:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Trakhak View Post
In over 50 years of riding steel race bikes and, later, aluminum and carbon bikes, I've come to believe that the frame material counts for almost nothing in how a bike rides. My shorthand approach to buying road bikes for myself is to look for those with a head tube length of around 110 to 120 mm, a wheelbase very close to 97 cm, and a C-to-C top tube measurement of 55 cm. [Edit: of those dimensions, the wheelbase seems to be the main determinant of whether I'll enjoy how the bike rides.]

All my bikes with those dimensions---steel, aluminum, and carbon---feel effectively identical. As it happens, I prefer the torsional stiffness of an aluminum frame and the effect it has on the bike's handling, so my steel and carbon bikes get very little use, but most people aren't as picky as I am about that aspect of a bike's ride.

So you might want to consider using the Seven's dimensions as a template in your search for a carbon bike that would make you happy. If you have a chance to test ride some candidates with plausibly similar measurements, it would also make sense to measure the distances between all the contact points on the Seven first so that you can replicate them on the bike you're planning to test.
Good idea, but the Seven sizing is rather unusual. For example, the head tube is 25.5cm, top tube 58.1cm. Finding a stock sized bike close to that is tough, and those are usually "endurance" fit. I guess what I'll do it go with another custom steel, thinking Co-Motion.
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Old 09-01-21, 05:53 PM
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Why not try Ti?
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Old 09-01-21, 06:02 PM
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It sounds like there is a need for a "speed dating" sub-forum for bikes here. Get to experience different bikes without the commitment of buying them. Riders could post, much like the OP, but with measurements, and location, and if someone is close to them, with a close approximation of what they are looking for, they could rendezvous for a mutual test ride and discussion. Riders would not only get to try out different bikes, but discuss the bike with someone who has ridden it.
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Old 09-01-21, 06:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Pratt View Post
It sounds like there is a need for a "speed dating" sub-forum for bikes here. Get to experience different bikes without the commitment of buying them. Riders could post, much like the OP, but with measurements, and location, and if someone is close to them, with a close approximation of what they are looking for, they could rendezvous for a mutual test ride and discussion. Riders would not only get to try out different bikes, but discuss the bike with someone who has ridden it.
I think that's called "go to your local shop and test ride a bike."
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Old 09-01-21, 08:39 PM
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Originally Posted by gregario View Post
I've been riding a custom steel road bike (Seven Axiom) for many years now. ...
...Stock carbon bikes that would sort of fit me would be a Specialized Roubaix for example and a Trek Domane. The problem is this: my first choice for a carbon bike upgrade was the Roubaix, but none could be had in my size for months and months. The local shop had a Domane SL6 that they said would work for me so I bought it. Well, it sucked. The bike was a dog and a dead one at that. I did four rides on it for about 125 miles and it (or I) was slow and uninspiring. After those four rides I went back to my Seven and was blown away by the difference in ride quality. The Seven had that springy steel ride quality that the Domane just did. not. have. Since the shop owner knew I was compromising and knew what I was hoping for, I was allowed to return the bike. I'd still like to try a carbon bike, but are they all like that? If I got a Roubaix would it feel the same as the Domane, dead and lifeless? Basically I'm wondering if an off the shelf stock geometry carbon bike can have a steel bike-like feel, because if not, I may just get another custom steel but with more tire clearance and lower more modern gearing. Thanks
If you like steel, stay with steel.
I have a bunch of my older steel, really like them all, each a bit different. I also have Carbon and Alu - alu is being phased out... I have an older Roubaix and Tarmac (2009 & 10 vintage).
The roubaix is mundane and I always seem slower (based on ride times...) The Tarmac is Awesome!
But carbon does have a shock-absorbing feel.
Also 62 cm frame will ride different. Stock bikes are designed in the more meat sizes...
I have 8 steel bikes, of them my 2009 Marin Treviso (Columbus Nemo) is the best for me (of a couple Colnagos, and 2 customs and...) but is still #2.
My Favorite? The Spec Tarmac Expert - awesome - would be the one bike, if I could only have one...I ride 56 in carbon and 57 or 58 in steel.
Another consideration, which has a huge effect on feel and speed - Wheels & Tires...
my best Wheels are my HED wheelsets (I have 2) and my best riding tires are Conti GPs and Vittorias, same level, forget the model...
I;m very happy when I ride my steel, but I'm more happy on my Tarmac...
thanks
Yuri
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Old 09-01-21, 09:09 PM
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Originally Posted by gregario View Post
I've been riding a custom steel road bike (Seven Axiom) for many years now. The components are Dura-Ace 9 speed and my lowest gear is 39 x 24 and I think I can go maybe one tooth lower. As I'm getting older (60 in a month) I'd like more compact gearing plus I'd like a frame that has better tire clearance and lighter than steel. I have 25mm on the rear and 23mm on the front. So, I'm thinking about a new bike with compact gearing, and possibly disc brakes for better tire clearance. My riding style is go fast all the time, no coasting, don't stop and smell the flowers, try to set a new personal best on every ride, etc. I also ride solo if that matters. The stock geometry that works for me aligns more with an "endurance" frame, not a "racing" frame, thus the custom steel. I'd rather have a agile, responsive fast bike than a more possibly plodding ride. Stock carbon bikes that would sort of fit me would be a Specialized Roubaix for example and a Trek Domane. The problem is this: my first choice for a carbon bike upgrade was the Roubaix, but none could be had in my size for months and months. The local shop had a Domane SL6 that they said would work for me so I bought it. Well, it sucked. The bike was a dog and a dead one at that. I did four rides on it for about 125 miles and it (or I) was slow and uninspiring. After those four rides I went back to my Seven and was blown away by the difference in ride quality. The Seven had that springy steel ride quality that the Domane just did. not. have. Since the shop owner knew I was compromising and knew what I was hoping for, I was allowed to return the bike. I'd still like to try a carbon bike, but are they all like that? If I got a Roubaix would it feel the same as the Domane, dead and lifeless? Basically I'm wondering if an off the shelf stock geometry carbon bike can have a steel bike-like feel, because if not, I may just get another custom steel but with more tire clearance and lower more modern gearing. Thanks
How much do you want to spend? You should look at custom Ti - it'll likely be made in the time you're waiting for the shops to get new bikes. Friend of mine had a custom Ti (Kish) built here in NC - don't know the exact price, but I imagine it was in the $3000-3500 range. Decent sized frame - maybe 58 cm, but very light - significantly lighter than my 55cm 6/4 Ti Litespeed. Pretty much any decent custom builder will incorporate all the modern bells & whistles like tire clearance, discs, provision for electronic shifting etc. IMO you can't beat Ti for that inimitable steel ride....
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Old 09-02-21, 06:16 AM
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OP, I am a bit confused. You want a cf bike that rides like a steel bike, but you don't want to buy a steel bike. In multiple posts, you stated that you need custom geometry, but cf bikes (including the one you tried and returned) are all off-the-rack.

How do you expect a cf bike to satisfy you?
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Old 09-02-21, 06:28 AM
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buy a carbon, aluminum, and steel bike. Ride them
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Old 09-02-21, 06:39 AM
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I am a big fan of steel frames. Have several and have designed and brazed several of my own to get exactly what I want. About 20 years ago I picked up a stock ti frame and was very very pleased with it, and have since owned 2 of them. Ti rides like steel and weighs a few ounces less. A nice butted ti frame can weigh considerably less, however in a 62cm I don't know if butting is available, only a fabricator of ti frames will know.
Strongly suggest looking at a custom ti frame. With that being said, I still ride daily the first frame I made some 20 years ago as it is simply perfect for me.
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Old 09-02-21, 07:45 AM
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If you can get your hands on one, try a CAAD 12 or 13. I think you might be surprised. I have two road bikes I ride alternately. One is a CAAD 12 and the other is a GURU Sidero (steel). There is a difference but, to me, it is quite subtle. Unless you buy an expensive CF frame bike you are not going to be saving a lot, if any, weight. And, if you have a budget, for the same money, you will get better and lighter components (and probably wheels) on an AL frame bike. I have nothing against CF per se but to get one I'd want would cost me a lot of money. Then again, as others have said, if steel is what "speaks to you", just buy steel.


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Old 09-02-21, 07:47 AM
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I've ridden steel bikes that were two different beast in terms of ride comfort. Carbon will be the same way.

I use to think and tout all that steel is real mantra and drank the kool-aid for many years. However I found that just like steel bikes, there are some carbon that I like the ride of and some that I don't. Again, just like some steel bikes I didn't like the ride of and some I do.

Mostly it's just that they are slightly different than what you are currently use too. Well of course it is. It's a different bike.
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Old 09-02-21, 08:09 AM
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Originally Posted by gregario View Post
The local shop had a Domane SL6 that they said would work for me so I bought it. Well, it sucked. The bike was a dog and a dead one at that. I did four rides on it for about 125 miles and it (or I) was slow and uninspiring.
If you want a springy lively feeling ride I think you chose the wrong bike. I have a 2021 Domane SL5 which has the same frame as your SL6, and its ride feels dead (muted?) to me too. I suspect the ISOSPEED shock absorption thingies contribute to that feeling but its also a heavyish frame to start with. I swapped out the wheels for lighter carbon wheels and it made some difference, but not a whole lot. Then I got what I really wanted, a 2020 S-Works Roubaix, and the difference is night and day.
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Old 09-02-21, 08:09 AM
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Originally Posted by gregario View Post
I've been riding a custom steel road bike (Seven Axiom) for many years now. The components are Dura-Ace 9 speed and my lowest gear is 39 x 24 and I think I can go maybe one tooth lower. As I'm getting older (60 in a month) I'd like more compact gearing plus I'd like a frame that has better tire clearance and lighter than steel. I have 25mm on the rear and 23mm on the front. So, I'm thinking about a new bike with compact gearing, and possibly disc brakes for better tire clearance. My riding style is go fast all the time, no coasting, don't stop and smell the flowers, try to set a new personal best on every ride, etc. I also ride solo if that matters. The stock geometry that works for me aligns more with an "endurance" frame, not a "racing" frame, thus the custom steel. I'd rather have a agile, responsive fast bike than a more possibly plodding ride. Stock carbon bikes that would sort of fit me would be a Specialized Roubaix for example and a Trek Domane. The problem is this: my first choice for a carbon bike upgrade was the Roubaix, but none could be had in my size for months and months. The local shop had a Domane SL6 that they said would work for me so I bought it. Well, it sucked. The bike was a dog and a dead one at that. I did four rides on it for about 125 miles and it (or I) was slow and uninspiring. After those four rides I went back to my Seven and was blown away by the difference in ride quality. The Seven had that springy steel ride quality that the Domane just did. not. have. Since the shop owner knew I was compromising and knew what I was hoping for, I was allowed to return the bike. I'd still like to try a carbon bike, but are they all like that? If I got a Roubaix would it feel the same as the Domane, dead and lifeless? Basically I'm wondering if an off the shelf stock geometry carbon bike can have a steel bike-like feel, because if not, I may just get another custom steel but with more tire clearance and lower more modern gearing. Thanks
The Domane SL6 has a number of things going against it if you're looking for a nimble bike. It's rather portly, the stock wheels are heavy, the geometry is more stable rather than quick. The IsoSpeed decouplers are also going to mute a lot of road feedback which probably contributed to your impression of it feeling dead. FWIW, I went from a Domane to a Cervelo R3 Disc and it was much improved in terms of feeling nimble and quick-handling, while still more than comfortable enough for long days in the saddle.
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Old 09-02-21, 08:28 AM
  #25  
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Bikes: 2015 Charge Plug, 2007 Dahon Boardwalk, 1997 Nishiki Blazer, 1984 Nishiki International

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Tires. My three points of reference here are three of my steel bikes, a 1984 Nishiki International, a 2015 Charge Plug, and a 1997 Nishiki Blazer mountain bike (with drop bars).

The '84 Nishiki is a thin-tubed roadbike with skinny seat and chain stays, plus a thin, curved front fork. It provides a pleasantly compliant ride no matter what tires and psi I run. The largest tires that fit are 28s and I run them at 85psi...Very comfortable.

My 2015 Charge Plug is a thin, round-tubed steel bike with a straight front fork. I assume that the need for stiff disc brake mounts necessitated the straight, stout front fork and the sturdy non-compliant chain and seat stays. I also pump the tires up to about 85psi.

My '97 Blazer MTB is steel but fat-tubed and stiff. For years, I ran thinner and thinner tires at higher and higher psi thinking it would improve my speed. Then a few years ago I went back to fat tires, not stiff knobbies, but smooth supple, 26x1.85 street tires. The bike felt more comfortable, and my speeds were up...although it doesn't feel like it since road chatter is reduced. The tires have a max psi recommondation of 65psi, but I run them at 70psi. And when I converted it to drop bars a couple of years ago, the bike was transformed again. It's lively and responsive in a way I couldn't anticipate or imagine. However it's a little heavy being a 90s MTB.

The Charge Plug was billed as an "adventure bike"...kind of a semi-touring bike with longer, more relaxed geometry, but not as long or relaxed as a touring bike. Still, it's not as responsive as my road and mountain bike...but that's what I wanted as I mostly commuted at the time, and I desired a relaxed ride without constant steering corrections to the bike.

Based on my experience, go ahead and buy a modern frame with the geometry and handling you want and place less emphasis on what the frame material is. But make certain you can fit at least up to 38mm tires, and more if possible. Then use tire width, suppleness and psi to find the ride compliance that feels right to you.

I think that may be something like a gravel bike, but ignore the labels and just go with what feels right to you.
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