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Have you tried a contemporary steel, aluminum or titanium bike?

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Have you tried a contemporary steel, aluminum or titanium bike?

Old 05-08-15, 09:45 AM
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GuyDebord
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Have you tried a contemporary steel, aluminum or titanium bike?

Like with carbon fiber, metallurgy tech has also advanced considerably, from extremely precise CNC machining that allows custom butting and cutting, tube manufacturing/shaping/forming technology, computerized stress analysis, 3D printing, purer alloys and cold/laser/plasma welding techniques. All of these tech has allowed for steel, aluminum and titanium bikes to be more stiff, light, aerodynamic, durable and provide endless tuning capabilities.

I guess that what is against high-tech steel and titanium alloys would undoubtedly be the price, which will always put them in the high-end price bracket. I am one of those that moved from high-tech carbon to high-tech titanium and would never go back, my bike's ride quality and performance is incomparable to all the carbon I have ridden before, its super stiff, responsive, very light (16.3lbs) and comfortable. I dont doubt that a custom Parlee, Guru or similar carbon might equal or supersede an advanced metal frame, perhaps one day I will try...

Modern Ti and Steel already rule a niche and this might expand as some discover their qualities, but IMO the main reason carbon will continue to rule is the profit margin, a place where aluminum alloys might be able to seriously compete, just look at how CAAD10 has been doing lately.

If you have tried or own a modern metal, how do you compare it to carbon?

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Old 05-08-15, 01:49 PM
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i have a carbon calfee, a steel de rosa, and a brand-new alum colnago. theyre all just bikes. besides the fact that theyre built to a target different target (riding style), theres never been anyone whos built frames of different material with exact same geometric specification and similar stiffness or weight requirements to make a declarative statement.

plus im not sensitive or nuanced enough tell the difference between a 2000$ set of callaway vs taylormade clubs. if you are, good on ya.

arguing over this stuff is an exercise in futility
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Old 05-08-15, 01:53 PM
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My previous race bike was a Cervelo Soloist. Best crit bike I ever had. Good lord, that thing was STIFF. Relatively light and very aero. Could be set up as a TT bike by flipping the seatpost head and installing aerobars.

I would also consider a Specialized E5 Allez. I have a few teammates on them and they are really beautiful bikes. Huge bang for the buck for the gentleman racer.
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Old 05-08-15, 01:55 PM
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I ride a SL4 Roubaix as an aluminum Allez ES SL framed bike. The new Allez is about as technologically advanced as aluminum frames get right now from its Smartweld frame, hydroformed tubes, OSBB and tapered headtube. I love riding my Allez. Its not as forgiving as my Roubaix but its no where near what I consider punishing. If you have not ridden a new school aluminum frame you need to. If I was on a budget and wanted the most bang for the buck it would be Aluminum and with the money I saved I would get better groupset/wheels.
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Old 05-08-15, 02:07 PM
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I have owned and ridden a steel Ritchey Breakaway, an Everti Falcon Ti, and Merlin WorkCR Ti, and a Giant TCR Advanced carbon fiber bike, just counting modern ones. The Ritchey was very nice, best steel I have ever ridden, but fell far short of the Merlin and Giant. The Everti was harsh, unforgiving and ultimately unstable. I didn't like it at all. The Merlin and Giant are the two best bikes I have ever ridden over 32 years of riding. They are almost indistinguishable in every respect that I care about including comfort, handling, and speed. The two frames also happen to weigh exactly the same. If you think a custom builder can build a one-off design to satisfy a single customer and match the trial-and-error finely tuned ride quality of a mass-produced, modern CF or even Ti bike, you are smoking some serious stuff. Technology, the research departments and volume simply give the big boys an advantage to great to overcome by even the most artisanal cranftsman.
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Old 05-08-15, 02:17 PM
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I ride a CAAD10. I love it. I have no experience with high-level carbon, though, so don't have much of a frame of reference. It's better than my old steel bikes, though they too have their charms.
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Old 05-08-15, 05:00 PM
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I have a new steel frame, but the forks are CF and the seat post stem and bars are
aluminum. I like the way it is uniformly responsive and somewhat resilient, compared to my all-CF bike.
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Old 05-08-15, 05:44 PM
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i gave away my vintage concorde squadra tsx to my nephew. that left me without a rideable steel bike. I've got aluminum and two carbon fibre framed bikes, so I thought my next bike was going to wind up being custom steel. Well, I found a NOS 2012 Breezer Venturi frameset for $400 at Bikewagon. In the process of getting the parts together to ride it. I'm curious too. But I like the geometry, the tube hydroforming is subtle and the bike at least looks gorgeous.
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Old 05-08-15, 06:06 PM
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Originally Posted by rpenmanparker View Post
If you think a custom builder can build a one-off design to satisfy a single customer and match the trial-and-error finely tuned ride quality of a mass-produced, modern CF or even Ti bike, you are smoking some serious stuff.
Um, they can.

Don't really need to smoke anything at all...how many mass-produced CF bikes can fit 25-28mm or larger tires? Most cannot. How about fender braze ons? I'm not even talking about fit issues, but simple stupid basic features that most of the time you can't get in mass-production CF or Ti framesets.

Custom builders can do a great job and get you what you want. My Kestrel frameset has been sitting in the garage for years as my custom Ti bike gets all the use. Unless you're shopping for a fair-weather only race bike and belong on 23mm tires (most people by weight, especially in the USA simply don't), you will be hard pressed to find what you want in mass produced CF wares. The carbon fiber wunder-bikes are race only machines, and aside from people's imaginations most consumers aren't well served by a race bike most of the time.
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Old 05-08-15, 06:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
Um, they can.

Don't really need to smoke anything at all...how many mass-produced CF bikes can fit 25-28mm or larger tires? Most cannot. How about fender braze ons? I'm not even talking about fit issues, but simple stupid basic features that most of the time you can't get in mass-production CF or Ti framesets.

.
Specialized Diverge......... Fits a 35c and has hidden fender mounts as well as front rack mounts....
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Old 05-08-15, 06:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
Um, they can.

Don't really need to smoke anything at all...how many mass-produced CF bikes can fit 25-28mm or larger tires? Most cannot. How about fender braze ons? I'm not even talking about fit issues, but simple stupid basic features that most of the time you can't get in mass-production CF or Ti framesets.

Custom builders can do a great job and get you what you want. My Kestrel frameset has been sitting in the garage for years as my custom Ti bike gets all the use. Unless you're shopping for a fair-weather only race bike and belong on 23mm tires (most people by weight, especially in the USA simply don't), you will be hard pressed to find what you want in mass produced CF wares. The carbon fiber wunder-bikes are race only machines, and aside from people's imaginations most consumers aren't well served by a race bike most of the time.
You didn't address my assertion regarding ride quality. You focused on features which I did not even mention. I repeat, a custom builder cannot give you the features you want AND reliably provide the ultimate level of ride characteristics.
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Old 05-08-15, 06:54 PM
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Originally Posted by rpenmanparker View Post
You didn't address my assertion regarding ride quality. You focused on features which I did not even mention. I repeat, a custom builder cannot give you the features you want AND reliably provide the ultimate level of ride characteristics.
They can't? That is new to me.

Last I checked I custom frameset could be made to turn as tight as you wanted, be as no-handsable as you wanted, accommodate toe overlap or not, as upright or not as you want...and be as stiff or comfy as you want.

Maybe things have changed in the last 5 years and custom builders suddenly got incompetent and only paint-by-numbers....or maybe you're simply wrong.



The off-the-shelf frames. You're stuck with whatever someone who has never met you thinks you might want.
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Old 05-08-15, 07:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
They can't? That is new to me.

Last I checked I custom frameset could be made to turn as tight as you wanted, be as no-handsable as you wanted, accommodate toe overlap or not, as upright or not as you want...and be as stiff or comfy as you want.

Maybe things have changed in the last 5 years and custom builders suddenly got incompetent and only paint-by-numbers....or maybe you're simply wrong.



The off-the-shelf frames. You're stuck with whatever someone who has never met you thinks you might want.
How is it possible for a custom builder to impart everyone's preferential riding characteristics in their own particular custom size without ever making a mistake and missing the mark? When the desired properties are related orally without reference to any technical standards? They only get one try. The best you could hope for would be a very rough approximation. If the custom fit and features are what you want, custom is the ticket. But if best possible ride is what you want, custom cannot possibly do the job...not in comparison to the finely tuned and optimized off-the rack bike you can choose by test riding the finished product.

You are ignoring my emphasis on the word "ultimate".
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Old 05-08-15, 07:20 PM
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Originally Posted by rpenmanparker View Post
How is it possible for a custom builder to impart everyone's preferential riding characteristics in their own particular custom size without ever making a mistake and missing the mark? When the desired properties are related orally without reference to any technical standards? They only get one try. The best you could hope for would be a very rough approximation. If the custom fit and features are what you want, custom is the ticket. But if best possible ride is what you want, custom cannot possibly do the job...not in comparison to the finely tuned and optimized off-the rack bike you can choose by test riding the finished product.

You are ignoring my emphasis on the word "ultimate".
You keep saying "finely optimized"..."best possible"....You fail to ask as I am: "To whom?"

"Ultimate" indeed. Off-the-rack geometry is made to try and offend no one. If a "custom cannot possibly do the job" then an off-the-rack sure as hell cannot.



You genuinely sound as though you've never had a competent custom builder who knows what questions to ask work with you.
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Old 05-08-15, 07:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
You keep saying "finely optimized"..."best possible"....You fail to ask as I am: "To whom?"

"Ultimate" indeed. Off-the-rack geometry is made to try and offend no one. If a "custom cannot possibly do the job" then an off-the-rack sure as hell cannot.



You genuinely sound as though you've never had a competent custom builder who knows what questions to ask work with you.
I'll go along with you. Let's say best possible according to what you have expressed you want. How can he do it? How comfy is comfy? How stiff is stiff? How responsive is responsive? All in light of the particular size requirements. No one is that good. Custom bikes are about vanity, not performance that is perfectly matched to the buyer's needs as you would have us think.
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Old 05-08-15, 07:41 PM
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Originally Posted by rpenmanparker View Post
I'll go along with you. Let's say best possible according to what you have expressed you want. How can he do it? How comfy is comfy? How stiff is stiff? How responsive is responsive? All in light of the particular size requirements. No one is that good. Custom bikes are about vanity, not performance that is perfectly matched to the buyer's needs as you would have us think.
So you're of the opinion that the 8-10 page paperwork piles that custom builders like Seven, Moots, Indy Fab, nevermind all the one-man operations out there use are...what....practice for filling out your taxes? The aforementioned operations also have a fitting crew guys/gals that wastes their time and lots of the companies money to do a hour+ long phone call interviews to talk to you about your tax-preparation...again...all to just piss you off and waste their time and bloat my ego.

...because somehow Trek and Specialized can get you what you want without ever seeing you or meeting you or talking to you or even knowing your biometrics, and no one else can? Are you catching on to how silly this is sounding?

Fit kit builders frequently use 1-10 scales to define characteristics...and in something like stiffness a "10" is "rattle your teeth out".
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Old 05-08-15, 07:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
So you're of the opinion that the 8-10 page paperwork piles that custom builders like Seven, Moots, Indy Fab, nevermind all the one-man operations out there use are...what....practice for filling out your taxes? The aforementioned operations also have a fitting crew guys/gals that wastes their time and lots of the companies money to do a hour+ long phone call interviews to talk to you about your tax-preparation...again...all to just piss you off and waste their time and bloat my ego.

...because somehow Trek and Specialized can get you what you want without ever seeing you or meeting you or talking to you or even knowing your biometrics, and no one else can? Are you catching on to how silly this is sounding?

Fit kit builders frequently use 1-10 scales to define characteristics...and in something like stiffness a "10" is "rattle your teeth out".
The only thing silly about this is thinking a custom builder can convert what you say you want into what you actually do want. Every time. One ready made bike may not be what you want, but another one might. That is what test rides are for. That is what different purpose bike designs are for. That is what feedback from pro teams is for. When you find what you want, there is no chance it won't be right when it is delivered.
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Old 05-08-15, 08:09 PM
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I have recently owned or still own:

- Zanconato lugged steel
- Seven Elium carbon/ti
- Tsunami aluminum
- Giant Defy aluminum

To be perfectly honest, if I had to keep just one bike, the Giant would be it because it does everything well, even though it is built up with Shimano 105 and weighs ~3 lbs more than the others. And it is mainly because it fits me the best.

The Zanconato also rides beautifully, but I have fallen out of love with its looks so I don't ride it anymore. The same for the Tsunami which I sold a while back. Have set many personal bests on both of those bikes.

The Seven looks great and rides very well, but the fits is more aggressive than the others. I still ride it the most out of all my bikes because I am vain and like its looks the best

So in the end, I guess what I am getting at is that it is not the material, but instead the fit and to a large extent how good a bike looks. In my experience, pretty much all modern bikes ride very well, and if they don't it is not because of the material, but because of fit or the parts (saddle, too much pressure in tires and/or tires too skinny, etc.).
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Old 05-08-15, 09:43 PM
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I think we live in a golden age for bike aficionados. I have carbon, steel, and aluminum bikes and I am well pleased with all of them. They ride differently but it's hard to say it's because of the material, and I could not choose among them one to be the best. After riding one for a while I want to ride another. My Cannondale CAADX has none of the traditional complaints I read about aluminum, perhaps it's the 28 tires but it is very comfortable, stiff and fast. My Cinelli Supercorsa is an NOS bike from the 90s, and does not have the lightest steel, but it's a joy to ride, very comfortable and it's tightness has some kind of whiplash effect that gives it a great noble character. My carbon Dogma F8 has none of the roughness sometimes associated with stiff carbon frames, maybe it's the 25 tires; you feel a bit more road chatter than with the Cinelli, but it's not much different over bumps, and it's fast, fast, fast. I have a titanium Firefly on order and I will know next year what that is like, but I anticipate that the state of today's engineering is such that is going to be another delight. Aren't we lucky?

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Old 05-08-15, 11:33 PM
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Originally Posted by rpenmanparker View Post
Custom bikes are about vanity, not performance that is perfectly matched to the buyer's needs as you would have us think.
So before the UCI required pro riders to use production frames, all those pros riding custom bikes did it out of vanity, not for performance?!
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Old 05-09-15, 01:36 AM
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Originally Posted by rpenmanparker View Post
The only thing silly about this is thinking a custom builder can convert what you say you want into what you actually do want. Every time. One ready made bike may not be what you want, but another one might. That is what test rides are for. That is what different purpose bike designs are for. That is what feedback from pro teams is for. When you find what you want, there is no chance it won't be right when it is delivered.
yep. its 80% about selling the romanticism of a bespoke product.

same thing with fine clothing. from a master tailor, to a local tailor, to - worse - offshore internet "tailors"....people think theyre getting the perfect product as a byproduct of "custom" process when often results are disastrous.

many steps along the chain that mucks it up: (1) customers knowing what they truly want (2) craftsmen translating that into appropriate design (3) craftsmen actually executing it properly.

theres wiggle room between how good your measurements were made, what your vision and interpretation of how a bike should be, what the philosophy of the builder is and his/her interpretation of the bike, what can be built given available materials (i.e. tubing sizes).... and how they meet in the middle.

it could produce the perfect bike. but filling out a 5 page form, holding a 2 hour conversion, even visiting in person, does not guarantee a perfect bike.

i have few really $$$ suits from well renowned tailors. mostly the appeal is specifying exactly what i want in terms of cloth, weight, pattern, stitching, and other details. in terms of pure fit, there are certain manufacturers and models that are sized off the rack to fit me just as perfect
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Old 05-09-15, 04:41 AM
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I work at a Specialized LBS, and bought myself a new bike this year - an Allez Comp Race. I had the budget to afford a more expensive Tarmac, but decided this was a better fit for me. Part of the reason was that it was replacing a 2012 Allez E5 that I had built up with DA 7800 but lost in an accident, part was that when I weighed a Tarmac at the same price point that we had at the shop, the Tarmac was a pound heavier. The bike is fine for comfort and stiff where it needs to be. My only complaint is that it only comes in flat black.
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Old 05-09-15, 05:09 AM
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Originally Posted by redfooj View Post
yep. its 80% about selling the romanticism of a bespoke product.

same thing with fine clothing. from a master tailor, to a local tailor, to - worse - offshore internet "tailors"....people think theyre getting the perfect product as a byproduct of "custom" process when often results are disastrous.

many steps along the chain that mucks it up: (1) customers knowing what they truly want (2) craftsmen translating that into appropriate design (3) craftsmen actually executing it properly.

theres wiggle room between how good your measurements were made, what your vision and interpretation of how a bike should be, what the philosophy of the builder is and his/her interpretation of the bike, what can be built given available materials (i.e. tubing sizes).... and how they meet in the middle.

it could produce the perfect bike. but filling out a 5 page form, holding a 2 hour conversion, even visiting in person, does not guarantee a perfect bike.

i have few really $$$ suits from well renowned tailors. mostly the appeal is specifying exactly what i want in terms of cloth, weight, pattern, stitching, and other details. in terms of pure fit, there are certain manufacturers and models that are sized off the rack to fit me just as perfect
Funny! How do you think I come by my attitude regarding bespoke? My dad and his two brothers were all bespoke tailors BITD. I grew up in the business. I know all the pitfalls first hand. There are a few differences between custom clothing and custom bicycles, however, and they aren't in favor of the bikes. First, if the suit of clothes isn't exactly right, it can be altered to get it closer to perfect. Not so with the bike. Second, if the clothes are altered after delivery, those changes can be worked back into the measurements on record to be used to get a more perfect product the next time. Most folks buy many suits over a lifetime, and as long as the tailor finally gets it right, all is usually forgiven. But not so with bikes. The first bespoke bike is quite often the only one ever. And finally, in clothing fit is the whole thing while in bikes there are also the ride characteristics to consider. Sure clothes have to look right, but that is not the mysterious part of the process. It is easy and obvious how to accomplish giving the customer what he wants regarding appearance of the suit. But with bikes, getting a bike to ride like the customer wants is quite difficult.

Not only all that, but I have had two custom steel frames. They were both excellent and fit perfectly. I just can't say they matched any preconceived concept I had about ride characteristics. They were just steel bike that rode like steel bikes. Nowadays there is so much more to bicycle ride characteristics. Just taking what the builder give you isn't so attractive.
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Old 05-09-15, 05:23 AM
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Originally Posted by milkbaby View Post
So before the UCI required pro riders to use production frames, all those pros riding custom bikes did it out of vanity, not for performance?!
Not at all. They did it for performance, of course. But trying to do something, and what you accomplish doing it are two very different things. First of all, there was a very limited palette of characteristics at that time that was available within the one available material, steel. And in the pro scenario, wouldn't a frame be rebuilt over and over again until it was right for the specific rider...or at least as close to right as could be made given the limitations of the material and process? That trial and error situation is not operating when you or I buy from a custom builder. At least not in my experience.

When pros had custom steel bikes made by their favorite builder (like Merckx/De Rosa) the builder concentrated fully on making that one rider happy. Like I said above about suits, if the first bike from the builder wasn't perfect, the rider and builder worked on improving it for the next time. And the next. And the next. That iterative process isn't part of the custom bike purchase scenario for you and me these days. The closest we can get to that is the development processes at the major bike brands. They have the greatest expertise working with the most advanced materials, and they translate pro rider feedback into ever better products. Brand A may not be to your liking, so you have to keep looking. Bye and bye you will find one you like.

All this goes out the window if you are four feet tall or seven feet tall. Custom is what you need in those cases. But it isn't because of the ride qualities you will specify. It is just to get a bike you can ride at all.
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custom steel in the lugged frame era for racers isn't that particularly difficult to do. outer diameters of steel tubes were relatively fixed even though internally they could be quite different. cutting and mitring tubes to plug into lugs isn't that hard, neither is the skill to fill the gaps with brass or silver during the brazing process. i would guess the most difficult bit is making sure the frame is square on an alignment table.
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