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Anyone own both a high-end steel bike AND a low-end steel bike?

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Anyone own both a high-end steel bike AND a low-end steel bike?

Old 08-23-16, 06:11 PM
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Anyone own both a high-end steel bike AND a low-end steel bike?

I will soon be a position where I will have some extra funds, and I really want to add a steel bike to the stable. The top end of my budget would be about $2500 for frame + fork. But, I could get a cheaper steel bike and upgrade the group on my commuter bike (from 9-speed to 11-speed, and then I could interchange wheels), or upgrade the cockpit on my carbon bike, etc.

My question is this: for those of you that have both a high-end steel bike and a low-end steel bike, is the high-end steel bike really worth the premium?

For example: would there be an appreciable performance/weight/ride quality difference between an Independent Crown Jewel and a Soma Smoothie?
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Old 08-23-16, 06:18 PM
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Even moderate steel frames now are excellent compared to the low end of the '60s and '70s. All you will sacrifice is low weight as far as the frame is concerned. The parts are the parts. 105 is still wonderful as is Rival. So a 520/525 steel frame with 105 or Rival is a pretty sweet, moderately priced bike.
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Old 08-23-16, 06:28 PM
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Originally Posted by rpenmanparker View Post
Even moderate steel frames now are excellent compared to the low end of the '60s and '70s. All you will sacrifice is low weight as far as the frame is concerned. .
What do you mean by this? Moderate (aka mid-priced) steel frames today are excellent compared to low-end steel bikes from 40 yrs ago? But today's steel frames weigh more than they used to?..
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Old 08-23-16, 06:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Sy Reene View Post
What do you mean by this? Moderate (aka mid-priced) steel frames today are excellent compared to low-end steel bikes from 40 yrs ago? But today's steel frames weigh more than they used to?..
No. I meant that the moderately priced frame will be heavier than a more expensive frame made from a stronger steel of which less is needed to build the frame. Lower end frames many years ago were mikely hi-ten steel and very heavy. The best marerials of the past are the lower end materials today.
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Old 08-23-16, 06:43 PM
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I have had mid and high end frames in steel, carbon, and aluminium. I would say they are all similar in that the better frames are just a little bit better. It isn't a big step from one level to the next but it is noticeable. Mainly in feel rather than anything you could detect with a stopwatch.
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Old 08-23-16, 07:01 PM
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My current steel is Wraith Hustle, I also happened to have owned a Soma Smoothie. I love the Wraith and it's about 17 lbs without trying too hard. I also loved the Smoothie. The Smoothie was a really sweet riding bike. It was about 20 lbs with full carbon fork and 5800 groupset but of course you could probably get that down to 17 lbs if you wanted to. I think there is difference but not worth spending tons of money. I think a new Wraith frameset is about $1400. You can also get a Ritchey Logic for less which is still nice. You can get a Gunnar frame and even some custom like Curtlo for $1000-1500
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Old 08-23-16, 07:39 PM
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Yep. I've had SL and Aelle. 520 and 853.

I get my steel used so the prices vary less and sometimes overlap.

IF probably has greater resale value if you like to keep bikes for just a few years.
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Old 08-23-16, 07:49 PM
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Originally Posted by RNAV View Post
I will soon be a position where I will have some extra funds, and I really want to add a steel bike to the stable. The top end of my budget would be about $2500 for frame + fork. But, I could get a cheaper steel bike and upgrade the group on my commuter bike (from 9-speed to 11-speed, and then I could interchange wheels), or upgrade the cockpit on my carbon bike, etc.

My question is this: for those of you that have both a high-end steel bike and a low-end steel bike, is the high-end steel bike really worth the premium?

For example: would there be an appreciable performance/weight/ride quality difference between an Independent Crown Jewel and a Soma Smoothie?
Nice question. I'd like to hear about people's perception about stiffness and power transfer. Are the higher end steel bikes stiffer but still absorb road buzz?

I'm also curious how good a high end steel bike is with respect to stiffness as compared to say a CAAD12 or a decent CF frame.
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Old 08-23-16, 08:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Inpd View Post
Nice question. I'd like to hear about people's perception about stiffness and power transfer. Are the higher end steel bikes stiffer but still absorb road buzz?

I'm also curious how good a high end steel bike is with respect to stiffness as compared to say a CAAD12 or a decent CF frame.
My wraith feels as stiff as Carbon and caads I've had.
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Old 08-23-16, 08:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Inpd View Post
Nice question. I'd like to hear about people's perception about stiffness and power transfer. Are the higher end steel bikes stiffer but still absorb road buzz?

I'm also curious how good a high end steel bike is with respect to stiffness as compared to say a CAAD12 or a decent CF frame.
Answers to those questions will be totally subjective. Anecdotes. Of no value whatsoever.
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Old 08-24-16, 06:30 AM
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Originally Posted by rms13 View Post
My current steel is Wraith Hustle, I also happened to have owned a Soma Smoothie. I love the Wraith and it's about 17 lbs without trying too hard. I also loved the Smoothie. The Smoothie was a really sweet riding bike. It was about 20 lbs with full carbon fork and 5800 groupset but of course you could probably get that down to 17 lbs if you wanted to. I think there is difference but not worth spending tons of money. I think a new Wraith frameset is about $1400. You can also get a Ritchey Logic for less which is still nice. You can get a Gunnar frame and even some custom like Curtlo for $1000-1500

If I go low-end, the Smoothie is the front runner. Based on your response, it sounds as though the difference in feel is likely due to different geometry vs. different steel grades -- thoughts?


I currently have a 90's steel Trek 420, which I like. I'm looking for something more modern with a 1-1/8 to 1-1/2 tapered head tube and full carbon fork.


I think if I were to go high-end, there isn't a better bang-for-the-buck than Curtlo. Though there's something about a Colnago Master that just speaks to me.


Any other low-end recommendations?

Last edited by RNAV; 08-24-16 at 06:43 AM.
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Old 08-24-16, 06:31 AM
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Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
Yep. I've had SL and Aelle. 520 and 853.

I get my steel used so the prices vary less and sometimes overlap.

IF probably has greater resale value if you like to keep bikes for just a few years.

Could you tell much of a different between the two grades of steel?
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Old 08-24-16, 08:27 AM
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Recently finished putting together my first "high-end" steel bike, a 1980's Guerciotti with 105 5800 components. The ride is just awesome. Obviously that is a totally subjective opinion. However, the Guerciotti does not strictly dominate my trusty "medium-end" steel Bianchi. The Guerciotti is racier, while the Bianchi is cushier. Recently did a 90 mile ride with lots of climbing on gravel roads, the Bianchi was perfect for that.


If you really like the fit of your current steel road bike, try to get the fit of your new bike as close as possible. Reach from saddle to bars, saddle to bar drop, etc.


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Old 08-24-16, 08:29 AM
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If you wanted to spend the full $2500 you should go for high-end custom. You have to be willing to wait a few months, usually.

Or you could get something semi-custom, like a Gunnar frame. Super light steel, awesome paint and fork options, made by Waterford. And you can still do custom sizing. Frame + fork will run about $1500.
Pricing

I went the semi-custom route and have a Mercian coming. It will be beautiful, light, and stiff. I opted for lugs so the British semi-custom options (Mercian, Bob Jackson) were better.

The last and cheapest option is to buy a high end vintage steel bike in good condition. Will take a little time searching through eBay/craigslist because you will need to find the right size, look, and frame specs for what you want. It will definitely be cheaper than buying new and if you find something good from the late 80s onward the frame will probably be the same quality/weight as a new frame. You have to be willing to search and also probably overhaul/replace parts.

In general the Smoothie and similar bikes are really nice and can be built light, but if I had your budget I would be looking at custom or semi-custom, or go real-deal vintage and drop the cash on really nice parts.

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Old 08-24-16, 08:41 AM
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Originally Posted by TenGrainBread View Post
If you wanted to spend the full $2500 you should go for high-end custom. You have to be willing to wait a few months, usually.

Or you could get something semi-custom, like a Gunnar frame. Super light steel, awesome paint and fork options, made by Waterford. And you can still do custom sizing. Frame + fork will run about $1500.
Pricing

I went the semi-custom route and have a Mercian coming. It will be beautiful, light, and stiff. I opted for lugs so the British semi-custom options (Mercian, Bob Jackson) were better.

The last and cheapest option is to buy a high end vintage steel bike in good condition. Will take a little time searching through eBay/craigslist because you will need to find the right size, look, and frame specs for what you want. It will definitely be cheaper than buying new and if you find something good from the late 80s onward the frame will probably be the same quality/weight as a new frame. You have to be willing to search and also probably overhaul/replace parts.

In general the Smoothie and similar bikes are really nice and can be built light, but if I had your budget I would be looking at custom or semi-custom, or go real-deal vintage and drop the cash on really nice parts.
You are right about everything except the weight equivalence between 1980's steel bikes and today's. Today's best are at least 1.5 llb lighter in the frame . Then with a carbon fork that is another 0.75 lb. You could go even lighter if you tried.
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Old 08-24-16, 08:48 AM
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Originally Posted by RNAV View Post
If I go low-end, the Smoothie is the front runner. Based on your response, it sounds as though the difference in feel is likely due to different geometry vs. different steel grades -- thoughts?


I currently have a 90's steel Trek 420, which I like. I'm looking for something more modern with a 1-1/8 to 1-1/2 tapered head tube and full carbon fork.


I think if I were to go high-end, there isn't a better bang-for-the-buck than Curtlo. Though there's something about a Colnago Master that just speaks to me.


Any other low-end recommendations?
Wraith has tapered integrated headset which I like for clean modern look. Smoothie is 1 1/8 with an external headset which kind of looks weird with a carbon fork. I think the Smoothie was a bit "smoother" and springy in a good way. The Wraith is hard to tell I'm riding steel in some ways. It's very comfortable but still as stiff and light to me as aluminum or carbon.
For me it's hard to beat bang for the buck on the wraith but they have limited production and sizes. I feel like soma is best bang for buck at that price but I would also look used. You can find nice Lemonds and other similar 853 frames for $300-500 on ebay
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Old 08-24-16, 08:49 AM
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I am in the process of building out a new steel bike now. I was going to buy the Soma Smoothie but went with the Kona Honk_y Tonk instead. It's 520. I'm putting full 6800 on it. I still need a headset, stem, cables and a saddle. I actually have a saddle but I want to put a Brooks B17 N on it.
The Soma frames are really nice but I love the lime green on my Kona. Plus, I picked it up for only $450.
Jenson has the complete bike with Sora for 799.00. It's a great price but I like to build mine out with specific parts.
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Old 08-24-16, 08:51 AM
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Originally Posted by rpenmanparker View Post
You are right about everything except the weight equivalence between 1980s steel bikes and todays. Today's best are at least 1.5 llb lighter in the frame . Then with a carbon fork that is another 0.75 lb. You could go even lighter if you tried.
True. Newer alloys like 853, OX Platinum, and then all the stainless variations are somewhat lighter than the older tubesets. You have to be willing to drop a lot of money on those frames, though.
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Old 08-24-16, 08:53 AM
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In my mind, the answer to every steel bike question is Colnago Master.


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Old 08-24-16, 11:03 AM
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Originally Posted by eric1971 View Post
In my mind, the answer to every steel bike question is Colnago Master.


To provide a counterpoint...going big and Italian is a great way to spend way more money for the same quality and performance as just about any other option. You're essentially spending 2-3 times as much for a name and a garish paint job.

Going with a smaller builder gets you a lot more bike for the money and something that will be more unique on the road than another Colnago.
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Old 08-24-16, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by TenGrainBread View Post
....something that will be more unique on the road than another Colnago.

Yeah, that's what thought when I saw that Colnago picture: "everybody's got one of those." ;-)


But I agree about price and performance/quality. you are paying for the name and paint job...which some people want.
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Old 08-24-16, 11:34 AM
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Originally Posted by 12strings View Post
Yeah, that's what thought when I saw that Colnago picture: "everybody's got one of those." ;-)


But I agree about price and performance/quality. you are paying for the name and paint job...which some people want.
Hahaha I see what you're saying. Still, I've seen a lot more Colnagos on the road than Bruce Gordons, for example.
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Old 08-24-16, 12:11 PM
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If I were financial able I would be buying frames from Hilary Stone. I was just browsing his website and the frames he sells are true artisan built classics. Amazing stuff that would cost 2,3,4 times the price if built today. And you get the workmanship of some of the greats of cycling history.
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Old 08-24-16, 01:01 PM
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Originally Posted by TenGrainBread View Post
To provide a counterpoint...going big and Italian is a great way to spend way more money for the same quality and performance as just about any other option. You're essentially spending 2-3 times as much for a name and a garish paint job.

Going with a smaller builder gets you a lot more bike for the money and something that will be more unique on the road than another Colnago.
Keep in mind that one should not pay the $3500 retail the Master frames are commonly listed for in the USA. A new Master frame can be sourced from the UK in the $2000 range.

I do agree you can find better value elsewhere. But if you have your heart set on one, nothing else will do.
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Old 08-24-16, 02:31 PM
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Originally Posted by RNAV View Post
My question is this: for those of you that have both a high-end steel bike and a low-end steel bike, is the high-end steel bike really worth the premium?

I'm trying to think how emphatically I can express this without violating Bike Forums' Terms Of Service. "HELLS YEAH!" doesn't quite do it justice.

But yes, it's definitely worth the premium. No question. The way my high-end bikes handle, track straight, resist twisting, convert your every thought/impulse into action, they way they inspire a confidence that is simply unfathomable on the low-end bike...no comparison. Zero. Apples and oranges.

And worth every penny.
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