Replacing Carbon Frame with Custom Steel

Discuss light weight issues concerning road bikes & parts.
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by ticou

One of the top steels in 2000 was Columbus Foco. Chris Boardman used it to beat Mercx's hour record.

by Weenie

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by go4custom

dvincere--I never made any mention that you can't get a custom CF frame or any other custom frame for that matter. It was not my intentions by my post to say the OP had to go with Sycip. He wanted to know about Steel frames in comparison to carbon, that's why I posted my links. My "big" carbon reference was to the likes of Trek, Specialized, Giant, Orbea, BH, Cervelo, Felt, etc.

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by xnavalav8r

I am VERY happy with my custom steel bike... and weight is comparable to to most carbon bikes I have ridden as well. Not as light as my titanium climbing bike, but still very light for an all-steel (ISP-frame, fork, stem/steerer) bike.

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by Cheers!

The key to light and stuff steel is going to the steel tubes that have the higher young's modulus.

Reynolds 953
Columbus Spirit/Life/XCR
True Temper S3 (which most people don't seem to use, not sure if still available. I have my eye on a custom Reynolds 953. I would love to go with Independent Fabrications or Firefly, But the price is crazy. Plus I believe in supporting the one man shops such as Carl Strong and Scott Quiring.

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by photocycler

I'm torn, seem to be ok with it until I ride my carbon bike

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by jooo

@photocycler - If you're getting something custom, pick a builder that suits your needs, not a material (the usual choices can all actually work fairly well at making bike frames).

maxxevv wrote:If you want options of build stiffness and ease of maintenance (say you live in a region of high rainfall / humidity), the latest stainless steels like Reynolds 931 or KVA are the way to go. They come in seamless and wider range of tubing diameters. Allowing builders more leeway in shaping the tubes to your desired ride characteristics.

Not that it actually makes much of a difference to the end product but KVA is seam welded.

ticou wrote:Someone spent month's or years even training to devote their work life to the lathe 'n brazing torch, and that's why they have more soul than CF mouldin' and gluing.

Trollin' or just a bit clueless? :roll:

You honestly don't think a good carbon builder wouldn't spend just as much time refining their layup and curing procedure as someone perfecting their TIG or O/A skills?

Also, how do you think most carbon builders mitre tubes?

Material does not dictate attention to detail!

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by rtarh2o

I would make sure you ride a bike with various tube sets first.
I have several steel and carbon frames (3 of each) ranging from old steel (Pinarello Montello) with Columbus SL, an older custom Liotto with Columbus EL to a more modern oversize Bianchi Boron.
My carbon frames are the same story, an old Look KG 171, Look KG 281 and a fairly modern Felt Z1 Team frame.
Stiffness is a great thing but not for comfort, when they say the Felt Z1 is a comfort frame that is relative to other modern day super stiff frames. With that stiffness comes road vibration and road noise as well as a certain harshness. Not the stiff aluminum beat you to death kind but compared to standard size tubing in either steel or carbon they are harsh.
Even my fairly modern Bianchi is harsh in comparison to the Liotto standard size Colombus EL frame, they have similar builds, the Bianchi is about a pound lighter but I still prefer the Liotto, quiet, stiff enough and very comfortable.
My favorite bike is the Look KG281, it is just the right weight at about 16 lbs, stiff enough and a true magic carpet ride. I say just the right weight, 16 pounds is ideal I have found, my Felt is in the 14 lb range and just feels twitchy on decents, doesn't seem smooth and just not as comfortable. It is still my bike of choice when there is a lot of climbing involved, stiffness and extreme light weight does have it's advantages but when there is just a moderate amount of climbing I will take the Look.
Long story short, ride one before you buy if you can, it may not be as comfortable as you imagine. I would trade a pound of weight in the frame for the added comfort. I would give up stiffness for less vibration.

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by Denavelo

I guess I have some insightful input on this topic. I started off road cycling on a Time Edge VX. It was a super nice and comfy riding bike. Not the stiffest of Carbon bikes out there, but super comfy and flex dripping. The flex made it a comfort bike for longer rides and even with my Tubular wheels, it weighed around 15lbs or something in that range. I sold that bike for something stiffer. I wanted a more spirited bike, so I got a smoking deal on a Cervelo R3SL. I don't think it's gets any stiffer than the R3SL. I loved the way the Cervelo climbed in the hills, but the lack of turn in and handling on that bike was downright scary. I had a lengthy conversation with a friend and frame builder and he went to a Cervelo factory tour or something rather. He asked the engineer about hos they choose the rake on their forks and the Cervelo guys looked puzzled. Could be cycling folklore, but I know my R3SL didn't turn in for shit. I over shot every simple turn and then it would turn in super hard. So unpredictable. I had one too many scary descents on that bike, so I sold it for a smoking deal on a Parlee Z4. One of the main factors to rid myself of the R3SL was the torture on my body after long rides. My body would ache forever it seemed. I needed comfort.

Now the Parlee Z4 was what I thought at the time, the best of both bikes I previously owned. I now had a bike that handled on rails, but didn't have a billy goat spirit in the hills, but it was no slouch. The Z4 didn't jump ahead when I would get out of the saddle on long sustained climbs that we have in LA. I loved my Parlee Z4, but a couple of friends had Z5's and explained to me, that all of my Z4 gripes were fixed on the Z5. I held off on buying a Z5 for a year or longer. My Z5 just kept knocking out long climbs and fast paced rides with ease. So a couple of years go by on the Z4 and I come across a deal on a new Speedvagen in my size. Kind of pricey, but I hear custom steel is the ultimate. I sold the Z4 and waited for my Speedvagen. The downtime between bikes was around 2-3 months off of the bike, no cardio or anything. I worked out in the gym, but little cardio and no running, etc.

So now the Speedvagen arrives. I build it up with Campy Super Record 11 and the total weight is around 15.8lbs with clincher daily wheels. The lightest my Parlee was, I think was about 14lbs, so a 1-2lb gain for custom steel wasn't that much of a weight loss. I'm sure once I slap on some Enve 45's the bike will be in the 14lb range, and this is a 58cm steel bike. I've heard rumors of ISP being too stiff, but this was on carbon. ISP on steel simply works. It's like magic or something. The Speedvagen is hands down the best bike I've ridden out of the previous 3 I've owned. I mean the ride smoothness can't be descried in words. This bike just floats over the rough stuff. I've been off of my bike for about 3 months, and in the first month on my Speedvagen I've beat all of my personal records on Strava. Not much to gauge off of and I'm not a strava geek, just find it strange that a heavier bike and my out of shape form is churning out faster times up hills I flew up on my Parlee. Sacha White knows what he's doing in Portland, because this bike is truly amazing. If you have a chance to get custom steel, do it.

Carbon is so this year next year. how many people are still raving about Tarmac SL2's or SL3's with the SL4 being on the market? Not many right. This steel bike is timeless and if I wanted, I could send it back to Vanilla for a new paint scheme in a couple of years. I don't care what kind of carbon bike you buy, the ride will not equate to what you get on steel. Me personally I feel like Carbon deflects the terrain to the rider, where as steel absorbs all of that making a smoother ride which allows you to pedal more and efficiently. I did a 70 mile, 7,000ft climbing ride yesterday here in LA and my average up the entire Angeles Crest was 3mph faster than on my Parlee and I held it the entire climb. That's simply insane, considering I've only done 5-7 rides on this bike since owning it. STEEL IS REAL! So in conclusion, if you have a chance to get custom steel over a carbon bike, do it. A custom steel bike is a bike you can own forver, or even send it back to the builder for revisions. I asked to send my Parlee back for a reapint and was quoted $1200. WTF? I said it's a frame not a car. Bob Parlee and his guys have lost sight a little bit in my eyes. The pricing is out of control. I can paint my Audi A4 wagon for $1200, not a taiwanese carbon made bicycle. The Z4 is made in Taiwan.... My bikes below.

Time Edge VX (1st Bike)

Cervelo R3SL (2nd Bike)

Parlee Z4 (3rd Bike)

Speedvagen (4th and last bike)
Speedvagen Road Machine "2011 Surprise me | Cannondale SuperSix Evo | Rob English "Mudfoot" 29er | Firefly Ti #419 | Kogswell 650b Rando | Crema Cycles "Duo"

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by LionelB

The strict minimum is one carbon bike and one steel bike. If you have only one or the other you are going to go thru phases of wondering if you should switch or not.

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by luckypuncheur

Despite I'm a sucker for custom steel bikes (and especially paintjobs), you pay in many cases unreasonable prices for the performance you get in return. Performance includes not only the ride qualities of the bike but also the complexity/engineering/craftsmanship that goes into building/painting a steel bicycle frame.

In fact I've not ridden a steel bike to date that compares to a modern carbon bike in terms of stiffness, compliance, responsiveness, lightness etc. In the end I very much prefer looking at steel bikes rather than riding them. :(
Get a bicycle. You will certainly not regret it, if you live.

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by Ride-Fly

I have one Ti, 2 lugged steel, 3 AL (2 w/ carbon stays), and 3 carbons. I love the unique ride charactistics of each material. My favorite? probably carbon. BUT, if I could only have one bike, I would choose a Ti frame. Rides like steel, lighter, handles the elements better, and don't have to worry about the paint.

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by stumpy

I have a thought to change my carbon frame (which is fine and I have no problems with) for a steel one, quite possibly one of these:

Largely because I don't race anymore but still want to ride hard in sportives / gran fondos and I fancy having something unique to me (I would have custom paint). I also like the idea of something repairable as something of a reaction to consumerism if I'm honest.

So the question(s) really is (are) has anyone else made the same move? Will I notice the c.600g weight gain really? or will I (read ageing body with countless repairs) just enjoy the ride quality so I won't care?

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by FeitoSpain

Well. I know some cases in which they change a carbon frame for a CAAD or Canyon steel frame (I don't remember which now). And with that change, they could afford better components on their bikes and they're very happy now.

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by dgran

I started riding in the 80s in my youth when nearly every bike was steel. It was a good material then, but like most people I switched over to Aluminium and Carbon. I've done brief rides on modern steel bikes and I have to say that they are pretty impressive. These aren't pig-iron rigs. Sure, they are heavier and not as stiff as carbon, but steel can be repaired and if you like the lively feel there is really nothing quite like it. There are a lot of builders who make unique and interesting steel bikes these days so if you want something that doubles as wall art and plan to ride it for a long time steel is a great option.

A more costly option is Titanium and you get a similar feel. I'm not familiar with the climate of Portland, but my impression is that it is a misty sort of place and you wouldn't ride much if you waited for clear weather all the time. On that score you might find that Titanium has an edge in long term durability since the steel frame could rust if the paint gets scratched.

by Weenie

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by CharlesM

Tons of passion mixed with BS in this thread...

I have custom steel and carb...

The material doesn't really dictate much other than adding a pound or so in weight.

You can have stiff or flexy Carbon or steel, rough or smooth in either and the geometry can be custom for either.

What the OP needs to tell us is what he specifically wants (or is getting) from Steel that he can't get from Carbon.

He hinted at liking the aesthetic.

So be it. That's a personal choice and personal pref as far as a look or a material for the sake of it's make up is not subject to debate by anyone... Getting others to agree with the choice sure is though.

I just landed this


And it was to a large degree because I wanted a bike to look like this. I also wanted smooth and the added weight of the steel frame and fork on 25 section tires gives some added mass damper effect...

But it's certainly not going to be as suitable as the Parlee Z4 for climbing and it doesn’t look like the Crumpton or Serotta Meivici or Cervelo S5 or Blue Axino... Despite the fact that a couple of these bikes get close in smoothness.

All that said, I'm not going to come in here and toss out my steel bike and expect anyone else to justify or validate my choice, in very generic / general terms, as anything beyond me getting what I want.

I don't need that and would be nuts to expect it...

And that type of generic/general justification will have precisely jack sh!t to do with what material it was made from.

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