Going to Try Something New

I’ve had my bike for four years now. It’s a good bike. Not as fast as many, but no slouch. It’s got an aluminum frame, but lots of carbon add-ons, like the fork, seat stays, seat post. But every now and again I get a hankerin’ for a different look and feel to my biking.

That may have come, courtesy my friend David. As we rode together last weekend, he mentioned, “The Fuji is still sitting in my garage. You can try it out whenever you like.”

What’s different about David’s Fuji is that it’s a steel bike. Now, I’ve had some experience with steel. My 1981 Raleigh 10-speed is steel. But because the model was not one of Raleigh’s high end bikes, it was built heavy. I started my current road biking efforts on the Raleigh five years ago, and I can still remember when another friend of mine, who’d been biking for a long time, picked up my bike while we were taking a break. He did a double take, and raising his eyebrows, said, “That’s some kinda weight you’re hauling around, Bubba.”

In turn, I hefted his titanium LiteSpeed. It was like picking up an aluminum beer can, without the beer. I was astounded that a bike could be that light. It was my first realization that a 26-year-old bike might not be the state of the art model that it used to be — if in fact it ever was. Since then, I’ve developed some ideas about what I want in my ideal bike.

I’m thinking either titanium or steel. Titanium is probably out of my price range, but the lightness of it appeals to me. Steel bikes made in 2012 are a lot different than the ones made in 1981. The steel used now doesn’t approach the old one in heaviness. A lot has been written about the supple ride quality of a good steel bike — a quality that I missed out on with the Raleigh, because I didn’t have anything against which to compare it.

David’s bike is probably not as light as the titanium number, but it’s  2005 model, so was built to be lightweight steel. It feels no different from my aluminum bike when I lift it.

I stopped by David’s house after work today to pick up the bike. I’ll be riding it over the next two weeks or so, just to see if there is any difference between riding it and riding my current bike. I haven’t thrown a leg over it yet — I need to move my pedals over to this bike (David rides Looks, while I use Shimano SPD-SLs. They’re not compatible). I’ll also have to determine if the really short stem will work for me. David threw in the stock stem just in case it doesn’t.

As I get a feel for the new-to-me ride, I’ll be collecting my impressions in order to do a full and thorough review. And maybe determine if a modern, lightweight steel bike is in fact what I need to be saving my pennies for.

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10 thoughts on “Going to Try Something New

  1. My “road bike”, (ok, it’s a flat bar road bike, so sue me), is steel frame and fork and although it’s a tiny bit heavier than my Alum. frame/cro-mo forked, dual sport, I do believe that it “rides” smoother over road imperfections, etc. Have fun! :)

  2. I can’t keep my fingers quiet here, Ray. I too am in very interested in your perceptions. I have an older (1998) Litespeed frame that I have refurbished which is a great road bike. I have a pretty new steel bike that is taller and has more relaxed geometry. Part of the fun of it is that it can be so many different things. It makes a decent tourer, especially with racks and wider tires. With thinner tires, racks removed, it rolls down the road as fast as I can go. I have two different (well actually three) handlebars and stems, all with different brakes and shifters that allow me to ride the bike with drops (think randonneur,) moustache, or uprite. It is a lot of fun and very comfortable. I am curious to see what your take is on riding a steel frame.

    Mel

  3. I am curious how it compares to the allez. I recently picked up
    a ribble with 531c and are slowly moving parts over from a old alum
    novara. I am hoping the steel will be real smooth over the
    chipseal. It is fun building a bike up from
    scatch.

  4. i just happened into your blog today and have a suggestion. Check out the Cannondale Synapse 5 Alloy with the 105 group. My wife, (who’s 5’10”), owns a men’s size 56cm and enjoys it. I actually rode it a couple of times last week while my bike was in the shop and despite being somewhat heavier than my Kestrel, it offers a very comfortable ride over rough roads. Outside of the 105 group and mid range components, you don’t have to worry about checking an alloy frame for cracks very often.

    http://www.cannondale.com/2012/bikes/road/performance-road/synapse/2012-synapse-5-105-19928.

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