Re: [CR] Steel and non-steel/click shift and friction in my past(s)

Example: Racing:Jacques Boyer

In-Reply-To: <>
From: Jon Spangler <>
Date: Sat, 7 Feb 2009 19:27:42 -0800
To: <>
Subject: Re: [CR] Steel and non-steel/click shift and friction in my past(s)


I largely agree with Steve's points below, and Jerry's previous post about "utility" as well, although I would expand the category by adding "utility" or "commute" to his choice, "touring," to describe bikes with racks, lights, fenders, etc. (I would also include all price points and levels of technology, not just the high-performance spectrum.)

There is a huge difference in the cost-effectiveness of steel (and even aluminum) frames and components versus carbon fiber (CF) and other more exotic materials when applied to commute and utility bikes. Simpler and more accessible technologies and materials (steel frames, alloy components) are easier for me to work on myself, and i appreciate NOT owning a carbon-fiber shopping bike, which would apparently be far more vulnerable than steel to getting damaged in normal around-town use (getting locked to lamp posts and bike racks-- and occasionally falling over--for example).

Of course, I would consider it a sin to use my Eisentraut for an around-town, errand-running steed, too: it is simply inappropriate to the task at hand, just like my UO-18 mixte would be inappropriate on a race course with fully-loaded panniers. And appropriate use, matching form to function, is a key to this discussion, IMHO.

Since I understand and have experience working on alloy components and steel frames but do not have any experience with CF frames, forks, and other components (like rims and cranks), I feel more comfortable doing my own work on the more traditional materials--even when the components are the Ergo 9-speed derailleurs and LOOK pedals on my Eisentraut. I understand the limitations and strengths of these traditional materials in ways I do not comprehend those of CF or Ti, even though Linda's Serotta Legend offers a wonderful ride and terrific (KOF, in the general sense) craftsmanship.

I have owned, ridden, and been quite happy with aluminum-frame bikes (my TREK 2000/1500). I also appreciate the extra damping offered by the CF Serotta F1 fork that currently lives on my originally-all- lugged-and KOF Eisentraut, even though it is a bit taller and has less rake than the better-tracking original steel fork did. (I have had serious repetitive stress/numbness problems with both hands, wrists, and elbows on long rides, and the search for solutions continues. I have no qualms about using gel-backed cork HB tape, gel pads, odd-looking "modern" quill stems, or any other non-KOF techniques to relieve the symptoms, either. Ditto for the all- synthetic helmets I have worn religiously since 1975. No desire whatsoever to give up high-technology materials in that case. :-)

I have test-ridden lots of aluminum-frames (Cannondale, Giant, Specialized, and more), Serotta Ottrots (a CF-Ti hybrid) and an all- CF Meivici, and I would buy a Serotta Legend Ti or an Ottrott in a heartbeat if I had the disposable income. But I have always preferred the feel of fine, double-butted steel, particularly the "continental stage race" bikes made from the metric 531 tubing, for some reason. (And I could just as easily spend my nonexistent disposable income on the right Bruce Gordon or the 1960s Bianchi that I saw a few days ago with its 54.5 CM TT.)

As to shifting, I can friction-shift a Campi NT or Simplex LJ derailleur with DT shifters, but Campi Chorus Ergo 9-speed shifters make shifting easier, faster, and more precise, which makes climbing hills easier on my aging knees. The SIS shifters on my UO-18 mixte (NOT period-correct on 1973 French bike) make shifts in traffic, at stop signs and red lights especially, much more dependable and precise. I cannot imagine giving up "click-shifting" now, even though as late as 1987 I pooh-poohed it as unnecessary.

Unlike some, I can get excited over the look or feel of a nicely made TIG-welded steel or Ti frame (Waterford, Steelman and Serotta come to mind), or even a pretty CF bike, just like I can go nuts over finely- finished lugs and amazing paint (thank you, Brian Bayliss!) on a brazed steel bike. And the look and feel of a Campagnolo crank set or brake caliper--be it NR or Ergo-Chorus--can set my heart a-flutter with admiration (or lust).

The art aficionado, the aesthete, and the historian in me love traditional steel--and Reynolds double-butted steel in particular-- whether visually, by touch, or in the saddle. I cannot imagine giving it up, even if I may have been "unfaithful" along the way with glued aluminum or carbon fiber. It will always have a place in my heart-- and under my ischial tuberosities.

Feeling like a committed bicyclist, above all else,

Jon Spangler Alameda, CA USA

On Feb 7, 2009, at 1:58 PM, <> <> wrote:
> Message: 6
> Date: Sat, 7 Feb 2009 15:58:39 -0500
> From: Steve Birmingham <>
> Subject: Re: [CR] Rene Herse Ligtweight Record Bike
> To: <>
> Message-ID: <00dd01c98966$da8d1b80$8fa75280$@com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
> I can't say I totally agree with either side. I work in a lower end
> shop,
> and
> the stuff that sells tops out around the $700 mark, with a few
> higher. We
> also
> sell a fair number of older bikes.
> The new stuff IS better in some ways, but at a very definite cost.
> The shifting is better, but at the expense of not having anything
> rebuildable.
> And when it fails it's much more expensive. Parts compatibility is
> also
> sacrificed.
> The braking is also a bit better, but most people can't tell the
> difference.
> Almost any brake can stop reliably from 10 mph.
> (On the very low end, braking is MUCH better)
> Fewer flats? Not that I can see. The improved accessibility of the
> simple to
> operate
> modern stuff leads to bikes in the hands of people that won't check
> the tire
> pressure.
> Yes, I've had a person ask incredulously "I have to fill the air in
> the
> tires ? I've only
> owned it 6 months! "
> the low air pressure leads to.....More flats - lots more flats.
> Improved comfort? If we were talking hybrids vs road bikes for the
> masses,
> then yes.
> Road bikes to road bikes, especially comparing lower end new to
> high end
> old...No.
> And the sports aspect does matter. Ask any longtime Trek dealer
> what Lance
> has meant
> to them over the last decade or so. If they're being honest,
> they'll admit
> he's done
> quite a bit for them. Without the 7 TDF wins they'd be just
> another brand.
> And that's why any
> sports figure is sponsored or paid by a team. It's the value of the
> marketing of the victories
> that generates the cash. If it didn't, there wouldn't be so many bikes
> branded for famous racers.
> And it's tough to carry that over to more practical bikes because
> there
> really aren't many famous
> commuters/tourers/campers etc.
> Steve Birmingham
> Lowell, Massachusetts
> Message: 6
> Date: Sat, 7 Feb 2009 11:27:57 -0800
> From: Jim Merz <>
> Subject: Re: [CR] Rene Herse Ligtweight Record Bike
> No, I don't want or need abuse.
> I don't happen to believe carbon fiber is throw away. If it's done
> correctly
> it does not need repair. In any case, the bikes made at the highest
> level of
> sport gives benefit to riders of all levels. If you were to look
> for a
> modestly price road bike today, say $700 retail, the functional
> details are
> at a higher level than the best bikes made in the period up to our
> cut off
> point on this list. I know the style points are not as good, but the
> shifting, braking, lack of flat tires, comfort are all better. I am
> not
> trying to be a smart ass about this, but I am just sensitive about
> making a
> religious icon out of bikes made in the period of our list here.
> There is
> nothing wrong with liking the old mounts at all. It's just that
> they do not
> define the end of development.
> Sure, marketing happens. It has always happened in the selling of
> bikes.
> When I made my Merz bikes I realized that marketing was at least
> half the
> effort. But in order for marketing to have meaning the product must
> have
> real benefits for the end user. I have always fought to make sure
> these real
> benefits (testable, proven features) were in the products I worked
> on. As
> for making bikes that people use for practical reasons. The market
> for this
> in the USA is not robust and so does not support expensive machines in
> general. I know this is a noble pursuit, but my personal interest
> has always
> been in the very highest level of bicycle technology. In postwar
> France this
> was possible with bikes equipped with fenders and lights. Right now
> this
> means racing bikes.
> Jim Merz
> Big Sur CA

Jon Spangler Writer/Editor Linda Hudson Writing 510-864-0370/FAX 864-2144 MOBILE 510-846-5356