Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Born to ride steel?

Well, that is silly, of course.  No one is born to ride a certain kind of bike material as that decision is typically determined by the needs, predilections, and often, the budget of the cyclist.

But, I do wonder if I am not fated to be (with apologies to John Henry) a 'steel driving man'?  I have waxed philosophic about owning Ti here and here, and carbon fiber here.  I have been sucked into the siren call of at least two aluminum hardtails now and both times I come up short of an emotional tie to the bike.  They do not suck, but they do not inspire my favor either.

"How do you make an aluminum bike?  Start with a steel one and then suck out all the soul."
                                                                                                                                     -  Unknown

Pouring in a bucket of soul

I have to say that I am quite possibly the poster child for steel frames as a hardtail bike of choice.  They meet my beer budget.  They last nearly forever.  They ride smoothly as a rule.  They have a living feel to them when ridden.  They look elegant to my eye in a classic sense.  They seem to go well with 'reverse technology'.  My Jabber looks swell with the old school White Industries hubs and non-external BB cranks.  It would look even better with some WI Eno cranks and a Phil Wood BB, something that I do not think a modern alu frame would quite do justice to.

In the same way that an alu frame feels like a 2x4 with wheels to me, even if it is great pedaling, light, and fast, the steel frame feels more like a leaf spring with wheels, even if it is a heavier carcass.

Less *thunk*, more *twang*.

*Twang* ist gut

And, ya know, like the Germanic Twang inspector above, I will take twang over thunk any day.  I have ridden CF frames I think I could have taken home.  I don't know what carbon does, in general.  It can be *thunk* or maybe *whack* or possibly *thwack*...but it ain't got a chance in h-e-double tooth picks of ever twanging.

Now I still think that Ti could be the ultimate steel bike, but unless the cost comes down or someone makes a geometry that I think is spot-on stock, there is no way I can pop for a handmade Ti frame, not when I could buy two or three steel frames at that cost.  Until beer jumps up to champagne, I think I am out of the market.

I am still expecting another steel SS frame at the end of the year and I am excited about the numbers on the geo charts.  If it is as good as I have heard, I may be a happy man.  If not, there are lots of choices to point to next.  I am even pretty interested in seeing how the new Vassago Black Label frames compare to the standard stuff.  At just over twice the cost, they are in the truly hand-made custom range, but, one would hope, readily available without the wait.

Hmmm...all that soul, off the rack.  Twang included at no extra cost.  Thank the big German guy.

1 comment:

Fonk said...

I just came off a 5-day loaded tour, involving some gnarly mountain pass (all above timberline) descents - all on my steel MTB steed. It was good. :) Like you said, I think Ti would be awesome, but it's nowhere near my budget right now.