Frame shape, Shimano dérailleurs, etc.

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A year ago I had called upon this learned assembly for advice on the state of a bicycle frame. I
finally decided to scrap that old piece of junk, and proceeded with the purchase of a new bike which
I promptly fell in love with. Alas, my pride and joy was stolen in the yard just 4 meters away from
my bed, lock(s) stock and barrel.

That bike had been purchased here in Germany, and was a VSF Fahrradmanufaktur model T1000. What made
me go for it were the extra width frame tubes, Vee brakes, and the Shimano XT dérailleur. Although I
and "decorated" it to the point that the dealer couldn't recognize it when I brought it back for the
warranty first inspection, the thief was able to see in the dark through the crud that it was a it
was one of the nicest bikes in the lot to pinch [next time I'll get out the ****-colored paint can,
like I did for this bike's predecessors]. In somewhat less than a year it gave me more than 4000km
of pure joy, consisting mostly of daily commutes and the occasional week-end day-trip.

So I'm in the market again for a bike. After reviewing the available models I'd go again with
the same retailer and manufacturer, and I have basically three choices, for approximately the
same price :

1) T1000 (Same model as before) -> XT dérailleur and pedals -> 63cm frame -> trekking luggage rack

2) T600 -> 63cm frame, apparently same construction as T1000 -> LX Dérailleur and pedals ->
hydraulic brakes -> suspension fork and saddle -> all-purpose luggage rack -> hub dynamo

3) T600 XXL -> 65cm frame with extra member -> Same equipment as standard T600, *minus* the
suspensions -> stronger spokes

Options 2 and 3 are cheaper than option 1, and are a closer fit to what I'm looking for, especially
for the hub dynamo (the darned little wheel just wears out too fast) and the bagage frame. I now
understand that a lot of the price difference between option 1 and the rest is due to the Shimano
parts. My experience with the XT stuff over a year was quite positive, ie, it was perfectly
trouble-free, but it was still a new bike.

First question : I've googled away for hours, and couldn't find anything definitive of the pros and
cons of the XT vs. LX stuff. What's the dope on that? From the Shimano site all I could see is that
one series uses some ceramic bearings. I have no use whatsoever for a five grams weight reduction,
I'm 6'4" and of strong and heavy build...

Second question : The first difference between options 2 and 3 is the suspension. I've had a test
ride around the block with a suspension model, and it did seem to make a difference. I don't do any
off-road stuff, but there's a lot of cobblestones around here, and I do find myself making detours
sometimes to avoid them. But I'm a bit afraid of those forks. According to instructions found on the
web they don't seem to be exactly maintenance free (lubricate and clean after every 10 or 20 hours
of ride), and I'm not exactly the keenest person for regularly scheduled maintenance, although I
never postpone any necessary repairs. The RST suspension fork web site provides sparingly technical
details about this model, and I don't know whether it is indicated for my weight. Furthermore, I
understand that I should accept loosing power, but I can't estimate this as I have no idea about the
stiffness [yeah, I could measure it with a ruler when applying a known weight to the wheel], and the
damping factor of that thing [that's more difficult]. Should I select a model without a fork, I
forego the possibility of installing one at a later stage because of wheel clearance. Could someone
counsel me on this ?

Third question : the second main difference between the standard and XXL model is the frame. From
the catalog, here are the normal : and the XXL frames :

You will notice the extra member between the rear dropout and the steering. I had never seen
anything like that, the result looks like a cross between a man's and a woman's bicycle. Is there
any structural merit to such a construction ?

With the XXL model I would get an additional 2cm of frame size, which isn't too bad considering the
saddle height on the old one : . (For crotch clearance it's
still OK, I'd also have to check the crank length).

Thanks in advance,

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