Steel frame - carbon vs steel fork?

Discussion in 'Cycling Equipment' started by noonievut, Jun 24, 2009.

  1. noonievut

    noonievut New Member

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    Background - I'm considering having a custom road bike made by a local frame builder. I've been doing research and will soon be in discussion with said frame builder. Although he may address this question, I thought I would ask here first.

    Question - what are the advantages/dis-advantages of a carbon vs steel fork on a steel frame?
     
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  2. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

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    FWIW. Several years ago, when I replaced the 'Carbolite' steel fork on my Peugeot with a threaded (i.e., steel steerer) LOOK carbon fiber fork the bike shed about a pound of weight BUT the ride did NOT change at all based on how the bike handled on mountain descents.

    I happen to have a Carbon Fiber frame whose main triangle happens to have the same geometry that the Peugeot has (Reynolds 501 tubing) ... only the length of the stays differs with the stays on the Peugeot being marginally longer. Both bikes have essentially the same components (the Peugeot having been updated over the years) AND the ride of the two bikes is essentially the same (to me!?!) ...

    The CF frame feels the same (to me, at least) is all the more remarkable because the stays on the CF frame are marginally shorter yet the ride is not any less smooth.

    Now, it could be suggested that the CF frame in the hands of a better rider might be able to negotiate a relatively high speed, 90ยบ corner better, but I'm not the one to put either bike to the test in a Crit/wherever.

    I recommend that you have your builder braze up a THREADLESS fork for your new frame because you can always re-fit the frame with a CF fork, later.
     
  3. dhk2

    dhk2 Active Member

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    CF fork should be lighter and stiffer than steel, same as the comparison of a CF vs steel frame. Disadvantages would be the "soft" finish of CF, ie, it's easily scratched and gouged vs steel, as well as the inability of CF to yield in a severe impact. The aluminum or CF bonded dropouts vs forged steel lugs could also be considered a disadvantage as they can't be straightened or repaired after damage.

    Nothing here that's a show-stopper; CF forks are great for most of us. If you're getting an ultra-thinwall steel frame for racing and counting grams, obviously a good CF fork will save them. However, if I was ordering a "lifetime" steel frame for club rides and touring, believe I'd lean towards a steel fork.....why go halfway?
     
  4. kdelong

    kdelong Well-Known Member

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    Ever consider having the builder custom build a titanium fork for you? You get the best of both worlds, light but durable. Expensive though.
     
  5. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

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    I bought one of those Russian-made, Titanum forks several years ago ...

    It was very light + beautiful to look at (straight blades), but I decided to sell it before I installed it because of what I had (mis-?)read regarding Ti which made me think that a Ti fork woud be better suited for Paris-Roubbaix conditions -- that is, I deduced (perhaps, incorrectly) that it would be too soft. Then, again, it might have been the perfect fork which I should not have let slip through my fingers!
     
  6. Tech72

    Tech72 New Member

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    Steel, aluminum or carbon fork on a steel frame? I've had all three different materials on the same steel frame and like the carbon fork best.

    Frameset: Eddy Merckx Corsa, built of Columbus SL steel tubing.

    Forks used on the same frameset: Original steel Merckx fork, Kinesis aluminum fork and GT Edge carbon fork.

    The Kinesis aluminum fork was the lightest of the three forks used (although current high-end carbon forks are lighter). The best riding was the Edge carbon, it is noticeably stiffer than the aluminum while lighter than the steel. The carbon is also the best (coolest) looking. Comfort wise, I also like the carbon, the jolt is less when riding on rough road surfaces. If I was to rate the three forks, carbon is best, steel second and aluminum third. This was what I experienced with the three forks.
     
  7. Peter@vecchios

    [email protected] New Member

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    Well made steel fork is one of the nicest rides around. Nice match to a well made steel frame. Carbon is lighter, that's about it.
     
  8. noonievut

    noonievut New Member

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    Thanks for the feedback. It will certainly be something I discuss with the builder.

    FWIW - on the builder's website there are photos of completed bikes, some with carbon forks some with steel forks. So I guess after consulting the builder we would reach a decision based on type of riding, etc.
     
  9. alienator

    alienator Well-Known Member

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    There's no way to make any generalized statement about forks in terms of materials. No way at all. It can be argued, I guess, that a steel fork might match a steel frame better aesthetically, but that generalization goes out the window if the frame isn't lugged.

    I had a Paramount frame from the Waterford factory. The fork that came with the frame--a steel fork--was, well, meh. The Easton EC90SL with which I replaced the steel fork was much better. In comparison, the steel fork sucked ass. It had pretty lugs though, if that is supposed to count for anything.
     
  10. 531Aussie

    531Aussie Well-Known Member

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    In my opinion, the only reason to use a steel fork is if you want one for retro/aesthetics, or, you have something against carbon.

    The benefit with carbon is that you have a wider choice of handling traits at much lower weight. You can get a super stiff fork, which will be under 600g; or, you can go for flex and comfort, which will usually be much lighter; or somewhere in between.
     
  11. dhk2

    dhk2 Active Member

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    Agree in general, but doesn't the same arguement pply to choosing the frame material? To me, if someone wants a custom steel frame for retro/aesthetics or "durability" reasons, seems they'd want a steel fork too.

    But hey, whatever floats your boat is great. A buddy here redid his old Merckx a few years back and went to a CF fork with all new components,wheels and paint. One of his goals was to see how much weight he could take off the old sled; believe he dropped 3-4 lbs IIRC. After a mere $2000, he does have a pretty cool Moltini-orange "new-retro" bike
     
  12. noonievut

    noonievut New Member

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    I don't have anything against carbon, personally. I have read that if it 'fails', it could break :eek: resulting in injury. I guess if steel fails, you would know in advance :confused:

    That's not my main reason for wanting a steel frame though. I want my next bike to fit me perfectly and I believe that if I go custom (good builder, who understands fit) I'll have a better chance at this. Also, custom steel is more affordable than titanium or carbon. So this initial decision has lead me to reading lots about steel frames, custom bikes, and I like what I read. It also seems that a good steel frame has the history of lasting a long time, being more durable...etc. I haven't read much against this.
     
  13. alienator

    alienator Well-Known Member

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    You can have custom in steel, aluminum, and CF ( I don't know about Mg). Both steel and aluminum will be less costly custom options than custom CF. Any of the materials can last a lifetime. I'd focus on what really flips your switches: outside of fit, that's the most important issue.
     
  14. 531Aussie

    531Aussie Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, I s'pose, but when it comes to carbon frames, the cost can get ridiculous. Man, the prices down here of some of the 'top' carbon frames are insane. For example, the rec retail is something like $10,000 for the more expensive Time and Cervelos.
     
  15. 531Aussie

    531Aussie Well-Known Member

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    I just wanna say, I've almost transformed bikes by changing forks.

    I bought a Cervelo Superprodigy a few years ago. I cracked the top of the seat tube, and when it was being repaired, I put all the stuff, including the Columbus Muscle fork, on my old 531c Raleigh, and couldn't believe the change! :) I could barely tell the difference between the "new beaut" Cervelo, with the "new beaut" Ultrafoco and oversized down-tube, and the 1988 lugged Raleigh. Basically, the ride was more stable, and the front was stiffer during off-the-saddle mashing.

    I'm gunna generalise. :)

    Generally, steel forks are bouncey and springy, which is great for comfort, but not so great for 80km/h descents and some fast cornering. These traits can be found in flexy carbon, but you can also get an uber-stiff carbon fork with an alu crown and steerer, which will ride like you're on rails, allowing you to take your hands off the bars to snap photos and change tops while doing the 80km/h descents :)

    The average 'good' steel fork is around 700g, so, a stiffer custom option might be pushing 900g.
     
  16. alienator

    alienator Well-Known Member

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    Is that for frames or for complete bikes? If that's just for frames, you guys need to find a different proctologist.
     
  17. 531Aussie

    531Aussie Well-Known Member

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    Yep, frame-sets only, although, I was wrong: the top Time frame is $11,000, and the Ceverlo S3 frameset is only $8,350. :)

    The Time TT frameset is $12,495.

    To be fair, though, the Times are an acception, and the top models from other brands are around $6,000 to $8,000.

    http://www.komcyclery.com.au/catalo...=5264&osCsid=7d5c615908758e06f6968192b93ffd1f

    http://www.komcyclery.com.au/catalo...id=94&osCsid=7d5c615908758e06f6968192b93ffd1f

    http://www.komcyclery.com.au/catalo...4_304&osCsid=7d5c615908758e06f6968192b93ffd1f

    I assumed that these are just crazy rec retail prices that no one actually pays, but a local Time dealer convinced me last year that plenty of people were paying over $10,000 for the frame-sets!! I did some races last year on my wet day bike, which is a $200 Asian-made aluminium thing!! :p
     
  18. alienator

    alienator Well-Known Member

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    Jeez. Do they at least kiss you after they're done raping you? I dunno about the TT frame, your price on the other two is over twice what it is here. How is the Aussie Dollar doing compared to US dollars?
     
  19. 531Aussie

    531Aussie Well-Known Member

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    I know! It's farked! It's probably the main reason I'm a bit anti-carbon. And some shops wonder why we buy stuff on the net.

    The current exchange is about $1 = 80c US

    edit: oops, I had the exchange backwards.
     
  20. alienator

    alienator Well-Known Member

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    In terms of buying bike kit, it sucks living in the Antipodes. I gots a good friend just outside of Auckland, NZed, and he says that buying bike stuff is really hard on his hemorrhoids.

    As it happens, I was thinking about the exchange rate backwards when you first reported it, so it all worked out logically anyway.
     
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