So Scott, a reader of mine from DC, sends me this simple question:
Thanks for your thoughts.
Scott has started a religious debate, methinks. To which I responded with the following. I have received the question quite a few times, so I figured I'd broadcast the answer.
Thanks for the note, man. You have asked a very religious question! for me, its sort of a confluence of materials, custom sizing/geometry and finally 'cult' status. I've raced a variety of off the shelf bikes from Kelly (a production/non custom steel frame), Felt and Scott and of course my various Rock Lobsters. Let me net it out this way:
a) Scandium rocks: The material of choice for me is scandium. It's SUPER light, SUPER strong and has a variety of characteristics I like that frame builders can literally 'tune' the design to how you want it to ride. As an example, I had Rocklobster's Paul Sadoff give me super rigid chain stays (for power transmission) yet the scandium down stays provide some level of flex for comfort. I get exactly what I want in a 3.0 pound frame that is roughly a 59cm (so that light in a larger frame size). Carbon's good, do not get me wrong, but it has limits (for me) on sizing, geometry, colors, et al (see b. next).
b) Custom sizing/geometry: A lot of these off the shelf manufacturers think that sloping top tubes and lower bottom brackets are 'cross' geometry. It's MARKETING geometry. They wouldn't know a cross bike and how it should ride from a commuter bike with 700c tires and cantilever brakes. A horizontal top tube and high BB are CORE cross with near road geometry...albeit just ever so slightly slacker. I personally think Ridley and Colnago have it nailed on the production side (wonder why the best teams ride these frames in Belgium?)...the latter requiring a double mortgage on your house to afford. Paul has built cross bikes for 20+ years....for many national champions and Europeans. His geometry stands the test of time. I have one special requirement though on my frames he builds.....OK 2: First, I run double chain guides with a single ring. I have him specifically crimp the right chain stay to allow for this clearance AND ensuring I can fit a 34 tubular in the stays with appropriate mud clearance. He nailed that. The second thing is that if I want to run a double ring up front, I would (personally) ask him to route my f. der. cable on the top tube. He likes the down tube routing. This may have no bearing on your tastes/desire though.
c) Cult: Support your local frame builder! OK, Paul's in Santa Cruz....but he WAS local to me when I lived there! Ha! I have an affinity for the hard working manufacturers of the sport...who are artists in all senses of the definition. Paul is an artist to me before he is a bike frame builder.
Hope this helps you! In fact, I may post this as it is a question I get often!