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Shorts From the Fall 2000 Ask the Mechanic Column
By Andy Wallen   

"I've been framed!" cries Andy, as he pleads the case for the right types of frames for budget, purpose, etc. in these two excerpts from the current Ask the Mechanic.

Don't Get Shanghai-ed (China) On a Budget


I was wondering what you believe to be the best material for a road racing frame. I was also wondering--if you had a price range of $2000-$2500--which road bike you would personally get or from which company you would get it.?

I have been riding on and off for two years while entering a few 100-mile tours with an old Centurian Dave Scott Signature Series road bike, and now I want to get a new bike that fits into the price range mentioned above. But I am becoming quite flustered with all these different bikes and companies. In short I just want to know the best racing bike for the dollar. Any help would be greatly appreciated.



Frame selection is a personal matter, and there are thousands of opinions, and a few of them might be valid. Low-priced Ti frames (Mongoose, Samson, $1200 Litespeeds) are a gimmick, they capitalize on the ti mystique, and deliver a frame that may last forever, except for the Samson, and really not perform as well as a lower-priced steel (853 or Columbus tubing) frame.

I don't care for aluminum, as it has a very finite lifespan and yields a mostly uncomfortable ride. Aluminum has a powerful effect on test riders: they are impressed with the lightness and acceleration, due to the stiff rear triangle. If they rode it for two hours (on our roads, anyway), they would probably become aware of its downside--it'll beat you silly.

I personally ride a Lemond (Trek) OCLV carbon bike, and it has all the advantages of aluminum, with a pretty comfortable ride. I don't know if you can buy a Trek OCLV in your price range, but I think you can come close. The downside of this bike is that carbon is not a lifetime frame, and may not survive a crash.

For value, performance, and comfort, we like the Lemond Zurich. This is an 853 frame with a carbon fork and Rolf vector wheels, available with either Ultegra double or triple, for around $2000. Chuck the SPDs and replace them with Look pedals, and you'll have one of the best all around bikes available, and get change for your $2500. Some people like SPDs; I tolerate them. At the upper end of your budget, you may be able to outfit a similar Italian crafted frame with either Ultegra or Veloce, but this will cost more, and you won't get the nice wheels.

In a nutshell, aluminum is a disposable rough ride, cheap ti is a rip-off, and high quality steel is a good investment. If you want ti, spend over $3000 and you'll probably love it. If $2500 is your limit, buy the Zurich.

PS: On the budget ti issue, whatever you do, don't buy commi-chinese-prison-labor-built-cheap piece of crap owned by huffy airborne!

The Steel vs. Aluminum Debate Rides Again!

Like a bad dream, the "Ole Steel-Aluminum Question" keeps coming back (read through all indented emails below)...

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