Posted by: audaxing | September 6, 2010

My best bike part4 : A new bike?

When my best bike died there was a brief period of mourning and then I started to consider what I might replace it with. There are a number of alternatives:

  • Another custom Ti frame
  • A custom steel frame
  • A carbon fibre frame
  • Other alternatives, like a standard fit steel or aluminium frame

As I already have a frame that I know fits, I can use this to inform my choices on standard sized frames and as a template for custom frames. You will note from the diagram below that I need an excessively long head tube and a short-ish virtual top tube. This should give an upright riding position.

Sorry, being a bit techy there. The VTT or “virtual top tube” is basically the distance from the seatpost to the steerer, measured horizontally, 554mm in the diagram below. The “head tube” is the short section of tubing at the front of the frame that the forks plug into, 190mm in the diagram.

These two measurements are crucial in frame sizing. The VTT gives the length for your upper body and arms stretching across the bike and the head tube gives the vertical height of the bike at the front.

Custom frame geometry

Custom frame geometry for old Ti bike

Custom Titanium

The advantage of this is that I have already tried it. The ride on a Titanium frame is great. There are two downsides.

First there is is the cost. Secondly there is the fact that my previous Ti frame failed.

The cost of Ti bikes has increased greatly since I bought my original one. This is partly due to a “general” increase in the price of everything and partly due to specific increases in the price of Titanium.

The failure of the frame around the seatpost/seat stays/top tube interface seems to be down to either a manufacturing flaw or a design fault. Maybe a little of each. But it just goes to show that it isn’t easy to buy a good Ti bike frame. This means an extra obstacle before buying this type of frame, checking the manufacturers history of failures.

Custom Steel

Steel is a great material for frames. I have had steel frames before and like them. Steel has better ride qualities than aluminium. They are slightly cheaper than Titanium. As they are made in the UK they are much easier to repair. On the minus side steel does rust and does need repainting every few years. I don’t buy the “steel is real” hype but it is a known technology. There is a huge choice in great places to buy bespoke steel frames from in the UK.
Famous UK frame builder Chas Roberts

Carbon Fibre frame

These are not available in a “Build to your shape” custom product from anywhere*. The problem with this is finding designs that match my old frame, which fit me.
*not true! See comments

To get a bike that is comfortable over long distances with drop bars a shorter top tube and a longer head tube are needed than the standard sizes. Fortunately, many of the new generation of “sportive” bikes have the geometry I am looking for as a design feature.

Specialized do a frame geometry that is in the right sort of area. This is for their “Roubaix” models.Specialized Roubaix

Other carbon fibre bikes with the right sort of geometry:

I am favouring the carbon fibre option at the moment, partly because I have never tried this type of frame before…:)

Aluminum Frames

Although frames in standard sizes with a good geometry aren’t common there are a few that a close to a fit and with a odd sized stem and a bunch of spacers might just work.

The big advantage of this approach is that I can get a cheap frame, put many of the old parts from the Setavento on it and the cost is low. Always a good thing in these uncertain times.

The Tifosi CK7 is a “nearly fit” like this. The Specialized Sectuer is a Aluminium version of the Roubaix – unfortunately not available as just a cheap frame. Giant also do an Aluminium version of the Defy.


  1. I believe Viner make custom carbon frames, though whether they can build to your spec, and to your budget, is unknown 🙂

  2. “But it just goes to show that it isn’t easy to buy a good Ti bike frame.”

    Deffo not my experience with Enigma

    • Enigma do seem pretty good as do Sabbath and several of the US companies
      However, Ti frames seem to last about 3 years before they fail if there has been a fault so it’s early days yet for Enigma
      Another advantage Enigma has now is that it has good backing and is unlikely to fail because of a spate of warrantee claims

  3. “I am favouring the carbon fibre option at the moment, partly because I have never tried this type of frame before…:)”.

    thats my thinking when it comes to a new bike, nowadays like most things bikes aren’t made for ‘life’ and i cant imagine ever being satisfied with just one bike from now till i go under the wheels of a bus(!?)

    thinking of steel frames what about a Salsa Casseroll or a Thorn Audax frame, both bargains at about the 400 notes mark. cheers

    • thinking of steel frames what about a Salsa Casseroll or a Thorn Audax frame, both bargains

      The Salsa Casseroll has a shorter head tube than the old bike at 165mm (old bike 190mm) but that isn’t an insurmountable problem, but it would require a stack of spacers

      Thorn Audax frames and bikes look overpriced and ugly to me, which is a pity as I live an easy distance from Bridgwater
      The Thorn geometry chart gives the VTT but not the headtube length so it’s difficult to say if they actually make a frame that would work for me!

  4. […] My best bike part4 : A new bike? […]

  5. […] The geometry has a “long” head tube which is better for long distance rides as previously described in the […]

  6. […] on a Specialized Roubaix carbon fibre long distance bike. This has the various geometry qualities previously discussed in the blog that should give a good long distance […]

  7. “steel … rusts” – not stainless steel. Reynolds 953. I know you’ve made your choice and I wish you the best (rode one myself just can’t afford it) but if CF fails you won’t be patching it. Plenty of UK builders are moving to 953.

  8. […] 3)My best bike part4 : A new bike? This is a summary of various bikes that a person like myself who wants a long distance bike might consider. […]

  9. […] My best bike part4 : A new bike? How I picked a […]

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