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Carbon or steel fork

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Carbon or steel fork

Old 10-24-13, 09:21 AM
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Carbon or steel fork

I'm about to break the habit of a lifetime and buy new. Not a full bike but a light steel hybrid/cross bike frame for 700c wheels that will make those longer rides a bit easier than on mtb. (I do not want a full road bike, for various reasons). I'll then build it up with some good kit that I have hanging around. It has the option of upgrading from steel to carbon fork and I'm undecided whether it's worth the extra money (around 100).

I know that both steel and carbon provide a slightly more sympathetic ride on rough surfaces than aluminium, but what are the views of those who've had experience of both types of fork.
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Old 10-24-13, 09:26 AM
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I just recently made a switch from owning almost exclusively steel bikes (the exception being a mid 90's alum dual suspension mtb) to having an alum frame/carbon fork fixed gear, I have to say I was really impressed with the ride quality the fork seems to display, the weight is also very noticeable.. but that said it's still about the same ride quality as steel, just heavier like you'd expect. Also as this was my first CF fork I wasn't exactly comfortable with chopping down the steerer, or for that matter tensioning the headset.. I did it all and did it right, but it still was unnerving knowing I'm putting tension onto rigid epoxy/fabric. Just my personal experience for whatever it's worth.
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Old 10-24-13, 09:47 AM
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I can only speak for me, but I’d stick with the steel fork. I worry a whole lot less when it’s a steel fork especially when hitting road imperfections during high speed gravity descents. The carbon fork may well withstand the impacts, but if it doesn’t, I’d be eating the pavement at a speed that would not make for a happy ending. Steel forks have always withstood such impacts for me, so I’d stick with the steel fork especially since the weight difference isn’t all the much. For me, a couple extra pounds is inconsequential.
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Old 10-24-13, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by [B
Gerryattrick[/B];16188870] The big issue for me is comfort and handling.
I have a steel bike with a steel fork, a steel bike with a carbon fork and a carbon bike with (no surprise) a carbon fork. For comfort, steel is the easy winner. Handling wise, pretty much equal. Weight wise (not a big issue for you, but for some) the carbon fork is the obvious winner.

As RaleighSport noted above, cutting the steering tube of the carbon fork is a bit more deserving of your concentration (measure four times, cut once) than the same operation on a steel fork!

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Old 10-24-13, 12:58 PM
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You have already said it but forget Aluminium.

My only experience of steel forks was on mountain bikes. The stock forks that came on bikes 23 years ago were rigid and Suspension was in it's early days. Until you got onto a reasonable quality of bikes- I could understand why suspension came in but I had a Kona Explosif with Project ll forks. Those forks were superb but after about 8 years I went to the latest- well regarded forks possible. Did two rides and went back to the project ll's. Those forks were great- strong but gave a good ride taking all the lumps out of offroading.

My only experience of CF forks has been on road bikes and never had any other. However the grade of those forks and it could be back to comparing Aluminium to CF. Lowly Giant OCR3 and I am certain those forks were made of solid resin. They were heavy and had no give in them. The forks on the TCR and Boreas are lightweight and give a resilient ride. Haven't noticed any difference in the two but they are on different bikes built up for different uses.

One thing I would be thinking about on good quality forks and that is the steerer. CF or metal. Boreas has CF and the TCR is aluminium. My concern would be with regard to CX use on CF steerer. They may be lighter but doubt as to whether they would take the Knocks of rough riding.
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Old 10-24-13, 01:24 PM
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I think there's quite a few variables here. For example, my guess would be that a good quality taper-blade chromoly fork with a distinct curve in the blades to create rake, designed to use caliper or v-brakes, would be noticeably more comfortable (flex) than a straight-blade cf fork designed to take the stresses of a disc brake -- that kind of thing, along with other factors mentioned above.

So it all depends: carbon will (pretty much) always be lighter, but beyond that ... I suspect that e.g. weight apart one wouldn't notice much difference at all in ride quality between two straight-bladed disc forks. OTOH, I know from experience that the curved-blade cf v-brake fork on my Sirrus (and it's nothing special ... alloy steerer, etc.) is not only lighter but waaaaay more 'comfortable' than was the straight-blade chromoly disc fork I had on a previous bike (that one had the potential to introduce Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in short order).

P.S. Reading between the lines, OP, you wouldn't be thinking of the Cotic Road Rat by any chance? If so, nice bike!
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Old 10-24-13, 01:56 PM
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Ok It comes down to YGWYPF , a nice fork hand made in the UK of premium materials, fork,
in steel, say a Reynolds blade, or maybe Columbus..


will cost More than a cheap Carbon fork made in Asia ..

but some design parameters can be done , locally..
Like doing a 50's style J bend, at the tip in the blades,

which will flex for some better shock absorption, rather than a long radius bend ,
that has become Fashionable, by now, for it's looks.

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Old 10-24-13, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
Ok It comes down to YGWYPF , a nice fork hand made in the UK of premium materials, fork,


will cost More than a cheap Carbon fork made in Asia ..

but some design parameters can be done , locally.. Like doing a 50's style J bend, at the tip in the blades,
which will flex for some better shock absorption, rather than a long radius bend ,
that has become Fashionable, by now, for it's looks.
When in that position, I tracked down a very high quality used full CF fork for about 75, it had some cosmetic imperfections (very minor ones), but it still beat spending 300+ for the same exact fork from a store, YMMV.
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Old 10-24-13, 02:02 PM
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My fork issues are more about finding high-rake alternatives in either steel or carbon.
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Old 10-24-13, 02:03 PM
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When in that position, I tracked down a very high quality used full CF fork for about 75, it had some cosmetic imperfections (very minor ones), but it still beat spending 300+ for the same exact fork from a store, YMMV.
You bike needs are different from mine , obviously.
hope the seller didn't damage the CF fork before flipping it. ( wishing good luck in the future)

.. to having an alum frame/carbon fork fixed gear,..
I might even have a bike I've owned since before your first birthday..

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Old 10-24-13, 02:06 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
You bike needs are different from mine , obviously.



I might even have a bike I've owned since before your first birthday..
Quite possible on the ownership, most definitely about the different needs, I suspect though that finding a deal is the same to both of us, but I tend to like how you guys behave in this section better than the rest of the site usually
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Old 10-24-13, 03:11 PM
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I have found a top shelf steel fork can ride better than a lot of carbon forks out there. Have not ridden a carbon fork that enticed me to get one. In fact, I can say a really well designed fork with 531 metal and proper rake rides incredibly smooth. I like to watch them flex on rough sections, too!
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Old 10-24-13, 03:40 PM
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Originally Posted by badger1 View Post

P.S. Reading between the lines, OP, you wouldn't be thinking of the Cotic Road Rat by any chance? If so, nice bike!
Got it in one

Great replies so far, all very helpfull.
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Old 10-24-13, 04:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Gerryattrick View Post
Got it in one

Great replies so far, all very helpfull.
I am really intrigued by that frame/the concept behind it, and have been/am giving it some thought. As well, that duck's-egg blue colour option might be enough to induce me to order one!
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Old 10-24-13, 06:33 PM
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've got carbon forks on all of my bikes (carbon, steel, aluminum, titanium, and steel/ti combination). The only exception is on a touring bike that has provisions for a low mount front rack. Otherwise, it would have carbon. It made a tremendous difference in responsiveness in all the bikes. For me the issue is not longer carbon or steel, rather it is carbon and what kind of steerer tube?
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Old 10-25-13, 11:02 AM
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Carbon forks can be much stronger than steel. On the way to this year's Furnace Creek 508/Trona 353, I had a wind cover on my steel Rodriguez fixie with ENVE 1.0 carbon fork that was on the rooftop Thule fork-down rack. Although the clamp was shut tight (but not locked), the force of the wind on the cover created so much upward force that the clamp popped open. The bike came off, tearing the plastic strip holding the rear wheel, and I could see the bike bouncing down the freeway behind me at 75 mph. Fortunately, it came to rest on the shoulder, so it didn't get run over by the truck coming up behind us.

However, the only damage to the bike was to the left front dropout, where the front was worn away, so I had just more than half a left dropout left. The frame was still perfectly aligned (True Temper OX platinum is VERY difficult to cold set!), the forks were still perfectly straight, I could ride no-hands at low speed, the bike did not shimmy on fast descents (it's a fixed gear bike, so my descents are at about 55 kmh max). Anyway, the fork was still able to securely hold a front wheel (although the end of the QR skewer was a little askew), enough to finish the Trona 353.

And this is the ENVE 1.0 (300 grams), IMHO the best carbon fork made. I've since got an ENVE 2.0 (350 grams but about $100 less) that will go on the fixie next spring. Something to be said for US-made products (I try to buy domestic, rather than Chinese, whenever I can - the quality is usually worth paying extra for).

That said, I want to use a front disc brake over the winter on this same fixie in order to save wear on the front rim's braking surface. I am tired of wearing out rims, especially front rims, where a sudden failure could be dangerous, and rims seem to be made with thinner walls these days... Carbon seems to be the best material for a fork strong enough to handle a disc, but no one makes a carbon fork for discs with a straight 1 1/8" steerer AND an axle-to-crown distance of 370mm (road bikes). They make this for cyclocross bikes with a 400mm axle-crown distance, but this would raise the front end and affect the trail, and therefore the handling. ENVE's disc fork has the 370mm axle-crown dimension, but the steerer is tapered (1 1/8 to 1 1/4"). I don't understand why the bike industry has not cottoned on to retrofitting road bikes with a front disc; seems like a profitable no-brainer to me! What would make more sense than running disc front/caliper rear for those still wary of road discs on long, steep descents?

So at this point, it would seem to make sense to have a steel fork custom built (by a reputable US builder) to the proper dimensions and with the standard disc braze-on. I see this as about the only justification for a steel fork these days.

Luis
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Old 10-25-13, 12:36 PM
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I've always bought my frames with a fork that was designed by the company to work with that frame.
If you want a softer ride, put on puffier tires. Btw, my bikes have carbon forks. Just sold a 78 Paramount with probably a pretty decent steel fork, and it didn't ride any better than my all carbon bike.
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Old 10-25-13, 12:46 PM
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Originally Posted by lhbernhardt View Post
... Carbon seems to be the best material for a fork strong enough to handle a disc, but no one makes a carbon fork for discs with a straight 1 1/8" steerer AND an axle-to-crown distance of 370mm (road bikes). They make this for cyclocross bikes with a 400mm axle-crown distance, but this would raise the front end and affect the trail, and therefore the handling. ENVE's disc fork has the 370mm axle-crown dimension, but the steerer is tapered (1 1/8 to 1 1/4"). I don't understand why the bike industry has not cottoned on to retrofitting road bikes with a front disc; seems like a profitable no-brainer to me! What would make more sense than running disc front/caliper rear for those still wary of road discs on long, steep descents?

So at this point, it would seem to make sense to have a steel fork custom built (by a reputable US builder) to the proper dimensions and with the standard disc braze-on. I see this as about the only justification for a steel fork these days.

Luis
Would 380 a/c be close enough?? Pretty sure the (cf) steerer is not tapered on this one.
http://www.sjscycles.co.uk/evolution...res-prod25964/
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Old 10-25-13, 01:58 PM
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There will be as much variation between various forks of a given material as between forks made of different materials, but there are some general characteristics of steel and carbon worth considering. In my experience, good quality steel forks are a bit more compliant and comfortable while still providing good control. Carbon forks tend to be lighter and more resistant to side flex or twisting, but also a bit harsher on bumps.
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Old 10-25-13, 02:13 PM
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Originally Posted by badger1 View Post
Would 380 a/c be close enough?? Pretty sure the (cf) steerer is not tapered on this one.
http://www.sjscycles.co.uk/evolution...res-prod25964/
Yes, looks like disc road forks are FINALLY starting to make an appearance. And 380 shouldn't affect trail significantly, if at all. Will check this out, thanks!

Luis
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Old 10-25-13, 02:15 PM
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Originally Posted by lhbernhardt View Post
Carbon forks can be much stronger than steel. On the way to this year's Furnace Creek 508/Trona 353, I had a wind cover on my steel Rodriguez fixie with ENVE 1.0 carbon fork that was on the rooftop Thule fork-down rack. Although the clamp was shut tight (but not locked), the force of the wind on the cover created so much upward force that the clamp popped open. The bike came off, tearing the plastic strip holding the rear wheel, and I could see the bike bouncing down the freeway behind me at 75 mph. Fortunately, it came to rest on the shoulder, so it didn't get run over by the truck coming up behind us.

However, the only damage to the bike was to the left front dropout, where the front was worn away, so I had just more than half a left dropout left. The frame was still perfectly aligned (True Temper OX platinum is VERY difficult to cold set!), the forks were still perfectly straight, I could ride no-hands at low speed, the bike did not shimmy on fast descents (it's a fixed gear bike, so my descents are at about 55 kmh max). Anyway, the fork was still able to securely hold a front wheel (although the end of the QR skewer was a little askew), enough to finish the Trona 353.

And this is the ENVE 1.0 (300 grams), IMHO the best carbon fork made. I've since got an ENVE 2.0 (350 grams but about $100 less) that will go on the fixie next spring. Something to be said for US-made products (I try to buy domestic, rather than Chinese, whenever I can - the quality is usually worth paying extra for).

That said, I want to use a front disc brake over the winter on this same fixie in order to save wear on the front rim's braking surface. I am tired of wearing out rims, especially front rims, where a sudden failure could be dangerous, and rims seem to be made with thinner walls these days... Carbon seems to be the best material for a fork strong enough to handle a disc, but no one makes a carbon fork for discs with a straight 1 1/8" steerer AND an axle-to-crown distance of 370mm (road bikes). They make this for cyclocross bikes with a 400mm axle-crown distance, but this would raise the front end and affect the trail, and therefore the handling. ENVE's disc fork has the 370mm axle-crown dimension, but the steerer is tapered (1 1/8 to 1 1/4"). I don't understand why the bike industry has not cottoned on to retrofitting road bikes with a front disc; seems like a profitable no-brainer to me! What would make more sense than running disc front/caliper rear for those still wary of road discs on long, steep descents?

So at this point, it would seem to make sense to have a steel fork custom built (by a reputable US builder) to the proper dimensions and with the standard disc braze-on. I see this as about the only justification for a steel fork these days.

Luis
A front disc, rear rim brake makes perfect logical sense, just like many cars have front disc and rear drum brakes. Whether carbon is better then steel, depends on how much of a weight weinie you are, a good steel fork weighs maybe 600g-700g, a top end carbon one is about half that. Now that 350g difference, means:

Half a full water bottle (750ml, 25oz)
emptying a 1/3 full bladder
It represents 1.54% of the weight I would like to lose....

The benefit of a steel fork is simple, in a severe crash where steel is forced beyond it's deformation point it will deform (read bend). Carbon fibre when forced beyond it's deformation point, will splinter. Of course the difference between a fork that bends and one that shatters, could be the difference between calling a driver a dumb*ss, and paying for a good chunk of your dentist's new Porsche....
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Old 10-25-13, 02:22 PM
  #22  
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The teeth of a rider on a steel forked bike experiencing the kind of crash that would shatter a carbon fork would be in quite a bit of peril I would think.
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Old 10-25-13, 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by BluesDawg View Post
There will be as much variation between various forks of a given material as between forks made of different materials, but there are some general characteristics of steel and carbon worth considering. In my experience, good quality steel forks are a bit more compliant and comfortable while still providing good control. Carbon forks tend to be lighter and more resistant to side flex or twisting, but also a bit harsher on bumps.
I agree; I think you can get as much variation within forks made of one material as between forks of different materials. When I switched from using the ENVE 1.0 and went back to the Profile BRC carbon fork, I immediately noticed two things:

1. The bike was way easier to corner, especially around slow turns. The Profile fork has a 45mm offset, the ENVE has 40mm. The larger offset results in reduced trail, and that makes the bike easier to turn. Also, the frame was designed for a 45mm offset fork. The new ENVE 2.0 I purchased with a 43mm offset, kind of a compromise between high-speed stability and quicker low-speed cornering.

2. The Profile forks was palpably "softer" than the ENVE fork. It absorbed road shocks better. The ENVE had felt more "rigid" by comparison, but I preferred its "tighter" handling.

So I would think that whichever way you go, steel or carbon, you want to make sure you get a good, well-made fork. A quality steel fork will usually outperform a cheap carbon fork, and vice versa. If you're going carbon, I'd start by looking at the ENVE 2.0 for road use.

Luis
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Old 10-26-13, 09:07 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by BluesDawg View Post
...In my experience, good quality steel forks are a bit more compliant and comfortable while still providing good control. Carbon forks tend to be lighter and more resistant to side flex or twisting, but also a bit harsher on bumps.
+1
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Old 10-27-13, 07:16 AM
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Go with the steel. The problem with carbon is that it fails in an instant, and will put you on the ground that fast. Steel usually fail more slowly giving you some chance to get stopped.
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