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High-end Chromoly Frame Makers of the 90s

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

High-end Chromoly Frame Makers of the 90s

Old 01-11-21, 07:20 PM
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LaVieClaire86
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High-end Chromoly Frame Makers of the 90s

Hi to the BF Road Bike Board ~ Back in the 90s, when I could still turn a chain ring, I tested out quite a few different bikes in an effort to put together my dream bike. As a Cannondale-Shimano rider, I was very familiar with aluminum frames and, specifically, how fast and stiff they were back in the day. In fact, as I got a bit older, I got tired of feeling every stone in the road, so I began testing alternative frame compositions. I recall taking fairly long trips to test out carbon fiber Kestrel frames and Litespeed titanium frames, but I also recall coming back to some seamless chromoly frame makers who simply made riding comfortable again. The problem is...for all the great comfort and handling that these frames offered -- I cannot, for the life of me, remember what the brand was called? I do, however, clearly recall that they were an expensive American brand -- not Kestrel expensive -- but not far off. Anyway, I thought that it might be fun to start my time on the BF by picking some brains.

Have a good one ~ LVC86

P.S. - We still have (2) Cannondale-Shimano road bikes and (1) Trek-Shimano mountain bike, but I never did realize that dream road bike. It's too bad, too, because I have a brand new Dura Ace groupo stashed aware somewhere that's still looking for a frame.

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Old 01-11-21, 07:33 PM
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Serotta? They were making some high end road bikes mostly in steel and would have been in that ball park, was on my wish list. There were a lot of steel makers and narrowing it down wont be easy.
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Old 01-11-21, 07:40 PM
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Does Colorado help?

Originally Posted by Russ Roth View Post
Serotta? They were making some high end road bikes mostly in steel and would have been in that ball park, was on my wish list. There were a lot of steel makers and narrowing it down wont be easy.
Is that an American brand? You're probably right, Russ. I was thinking that by saying that they were an American brand -- which I believe was out of Colorado -- it might be bit easier. Once again, they were fairly expensive and they handled like a dream versus my Cannondales.
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Old 01-11-21, 07:50 PM
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Serotta was a custom builder from Colorado. Late 80’s early 90’s, Serotta, and Schwinn with the OS Paramount were the leaders building with oversized steel tubes.

If you want a cool, now retro, very nice riding bike, you would not go wrong with a Waterford built Paramount OS, or a Colorado 2 from Serotta.
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Old 01-11-21, 07:56 PM
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That being said, if you want a dream road bike with a comfortable ride, today, you’d be much better served by a CF frame with endurance geometry, and spacing to put on some wider tires.

A modern endurance CF frame with 28 mm tires, inflated properly, is going to be both faster, and and a more comfortable ride, than the best 1990’s steel frame with 23 mm tires.

Time marches on.
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Old 01-11-21, 08:30 PM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
That being said, if you want a dream road bike with a comfortable ride, today, you’d be much better served by a CF frame with endurance geometry, and spacing to put on some wider tires.

A modern endurance CF frame with 28 mm tires, inflated properly, is going to be both faster, and and a more comfortable ride, than the best 1990’s steel frame with 23 mm tires.

Time marches on.
Now that you say that the "Italian-sounding" brand Serotta was made in Colorado -- that just may be the brand! One thing I do definitely recall was that I could ride with no hands right off the bat (slow or fast). I could never get away with that -- not for long anyway -- on either of my Cannondales. Would you mind pointing me to the "endurance CF frame" that you're referring to?
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Old 01-11-21, 08:38 PM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
Serotta was a custom builder from Colorado. Late 80’s early 90’s, Serotta, and Schwinn with the OS Paramount were the leaders building with oversized steel tubes.

If you want a cool, now retro, very nice riding bike, you would not go wrong with a Waterford built Paramount OS, or a Colorado 2 from Serotta.
Serotta was actually made in Saratoga, NY area, they made bikes for Huffy and Murray for the Olympics and 7-11 teams and used a tubing called Colorado Concept. They made general framesets but for only a little more you would get custom and most chose to go that route. Ben has restarted the brand offering 2 frames, they're a little pricey but no worse then before and will be top quality.
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Old 01-11-21, 08:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Russ Roth View Post
Serotta was actually made in Saratoga, NY area, they made bikes for Huffy and Murray for the Olympics and 7-11 teams and used a tubing called Colorado Concept. They made general framesets but for only a little more you would get custom and most chose to go that route. Ben has restarted the brand offering 2 frames, they're a little pricey but no worse then before and will be top quality.
I stand corrected. My memory was thrown off by the Colorado model name
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Old 01-11-21, 08:42 PM
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Originally Posted by LaVieClaire86 View Post
Now that you say that the "Italian-sounding" brand Serotta was made in Colorado -- that just may be the brand! One thing I do definitely recall was that I could ride with no hands right off the bat (slow or fast). I could never get away with that -- not for long anyway -- on either of my Cannondales. Would you mind pointing me to the "endurance CF frame" that you're referring to?
there are a number of “endurance frames” from major manufacturers. Trek Edmonda, Specialized Roubaix would be 2 examples
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Old 01-11-21, 11:35 PM
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You're right, time does pass...

Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
I stand corrected. My memory was thrown off by the Colorado model name
You see, I knew that "Colorado" came into this somehow! I think you and I must be the same age, merlin, because I think we were both thrown off by the exact same thing.

I found the email address for the shop I test drove that bike out of, so stand by -- there's [possibly] more to come...
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Old 01-12-21, 01:00 AM
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Originally Posted by LaVieClaire86 View Post
Now that you say that the "Italian-sounding" brand Serotta was made in Colorado -- that just may be the brand! One thing I do definitely recall was that I could ride with no hands right off the bat (slow or fast). I could never get away with that -- not for long anyway -- on either of my Cannondales. Would you mind pointing me to the "endurance CF frame" that you're referring to?
Everything you described isnt due only to the magic of steel or the specific brand- its mostly geometry.
Geometry allows you to easily ride without hands.
Geometry allows bumps and vibrations to be absorbed rather than transmit all to you.

Geometry, quality tires that are supple and wide, and yes frame material can matter too...as a distant 3rd reason.

Also,, seamed or seamless steel tubing is basically indistinguishable in quality now. Seamed tubing can be unidentifiable, heat treated, and butted aggressively. Its not default junk now.
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Old 01-12-21, 03:14 AM
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Paramount, Lemond,, Gt, are 3 I remember from back then.
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Old 01-12-21, 04:01 AM
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Nostalgia is a beautiful thing.
Of course they handled like a dream and could be ridden no-handed right out of the box.
If memory serves me correct, my old Serotta was vertically compliant and literally laterally stiff and I could ride ten mile wheelies uphill right out of the box.
It’s all true and if you don’t believe me you can ask Heather Locklear because she was my gf at the time and rode with me every day.
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Old 01-12-21, 06:48 AM
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Check out the C&V section. Bummer you are no longer able to ride.
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Old 01-12-21, 07:20 AM
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Originally Posted by LaVieClaire86 View Post

I found the email address for the shop I test drove that bike out of, so stand by -- there's [possibly] more to come...
Do AOL and MSN addies still work?!

Mark Nobilette had decamped for Colorado by the email era, and had renown, so that might be the one.
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Old 01-13-21, 06:59 PM
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Sorry for that

Originally Posted by shelbyfv View Post
Check out the C&V section. Bummer you are no longer able to ride.
I didn't mean that I can't ride at all, so my apologies for giving you that impression. What I really meant to say was that I came much closer to turning the unobtainable "perfect circle" back when I rode 25 miles during my [90-minute] lunch breaks. We had full bathing facilities and lockers in the backroom, so it was a great setup for the fitness enthusiasts in the organization. I was on the mini-triathlon (MT) circuit, back then, so those long lunch breaks were really conducive to proper training. Given that the bike sections in those MTs were essentially time trials, the Cannondales were also a pretty good choice. When I got older, however, they were simply too stiff for comfort. In short, I'm thinking about dusting off the Shimano groupo I mentioned and actually finishing the dream bike project I've had in the back of my mind for decades now.

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Old 01-13-21, 07:04 PM
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Brand?

Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
Do AOL and MSN addies still work?!

Mark Nobilette had decamped for Colorado by the email era, and had renown, so that might be the one.
Chaadster ~ Can I trouble you for the brand name that Mark Nobilette started? Thank you for adding to the thread ~ LVC86
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Old 01-13-21, 07:26 PM
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Originally Posted by LaVieClaire86 View Post
Chaadster ~ Can I trouble you for the brand name that Mark Nobilette started? Thank you for adding to the thread ~ LVC86
It was, and remains, eponymous, so just Nobilette.

Nobilette Cycles
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Old 01-13-21, 08:32 PM
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I think your mistake is (a) to think that it is some particular magic brand that is the only brand that you will find comfortable, (b) that it is steel that is the most comfortable (my CF Felt Z is more comfortable than my vintage steel and titanium bikes and my aluminum bike is as comfortable as both of them as well) or (c) the 90s were something special that can't be duplicated or exceeded today.

Start your exploration anew in 2021! Geometry, saddle, bars, FIT and TIRES are far more important than the brand or frame material. Did I say far more important? Compared to those factors, brand and frame material are, um, immaterial.

You may indeed find a 90s vintage steel frame that really rings your bell. That's fine, but there's so many options. Have as much fun today exploring and learning as you did back then. There might be a chance you can better afford your dream bike now too!

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Old 01-13-21, 09:36 PM
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I have only ridden steel and titanium frames. The rides vary a lot. Neither material defines the resulting ride. They are a very real part of it, but so is diameter and wall thicknesses chosen, angles, fork rake, details (esp around the bottom bracket. Then you have the wheels, the tires, seat and post, handlebars and stem ...

Steel frames are all over the place from cushy noodles to so shake your teeth out stiff. Titanium is considerably more compliant, but there also, you can make them very stiff or flexible noodles.

There are builders who will build you a frame of the stiffness you want and others that pride themselves on a "feel" that is their trademark. Bikes are trade-offs of many things and no material can do everything. I love the challenge of coming up with the bike that will do what I want and have had three frames built so far. Now, my driving goal has always been fit and function. Except for my first custom, my namesake Peter Mooney, I told the builder quite specifically what I wanted for fit and steering feel. Those two bikes I absolutely love riding. The first of them however does tend to the wobblies at high speed, getting worse as I am aging. I know a real part of that is what I told the builder to do. (It does however serve very well for very hard rides, very long rides, disappears on climbs, steers exactly like I want and rides and corners no-hands easily. And has all the quirky touches I want on MY bikes.

On the Peter Mooney, I told him conceptually what I wanted, brought in my race bike that fir like a dream (for a racer) and let him go at it. It's a compromise but that was a given. The job of that bike was to get me through the crazy years post life-changing head injury sane. To do that, I might have to ride in any month of the year. Perhaps in the weather that was then happening. I knew I would be living near water but was that going to be Maine? California? A good ride for January in those two states is going to look very different. The resulting Mooney can do both. Not as well as local dialed in bike. And it has. California for its first 6 years Ann Arbor. Seattle, Portland. Pavement. Gravel. Toured. Fix gear. Its handling is a little iffy on rough descents - way too much clearance and too long chainstays mean the rear end is too light, but it does have Peter's famous steering.

Sorry, a bit rambly, but my point is that steel (and ti) are fun because it is so easy to tailor frame using the materials to achieve specific goals. And there are a lot of framebuilders out there. (Mark Nobilette came to mind as soon as I started reading this thread. I haven't ridden his bikes but the ones I've seen were striking. I went to him in my (and his) Ann Arbor days for a tweak for the Mooney and was impressed by him. I'd go to him in a flash if it were not for the fact that I have a good relationship with Peter Mooney and Dave Levy of TiCycles already!

Also, don't get thrown off by people who will tell you a CF bike with 28s is more comfortable than a steel bike with 23s. True. So is the house with the thermostat set at 70F as oppose to the one set at 60F. My Mooney on 28s is to die for (now that I am running it fix gear so rear end skittters on turns isn't an issue. I hit pedals first!) On race tubulars, it was a near race bike. Great ride but not cushy! (If you go custom - you get to choose what tires you want!. I've run the Mooney on 38 front, 35 rear. I could run a 38 in back but the fix gear requirement makes it less than ideal. With those big tires, the ride is comfortable!!)
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Old 01-13-21, 11:05 PM
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Steel Frames

Originally Posted by Camilo View Post
I think your mistake is (a) to think that it is some particular magic brand that is the only brand that you will find comfortable, (b) that it is steel that is the most comfortable (my CF Felt Z is more comfortable than my vintage steel and titanium bikes and my aluminum bike is as comfortable as both of them as well) or (c) the 90s were something special that can't be duplicated or exceeded today.

Start your exploration anew in 2021! Geometry, saddle, bars, FIT and TIRES are far more important than the brand or frame material. Did I say far more important? Compared to those factors, brand and frame material are, um, immaterial.

You may indeed find a 90s vintage steel frame that really rings your bell. That's fine, but there's so many options. Have as much fun today exploring and learning as you did back then. There might be a chance you can better afford your dream bike now too!
After testing a Kestrel CF frame and a Litespeed Ti frame, I was totally shocked that a seamless [which I assure you was big deal back then] steel bike could ride and handle the way the bike I mentioned performed. I had [light] Aluminum on the brain, at the time, so my friend's recommendation to try a high-quality steel bike was nearly disregarded...but damn if he wasn't right on the money: and that's why I'd like to rediscover that brand name again. Put another way, I've ridden a lot of different brands -- and all of them were "exotic" in those days -- so I was very surprised that a steel bike could perform like that. If I'm thinking about a "retro" bike, why not try to find one that has already proven to be a winner?

On the other hand, I'm sure that the frames have evolved over the past 20+ years, so I wouldn't be surprised to find a [new] high-quality bike that rides and handles great...but "retro" is the key word here. Thanks very much for the post.
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Old 01-14-21, 09:25 AM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by LaVieClaire86 View Post
After testing a Kestrel CF frame and a Litespeed Ti frame, I was totally shocked that a seamless [which I assure you was big deal back then] steel bike could ride and handle the way the bike I mentioned performed. I had [light] Aluminum on the brain, at the time, so my friend's recommendation to try a high-quality steel bike was nearly disregarded...but damn if he wasn't right on the money: and that's why I'd like to rediscover that brand name again. Put another way, I've ridden a lot of different brands -- and all of them were "exotic" in those days -- so I was very surprised that a steel bike could perform like that. If I'm thinking about a "retro" bike, why not try to find one that has already proven to be a winner?

On the other hand, I'm sure that the frames have evolved over the past 20+ years, so I wouldn't be surprised to find a [new] high-quality bike that rides and handles great...but "retro" is the key word here. Thanks very much for the post.
Seamless wasnt a big deal in the 90s. It wasnt a big deal in the later 80s even. For example, Tange Infinity has proven through the years to be just as reliable as any seamless tubing with the same butting profile.
You are waxing poetically about what was cutting edge from 3 decades ago- as you mention, things have changed.
If you want a steel frame, cool. Have at it. All my road, gravel, and touring bikes are steel frames so I certainly wont talk you out of it. But mine are steel mostly because I like the aesthetic and ease of build since I build all my frames. I dont clutch to any misconceptions about steel being inherently more comfortable or better performing or whatever. All that is design- frame geometry and tubing choices are critical for any frame you buy whether its steel, carbon, aluminum, or titanium.
Go get yourself an old frame, but if you want it to ride like you remember then you better buy one that has the geometry and tube butting that the bike you remember had.
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Old 01-14-21, 12:29 PM
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Originally Posted by downhillmaster View Post
Nostalgia is a beautiful thing.
Of course they handled like a dream and could be ridden no-handed right out of the box.
If memory serves me correct, my old Serotta was vertically compliant and literally laterally stiff and I could ride ten mile wheelies uphill right out of the box.
It’s all true and if you don’t believe me you can ask Heather Locklear because she was my gf at the time and rode with me every day.
Damn, I had a feeling Heather was cheatin' on me.
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Old 01-14-21, 06:16 PM
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Let's move on, aye?

Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Seamless wasnt a big deal in the 90s. It wasnt a big deal in the later 80s even. For example, Tange Infinity has proven through the years to be just as reliable as any seamless tubing with the same butting profile.
You are waxing poetically about what was cutting edge from 3 decades ago- as you mention, things have changed.
If you want a steel frame, cool. Have at it. All my road, gravel, and touring bikes are steel frames so I certainly wont talk you out of it. But mine are steel mostly because I like the aesthetic and ease of build since I build all my frames. I dont clutch to any misconceptions about steel being inherently more comfortable or better performing or whatever. All that is design- frame geometry and tubing choices are critical for any frame you buy whether its steel, carbon, aluminum, or titanium.
Go get yourself an old frame, but if you want it to ride like you remember then you better buy one that has the geometry and tube butting that the bike you remember had.
I'm sorry if I offended you in some way, so I'll change the wording [again]. Seamless tubing cost quite bit more than seamed in the 80s -- I know because I did the research in the 80s -- and, for me, the seamless mystery bike I tested in the 90s proved to handle better and was much more comfortable than any of the "exotics" I had ridden: especially my Al Cannondales.

To clarify, I'm looking for the name of an American seamless steel frame maker who was in business in the mid-90s. I'm not in the market for a new bike, so the fact that they are [apparently] far better than bikes that were made in the 90s is irrelevant, quite honestly. If this flies in the face of those of you who seem to think that one should spend a boat load of money on new steel, CF or Ti, perhaps this thread isn't your for you. Those of you who aren't offended by owning an old seamless steel bike with Shimano components on it are more than welcome to stay and have a bit of fun. This is my last post having anything to do with new bikes (regardless of composition).

Have a good one ~ LaVieClaire86
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Old 01-14-21, 06:29 PM
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mstateglfr 
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Originally Posted by LaVieClaire86 View Post
To clarify, I'm looking for the name of an American seamless steel frame maker who was in business in the mid-90s.
There were dozens upon dozens. Best of luck finding your needle in a stack of needles.
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