Re: [CR]Steel v. Aluminum Handlebars & Stems

(Example: Framebuilders:Alberto Masi)

From: <"">
Date: Wed, 5 Nov 2008 21:58:44 GMT
Subject: Re: [CR]Steel v. Aluminum Handlebars & Stems

Kirke, Thanks for reiterating your post. Well, it's a big subject and it's all been covered over the years here on the list in piecemeal fashion. Might be tough to drag up from the archives though. I think no one touched it the other day because there're about a half-dozen questions in there, e ach requiring an essay--and, as with rims, a measure of conjecture is re quired, there's room for opinion, and "reasons" for equipment choices ar e full of non-linear factors. Even down to today you can still choose ne w steel and it has never been a bad choice. I think no one took up the s ubject because they need to be framed differently.... Are we speaking of racing in a given period, are we talking about begi n to see the qualifications we need to make.... Where would one begin? I'll take the Ambrosio subject. The bars, stems, and rims were famous as among "the good stuff" throughout the early post war period. At some point in the early Sixties, the "ttt" brand emerged (tubo techno torino), and there was a linkage between the new ttt brand and the old Ambrosio name. The two brands were manufactured concurrently , with overlap between the models. Will somone pick it up from here? Remember, there is no "better" without talking about "better for what jo b?" and, we ask, superior for whom of what size, etc. Steel, aluminium-- it all works, both remain available today to some extent, and were avail able side-by-side for decades. Yes, steel is heavier, but on the track n o one particularly cared. Among racers, say in the Fifties, you've got y our early adopters, you've got others who maybe haven't even thought abo ut it yet. And I think they sometimes just raced what the team specified .... Sorry to sound like the high school teacher saying "narrow it down," but I think the subject really is a bit broad. I don't think there was that much groupthink on the subject that can be boiled down to a brief summa tion. Steel was available; alloy was available. There was a long trend t hat played out over decades. Steel is still available to some extent (se e KOF stems by Nitto and various framebuilders)--and alloy is still out there (i.e. Nitto Technomic, etc.). Custom and practice only evolved slo wly--and once again there are early lightweight roadsters and fancy cycl otouring machines to consider. It's like the rims and cranks discussion all over again. We can observe the dates of introduction, we can examine photos of the T de F peloton over the years, or the documentation of th e cyclotouring trials--but there will be plenty of room for speculation as to what was in people's minds.

I don't even know my own mind about steel or alloy stems. I use both. It depends on the bike. Each bike is a visual composition and a piece of s culpture. I feel it out as I go, it depends on a number of factors and v isual cues. If the bike is old enough, steel is an option. If it's from the 1970s, steel is probably not an option for me--for the road. But may be for track? But my only bike is from about 1960. It arrived with alloy stuff from the mid-Sixties. Hm; quandaries. Okay, it stays as si for no w. And then there are the bikes referred to around here as "funk." I sup pose, to some, a '58 Raleigh Lenton is "funk"--but is that because it ha s weighty steel bars and stem? It's intriguingly old, different, and the steel stuff, including Dunlop Special Lightweight steel rims, were stil l pretty vogue-ish at the time. Funny how there is steel at the low-end, at the old end (sometimes)--and at the high-end: I'm thinking Cinelli t rack steel. And then there are Jack Taylor stems.... And lugged, brazed stems can be so attractive. As has been pointed out many times, what're a few extra ounces? It's like the difference between a half-full waterbo ttle and a full one. But I wouldn't put one on a 1973 Colnago, for examp le. Like I said: it's non-linear. I can't deconstruct it in a single paragra ph. We have a book, "The Dancing Chain." Well, someone can write "The Ri gid Elbow" or some such about the stem or extension.... Tom Ward Brooklyn, NY -- USA