Lugged Steel versus Tig Welded Steel
I think that I've been pretty plain about my preference for lugged steel frames, in the past. I like the way they look, and the connection to the classic frames of the past that they provide. I admit that, for the most part, I like them because of their nostalgic appeal.
Right now, I only have one lugged frame in ridable condition; my 1974 Peugeot UO8 fixed gear. The Raphael Giminiani is awaiting restoration, as is my Hercules 3-speed. You may recall that I had a lugged StumpJumper which I had powder-coated orange and built up XO-1 style, converted to 650b wheels.
I felt a bit of "builder's remorse", due to the high overall cost of that project, and sold the bike down the line, after reverting it to 26" wheels. That left a hole in my bike stable which I filled with the red RockHopper, which happens to be a few years newer than the StumpJumper, but shares the same frame geometry with the lugged bike.
Having ridden both bikes, quite a bit, I can categorically state that I, personally, can tell no difference in the ride or handling between the two frames. If you masked off a lugged steel bike and a tigged bike, installed the same components and tires on them, I doubt that one rider in a hundred could reliably identify which was which by riding them.
Knowing this, I am quite happy with the tig-welded XO-2 that I just built up. It has the cool mountain bike/cross bike look and feel, and (on my short test ride) seemed terrific. I have no doubt that longer rides will only reinforce that.
And yet, I still have that nagging little feeling of disappointment in the back of my brain, due to the lack of lugs on the frame. And, truthfully, I am still on the lookout for a 1993 XO-2 or XO-3 frame (which were lugged). I have totally given up on finding an affordable 1993 XO-1 frame in orange.
But, for now, I'll enjoy the "budget version" XO that I have. I've only wanted one for the past 16 years (couldn't afford one when they were new, and they never lost their value like so many other bikes do - they still bring their original retail value or more, when sold on the used bike market by an informed owner).
And, hopefully, I might even come to not care, at all, about the tigged frame and just enjoy the bike for what it is.
I will say this: I am happier with having a real tig-welded XO than I was with the lugged faux XO built from the Stumpy. Now, if it would just stop snowing so that I could get in some rides on it.