Two Wheels - Six Strings

Random news and thoughts about various two-wheeled projects and music, especially my band, Skull Full Of Blues.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

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.



At 6:36 PM , Blogger Erich said...

Keep looking for that 93. No doubt, they're a rare beast, but I know they're out there to find. Someone local has found 2 for unbelievable deals recently. I settled for the 1992 model, even though I'd rather have the 93's wider clearances. Still, it's a wonderful bike, and I wouldn't sell it for many new bikes.

At 2:38 PM , Blogger frankenbiker said...

Mmmm! the elusive X0-1,by the way Jon,what happened to your all-rounder bike? I haven't seen anything about it.

At 3:34 PM , Blogger Jon said...

I'm keeping mum until I actually have the frame in hand. Hopefully, that will be soon...

At 8:42 PM , Blogger Filigree said...

Interesting post, especially coming from someone who has so much experience with building up vintage and modern bikes.

I am in love with lugs, though for me it is more an aesthetic thing rather than a belief that lugged is always better than TIG-welded. I think the quality really depends on many other factors, and either type of frame can be superior. But aesthetically - mmm, those lugs tug at my heart strings.

Having said that, I do love A.N.T. TIG-welded bikes, and think they are good exactly as they are. It's a different aesthetic and an exception to my general preference.

At 9:23 PM , Blogger Jon said...

I'd say, in order of preference, my favorite frame construction methods, based on aesthetics, are as follows:

Lugged (steel)

Fillet brazed (steel)

Tigged (steel, titanium, aluminum)

Molded (Carbon fiber)

But, again, I admit that those preferences are entirely based on how the frame looks. I've owned and ridden each type, in the past, and enjoyed them all. (I do have preferences concerning the material from which the frame is built, based on performance and longevity. That, however, is grist for another mill.)

It has just come down to the fact that I can't get the bikes I want in lugged steel, and the right bike means more to me than the method in which the tubes are joined.

I love my 29er mountain and commuter bikes, and I simply can't afford to commission lugged steel (custom) frames to suit me.

I've always wanted a 26" XO, but the lugged frames are more expensive than I am willing or able to pay.

I guess the point I was trying to make is that sometimes I need to learn to put quality and utility above appearances.

Once again, one of my comments is becoming a blog post of its own. I will be discussing this and the "all-rounder" bike and concept more, soon.


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