I'm due for a bike upgrade and am considering steel. There's a lot of steel cross bikes out there but would riding/racing a 24lb+ steel bike get extremely tiring after a while? My current bike is no light-weight (about 21.5lbs aluminum) so maybe the few extra lbs wouldn't matter - or perhaps using a steel frame w/a carbon fork might be a happy medium. (FYI - I use my bike for everything - from touring, fast group rides, trail rides and of course - cross racing- so ride quality plus durability is premium for me - which is why I'm considering going back to steel in the first place).
Any thoughts and/or recommendations would be greatly appreciated.
Ritchey Swiss Cross or custom Independent Fabrications. I've been riding a steel On-One Pompino single speed for the past summer and compared to my aluminum crosser its way more comfy but definitely heavier. I've been able to keep a little speed on the gravel due to the comfy ride of steel and also the fact its a single speed so I've gotta stay on top the gear. The only time I've felt it cumbersome was during the first cross practice a week ago. Shouldering and suit-casing that thing is not the most efficient way round a course. All this to say, If I could build up the perfect do it all bike, I'd choose a steel frame, carbon fork and seatpost and stiff wheels.
I have raced for several years on a Surly Crosscheck. Mostly singlespeed, but I did category races on it one year and was able to upgrade to Cat 2. Yes, steel is heavier, but I love the ride and am currently looking for a better steel frame, hopefully with disk brakes. Decent wheels and tires can help offset some of that extra frame weight.
A steel bike is definitely not too heavy to race. The weight of a steel bike really depends more on the components & wheels than the frame itself. If it's in your budget, you can get it really light. 24+ lbs is very heavy, you will have less fun on a 24 lb bike. If the budget is tight - make it a singlespeed and you can easily get it under 20lbs. I'd upgrade/lighten up the wheels before buying a carbon fork. There are some awesome steel options out there, so don't overlook it because of weight.
I raced elite for a couple of years on a custom Marinoni steel bike, made in Montreal, and really enjoyed the feel of the frame. It felt planted and forgiving compared to my aluminum pit bike. Plus, as with most made to order bikes, you could specify rack and fender bosses for free, even on the stock frames.
At the end of the day, I didn't really notice the couple of extra pounds, as the bike rode so nicely, and the weight was offset by decent race wheels and tires and a carbon fork. In a muddy race, all bikes weigh the same after a lap or two anyway!
Hi Chad - your response is very timely - I was just looking into the All - City Macho Man frame. If I pull the trigger, I would just move over the components on my current CX rig - which are definitely lighter than the All-city stock bike. Frame looks good - I'd use it for racing - but it seems they've had some success with that geometry / frame from their single-speed version of it.
Just to close the loop on this thread-I did wind up getting the Macho Man last year. I love the bike!! I actually got the frame and fork and moved over all of my gear, including a Ritchey Carbon Fork. The bike rides beautifully. All-in, including ISSI trail pedals - it weighs 21.5lbs - which is not bad at all for a 58CM steel bike. This includes a mostly Shimano 105 drive train, Ritchey handle bars, stem and fork, a Thomson seatpost and Velocity rims and hubs. I was so tempted to put the steel fork that came with the bike back on - since it looks great, but it doesn't make sense to downgrade the fork for aesthetics.
It definitely is not the lightest of fastest in the line up (of course neither am I :-) but riding this made me realize how much I missed steel. Fast enough for me and buttery smooth. I'll be riding this for years to come.