I am just getting into cycling and riding my old ancient Peugeot mountain bike. I have money down on a Specialized Roubaix Triple Elite, which I test rode on a very short ride. The bike shop manager is building a Torelli Corsa Strada for me to try as a comparison for around the same price as the Specialized.
The Torelli frame is on order, so it will be a while until I can try it out, but I was wondering what you thought about the two bikes by comparison in general. I'm 53 years young and in pretty good shape. I did like the feel of carbon on the Specialized. What should I expect to feel on the Torelli?
I know all things are subjective, but I'm sure there are obvious differences and would like your opinion.
The difference in the ride between a lugged steel frame and a carbon fiber—assuming, as in your case, that the two are top quality—is dramatically different. Steel tends to flex in a linear fashion—that means that adding another 25 pounds of leg and upper body pressure will deflect it exactly the same increment as the previous 20 pounds did.
Metal has a very consistent, omni-directional grain structure. A good steel frame is remarkably wonderful on a long ride, and encourages a good climbing rhythm.
Carbon fiber composites flex according to the direction and number of fibers in the lay-ups, and react slightly differently according to the molding pressure, temperature and other mold-related inconsistencies. Carbon fiber frames tend to flex easily for a slight distance and then tighten up in a more progressive manner. Aggressive climbers and sprinters like this feel.
Personally, I like the feel of a carbon fiber frame, but the ones I ride are among the most expensive made and no, I could not afford one on an editor's salary.
The steel frame will probably be at least a pound heavier, but ride both and make your decision based on the ride, not the material. Remember that style is superficial and that a pound is not a deal breaker.
A perfect riding bike is like a musical instrument: the best ones are comfortable to play and respond easily to the musician's touch. "Performance" is the interplay between man and bicycle.