Looking for relatively light steel road bike with disc brakes, wide tyres & panniers

by Feanor   March 10, 2013  

Hi all. I'm new here and having found similar threads on this forum to the one I'm starting wonder if you might be able to help me. I've spent weeks researching this and can't find what I want without spending a fortune.

I'm looking for a steel road bike that's fast, reliable, practical and relatively light and is equipped with a Rohloff hub. The combination of light weight, disc brakes, wide 35c tyres, mudguards and panniers seems to be an unusual one. The only bike that fits is the Thorn Mercury and that, fully specc'd, comes to over £4k and is still 12-13kgs.

The only other bike I can find is the On One Alfine 11 but I'm not too keen on the Alfine. I've also read people having trouble with simple things like removing the rear wheel. If I could get just the frame they use and build the bike myself tp the spec I want that could be an option.

I've wondered about getting a non-Rohloff frame and retrofitting a Rohloff to it - on the one hand I realise that frames should ideally be designed for Rohloff but on the other hand I've also read that the Rohloff can be retrofitted to most frames with a bit of fiddling. Something like a Condor frame maybe.

The thing is that I really like the Mercury. I just wonder whether I can't either find something a bit lighter for the price, or a bit cheaper for the weight. I'm starting to find my research frustrating though because few companies publish weights and there's almost always something missing: weight, tyre size or whatever. I don't even know what the Mercury frame weighs so I can't make a comparison with frames for self-build. Does anyone have any thoughts?

12 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Right, this is the kind of challenge I enjoy lots.

So you WANT....

Steel
Light
Disc Brakes (mechanical or hydraulic)??
Decent width tyres (35c as an example or around that)??
Mounts for mud guard and panniers
Rohloff gearing.

That it??

I'm guessing this will be for touring, do you want drop bars, flat bars....etc?

I'm sure there would be a bike out there with all that, but as you say, its going to cost a bomb.

Why not start with something like this and build your way up??

http://www.genesisbikes.co.uk/bikes/frames/croix-de-fer/croix-de-fer

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8391 posts]
10th March 2013 - 21:08

like this
Like (8)

When you talk about an On One 11, do you mean Day One 11??

http://www.genesisbikes.co.uk/bikes/cross/day-one/day-one-alfine-11

The other thing you COULD think out, is a custom built steel frame....Have you read Rob Penn's - It's All About the Bike (The Pursuit of Happiness On Two Wheels)??

NO.....Get it and read a bit before you go looking further...then ask him some questions. A very approachable guy.

Finally, here are another few to look at under the touring section http://www.enigmabikes.com/bike-list.html

If you want much lighter under 12kg, you are going to have to go for a Titanium bike I think Wink

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8391 posts]
10th March 2013 - 21:20

like this
Like (7)

Wow great replies already, thanks guys Smile

Gkam84 wrote:
Right, this is the kind of challenge I enjoy lots.

So you WANT....

Steel
Light
Disc Brakes (mechanical or hydraulic)??
Decent width tyres (35c as an example or around that)??
Mounts for mud guard and panniers
Rohloff gearing.

That it??

I'm guessing this will be for touring, do you want drop bars, flat bars....etc?

I'm sure there would be a bike out there with all that, but as you say, its going to cost a bomb.

Why not start with something like this and build your way up??

http://www.genesisbikes.co.uk/bikes/frames/croix-de-fer/croix-de-fer

That Genesis could work, although I can't find a frame weight or any info on whether it supports discs at a glance?

I'm not too fussed about mechanical or hydraulic disc brakes, although the lack of need to regularly realign the brakes makes me lean towards hydraulic. Not a dealbreaker by any means tho.

35c is an example but I'm not sure I'd like to go much smaller. I live in Rome at the moment but move around a lot so I need tyres that won't fall between cobbles & crevices. The 37c I have on my current heavy front suspension hybrid seem about right for a mix of versatility and relative speed.

The bike's not really for touring - more fast commuting, getting around the city for social stuff and possibly the odd leisure ride.

Gkam84 wrote:
When you talk about an On One 11, do you mean Day One 11??

http://www.genesisbikes.co.uk/bikes/cross/day-one/day-one-alfine-11

The other thing you COULD think out, is a custom built steel frame....Have you read Rob Penn's - It's All About the Bike (The Pursuit of Happiness On Two Wheels)??

NO.....Get it and read a bit before you go looking further...then ask him some questions. A very approachable guy.

Finally, here are another few to look at under the touring section http://www.enigmabikes.com/bike-list.html

If you want much lighter under 12kg, you are going to have to go for a Titanium bike I think Wink

Yes, sorry, I meant the Day One 11.

I have thought about a custom frame - I saw Rob Penn's TV programme which gave me the idea. (Not sure why I saw it - I wasn't in the least bit interested about custom bikes at the time!)

In fact I messaged the guys who wrote Made in England last week, a book about custom bike builders, on Twitter asking whether I'd be able to get what I'm after without spending more than £3.5k. They said that with the £1,000 hub it wouldn't really be doable - more like £4.5k depending on what I put on it. But I don't want to scrimp on components either. So I think I'd rather go for the Thorn Mercury than a custom build.

I really like the look of some of those Enigma bikes and their website is great - although I'm not convinced about their bike builder software. A configured an Ethos Rohloff just now and it came out as costing about £1800 and weighing 3.2kg. Obviously there's something missing there - the Rohloff for starters!! I'll take a closer look later though.

Regarding titanium, before I'd set my mind on a steel frame I messaged a Santos dealer about a Santos bike listing my requirements and a budget of £3k and instead of coming back with a Santos he came back with a quote of £6k for a custom titanium frame as he felt that the Santos bikes wouldn't meet my requirements. That's just out of the question unfortunately.

If you think I won't get a steel bike much below 12kg with Rohloff then I'll probably end up settling for the Mercury. It's not that I'm unhappy with a 12-13kg bike - I'm not into racing and although I'm slim I'd rather lose a couple of kilos body weight than spend thousands shaving grams here and there from the bike. I just want to make sure I can't get something lighter for my money.

posted by Feanor [4 posts]
10th March 2013 - 21:56

like this
Like (5)

Quote:
I've spent weeks researching this and can't find what I want without spending a fortune.

Because the spec you want costs a fortune.

Either compromise on your list of requirements or accept the cost and do it. A steel frame, hub gear, discs and panniers all add weight as well as cost.

Rohloff hub is very expensive but appears to attract fewer complaints than Alfine 11 hub. There may be lots of happy Alfine owners with On-One or Genesis Day One bikes (are there? I've no idea). Could you later fit a Rohloff to the Day One if it fails to live up to expectations?

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1819 posts]
10th March 2013 - 21:59

like this
Like (7)

I don't see a weight for the Croix De Fer, but looking at the pictures, it is disc brake compatible.

I was about to suggest the same thing as Simon, The Day One 11 looks like your perfect bike apart from it being Alfine and not Rohloff.

So going on that, the RRP is £1750. Lets just say you bought it and didn't like the Alfine, its made for hub gearing, switching to Rohloff wouldn't be a big change. The Alfine hub is around £400 just now. So if you were to sell it, laced into a wheel ready to go, you'd likely get £300+ back for it towards a Rohloff set up.

Coming in under £3k I would guess.

But as for £6k custom Ti bike, you can pick up something in your spec, pre build for under £4k

I shall do some more searching, I gave Rob Penn a tweet as I know he's been on the forum before, he may drop by with some advice.... Big Grin

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8391 posts]
10th March 2013 - 22:12

like this
Like (4)

You may also be interest in Dave's review of the Alfine hub
http://road.cc/content/review/27971-shimano-alfine-11-hub-and-shifter

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8391 posts]
10th March 2013 - 22:14

like this
Like (3)

OH OH OH OH OH OH.......I totally forgot, till I went searching.....

http://road.cc/content/news/75271-video-kinesis-tripster-atr-ti-prototype

That might be EXACTLY what you need, bar fitting a Rohloff yourself....

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8391 posts]
10th March 2013 - 22:47

like this
Like (8)

My LBS does a range of German steel (and Ti) bikes that have Rohloff gears. Top quality and pricy but not 4.5k! The brand is Fahrrad and the shop is Chris's bikes in Girton, Cambs (he has a website)

posted by Camcycle1974 [9 posts]
10th March 2013 - 23:23

like this
Like (2)

I speak German too, having done it it A-level and University so know that fahrrad means bicycle in german!

I just remembered off the top of my head that they use the Rohloff gearing and are very well made. A viable option for you n'est-ce-pas? I speak french too!

posted by Camcycle1974 [9 posts]
11th March 2013 - 10:54

like this
Like (5)

Simon E wrote:
Quote:
I've spent weeks researching this and can't find what I want without spending a fortune.

Because the spec you want costs a fortune.

Either compromise on your list of requirements or accept the cost and do it. A steel frame, hub gear, discs and panniers all add weight as well as cost.

Rohloff hub is very expensive but appears to attract fewer complaints than Alfine 11 hub. There may be lots of happy Alfine owners with On-One or Genesis Day One bikes (are there? I've no idea). Could you later fit a Rohloff to the Day One if it fails to live up to expectations?

The Rohloff is indeed expensive but since the rest of the specs can be found individually on relatively cheap bikes I can’t find any fundamental technical reason, beyond what happens to be in mass production and what doesn't, why a bike with all of those things and a Rohloff needs to cost more than £2500 as I'm not after something that's featherweight. Look at the Genesis Day One – if it came with Rohloff instead of Afine that’d change the price from £1700 to ~£2400 and it’d fit my spec perfectly.

Gkam84 wrote:
OH OH OH OH OH OH.......I totally forgot, till I went searching.....

http://road.cc/content/news/75271-video-kinesis-tripster-atr-ti-prototype
That might be EXACTLY what you need, bar fitting a Rohloff yourself....

That looks awesome Big Grin. Bike Radar says it should be out late Feb but I can't find anything on the manufacturer's website. The expected £1500 frameset cost is a few hundred more than the Mercury but I can't find any indication of what the Tripster should weigh to compare?

Thanks for the link to the Afine review too. I’ve only read mixed user reviews so far but negative user comments are always hugely disproportional to positive ones so that’s useful. I don’t know whether I really need the extreme reliability or 3 extra gears provided by the Rohloff. I had set my mind on it but your suggestion of getting the Day One and seeing how I get on with the option of swapping later is an excellent one.

Camcycle1974 wrote:
My LBS does a range of German steel (and Ti) bikes that have Rohloff gears. Top quality and pricy but not 4.5k! The brand is Fahrrad and the shop is Chris's bikes in Girton, Cambs (he has a website)

I speak German and my girlfriend is German so I’ll look into “Fahrradmanufaktur” ("Fahrrad" is just the German word for bicycle so I had to go to your LBS’s website to get the full brand name before searching on google.de! Wink lol)

This is still all incredibly confusing though. On the one hand the options are bewildering but on the other hand there aren’t that many that fit my requirements. What doesn’t help is the snazzy but uninformative or confusing websites a lot of frame makers have – only a few list the ALL specs and clearances etc of their frames clearly and concisely, and those that do rarely list their frames in a sensible way that allows me to view & compare their range at a glance. I think I’m going to have to be a bit more organised about this than my usual hap-hazard method of purchase research – I’ll have to sit down and make lists of possible brands & models, positives and negatives, prices, and spend an afternoon phoning all the manufacturers. I generally hate calling companies unless I’ve already made a purchase decision but I think it’s going to be the only way here.

I also need to make sure I’m comparing apples with apples. I just realised that the £4k for a Mercury I mentioned is including all the bells and whistles – a top-end dynamo hub, an LED dynamo light with light/dark sensor, hydraulic brakes, carbon seat post, etc etc etc. The basic bike costs about £2500. I need to calculate how much extra the options the Day One has such as brake discs and the £350 fork needed for discs & wide tyres would add to the cost of the Mercury; at a glance I think it’d bring it close to £3,000, probably making it about £600 more expensive than I’d expect the On One to cost if it came with an OEM Rohloff.

My only reason I haven’t settled for the Mercury is a) I feel £4k is a bit excessive for a bike and I’d feel a bit odd cycling around town on a machine costing quite SO much and b) as I said I can’t help but wonder if I can’t find something a bit lighter for the money.

If you guys think I’m unlikely to find anything of a similar weight & similar spec for less money though, or if I can’t find anything of less weight & similar spec for the same money, then I am also happy to bite the bullet and settle for the Mercury. It is a lovely bike and Thorn's customer service is absolutely outstanding.

I need to shoot and get to work now but thanks for all your help so far Smile. I’ll do some more thorough research on your suggestions over lunch and later tonight.

posted by Feanor [4 posts]
11th March 2013 - 12:40

like this
Like (5)

Ach so - Entschuldigung, ich wollte nicht besserwisserisch sein! Smile

posted by Feanor [4 posts]
11th March 2013 - 12:48

like this
Like (7)

No problem. Neither did I. To be fair I did rather jump down your throat. Apologies. Hope you find what you are seeking.

posted by Camcycle1974 [9 posts]
11th March 2013 - 14:27

like this
Like (5)