A post with a difference, a quick comparison between five British Steel bikes: 1992 CATS, 1992 DOGS, 1994 CATS, 1994 Fuquay and 2002 Yates 853 (DONKIS).
These have all been ridden, by me on the same ten mile on/offroad route in the past ten days. All in the evening at around the same time and all in similar conditions.
Compliance / stiffness: As you would expect the Yates is the stiffest and least compliant frame. This makes it a little hard work on the fast rough stuff be it rock or dried mud / grass. On the upside it is my climbing buddy and when the conditions or surface allow, I can just hit my cadence and go, for as long as my legs can last.
Second is the DOGS. It is a lot more compliant than the Yates and by no means uncomfortable, but it is stiffer than the others. Next comes the 92 CATS; this may be down to the tubeset or possibly the new chain stays, but it is just that bit tighter at the back on the rough stuff, but without any flexing when kicking hard on a climb. With just a fag paper between them is the Fuquay followed by the 94 CATS. Both are fast over the rough stuff, but the CATS just allowed me to push on that little bit harder.
Steering: Not much between them all really. The 92 CATS is sharper than the rest, but given that it is the only rigid forked bike, the lack of weight on the front may help. All track well, but the Yates and DOGS are the most stable and are also the least twitchy, which I guess amounts to the same thing really.
Speed: There is very little between the CATS and the Fuquay, I think the CATS just have it with the 92 ahead, but again that is likely to be a lack of weight.
Climbing: Both the Yates and the DOGS are really bold and steady climbers, you just set the throttle and you go, and go, and go. The Fuquay and the 94 CATS are fine climbers, but their faster steering demands better control and a bit of anticipation when it comes to obstructions like rocks or roots. The 92 CATS is a flyer and I rode the long rocking climbs in higher gears than with any of the other bikes.
Overall impression: The Yates is a go anywhere do anything workhorse of a bike, you really don't have to think too much about the bike, just where you are going and how you want to get there. The Roberts is just smooth, predictable and very easy on the brain; it has a very reassuring ride and lets you take it easy, or kick on, as you please. The 94 CATS and Fuquay are almost identical in their ride, they are fleet of foot, fast to steer fast to ride without being so twitchy as to be difficult. The CATS is the more aggressive of the two and as I have said before its road heritage is apparent when you start to move fast, up, flat or down. The Fuquay keeps its composure a little better at speed, and 'travels' as they say in horse racing, but it falls short of releasing the inner thug in the rider. The 92 CATS is just FAST, although it does demand more of the rider and certainly not be described as a relaxing ride; fun yes, relaxing, not a chance and again its road racing heritage is there, especially on fast descents where it is rock solid and tracks like it's on rails.
If I wanted to ride the Quantocks, Mendips, Breacon Beacons, West Highland Way all day, then I would take the Roberts first and the Yates second.
If I want to belt around the trails pretty much anywhere for a couple of hours I would take any of them, but top of the list would be the Fuquay.
If I wanted to do the same thing, only faster, I would take the 94 CATS.
And when I want to ride like a complete nutter, I would take the 92 CATS.
If I could have only one, I would be very hard pressed, but first choice would be the DOGS, followed by the Fuquay.
With luck this wonderful weather will continue, and I will get the chance to test some of the bikes at Haldon, up on the Mendips and on the Quantocks, so if anyone is interested, I'll post again at the end of the summer.
Finally, another thank you to RINGO, who, without knowing me from Adam, allowed me to ride his 94 CATS WISKAS before he had even seen it himself. If that doesn't exemplify the spirit of RB, I don't know what does. You have a fine bike there sir, very fine indeed.
"Try not to punch any clowns"