If you haven’t ridden a steel bike since you were a kid, things have moved on
With aluminium, titanium and especially carbon frames taking over, we show that there’s still a place for steel with reviews of the Condor Acciaio, Reilly Spirit, Ritchey Logic, Specialized Sequoia Expert, Holdsworth Strada and Shand Stooshie
Unlike today’s largely ready-built complete bikes, there was a time when almost all club riders built their own, or had them built, to their own preference. Shops would have a selection of frames, with the main options being make, size, style and tubing. Everything was steel, lugged or fillet brazed, and hand-made by frame builders from the UK, or Europe if you wanted to be exotic.
The minutiae that we judge frames by today was generally irrelevant, since there were fewer options, limited technical reviews, just word of mouth and seeing what your clubmates had. Small scale local frame builders were revered and those with national reach often led the way with frame fashions, although talented visionaries got creative and built some extraordinary bikes, some of which worked…
Fast forward through the rise of aluminium frames, and a brief liaison with titanium, and carbon fibre has taken firm hold of the bike market for good reason. Steel was seemingly consigned to history as too heavy, old and unfashionable, but as riding possibilities expanded, steel was the perfect material to fill the burgeoning niches for fixies, urban warriors, utility, rough stuff and adventure bikes, and now gravel riding.
A raft of new craftspeople have revived interest in the possibilities for steel fabrication, helped by techniques like TIG welding or hydroforming, and new tubing, meaning steel can be a premium product again. We have brought together six beautiful steel bikes, four classiclooking road machines, and a couple with broader rubber and wider horizons.
New frame building techniques have revived a love for steel