If you haven’t rid­den a steel bike since you were a kid, things have moved on

Cycling Plus - - CONTENTS - Pho­tog­ra­phy Robert Smith

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

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