CYCLE OF STEEL
There’s a lot to be done before steel is ready to be part of a bicycle
The process begins with iron ore. Once mined, the iron is smelted in giant blast furnaces, where any impurities are removed and carbon is added, which makes the iron into crude steel.
Crude steel moves to the foundry for secondary steelmaking – the process of removing oxygen and adding materials to form the specific recipes that Columbus uses, such as combinations of vanadium, niobium, nickel and chrome.
From here it’s formed into cylindrical billets. To be made into a tube requires hot lamination, a process of rotating the tube at a temperature of 1,450°C in such a way that a hole forms in the centre.
Now that it’s a tube, it finds its way to Columbus, which will first refine its diameter and width using a cold drawing process – pushing it through a die under tremendous pressure. It’s cut and then either put through further cold drawing to create the butts, or sent through a cold lamination process to create a tapered shape.
A single tube can go through the drawing process as many as 15 times, and that manipulates the steel on a microscopic level too. The tubes must return to a hot oven to de-stress the steel’s crystal structure, often between cycles of cold drawing.
The tubes are then polished, cleaned and oiled and sent to a framebuilder.
The framebuilder must cut the tube to length, preserving the ratio of the butting where possible, and then mitre the tube into the correct shape so that the edges of each tube tessellates with other tubes. From there the tubes are welded, brazed or lugged together before final sanding, painting and polishing.
Add wheels and a drivetrain, and presto – you have a bike. (NB. You might want a saddle as well…)