Now in its second year, the Steel is Real Demo Day, organised by Ben, Dan and Jonah of Steel is Real MTB, followed on from its successes last year featuring some of the finest steel mountain bike manufactures from the UK and further afield. Based inside the Forest of Dean, Pedal a Bike Away was turned into a melee of riders and steel, braving frankly Baltic conditions, in pursuit of all things ferrous.
Driving down to the event through the beautiful Gloucestershire countryside the deepening grey clouds on the horizon gave an indication on how the day was going to start, with the only upshot being the fantastic visual contrast against the changing autumnal forest landscape. On arrival, it was clear that spirits hadn’t been dampened though as exhibitors, framebuilders and riders huddled under branded gazebos, only bravely venturing out to get mounted up and hit one of two demo trails through the Forest. It became very clear that this wasn’t just another demo day, with riders being treated to a 45-minute loop on the red route or a shorter 20-minute excursion avoiding some of the steeper climbs in favour of flowing singletrack.
The day provided a platform for those wishing to swing their leg over bikes they’d only previously fawned over on Instagram feeds, with new releases available to demo from the likes of Cotic, Pace, Stanton, Surly and 18 Bikes. It wasn’t just steel getting in on all the fun though, with titanium bikes and finishing kit from the likes of Stooge, Stanton and Rust Components (and one sneaky carbon Zerode!) being accepted into the inner circle – think of Ti as really really posh steel.
One of the larger stands gave riders the opportunity to try nearly every model from their Cotic catalogue, with Cy Turner on hand with his team to set riders up and send them on their way. We also had the opportunity to see his particularly large pre-production RocketMax with its especially exclusive Cane Creek eeWings cranks, still peppered with dust from his trip to the Dolemites – a stark contrast to the liquid loam clinging to other bikes. Gone are the days when hardtails reigned king of steel, with full suspension platforms from nearly half the brands on show, including the much anticipated, UK-made 27.5” Stanton Switchback FS sharing the stage with their rigid-rear family.
Joe from Starling Cycles was keen to showcase his latest creation, the singlespeed, 29er DH monster, the Sturn, giving riders the chance try it out on some proper downhill trails (not that we’d condone going off the main demo route of course). The Starling stand also provided the perfect platform to showcase custom steel stems from Pi at Clandestine Cycles, who not only shares a workshop with him, but also brazes up a number of his frames.
If there was one stand that persistently drew a crowd it was Curtis Bikes, whose clearcoated full-suspension masterpiece gave an insight into the quality of brazing from a true master of his craft. This one wasn’t available to test unfortunately but I do have it on some authority that if you asked the right people nicely enough, there was one doing the rounds.
BTR treated those who braved the weather to glimpse of their latest frame, a custom geo Pinner with thicker tubing for team rider Billy Hoyes who’s divisive choice of seat couldn’t have matched the murdered out frame any better if you ask me. It’s a stark reminder that bikes like this aren’t in the territory of the weight weenie, but are made for people who like to ride their bikes hard!
Mirroring last year, Stooge and Surly managed to bring anyone crashing back down to earth who may have been taking things too seriously with a blend of titanium and steel outrageously adorned with fat tyres and rigid forks with more bottle mounts than you could shake titanium hip flask at!
Pace dropped their new 2019 RC627 for the world to see too, giving steelers a first glimpse at their latest geometry-pushing hardtail we covered in September, as well as new kids on the block 18 Bikes, based out of Hope Valley, with their 27 and 29er models – a cousin (albeit not too distant) of their project stupid bike from 2016.
DMR sought to match old with new by showcasing their latest Trailstar in contrast to the original model, both featuring a matching stunning metallic blue finish and retro graphics. It shows just how times have changed with framebuilders pushing their geometries further and further on steel builds.
Finally, although they did also bring carbon to a steel fight, we were quick to forgive Stif Cycles who brought their excellent Morf hardtail. With design insights from Brant Richards it was sure to put smiles on damp muddy faces on the steeper and rougher sections of trail, with a finish that’s hard to miss, even through the thickest Gloucestershire’s dirt.
As the feeling in everyone’s extremities had all but disappeared, the sky clearing and the faint sound of beers being opened signified the end of another successful Steel is Real event. With grins still visible through rain-battered faces proving once again that steel still has its place in the mountain bike scene, and it doesn’t look to be going anywhere soon.