Steel road bikes …… upgrade thoughts
I’ve been getting into road riding more over the last couple of years.
I have the gravel itch ticked.
My current “road bike” is a cobbled together mk1 Sonder Camino. 1×11 Apex/Rival mix, Hope wheels 37mm tyres (!) etc. Nothing fancy road bike wise but it works …..
Riding a bit more with friends recently (I usually ride alone) I’ve noticed that I’m running out of gears. 1x with a 44t chain ring and road cassette is fine when I’m out on my own but I’m struggling to keep pace with the others – I’m never seemingly in the right gear etc etc. Suffolk is very flat but contains a inordinate amount of false flat sections that invariably align with a headwind 😂
Soooooo I’m looking to build up a more road oriented bike possibly with a new group set (105 2×11).
I’m drawn to steel for the frame, in fact I’ve seen a steel frame and fork that I like the look of with a carbon fork being an upgrade option later.
If I’m going to take road cycling more seriously am I really giving away much to alloy or carbon frames? I’m not currently interested in club or organised group riding beyond the above but 2 years ago I wasn’t interested in anything other than single speed moshing!
(I was out riding fixed gear at the weekend and I was scoffed at and dropped immediately by a club group on carbon bikes – I don’t want to be one of these people)Posted 2 weeks ago
A steel frame generally will be heavier and probably not as aero dependent on whether you would otherwise get an aero carbon frame. So it will be slower. I have a 953 steel frame and it definitely doesn’t go as fast uphill. I doubt it would make much difference on flat roads. As ever it’s the engine that matters.Posted 2 weeks ago
I’ve no doubt and engine upgrade would be more useful but I’m working on that!Posted 2 weeks ago
In absolutely no use to you, I have a Ritchey Road Logic and I love it. I couldn’t give a toss if it’s slightly heavier (the excess weight on me is the problem, not the bike), or not as aero as something carbon or aluminium, I think it looks lovely and that’s the most important thing.
Not this one, but looks like this one:
Posted 2 weeks ago
I have two steel road bikes, a Roberts and a Colnago. Both are great and any minuscule weight or aero difference doesn’t seem to be a major factor with my fat arse on the bike. A good quality steel bike will be a good bike, even up against carbon and it’s possible to build a very light steel bike (just a bit spendy!).Posted 2 weeks ago
Will I really notice 500g to 1kg difference when I have 5-8kg to “spare”!
The argument isn’t lost on me that I would immediately be 500g plus better off though!Posted 2 weeks ago
I’m all for lightweight road bikes, but I reckon the difference is mainly in feel rather than a significant difference in speed, my steel gravel bike is 10kg with 40mm tyres and my alloy road bike is 8kg with 25mm tyres.
Obviously the gravel bike is slower but not by much, I still have PBs on tarmac set on the gravel bike! The road bike feels faster though, more immediate, quicker handling. It is still my favourite bike to ride for this reason and has a big motivational effect.
Soo… go steel if it makes you happy and you don’t know any different, but you might be more inspired by something light and stiff 👍Posted 2 weeks ago
The road bike feels faster though, more immediate, quicker handling.
Maybe because it hasn’t got 40 mm tyres on it, nor gravel bike geometry?Posted 2 weeks ago
Yep, put 25c road tyres on the gravel bike and it will feel faster, more immediate, quicker handling etc,.
I have gone against the trend for massive tyres for gravel and use 33c lightweight CX tyres as they make the bike feel better to ride (steering better, handling better, more lively feeling) than the 40c tyres I tried (which were only 100g heavier)Posted 2 weeks ago
Is the bike any quicker with 33c, not measurably no and on rough gravel it is probably slower but it feels better to me which is all that matters.
By way of contrast, I have a Pinnacle Arkose (posh parts, nothing stock) that I ride in winter or when it’s wet and a very light carbon road bike (non aero, Ksyriums) I race and ride in summer on.
On the Arkose – with decent folding bead 28mm tyres – I can’t get within literally minutes of my time on the nice bike on most longer road Strava segments.Posted 2 weeks ago
Maybe because it hasn’t got 40 mm tyres on it, nor gravel bike geometry?
Very fair point, can’t argue with that. Going forward I was considering 953 steel with posh wheels, would be a good opportunity to test the theory…Posted 2 weeks ago
Got a lovely Shand steel road bike, it’s not the lightest frame but with light stuff on it it’s not particularly heavy. Aero makes a far bigger difference than weight unless it’s pretty steep, your body position and set up make a huge difference here. Lower front end, narrower bars and some yoga make a massive impact on your aeroness. Had aero cervelo before, faster on the Shand as it’s the perfect size and is longer/lower.Posted 2 weeks ago
I’ve got a steel Enigma Elite HSS (non-disc) built up with Super Record and nice kit on. Just under 17lb which is plenty light enough for me.
Its all in the ride quality. I demoed lots of bikes before settling on the Enigma. The carbons were either brutally stiff or bolt upright comfort bikes, the Ti frames I tried were really comfy but just felt soft when you tried giving it some. I tried a couple of Condor steel bikes – the Acciaio rode lovely but was a bit pedestrian handling wise, the Super Acciaio handled great, but was too stiff for my 10 stone frame. The Enigma split the difference. There’s zing to it – it wants to *go* when you stamp on the pedals, but it doesn’t leave you beaten up either. There’s give in it, but in a good way. I’m not a roadie by nature, but I just love riding the Enigma for the sheer enjoyment of riding that bike.
(to counter, I’ve ended up with 2 steel Genesis’ – both bought second hand in a hurry, and both are a bit rubbish. The Flyer is fine as a working/commuter bike, but its a bit dull compared to the Condor Pista steel it replaced (same components) and the Fugio is just an inert lump and will be replaced as soon as I can find the right thing)Posted 2 weeks ago
I have a Fairlight Streal (853 steel) with 28C tyres it weighs 9kg. I also have a Scott CR1 SL (super-duper carbon) with 25c tyres it weigs 7.6kg. The Streal corners like it’s on rails but is all-day comfortable. The CR1 is flighty, twitchy, responsive and exciting for a couple of hours blast, but can get a bit irritating/tiring on longer rides. For the first 2 pedal strokes of a sprint the CR1 feels like it responds faster, after that I can’t tell the difference. The difference in bike weight is about 2 water bottles full vs empty and is noticable as I lift the bikes out the garage. I certainly don’t notice the difference in weight of a given bike when I set off with 2 full bottles and return in the evening with 2 empty bottles…The Steel bike is actually faster on rougher roads because a) it’s more comfortable and b) it’s more confidence-inspiring. I’d say geometry and design make much more difference than 1-2kg, or indeed frame material.
The biggest difference in speed between the two bikes is how long I choose to spend in the cafe on any given ride.Posted 2 weeks ago
I think if you get a really nice steel frame it’ll be good – noting someone above had a 17lb steel road bike- but it costs a lot to make one light.
I’ve found my alloy bikes have felt a bit livelier than the carbon one I had – but the carbon one seemed slightly more direct at getting power down to the road. I think my current alloy bike is a bit harsh on the front end over bad road surfaces (Caad12 disc) but the rear is fine m.
In terms of outright speed on the flat I don’t think the weight difference in the frame materials is going to be much – it’s more down to the watts you can put out and your aero position on the bike.
I’d go as light as you can on the road bike though for the feel of it. My Caad 9 / Caad12 feel eminently nicer than the heavier Giant road bike I had quite a few years back. I think that was 21lbs vs about 18lbs. I’m on Ultegra di2 and hunt 4 season rod wheels with 25c gp4000’s on it. No exotic components – it’s all standard alloy stuff that came on the bike new. I imagine with some aero wheels / cutting of weight with some carbon bits it could get a bit faster but it’s decent for what I want it for.
Except I’ve hurt my back at the moment and the racey sort of position is a struggle at the moment 🤦♂️Posted 2 weeks ago
@joebristol – I’ve been meaning to ask, did I sell you that CAAD9 many moons ago? Liquigas colours, Moots seatpost?Posted 2 weeks ago
I’m no roadie, so take my observations bearing that in mind!
I’ve a Ti Pickenflick gravel (well, technically, CX) bike, with a second set of wheels with 30c slicks, for very occasional road use.
Its a nice enough ‘road bike’ for the half-dozen or so occasions I use it like that during the course of the year, and fine for 2-3 hour road rides. It would not likely be noticeably slower overall than a dedicated road bike.
However, I did a big road ride recently (Leeds to Scotland and back in a day) and borrowed a ‘proper road bike’, a Cannondale Synapse. I used it for a few prep rides too. It was a good spec (including some lovely carbon Zipp wheels). Overall, it was lighter, stiffer, faster, and more comfortable for long road rides (over 4 hours) than my roadified gravel bike. It made me want to find a way to buy a dedicated road bike (which I’ve never wanted before)
Guess it depends what kind of road bike you want, and what you want to do on it, but I guess the more that something is ‘the tool for the job’, the bigger difference it makes the bigger the rides you do.Posted 2 weeks ago
Hi. If you want to go as fast as you can then carbon will be quicker as it will be lighter. Steel will be comfier but you will pay a penalty. How much a penalty depends on how good the frame is. A bog standard genesis equilibrium for example will generally be over 10kg and a Planet X carbon under 9. It’s all a balance in the end. A nice steel frame set is hard to beat.Posted 2 weeks ago
@joebristol – I’ve been meaning to ask, did I sell you that CAAD9 many moons ago? Liquigas colours, Moots seatpost?
Nope – I got it brand new through cycle to work. It was 105 level with liquidgas colours- the ones that were more white than blue / green.
I did a few Tweeks but nothing major on it other than getting brakes that worked (105 rather than tektro)Posted 2 weeks ago
Talk to Rourke. And fit a bigger gear to your fixed wheel (what are you riding at the moment? 42×16 won’t cut it, you need 42×14 for a medium paced road group). Or join a nicer club.Posted 2 weeks ago
Hi TiRed, currently running 42×15 on my fixie and that’s a reasonable ratio for most of my riding, not quick but I wouldn’t use it for group rides.Posted 2 weeks ago
If you aren’t interested in racing, then decent quality steel will potentially give you a more compliant ride in return for a weight penalty. Having had road bikes of all flavours over the years, I’ll happily take the weight penalty of steel.
Decent steel bikes aren’t cheap. I’m partial to Condor down in that there London for though.Posted 2 weeks ago
I wouldn’t worry too much about aero and weight, if you ride a heavier/less aero bike in the same group at the same pace week after week, you’ll just adapt and have to be slightly fitter. That’s my logic anyhow.
Also, the difference between cruising on the hoods and a fairly extreme position (forearms flat and shoulders rolled in) is ~40W. Which puts those single digit gains from aero frames into some perspective. They’re faster, but not as fast as time in the gym and practice.Posted 2 weeks ago
Carbon,steel or alu, all can be comfy or stiff or whatever. The attributes aren’t tied to the material as much these days. Fwiw your current bike seems on the comfy side, I’d go for a light racier bike to compliment. And to contradict myself it would probably be carbon or alu, unless you had an great desire for a light and stiff steel bike.Posted 2 weeks ago
Get what you fancy! It wont make much difference to your performance.
Personally I’d look for something nice locally and wouldn’t be bothered about material. I had a modern Alu Merida (carbon forks) and found it very comfortable on long rides.Posted 2 weeks ago
I went from Carbon (Giant Propel) to Titanium (Reilly Spectre) to Aluminium (CAAD13)
Weirdly the CAAD13 is a good mix of the first two – racy geo but still comfortable for 100-150km rides.
The only thing i miss is the longer wheelbase of the Reilly as it made smashing downhills much less scary…did make it a barge for sprinting though!
But there are plenty of steel frame-sets out there, someones already mentioned Fairlight, but a few others to look at:
Sour CyclesPosted 2 weeks ago
Fairlight Strael, hands down. It’s only on the acceleration and hills you notice the extra weight and frankly, go lose a kg of bodyfat which will cost £0.Posted 2 weeks ago
Two steel road bikes, both vintage. Ribble 653 Terry Dolan with Shimano 600/Ultegra, and a custom built Columbus SLX with full 7400 Dura Ace. Both around 9kg.
Superbe ride and sprightly, certainly better ride than my alloy/carbon road bike I had for 7 years. The SLX was custom made for me and has a unique paint job.
You’ll have a kilo weight penalty with a steel frame over carbon/light alloy (e.g. Caad12). The Ribble is a shorter wheelbase, but both ride almost identical – the SLX is slightly stiffer roun the BB due to internal frame ‘rifles’. Both very stable at speed 50-60 mph.Posted 2 weeks ago
42×15 will see you dropped. You need the 14 cog. That’s geared for 21mph at about 90rpm. You’ll still get dropped on the downs but might bet back on uphill. My club are more forgiving as a fixed wheel tends to stop the macho surging and half-wheeling and makes for a smooth through and off.Posted 2 weeks ago
As others have mentioned, don’t discount the fun factor in a light quick handling bike. My Boardman adv 9.0 with road tyres is about 19lbs the same as my custom 853 steel framed bike. Both a great bikes to ride, but by far the most fun is my Canyon cf ultimate slx. Just under 15lbs and despite only being fractionally faster against a stopwatch feels loads quicker and is a blast to ride. Mostly I ride for fun so it’s easily my most ridden bike.Posted 2 weeks ago
I ride only for fun and over the years have had quite a few different frame sets on different materials with all other parts being the same (I was a bit of a habitual frames swapper when riding fixed gear as so easy to swap frames over)
The lightest I had was 6.2kg, the heaviest was 8+kg but as they all had very similar geometry they all felt the same when using same wheels and tyres.
The biggest change by far to feel of the bike was the tyres. Even an MTB with light 25c tyres on it feels lively.
If I wanted a steel frame I would get one as the way it looks (nice to me) is more of a concern that how it would handle (given same geometry as alternative)Posted 2 weeks ago
If I’m going to take road cycling more seriously am I really giving away much to alloy or carbon frames?
Depends what you mean by seriously, if it’s racing then maybe yes but otherwise no.Posted 2 weeks ago
A lighter carbon bike has a more direct response for the first turn or 2 of the cranks accelerating. That’s it imo. A kilo isn’t noticeable anywhere else and the main difference in feel is the stiffness. A slimmer-tubed steel frame like the Ritchey Logic can be an inspiring ride if it suits your riding style. If you’re one of those riders who looks like they’re fighting the bike maybe get the stiff carbon frame but if you’re lighter/smoother or just a bit more relaxed in your riding (not nec. less output) steel might offer something the modern bikes don’t. Partic if you ride longer distances. Jury’s out on whether max stiffness or ‘just right’ amount of flex is most efficient, I think it’s subjective.
Ribble CGR 725? By definition designed for both road and gravel.Posted 2 weeks ago
I would go steel with a carbon fork from the offset if thats what you want. Given where you ride is fairly flat you should with the right gearing (and fitness) be able to keep up in a group. Invest in good wheels with quality hubs/bearings. Once the bike is upto speed it should zip along.
For example in a more hilly area (exmoor where I live) I would go carbon. Having a bike that accelerates quick for steep hills makes all the difference.Posted 2 weeks ago
I’ve got a Ritchey Road Logic for the summer, it’s a lovely thing to ride.Posted 2 weeks ago
I’ve a engine11 dirtee as my gravel/road bike, steel frame and posh wheels. I’m cirtainly no roadie though and generally ride on my own.
I’ve had posh carbon road bikes when I was younger and fitter and I still couldn’t keep up with my mates that regarded them selves as road riders before MTB. So imo if you want to keep up with your mates, it means dedicating more time to riding on the road and nothing more.
My option on road equipment is that aero frames save very little time over an hour for a regular riser – prob less than a minute, so are more of a style marketing thing, unless you find one that fits well, is comfortable and suits your riding. Fancy wheels are cheaper and the aero benefits are bigger, so I’d rather have a comfortable steel frame with posh wheels. Tyres also make a big difference on the same bike, and can have bigger benefits than saving a couple hundred grams or aero profiles.Posted 2 weeks ago
Fairlight Strael is what you need!Posted 2 weeks ago
i’ve got two, a Condor Fratello as a winter road (takes mudguards). Also a De Rosa Corum as a summer road. both a bit dated now but they both are lovely to ride, can be built light enough if you want too. if i was buying now though id get a fairlight strael i think, instead of both the above as it covers all the types of riding i like to do. (def not racing and similar to your description)
I also have a steel gravel bike (singular kite) which i ride the most, I’ve ridden the kite with narrow road tyres its great but its not as suitable as either the fratello or de rosa on the road, they feel a bit faster by degrees. probably down to the tyres or the psychological effect of lycra?Posted 2 weeks ago
Saw https://www.merlincycles.com/merlin-all-road-steel-deluxe-grx-810-gravel-bike-267719.html earlier for first time on site.Posted 2 weeks ago
If I’m going to take road cycling more seriously am I really giving away much to alloy or carbon frames?
Unless you’re going to be dropping several grand on a carbon wonder machine the difference will be negligible.
Spending time and effort setting the thing up properly will give you more gains than 5% stiffness “improvement” and half a kilo weight saving.
There is also loads of low hanging fruit for aero gains too.
I’ve got a fairly state of the art carbon wonder machine and a 20 year old steel with modern gear. On most of my loops round here the speed/time/power etc is pretty much indistinguishable between the two.
My winter bike is a different matter altogether!Posted 2 weeks ago
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