Steel road bikes …… upgrade thoughts
Just to be the person who argues…..having light aero carbon and heavier steel, my money would be on carbon and aero all day.Posted 1 week ago
Steel looks amazing if built correctly, but it’s noticeably slower.
As a former racer I have spent hours and hours doing testing specific for my setup. The Canyon Aeroad with the deep carbon wheels is the fastest bike I’ve owned. Just over 7kgs with 65mm wheels. But it’s a bit plain to look at and it’s not a bike I’ve ever been “in love” with, but it’s a quick bike.
Now personally I’m older and no longer racing so Id be buying steel and trying to maintain a level of fitness to keep up with the group.
I was losing something close to 20 watts between bikes(can’t remember the full details as it was 2018 when I last looked at the data). Down to a number of factors, but bike fit being an important one, my steel bike was slightly more relaxed than the Aeroad. I don’t really know why but the Canyon feels really good on climbs as well. Quite surprising for an aero bike. I’ve had other aero bikes that didn’t feel as good as the Canyon on a climb, Trek Madone and Canyon Systemsix.
I’ve also had a 6kg lightweight bike and it felt amazing. One of the few bikes I’ve regretted selling. Tempted to build up another Uber lightweight bike but now I’m an old fat porker prob not worth it!
Pick your steel carefully. Many a dimwitted journalist has spouted on about steel being springy, forgiving, lively even. It can be but many a modern bike is anything but. The steel has all sorts of fancy name but you can bet that if it is the house special it will be gas pipe.Probably over engineered to get through modern safety standard but thats another can of slimy thinngs.Posted 1 week ago
My old Raleigh rides nicely but thats 531c throughout. Many modern bikes have the Reynolds badge but that doesn’t mean that all the tubes are decent.
Some years ago I made the mistake of buying a Cotic X. Boat anchor! Several Planet X Kaffenbacks were much the same.
I am after another nice steel frame to bung my modern Campag stuff on.
spouted on about steel being springy, forgiving, lively even. It can be but many a modern bike is anything but.
Totally agree – like Ti and carbon the stiffness/flex balance can vary a fair bit between frames and what works for one rider won’t fell good for another.
The steel has all sorts of fancy name but you can bet that if it is the house special it will be gas pipe.
Many modern bikes have the Reynolds badge but that doesn’t mean that all the tubes are decent.
You can do great things with simple crmo and heat-treated crmo is about as good as it needs to be. The real premium tubes aren’t always used optimally, they can be there for the badge. The waffle spouted comes in when the ‘ride quality of 853 / Spirit’ etc comes up. Sometimes that’ll be the ride quality of unbranded crmo too. Tube dimensions have a ride quality, brands/labels don’t – it’s just that 853 might be able to achieve a ride quality (read, level of flex via thinner+slimmer tubes) if used optimally that crmo can’t while still passing EN tests.Posted 1 week ago
Someone could spec a really nice zingy frame with unbranded crmo tubes from a mill in Asia and they could spec an identical frame with the lower-range Columbus or Reynolds tubes from the same mill. The frames would have same ride quality.
My point exactly. Rode a big, (British), name Reynolds frame. Horrid.(But not as bad as my X) 520 label on it as proudly badged as Reynolds. True enough but could a sales person tell me what was what? Nope. Indeed nor could the importer. A few big name stickers don’t make a nice ride.Posted 1 week ago
Equally my carbon Chinerello Dogshite frame rides wonderfully and to me is nicer than a mates Argon 18.
Just, OP, do your research.
You need to ride the frame before you know thought don’t you, which can be a problem if buying one. The most comfortable frame I have ever owned was a 1971 Mercian 531 track frame. It was just 531 like a lot of frames but for whatever reason it just had a quality to it that no other frame has had. Was it because it was 30+ years old (at the time) and maybe tubes were more giving (or maybe near end of life!), who knows.Posted 1 week ago
Or, save a bucket load of cash. And get some nice 25/28c tyres and a bigger (48/50T) chainring for your current bike and see if that helps keeping up on group rides?
Or even cheaper, find a nicer riding group that won’t drop you at the first opportunity?Posted 1 week ago
Handling = geometry
Weight = material
Stiffness = tube diameter
High end steel allows thinner tube walls, so lighter than low end, but the diameter is also increased so the frame is stiffer. My kona paddy wagon has perfect 73 degree parallel geometry and handles fabulously well it’s not the lightest steel and it’s not that stiff. Going to nicer 853 would make such a frame stiffer and lighter but it might not ride as well. 531c is that nice blend of the second two and the “skinny” tubes makes for that just so stiffness for weight.
Carbon and alloy trump steel on the second two as well, but geometry is really what matters. Poor geometry will never stop a bike feeling slow and sluggish regardless of material and weight. Decide which geometry you want before material.Posted 1 week ago
I have a Ritchey Swiss Cross Disc as a road bike, and I was looking into whether I was missing out on weight/speed compared to a carbon bike. Not for competitive reasons, but I was curious!
I borrowed my colleagues high spec Canyon Ultimate CF race bike which has carbon integrated everything and weighs mid-7kg’s. For me it felt livelier/faster but actually wasn’t on country roads near me, it didn’t hold speed as well especially over broken road surfaces and felt a lot more nervous. The Eureka moment though was when I took his Mavic Cosmic carbon wheels off and fitted them to my Ritchey! Absolutely transformed it and I went straight out and bought a set second hand, it was the best of both worlds for me. I had my comfortable stable bike, but with a noticeable amount of extra kick and response on the climbs/sprints and a couple of mph of ‘free’ speed on the flats.
TLDR; If you like your current bike, treat it and yourself to some nice wheels.Posted 1 week ago
‘High end steel allows thinner tube walls, so lighter than low end, but the diameter is also increased so the frame is stiffer.’ How’s the durability if you go to very thin large diameter tubes 😉 And crash resistance?Posted 1 week ago
^ That’s it, dent resistance is the main problem with larger OD thin wall steel. 853 will be more dent-resistant than CrMo via yield strength and hardness. Whether that’ll make a difference when your bike falls against a post, who knows.Posted 1 week ago
Common to go thinner wall but not necessarily larger OD with the higher grade steels – you feel the change in stiffness from the OD changes but wall thickness change is more subtle I’d say (unless going from extremes). So mainly lower weight with the flex difference secondary.
I built an 853 gravel bike. On the whole very happy with it but 2.1kg frame weight and not exactly springy, makes me wonder if it’s actually 853! 😂
In fairness I told the builder I was reasonably heavy and had flexed wheels in to stays on previous aluminium frames, so I think he specced oversized or super over-sized tubes.
Not sure what my point is though, perhaps just to agree with the folks saying it’s not the material but how you build it!Posted 1 week ago
If you can, go and try a ride on a Specialized Aethos. If its ride quality you’re after then this has it in spades. It’s close to having the best of all worlds, some say it has a feel reminiscent of the best steel frames- a slight spring to it – while being obviously a lot lighter. I’m keen on balanced ‘comfort with performance’, more like the old classic TDF bikes used to be, I’d struggle to see how anyone would need more comfort than the Aethos unless your local roads closer resemble farm tracks…which some clearly do now. Then if you’re still convinced you want steel, compare it back to back to a Ritchey Road Logic and go get one of those…or get one made for you like a Rourke, that would be a specialness one cant just get off the shelf.Posted 1 week ago
Thanks all for the comments so far.
I don’t get too hung up on what the tubing badge says. Having ridden steel bikes for a while now I think I’ve ticked a good few off from across the manufacturers. Some of the nicest riding frames, IMHO, have defied their tubing badge.
The Strael looks lovely (Ultegra mechanical) but I’d probably want to go frame and forks and build it up over winter. Anyone know if they do test rides – didn’t spot it if they do in the website.
The idea is to try and build a bike that will be kept for a while – as a serial frame swapper this may be tricky – appeals but it makes getting it right the first time all the harder!
That Merlin looks interesting.Posted 1 week ago
Don’t get hung up on the tubing badge, ohh nooo.
There is a ‘zuzzyness’ about the way steel frames/forks handle road buzz – it just smooths them out, although that feel may go a bit with carbon forks. Another good thing about handbuilt bikes, is that they usually don’t get speed wobble like some off the peg stuff. Never had it with my SLX frame, and only had it with the 653 when I was hit by a very strong side wind doing 50 mph, just slowed slightly, then sped up again.Posted 1 week ago
Just to be the person who argues…..having light aero carbon and heavier steel, my money would be on carbon and aero all day.
TBH same here – got an old Specialised roubiux disk with the gobler seat post and it’s very nice riding experience also had a Non-disk Venge which was a loverly thing but not as comfy as the roub. But the noise of the deep disks on it and the sharpness of the handling.
I think obsessing about the materials a bad route – its all about the ride and what your planning on using it for, you need to get your leg over a few and see what bike you like.Posted 1 week ago
I’m keen on balanced ‘comfort with performance’, more like the old classic TDF bikes used to be,
Exactly. So many of those bikes would be classed as noodles by many now (or by me a decade ago) and yet you watch an old clip of Hinault attacking up the lower ramps of Alpe D’Huez in the big ring and tell me frame flex is a problem. They all had the same ‘problem’ so it was fair and evens in racing but the point is, none of us will ever ride like that and his bike was well up to it.
I think he specced oversized or super over-sized tubes
Super OS is pretty common on modern frames. Most common maybe? Some go larger still on the DT, 38 or 40mm. Pic shows common ‘classic’ combinations, butting and wall thickness aside.Posted 1 week ago
I have steel road bikes with super OS TT and DT (std 28.6 ST) and std OS tubes. The super OS frame is also compact. Big difference in the ride feel in terms of the flex under cornering and pedalling loads. I have to push the super OS to feel the spring, the other bike is more flexible and has the classic 80s road bike feel.
So many of those bikes would be classed as noodles by many now
Probably explains why the 1971 Mercian frame I has was the most comfortable feeling frame I have owned. Noodly, who knows as I only have one bike at a time so nothing to directly compare it with and I don’t put out enough power to get worried about any frame flex robbing me of precious watts.Posted 1 week ago
I have to push the super OS to feel the spring
I recognise this exactly! First time I noticed any sort of ‘spring’ was getting carried away on rocky Lakes descents with didn’thurt on my tail.
It’s all very well having a compliant frame but not if you end up pinch flatting tubeless tyres and dinging rims 😂Posted 1 week ago
I know this is boring suggestion compared to new frame etc, but have you considered just chucking a few quid at a second hand steel road bike and just seeing how it goes for you?Posted 1 week ago
Yes, shifters etc will be dated and it’ll be rim brakes, but it’ll give you a feel for how much the geometry and gearing make a difference compared to your gravel bike.
This is what I am doing:
You can’t beat the appeal and aesthetics of an old skinny tubed steel frame IMO.Posted 1 week ago
Yes, shifters etc will be dated and it’ll be rim brakes
To be honest, and especially since OP said his local riding was mostly flat, the rim brakes would be no bad thing and would offset a good chunk of the extra weight of a steel frame assuming approx 300g extra for a disc brake setupPosted 1 week ago
Followign my previous rather flippant comment aboout finding better riding mates who won’t drop you…
How about a set of really nice wheels and (say) a new 50T chainring? On my local rlatively flat rides on an 11-28 cassette, I rarely drop out of the 50T on my triple chainset, so a new wheelset with some light tyres and an appropriate gear selsction will probably get you close to the perfomrance of a new bike, for less money and with nicer components…Posted 1 week ago
@andykirk I made the mistake of joining the Neo Retro Velo facebook page. It has put many similar expensive and unnecessary thoughts in my head, but that’s not unusual!Posted 6 days ago
A bike is so much more than frame material. Wheels make a huge difference, as does fit and saddle. Groupsets also. Its the sum of the parts that gives the performance. I’ve got a Strael, with hunt aero wheels and sram force axs, i ve had a few bikes in my time but this one seems to do everything well and i wouldnt swop it for any bling bike. So much so that ive sold all my other road bikes.Posted 6 days ago
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