Steel is back. It is no longer a simple hashtag published here and there every now and again or an obsession of a handful of people: if in Japan steel bikes were never abandoned, in America they are starting to become appreciated and popular. What about Italy? Columbus, the top tube production company in Italy, has created new shapes and lighter materials. Not as light as carbon, of course, but enough to make many think that perhaps a bike built with this noble material is precious not so much for its weight but for its set of features.
However, after many years in which carbon has dominated the market, many clichés regarding steel have arisen, yet most of them are not true. Let’s discuss some of them.
The evolution of chemistry and paints have undergone great developments. Stating that steel rusts would be like saying that cars rust: maybe a few decades ago.
Steel frames do not respond well to sprints
False. Or rather, steel will give you a different sensation in respect to the extreme reactivity of aluminium or carbon; it will convey the impression that the first pedal stroke is slightly dispersed when you sprint. But what you lose at the beginning you gain in a smooth and springy ride, so don’t blame the frame if you lose a sprint compared to a carbon bike.
Steel bikes are too stiff
This is the most absurd thing you can hear about steel. On the contrary, steel frames are the most flexible and comfortable.
A steel bike is heavy
Here we must discuss quality, which seems to be ignored by many. There are different types of steel as there are different types of carbon. The best quality steel weighs about 600 grams more than the best quality carbon. This means that the best type of steel weighs like a mid-range carbon frame. Therefore, many bikes built with a mid-range quality carbon, weigh as much as a steel bike built with the best quality tubes.
Steel is cheap
This is not true. A good steel frame costs, on average, as much as a mid-range carbon bike frame, and costs more than an aluminium frame. Obviously there are different types of steel. Furthermore, steel frames are easier to customize and are longer lasting.
Steel tubes are aesthetically old-fashioned
New tubes have been created in different shapes, larger and not only round: there are oval or vaguely rectangular tubes. You would be amazed to see how many people mistake some modern designed steel bike frames for carbon bikes.
Steel bikes are comfortable but not suitable for going uphill
A steel bike is often custom built. This makes it perfect for any terrain.
Steel cannot be equipped with modern solutions
To debunk this myth let us look at some history: in the 1980s some steel bikes already had internal brake cables. In the early 1990s, some bikes had an integrated seatpost.
Currently some bikes have disc brakes, are equipped with an electronic gearbox, have internal cable sheaths, tapered head tubes and thru axles. Steel is as modern as any other modern bicycle.
Steel bikes are not compatible with components of the latest generation
We refer to the previous point. Steel bikes are modern. Indeed, they are compatible with many more accessories than some carbon bikes are; the aerodynamic shapes of the latter, in fact, make them compatible only with limited choices.
Steel bikes don’t ride as well as carbon bikes
The exact opposite is true: the flexibility of the steel frame gives unparalleled ridability when cycling downhill on the road, but also in mountain biking or in gravel and cyclocross cycling.