In an era of Di2 shifters connected with smartphones, why would you want to ride a steel bike, made from anything other than carbon fibre? Maybe because it’s simply fun to be different. Or maybe because steel has a unique charm and some real-world advantages over other frame materials. Steek bikes can be very comfortable; everybody knows that. However,there is more behind this classic material.
Steel comes in many grades and variants, and it is crucial to choose the best quality. Where tubing varies in wall thickness along its length, bike makers to place more material where strength is required and less where it’s not to save weight. It is not just a matter of customization. With steel, the craftsman can give a soul to the frame. And the rider will feel it.
One reason some riders want to ride a steel bike is that it doesn’t go quite like anything else. It’s not magic, but steel has a distinct character that’s simply different from other materials.
Steel bikes are strong and resistant to damage, and they will last a lifetime. Although you’re unlikely to see one at the Tour de France, steel can also still form the heart of a proper racing bike. But that is independent of quality. Pro riders must ride what the sponsor pays.
Are steel bikes heavy? A good quality steel road frame weighs around 0.5/0.8kg more than a pretty average carbon frame. Nevertheless, it’s possible to build up a respectably light steel bike using premium components, even coming close to the 6.8kg UCI minimum weight limit.
Regardless, a bike doesn’t have to be ultra-light to be a joy to ride. We care more about the experience than the numbers, and the best steel bikes are sublime.