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Old 11-04-08, 06:08 PM   #1
Robert Foster
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The last steel bike.

I have been riding with a club for a few months now and I have noticed I havenít seen many steel bikes represented. We did have one or two for a while and one was a classic Waterford. (Nice looking bike) The last few times the guy with the Waterford has been riding his CF bike so we were down to one. We had one rather strong rider than has been riding an old Diamondback Road touring bike. Monday as we staged for our ride the diamondback rides cruised up on a brand new Specialized Tarmac Elite Compact. So as we pulled out of the parking lot there were 3 Giant OCR1s, 2 Lightspeeds, 3 Specialized , one Giant FCR and a Jamis. The most we have ever had is 15 so it isnít a big road club but still I was surprised after visiting many of these forums to see so few steel bikes. I havenít visited all of the club memberís homes to see what they have in their stable but I can say they do club rides on something other than steel. Why donít we see more steel bikes?

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Old 11-04-08, 06:25 PM   #2
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Because there are a heck of a lot more non-steel bikes offered by manufacturers? And, because those CF, Alu, Ti bikes have a lot of good qualities?
Why aren't you riding a steel bike? (assuming your profile is up to date)

I ride a steel recumbent - I wish it were Ti and significantly lighter.
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Old 11-04-08, 06:50 PM   #3
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Amongst the more popular mass-production brand name road bikes, there are very few being made in steel. You can walk into a large bike shop that has 80 road bikes on the show floor and not find a single steel bike. Not many new buyers are wanting steel.

There are a few steel bikes re-appearing in the catalogs. We've had a thread going here that highlighted some of them, from brands like Fuji, Masi, Kona, Jamis, and Raleigh. These aren't going to be hot sellers but perhaps will sell reasonably well.

However if you venture into some independent-type bike shops, shops that aren't dominated by Trek, Specialized, Giant, etc., you will sometimes find a lot of steel bikes. Brands like Salsa, Soma, Surly, Gunnar, Waterford, Serotta, Independent Fabrications, Rivendell, & others.

If one wants a steel bike, there are many to pick from. But overall they are a small segment of the total road bike market. Younger buyers aren't attracted to them, they want chic light bikes, and frankly, there are a lot of good carbon bikes out there. They see steel as old-fashioned. And they make up a big part of the market.
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Old 11-04-08, 07:33 PM   #4
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Amongst the more popular mass-production brand name road bikes, there are very few being made in steel. You can walk into a large bike shop that has 80 road bikes on the show floor and not find a single steel bike. Not many new buyers are wanting steel.
The first question that a prospective buyer asks is "How much does it weigh?" Steel weighs more.
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Old 11-04-08, 07:41 PM   #5
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Because there are a heck of a lot more non-steel bikes offered by manufacturers? And, because those CF, Alu, Ti bikes have a lot of good qualities?
Why aren't you riding a steel bike? (assuming your profile is up to date)

I ride a steel recumbent - I wish it were Ti and significantly lighter.
My profile is close. I may have to add the Trek I donít remember. You may have hit me right between the eyes on why I didnít get steel. I am not a younger buyer but I listened and decided to buy my bike from a LBS. Aluminum, CF, and TI were the first things I saw in the shop and they were all so light. Everything I had read was telling me light was good and my Revive was decidedly heavy. But I simply didnít realize so few steel bikes were being offered. What has caused their decline? Tomís response seems reasonable.
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Old 11-04-08, 07:48 PM   #6
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Also on club rides people want to have their lightest or flashiest bikes.
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Old 11-04-08, 08:33 PM   #7
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On my Saturday club rides there are a lot of Ti bikes and some steel, but many are CF or AL. The options are out there, but weight is an easy sell in the LBS. Ride is much more subjective and only someone with experience may choose the comfort of steel or Ti over saving 2 lbs in the bike.

Of my two bikes I always choose to ride my 'old' steel Serotta. If I could get any reasonable $$ for my AL/CF Fuji I would sell it and look for another old steel bike as a 'beater'.

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Old 11-04-08, 08:49 PM   #8
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If Ti was less expensive, I think you'd see a lot of them around. You could get a bike close to the same weight as carbon but less likely to crack/break.
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Old 11-04-08, 08:49 PM   #9
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WE're down to just one steel --- a DellaSanta. If Fred brings his old Bianchi, we have two.
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Old 11-04-08, 08:58 PM   #10
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I spend a lot of time over on the C&V forum where steel is alive and well. There is an interesting post over there directed right at the price of old steel bikes. Prices are increasing, in most cases doubling for old steel road bikes compared to prices only one year ago. This is especially true for nicer, double butted chromoly frames.
Some of the demand comes from the fixie crowd who want bikes with horizantal dropouts, typically found on old steel road frames.
I've flipped a few of these old steel bikes and have had the opportunity to meet some of the folks buying them. Most are young folks, typically in their late teens or early twenties. They have a good understanding of the flexibility of steel vs the stiffness of aluminum and appreciate the characteristics of the steel frame.
IMHO, the steel frame is alive and well. I think there is a bright future for steel bikes. As for me, I've converted one early 90's Bianchi to a brifter bike and I'm about to convert a couple more bikes this winter (an 86 Fuji Team and a 89 Centurion Ironman). Hey, I like old steel but that doesn't mean I like old components. I'm not sure what my main rider will be next year, but I do plan on riding those fine, Tange 1 and Tange 2, seamless frames at least part of the time.
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Old 11-04-08, 09:53 PM   #11
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If Ti was less expensive, I think you'd see a lot of them around. You could get a bike close to the same weight as carbon but less likely to crack/break.
Yes, I see your point. To me the most interesting about CF are the curves they can use when they design the frame. Much like a sports car I like the design elements or the freedom of the design elements CF allows. That is from a purely visual point of view not a practical point of view. My friendís new Tarmac Elite weighs 18 pounds and it is considered entry level? Looking back to the last time I looked at a steel bike in a LBS, it was years ago, the sales person spoke despairingly about the flexing of steel when making climbs. (Yes I know salesmen are trying to make a sale.) To demonstrate he took a steel bike, turned it sideways to him and placed his foot on the bottom bracket. He demonstrated the ability to move the bottom bracket in relation to the rest of the frame. I am not experienced enough to know how that related to racing or climbing but he looked knowingly at me and I simply did an imitation of a bobble head doll.
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Old 11-04-08, 10:08 PM   #12
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It's just because steel is old. I have a 16 year old Waterford (everything was upgraded including a CF fork, DA, Kysrium wheels, etc.), a Seven Ti, and a CF Cervelo. All three bikes are fine but technology and advancements bring improvements. My choice is always the CF bike first.
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Old 11-04-08, 10:39 PM   #13
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Yes, I see your point. To me the most interesting about CF are the curves they can use when they design the frame. Much like a sports car I like the design elements or the freedom of the design elements CF allows. That is from a purely visual point of view not a practical point of view.
Oh no, it is quite practical. CF is a bike designer's dream material. Rather than be restricted by the manufacturing limits of metal tubing, CF can be shaped by the designer, using computerized CAD/CAM and modeling, to optimize aerodynamics, rigidity, stress points, and so on.

I believe we will see all kinds of designs that will appear to be radical over the coming years.

For example consider the Specialized Transition bike. Look at the seat tube design, the seat post, the head tube, the down tube. The designers have so much freedom to explore new ideas.
http://www.specialized.com/bc/SBCEqu...s%20Transition
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Old 11-04-08, 11:06 PM   #14
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Aluminium took off when they realised it was cheaper to tig weld aluminium frames in mass production than it was to tig weld steel. All of a sudden, we were told that aluminium was 'better' but not told the 'better' was in profit margins. Same with CF, it's a good product because you can pay chinese peasants a pittance to do the work and then charge extortionate prices because people think it's the duck's guts.

Bah humbug.

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Old 11-04-08, 11:45 PM   #15
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Classic steel is all some of us ride.
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Old 11-04-08, 11:59 PM   #16
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Quote:
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...Why donít we see more steel bikes?
Bob
cycling is not encumbered by the machine. The machine evolves in a fashion complementary with the activity, maybe better called the 'lifestyle'.
Steel no longer occupies the niche of 'every bike'. It's firmly rooted now as 'art' and artisanship. It ties the craftsman/artisan's vision to the rider and to the road. And, unlike most things 'vintage' it still retains 'performance' and promotes innovation. Clearly the new steel bike is levels beyond those of a decade, 2 or 3 or more back.
Considering all the old bikes being resurrected, steel will not disappear any time soon.
Steel connects me to more than just the space I ride thru, it connects me to the history of bicycling, the builder who's vision I now use and own individual memories of riding.
Maybe some younger rider will feel the same way about their CF bike, in 20 or 40 years... don;t know...

Steel is not the miracle material. It has its drawbacks as it has advantages.
As Humans, our fraililty is doubt. Doubt that we can 'perform' on a 2lb heavier machine. Doubt that we can keep pace with those riding those 17 lb CF wonders.
Probably true for the very top top competitors, but certainly almost not a factor for the rest of the riding world.
It turns out the motor is really the most important element.
A fine bike is a wonderful thing. Not surprisingly, fine steel is as good as anything.
Why don't we see more steel? Because 'common' is no longer the point with steel.
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Old 11-05-08, 07:05 AM   #17
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cyclezen -- nice post!

CF? I tried it for 5000+ miles and I don't like it. I'm shopping for someone to make me either a columbus xcr or reynolds 953 frame. If anyone has any suggestions I'd like to see them. I've found a few on my own but I'm sure theres some I've missed.
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Old 11-05-08, 08:27 AM   #18
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The first question that a prospective buyer asks is "How much does it weigh?" Steel weighs more.
I still have a copy of the Trek 1997 catalog, the last year Trek build large numbers of steel framed bikes and the last year they listed comparative weights for all their models.

At the same price point, the steel framed bikes were lighter. At the same weight, the steel framed bikes cost less.

The frame - of course - makes up only a (small) part of the weight of the entire bicycle. It turns out to be less expensive to save weight in the components and wheels of a bicycle than in the frame. In general, only when a bicycle is using near the top grade of components with budget left over can the other frame materials be used effectively to produce a lighter complete bicycle.

The lightest possible bike with, say, 105 components, will probably have a Ti or CF frame. The lightest possible $2000 bike will probably have a steel frame.

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Old 11-05-08, 08:38 AM   #19
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To demonstrate he took a steel bike, turned it sideways to him and placed his foot on the bottom bracket. He demonstrated the ability to move the bottom bracket in relation to the rest of the frame.
For years people have argued the merits of a 'stiff' frame. I am of the belief that as long as it isn't so flexy that the brakes are rubbing, stiffness is not so important to speed. I have never seen any proof that a stiff frame is faster. Also, the stiffest frame I have ever seen, even stiffer than my Cannondale, is my steel Tesch. The thing is bone jarring harsh, but that's how Tesch wanted it.
I now ride a steel Gunnar, and the bottom bracket is as solid as I could ask, yet the frame is comfortable on rough roads.
I also had a Landshark years ago which was so whippy and noodly I knew it would break if I kept riding it.
My point is steel can be made to ride different ways.

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people think it's the duck's guts.
Is that like the bee's knees, or the cat's pajamas?
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Old 11-05-08, 08:46 AM   #20
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I still have a copy of the Trek 1997 catalog, the last year Trek build large numbers of steel framed bikes and the last year they listed comparative weights for all their models.
The lightest possible $2000 bike will probably have a steel frame.

Best,
tcs
1997 is ancient history with regard to bike frames.
I have to disagree with the second statement. It's easy to get a cheap aluminum frame down to 3 pounds. To get steel to 3 pounds is a lot more expensive. Most good steel frames are around 4 pounds and cheaper ones are around 5 pounds.
The lightest frames are under 2 pounds, most of them are cf.
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Old 11-05-08, 09:07 AM   #21
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Classic steel is all some of us ride.
I am down to two bikes, both of them steel. My daily commuter is a Bianchi touring bike frame, with few original components on it. It is ridden ~ 4000 miles per year, in all sorts of weather, and is a real workhorse. It has fenders, racks, lights, bags, U lock etc to bring it's weight (sans panniers) to about 38lbs. I imagine that if I were to try to treat a CF bike the way I treat my commuter, it wouldn't last through a season, and if it did, I might not survive a season on an uncomfortable frame.

My 'fun' bike is also steel, a custom lugged frame, with relatively high end components (carbon fork, Ksyrium wheelset, Campy Chorus drivetrain, CF crankset). It is not set up to be crazylight - with several tips to comfort such as the brooks saddle, but still weighs in at less than half the weight of the commuter. I use this bike for weekend rides, as well as charity rides and centuries. As a 50+ guy, I am more interested in comfort than getting the last gram off of the bike or the last bit of speed.

I ride steel bikes because they are comfortable and durable - I leave uncomfortable and delicate bikes to those younger folk who don't know any better.
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Old 11-05-08, 09:43 AM   #22
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This discussion reminds me of the old days of vinyl records and the new compact disc. Analog vinyl sounds better, more musical, more real as if you're really there. Compact disc was very clear but harsh after a hour of listening, thus less musical.

Then the argument switched to the original recording of analog to digital and how that plays out. Eventually the recording became digital from the get go. Better recording technique and now even Sheffield Labs has its compact discs.

Audiophiles out there will know what I mean.

Paper or plastic? That's what we used to hear at the supermarket checkout. Now its "did you bring your own bag?"

Me? I prefer the two dollar bill over the one dollar, except when I go to the 99 cent store.
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Old 11-05-08, 11:10 AM   #23
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Early CD was awful. I've gone back to my early DMP CDs, which were considered state of the art back then, and took a listen. Aside from the music being bad, the recording quality and production value was just plain horrendous. Sure, there was a lack of background noise, but there was a lack of background ambiance too. There was no bass, absolutely no presence to the music at all. Just instruments from a black background in pinpoint image. Deutsch Gramophone CDs were even worse. Violins sounded like fingernails on a blackboard. Most rock CDs sounded like they limited the bass to 80hz. Vinyl still sounds better. Hi-res 24/96 digital sounds pretty good too, but CD "quality" is still lacking.

Back to bikes, I've upgraded my steel Davidson to more modern components, although I cling to downtube shifters and a Campy NR rear derailleur. I use a modern 10sp wheel and the shifting works very well. But I rode this bike for about 15-20 miles, then went home and immediately switched back to my regular ride, a carbon Kuota, and the Kuota wins hands down. It is stiffer, climbs better, absorbs road shock better and is just more comfortable. It isn't the wheels, which can make a big difference, as I've switched the wheels back and forth. In fact I usually keep my 2 sets of modern wheels mismatched on the two bikes.

Since I'm not riding as much now as it gets cooler and darker outside, when I do get a chance to ride I've been taking the Kuota every time even though I want to get on the old bike again. I just want to make the best use of my bike time.
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Old 11-05-08, 11:42 AM   #24
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It's a beautiful indian summer day, maybe the last this year, and I'm going out on my heavy steel road bike for a nice long, solo ride. I really don't care what anyone else is riding. I know what I like. When I get home after the ride, I won't feel like I've missed out on anything because my bike's frame is not made of reinforced plastic. Hey, maybe I'll just carry one bottle of water instead of two, and I'll pee more often. That should get the weight down. The real aficionados in any field are always in the minority. Barring a crash or health problems, I'll still be riding that same fine Columbus steel road bike years from now when today's latest plastic bike will be but a distant memory. Now go out and by that Tarmac so you can keep up with the others, won't you?
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Old 11-05-08, 12:03 PM   #25
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I can understand liking steel bikes, I have 2 myself, but carbon can be made to ride any way you want, as well. There are carbon frames still around from the early 90s, and steel certainly isn't unbreakable. I have broken 2 of them myself.
Here are some 60+ riders on cf bikes from2 weeks ago.

O.K., one of them is 55.

And 1 of them is a 40+ kid.
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