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What is the best steel frame material?

Old 01-13-10, 01:24 PM
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What is the best steel frame material?

I was reading the "how much it too much" thread (and the "grail" thread before that), and it got me thinking about a different topic that is likely just as subjective. With so many different kinds of steel tubing (and I am meaning to exclude carbon fiber, aluminum, titanium, platinum, etc.), what is the ultimate steel tubing material?

I'm not sure I have an answer, actually, having only really ridden on Reynolds 501, a little on 531, Tange 2, and some Ishiwata EX4130. I'm sure rider size and weight and style have as much to do with preference as anything, but I would love to know what others think about this.

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Old 01-13-10, 01:26 PM
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very subjective
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Old 01-13-10, 01:41 PM
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Extremely subjective, as noted.

However, if I may offer a very rudimentary guide (YMMV):

Super Vitus 980 = Lightness at all costs. Very whippy for larger frames. The ideal thing for the steel-minded weight weenie.
Reynolds 531DB/Columbus SL = Traditional stuff, perfect for folks who want excellent tubing, but don't agonize over it.
Reynolds 501: Less fancy version of 531, and supposedly heavier. Never ridden it (and if I have, I don't remember it), so I don't know how it feels.
Columbus SLX = For someone who thinks SL isn't good enough.
Columbus EL = Arguably the liveliest, stiffest late-C&V-era tubing ever developed.
Ishiwata 022 = Underrated Japanese rough equivalent of 531/SL, possibly the most underrated of rough equivalents.
Reynolds 531 straight-gauge = Good for someone who wants to point to the Reynolds sticker and make a big to do about it, but could care less about ride quality. I haven't ridden a straight-gauge 531 frame yet that didn't feel deader then run-of-the-mill 4130.
Tange 2 = I've heard some say that it's about on par with Reynolds 501. Personally, I've found it to be quite similar to 531DB/SL in ride characteristics.
Tange 1 = Never tried it, probably a lighter form of Tange 2.

-Kurt
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Old 01-13-10, 01:52 PM
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Aside from weight, I notice more difference in tires and saddle than I do in tubing. I think unless you had the different tubings made into identical frame dimensions, with identical components, you'd really have an impossible time answering this.

I'm almost finished my SLX De Rosa...and it has identical tires and nearly idenitical parts as my 753 Merckx...I'll report back when the De Rosa is finished. The frame geometries/sizes are a bit different however. I can say that the 753 is a touch lighter.
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Old 01-13-10, 01:56 PM
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Originally Posted by cudak888 View Post
Extremely subjective, as noted.

However, if I may offer a very rudimentary guide (YMMV):


Reynolds 531DB/Columbus SL = Traditional stuff, perfect for folks who want excellent tubing, but don't agonize over it.


-Kurt
I think that 531 is more on par with SP and SL with 753. It could be risky having someone 200+ lbs ride on an SL or 753 bike, but would be perfectly fine to do so on a 531 or SP bike.
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Old 01-13-10, 02:00 PM
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I found this useful: https://translate.google.com/translat...ogle.com#Teil2
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Old 01-13-10, 02:04 PM
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But you forgot Columbus MAX Nivachrome for girls who demand the very best LOL not much weight difference form Sl and since my MAX frames (Bianchi of course) are fillet brazed there is no weight for the luggs.

for skinny little ragamuffin types a Mini Max frame was made breifly.

I agree with Aron though all things being equal in the frame material and geomentry the wheels and tires make a big difference. while the fancy Mavic Krysium wheels might be 'faster' for whatever reason I doubt they are much lighter than some of my box section tubular wheels which IMHO ride much better overall.
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Old 01-13-10, 02:37 PM
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I would bet that frame geometry and tube selection for that geometry is as important, or more important, than tubing material, itself, once you graduate up from "gas pipes".

Wheels are 100% more important than frame, even when comparing gas pipe frames to 531 (gas piper with tubulars versus 531 with steel rims, straight gage spokes and heavy, 60 psi pressure tires). I would venture to guess that good ergonomics and great brakes come next in importance after the wheels and then good gearing (or are gears part of the ergonomics?). Get all that worked out and we can discuss the benfits of the various steels.
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Old 01-13-10, 02:37 PM
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While I realize this is C&V, the question was "what is the ultimate steel tubing material?"

I'm surprised no one has mentioned Reynolds 953 and Columbus XCr.

My vote would be for 953 unequivocally.
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Old 01-13-10, 02:38 PM
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As others have said, a very subjective question, and the most objective answer I can try to offer is this link: https://desperadocycles.com/The_Lowdo...per_Tubing.htm

There are quite a few statistics in there comparing the wall thickness, butting, weight, and weight recommendations for most of the big tube makers (Reynolds, Columbus, Tange, Ishiwata, etc.) The one that I haven't seen mentioned is Fuji's Valite quad-butted, and I'm not sure how that stacks up.

My favorite is a frame that fits me and isn't too heavy. So far my best experiences have been Reynolds 531DB and Tange #2. How's that for a subjective answer?
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Old 01-13-10, 02:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Scooper View Post
While I realize this is C&V, the question was "what is the ultimate steel tubing material?"

I'm surprised no one has mentioned Reynolds 953 and Columbus XCr.

My vote would be for 953 unequivocally.
953 is TIG-welded only, correct?
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Old 01-13-10, 02:52 PM
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@Business....I sure hope those weight numbers are wrong...otherwise I'm, and I suspect most of us, are in big trouble.
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Old 01-13-10, 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by cudak888 View Post
Extremely subjective, as noted.

However, if I may offer a very rudimentary guide (YMMV):

Super Vitus 980 = Lightness at all costs. Very whippy for larger frames. The ideal thing for the steel-minded weight weenie.
Reynolds 531DB/Columbus SL = Traditional stuff, perfect for folks who want excellent tubing, but don't agonize over it.
Reynolds 501: Less fancy version of 531, and supposedly heavier. Never ridden it (and if I have, I don't remember it), so I don't know how it feels.
Columbus SLX = For someone who thinks SL isn't good enough.
Columbus EL = Arguably the liveliest, stiffest late-C&V-era tubing ever developed.
Ishiwata 022 = Underrated Japanese rough equivalent of 531/SL, possibly the most underrated of rough equivalents.
Reynolds 531 straight-gauge = Good for someone who wants to point to the Reynolds sticker and make a big to do about it, but could care less about ride quality. I haven't ridden a straight-gauge 531 frame yet that didn't feel deader then run-of-the-mill 4130.
Tange 2 = I've heard some say that it's about on par with Reynolds 501. Personally, I've found it to be quite similar to 531DB/SL in ride characteristics.
Tange 1 = Never tried it, probably a lighter form of Tange 2.

-Kurt
Thanks for the review! This is a subject that interests me significantly. Does anyone know of some more tubing reviews? Who make frames out Columbus EL? I'd would like to know where I can try that out.
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Old 01-13-10, 02:59 PM
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Originally Posted by KonAaron Snake View Post
@Business....I sure hope those weight numbers are wrong...otherwise I'm, and I suspect most of us, are in big trouble.
Those were lawyer talk...
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Old 01-13-10, 03:03 PM
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Originally Posted by KonAaron Snake View Post
@Business....I sure hope those weight numbers are wrong...otherwise I'm, and I suspect most of us, are in big trouble.
+1 Put me in that group with one SLX bike, one Columbus Gilco, and one Champion Tange 1 bike.

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Old 01-13-10, 03:05 PM
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My favorite tubing is Raleigh 410. It's super stiff and only a few pounds heavier than so called premium tubing.
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Old 01-13-10, 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by KonAaron Snake View Post
@Business....I sure hope those weight numbers are wrong...otherwise I'm, and I suspect most of us, are in big trouble.
Originally Posted by EjustE View Post
Those were lawyer talk...
I consider those weight limit numbers to be very, very conservative... so conservative that I ignore them completely. Of course, I weigh ~160 lbs so I'm not pushing too many "limits" there.
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Old 01-13-10, 03:20 PM
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Nor 853, nor Fuji Valite, nor Falck, nor...

...and nobody's made the distinction between 531C and 531P.

So much depends upon the rider and the intended use of the frame, that I don't see how there can be any one correct answer.

Originally Posted by Scooper View Post
While I realize this is C&V, the question was "what is the ultimate steel tubing material?"

I'm surprised no one has mentioned Reynolds 953 and Columbus XCr.

My vote would be for 953 unequivocally.
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Old 01-13-10, 03:21 PM
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My opinions of what I have tried (in order of low to high grades):

Hi-Ten 1020: if Point A and B are only a few miles apart and all you need is get there.
Tange Infinity: Has something resembling life to it. On par with most 4130 frames out there (my frame was Infinity main tubes only)
Tange Champion 1: I was surprised on how nice the frame rode. I didn't ride it for long, and it was about 2 sizes too small for me, but felt lively and quick (Centurion Ironman)
Columbus SL: as Kurt said "Traditional", great ride, reasonable weight. Worth investing in.
531c: The best riding tubing I've spent time on. IMHO.

Oh, and of course, frame geometry plays probably as much if not a bigger part in how a frame rides than the tubing. All things equal though, the above holds true in my experience. Though the lower grade frames obviously had less of a race oriented geometry. My two 531c frames (Gazelle AB-Frame and Gazelle A-Frame) ride differently even though they are made by the same company, and are of the same "series". The A-Frame has a longer wheel base, probably slacker angles as well. And the ride shows those differences probably more than my Serotta and the Gazelle AB-Frame which are of similar design but different tubing.
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Old 01-13-10, 03:28 PM
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How do you know which type of Reynolds 531 you had? I've never seen that indicated on the decals.
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Old 01-13-10, 03:34 PM
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Originally Posted by KonAaron Snake View Post
How do you know which type of Reynolds 531 you had? I've never seen that indicated on the decals.


there was a good thread with a link about this a few weeks ago. you sort of need to lok at the manufacturers (bike) to determine it.
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Old 01-13-10, 04:07 PM
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I've ridden SP, SLX, TSX, PRX, Neuron, Tre-tubi, 531 and Vitus 172? My opinion is: it's more in the geometry than the material.

BTW: for the forum member asking if 953 is TIG-welded only. No, a friend has a Bob Jackson with 953 and stainless lugs. What's really great, besides no rust, is no chrome. Just polish the areas that you would ordinarily chrome. Here's a blog from Bob Brown's Cycles about a lugged 953 frame: https://bobbrowncycles.blogspot.com/2...nolds-953.html

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Old 01-13-10, 04:16 PM
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As others have said - very subjective. My views: For longer distances at speed, 531DB or Competition every time. For all out speed with a harsher ride, Columbus SLX. For fast, "twisty, hilly" rides, Columbus Brain (but that could just be the geometry of my Brian frame having an effect). For solid commuting, mountain biking on the rougher trails, Reynolds 501 or Chromoly 4130 feels reassuringly robust. For a really vintage ride, the Reynolds HM of my 1935 Claud Butler is surprisingly good (later superceded by 531). Tange triple butted for everyday road use. I haven't yet tried the Reynolds butted 453 High Titanium Molybdenum frame of the Coventry Eagle Commodore that's waiting in my shed to be restored but am curious to know what it's like. As far as I can find out it's heavier than 531 and stiff. As far as I can remember, Accles & Pocock 'Kronos' felt similar to 531 DB. It probably also depends on the frame geometry, rider's strength, weight and build, but whatever you're riding, steel has a better feel than carbon or aluminium in my book. Others will no doubt have different views and experiences?
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Old 01-13-10, 04:17 PM
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Originally Posted by EjustE View Post
953 is TIG-welded only, correct?
Nope, it can be fillet brazed, tig welded, or brazed for lugs.
You're thinking 853 (and 753 I think).
A 953 bike is on my list somewhere down the road.
Maybe when I build a rand bike.
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Old 01-13-10, 04:20 PM
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I certainly have'nt ridden them all,but,champion #1 is the finest steel I've ridden and It was outstanding(wow).
As already stated there are a lot of factors that go into how a bike rides.
I've known a few love their 4130 tubing bike, love is love.
There's no accounting for taste or love for that matter
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