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Why is steel out of favour?

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Why is steel out of favour?

Old 09-23-20, 02:30 PM
  #1  
wilson_smyth
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Why is steel out of favour?

Is there a reason steel is not used much now days?
Most articles i read on the topic say due to newer steel types & manufacturing methods, steel frames are now much lighter, to make the difference in weight too little to worry about for all but the pros.
A lot of the articles also say steel is more durable with a longer life and easier repaired.
Carbon is getting more affordable but many sources say cheaper carbon frames are inferior to metal frames in the same price braket & a good carbon frame is expensive.

Ive no doubt the articles are written with a bit of bias, but is there much truth? is weight not so much of an issue now days in relation to steel frames vs the average aluminium bike?
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Old 09-23-20, 02:37 PM
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steel bikes are pretty trendy right now from my vantage point.
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Old 09-23-20, 02:42 PM
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I wouldn't say it's out of favour, in fact one could argue that steel is the first choice of many low-production and boutique brands of bikes.
I currently ride a steel framed Norco Search S1 from 2015. While Norco makes way more carbon and aluminum frames, they're still producing steel framed bikes; https://www.norco.com/bikes/2021/roa...el/section-s2/
Almost all Rivendell bikes are steel.
Same with Surly bikes.
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Old 09-23-20, 02:45 PM
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Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
steel bikes are pretty trendy right now from my vantage point.
Right? I'm sort of coveting this All City model; https://allcitycycles.com/bikes/cosmic_stallion_force_1
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Old 09-23-20, 02:46 PM
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I could be wrong, but I think it was due top the trade wars. Recent studies found that steel was vastly superior in downhill speed and major manufacturers were poised to shift the majority of their production to steel. No amount of pedaling could overcome this advantage. This coupled with e-assist for climbing made it a true win-win.

Maybe someday when things get back to normal.

John
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Old 09-23-20, 02:50 PM
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I spent several weeks drooling over some steel bikes before buying the steel hotness of a Twin Six Standard Rando.

Standard_Rando_ExtraBlack_studio_2 by TWIN SIX, on Flickr

only one aluminum bike briefly crossed my mind.
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Old 09-23-20, 03:03 PM
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Didnít we just do this a couple of months ago!

Why, yes we did:

No mainstream love for steel?

Last edited by indyfabz; 09-23-20 at 03:08 PM.
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Old 09-23-20, 03:42 PM
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Originally Posted by 70sSanO View Post
I could be wrong, but I think it was due top the trade wars. Recent studies found that steel was vastly superior in downhill speed and major manufacturers were poised to shift the majority of their production to steel. No amount of pedaling could overcome this advantage.

John
I'm struggling to make sense of those three sentences. What trade wars? How did they pertain to the near-disappearance of steel frames from the marketplace? What studies? Has anyone else come across such reports of steel bikes being "vastly superior in downhill speed" (not solely because of increased weight, presumably)? What evidence is there that "major manufacturers were poised to shift the majority of their production to steel"?

The more likely reason that steel frames effectively disappeared from the part of the market served by bike shops is simple: aluminum frames cost no more to produce than high-tensile steel frames and substantially less than frames built of better steels. That's a product manager's no-brainer. And now aluminum bikes are slowly being supplanted by carbon bikes at increasingly lower price points.

Another likely factor: warranty costs. The lifetime frame and fork warranty that used to be offered on all steel adult bikes sold in U.S. bike stores (a policy that was introduced by Schwinn as a marketing strategy many decades ago to promote the superior durability of their frames, forcing other companies reluctantly to follow suit, but that's another story) began to be rolled back; as other and more exotic frame materials came to be accepted by bike purchasers, the companies must have figured that it was a golden opportunity to change that policy.

Which reminds me of what I was told by a Trek sales rep back a couple of years after they'd begun producing their first aluminum frames. I'd asked what effect introducing the aluminum bikes had had on business. He replied that they were saving money because the number of warranty claims for defective aluminum frames was substantially lower than the steel frame warranty claim rate.

By the way, about descending on steel frames: a few years ago, a European cycling magazine rounded up several steel racing bikes from the golden era of the late '80s or early '90s and persuaded several young amateur racers, all of them used to racing on high-end carbon bikes, to ride in the Alps on the steel bikes and then printed an article reporting their impressions of the bikes. In short, all of them enjoyed riding the bikes, but they also said that the bikes were a little too unpredictable in high-speed descending. I feel the same way; the increased torsional rigidity is one of the reasons I prefer my aluminum bikes. In fact, I haven't ridden any of my steel bikes in years.

Last edited by Trakhak; 09-23-20 at 03:46 PM.
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Old 09-23-20, 03:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Trakhak View Post
Has anyone else come across such reports of the steel being "vastly superior in downhill speed" (not solely because of increased weight, presumably)?
You didn't know steel bikes are faster downhill? I knew this already. That's why I have my wife (at the top of climbs) handing me bottles filled with lead and mercury that way my vastly inferior aloo-minie-yum bike and my fake plastic bike (which is practically going to shatter any minute now!) can keep up with the steel crew.

Zoom! Just remember not to drink out of those bottles.
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Old 09-23-20, 03:56 PM
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Originally Posted by bOsscO View Post
I wouldn't say it's out of favour, in fact one could argue that steel is the first choice of many low-production and boutique brands of bikes.
I currently ride a steel framed Norco Search S1 from 2015. While Norco makes way more carbon and aluminum frames, they're still producing steel framed bikes; https://www.norco.com/bikes/2021/roa...el/section-s2/
Almost all Rivendell bikes are steel.
Same with Surly bikes.
For low volume or custom stuff it's the easiest to work with. Aluminium, unless it's very low end, will need a heat treatment after welding for which you need an oven big enough for a frame or two and jigs to stop it wilting under the heat. Higher end Alu frames also tend to be hydroformed which needs costly up-front tooling. CF monocoques come out of expensive moulds which is also inherently a high volume process.

But you can make a steel frame in a shed with basic tools (and a bit of practice and knowledge that you can easily pick up). This is how a lot of custom builders got started.

Personally I also think it is the nicest material from a ride quality and aesthetic point of view.
​​​​
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Old 09-23-20, 04:13 PM
  #11  
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
Didnít we just do this a couple of months ago!

Why, yes we did:

No mainstream love for steel?
Deja Vu all over again.
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Old 09-23-20, 04:14 PM
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Also, nobody's won a TdF on steel since Indurain. Why do you suppose that is?
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Old 09-23-20, 04:32 PM
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Yawn.
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Old 09-23-20, 04:52 PM
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I'm a recreational rider. My steel GURU weighs 17 lbs. 10 oz. My CAAD 12 weighs about the same. I love them both. I'm good. And...I'm pretty sure I'm not about to be picked up by a TdF team anytime soon.
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Old 09-23-20, 05:07 PM
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Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
I spent several weeks drooling over some steel bikes before buying the steel hotness of a Twin Six Standard Rando.

Standard_Rando_ExtraBlack_studio_2 by TWIN SIX, on Flickr

only one aluminum bike briefly crossed my mind.
That bike gave me a ..... 👍
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Old 09-23-20, 05:11 PM
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Grant Petersen, is that you?

Steel doesn't have any advantages relative to any other frame material, and has several significant disadvantages, especially weight and perhaps flex as well.

I've read lots of comments about how "compliant" or forgiving steel is, but the steel bikes I've ridden weren't any more comfortable than aluminum frames.
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Old 09-23-20, 05:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Trakhak View Post
I'm struggling to make sense of those three sentences. What trade wars? How did they pertain to the near-disappearance of steel frames from the marketplace? What studies? Has anyone else come across such reports of steel bikes being "vastly superior in downhill speed" (not solely because of increased weight, presumably)? What evidence is there that "major manufacturers were poised to shift the majority of their production to steel"?

The more likely reason that steel frames effectively disappeared from the part of the market served by bike shops is simple: aluminum frames cost no more to produce than high-tensile steel frames and substantially less than frames built of better steels. That's a product manager's no-brainer. And now aluminum bikes are slowly being supplanted by carbon bikes at increasingly lower price points.

Another likely factor: warranty costs. The lifetime frame and fork warranty that used to be offered on all steel adult bikes sold in U.S. bike stores (a policy that was introduced by Schwinn as a marketing strategy many decades ago to promote the superior durability of their frames, forcing other companies reluctantly to follow suit, but that's another story) began to be rolled back; as other and more exotic frame materials came to be accepted by bike purchasers, the companies must have figured that it was a golden opportunity to change that policy.

Which reminds me of what I was told by a Trek sales rep back a couple of years after they'd begun producing their first aluminum frames. I'd asked what effect introducing the aluminum bikes had had on business. He replied that they were saving money because the number of warranty claims for defective aluminum frames was substantially lower than the steel frame warranty claim rate.

By the way, about descending on steel frames: a few years ago, a European cycling magazine rounded up several steel racing bikes from the golden era of the late '80s or early '90s and persuaded several young amateur racers, all of them used to racing on high-end carbon bikes, to ride in the Alps on the steel bikes and then printed an article reporting their impressions of the bikes. In short, all of them enjoyed riding the bikes, but they also said that the bikes were a little too unpredictable in high-speed descending. I feel the same way; the increased torsional rigidity is one of the reasons I prefer my aluminum bikes. In fact, I haven't ridden any of my steel bikes in years.
It was obviously a joke.
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Old 09-23-20, 05:13 PM
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Originally Posted by bOsscO View Post
Right? I'm sort of coveting this All City model; https://allcitycycles.com/bikes/cosmic_stallion_force_1
All City makes sexy bikes.

I look at this one on a daily basis.

https://allcitycycles.com/bikes/zig_zag_ultegra

Last edited by Mulberry20; 09-23-20 at 05:20 PM.
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Old 09-23-20, 05:17 PM
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For the record, allRivendell frames are steel
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Old 09-23-20, 05:19 PM
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Originally Posted by djcookie View Post
Grant Petersen, is that you?

Steel doesn't have any advantages relative to any other frame material, and has several significant disadvantages, especially weight and perhaps flex as well.

I've read lots of comments about how "compliant" or forgiving steel is, but the steel bikes I've ridden weren't any more comfortable than aluminum frames.
Thats total BS. High end steel frames are actually lighter than carbon frames. It has a lot of advantages, most notably a top custom steel frame is about $3,500 whereas a custom carbon frame non monocoque frame is two or three times as much.
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Old 09-23-20, 05:30 PM
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Originally Posted by genejockey View Post
Also, nobody's won a TdF on steel since Indurain. Why do you suppose that is?
Because the bike manufacturers supply the bikes to the pro teams as part of their marketing strategy? If Trek or Specialized wanted to bring back steel bikes to the masses, they could R+D awesome steel bikes better than carbon that we would first see on the world tours.

I'm just a recreational rider, but after riding my first decent steel bike for several months, I will never buy another carbon bike.
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Old 09-23-20, 05:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Mulberry20 View Post
That bike gave me a ..... 👍
Nice looking frame, but the fork is horrendous
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Old 09-23-20, 05:38 PM
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Originally Posted by CAT7RDR View Post
Because the bike manufacturers supply the bikes to the pro teams as part of their marketing strategy? If Trek or Specialized wanted to bring back steel bikes to the masses, they could R+D awesome steel bikes better than carbon that we would first see on the world tours.

I'm just a recreational rider, but after riding my first decent steel bike for several months, I will never buy another carbon bike.
Steel bikes didn't stop being ridden in the TdF. They just stopped winning. Over time, the fact that they weren't winning led to them not being used anymore.
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Old 09-23-20, 05:54 PM
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When I was looking at old steel frames on eBay they often had dents in them. Aluminum doesn't seem to have dents.

Alu is also rust resistant.

It also looks oversized.
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Old 09-23-20, 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by adlai View Post
When I was looking at old steel frames on eBay they often had dents in them. Aluminum doesn't seem to have dents.
.
I'll give you one guess which ones were ridden more.
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