The Advantage of Steel Bicycle Frames

AAAAAHH..... The Feel of Steel
Richard Schwinn once said "If all bicycles were made from aluminum, titanium, and carbon fiber, then someone invented steel, it would be hailed as a miracle material."

Steel we use

Reynolds 725

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Steel road bike by Rodriguez Bicycles

He couldn't have been more correct. Steel is lighter weight, less expensive, easier to repair if need be, and much more versatile than the space age materials.

Ever notice how other manufacturers compare their light weight frames to the ride and feel of a classic steel frame? That's because steel is more comfortable to ride on the road. The goal is to make a frame as light as possible that someone can still ride comfortably for long distances. Carbon fiber and aluminum have a well deserved reputation for feeling 'dead' on the road. Back when steel frames weighed 5 pounds or more people were willing to put up with a 'dead' feeling bike in order to have a frame weight of 3 to 3 1/2 pounds. No matter what the claims are, the fact is the only frame that rides like steel is a steel frame.

Note - People are often surprised to find out that carbon fiber, titanium and aluminum have been used for building bicycles for several decades, and that we here at Rodriguez Bicycles were building carbon fiber bicycles in the 1970's. They usually think of these as newer materials. Here's a link to an article that I was asked to write for 'The Bicycle Paper' here in Seattle.

Even I gave in
I myself even gave in to the pressure and rode a 3.1 pound aluminum frame for about 2 years back in the early 90's. I called it my '50 miler' because after 50 miles my hands (and other stuff) had gone numb. Then I would have to get off and recover before continuing. Oh how I longed for the comfort of my old Reynolds 531 Peugeot. I tried many tricks to make it more comfortable. I put in a carbon seat post, a different fork, and I even double wrapped the handlebars, but it became clear to me that my 'aging frame' needed a different kind of bicycle frame.

Reynolds 725 Frame Tubing Logo

Vari-Wall THERMLX Sticker

The Evolution of Steel
In the meantime, Reynolds and True Temper were pioneering some incredible new steels that enabled bike builders to build 3.5 pound frames out of steel. Reynolds 853 and Vari-Wall THERMLX frame tubing were both formulated specifically for these new light-weight steel bicycles. It could be extremely thin, and the high heat of the welding actually strengthened the frame in the heat affected areas. These new steel alloys were light-years ahead of the old steel frames, but still maintained the smooth ride characteristics that we all loved in our old steeds.

Modern steel frames achieve the perfect blend of comfort, value and performance.

It would be a few years before steel completely shook off the reputation of 'heavier', but True Temper had a few more surprises in the works.

My return to steel
In 1994, I upgraded to a Rodriguez with this new light steel tubing. What a treat! I could ride STP (Seattle to Portland) again and still feel refreshed enough to be the one who drove the van back to Seattle (while everyone else slept and recovered in the back). My hands didn't go numb. My riding speed was faster because of comfort, and my time off the bike recovering was all but eliminated. I didn't even care that my new frame was 6 ounces heavier than my '50 miler'.

Today's Steel is even lighter!
These days, we're offering hand-built steel bikes that are LIGHTER than titanium, aluminum or even most carbon fiber bikes. All of our models are offered in 18 sizes as well as custom geometry. We still build out of aluminum and titanium, but for those who want the lightest weight, and best value, steel is the right choice.

Our Rodriguez S3 bikes ride like steel because they ARE steel. We've built hundreds of these now, and the lightest to date was just 2.2 pounds. Most S3 frames wind up well under 3 pounds. That's guaranteed, verifiable on the digital scale. It's not the fairy-tale printed catalog weight that someone is trying to pass off as real. Here's an article I wrote to address the incredible dishonesty that is part of a lot of bicycle manufacturer's advertising.

We think you'll find that a high-performance, light-weight steel frame provides the perfect blend of comfort, value and performance.

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