Steel can be traced back right through to the earliest days of the bicycle’s history. It’s a material whose properties are well understood, yet even today, new alloys are being developed to extend its capabilities.
Steel has ideal qualities for most bicycle frames – without getting too technical, in the right hands, steel tubes can be crafted into an irresistible blend of stiffness and liveliness, resulting in outstanding road “feel” (giving you feedback from the road surface, with-out beating you up over the bumps), rather than a “dead” feeling (no feedback, too much shock absorption) or behaving like a “noodle” (too much flex or springiness).
Best of all, a steel frame can be repaired – and it almost always makes economic sense to do so. One of the reasons that steel frames are still the overwhelming choice of long-distance cycle tourists is that, if an accident results in damage to the bike when far from civilization, anyone handy with a welding torch can sort out a short-term repair to the frame and get the bike back on the road.
And, history has shown that, if properly cared for, a steel frame will last a lifetime (and then some). Even if it isn’t perfectly cared for, just strip it down, clean it up and have it re-sprayed in your latest favourite colour – it’s just like having a new bike!
You might be thinking that steel is no longer any good for non-touring applications, because it’s so much heavier than the latest frame materials. Let's put this into context. The difference between one of our frames and the lightest you can name will almost certainly be less than one kilogram. Add the same components to each to make a complete bicycle. Now sit yourself on top – the difference is now less than one per cent of the total. And how long is that other frame material you're considering designed to last? And HOW much does it cost?
You might also be thinking that steel frames don’t lend themselves very well to being styled into aerodynamic shapes, and that’s a reasonable supposition. When you get to the pinnacle of cycle sport, where the difference between winning and losing is a matter of seconds (or fractions thereof), it’s no contest. But for most of us, it’s that great big non-aero lump sitting on the saddle (ie you) that has by far the greatest influence on air resistance at speed. And the latest thinking about aerodynamics is that it’s worth compromising to ensure that the rider is comfortable and able to ride at full power for longer – and a Roberts steel frame will always be designed from first principles to ensure that the rider is able to ride efficiently and comfortably all day long.
We also get a lot of people asking why Chas doesn't have a full-suspension mountain bike in the model range. At Roberts Cycles we’re still not satisfied by the performance and engineering of such bikes. And, as the current technology stands, steel isn't ideal material for the demands of suspension design. So, for the time being we're sticking to what we know best - building one of the finest custom hardtails you can buy.
Roberts Cycles, 89 Gloucester Road, Croydon, Surrey CR0 2DN, England
Tel: +44 (0)20 8684 3370
PRIMER - Why Steel?