Steel is Real
Those of us of a certain vintage have seen a lot of changes in cycling technology. Some of the changes have been small, e.g. wider tyre size, and some more major, such as Shimano’s integrated brake and gear levers which changed sprinting and climbing forever.
One change that is both major and minor is frame material. Frame material is integral to the soul of a bike, and can certainly make a big difference when racing. But frankly, if you’re not chasing milliseconds or Strava KOMs, you’re going to ride your bike the same regardless of what it’s made from.
Perhaps this explains why, in a world where friction shifting has disappeared, and rim brakes are endangered, steel bike frames remain popular.
Steel doesn’t win for stiffness. It doesn’t win for weight. It used to win for price but that’s debatable in a world of cheap mass-produced carbon. So why do we still see so many steel rigs, especially in gravel, bikepacking, and touring? Why do bikepackers obsess over weight-reduction and then opt for steel frames? BikeRadar recently reviewed a swag of steel road bikes and found no less than 11 fantastic steeds worth drooling over.
Because why? Because they are so damn comfortable, and sooo good-looking. They can be used in many ways, are easily repaired or adapted, usually support a more ethical craft-oriented industry and are increasingly the uber-comfortable go-to choice as people ride increasingly long and remote trips.
But why is a jersey maker waxing lyrical over steel framed bikes? Because the above paragraph could easily have been written about wool jerseys.
If you’re Ineos chasing incremental gains, you won’t wear wool. If you’re after something cheap and mass-produced, there’s plenty on AliExpress for you. If you’re happy to wear materials that are so poor at temperature moderation that you’ve become an expert on ‘layering’ (‘layering’ being the science of combining multiple inferior items to meet the standard of one decent item), then wool isn’t for you.
But you probably knew that, that’s why you’re reading this. Steel is real, and wool rules.
Posted: Sat 28 May 2022