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Best steel bike maker

Old 06-09-21, 11:00 AM
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Jburrow
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Best steel bike maker

Hello all!

just quickly put: I have a budget of up to $4k. I am looking for a bike to do 60-70% road and 30-40% gravel/trail. I will be doing centuries, charity rides, some gravel events, and club rides on the road mostly.

I am looking for something comfy, light, and able to tackle the road and gravel.

I have looked heavily into CF, and my LbS is a giant dealer. The revolt/defy is an option. However, I have lately been introduced into the world of modern steel bikes. For the price bracket, I can get a steel bike at same weight, or even lighter, than the Giant with the wonderful qualities of steel. This would be my one bike to rule them all so to speak.

so far, I have come across speedvagen, ritte, all-city, salsa, Rodriguez, breadwinner. I want something strong, comfy, light, and able to be ridden with gusto.

where else should I look? I am new to the world of steel bikes, and it is a huge world.
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Old 06-09-21, 11:21 AM
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seypat
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I hate to put a damper on things, but now is not the best time to be buying anything steel related. I work in a steel related industry. We've been getting price increases at the rate of 1 per month since the start of the year. On average, the increases are around 10%. There have been 2 at 25%. The letters received earlier this week has another one at the end of the month at 13%. There are also backorder issues in the 3-5 month range as well as allocation requirements. If you have something now you can ride, do that or buy something used locally. Put your new purchase off for a year. It's doubtful you could get a binding quote that would be good for a week or more. It's that bad at the moment.
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Old 06-09-21, 11:26 AM
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Niner makes an 853 steel gravel bike.
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Old 06-09-21, 11:33 AM
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Originally Posted by seypat View Post
I hate to put a damper on things, but now is not the best time to be buying anything steel related. I work in a steel related industry. We've been getting price increases at the rate of 1 per month since the start of the year. On average, the increases are around 10%. There have been 2 at 25%. The letters received earlier this week has another one at the end of the month at 13%. There are also backorder issues in the 3-5 month range as well as allocation requirements. If you have something now you can ride, do that or buy something used locally. Put your new purchase off for a year. It's doubtful you could get a binding quote that would be good for a week or more. It's that bad at the moment.
thank you for the reply and your willingness to be open. The purchase will be made next year regardless due to other fiscal obligations on my end. That said, I am completely in the dark on where to look for a good bike with my budget in steel that is light, “zippy,” and comfy for fast group rides, climbing, and gravel events.
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Old 06-09-21, 11:34 AM
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Originally Posted by tyrion View Post
Niner makes an 853 steel gravel bike.
I will take a look. I know absolutely nothing about Niner really.
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Old 06-09-21, 11:39 AM
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Depending on your location I'm willing to bet there's a local person making steel bikes. We have one in my small/medium sized city (Elephant Bikes) and you can often get custom geometry that way as well. And source your own groupset and wheels for a true custom build.

Good luck!
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Old 06-09-21, 11:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Jburrow View Post
I will take a look. I know absolutely nothing about Niner really.
There are dozens of good steel bike sources. I just threw that one out there. Most important thing is fit.
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Old 06-09-21, 12:00 PM
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There are dozens of very good steel frame makers sprinkled all across the country. It would be good to find a reliable builder with a good rep close enough to where you live so you can visit, get measured and in general talk bikes with them. If you're going with a custom build, you want to find someone you feel comfortable working with and who will incorporate what you need into a bike they can build.

If there isn't someone close, or you live in the Pacific Northwest, I'd look closely at Rodriguez (rodbikes.com). They make some real beauties. I've talked with them several times about a custom tandem, but haven't yet gotten up the nerve to pull the trigger. Maybe you have more nerve than me!
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Old 06-09-21, 01:24 PM
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Start here. (But read the entire thread, as there are running updates to the list since it was started 9 years ago.)
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Old 06-09-21, 01:33 PM
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AliExpress has numerous builders of steel bike listed included 853 frame sets for great prices.
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Old 06-09-21, 02:08 PM
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Wonderful qualities of steel?

Wondering what those might be…

Ooh, I got one: steel sets off the traffic light sensors.
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Old 06-09-21, 02:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Atlas Shrugged View Post
AliExpress has numerous builders of steel bike listed included 853 frame sets for great prices.
Yeah, I'd trust a frame from Ali.
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Old 06-09-21, 03:10 PM
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Independent Fabrication - Custom Bicycles. Handmade in the USA. - Home
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Old 06-09-21, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by cxwrench View Post
Yeah, I'd trust a frame from Ali.
Sure why not. A lot of the knock off stuff is crap however the leading builders are excellent and build for numerous brands, where do you think Niner gets their frames? There is no magic around building a frame once you have the tooling and jigs; take a look at the frame builder subforum. A good friend has a Waltly titanium and it is just as good as any Lynskey and just as reliable.
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Old 06-09-21, 03:21 PM
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Ritchy Logic makes well-respected steel frames if you don't want to go custom. If you do want custom, then I echo the suggestions of working with someone local to get fitted in person. If you want to get inspired by images of custom steel and get ideas, you can browse the image galleries here: https://forums.thepaceline.net/forumdisplay.php?f=14
and here:
https://www.velocipedesalon.com/forum/f11/

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Old 06-09-21, 03:21 PM
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why new?
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Old 06-09-21, 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse View Post
Wonderful qualities of steel?

Wondering what those might be…

Ooh, I got one: steel sets off the traffic light sensors.
Haven’t you heard? Steel is real.
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Old 06-09-21, 04:08 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse View Post
Wonderful qualities of steel?

Wondering what those might be…

Ooh, I got one: steel sets off the traffic light sensors.
You can use magnets to hold your map down.
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Old 06-09-21, 04:10 PM
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When it comes to bike frames, steel is a very mature technology - so, there is no "best" builder. Rather, there are lots and lots of equally good builders.

Oh, and if you think you're getting a Speedvagen with a $4k budget, I've got news for you.
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Old 06-09-21, 04:16 PM
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Norco makes new steel frame (Reynolds 725) gravel bikes at reasonable prices; https://www.norco.com/bikes/2021/roa.../search-xr-s1/
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Old 06-09-21, 04:49 PM
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Originally Posted by hose View Post
why new?
Why not new?
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Old 06-09-21, 06:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Jburrow View Post
I have a budget of up to $4k.
Is that $4k for the frame, or $4k for a complete bike? The answer will require you look at drastically different makers.
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Old 06-09-21, 06:21 PM
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Old 06-09-21, 07:26 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse View Post
Wonderful qualities of steel?

Wondering what those might be…

Ooh, I got one: steel sets off the traffic light sensors.
Let’s see... if the bike tips over and gets a little nick or ding, it usually won’t render the whole thing unsafe, requiring you to either scrap it or spend hundreds of dollars for the repair. So there’s that.
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Old 06-09-21, 07:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Jburrow View Post
just quickly put: I have a budget of up to $4k. I am looking for a bike to do 60-70% road and 30-40% gravel/trail. I will be doing centuries, charity rides, some gravel events, and club rides on the road mostly.
...
so far, I have come across speedvagen, ritte, all-city, salsa, Rodriguez, breadwinner. I want something strong, comfy, light, and able to be ridden with gusto.

where else should I look? I am new to the world of steel bikes, and it is a huge world.
First off, there is no best steel frame maker. There are a ton of incredible custom builders and plenty of great stock manufactured options.

As asked already, is it $4k for a frame or $4k for a full bike? That alone will determine if you go custom or standard manufactured stock.

- Custom will give you a lighter frame since it won't have to pass fatigue testing that stock manufactured frames must pass.
- Stock manufactured will be less expensive.

After you figure if you are going custom or stock manufactured, then you need to find a frame that has the geometry that you like.
Posters can list all sorts of options, but if you like a quick turning bike then a bunch of slower high trail suggestions don't help.
Part of geometry will be tire clearance. It sounds like you will want a 35-42mm tire clearance, but that's a guess.

Norco Search 725
Kona Rove LTD
Ribble CGR 725
Breadwinner
Ritchey Road Logic
Ritchey Swiss Cross
Brother Cycles
Fairlight Secan
Fairlight Strael
All City Zigzag
All City Cosmic Stallion
Jamis Renegade
Mason Resolution
Condor Bivio Gravel
Etc etc.

A stock manufactured gravel steel frame will not be light, even if it's an 853 frame or something similar. It will be overbuilt because it has to be in order to pass fatigue testing.

If I were to go custom, I would start with Breadwinner. I would also then look at local builders in my region. There are a lot, you just need to Google around.

If you go stock manufactured and want road bike clearance the Ritchey Road Logic, All City Zigzag, and Fairlight Strael would be where I would start as all are quality and have different geometries.

If you want stock manufactured gravel tire clearance then Fairlight Secan, Jamis Renegade, and Ritchey Swiss Cross would be four great ones to start with since all are high quality and geometry will vary.

Last edited by mstateglfr; 06-09-21 at 07:42 PM.
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