From once being the primary material used for bikes, steel is now very much the boutique brand’s material of choice and it’s easy to understand why. While it might not make the lightest frames, it’s tough, easy to work with and the ride quality of a good steel bikes is superb. Skinny tubes and custom paint jobs are enough to get most riders hot under the collar too.
Going into 2021, we’re looking at our favourite steelies.
3300-3500 AUD Frameset
Donhou are a London based brand that work exclusively in steel and have won multiple awards from shows like Bespoked and the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. The DSS4 is the race orientated bike based around Colombus HSS tubing. It’s more aggressive that some of the other bikes in the range, but still retains all the little features that make it a standout bike for us including the custom bridge and those cable ports.
Oh, apart from being a beautiful bike, its also superb to ride.
4500 AUD Frameset
Another British boutique builder (there’s quite a few) hailing from the Yorkshire city of Sheffield – which is apt given it’s fame for steel. Field don’t have a “model” per se, there’s a base design which is completely customisable based on the what the buyer is after built from Reynolds 853 steel.
The level of options are pretty bewildering and the Field team also have access to some pretty awesome painters leading to some absolutely jaw dropping builds.
2400 AUD Frameset
Given the cachet of the brand now, it seems weird to think that Ritte started out as a fake race team for the founder to design some cool kits. A decade on and the brand is a firm boutique fixture and a known quantity in designing and build excellent bikes across materials.
The Snob is built from stainless and the classy paint jobs on offer show off classic cycling colours while still allowing for some of the raw stainless steel finish through. Again the Snob is a performance orientated machine so while the ride is more “comfortable” than a model like the Ace, this isn’t a bike for those after a sedate ride or who like to spend all day in an up right position.
5000 AUD Frameset
Another American brand with it’s finger firmly and marketing pulse and tongue firmly in cheek is Stoemper. Another Minneapolis based brand, Stoemper have been creating metal frames for the last decade and are fairly well known in Australia thanks to their close relationship with Attaquer and boutique stores like Enmore’s Wheelhaus. Taylor is the brand steel racing bike and having ridden a couple of them we can absolutely attest to the ride quality and finish – it’s just a great bike with classic good looks.
Stomeper also seems to have inspired many of it’s riders to do both drool worthy and wacky paint with their frames – their Instagram is well worth a look.
Curve Kevin of Steel III
4499 AUD Complete
Curve are a Melbourne based brand specialized in Steel and Titanium bikes an hand built carbon parts – including wheels. The Kevin of Steel is Curve’s steel all terrain machine, that can run both 650b and 700c a carbon fork and loads of mounting points for racks, panniers and cages.
You’ll pay a bit of a premium for Australian built metal, but the ride is an absolute grin and you’ll get a cockatoo on your head badge. Who doesn’t want that?
7250 AUD Frameset
Speaking of exotic Australian metal (thankfully not Airbourne), Baum are framebuilders based out of Geelong, Victoria and may well make the most expensive frame on this list. The itentions for the Ristresso are made very clear by the product page which says “there’s a reason weapons were made of steel” – it’s not some lazy commuter then.
The price comes from the build process – Baum don’t have any stock and all bikes are hand built to buyer specifications. In the case of the Ristresso, the bike is built up using a mix of tubes from Colombus, Dedacciai and Reynolds. There’s no discs here and with Baum’s understated approach to frame painting, the result is a beautiful, classic looking bike. We also love the ride, but make no mistake this is an aggressive bike!
All City Zig Zag
1750 AUD Frameset
All City are a frame builder based on Minneapolis and as you might have guessed from the paint job, the Zig Zig is their steel machine built for fun. The Zig Zag is now one of the oldest bikes in the All City lineup but has had an update in the last couple of years to incorporate modern quality of life features including disc brakes and wider tyres clearances.
It’s still an absolute hoot to ride and still has all the little features that has made it such a well loved bike, including that lovely headset collar. While it’s a road orientated machine, with the ability to take 30mm tyres you can also explore some of the back country too.
7200 AUD Frameset
Mosaic are another American metal only frame builder based Boulder Colorado. While the majority of their lineup is Ti, they do produce one pretty special steel bike called the RS-1 (Road Steel One). As with many of the bikes on this list, the RS-1 is unashamedly performance focused and like all Mosaic frames will be custom built to buyer specification using a mix of Columbus Spirit tubesets.
The price of the frame is astronomical, but then so is the ride and we think that the finish of Mosaic frames is some of the absolute best out there. If you can afford it, it’s an investment you’re going to treasure for years. A Mosaic also currently holds the KOM for the infamous Mt Baw Baw descent, so not only are they for those with deep pockets, they’re also for those that are slightly unhinged.
Genesis Croix De Fer
1750 – 5200 AUD Complete
The Croix De Fer (Iron Cross) is now one of the oldest bikes in the British brands line up, but has been thoroughly updated since the original model was ridden to world records back in 2009. The newest models feature carbon forks, clearance for 45mm tyres and the more expensive models feature full GRX groupsets.
While it’s been modernised, the soul of the bike remains the same – an absolutely bombproof workhorse and most at home on long adventures and on broken, muddy trails.
Ritchey Road Logic
2000-2500 AUD Frameset
Speaking of classics, we can’t have a steelie list without including the venerable model from the American brand. While there has been some updates to the Logic over the years – geometry tweaks, a frame with disc compatibility – the skinny head and tubes speak to the heritage of the 40 year old brand. While you can use it as a purely road bike, the Logic is best of an all rounded with clearance for 30c tyres for broken tarmac and light off road excursions.