Home // Biking // Switching to Steel

Switching to Steel

Steel is Real

Steel is real. This is the battle cry of a lot of bikers who feel that bike manufacturers have been making bike frames that are way too complicated and expensive. Seems like it wasn’t too long ago when steel was the bike maker’s metal of choice. Nowadays though, steel bikes have become as rare as a competent and uncorrupted Pinoy politician, which is kinda sad because steel is such an excellent material for building bikes.

I had been looking to switch to a steel frame since late last year. While I love my aluminum Venzo, I just felt that I already needed something sturdier. The Venzo was a great lightweight alloy frame that helped me nab respectable finishes in duathlons and XC races. But it just didn’t seem like a well-suited weapon for fast descents on rock gardens and technical trails, which I found myself riding more and more often. I was longing for that strange alchemy of toughness and suppleness that could only come from that bastard spawn of carbon and iron more popularly known as (you guessed it) steel!

A beautiful steel all-mountain bike

A beautiful steel all-mountain bike

I lusted after the Niner Ros 9. This beautiful frame seemed like the perfect match for my riding style that was quickly gravitating (pun intended) to the more gonzo end of the spectrum. But the Niner Ros was sadly beyond my budget. The only way I could afford it was if I built an overpriced school building and skimmed off the tongpats. But since I’ll never be mayor of some rich city, I’ll have to file the Ros 9 under “Bikes I’ll Buy When I Get Filthy Stinking Rich.”

Ragley Big Wig

This thing looks like it can handle the Cordilleras

The Ragley Bigwig was another candidate, but I couldn’t find a shop that sold it. And even if I did, I don’t think I could have afforded it either. Actually I could have afforded it if I just dropped beer from my daily diet… but what kind of life would that be?

Stanton Sherpa 29er

Green and brawny like The Hulk

I also dreamed of owning the Stanton Sherpa 29er. This was a fantastic-looking frame. But like the Ros, the Stanton Sherpa was just too expensive for a penny-pinching tightwad like me.

So tough it can take on Wawa even without a suspension fork. Photo courtesy of Jeff Isabelo

So tough it can take on Wawa even without a suspension fork. Photo courtesy of Jeff Isabelo

My last option was the On One Inbred 29er. A few friends had already tried this popular steel frame, and they swear by its excellent ride quality. More importantly, it was also quite affordable at around 14-16k.

I was already planning on purchasing this frame when I dropped by Raven Cycles along Malingap St. in Sikatuna Village and saw an apparition of a steel frame that I thought was already sold out years ago.

steel-29er-mtb-1

Scarred by fires of Valyria, the La Bici Steel 29er raw smoked edition

Behold the La Bici Raw Smoked 29er! I immediately reserved the frame and went back two weeks later to buy it. At just 17k, I knew it was a real steal (yeah I like puns, got a problem with that?)

This steel frame just screams badass. It’s got burn patterns that emanate an aura of post-apocalyptic Terminator toughness that scream: Hasta La Vista, Babeh! If Daryl Dixon of The Walking Dead was gonna ride a mountain bike, this would probably be his frame of choice. I could go on and on and on about how angas it looks, but you already get the point. I quickly ported all of my bike components into this frame.

La Bici Steel 29er

La Bici Teel 29er

steel-29er-mtb-6

Now, the you may ask: do the looks live up to the ride? The short and sweet answer is: Oh. Hell. Yeah.

I tried it at Timberland’s Blue Zone and the frame did not disappoint. It certainly made me more confident in tackling the technical sections. Where my old alloy frame left me rattled, the new steel frame just plowed through the rough stuff like Brock Lesnar through Frank Mir. Make no mistake about it, this beast is a brawler, and just the right kind of frame for my needs right now.

You may also ask: what’s the difference between steel and alloy frames? Bikers who have tried steel frames will say that steel gives a much more comfortable ride than aluminum. Some will even say that steel is supple and pleasant while aluminum is harsh and jarring. Mas masarap sakyan, they’ll swear.

My favorite biking nerd Sheldon Brown however says this may all just be an illusion and that tires, tire pressure, wheel choice, and frame geometry are more important factors in determining how comfortable a ride is.

La Bici Steel 29er Raw Smoked

This steel bike is a lot of fun to ride

What do I think? I may be suffering from a psychosomatic addict insane placebo effect, but riding my steel bike does feel comfier. It’s noticeable on small bumps, and it’s even noticeable on technical trails. Advocates of steel will say that the metal has excellent damping properties, and I have to concede that they may be on to something. I also like the idea of having a bike frame that will bend before it breaks.

What about the weight? My bike is over 30 pounds now, or over 2 pounds heavier now than before. But that’s okay. I’m not a weight weenie. I can afford the extra weight since I’m carrying very little anyway. I’m 5’9 and weigh in at 68 kilos or roughly 150 pounds–a lightweight by MMA standards. Better to have a light rider on a modestly heavy bike than a heavy rider on a very light bike, right?

La Bici Steel 29er

Steel shrugs off bumps

So I may not win XC races with this rig, or break records on Strava and Endomondo, but this steel frame raises the fun factor so much that I don’t really care.

Some may ask: If you’re so concerned about getting rattled, why not get a full suspension bike instead? They have a point, and I was also thinking about getting a fullsus frame. On really technical trails like Mt. Balagbag, or Bobok Bisal, a squishy bike would be ideal.

La Bici Steel 29er

The bike is kinda heavy though, which means I may need to invest in some weight weenie parts

But while I do wish that I could ride those awesome guh-nahrl-eeey trails (seriously, may conyo bang gumagamit ng salitang yan sa Pinas?) every waking day of the week, the fact is I don’t get to ride those trails that often. My home trails are Timberland and Antenna. And as much as I love going fast downhill, I also love challenging myself on Shotgun, The Wall, and Antenna. Nothing beats a hardtail 29er on those climbs. So the best option for me was a steel 29er hardtail.

Now, I just need to get wider rims, wider bars, and a 120mm fork and this project bike is finished.

So what do I do now with my beloved Venzo which has been my faithful steed from Batanes to Balagbag to Bobok-Bisal? I’m thinking of turning her into a commuter and adventure bike. The Venzo’s light weight will be great for epic pavement and light trail rides.

Biking Batanes

This bike has been to a lot of places, but Batanes beats em all

Yeah, I know that titanium is still the metal to beat when it comes to plushness, weightlessness, and bulletproofness. But scientists have recently come up with a new type of steel that may soon make titanium obsolete, at least for bikes. Steel is Real!

Posted in Biking, Gear and tagged as , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

42 Comments

  • Hi Sir!

    I can’t help but notice one picture
    “steel-29er-mtb-6” to be exact..

    Is that a normal attachment or converter for that frame?
    or can that be bought somewhere?
    (pointing at DISC BRAKE mount)

    I have a full-sus Giant frame that doesn’t have a DISC-BRAKE mount in the rear..
    My frame is also full steel. “Steel is real” hihihi

    If that converter can be bought somewhere?
    I beggg you please tell me where!!!
    If not, are there ways still to allow my frame to accommodate a disc-brake set-up? :D

    Thank you again! Ride safe!! :D

    • outsideslacker

      March 13, 2015 at 9:25 pm

      hey bro, that came with the frame, it’s a converter for people who want to turn the bike into a singlespeeder. but if you want a disc brake adaptor for your frame, try contacting celestino yambao cruz–the guy who runs the “bike enhancer” fb group. he might be able to help you

      • oh I see!! That’s a good buy of a frame then. :D hehe
        I think I may want that frame as well. hahah
        But apparently my back can’t handle a hard-tail setup. :(

        Thank you very much for the info! Lot of help!
        Will check that out.

        see you!

        • outsideslacker

          March 14, 2015 at 2:59 pm

          thanks for visiting the site too. i think sold out na yung la bici raw smoked version, but there are still la bici steel frames out there which are in gray and blue :) ok rin sya as a commuter bike

  • Steel ako before.. mula sa ’79 Shimano Mini Racer na pamana ni Tatay hanggang sa aking Apache 24″ MTB at 26″ Supermarket Bike… And I can say, ibang-iba talaga sya sa Aluminum… Never sumasakit ang katawan ko sa steel frames kahit na naka-full rigid ako at nag-te-trail… unlike sa Chucker ko ngayon… yung lang mabigat lang talaga ang steel at (sa panahon ngayon) mas mahal…

    • outsideslacker

      March 13, 2015 at 9:31 pm

      weird nga na mas mahal ang steel ngayon kesa aluminum. i remember my first road bike was chromoly, and it was considered “low-end” back then amid the trendy but expensive aluminum frames. baliktad na ngayon :p

  • Sa susunod siguro ishare mo din kung pano mo inaalagaan ang bago mong steel frame. :D

  • russell valdez

    March 23, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    sir, ang ganda talaga ng raw na labici mo. kaya nga nung nakita ko nung sat papunta timberland alam ko ikaw yun sir kasi napaka rare na nyan ngayon. ako yung kausap mo dun sir. pa-share na lang pano mo maintain ang steel frame mo. nice bike sir!

    • outsideslacker

      March 23, 2015 at 1:35 pm

      hi russell, pasensya na at nagmamadali ako last sat. hinahabol ko yung mga kasamahan ko sa wawa ride eh. so far wala pa naman special maintenance na ginagawa ako sa steel frame ko. i just oil it after washing the grime off the bike. durable naman ang chromoly at hindi sya basta basta kinakalawang. i owned a chromoly road bike din dati, and i had no issues with rust :)

      • russell valdez

        March 23, 2015 at 2:56 pm

        no problem sir. share ko lang sir sabi sa akin ng bike mechanic namin paminsan minsan tanggalin natin yung seatpost and oil ng konti yung post. kasi pag lage daw nababasa pahirapan daw maluwagan yung bolt nya.

      • russell valdez

        March 23, 2015 at 3:09 pm

        sorry sir na-doble reply kala ko di pumasok..hehe

  • curious lang ako.trend naba ngaun sir ung steel bike frame for mtb?

    • outsideslacker

      March 25, 2015 at 4:47 pm

      i don’t think so. mas marami pa rin ang aluminum bikes ngayon, and most bike manufacturers aren’t even putting out steel bikes. sayang nga eh

      • but why shift from aluminum to steel bike frame sir?
        para ba maiba naman or astig na ngaun pag steel bike na high end. based kasi sa post mo parang maganda nga steel bike frame

        • outsideslacker

          March 26, 2015 at 1:22 pm

          hi kim, aluminum is a great material for racing applications. kung gusto mo magkarera, ok ang aluminum because it’s stiff and light. for adventure biking, steel is better because the ride is much softer, mabigat nga lang sya generally. pero may mga steel bikes na rin ngayon na magaang. the ritchey logic frames come to mind

  • Hello, I am new to the MTB scene, and I would like to have a steel MTB for my first bike. What frame can you recommend? I have hard time finding steel frames here in ph. Thanks, would highly appreciate as many suggestions as possible =)

    • outsideslacker

      March 26, 2015 at 1:20 pm

      hi rv, please check if there are still stocks of niner ros9 at grantrail cycles. you can also check cartimar pasay and the quiapo stores. if that’s beyond your budget, you can shop around for the on one inbred, on one 456 evo which are cheaper. you can also try looking for la bici steel frames which are also affordable and good.

      • Sir if you dont mind me asking, as far as I know, Sabak sport, all terra, 777 bike hub sell on one frames, but as of now wala silang mga stock, do you know any other shops that sell them? and ano po difference ng 45650B and 456 evo 2? 27.5er and the latter 26er? and lastly (pasensya na=) ) you know any shops that sells La bici frames? Thank you very much, sensya na talaga =)

        • outsideslacker

          March 30, 2015 at 1:14 pm

          hi rv, no prob. sorry sa late reply. been very busy. the difference sa 4560b and 456 evo, as you’ve guessed is that the 650b is for 27.5 inch wheels. last i checked may la bici frames pa sa john wilkie bike shops sa concepcion

  • good pm sir? san po retailer ng stanton sherpa if may alam ka? mahal kasi niner ros 9 48k sa gran trail alabang. my other option is fireeye flame but the color and design is not my type. any suggestion of retailers within metro manila? thank sa reply sir.

  • After reading your article and seeing the comments, I am beginning to appreciate my steel framed bike. :D

  • sir do u know where can i get chromoly frames nowadays hirap kc humanap ngaun ng LBS n meron? tnx

    • try mo sa quiapo bro. or hanap ka ng “on one inbred” magandang klaseng steel frame yun at affordable pa

  • Sir do you have any idea kung san made ang la bici frames? Salamat!

    • hi delapse, medyo luma na ang geometry ng bike na ito. hindi na compatible sa mga bagong suspension forks at di na rin compatible sa disc brakes. pero ok pa naman din to for road rides :)

      • yun nga sir e, kailangan ko pa gumamit ng stem adaptor para maikabit ko yung bagong style na stem at handlebars. hhehehe… na-upgrade ko na din sya sa suspension fork, pero mahinang klase lang, rides rides lang naman. magAssemble nlang ako ng pangTrail na MTB.

        SALAMAT sa info sir.

  • hi, your blog is a great site for mtb entusiasts esp newbies (i was once).

    I assembled my mtb in late 2014 but your guides on upgrade path rather helped me to be a better buyer by being well-informed as to what is a sensible part purchase based on my budget in good ratio to performance closely fit to what I need.

    In full appreciation, Thank you, sir!

    PS: where do you find LA BICI frames?

    I do not find LA Bici frames in their official site in taiwan, nor in their european partnership with frame makers.

    They are known for bike parts, but couldnt find any single frame made by them from their official site, or in any promotional magazine elsewhere.

    I ask coz a friend of mine is considering a la bici steel frame too.

    Thank you again, and more power to your interesting and helpful blogs :-)

    • hi ricky, la bici frames are hard to come by since they don’t really manufacture a lot of them. nakuha ko lang to na tsamba sa bike shop malapit sa amin. if you want a steel frame, mas malaki chances na makakuha ka ng on one inbred. almost same price din naman sya. although lately, with so many bikers getting interested in switching to steel, mabilis din maubos stocks ng on one. you can also try looking for tutubi frames, local brand yan by the guy behind raven bikes. mukhang maganda rin at pwede pa sa 27+ tires

  • Sir di ka naman nagkaissue sa sliding dropouts na nagslislip dun sa may brake side?

  • ahahaha… Sorry sir, mali pala yung mahinang klase. Ibig kong sabihin mumurahing klase. ahahaha