Saying “steel is real” is annoying. Riding a steel race bike isn’t.

This post is the first in a short series about our staff and the bikes they ride and love. Stop by the shop so we can pass this joy onto you!

My first three “real” bikes were all steel, from a Shogun that got torn down within days to a Fiorelli Italian race bike with an ovalized headtube to a Reynolds 853 Lemond Zurich that got sold in a move. All individually and increasingly great.

From there came the appeal of light-weight aluminum bikes. I have spent the last 10,000 miles on one of three aluminum bikes. When I talk about aluminum to people learning about frame materials, I use the reference to aluminum baseball bats and their twannngggg, but in reality the frames ride very well. If every bike out there had an aluminum frame, there would be no comparisons and no complaints.

Fast forward to today’s updated needs: a skinny-tire bike that can take me hundreds of miles or around a criterium course, along with everything in between. Carbon is the obvious choice, and I eliminated aluminum from my materials palette because I was ready to try a new feel. We sell some fantastic carbon and aluminum road bikes and certain choices are obvious; the Giant TCR, Masi Evoluzione, or even the Kona Zing.

I have ridden and truly enjoy all of the above bikes, but my mind kept wandering to something steel. Voices in the shop were encouraging, but prefaced their comments with “why don’t you just get X Carbon Bike?” Late nights on the LCD queen brought me to some steel race frames within my reach. The Soma Smoothie kept floating to the top. There were not a huge number of reviews or testimonials online, but the geometry sheet and specs seemed to fit: frame ordered.

The frame arrived at the shop in a beautiful, almost pearlescent, off-white coating, just taunting me to clothe it in some components. With a set of Ultegra components from a great friend and co-worker and some hours in the shop, the bike was ready to ride.

soma

Shaken down, the classic steel statements started to come to mind, but one sensation surprised me. When I put some muscle into the crank the response was direct, powerful, and alive. I don’t need to jump into the age-old frame materials debate, but the steel frame just seems to accentuate everything around it. I find myself looking for compression cracks in the road and culvert dips to see how it responds with 700c/23 tires, and I remain impressed.

What I’m realizing from helping customers and buying for myself is: resist the hype of materials and pressures of bike mags. My favorite line is “the right bike for you is the bike that feels the best when you’re riding it.” Here at the shop, we can help you find a similar true-love bike experience.

-Parker, June 2012

3 responses to “Saying “steel is real” is annoying. Riding a steel race bike isn’t.”

  1. Okella says:

    I agree. I make motorized bikes and almost everytime there is a failure it is because the component was not steel. I think I have found a decent one in (dont dismiss me please) Walmart. Only reason I choose them is price. I assembled the bike so there wasnt worry of poor assembly. Cheers to you guys and the store.

  2. Todd says:

    Been riding MTB XC2 and CX3 for many seasons. found this site I’m about to ride my first crit on a 54cm Smoothie next weekend, searching to confirm if this is sane. Built up it’s 18.5 lbs. Heavy compared to my 16+ lb. cross bike but the wheels are light so the rotational mass is low. Hope I don’t embarrass myself.

    • Craig says:

      Todd,

      I think you’ll do just fine in the crit – the Smoothie is a great bike. If it’s a beginner-level crit, I’m sure you won’t be the only one riding a steel bike there!

      Craig

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