Steel Is Real: 12 Steel Bikes You Should Know

Bikes have been made from steel for over 100 years. For some, it's the only frame material worth riding. If you want to feel for yourself why "steel is real," then these are the bikes you need to ride.

Steel Is Real: 12 Steel Bikes You Should Know

Written by
Bruce Lin

Published on

Posted in
Bikes

Why are steel bikes so good? For the “steel is real” crowd, the ride quality, durability, and looks simply can’t be beaten. It damps vibration and increases comfort. It can survive the worst abuse and be repaired when damaged. And aesthetically, the classic skinny steel tubes just look right. You have to ride steel to understand. 

If you’re feeling steel-curious, you don’t need to drop big bucks and wait months for a bespoke, handmade frame to experience the joy of a steel bike. There are plenty of great, affordable options available now. I’ve picked out some of my favorite steel road, gravel, and mountain bikes from our inventory that will ride well and last a lifetime. 

[button]Shop steel bikes[/button]

Best Steel Road Bikes

Ritchey Road Logic - $2,749.99

Ritchey Road logic

[product-block handle="ritchey-road-logic-m"/]

The nimble, stiff, and comfortable Road Logic epitomizes how a steel road bike should ride. The timeless design comes from Tom Ritchey, a framebuilding legend who designed and built some of the first mountain bike frames and components. The Road Logic features a heat-treated, triple-butted Ritchey Logic steel with a straight headtube and aggressively short-butted sections optimized for TIG welding to save weight and improve ride quality.

Casati Espresso XCR - $3,849.99

Casati Espresso XCR

[product-block handle="2020-casati-espresso-xcr-l"/]

Do you dream of owning a classic steel Italian bike, but don’t want a clapped-out vintage frame? Casati has been building bikes for as long as many of its compatriots, but it’s remained loyal to steel. This Casati Espresso XCR is not only beautiful, but it’s also shockingly affordable. For the price, you get a frame handbuilt in Italy using Columbus Spirit tubing that looks absolutely stunning with simple light blue paint and clear coated stays. 

Pegoretti Round - $6,999.99

Pegoretti Round

[product-block handle="2022-pegoretti-round-m"/]

I’ve always loved Dario Pegoretti’s work, and even though this 2022 Round wasn’t built by the master himself (he passed in 2018), it carries on his spirit. The Round is Pegoretti’s latest frame, made from stainless steel Columbus XCR tubing with 3D printed stainless steel dropouts. It’s named in honor of Dario Pegoretti’s “sign-off handle” and has a “Texas Flood” paint-job inspired by Dario’s love for Stevie Ray Vaughan and the city of Austin, Texas.

Fairdale Weekender Nomad - $2,499.99

Fairdale Weekender

[product-block handle="2018-fairdale-weekender-nomad-l"/]

Fairdale lives by the motto, “Keepin’ it simple keeps it fun,” and its comfortable and sturdy Weekender Nomad touring bike exemplifies this. It uses a simple and reliable 1x drivetrain and mechanical disc brakes, and it has clearance for higher-volume tires so you can play on and off-road. With fender and rack mounts, it won't bat an eye at being loaded up with racks and bags for daily commuting or long-distance adventures.  

[button]Shop steel road bikes[/button]

[newsletter]

Best Steel Gravel Bikes

Ritchey Swiss Cross - $3,349.99

Ritchey Swiss Cross

[product-block handle="2021-ritchey-swiss-cross-m"/]

Ritchey again! Of course, I had to include Ritchey’s most iconic bike, the Swiss Cross. It gets its name from Swiss cyclocross and mountain bike legend Thomas Frischknecht. It’s a no-holds-barred race machine that has won numerous cyclocross races under Frischi. But it can do so much more. The modern version features 12mm thru-axles, flat-mount brakes, and higher-volume tire clearance, so it’s ready to rip it up in gravel races too.

Niner RLT 9 Steel - $2,899.99

Niner RLT 9 Steel

[product-block handle="2017-niner-rlt-9-steel-m-3"/]

Niner offers the carbon RLT 9 for racers but decided to design a steel version for “purists” who are after classic aesthetics and a more supple ride feel. It’s made for all-day adventures with stable geometry, lots of mounts for gear, and clearance for massive 700c x 50mm tires. The RLT 9 Steel is built using air-hardened Reynolds 853 steel, which is thinner and lighter than most steel without sacrificing strength.

Bombtrack Hook - $3,475.27

Bombtrack hook

[product-block handle="bombtrack-hook-bike-l-black-purple"/]

Bombtrack comes from the rough and tumble world of BMX, so they understand how to make tough frames that last. Bombtrack actually has a massive selection of steel bikes, and the Hook is its “classic” gravel option using 700C tires. It’s comfortable and easily adaptable, with direct mounts for a top tube bag, three bottle cage mounts, and rack and fender mounts. Load it up or leave it stripped down for faster group rides and races. 

Specialized Sequoia Expert - $2,849.99

Specialized Sequoia

[product-block handle="2018-specialized-sequoia-expert-l"/]

The original Sequoia was actually the first bike Specialized ever produced, debuting in 1974 as a touring bike. It disappeared but made a surprise comeback in 2016 as a steel gravel bike. The frame uses Specialized’s premium cro-moly tubing and ultra-thin seat stays to maximize compliance. Compared to Specialized’s flagship Diverge gravel bike, it offers more durability, comfort, and cargo capacity to satisfy adventurers taking on massive gravel epics.  

[button]Shop steel gravel bikes[/button]

Steel Hardtail Mountain Bikes

Kona Honzo ST - $2,799.99

Kona Honza St

[product-block handle="2020-kona-honzo-st-l-2"/]

I wrote the Kona Honzo a love letter on Valentine’s Day because it’s one of the bikes I regret selling the most. It’s a basic steel trail hardtail, and though it’s not exceptional at any one thing, riders like me love it because it’s pretty good at almost everything. Run it with a lightweight 120mm fork for XC races or a burly 150mm fork for enduro. If you want to go singlespeed, the sliding dropouts let you do that too! 

Canfield Nimble 9 - $3,399.99

Canfield Nimble 9

[product-block handle="canfield-nimble-9-l"/]

Canfield’s Nimble 9 is the original all-mountain hardtail. When it debuted over ten years ago, few bike builders were making steel hardtails with big forks designed to shred. It’s now in its fifth generation and still handcrafted in small batches with burly 4130 steel and sliding dropouts. It’s super versatile, compatible with 140-160mm forks, singlespeed or geared set-ups, and 29”, 29-plus, or 27.5-plus wheels with up to 2.8-inch tires.

RSD Middlechild V2 - $2,999.99

RSD Middlechild V2

[product-block handle="2021-unknown-rsd-middlechild-chromoly-m"/]

Born and bred in Toronto, RSD Bikes has been all about hardtail mountain bikes from day one. Models like the Middlechild are designed and built to survive the gnarly rock-strewn trails found in Ontario and British Columbia, so you know it’s ready to take a serious beating. With a slack 64.1-degree head angle, long reach, and a 140mm fork, the Middlechild is the epitome of the downhill-friendly “hardcore hardtail.”

Marin El Roy - $2,599.99

Marin El Roy

[product-block handle="2021-marin-el-roy-l "/]

Marin bikes come from Marin County, California, the birthplace of mountain biking, and it’s experienced a bit of a revival with the release of several new and innovative mountain bike models. If the RSD Middlechild is hardcore, then the Marin El Roy is death metal. It pushes the envelope with a wild 63-degree head angle and 78-degree seat angle. Paired with its 140mm fork, it will give you the confidence to send it down the steepest downhill tracks. 

[button]Shop steel mountain bikes[/button]

More from Bikes

  • The Most (and Least) Valuable Tour de France Bikes
    The Most (and Least) Valuable Tour de France Bikes
    Bikes

    The Most (and Least) Valuable Tour de France Bikes

  • 2022 Santa Cruz Hightower 3 Review: The Highs and Lows
    2022 Santa Cruz Hightower 3 Review: The Highs and Lows
    Bikes

    2022 Santa Cruz Hightower 3 Review: The Highs and Lows

  • Why I Bought a 2022 Specialized Crux
    Why I Bought a 2022 Specialized Crux
    Bikes

    Why I Bought a 2022 Specialized Crux

  • Trail Ready: The Best Beginner Mountain Bikes
    Beginner Mountain bikes
    Bikes

    Trail Ready: The Best Beginner Mountain Bikes

  • Orbea Occam LT Review: I'm Sold on Coil Shocks
    Orbea Occam LT review
    Bikes

    Orbea Occam LT Review: I'm Sold on Coil Shocks

  • Inside the Certified Pre-Owned bike process
    Mechanic working on a bike at The Pro's Closet
    Bikes

    Inside the Certified Pre-Owned bike process

  • Why I Bought a Cielo Sportif Classic
    Cielo Sportif Classic
    Bikes

    Why I Bought a Cielo Sportif Classic

  • Top 11 Bikes in the Memorial Day Drop
    Top 11 Bikes in the Memorial Day Drop
    Bikes

    Top 11 Bikes in the Memorial Day Drop

  • Race to Summer: Kick-Start Your Dream MTB Build
    Race to Summer: Kick-Start Your Dream MTB Build
    Bikes

    Race to Summer: Kick-Start Your Dream MTB Build

  • Santa Cruz Showdown: 2020 Hightower vs. 2017 Hightower
    Santa Cruz Showdown: 2020 Hightower vs. 2017 Hightower
    Bikes

    Santa Cruz Showdown: 2020 Hightower vs. 2017 Hightower

  • Race to Summer: Kick-Start Your Dream Road Build
    Race to Summer: Kick Start Your Dream Road Build
    Bikes

    Race to Summer: Kick-Start Your Dream Road Build

New Arrivals

SHOP BIKES

Newsletter Sign Up