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Steel Is Real: 13 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 some of the bikes you need to ride.

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. Steel provides a comfy and springy feel. It can survive the worst abuse and be repaired when damaged. And aesthetically, like a Greek statue, skinny steel tubes are just classically beautiful. If that doesn't sway you, then you might just 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. 

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Steel Road Bikes

Ritchey Road Logic

Ritchey Road Logic

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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.

All-City Zig Zag

All-City Zig Zag

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The Zig Zag is All-City’s take on a modern endurance road bike. It uses All-City A.C.E. (air-hardened, custom extruded) tubing which uses custom butted profiles and the thinnest walls possible to save weight and dial in the ride characteristics without sacrificing strength. With ample clearance for 35mm wide tires, it can even handle rough pavement and light gravel. Hidden fender mounts keep it looking sleek and racey, but add versatility and protection for when the weather turns.

Pegoretti Duende

Pegoretti Duende

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I’ve always loved Dario Pegoretti’s work, and even though this Duende wasn’t built by the master himself (he passed in 2018), it carries on his spirit. The Duende is made from oversized Columbus ZONA tubing and doesn't focus on stiffness as much as racier models like the Round, Mxxxxxo, or Responsorium. Instead, it's designed to be a comfortable all-day bike that does everything well. It's all capped off with one of Pegoretti's beautiful trademark custom paint schemes. 

Standert Triebwerk Disc Limited Edition

Standert Triebwerk Disc

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Looking for something super unique but don't want to pay a premium? Standert is the answer. Based in Berlin, this German brand specializes in steel (and aluminum) bikes that "bridge the gap" between bespoke and mass-produced bikes. The Triebwerk Disc is an endurance road frame built for "real road riding" with Columbus Select tubing and comfy geometry. The paint is inspired by Berlin's culture, fashion, sneakers, and streetwear and bold color schemes like this have become part of Standert's signature aesthetic. 

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Steel Gravel Bikes

All-City Cosmic Stallion

All-City Cosmic Stallion

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All-City again! All-City is one of the most popular steel brands in the US, so of course they have lots of models to handle every style of riding. The Cosmic Stallion is All-City’s lightest and most performance-oriented gravel bike made for chasing PRs during training and podiums on race day. It uses the same lightweight A.C.E. tubing as the Zig Zag so it moves fast both on and off-road, but thanks to the stable geo, it really shines when the terrain gets rough.

Niner RLT 9 Steel

Niner RLT 9 Steel

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Niner offers the carbon RLT 9 for weight-concious racers, but decided to design a steel version for “purists” who are after a more lively ride feel, maximum durability, and classic aesthetics. 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

Bombtrack hook

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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. 

Ritte The Satyr

Ritte the Satyr

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Ritte has been building bikes for just over a decade and it's been gaining popularity fast thanks to its beautiful and striking bikes. The Satyr is designed for pure fun, with clearance for 700c x 50mm tires and geometry influenced by Tom Kellogg’s years of experience building championship winning frames. With Reynolds 725 tubing, it has the feel of high-end custom steel without the high-end price tag. 

Specialized Sequoia Expert 

Specialized Sequoia

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The original Sequoia was actually the first bike Specialized ever produced, debuting in 1974 as a touring bike. It then came back 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. Unfortunately, it's been discontinued so it can only be found used (for now).   

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Steel Mountain Bikes

Kona Honzo ST

Kona Honza St

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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 adventures or a burly 150mm fork for enduro riding. If you want to go singlespeed, the sliding dropouts let you do that too! 

Canfield Nimble 9

Canfield Nimble 9

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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.

Orange P7

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The brand from Britain might be best known for its aesthetically divisive single-pivot full-suspension bikes, but Orange knows it way around a hardtail too. With tough Reynolds 525 tubing, a 65-degree head angle, and a 140mm fork, the P7 is built to thrown down gnarly trails and take a serious beating. It is the epitome of the British “hardcore hardtail.”

Marin Pine Mountain

Marin Pine Mountain

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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. The Pine Mountain is a do-it-all rig with a 120mm fork, 29" wheels, stable trail geometry, and as you can see, A LOT of frame mounts. This makes it the perfect companion for everything from quick lunch rides to epic multi-week bikepacking adventures loaded up with gear. 

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