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steelman bikes(13 posts)

steelman bikesvernachelly
Mar 7, 2002 3:51 PM
I am looking at purchasing the 525 model, but i am looking for some futher info on it, Does anyone have any expeirence with the bike, or any other info about it... more then what the website offers. Thanks for your input
re: steelman bikesgtx
Mar 7, 2002 6:16 PM
If you have specific questions I'd go right to the source and contact Brent Steelman. He's a great builder. Very nice bikes. All the ones I have seen and/or built up have been top notch.
Reynolds 525Nessism
Mar 7, 2002 7:46 PM
The Reynolds 525 tubeset uses a lower strength steel alloy than the more expensive 853 and 725 tubesets and thus the tubes need to be made thicker. This extra thickness will make the frame stiffer but also heavier.

I think 525 is a good material for a large size frame since they tend to be more flexable in the first place. For a smaller frame, and/or a light rider, a 525 frame may be a little stiffer than some prefer.
how long has 853 been out?gtx
Mar 7, 2002 8:03 PM
4 or 5 years? Seems like 525 would be a better bet for long term durability and ding resistance. I had a custom builder build a frame for me in 1989. I had the choice of Columbus SL, or Tange Prestige for an extra $50. I'm still glad I went with SL--I've heard of problems with lighter Prestige bikes of that era. The difference in weight for the 853 vs. 525 frame is about .3 pounds and $300. The difference between DA and Ultegra is $400 and I'm guessing more than .3 pounds.
Reynolds tubingNessism
Mar 8, 2002 6:24 AM
I'm not sure when Reynolds started making 853 but I have a 1997 catalog with 853 listed and they started sometime before this.

Dent resistance of a tube is related to the tube thickness, hardness, and yield strength of the steel. Given this, a high strength alloy can be thinned down more than a low strength alloy without reducing dent resistance. In my experience, tube wall thicknesses under .45 mm are fairly prone to denting even if high strength alloys are used.

One thing that is confusing regarding tubing is that sometimes manufactures make many different tubes available within a tube family so it is hard to generalize. For example, Reynolds 853 comes in a wide range of sizes, thicknesses, and butting configurations. So frames can be made stiff or soft using this material. Tange Prestige was the same way, a wide range of thicknesses were available - very high grade tubing by the way.

Regarding frame prices using different tube sets, often the price increase is not justified in my mind. I don't have a current Reynolds price sheet in front of me but I know with Dedacciai:

- EOM 16.5 8 piece tubeset $180
- Zero (SAT 14.5) $93
- ZeroUno (SAT 12.5) $65 - great bargin
- ZeroTre costs $45 - similar to 525

Note: 853 is fairly similar to Zero but the alloy is different

The thin stuff is harder to work with but not THAT HARD. I think some builders make more profit when they move the rider up the range in tubing.

agree/well said nmgtx
Mar 8, 2002 7:16 AM
Mar 8, 2002 8:41 AM
853 was introduced in 1995.

I find your comments on the price differences for tubesets interesting. Builders increase prices for tubesets based on a number of factors: raw costs of the materials, labor requirements/difficulty of manufacture, fixturing costs, wear and tear on tooling, the human error element, and many others. I'll comment on a few just so there are no misunderstandings.

Raw cost of materials: As you have listed, EOM16.5 kit is $180 and is a pretty competitive price with it's peer, UltraFoco. That's the cost for the base tubes and other tubes are a cost plus option. A fully optioned out tubeset in EOM16.5 can go as much as $240. Also, with EOM16.5, the US Deda distributor doesn't carry it in stock so you have to buy through the UK if you want selection without many weeks of delays. Carriage costs from the UK are stiff and it doesn't pay unless you're buying bulk.

Labor requirements: To properly build a frame out of most any heat treated (HT) tubeset (Foco, Zero, EOM16.5, UltraFoco, 853, etc.) it takes very precise mitering and joinery. Mitering HT tubes is no picnic either and if you blow it, you just lost a tube, the miters have to be perfect if you want to put out a quality product. You can fully miter a non-HT tubeset in half the time of a HT set of tubes. When it comes time to weld out a HT frame, you have to follow a precise welding sequence and you cannot simply weld around a tube and "bend it straight" because it can be near impossible to align a HT frame after it's assembled. It will take 2 to 3 times longer to finish out thin wall HT frame.

Fixturing costs: Holding and mitering shaped tubing with confidence and efficiency requires specialized equipment that is not needed for normal round tubes. I see this as a good thing as it helps pay my mortgage, but those tools are expensive. :) With any of today's HT steels, builders should/better be back purging their frames during welding (same cleanliness steps required as Titanium) and Argon is not cheap either.

Wear and tear on tooling: Ask anyone who has tried to perform and interrupted cut through steel that has a tensile of 200ksi. There is a reason why manufactures like to work with aluminum. To put this in perspective, a grade 8 bolt usually has a tensile of around 180ksi. The cutters I use to cut tubes retail for about $75 each, if you catch a cutter tooth during the miter, you might as well pull $75 out of your wallet and burn it. Even if all goes well, the cutters don't last long when used on HT tubesets. They also require the use of coolant. It is possible to use regular bi-metal holesaws for mitering tubes, but they are not acceptable to me for most thinwall HT tubesets as they have a tendency to micro-tear tubes and cause localized denting and increase the likelihood of ruining a tube so saving money by using cheap cutters is a false economy.

Human error: As I mentioned in the labor category, if you don't adhere to a strict assembly and joining process, you'll end up with a bent frame. If it's built out of any of todays shaped HT tubesets, you simply can't align it. The frame is history. It happens. I've scrapped out of few frames because of that. What's it take to ruin a frame? Not much, just miss your welding sequence or have a little too much gap on a miter. Even with a lug bike, it can be very hard to adjust a HT tubed frame. So, given that, there is more risk to the builder and he has to account for that in a higher cost.

That's about all I have time for right now, but the above applies not only to steel but to other materials too. As the material get's stronger and thinner, difficulty goes up. Anyway, that should give you an idea of what builders are looking at when trying to make a living building high performance steel frames. It's much easier for a pro builder to build bikes out of aluminum and titanium (I know because I do it) than it is to build out of a shaped tubeset like the new steels. So why do we bother? Because in my mind, it's just the best material for many cycling applications.

Don Ferris
great post (as usual)! nmgtx
Mar 8, 2002 9:12 AM
Good informationNessism
Mar 8, 2002 10:27 AM

Another insightful post, thanks.

I agree with what you say regarding the extra costs and labor involved when working with todays super steels. I shutter to think what it must be like to try to miter/weld/align some of those ultra thin Megatube shapes. Clearly those materials require a fairly significant increase in assembly time, not to mention extra material costs.

My previous comments relate more to a builder working with regular round tubing. I've seen builders asking significantly more money for a frame just because it used a "higher grade" of tubing. In some cases this higher grade tubing was not all that high at all.

Just for information I cut and pasted the following price list from TET Cycles

853(all) $929
853/725stays $849
725(all) $789
725/525stays $749
525(all) $699

Focus $899
Nemo Road $849
Nemo MTB $899
Genius $829
EL /Cyber $799
Brain/Thron $699
w/Aero dt (all sets) +$75

In my opinion these are outstanding prices and fairly accurately represent the cost differencial of working with these different materials.

Hopefully these guys will stay in business.

Thanks for taking the time Don n.m.koala
Mar 8, 2002 7:15 PM
Mar 8, 2002 11:54 PM
This is the kind of frank and absolutely insightful commentary one would expect of a master craftsman. Bravo sir!
re: Reynolds 525cyclopathic
Mar 8, 2002 7:41 AM
I ride 520 50cm frame and it is plush (flexes more then I'd like on climbs)

Thing is that there're many ways to skin the cat.

853 pro tubing has larger diameter tubing (which makes frame stiffer even if less material used). Some builders ovalize downtube to address flex. Reynolds also offers tubing in custom shapes. I've tried Bianchi Brava with teardrop shaped downtube and it was considerably stiffer in larger size then basic 525 frame in small. Lugs and gussets can considerably alter ride quality.

bottom line talk to builder and address specific areas, he will be the best man to answer your questions.
re: steelman bikesFrank
Mar 7, 2002 9:29 PM
You can find reviews of Steelman frames in the reviews section of this forum...look under frames and under the "s" category:

I have a Steelman SR 525 I bought used from this forum and am extremely happy with it. I had long wanted a Steelman, but never managed to buy one. I recently found and purchased one in this forum's classified section. The wait was well worth it! The welds are absolutely flawless, and the powdercoated metallic blue paint looks like wet paint...very nice. The Steelman builds up very nicely and easily as the alignment and frame construction details are spot on accurate. The Steelman is a perfect all-around road bike...stable on descents, quick on sprints, smooth on long straights, and not a liability on hills. Brent Steelman seems to have put the same quality and design that he puts into his SR 853 top end frame and fork into the SR 525, but at a lower price. I only wish I had bought a Steelman years ago!