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531 vs. 853 vs.Nitanium???(16 posts)

531 vs. 853 vs.Nitanium???ridefly
Aug 26, 2002 11:25 PM
For all you die-hard steel enthusiasts, between the venerable 531, 853 and the recent Ritchey "Nitanium" which has the better ride qualities??? Which is lighter?? If I decide to go for a steel travel frame, I have it down to the 531-tubed Co-Motion Co-Pilot at $1485 frame and wound up carbon fork, or the 853-tubed Gunnar Roadie at $1330 frame and Profile Carbon fork or the Ritchey "Nitanium" Breakaway (Road Logic w/ Ritchey's proprietary coupling kit) at $1295 frame and steel fork (I think the fork is included but not quite sure.) I am looking for a travel frame that won't break the bank but also serve as a quality back up to my primary ride.
Also, for steel, do you prefer TIG welded, Filet Brazed, or Lugged??? The above mentioned frames are all TIG welded because they can be made cheaper than Lugged frames but other than the aesthetics of a beautifully lugged frame, is there any performance/durablity advantages to lugged over welded??? What about fillet brazed??? I don't know anything about this process?? Can anyone enlighten me about this??? Thanks a bunch!!!!
Gunnar vs. Ritcheyjtlmd
Aug 27, 2002 5:36 AM
This might help a little. I have a Ritchey road logic (Nitanium) and a Gunnar Rockhound mountain bike. I love the Ritchey road bike. It is a wonderful ride with no weaknesses that I have found. The Gunnar is a fine bike but not of the high quality that the Ritchey is. The Gunnar frame lacks some of the fine details built into the Ritchey. I don't want to comment on the ride of the Gunnar because mine is a MTB not a road bike.

Gunnar lets drain holes remain in their frames. On their website they say this promotes water drainage and is good. In my experience the Gunnar frame drains rusty water for 2 weeks after a washing making me wonder what the inside of the frame looks like. I wouldn't reccomend a steel frame with drain holes to anyone. The Ritchey is sealed and my older, higher quality steel mountain bike is sealed and is lasting well.
re: 531 vs. 853 vs.Nitanium???Fez
Aug 27, 2002 5:38 AM
For 531 and 853 see the following link

They are different tubes using different materials and manufacturing processes. 853 supposedly gets stronger when heated and is commonly found in steel bikes today. 531 has been around much longer and I was not aware of any company still using those tubes.

I had a bike from the early 90s that had 531 frame tubes. Very nice ride. Light in its day, probably a little heavy by today's standards. I have ridden 853 steel in a Lemond Zurich. Much more stiff feeling, so subjectively I liked the softer classic steel ride of the 531 bike. But there were probably other factors on each respective bike that affected the ride.

531 can be lugged. The other Reynolds steels I believe are most often TIG welded. It depends on the tubing as to which method is used. Also, the particular framebuilder's skill has a lot to do with how good the weld will turn out, rather than just saying one process is better than another

Summary - I think 853 represents the latest refinement in stiffness, lightness, and strength if you want to go with steel.
re: 531 vs. 853 101cyclopathic
Aug 27, 2002 7:11 AM
By any means 853 isn't any stiffer then 531. If you look at the data, you'd find out all steel alloys have the same stiffness. 853 has higher Ultimate strength, which allows to build break resistant frames with less material.

Given the same diameter tubes 531 will be stiffer, just because they use more material. Stiffness is one of the reasons LeMond uses 525 for rear triangle on his 853 Select frames. Yes you gain ~1/3lbs, but it makes frames less flexy.

Things get interesting when mfg start using oversized, "custom", shaped tubes. Even standard tubes can be enhanced by ovalizing them at headtube/BB shell joints. Also there is 853 Pro tubeset with larger diameter tubes; it should be stiffer. Current Zurich uses 853 Pro with ovalized downtube; in the past he was build out of same 853/525 mix as I recall.

And then there're lugs which act like external butting and they make bikes stiffer. Most olde skool touring frames like Rivendel or Mercian made with lugs for this very reason. They might be heavy but they're plenty stiff to carry 100lbs+ panniers.

So it is really hard to say if 853 frame will be more or less stiff then 531. It is likely to be lighter.
A few thoughts on your questions.dzrider
Aug 27, 2002 6:32 AM
The material will effect the ride less than the length of the chainstay and the height of the bottom bracket. I like a low bottom bracket and long chainstays for comfort and stability.

I like the looks of fillet brazed bikes, clean and sculpted. Others like lugs. Tig welding looks ugly to me, like a metal coated caterpillar holding the tubes together. I've yet to hear anybody describe performance differences resulting from any of these processes.

Steve Bilenky in Philadelphia is another builder worth considering. His prices are reasonable and he has considerable experience with S&S couplings. We have a tandem that he built with fillet brazed, multi-shaped steel tubes and it's an incredibly comfortable ride.

If you don't plan to race the bike, weight considerations seem pretty small to me. When I read "travel bike" I think of carrying some stuff and it seems silly to shave grams and than hang a big seat bag on the back. 853 is probably the lightest material you mentioned and works well on my touring bike.

Happy shopping.
I thought I am the only onecyclopathic
Aug 27, 2002 7:15 AM
who pictures loaded panniers when he hears "travel bike" ;)
531 is close to water pipeJohnG
Aug 27, 2002 7:40 AM
My TREK 531 frame is a total POS. WAY flexy in the BB yet surprising hash ride quality.

My 853 frames are exactly the opposite.

does your house have double butted steel water pipes?colker
Aug 27, 2002 11:39 AM
531 is top notch. many 1st class racing bikes were made from 531 and i can think of raleigh professionals right now.
so good, so advanced for the time that after decades of it's inception the material is still around.mercian still builds frames from it. beautifull riding frames. gvh sells a vinner competition made of dedacciai zero tre that is similar to 531.
it's still used on fork blades (waterford comes to mind.)
if your trek is a POS it says more of trek than 531.
don't fall for hype: it's the builder that makes a good riding bike, not the number on the seat tube.
right steel forks made mostly out of 531cyclopathic
Aug 27, 2002 4:27 PM
I think it has higher elongation then heat treated alloys. It also has better fatigue strength. No wonder Reynolds fork blades made out of 531.
531 is close to water pipe - NOT!!Kerry Irons
Aug 27, 2002 2:35 PM
You may have a crappy frame built with 531 and a great frame built with 853, but that is the frame design and build, not the tubing. 853 allows the build of a lighter frame than 531, but you can build a fine frame with 531. The bike will come in at about 22 lbs, but it won't be WAY flexy or harsh unless the thing is poorly designed/built.
531 is close to water pipemapei boy
Aug 27, 2002 3:54 PM
It's great reading such a straightforward assessment. It rings with credibility. A real breath of fresh air.
HA HA HA HA HA! Doubt it's the 531s fault!scottfree
Aug 28, 2002 4:43 AM
Aug 27, 2002 9:21 AM
Here is a thread from the SS board on MTBR. A frame builder in MN, Bob Brown, really seems to know his sh!t about different steels. Read on...
another good article on steelPMC
Aug 27, 2002 10:12 AM

This is an article by Joseph Judkins that really covers things regarding steel. I have a wonderful 531 steel frame that Joe built and it's not only fairly light but the ride is stellar. Don't discount any one material because someone posts a "531 sucks" type response.
Just checked the tubing on my old $450 Rockhopper...Alex-in-Evanston
Aug 27, 2002 12:30 PM
The sticker says "Ritchey Nitanium". I bought that bike, complete, for $450. I'm looking at the Excel catalog and a Nitanium mtb frame goes for a grand. Makes you wonder.

$1330 is way too much money....julio
Aug 27, 2002 7:15 PM
I have a Gunnar Roadie that I bought used with good midlevel parts (ultegra etc) I only paid $600 complete. By the way I like it a lot, it may not be as flashy as some frames out there but it's built to ride and tough as nails. I wouldn't worry about the drain holes. I don't know who offered you the the Gunnar frame and fork at $1330 but you can buy the frame from Schwab Cycles for only $549 and that leaves a lot of $ left over to buy a nice fork and wheelset. If you really want to spend over $1000 you could get the Waterford lugged bike that uses the same tubes but is much prettier.

Here's Schwab's address: