The steel road bike is a bit of a stalwart, and these bikes are available in a variety of shapes and sizes, depending on your needs and budget.
Buying a bike can be a challenge because you have to decide between the cost of the bike and the fun that you will get from it. Buying a good bike will ensure that you will ride the bike for a long time, but buying a cheap bike will ensure that you do not stay on it for a long time.
When you are buying a bike, it is essential to consider the type of ride that you will enjoy. The best way to ensure that you get the best bike for you is to look for the bike that will suit your needs in terms of the type of ride that you want to have at your disposal. This is where we come in to help you.
Steel road bikes are really the only outdoor activity where choosing a bike is more important than choosing a watch or a car. I mean, you don’t decide to go mountain biking or road biking, you go to mountain biking or you go to road biking.
Steel road bikes are popular for a variety of reasons, including their classic aesthetics, excellent riding quality, and extended lifespan.
There’s no disputing that a thin steel road bike sticks out amongst a sea of chunky-tubed aluminum and carbon bikes these days. For some, this will be sufficient justification.
Whatever drew you to the notion of going chromo, here are 11 of the finest steel road bikes that BikeRadar has ridden, tested, and evaluated.
If you’re looking for more steel bikes, check out our complete history of road bike reviews or our buyer’s guide to the finest touring bikes.
BikeRadar has ranked and evaluated the finest steel road bikes for 2023.
- £2,899 for 3.0 Fairlight Strael
- £2,500 for the Fratello Condor Disc
- £2,750 for the Zig Zag All-City
- £1,599 for Equilibrium in Genesis
- £4,970 Mason Resolution 2
- £1,150 / €1,289 Road Logic by Ritchey (frameset)
- £1,995 Shand Leveret is a fictional character created by Shand Leveret
- Elan 725 Spa Cycles: £1,999
- £2,055 for the Light Blue Darwin Two-Way Street
- £1,400 for the Light Blue Newnham
- £2,149 for the Light Blue Wolfson
Fairlight Strael 3.0
The Strael is in its third generation. Immediate Media / Jack Luke
- As tested, £2,899
- Excellent comfort
- Frameset with a lot of flexibility
The Fairlight Strael’s third generation provides all-day comfort, great flexibility, customizability, and value for money.
The Strael 3.0’s rear axle has been modified to accept 36mm tyres for improved comfort and durability.
The Strael’s frame features a plethora of braze-ons and ports, including a third bottle mount and internal routing for a dynamo light in the front fork, making it extremely flexible and customizable to your changing requirements.
Fairlight builds all Straels to order, giving you the option of customizing your design and receiving it precisely as you want it from the start.
Overall, the Strael 3.0 is a pleasant ride that offers about everything you might desire in a steel road bike.
All-City Zig Zag
Shimano 105 (with Ultegra chain) is the whole groupset, and it’s fantastic. Immediate Media / Robert Smith
- As tested, £2,750 (international price for our test bike is N/A).
- Excellent ride quality
- There’s enough of tyre clearance and mudguard mounts to go around.
The Zig Zag is one of All-most City’s recent models.
The bike’s geometry is pretty conventional for endurance road bikes, resulting in a bike with a snappy handling and a super-smooth ride feel that’s characteristic of thin steel.
Mudguards may be installed, and the bike has space for chunky road cycle tyres (70032 with fenders, 70035 without).
We tried a bike built by UK distributor ISON, although conventional Shimano 105 and Shimano Ultegra designs are available.
Condor Fratello Disc
The Condor Fratello Disc is a capable all-weather ride with a focus on the frameset. Immediate Media / Robert Smith
- As tested, £2,500
- Fantastic steel frame
- Excellent control.
The Fratello is a steel bike from Condor that lies in the middle of the company’s steel bike lineup. It rides wonderfully and looks fantastic in person.
The Italian-made frameset is the show-stopper. The tubes are triple butted and custom-shaped to Condor’s requirements. The ride is energetic and smooths out the bumps, which is precisely what a steel frame should do.
With thru-axles, flat-mount disc brakes, and internal Di2 routing, the frame has been improved over the previous iteration of the Fratello. In the front fork, there is also internal wiring for a dynamo light.
We would anticipate hydraulic disc brakes at this price range, but the Fratello arrived with cable-actuated disc brakes, indicating poor value for money.
The Genesis Equilibrium in this edition is the most recent version. Genesis Bikes is a company that manufactures bicycles.
- As tested, £1,599
- The ride is very smooth and soft.
- Disc brakes are also available.
The Genesis Equilibrium comes in a variety of forms, from steel disc endurance bikes to more conventional rim-braked audax wagons, as shown in this review.
The bike has clearance for 28mm tyres and would happily accept front and rear mudguards.
While we tried the bike with Shimano’s 105 R7000 groupset in silver, it has now been replaced with the standard finish on the new 2023 model seen above.
It now now comes with the highly acclaimed WTB Exposure tyres in a cushy 30mm width, but the bike’s RRP has increased.
Upgraded brakes from the standard Promax brakes would truly take this bike to the next level, but apart from that, the Equilibrium is unlikely to disappoint.
Mason’s Second Resolution
Mason’s steel all-road bike is the Resolution. Immediate Media / Felix Smith
- As tested, £4,970
- Long and rapid rides are a breeze with this bike.
- Available as a frameset or in a variety of builds.
The Sussex brand Mason’s Resolution2 is constructed of a combination of Columbus tubing and is intended for all-weather, long-distance cycling.
It’s quiet, pleasant, and predictable, yet rigid enough to withstand greater efforts without feeling flexy, and light enough for steel at approximately 9kg (as tested).
You can install 30mm tyres with mudguards – or 35mm without – and there’s dynamo routing through the carbon fork, as well as a headlight mount at its crown, as befits an all-weather steed.
The Resolution2 is at the high end of the steel bike range, starting at more than £3,000 for a Shimano 105 setup.
Mason provides a variety of Shimano and SRAM builds, as well as a frameset for £1,595 for the Resolution2.
Ritchey Road Logic
For donkey’s years, the Ritchey Road Logic has been around. Immediate Media / Robert Smith
- As tested, £1,150 / €1,289 (frameset alone).
- Steel frameset with a high-end polish and a sophisticated appearance.
- Handling with confidence and ease
The Road Logic has long been a part of Ritchey’s lineup. It, too, has changed through time, but it now serves as a versatile TIG-welded steel road machine.
The frame is polished nicely, with extremely clean welds. The steel frame is coupled with a carbon fork, providing clearance for 30mm tyres.
We tested the bike as a full build, which Ritchey provided for a limited time in 2018. The Road Logic is now available as a frame-only option, but our favorable impressions of the riding quality haven’t changed.
The Shand Leveret is designed to let you to appreciate your surroundings rather than rush through them. Immediate Media / Russell Burton
- £1,995 (as of testing)
- It has a great appearance and a great finish.
- For racking up the miles, it’s a smooth ride.
Shand calls the Leveret a commuter, but with its thin steel tubing, complete carbon fork, and all-day comfort, it’s a highly competent bike that can handle longer rides as well.
With all the braze-ons and fittings you’ll need, the frameset is a thing of beauty. The geometry is designed for comfort, making it ideal for commuting, but the frame is also strong and responsive, making it ideal for when you want to speed up.
The drivetrain is one of the bike’s most noteworthy features. It has an Alfine hub with an easy-to-use Gates belt drive. This is ideal for commuters, but the dependability also makes it ideal for traveling.
Elan 725 Spa Cycles
The Elan’s primary advantages are its adaptability and comfort. Immediate Media / David Caudery
- As tested, £1,999
- Customization is possible.
- Extremely adaptable
The famous Spa Cycles Elan 725 is available as a frameset or in pretty much any spec variation you can think of.
Our design is ideal for… well, just about everything! One of the major benefits of speccing your own bike is that it may be completely customized to meet your requirements.
The frameset itself is well-designed, with enough of clearances, simple standards, and options for mudguards and racks.
Darwin’s Light Blue Two-Way Street
The Light Blue is available in derailleur, singlespeed, and hub gear configurations. Smith, Robert
- As tested, £2,055
- Sliding dropouts give you more options.
- Clearance for tyres with a diameter of 45mm
ISON, the UK distributor that also distributes All-City and Surly, has an in-house brand called The Light Blue.
The Light Blue’s all-around steel road bike is the Darwin Two Way Street.
The bike is offered with either a 105 groupset and mechanical disc brakes (£1,574.99) or a hydraulic disc brake setup (£1,574.99).
The bike was never going to be light with a matched steel fork, but it’s extremely flexible and the construction offers good value for money.
The Newnham Light Blue
For further robustness, the steel tubes are cold-drawn. Immediate Media / Russell Burton
- As tested, £1,400
- Excellent handling and a smooth ride
- Looks good
The Light Blue Newnham is made of cold-drawn tubing for further strength and a smooth ride with well-balanced steering, which is unusual for an endurance bike.
On extended rides, the steering, along with the Newnham’s fast response handling, make it a wonderful companion, and it feels efficient and tight on hills.
The bike has a nice appearance thanks to a retro-inspired paint job, although the paint seems to be a little brittle. We hope this is a pre-production problem that will be resolved before the product’s release in late 2023.
However, the Newnham is a buttery-smooth ride with a beautiful appearance.
Wolfson’s Light Blue
The Wolfson is a fantastic steel bike. Immediate Media / David Caudery
- As tested, £2,149.99, worldwide price N/A
- Signature steel ride quality is excellent and pleasingly springy.
- The construction was good value for money.
The Light Blue’s lighter rim-braked road platform is the Wolfson.
The flagship Reynolds 853 tubeset provides a pleasingly comfortable and energetic riding, as well as a good value construction kit.
It costs £1,799.99 with Shimano 105 and £2,149.99 with Shimano Ultegra.
The brakes might have used an update to better pads when we rode the bike, but other from that, the Wolfson will not disappoint.
A buyer’s guide for steel road bikes
Geometry of the frame
The geometry of a road bike is the most important factor in determining how it will handle.
In general, road bikes may be divided into two types: racing and endurance.
In summary, racing bikes will feature a lower, more aggressive riding position, as well as steeper head and seat tube angles, a shorter wheelbase, and a longer reach, all of which contribute to faster handling.
With a larger wheelbase and mellower handling, endurance bikes prioritize comfort and stability.
The vast majority of contemporary steel road bikes fall under this category (though there are, of course, exceptions). Steel frames are likewise well suited to this function due to their compliant and pleasant nature.
Mudguards may even enhance the appearance of the correct bike. Immediate Media / Jack Luke
Steel bikes tend to be more endurance-oriented, so you’ll usually find room for mudguards and racks, as well as plenty of tyre clearance. This provides them with a degree of flexibility not typically seen on aluminum or carbon bikes.
Steel road bikes also prefer to utilize the most basic of standards, such as threaded bottom brackets, external cables, and external headsets, which make finding replacement components and performing maintenance a snap.
Steel bikes are much simpler to repair than other materials like titanium, carbon, or aluminum in the case of a frame breakdown.
It is feasible to replace whole tubes, although this may not be cost-effective in many instances.
However, you may be surprised by how cheap your friendly neighborhood frame builder’s rates are for minor repairs.
Manufacturers often mention the steel that goes into their frames.
Exotic tube forms will be utilized to adjust ride quality in more costly tubesets, as will ultra-thin-walled tubing that saves weight and may produce in a lively ride, and double- or even triple-butted shaping.
Reynolds, Tange, Columbus, and Dedacciai are among well-known tube manufacturers. It’s also becoming more usual to see companies specifying their own ‘custom-drawn’ tubing.
The ride quality contrast between ordinary straight unbutted ‘gas pipe’ tubing and high-end ultra-thin-walled tubing is stark. Everything in the center, on the other hand, is quite similar.
A steel road bike’s geometry and tyre selection will have a much larger effect on how it rides than tube selection.
However, there’s no disputing that the ride quality of true skinny steel can be simply exquisite, with a zingy spring unlike any other.
The best steel road bikes for you may not be the best for someone else. That’s why we’ve reviewed 11 different steel road bikes. We have based our tests on the following factors: comfort, weight, aerodynamics, riding dynamics, and price.. Read more about lightest steel road bike and let us know what you think.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best road bike 2023?
The best road bike for 2023 is the Trek Domane SLR 8. It has a lightweight aluminum frame, carbon fiber fork, and Shimano Ultegra components.
Are steel road bikes any good?
Steel road bikes are a good option for those who want to spend less money on their bike. They are also great for people who want to ride in the city, because they have a smaller profile and can be ridden on sidewalks.
What is the best road bike for the money?
The best road bike for the money is the Trek Domane SLR.