The Deal with Steel


Fourth Party
Can the bike shop guys, or anyone else give me a quick lesson in the different types of steel used in frames? My bike is made of double butted 4130 chrome moly, but I see lots of talk about Reynolds, Columbus and alot about this True Temper OX.

Are these just different grades or levels of purity within the steel?
Are some better than others?
Will the different grades have different ride characteristics etc, etc, etc.?

And while I got you guys here and since Jake has got me looking at them, why does the Fisher Ferrous 29er not have the much talked about "G2" geometry that all his other 29ers have?

Thanks you and enjoy.


Shop: Halter's Cycles
Shop Keep
Steel is pretty tough to define since we see so little of it.

When I first started working in a shop most of the bikes were steel.

We had the chance to ride the various tubesets and see how each rode.

I had a Eddy Merckx with SLX and one with MXL. The slx was lighter and softer while the MX was heavier and very stiff.

Before steel died they had some super thin tubesets that were scary light for steel. Paper thin really. I saw a older Fonderest a few weeks back that had such thin walls that when you flicked it with a finger you could it hear how thin the walls were.

Different ride qualities can come from mixing a variety of alloys into the mix.

Most of the steel tubesets have so much alloy in them that they won't do much more than surface rust with no paint.

For a short time there were some Stainless tubesets that required no paint at all.

I had a steel Seven Road frame that was stolen from me.

Seven mixed tubesets to build a perfect ride for each rider. I know for sure that my bike had tubes from Deddicai, Reynolds and Columbus. They alos used aircraft grade 4130 for the micro thin seatstays. I miss that bike.

Steel has really fallen from high fashion but I still think it is viable . It just doesn't sell.

I just had a long conversation with Brett from Niner last nigh about their steel bike. Sounds good... Hmmm



Love Drunk
Jerk Squad
4130 was the standard for bmx/trail/street 20" bikes. Now that the lightweight fad has swept the bmx industry, companies are using some of the different types of steel but 4130 still is the standard for pretty much all non-race bmx bikes.

Steel flexes and can bend where almuinum is stiff and would fracture instead of break. My first MTB was a steel Fisher and I should have kept that thing around.


Mayor McCheese
Team MTBNJ Halter's
Throw in that "double butted" just means that where the tensions are highest, the steel is doubled, like the spokes that are thin in the middle and thick on the ends. It doesn't refer to the material composition at all.

Steel is mostly iron, but has some carbon in it. Or instead of carbon has tungsten. Or manganese. These "foreign" elements help harden the iron as well as control how hard/pliable the steel is. If you really pump up the carbon content it becomes hard, but brittle.

Chromoly is steel with a chromium-molybdium blend. The 4130 is actually a mix of iron, carbon, manganese, chromium, molybdenum, phosphorus, sulfur, and silicon. Still, 97.5% of it is iron, the remaining 2.5% is the other stuff. The aim is to make a frame which has high tensile strength (the point at which it breaks being pulled straight apart - as opposed to bent on a tree for instance) as well as being malleable. And of course it needs to be weldable. You can have the greatest material in the world but if the welds fail you can use it as a door stop and move on.

Also, the 4130 classification is the set of materials listed above. The actual ratios varies, and my 4130 mix may or may not be the same as your 4130 mix.

Reynolds is a company that makes steel, as is Columbus. Getting the actual material composition on those blends is probably going to be tough to come by unless you work there, and maybe not even then. Basically, they're all trying to build a better mousetrap. Now the True Temper OX is apparently made in the US, if that's your thing. I guess Lemond went from the Reynolds 853 to the TT OX a few years back, not sure if they still use that? Some people say it's actually too stiff, that it rides like aluminum. TT is also "seamed" which a lot of people don't like, but people are strange.

Then you have different things like wall thickness which will change the ride characteristics. So a Reynolds 853 frame might feel completely different based on the wall thickness or diameter of the tubes. So you can't just say you want to buy a bike with X kind of steel and go with that.

Some or all of this post may be wildly inaccurate. Who really knows?


Shop: Halter's Cycles
Shop Keep

what he said

Here is my stolen bike. (the orange and blue one)

If you see someone in it you should kill them.


New Member
Conan's dad said it best:

"Fire and wind come from the sky, from the gods of the sky. But Crom is your god, Crom and he lives in the earth. Once, giants lived in the Earth, Conan. And in the darkness of chaos, they fooled Crom, and they took from him the enigma of steel. Crom was angered. And the Earth shook. Fire and wind struck down these giants, and they threw their bodies into the waters, but in their rage, the gods forgot the secret of steel and left it on the battlefield. We who found it are just men. Not gods. Not giants. Just men. The secret of steel has always carried with it a mystery. You must learn its riddle, Conan. You must learn its discipline. For no one - no one in this world can you trust. Not men, not women, not beasts.
[Points to bike]
This you can trust."


Spokompton's Finest

what he said

Here is my stolen bike. (the orange and blue one)

If you see someone in it you should kill them.

dang, jdog sorry to hear about that... agreed, slow death to bike thieves (and computer hackers)

damn norm... nice info! its a shame I won't retain it for more than 10 seconds ;) but at least I know who to contact if I need a refresher course on Reynolds steel and the recipe for 4130.
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