Whether a casual cyclist, a professional cycling athlete, or a person looking to find an alternative means of doing the daily commute, it’s important to know how to choose the right bicycle for you. Perhaps one of the most fundamental parts of the bicycle is the frame, yet few give full consideration to its importance. Most bicycle components are replaceable and modifiable, but a frame that has been damaged, or worse – chosen incorrectly, may mean that the entire bicycle now needs replacing. Here we will discuss everything that is important to remember when choosing a bicycle frame.
You won’t be surprised to learn that steel frames have been around for longer than most. In fact, walk into a store that sells bicycles, whether it specializes in them or a shopping center that attempts to sell everything under the sun, steel framed bicycles are likely to be dominant in the selection of products on offer. A bike frame made of steel offers the perfect balance between engineering and economics. It’s the least expensive material of all, which means that if you’re looking for the cheapest bike there is – you’re almost inevitably looking at a steel frame. That is not to say that steel shouldn’t be on your list – steel is resistant to fatigue, is highly durable, and can be (relatively easily) repaired if damaged. Not all bike frames can be repaired, believe it or not. So, if you need a bike that can withstand abuse, whether from a poorly paved road or a child whose unlikely to treat it with care – get the cheapest steel frame.
There will be trade-offs, however. The cheapest steel frames are made from high tensile steel, which is adequate for the purpose, but will likely be the heaviest bike compared to its competitors of similar size. It’s strength-to-weight ratio is the worst, which means that you need to use significantly thicker tubes to achieve the same durability as other, more hi-tech alloyed frames. This won’t be a problem if your cycling habits are limited to the odd weekend with the family during the summer months. But if you’re buying something you’ll have to roll out of the shed on a daily basis, you might want to browse a little bit up the price range for a better steel frame. The more expensive steel frames are made of chrome molybdenum alloys. This material is designed to address that weight issue as much as possible. Thanks to its added strength, less material is needed to achieve the same rigidity, making the bike lighter, and giving the rider an easier daily experience and the ability to comfortably add cargo accessories without noticeably adding to the heft.
If you are a commuter and plan to keep the bike for years of reliable service, you need to make sure its cared for. Most importantly, steel, even the high-grade kind, is subject to rust. Keeping it dry is the best way to ensure the bike’s longevity. Storing it outside on the lawn or in a perpetually damp shed is not a good idea. You might need to keep it inside the home in those cases. If you live in a particularly wet climate, you might want to consider other materials altogether.