Will Steel Make a Come Back in Mountain Biking?

Main Mountain Biking Nonsense

Over at BikeCommuters, we’re running a poll about what type of frame material our readers are riding on. As of this morning, 62% have answered steel. Even more discussions could be found HERE where readers are talking about how much better steel is compared to any other frame type.

Now if steel is such a hot commodity for bike commuters, I wonder if steel could make a come back in mountain biking.

Lately the only type of steel bikes you can get are hard tails. Our very own Khoa even built one by using a steel Nashbar frame.

The reason why I ask if steel will ever come back, well simply its out of the fact that steel does feel really good as a frame whether you’re on a road bike, commuter, or a mountain bike. I’m curious to even see if there are any steel full suspension bikes out there(not from walmart). If so, does it ride nicer than aluminum?

But the other side of this argument is that steel is heavy. Some have even said that carbon frames offer the same dampening properties of steel, but without the weight. Lemond makes a few road bikes that are steel and carbon, from what I’ve heard, that bike is a dream to ride. With all that said, “will steel make a come back in mountain biking?” Leave us your thoughts and comments.

RL Policar

RL Policar is an avid mountain biker and the Editor In-Chief of MtnBikeRiders.com and BikeCommuters.com. Between the two sites, he's published well over 4,000 articles (and growing).


11 thoughts on “Will Steel Make a Come Back in Mountain Biking?

  1. Steel never went away! Steel has always been a superior material for making hardtail frames because they do absord shock better. They feel buttery to ride. They have more give. The reason you will never see any reputable bike company make a full suspension steel bike is that it doesn’t work. Steel flexes, so does suspension. In true mountain biking your bike would have too much give to combine both steel and rear suspension. I was skeptical about steel for the weight too, but after feeling how much smoother it is, I too chant, “STEEL IS REAL!”. You will get stronger from riding a heavier bike. Unless you are racing for a living, a steel hardtail will likely fit your ride very nicely. If you are racing for a living you won’t really be considering this post because your team sponsers are already providing you top of the line full suspension aluminum or scandium race bikes. Dig?

  2. I currently ride a Trek 970 from sometime in the late 90s. I think it was the last steel frame Trek made with good components. I am trying to find a new steel hardtail with all the new stuff (disc brakes, not crap suspension etc). Can someone point me in the right direction? I would like a 29er but I have only found the gary fisher. Any others I should take a look at?

  3. Hey Ryan, I can point you in the right direction.

    Gary Fisher does make a steel HT 29er in the Ferrous. It’s a good bike. But it is not the only steel 29er hardtail complete bike out there.

    KHS has a bike called the Tucson that we reviewed here last year when it first came out. Click here for the link. Of the races I’ve been to, I happen to see a couple of them out there on the course.

    If your willing to try rigid, then I’d recommend the Redline d460.

    Lastly, Raleigh has a steel 29er called the XXIX+G.

    Happy bike hunting!

  4. Umm…Jeremy, you forgot to mention Vassago’s Bandersnatch!

    Ryan check out the review. It really is an excellent steel hardtail and is relatively inexpensive.

  5. Thanks guys. I am going to ride a couple of these, if I can find them, and I will let you know what happens.


  6. Don’t forget the Jamis Dragon! I have a 2003 Jamis Dakota XC, 631 Reynolds that is converted to a singlespeed and weighs somewhere around 21 or 22 lbs. When it was new, they were around 25 lbs. Unfortunately, the Dakotas they currently make are aluminum, some with carbon seat stays. The top of the line Dragon is Reynolds 853 while the cheaper Dragon is 631.

  7. I have a 2008 Redline D460 – this is a great bike. Sometimes less is more and this bike is all about that. For around $1000 – give or take you just can’t beat this bike.

  8. I have a 2002 Jamis Exile made from Reynolds alloy and it is fast and comfortable over the rocks. Recently I took it into a shop to work on the headset and some of the techs just aped the bike asking me all sorts of questions and when I mentioned the steel frame, the older tech soundly confirmed it was the better material. So funny an old Jamis attracted so much admiration in a shop full of the latest bikes. When you have a good frame, just get good components for it. The Nashbar frame is now only $199 so I’ve thought about building my son a nice custom bike. I’ve read good reports on the Nashbar frame.

  9. I bought a steel frame 100.00 ebay. Built it up and love it. I run 2.35 tires and disc brakes with a cheap Dart 3 shock. Super fun, tires plus frame take bump edge off.

  10. I just got an 07′ Jamis Dragon Comp (631 steel, disc brakes) and chose it over a 00’Jamis Dakota (also 631 steel, disc brakes) because I read people complaining that the top tube on the Dakota was too short and the Dragon fixed this problem. The Dragon Pro has 853 steel and people rave about it, but also is more expensive. For the riding most do, the Dragon Comp is fantastic bike for your money. If you are concerned about weight difference, read this article: http://www.smartcycles.com/bike_weight.htm.

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