It’s been a while since I last wrote about materials so I thought it was time for an update…
The artisan’s choice.
I love steel bicycle frames.
Steel is an artisan material and takes a lot of work to draw, cut, form and craft into a bicycle frame. It’s this inherent ‘difficulty’ that results in the minimalist or utilitarian styling that these frames often possess. This ‘simple honesty’ is immediately visible to anyone who will take the time to allow their eyes to wander over a handbuilt steel frame. Yes, it’s possible to create beautiful detailing but it’s not without a lot of patience and significant craftsmanship.
There’s a lot of hype and hoopla when it comes to promoting the qualities of a material or tubeset and to repeat what I’ve said before, often the reasons behind the choices are overstated with a hefty dose of techno-babble thrown in for good measure.
A lot of research and development goes into creating these super-alloys and the companies that make them ensure that you and I recognise their brands. However, these tubesets are often designed for applications that extend beyond the bicycle industry e.g. racing cars or aerospace, so their specifications need to be versatile enough to serve these diverse industries. This is why the strength:weight ratio of these tubesets is often so exceptional.
Pipedream Cycles has used a number of tubesets in the past that have included Reynolds and Columbus but it’s also used unbranded tubing when necessary. This necessity arises when a particular tube doesn’t meet my requirements so I’ve worked with a tubing supplier to get exactly what I need.
The Sirius 4G and A.L.I.C.E. frames use custom, triple butted, heat treated, CrMo 4130. This super-alloy is drawn and butted in the same factory that our frames are fabricated in which allows us to not only keep everything in-house, but to also draw on their technical expertise as leaders in this field.
The strength of the tubeset is comparable to branded tubesets from Reynolds (725 & 853), True Temper (Versus HT) or Columbus Nivocrom, for example.
Gussets serve a purpose but some of the extra strength they can offer can also be negated by the additional welding required to fit them. This reheating of a critical area of the frame is potentially damaging to the tubing and should be avoided if at all possible.
By using long butt sections in stress areas and by using variable thicknesses in the butts themselves, the tubing has been effectively ‘internally’ strengthened.
Pipedream no longer builds Titanium frames as, in my opinion, there’s tubing with comparable or superior properties available in steel nowadays. That’s not to say Ti isn’t still ‘relevant’, it’s just not appropriate for the designs Pipedream has in mind.
I could elaborate on this further but frankly, if you’re after a Ti frame, you’ve probably already made your mind up and I’m sure you’ll be happy with your choice. That said, watch this space as there’s some things in the pipeline (no pun intended) that may interest you.