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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Two of the criticisms that one hears about steel frames is that they are heavy and prone to rust. My question is about rust. I have four steel frames and I examine them regularly and don't see any rust on any of them. One is new, one about 9 years old, one about 12, and the other about 18 years old. They are well maintained, housed indoors, and I avoid riding in the rain, and clean them off after riding. During their regular inspections I touch up any paint chips that I find. If it rains I take out my aluminum hybrid.

Has anyone seen a quality steel bike fail because of rust, or is it just the folks who leave the bikes out in the rain all winter?
 

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Big is relative
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Older steel bikes with crappy paintjobs got rusty. Any newer steel frame with a good paintjob should remain rust free if the owner gives it a wipedown when it's wet. I rode steel frames on my commute in Hawaii and I rode through rain and brackish water on a daily basis. The only rust I ever found was superficial and easily cleaned up and covered with touchup paint. I've had bigger corrosion problems with aluminum frames. Steel is real, just take care of it.
 

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Sharkey
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9 years old and not rusting

I agree with you about rust not being a problem with steel bikes. I have a nine year old Landshark that has well over 50K miles on it -- currently, it is my commuter bike so it regularly gets rained on and exposed to the elements (although it is not kept outdoors). I take it apart once a year to regrease it, inspect BB, etc. and have never found any internal rust. It was treated with rust saver by John Slawta (Landshark builder) when it was built, and I have a can of the stuff, but have never had to use it. There is some rust on the bike however: a little around the rear dropouts, and a couple of places where the paint has been nicked off. I just sand those areas down and use touch up paint. I am no expert on steel alloys, but I think it may have something to do with the "micro-alloys" that are being used in modern steels. I seem to think that they have a certain amount of rust resistance.
 

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I have a couple of steel frames in the stable. The '88 Raleigh I use for year around commuting is corroded from Wisconsin road salt and my lack of care. It is in no danger of failing despite looking like it was abandoned at the bottom of the Atlantic. My '89 Serotta has been repainted once but only has minor rust where chipping has occurred. My '07 Gary Fisher Ferrous MTB has scrapes, dings, chips and mud from two seasons of racing off road. I'm not worried about minor surface rust, besides, it gets cleaned and lubed every few races.

I'm really not to concerned about any of them rusting to the point where I'd need to worry about them structurally. I pay attention to them enough that any rust won't be there much longer than a month, except the Raleigh. I'll ride that bike 'til it breaks.
 

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ewitz said:
So what you are saying is that they are heavy but not prone to rust if properly maintained?

Heavy is relative. My '89 Serotta is roughly 19# with tubulars. My Seven is 20# with clinchers.
 

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Windrider (Stubborn)
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I have several modern steel bikes.

Many of the newer steel alloys are less suseptible to rust than older steel. In addition, newer paint is better at adhereing to steel than it used to be. As a result, a routine of touching up paint chips, annual or Bi-annual application of a frame-saver type product, coupled with an airing out of the tubes after a rain ride will result in a frame that lasts as long as you need it to.

Now if you live by the ocean and leave your bike out in the rain for months at a time, ignore anything I have said.

As to heavy.........I have a Sachs made out of the Colombus Spirit tube set for lugs (Pego-Richie) It's built up with Record 10 speed and Campy Neutron Wheels W/ Michelin Pro Race tires, Oval Bars & Stem, Speedplay pedals and an SLR seat. It weighs just shy of 18 lbs and there is nothing stupid light on it. I could take at least a lb off it if I was willing to pay for it.

It's plenty light for what I need.

Len
 

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Shirtcocker
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I have a 10 year old Colnago MXL with no rust. Then again it's pretty dry here in CO. Might have more of an issue if you ride in wetter climates or where there's salt water.
 

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My jump on it and go bike is a hardtail steel (Reynolds 520) single speed mountain bike with platform pedals. I leave it OUTSIDE all the time. I live in NM though so we don't salt the streets or get a lot of rain. The bike is riden in the rain we do get and just about every day that we have snow (about 10 to 20 days a year). I have lots of scratches and paint chips on it. I have zero rust on it. Cars do not really rust much here either though.
 

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Heavy?
Maybe 15 years ago, with a steel fork.
For a 120 pound guy that loves hills, the penalty is 1%
For a 180 pound racer, the penalty is 3/4%

If you can't win a sprint on your steel framed bike, don't blame the bike.
 

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Modern steel frames using air-hardening OS tubes weigh about 1600 - 1700 grams for a 58cm frame. Typical carbon fiber frames the same size are in the 1200 - 1500 gram range, and titanium frames that size are in the 1400 - 1600 gram range. That's a difference of maybe 500 grams, or about 1.1 pounds between a light CF frame and a heavy steel frame.

By the time similar size frames are built up with lightweight fork, bars, wheels, saddle, and drivetrain, that pound gets lost in the noise.

Worried about rust? Get a frame made with 953 or XCr stainless.
 

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Personal differences

george kraushaar said:
Two of the criticisms that one hears about steel frames is that they are heavy and prone to rust. My question is about rust. I have four steel frames and I examine them regularly and don't see any rust on any of them. One is new, one about 9 years old, one about 12, and the other about 18 years old. They are well maintained, housed indoors, and I avoid riding in the rain, and clean them off after riding. During their regular inspections I touch up any paint chips that I find. If it rains I take out my aluminum hybrid.

Has anyone seen a quality steel bike fail because of rust, or is it just the folks who leave the bikes out in the rain all winter?
One thing to point out is that there are some individuals who seem to have very corrosive sweat. I used to ride with a guy who rusted right through a steel frame, and even after he switch to Ti, all his aluminum components were covered with blotches and crusty white corrosion. Generally, however, what others have said is correct. My last steel frame I rode for 55,000 miles over 10 years, and while there were a few scratches in the paint, there was not a spec of rust.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I just turned 61 years old yesterday. I reckon my steel frames will outlast me if I take care of them.

Yesterday I rode my Paramount over some of the rougher roads in our county. The supple ride of that frame really makes the rough roads bearable, pleasant even.
 

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Water isn't necessarily a concern; salt and water is.

Your sweat, left to dry on a steel frame can penetrate a paint job and cause rust. It's one reason why framebuilders evolved from fully enclosed brake cables along the top tube to split cable stops and a bare cable-sweat would collect under the housing and rust would form there.

Treat the inside of the the tubes with Framesaver or something similar, and wipe down your frame with a wet rag if you sweat on it, and you'll have no problems.

As an example of what can happen to your bike if rust is allowed to develop, consider my main road bike. It used to have the enclosed brake cable along the top tube mentioned above. After years of neglect and rust developing, I had the bike powdercoated and split cable stops installed. The bike is now 25 years old. The underside of the tube looks worse than the top side. I ride this bike almost daily. Dig-
 

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953 steel frames are lighter than many plastic (CF reinforced) bikes. How is steel heavy??? Isn't a high quality steel a type of stainless steel too?
 

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Peanya said:
953 steel frames are lighter than many plastic (CF reinforced) bikes. How is steel heavy??? Isn't a high quality steel a type of stainless steel too?
By definition, steel alloys with a chromium content of 10% or more are "stainless" steels. The alloys that Reynolds, Columbus, True Temper, and the other bicycle frame tubing manufacturers use in their high end air-hardening tubesets typically have no more than 2% to 3% chromium, so they fall far short of being classified as stainless. Two notable exceptions, of course, are Reynolds 953 and Columbus XCr, which are stainless steels. Reynolds 953, for example, contains 11.0% to 12.5% chromium. For comparison, AISI 4130 chromoly contains .8% to 1.1% chromium.
 

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I saw this Cinelli in the Columbus booth at the NAHMBS.

Here's a bit from their website...
XCR

In cooperation with Trafiltubi ed Aubert & Duval, the new Columbus seamless tube set in stainless steel named XCr, is created. Starting form a specific request of the military industry, looking for a valid substitute for cadmium plated temper hardening steels which could no longer be produced because of their highly polluting manufacturing process, a new martensitic stainless steel with high content of Chromium and Molybdenum and Nickel as alloy elements which increase the mechanical and weldability characteristics, was created. The martensitic main structure contains traces of austenite that reduces the possibility of crack formation especially during the welding process.
The great weldability properties of the new XCr stainless steel, together with its high fatigue resistance and its extraordinary geometrical stability at high temperatures, make this material the natural element for welded structures, such as bicycle frames. Thanks to the high stiffness/weight and UTS/weight ratios (better than titanium and aluminium alloys) together with the elevated characteristics of corrosion resistance, it is possible to manufacture triple butted tubes to build extremely light and indestructible frames.
Up close that Cinelli was sweet. The welds were flawless and the bare polished tubing was nicer looking than my bare Ti bikes.
 
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