Best Steel Road Bikes 2020 Review

Without a doubt, the frame is the most important part of road bicycles. It’s the major component that combines big and small parts together from different directions to create the main system.

To serve the frame’s purpose, the material should be very durable and sturdy. That’s why steel road bikes exist.

Another specific benefit of steel bikes is their ability to endure high amounts of stress. And, of course, let’s not forget about the metal’s natural resistance to corrosion, especially rust.

However, having a steel frame doesn’t necessarily mean that a road bike is worthy of your purchase. There are still a lot of factors that can make or break the overall quality.

Best Steel Road Bikes Review

Before we introduce the buying guide, let’s start with our list of the best steel road bikes so you’ll have initial options to consider.

Giordano Trieste Gravel Bike, 700c Large

With its chromium-molybdenum (chromoly) alloy steel frame, the Giordano Trieste Gravel Bike can last for a lifetime. Contributing to its lightweight structure is the fork which is also made of chromoly.

The combination of chromium and molybdenum is so effective that it’s extremely strong without the need for heavier materials. It makes this road bike more expensive than most models, but you really can’t expect lightness AND strength from the majority of cheap options. It’s also the main reason why this bike is perfect for adventures and bumpy roads.

Other noteworthy features of this bike include the kickstand, Shimano Claris drivetrain, STI shifters, double-walled alloy rims, reflectors, and strong disc brakes for all terrains. We should also highlight the fact that this product comes in different sizes for young and old cyclists.

Pros:

  • Strong yet lightweight chromoly frame
  • Tough enough for challenging terrains
  • Powerful alloy rims

Cons:

  • Flimsy gear hangers

Retrospec Mantra-7 Urban Commuter Bike

The hi-tensile steel frame of the Retrospec Mantra-7 Urban Commuter Bike is the hybrid type (endurance and race) because of its comfortable yet aggressive design. Its manual construction has undergone tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding or gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW). No wonder this strong lightweight bike is highly recommended for racing, cruising, and commuting.

We should also note that the VP pedals use the freestyle design. They enhance maneuverability and the overall quality of each ride. You don’t even need to pedal hard with this bike, thanks to the freewheel feature.

Another reason why this road bike ensures smoother rides is its wheelset. Its wheels include 43-millimeter Super Deep V rims, sealed hubs, and Kenda Kwest tires.

Meanwhile, the back wheel has a cog on each side. You can even flip it if you prefer a different riding style.

Pros:

  • Hi-tensile multipurpose frame
  • Freestyle pedals for better control
  • Durable KMC chain

Cons:

  • Smaller components breaking after months of use

Cinelli Hobootleg Complete Touring Bike

Steel comes in various types, so we really can’t say that it’s the best metal out there. What we’re sure of, however, is the superior quality of the steel frame found on the Cinelli Hobootleg Complete Touring Bike.

This road bike specifically uses Columbus Cromor, a welded and butted steel with different thickness options. Adding to the durability of the metal is the rust resistant coating that can handle any weather.

More about the frame, it’s great for racing and urban areas. It has a sloping design so you can quickly increase speed.

Pros:

  • Welded steel tubing
  • Butted steel
  • Varying thickness levels
  • Corrosion-resistant
  • Effective for racing
  • Versatile KMC chain
  • Reflective wheels for visibility in the dark
  • Higher wheel clearance for rear carriers, fenders, and 40mm tires
  • Durable wheels for harsh terrain
  • Good for hill climbing

Cons:

  • Not comfortable enough for long rides
  • Chipping paint

Cinelli Vigorelli Road Bike

While the previous model uses a Columbus Cromor frame, the Cinelli Vigorelli Road Bike has Columbus Thron. The latter has been existing longer than the Cromor, so it’s considered to be the standard by some enthusiasts. It perfectly represents the classic Columbus steel.

Meanwhile, this road bike includes a SRAM chain. SRAM chains are known for their durability. They have a solid structure, which guarantees an impressive performance.

From the wheelset, we’re highlighting the Formula hubs. They’re so durable that they can last for more than a year without undergoing any replacement. They also have an attractive appearance that can’t be easily affected by heavy use.

Pros:

  • Timeless Columbus Thron frame
  • Long-lasting SRAM chain
  • Foolproof Formula hubs
  • Trendy style
  • High-quality paintwork
  • Affordable enough for buyers with a limited budget
  • User-friendly features for beginners

Cons:

  • May require some customizing since not all people like the color purple

Huffy: 16″ Rock It EZ Build Bike

Just because most kids only ride bikes for fun doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a topnotch model. The Huffy: 16″ Rock It EZ Build Bike is such a quality product that it has better features than other options for adults.

For starters, this small road bike has a tough steel frame. As a plus, both the frame and the handlebar are decorated with youthful black and red colors plus eye-catching graphics, perfect for children from ages four to six.

Attached to the frame is a comfortable cushioned seat with an alloy lever for instant height adjustments. It’s specifically designed for riders standing four feet tall at most.

Since safety is the number one priority for kids, the coaster brake is automatically activated when the rider pedals backward. The pedals even have reflectors just in case.

As an addition to the bike’s safety features, the wheelset includes training wheels. All wheels have black steel rims with a cool glossy finish. You can assemble everything in just a few minutes.

Pros:

  • Colorful steel frame
  • Adjustable padded seat
  • Highly responsive coaster brake
  • Reflective pedals
  • Training wheels
  • Quick setup

Cons:

  • May need improvements on the training wheels

Road Bike LZ-550 Steel Bicycle Disc Brake 21 Speed

The edgy black and white frame of the Road Bike LZ-550 Steel Bicycle will surely get compliments. More importantly, aside from its appeal, it’s made of high-grade steel.

As you can see, the wheels have a three-spoke design. That’s why they can easily help you achieve dynamic moves.

The wheels are also composed of magnesium alloy. That kind of metal is lightweight even when it’s constructed to have a thicker structure. It can even remain intact despite aggressive riding since it’s not a good conductor of heat. It’s less likely to have dents or deformed sections caused by scorching hot roads or terrains.

Pros:

  • High-grade steel frame
  • 21-speed Shimano transmission
  • Powerful, responsive disc brake
  • 3-spoke wheels for better movement
  • Heavy-duty magnesium alloy wheels
  • Simple yet bold look because of the black and white theme with red accents

Cons:

  • Difficulty in turning the crank
  • Subpar tires
  • May need some adjustments for proper shifting

How to Choose Good Steel Road Bikes

Knowing whether a steel road bike is good or not isn’t actually complicated. All you need to do is check the quality and design of each major component. Read on to learn more about road bike frames, chains, pedals, wheels, and tires.

Frame

Road bike frames are usually evaluated based on three important factors: their shape, tubing, and bonding method used.

Shape

The performance of a road bike has a lot to do with its shape. There are two options: endurance and race.

Endurance road bikes are all about steadiness and comfort. Their wheelbase is designed to be longer than what race bikes use.

As for race road bikes, their design obviously aims for acceleration and speed. Despite its shorter wheelbase, the race type has a longer reach.

Also, to match the higher seat and head, the riding position of a standard race bike is lower. The combination of those features can allow you to move like a pro.

So, which shape is better? Each one has a purpose, but most steel road bikes use the endurance design. Steel frames are known for the level of comfort they can provide.

Tubing

If you’re curious about the steel frame’s specific material, just check the tubing. That feature dominates the frame. It can either be chromoly or hi-tensile.

Most of the time, chromoly is stronger than hi-tensile frames. That’s why it’s a more popular material for expensive road bikes. It can also remain lightweight despite more strength.

Of course, if you’re on a tighter budget, you can definitely choose a road bike with a hi-tensile frame. It may not be just as strong as a chromoly bike, but it can last for years if you observe proper usage and maintenance.

Bonding Method

A significant factor on a steel road bike’s durability is the method used to combine the sections of the tubing. The three common techniques are welding, lugging, and brazing.

Welded frames have a seamless look. That’s because their fillers and ends are melted together.

Meanwhile, lugging involves covering the tubing with a special sleeve. The sleeve strengthens the joints while the process spreads the filler more effectively. Lugged frames are also easier to style.

Lastly, brazing includes metals like silver or brass to reinforce the joints. The metals are exposed to extremely high temperatures, to the point that they can combine two components once they cool down. The best part of this process is that the tubing’s material remains exactly the same.

Chain

You can tell whether the chain is good for a steel road bike or not by knowing its shape, length, material, and coating.

Shape

The chain’s shape relies on the design of its plates. All plates must be connected to the bevel for easier shifting of the gears. This way, you’ll have better control of your bike.

Length

Surprisingly there are only two suitable choices: the 1/2 x 32 and the 1/2 x 1/8. The latter is simpler, leading to smoother transmissions. However, the other one is better for you if you’re going to use a sports bike frequently.

Material

The standard here is pretty straightforward. A heat-treated alloy chain is enough to guarantee a solid performance from any road bike. It won’t wear out easily no matter how often the bike is used.

Coating

Titanium nitride is the ideal coating for bike chains. It can resist dirt, dust, and corrosion. It can even reduce friction to prevent premature wear.

You may also add another coating to prevent rust. Just make sure that the chain’s surfaces allow extra protective coating. It turns out that some metals can resist the substance.

Pedals

Size, height, tension, cleat, and float are just some of the factors you need to consider when checking the pedals’ quality.

Size

When we talk about size, we’re specifically referring to the pedals’ platforms. The idea is too simple–the bigger, the better.

Aside from the obvious reason which is total support for your feet, a bigger platform also promotes a more even distribution of force all over your soles and heels. No more foot pain or strain after several hours on the bike.

Height

To be more specific, we’re taking about the gap between your sole and the axle. Since your foot needs to be above the axle even while the crank moves, the stack height shouldn’t be too tall. A smaller distance also means more energy to be saved because of minimal twisting.

Tension

The release tension of bike pedals depends on the type of spring used. Carbon leaf springs allow different adjustments while standard springs will let you use pinch bolts.

The latter is better than the first in terms of simplicity. It doesn’t need additional procedures.

Cleat

Just like the release tension, the quality of pedal cleats focus on how adjustable they are. Some systems offer a wide range of adjustments simultaneously. Meanwhile, others rely on special bolts so the user can adjust one axis at a time.

Float

The mobility of your heels on the pedal is technically called the float. A maximum of 15-degree angle on each side is usually enough for your joints. However, some riders still prefer a fixed float.

Another set of options when considering the float involves friction. Some users prefer resistance while others want to pedal freely.

Wheels

One of the most complicated features of any bike is the wheel. It’s composed of small essential parts you have to pay attention to.

Some of the components you need to know are the brakes, rims, spokes, and hubs. You should also think about the type of wheels appropriate for your bike.

Type

Road bike wheels are separated into two categories: the tubular and the clincher. Each one has a different set of pros and cons.

Tubular wheels are more lightweight, making it easier for you to accelerate. Unfortunately, fitting and repairing them is more complicated.

On the other hand, clincher wheels are less likely to cause flat tires. They don’t have much resistance as well. The downside? They can be a hassle to install or assemble. They also have heavier rims.

Surface

Knowing a bike wheel’s surface is important to identify whether or not the brakes are foolproof. The two common materials for braking surfaces are aluminum and carbon.

Aluminum wheels are flatter, which results in consistency. They can also be more efficient if they have well-designed patterns and textures.

Meanwhile, carbon wheels are effective enough, but they have more disadvantages. They’re not ideal for wet grounds. And, worse, their laminated rims can be easily damaged by constant friction.

Rims

Wheels with deep sections around their rims are versatile when it comes to movements. However, they tend to be heavier. And, worse, you might have a hard time balancing yourself while moving on a single direction if the deep areas catch wind from both sides.

In terms of profile, the lower the rims, the lighter they are. This contributes to better control, especially when you’re accelerating.

Spokes

Wheel rims and hubs are supported by spokes. Spokes also facilitate even distribution of pressure.

If you see a lot of spokes, that means the wheel is tougher yet heavier. Meanwhile, if there are only a few spokes, you’ll notice better performance from the wheel.

Conclusion

Whether you like purple or not, the excellent quality of the Cinelli Vigorelli Road Bike is undeniable. Each product on our list is better than most options out there, but we highly recommend this particular model. Its classic Columbus Thron frame, durable SRAM chain, secure Formula hubs, and flawless paintwork are ideal for beginners.

If you’re planning to search for more choices in stores, always remember to consider these major features: the frame, chain, pedals, and wheels. In addition, each feature depends on different factors. For example, just by focusing on the frame alone, you can’t help but think about other things as well such as the shape and the technique used in building the tubing.