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Best steel road bikes 2023 — versatile, durable and comfortable steeds

Find out why steel's still real with our pick of the best steel road bikes

Ultra-performance bikes may all be made of carbon fibre these days, but many riders still swear by the ride feel and insouciant robustness of steel, especially in the form of modern, high-grade alloy steels that build into light, springy and comfortable frames. Here are some of best steel road bikes you can buy.

  • Most modern steel frames are made from chromium-molybdenum alloy steel. As the name suggests these steels have chromium and molybdenum in the mix with carbon and iron, increasing their strength over regular mild steel

  • Heat-treating, as in tubes like Reynolds 725 and Columbus Spirit, further strengthens the steel, so you need less of it to make a frame

  • Got very deep pockets? Columbus XCr and Reynolds 953 are made from ultra-strong stainless steel alloys allowing very thin tubes and very light frames. They're expensive and hard to work with, though

  • Want a frame built to your exact specifications? Steel is the way to go; a custom builder will create your dream bike

The best steel road bikes

While aluminium enjoyed a brief period as the material of choice for professional road racing bicycles, the same can’t be said for steel; it was the dominant frame material during much of the 20th century for bicycles of all descriptions.

In the world of professional cycle racing, each of Eddy Merckx’s 525 victories was aboard a steel bike, but the last time the Tour de France was won on steel was in 1994. That was Miguel Indurain, who won his fourth of five Tour titles on a Pinarello bike (though it was reportedly actually built by Dario Pegoretti).

Read more: Is there still a place for steel road bikes in the age of carbon fibre?

You might well think the advance of carbon fibre would have rendered steel obsolete, but that has never happened. Steel is (and always will be) a really good material for building bicycles frames, because it’s light, stiff and durable. It's also easy to fix: your local welder will be able to repair a broken steel frame, although some very high-strength steels do need special handling. But try finding someone who can fix a broken carbon frame in the Yellow Pages.

Enigma Elite Frameset - riding 2.jpg

Some cyclists refuse to ride anything but a steel bike, so enchanting is its ride quality. It’s not as widely available as it used to be though, but that is changing as it has become more fashionable in the past few years, with the new wave of bespoke framebuilders choosing to work with steel.

If you want a custom bike, steel is the most versatile and affordable option. Bespoke carbon fibre will cost you a fortune and good luck trying to get a bespoke aluminium frame, leaving steel to become the main choice in the growing bespoke framebuilding sector. Aluminium has now become so cheap to manufacture that you can now get it on bikes costing from as little as £200.

Steel tube manufacturers, such as Columbus and Reynolds, thankfully haven’t given up on steel, and in fact the opposite has happened, they've been investing in new tubesets. The latest steel tubesets, which include the latest stainless offerings, are now lighter and stiffer than anything Eddy Merckx used to race, and a viable alternative to carbon and aluminium.

>>Read more: Custom built frames — the choice, from steel to carbon

The best steel road bikes

Genesis Croix De Fer 20 — £1,599

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We make no apologies for kicking off with a brace of Genesis bikes. For over a decade the UK brand has been flying the flag for steel with thoughtfully-designed bikes at sensible prices. The Croix de Fer 20 is Genesis' go-anywhere bike, based around a smooth-riding steel frameset with large tyre clearances and a huge array of mounting points for accessories to aid your commuting or adventure rides.

The Croix de Fer is designed for everything from commuting to riding around the world, and provided you aren't in a hurry it's a very pleasurable place to be. The Croix de Fer hasn't been designed as a fast road bike – it hasn't even been designed as a fast off-road bike – so just kick back and enjoy the ride, which you can do because of the comfortable frame built from Reynolds 725 tubing.

Read our review of the Genesis Croix De Fer 20
Find a Genesis dealer

Genesis Equilibrium — £1,749.99

2021-genesis-equilibrium-riding-1 v2

The Equilibrium has been part of Genesis' line up for many years now, and this latest version – with its Reynolds 725 frame and fork – is an absolute corker, thanks to a smooth ride and plenty of tyre clearance.

Tester Stu writes: "The ride quality is beautiful. I like my tyres pumped up hard; if the frameset is any good, it'll deal with the vibrations. And this one does. Taking to the back lanes sees it float across broken road surfaces. It just seems to dampen everything out and feels so composed."

Read our review of the Genesis Equilibrium 2021
Find a Genesis dealer

Ritchey Outback frameset — £1,400

Ritchey Outback gravel bike

The Ritchey Outback is a steel-framed, carbon-forked gravel and adventure frameset designed for everything from road to bikepacking and off-road touring, with all kinds of gravel in between. Its premium steel tubes and carbon layups have all the mounts you could want, and it's a supremely comfy ride.

The Outback itself is not new, but for 2020 it was been updated with increased tyre clearance – it can now accept 650b wheels – a new carbon fork with mounting points, thru-axles front and rear, and disc brake flat mounts.

Read our review of the Ritchey Outback

Condor Bivio Gravel — £1,399.99 (frame, fork & headset)

2020 Condor Bivio.jpg

A beautifully made Columbus steel frame with a stunning ride quality, the Condor Bivio Gravel is well suited to long adventures whatever the terrain. The comfort levels are impressive while the endurance-based geometry delivers a machine that is stable on loose surfaces, but with just enough 'edginess' that you can really have some fun.

The handling is precise without being twitchy. If you hit some loose gravel at speed in the middle of a corner there is so much feedback coming through that beautiful tubeset and full carbon fork that even though the bike is sliding sideways you know exactly where the tyres are heading and you can hold the slide until the grip comes back.

Read our review of the Condor Bivio Gravel

Spa Cycles Wayfarer — £1,210.00

Spa Cycles Wayfarer.jpg

Steel still rules the serious touring bike niche as demonstrated by this bike and the Thorn Club Tour, below. The Wayfarer is an out-and-out touring bike with a quality frame and fork and a solid spec for an attractive price.

The 'Wayfarer' name is a nod to the early days of rough-stuff riding and what we would now call adventure touring (they just called it touring in them days). 'Wayfarer' was the byline of cyclist and writer Walter MacGregor Robinson, whose exploits a century ago inspired a whole movement that coalesced into the Rough Stuff Fellowship.

There's a fair bit about Spa Cycles' dedicated touring bike that Robinson would have recognised: a steel frame and fork, plenty of braze-ons for rack and mudguard mounts, a leather saddle and the stylish British Racing Green paint job. He might also have been familiar with the weight of a package like this, and if he lugged something similar over the Welsh mountain passes then good on him, I say.

Read our review of the Spa Cycles Wayfarer 2020

Thorn Club Tour Mk5 — from £1,675

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The Thorn Club Tour is a very versatile bike, and built like this it's a jolly tractor of a thing that's comfortable on the tarmac and off it. Add some luggage and it's the kind of bike that you could roll out of your garage, hop on and ride to pretty much anywhere in the world, whether the roads go there or not.

The Club Tour is now on its fifth incarnation, and it's a design classic that's stood the test of time: a Reynolds 725-tubed, externally routed steel touring frameset with as many braze-ons as you're likely to need.

The main change for the Mk5 is that Thorn has done a bit of work with the shaping of the stays so that the bike can now accept 650B wheels as well as 700C. The frame is compatible with either disc or rim brakes and there's a set of bosses on each chainstay to allow you to fit cantilever posts in either the 650B or 700C position, and a classic ISO disc mount externally located on the dropout that will take up to a 180mm disc.

Read our review of the Thorn Club Tour Mk5

The Light Blue Robinson V2 — from £1,849.99

Light Blue Robinson V2.jpg

The Light Blue Robinson V2 Rival 1x exudes class and comfort, and thanks to plenty of stability and neutral handling allows you to just get away from it all, on the road or off.

Tester Stu Kerton writes: "I love a quality steel frame and the Robinson didn't let me down. It's just so damn comfortable, in a way that only steel can deliver. The ride quality from the tubes feels soft, like it smooths the road surface out but still gives you all of the good vibration, so you can still feel the feedback and be involved in everything that is going on."

Read our review of the The Light Blue Robinson V2 Rival 1X 2020

Enigma Endeavour  — from £2,999.00

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The Enigma Endeavour is not only one of the prettiest-looking bikes you can buy, it’s also one of the sweetest riding, with delightful smoothness and fine handling on the road and in the woods. It isn’t exactly cheap, but it is handmade in the UK, which might just be enough to convince you it’s worth it.

Read our review of the Enigma Endeavour

Cotic Escapade — from £1,829

Cotic Escapade gravel bike

One of the early adopters of the whole notion of gravel/adventure/do-it-all bikes, the Cotic Escapade has had a few upgrades since its inception a good five or six years ago. Larger tyre clearances, a new carbon fork and a tapered head tube have now upped the performance and dropped the weight, making the new model an absolute joy to ride whether on or off road.

Read our review of the Cotic Escapade

Mason ISO — from £3,140

Mason In Search Of gravel bike

Sometimes a bike comes along that completely delivers in its capabilities, looks and build quality. The Mason ISO - In Search Of -  is one of those bikes. With an Italian hand-built frame, a superb level of finish and detail it nonchalantly comes along and redefines what a drop-bar bike is capable of being.

What Mason has got so right is that the bike is viable for a lot of different types of trail or even road use if you wanted. It’s blatantly not a road bike, but if you wanted to tour, and have a mainly quiet road route, the ISO riding position is comfy for that, and if you want something more off-road the ISO will be at home there too. Somehow, they have struck the perfect balance between all-day comfort and off-road agility.

Read our review of the Mason ISO

Sonder Santiago — from £1,199

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The Santiago is Sonder's take on the classic steel tourer: smooth, reliable and assured. As an all-round package it really delivers, especially from a comfort point of view, whether on or off-road.

A look at the figures says the Santiago is heavy at 11.79kg (26lb) but it doesn't really feel like it. It has a responsive frame, relatively speaking, and on smooth terrain you can cover a decent mileage without having to work too hard.

Being designed primarily as a tourer, the Santiago has a long wheelbase compared to something with more of racing bias. Our medium with a 56cm effective top tube length covers 1,063mm between its axles, which makes for a very composed bike on the road even when loaded up.

Read our review of the Sonder Santiago

Fairlight Cycles Secan 2.0 — from £2,349


Adventure and allroad bikes are all the rage right now, and not without good reason. Highly versatile and endlessly adaptable, they really do have the potential to eliminate N+1 for good. In taking a plethora of tyre widths, the new Secan – the latest model from young British company Fairlight Cycles – can be pressed into action as a rugged off-road bikepacking bike or shod with wide slicks, mudguards and racks for the daily commute or multi-day tour.

The Secan may not be the lightest option – steel never will be – but it has the performance that makes it a really fun and exciting bike to ride. The ride quality and the smoothness on rough terrain more than compensate as well. I'm a sucker for a good steel road bike, which is why I've always owned one, and the Secan offers that unmistakable balance of comfort, unflappable smoothness and assured handling you expect from a very well designed steel frame.

Read our review of the Fairlight Cycles Secan

Bombtrack Hook EXT — from £2,349

2021 Bombtrack Hook EXT

The defining feature of the Hook EXT is the 650B (27.5in) wheel size. It's becoming popular in the category of do-anything bike – the ability to rock the toughest of mountain bike trails, then either fit really fat slicks for road riding/touring, or a set of 700C wheels on normal tyres makes for as close to one-bike-to-rule-them-all as you currently get.

For 2021 the Hook EXT gets an intergrated rear light mount to add to 2020's T47 bottom bracket, tweaked cable routing to work better with dropper posts and new dropouts.

Read our review of the Bombtrack Hook EXT
Find a Bombtrack dealer

Colnago Master X-Light — £2,099.00 (frameset)

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In the glory days of steel, Colnago supplied bikes to Eddy Merckx, Giro winner and world champion Giuseppe Saronni among many other greats of the era. Colnago's steel frames are still made in Italy and fans of steel consider them among the very best available ferrous frames.

Find a Colnago dealer

Fairlight Cycles Strael 2.0 — from £2,349

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The Fairlight Cycles Strael is an absolutely stunning machine, offering four-season adaptability and durability without sacrificing high speed or a racy performance. Intelligent tube choices coupled with a long and low geometry make for a bike you can blast about on all day long and the only muscles that'll ache at the end of it will be from grinning too much.

We also been extremely impressed by the Fairlight Strael 2.0 which is well worth waiting for.

Read our review of the Fairlight Cycles Strael

​ Read our review of the Fairlight Cycles Strael 2.0

Cinelli XCr Stainless Steel (frameset) — £3,649

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When it comes to iconic bicycle brands, there are few quite as iconic as Cinelli. This is the Italian company’s XCr Stainless Steel frameset, which it describes as the “jewel in its range”. We can see why. Handmade in Italy, the TIG-welded triple butted XCr wonderfulness with laser etched graphics has a claimed frame weight of just 1,420g.

Condor Fratello Disc (frameset) — £899.99

Condor Fratello

London’s Condor Cycles is both a bike shop and bike brand, and its Fratello touring bike is its most popular model, showing that there is a lot of demand for a sensible steel frame. The frame has been carefully refined over the years, and the latest update is a move to Columbus Spirit tubing with some custom shaping taking inspiration from Condor’s racier Super Acciaio. And it’s available with disc brakes now as well, making it the ideal winter training, Audax or commuting bike.

Condor also offers the Fratello in a bang-up-to-date version with through-axles and fittings for flat-mount brakes for £1,199.99.

Read our review of the Condor Fratello Disc Thru Axle frameset

Read our review of the Condor Fratello Disc

Donhou DSS1 — frameset from £2,225.00

Donhou Signature Steel

Tom Donhou is one of the new wave of young framebuilders specialising in steel and his bikes have been well received, with a particular focus on disc brakes that led to the development of the DSS1 Signature Steel. It’s an off-the-shelf bike with a frame made from Reynolds 853 and an Enve carbon fibre fork and tapered head tube.

Read our review of the Donhou DSS1 Signature Steel

Enigma Elite HSS Disc (frame, fork & headset) — from £2,265

Enigma Elite

The modern steel tubesets are a long way from the skinny steel tubes of yesteryear, and the Enigma Elite HSS is a fine example of how good a contemporary steel bike can be. It uses the latest Columbus Spirit HSS triple butted tubeset with a beefy 44mm diameter head tube and combined with a carbon fibre fork, it displays the sort of ride that would make you question all other frame materials.

Read our review of the Enigma Elite HSS

Genesis Bikes Equilibrium Disc — £2,599.99

2020 Genesis equilibrium

Even though Brit brand Genesis Bikes now does carbon fibre, it has partly founded its reputation on fine steel bikes. It’s also responsible for raising awareness of race-ready steel bikes: its Madison-Genesis team raced its Volare model at top level races.

The Equilibrium, an all-rounder with room in the frame for mudguards, and rack mounts, has always been the mainstay of the Genesis steel range. It uses Reynolds 725 double-butted steel tubes with a carbon fork and Shimano 105 groupset.

Independent Fabrication Club Racer (frame & fork) — £POA

Independent Fabrication Club Racer.jpg

It’s not just British frame builders that are bringing steel back into fashion, there has been a similar increase in popularity over in the US too. Independent Fabrication was founded in 1995 out of the ashes of mountain bike company Fat City Cycles, and now offers a range of steel road bikes. This one, the Club Racer is a traditional road bike with all the fitments for light touring, making it an ideal winter bike, commuter or Audax choice. It’s available with disc brakes as well.

Mason Resolution (frame, fork & headset) — £1,595


New Brit brand Mason debuted with two frames, and chose Columbus Spirit and Life tubes for its Resolution. There’s nothing much traditional about this bike, with internal cable routing, disc brakes and space for 28mm tyres and mudguards.

Read our review of the Mason Resolution

Mercian Cycles Vincitore Special 853 Pro Team frameset — £2,195

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Started in 1946, Mercian Cycles is another long-running UK steel framebuilding business that is thriving today, using traditional framebuilding methods and building each frame to order and made-to-measure. Choosing a frame involves using the company’s online frame builder tool, which lets you chose a model, tubeset, geometry and other details you want on your future bike. The Vincitore Special (pictured) features intricate hand-cut lugs. It can be built from a choice of Reynolds tubesets including 631, 725 and 853.

Rourke Framesets Reynolds 631 frameset — from £1,100


Rourke Framesets offer a wide choice of steel bikes with a selection of tubesets available to meet different budgets. The custom frame business is headed up by Brian Rourke who has 25 years of road racing experience, and uses this expertise to provide a full bike fit service, to ensure your new bike fits perfectly. Rourke offers framesets in a choice of flavours, from road race to Audax, and complete bikes built to your exact specification.

Shand Cycles Stoater — from £2,695

Shand Stoater

Shand Cycles is a Scottish frame manufacturer and produces a number of different models, but the Stoater is its do-everything frame designed to be as versatile as you need it to be. Like the modern crop of cyclocross/gravel bikes, the Stoater has space for wide tyres and the frame is bristling with mudguard and rack mounts.

Read out review of the Shand Stoater

Stoemper Taylör (frameset) — US$2,399.00

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Portland-based Stoemper takes a lot of inspiration from Belgium for its Stoemper Taylör, a frame made from TIG welded True Temper S3 tubing and a classic road bike geometry. The tubes are oversized but not by the same measure as some more modern steel bikes, with a non-tapered head tube providing a classic appearance.

Read our review of the Stoemper Taylör

Prefer aluminium? Here are 11 of the best aluminium road bikes.

Explore the complete archive of reviews of bikes on

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The aim of buyer's guides is to give you the most, authoritative, objective and up-to-date buying advice. We continuously update and republish our guides, checking prices, availability and looking for the best deals.

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David worked on the tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes

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