To steel or not to steel?

By October 8, 2016Cycling

I spent two hours last night researching 953 Reynolds tubing.

Since my bike was stolen last week I have been on the hunt for a new machine to race on for the 2017 season. I need a bike which meets the following criteria:

  • 44 cm women’s endurance geometry (with a reach of c.355 and a stack of c.525)
  • Shimano Ultegra 53/39 (or equivalent)
  • Rim brakes
  • 160 mm cranks

This super compact set up is pretty essential as part of my plan to manage my recently diagnosed Iliac Artery Endofibrosis. The idea is to get as upright on the bike as possible (hence the high stack and short reach) and to open up my hip angle as much as possible (hence the short cranks). What I lose in aerodynamics, I hope to gain in better blood flow to the legs. Simples.

So, the searching began. I came up with a shortlist of 4 bikes that would give me the right position:

  • Scott Contessa Solace
  • Specialised Ruby (although the stack isn’t quite high enough)
  • Felt ZW5 (although the reach is a bit long and it only comes with disc brakes)
  • Cannondale Synapse (women’s) (although the stack is a bit low)

I then searched for in-stock models in the UK and Spain. I found a Specialized Ruby with Dura Ace Di2 in my size (for £6,500 no less – but with compact gearing and too-long cranks this would be a pretty pointless expense). Then I found a Scott Contessa Solace with Ultegra in my size in a shop in Eastbourne! Hallelujah! I emailed them and it was out of stock.

Back to the drawing board.  I looked for frame sets. I was told no. Women’s bikes don’t come as frame sets apparently.

Frustration was setting in.

What about a custom steel build? The question was casually asked by my team manager. I immediately thought of the Columbus tubed bike I had first started racing on. I enjoyed racing on that. People may have looked at me with bemusement on the start line but when I was still there at the finish, they looked a little more impressed.

But steel? Really? Surely that’s not good for a little climber-type like myself? I hit google. Madison Genesis race on Reynolds 953 bikes, Guy Martin broke the land speed record in 2015 on his Reynolds 953 bike, Elinor Barker & Laura Trott race track on Reynolds 953 bikes. Not too shabby.

Reynolds 953 tubing is the latest, state of the art, lightweight stainless steel. It has an epic strength to weight ratio, it’s up there with titanium & carbon, and it looks the bomb. The nerds on the ‘Weight Weenies’ forum (of which I now count myself a member of) were pretty sold on it. One guy slated 953 as a ‘side show freak’, but he was firmly in the minority.

The huge advantage is that I’ll end up with a frame that will actually fit (for the first time ever I might add) and I can spec the bike to my niche requirements.  I think it will be pretty beautiful and a man called The Bear makes them. What’s not to love?!

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