Bicycles are one of the world’s most popular modes of transportation, with some 800 million bicycles outnumbering cars by two to one. Bicycles are used not only for transportation, but for fitness, competition, and touring as well. They come in myriad shapes and styles, including racing bikes, all-terrain bikes, and stationary bicycles, as well as unicycles, tricycles, and tandems.
Steel bike owners generally love steel bikes, and their bikes can last a lifetime kept in the right hands. The material will rust if not cared for, but it won’t fatigue like alloy and is very hard wearing. Very high grade steel can be quite light – but to make it so, it needs to be thin, and that means handmade, not manipulated by factory robots.
Seamless frame tubes are constructed from solid blocks of steel that are pierced and “drawn” into tubes through several stages. These are usually superior to seamed tubes, which are made by drawing flat steel strip stock, wrapping it into a tube, and welding it together along the length of the tube.
Butting involves increasing the thickness of the walls at the joints, or ends of the tube, where the most stress is delivered, and thinning the walls at the center of the tube, where there is relatively little stress.
The tubes are assembled into a frame by hand-brazing or welding by machine, the former being a more labor-intensive process and therefore more expensive. Composites may be joined with strong glue or plastic binders. The components are generally manufactured by machine and may be attached to the frame by hand or machine. Final adjustments are made by skilled bicycle builders.