Steel is real, the purists intone.
Sure, doubters smirk — real heavy.
In this age of carbon fiber, it’s easy to think of steel as the retro material. But steel has great advantages for bike frames, including easy customization. Safety, too. When steel fails, it fails slowly, not catastrophically (a fearsome word used for carbon).
Still, it’s hard to beat the weight rap. A frame built of traditional steel tubing can easily weigh twice as much as a carbon or titanium frame.
But modern steel tubesets have set new standards of low weight. That’s one reason I was so intrigued by the Edge Cycles Pellegrino, designed by Troy Rarick of Over the Edge Sports, a legendary bike shop in Fruita, Colorado. The frame without fork, crafted from Columbus’s Foco steel tubing, weighs a shade over 2 pounds. That’s Tour de France climbing-bike territory.
Over the Edge Sports is a thriving bike shop in western Colorado. Troy Rarick, its founder and driving force, has turned Fruita into a major mountain bike destination with some of the sweetest singletrack you’llever ride.
But Rarick was a fast and enthusiastic roadie long before he “went over to the dark side” (his words). In fact, 15 years ago he managed an outdoor shop in my hometown of Montrose and we rode together frequently, Rarick on a Fagnin steel frame, an Italian make rarely seen in the U.S.
So Rarick is no newcomer to road riding, and his experience is evident in the careful thought behind the Pellegrino. For starters it’s a custom bike. Talk to Troy, tell him what you want and Over the Edge will design the frame and build it up to your specifications. If you’ve priced custom bikes recently, this one is a bargain.
And it’s a classic road design — horizontal top tube, a bit of clearance between the seat tube and rear tire, elegant lines when observed from the side.
Another plus: The Pellegrino is a unique bike. Have you gotten the impression recently that bikes are increasingly cookie-cutter products? On a group ride or century, riders seem to be on one of half-a-dozen brands. The Pellegrino will set you apart.
So much for its pedigree. How did the Pellegrino perform on the road?
The handling was perfectly predictable, fast without being squirrelly. It descended with no hint of a wobble on short, fast downhills as well as longer, curvy plunges. Corners were a delight. Stand on the outside pedal, lean the bike over and zoom! — you’re around the bend with a feeling of stuck-to-the-road stability. Secure cornering may not be unique to well-designed steel frames, but to this old roadie it seems that way.
Comfort was good, too. The frame was laterally stiff in the bottom bracket and I couldn’t get the chain to rub the front-derailleur cage no matter how hard I stomped on the pedals. But it was surprisingly compliant over bumpy roads even with medium-narrow 700x23C tires.
I’m not a metal worker so it’s hard to judge weld quality. But the joinery on this frame looked right to me. All welds were neat and consistent. The paint was impeccable as well.
The Pellegrino’s Foco tubing is produced in Italy from an alloy called Thermachrome. It’s reputed to have exactly the same tensile strength after brazing or welding as before the torch is applied. This is apparently the first steel frame tubing to make that claim.
It’s hard to know how durable Foco will prove to be. The weight has to come off somewhere, and Foco tubing achieves this with thin walls. But the tubeset apparently has a great track record so far. And remember, a damaged steel frame can easily be repaired — a claim that carbon can’t make.
If you want a unique bike, one that you can be fairly certain won’t be found under anyone else on your local rides, the classy (and classic) Pellegrino should be high on your list.
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred’s full bio.