Chrome looks great, is superbly robust and goes splendidly with any bright finishing kit.
But what about frame colour, which remains the largest single largest aspect of appearance with any bike? You might be willing to settle for some mid-grade components, but no rider wishes to compromise on bike colour.
Paint finish and graphic design have been a crucial part of mountain bike frame differentiation and rider personalisation since the inception of off-road fat-tyre riding. An interesting historical detail is that the first mountain bikes, built by Joe Breeze in 1978, featured nickel plating.
This finish ensured tremendous durability and scratch resistance. During the 1980s many premium BMX frames were chrome-plated, to mitigate frame surface damage.
As most premium mountain bikes frame are now carbon-fibre, the demand for proven industrial plating finishes has waned. But that doesn’t mean they should be ignored, especially if you are a steel frame aficionado.
Relatively neutral on the colour spectrum, with a lustrous presence in both sunlight and overcast conditions, there is no arguing against the visual appeal of chrome. Especially if you are going to curate a build with vividly colourful components.
Aside from its aesthetic merit, chrome is also hardy. If cable rub, terrain strikes or trail debris abrasion are issues for you, a chrome frame can offer greater longevity in terms of retaining that slick appearance, than a conventionally painted finish.
Limited-edition metal frames love chrome
Some of the most notable recent frames finished in chrome have been from boutique brands.
Huhn’s Moorhuhn 129 is an achingly pretty dual-suspension trail bike, finished in chrome, and limited to only 12 frames a year, priced at a rather premium €6000 each.
The latest chrome offering at a more affordable price point is from Canfield. Best known for its downhill and enduro bikes, with their unique CBF suspension system, Canfield also produces a progressive geometry 29er hardtail, the aptly named Nimble 9.
Now preparing for its fifth production run, Canfield is offering a select batch of Nimble 9s in a chrome finish.
Beyond its shiny appearance, a true chrome-plated frame such as the Nimble 9, is greatly more scratch and chip resistant than most painted alternatives. The chromed Nimble 9 can be pre-ordered for $699.99.
In a world where elaborate colourways have become a mark of distinguishing different models and production years, the appeal of a traditional industrial finish is yet again showing its timeless value. Joe Breeze would definitely approve.