Steel is the new carbon.

There’s been a recent wave of new full suspension models coming out that are made out of steel rather than aluminium or carbon. What’s going on?

“Steel is real”. That was the phrase often heard when talking about purist hardtails, the general gist being that steel gave a special type of ride characteristic to a hardtail. But now there’s been a wave of steel frame full suspension bikes.

The general vibe is that the very same steel-is-real ride is being touted as a benefit to fully sprung machines too. Chassis flex innit. The sort of thing that motorsport vehicles spends kerbillions on trying to perfect. Not all flex is necessarily bad. Think of it as micro-suspension.

It seems that the stiffer-is-better mantra we typically hear about mountain bikes may not be the whole story when it comes to what actually makes bikes fun – and faster – to ride.

The cromo DMR Bolt from a few years back

Now then. We’re not going to come out and say that all flex is good. There certain places and components are better to be stiff. So where exactly is the ‘good flex’ happening?

Contrary to what has always been said about steel hardtails, it’s not the rear stays that are the most significant factor here. We half suspect that it’s the main front triangle that gives steel bikes their ride characteristics. Principally the top and down tubes. Yes, you feel the er, feel mainly through your feet, but it’s originating from the front half of the bike, not the back.

The BT Pinner has been around for a while – and due a revamp any day now.

Which is arguably what the following bike designers – and the people who test them – are finding out about steel. They’re not using clumpy cheap-BMX-style steel (as seen on dirtjump full sussers). They’re using fancy steel tubing, with cunning butting and lofty price tags. Used correctly, the feel and give of this sort of steel can apparently make a bike ride quicker than it would if it was aluminium or carbon.

What bikes are we talking about? Check out this little lot…

Production Privée Shan No.5

This is the latest steely bounce bike to hit the headlines. And my, isn’t it a stunning looker? Trail/enduro bike with 138mm of rear travel via single pivot design. Plus tyre compatible (up to 2.8in tyres). Boost axle. The bahama yellow paintjob is a tribute to the iconic Porsche 911 UK from Singer…

Pic: Production Privée

Starling Murmur 29

There is a great deal of buzz about this bike in the incestuous world of the UK bike press. Everyone wants a go on one. And everyone who’s had a go on one wants one. 145mm travel 29er made from finest Reynolds and Columbus steels. Not exactly cheap at £1,850 frame only but plenty of folk would sell their Grandmother for one…

Pic: Starling Cycles

Cotic Rocket

Somewhat ahead the current curve, Cotic have been making their steel Rocket for a good number of seasons now. Available in 27.5in wheelsize and a new Rocket MAX version that accepts either 29in wheels or 27.5″ Plus. The swingarm is actually aluminium, it’s the main frame (where it matters) that’s Reynolds steel…

Pic: Cotic Cycles

Portus Fast Karl

Only just sort-of-announced at the recent North American Handbuilt Bicycle show (NAHBS) was this Teutonic beast. The 166mm travel enduro bike from Germany’s Portus Cycles. The I(ntend)-Link suspension arrangement is a version of a variable/floating pivot point design. A blend of Columbus, Dedacciai and Reynolds steels go into this one…

Pic: Portus Cycles / Facebook

Stanton FS prototype

What’s this? A full susser from the steel hardtail Stanton crew? Yep. As you can probably tell from the featured image, there’s not a whole lot to say at the moment about this as it’s in the development stages still. All we can say (going from Instagram tags of all thing) is that it’s probably going to be made from Reynolds steel…

Pic: Stanton Bikes / Facebook

Swarf Cycles 29er FS prototype

Dorset frame builders Swarf Cycles have already made 27.5in wheel steel full sussers but this prototype 29er is their new project. Again,. not a lot to say about it as yet, except that it has 115mm rear travel…

Pic: Swarf Cycles / Facebook

Is steel real? Or is it just another fad in ever-changing world of mountain biking? It’s hard to say exactly but there’s definitely something about the look of them – and the way they have certain people raving – that suggests it’s certainly a trend that has legs.