Why steel time trial bikes are making a comeback (video)

Playlist 20 Videos Why steel time trial bikes are making a comeback (video) 02:55 July's tech of the month: new products from Garmin, 100%, Prime and Cannondale 19:54 Pro bike: Geraint Thomas's Pinarello Dogma F12 04:35 June’s tech of the month: New Brompton X, Cannondale SystemSix and Maxxis tyres 20:54 April's Tech of the Month: Canyon Aeroad with SRAM AXS, new Vittoria tyres and Fulcrum wheels 26:29 March's Tech of the Month: Pinarello, new Specialized shoes, DT Swiss wheels and Evoc's bike bag 27:06 February's Tech of the Month: new kit from Castelli, Le Col, Smith and Triban 24:22 Greg Van Avermaet to ride a gold Giant TCR in 2019 (video) 01:00 Watch: Top five Strava cheats (video) 04:41 January's Tech of the Month: Colnago C64, Assos Equipe RS S9, Santini Vega and Specialized S-Works Recon 18:29 December's Tech of the Month: New Shimano 105, Canyon's best bike and new helmet tech from Specialized and Met 22:31 The best new e-bikes of 2019 05:01 November's Tech of the Month: New S-Phyre shoes, a CatEye lightshow, Fulcrum carbon wheels and a big bike bag 24:26 October's Tech of the Month: New Giro helmet, rain protection from Castelli and Specialized's tubeless tyres 19:24 Watch: Seven of the hottest aero bikes for 2019 06:15 The six most exciting cycling computer releases of 2018 03:09 September's Tech of the Month: Fighter jet cycling glasses, Wahoo's indoor training system and a pair of very sensible lights 17:37 Watch: Seven stunning shoes coming in 2019 04:53 August Tech of the Month: Enve wheels, Oakley sunglasses and something very special from CeramicSpeed (video) 18:14 Watch: What are the key features to look for when buying your next bike? 09:16

Before Chris Boardman’s Lotus kicked off a revolution in super slippery monocoque carbon fibre frames, steel time trial bikes were the norm in both professional cycling and domestic time trialling.

Perhaps one of the most famous time trials of all time, the final stage of the 1989 Tour de France that saw Greg Lemond (and his aero-bars) overturn a 50 second deficit on the yellow jersey Laurent Fignon and win in Paris by eight seconds, was contested on steel TT bikes.

>>> Greg LeMond’s five greatest wins

These days, carbon fibre frames are very much the norm – just look at Sir Bradley Wiggins’s Pinarello Bolide, Tony Martin’s Specialized Shiv or Alex Dowsett’s Canyon Speedmax. But is there still a place for the steel time trial bike?

Sturdy 1

This build comes with a single front chain ring

“There is no reason why you couldn’t have a hi-tech modern race bike made out of what are perceived as old materials; I reckon it would still be pretty quick,” says Tom Sturdy, who designs and builds his bikes under the name Sturdy Cycles.

“Steel is still a fantastic material to work with, if it was discovered a few years ago it would still be thought of as a wonder material, it’s just because it’s been around for a while that people think it’s old technology.”

Sturdy’s own time trial bike has been custom made for his measurements, featuring a long drop to the bars (he has long limbs), flattened tubing and built-in front and rear lights.

>>> The top 10 game-changing road bikes

“In certain situations, specifically time trial or any steady state power output, having a certain amount of flex can actually help you produce power over a decent amount of time,” he says. “Although flexing side to side is perceived as a loss of energy, there is a mechanism that allows that energy to return to useful energy in the bike.

“That really starts contributing to he ride feel, the ‘steel is real’ phenomenon.”

Sturdy’s bike might not be taking on the manufacturing giants when it comes to out and out aerodynamics, but he argues that the improved handling and ride than can come from a handbuilt bike still has a place in the race against the clock. Plus, his bike looks great.

>>> Carbon beware: are aluminium frames making a comeback?

“In the modern world we’re so far removed from the manufacture of products there’s an assumption that all manufacture has to be hi-tec, digital, using machines,” he says.

Sturdy 2

“You can achieve a very high degree of accuracy by hand – with hands – with no real machines. It just takes care, attention, and skill.”

“It’s fantastic to ride a bike that has been made bespoke for you, it’s a really nice feeling,” he adds.  “Especially if it’s done well, whoever built that bike for you will have put a lot of care and attention into it and it’s amazing how all those little things combine to make something which you don’t realise you want until you’ve had it.”

Upcoming events