Steelwool Bicycles Tweed (
Expedition Touring Frame & Fork $680 Canadian ($625 USD)
Complete Bike as Reviewed Approx $1100 Canadian ($1009 USD)
Since the very first day last year when the Steelwool ad showed up on the FG website, I wanted to get my paws on one of their bikes. I liked the lugged steel, and simple paint scheme. But, alas, they had no American dealers as yet.
We were planning to show it as the feature presentation at this year’s FGG Symposium Film Night. As it turns out Steelwool is one of the film’s sponsors and their bikes are featured in it. This gave me the idea to get one of the bikes to ride and showcase during the week of Fixed Gear Symposium events. Will, from Steelwool, was all about that idea.
The Steelwool website features three main production bikes; two street bikes, generally known as the Sweet City Limited, designed for the fixed gear crowd, (the 200 series limited, and the 300 series limited,) and the
As delivered, the bike came ready to ride, minus a set of pedals. In fact, within ten minutes of slicing open the box, and stealing a set of used platforms off the shelf in Dennis’s store, I had pumped up the tires and was riding down the road. They sent the bike in its fixed gear configuration, loaded with Steelwool branded goodies. The review bike is an XL, according to their website, featuring a seat tube measuring 59 cm effective c-c, and a matching 59 cm, slightly sloping top tube.
As far as XL bikes go, this is a tad on the small side. This sloping top tube configuration gives the bike a tight feeling in the cockpit. On a standard frame, I need a 61 or 62cm seat tube to make it work. The
The bike shines with old-school sheen. The muted green basecoat along with the contrasting brown patches on the down-tube and top-tube give it a vintage feeling. This is reinforced by the classic brazed lug construction. The frame is made of Tange Prestige double butted tubing and is no lightweight. The feeling, however, is one of a sturdy, stiff, bike that will go anywhere you point it, and carry any reasonable load. It also has the accoutrement to prove that out. The frame carries most every braze-on imaginable, from dual water bottle bosses and rack mounts, to an assortment of brake options rivaling the entirety of the mountain bike world: cantilever bosses, drilled fork and bridge for calipers, AND disc mounts. Our review bike features Tektro Oryx cantis, front and rear.
And it doesn’t stop there. One of the key defining features of the
Let’s look at the pics:
As delivered, the
The bars are a sweet set of “Raundoneur” curvies with a shallow drop. These are designed for the long-haul. They’re fitted with Tektro black levers and dressed up with brown faux leather tape. The stem is another generic thing with a Cane Creek headset. The seat is another generic add-on, but rather comfy, attached to a serviceable seat-post, neither of which will get you running out to buy them on eBay.
While the gearing wasn’t perfect for the course, the bike easily handled the rolling hills and tight trails. I pounded hard on the pedals and the
During the Symposium, I rode the bike everywhere, putting well over 200 miles on it that week. Moreover, I was anything but gentle with it, (as witness the numerous clear-coat smudges I caused.) I rode hills in
Buy the frame and fork and just try to beat them up. The bike is gorgeous, with classic lines, even with its sloping top tube. It has every brazed-on bit you could ever imagine using, and the eccentric bottom bracket will make for easy and fast chain tensioning. As ridden, it’s definitely not a bike I’d take out with the big road dogs here. They’d drop me in a minute. The bike’s weight is its main drawback. Most of that weight, however, comes from the solid frame designed to carry just about anything. Unfortunately, the parts that came with this build were simply distractions. I wouldn’t recommend them, excepting for the hubs and the bars. But I must add here, this was not Steelwool’s call. They would’ve preferred sending one of their lighter street-ready rigs.
The slack geometry on this bike makes it feel more like driving a big old sedan than the sports cars we’re used to reviewing here. But, as SNL’s Linda Richman would say…”It’s like butter!” It’s low center of gravity, combined with high bottom bracket, long wheelbase, and masculine tubing present a formidable counter assault to any obstacle in your way. Throw down the fact that it can handle innumerable configurations, take huge loads, and feels comfortable on long rides, makes this bike beg to have S&S couplers installed so you can take it anywhere you go at the drop of chain-ring bolt.
The Up Side:
- Super tough lugged Tange Prestige Frame and Fork $680 Canadian
- Incredibly versatile
- Braze-on heaven
- Aesthetically gorgeous with classic lines
- Eccentric bottom bracket with top-mounted Allen set screws
- Beefy, beefy, beefy
- Smooth ride with great degree of adjustability
- Fits up to 38mm tires with fenders
- Disc brake mounts
- Frame and fork good value for level of workmanship
And the Down Low:
- Eccentric Bottom Bracket scares some people
- I’d like to see a higher end build available with better bits
- Track nuts on front axle slightly larger than flange on dropouts.(When I first tightened the nuts down, they had the wheel shift a bit from its fully seated position in the dropouts.)
- Pricey at first glance (Remember to convert currency from Canadian)
- XL should be at least a centimeter longer on the top tube to accommodate taller riders.
The Short of It:
This bike may in fact be the only mathematical defense to the N+1 rule. It feels like I’m getting five bikes for the price of one with this Canadian beauty, ((N+1)-4) anyone? Buy the gorgeous frame and fork, leave the bits behind.
See the full video version of this review here:
Steelwool Bicycles: www.steelwoolbicycles.ca
Tour d’Afrique Race/Tour: http://www.tourdafrique.com/epictours/tourdafrique
Where Are You Go – Movie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NpubbAzKSY
Lostgears’ Flickr Set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/billpalladino/sets/72157622245366722/
Lostgears’ Video Review File:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFEFmwIdmPA