November 17, 2010

Back on the stainless bandwagon?

Some of you may recall that I spent some time playing around with Reynolds 953 a few years ago. Long story short, I wasn’t happy with the tube butting profiles, the manufacturing quality, or the customer service (let’s just say I ended up a lot poorer, and with a frame that IMO isn’t safe to ride, due to a sudden change in the recommended welding process on their part).

So I washed my hands of the whole thing – the 953 ends up as expensive as ti anyway, and as everyone knows, I’m about a grouchy and anti-ti as it’s possible to be.

Now there’s a new (American) company making stainless bicycle tubing: KVA. My friend and super master framebuilder (I’m not worthy!) Dave Bohm did the test work on these tubes in person (before they had even figured out how to butt them), so I’m pretty confident that it’s not junk.

The butting (as of now they’re only making road/cross tubesets) is a nice standard 7/4/7, so while it’ll be hard to miter, it won’t be *stupid* hard. Enough material for a standard cross or road frame at the ends, not so silly thin in the middle that it’ll dent too easily. I’m hoping they do some 8/5/8 stuff in mountain bike diameters/lengths soon, but we’ll see.

The price isn’t bad, either – about $400 for a full tubeset, with dropouts and brazeons adding $50 or so. When all is said and done, not ridiculously more expensive than conventional steel, and about half the price of ti. I’m not sure how finishing it will work out – my guess is that a lot of people will want it raw/industrial looking, so that saves a few bucks on the powdercoat as well.

In any case, my friend Kris got himself on the waitlist and volunteered to be the guinea pig, but I was too excited to wait, so I went ahead and ordered the tubes yesterday – I’ll post again with some impressions when they’re here.

My dream is a stainless steel tubeset that isn’t weight/road bike-focused, but instead durability/mountain configuration – 8/5/8 or even 9/6/9 butting, nice big diameters, and lengths long enough that I can (natch) build 29ers. Maybe in a few years that will be a reality.