Independent Fabrication SSX
Having been a "Steel is Real" guy for most of my mountain biking life, in the last few years I found myself gravitating towards the lust of Ti bikes, in fact prior to getting the SSX, all of my bikes were no longer steel. After being more involved with IF, I was persuaded to test the SSX (Stainless Steel Cross) and I was excited at the prospect of getting back on a steel bike.
The Tubing: Before Reynolds came out with the new 953, Columbus back in the day also had a stainless steel offering. The Columbus tubing that was flimsy, brittle and small diameter tubing with only Rygin Cycles playing around with it, and from my understanding, none of those bikes exist today This new stainless steel tubing from Reynolds is sexy and cutting edge with its large diameter tubes that are paper thin and glimmer in the light with slight gray tint. It is funny because I get asked all the time if it is Ti. The standard 853 steel tubeset has wall thicknesses in the realm of .08 and .05, 953 is .05 and .03, basically stack like four sheets of copy paper and you will have it. Another benefit of 953 is its tensile strength, 3 times of that of Ti! It is as difficult to work with, even more so to weld than Ti due to the thin walls, and hardness of the metal, but how does it ride...
The Ride: During my transition I had the opportunity to own two identical hardtails, one was ti and the other steel. I could tell the differences and felt like the steel was a bit too harsh, which lead me to a full Ti quiver. Once again, I had two identical 'cross bikes, one Ti one 953, but this was not your average steel. The SSX was up to providing a similar if not superior ride quality to the Ti bike, but with added BB stiffness and a feel of transmitting power right donw to the ground. After pounding out several singletrack rides and laps on 'cross courses, I found myself loving the feel. The ride quality fell somewhere between steel and Ti, but better than both. Snappy, quick and supple were words the churned in my head as the wheels went around.
Light, Sexy and a Great Ride.
So would I convert? Absolutely. Reynolds 953 maybe the most cutting edge frame material out there in an unlikely package. Steel bikes have gone to pasture in the mainstream as Carbon and other exotics have taken center stage. But make no mistake, 953 is as exotic as anything out there, and just as beautiful. Weight? 3.45lbs for my 56 frame (my Ti weight in as 3.3 lbs), and there is room for lighter weight frames as the tubing gets dialed in.
Riders looking for an alternative to the sterile carbon-mass marketed deigns with little to no ride quality need not look any further. Indy will be offering a full line of 953 bikes (already with SSR road and SSX 'cross) with the soon to be released mtn version. These make for great Gucci/ head-turning rides that back up the hype, and offer real world riding benefits. I am working on the converting my quiver over to 953, Steel IS Real baby!