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Six gorgeous steel road bikes from Fairlight, Condor, Mason, Kona, Genesis and Donhou

Despite the advance in modern materials, steel is still a ruddy good choice for making a bicycle frame, as the long list of brands still working with steel tubing proves. In this latest Six of the Best video, we've rounded up six steel beauties that we think are good examples of the latest breed of steel road bikes.

Not to give too much away, but we've got bikes from Fairlight, Condor, Mason, Kona, Genesis and Donhou in this video, and you can find out more about them from the reviews and buying links in the table below.

By the way, the current equivalent of the Kona Roadhouse featured in the video is the Wheelhouse; the £3,999 Roadhouse has gone way upmarket, and the Condor Fratello Disc price cited is for a bike with Shimano 105 components, specced up using Condor's bike builder.

Our pick of six of the best steel road bikes


Weight Market price Read more
Fairlight Strael
8,900g
£2,639
Read our review
Condor Fratello Disc
10,062g
~£2,200
Read our review
Mason Resolution
8,900g
£2,745
Read our review
Kona Wheelhouse
10,300g
£1,799
Read our review
Genesis Equilibrium Disc
~10,000g
£1,995
Read our review
Donhou DSS1
8,700g
from £4,585
Read our review

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

23 comments

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Benjamin Nickolls [62 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes

Ritchey Road Logic II should probably be here. I UTFS but can't find a review  2 

Then there's always the Colnago Master... 

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perfect1964 [32 posts] 8 months ago
2 likes

 Why all disc brakes? Or is this Road CC servicing the bike industry's marketing whims?

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Yorkshire wallet [2204 posts] 8 months ago
5 likes
perfect1964 wrote:

 Why all disc brakes? Or is this Road CC servicing the bike industry's marketing whims?

Time for a Shackleton's high seat chair. Drum brakes on the car?

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BehindTheBikesheds [2300 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes
Yorkshire wallet wrote:
perfect1964 wrote:

 Why all disc brakes? Or is this Road CC servicing the bike industry's marketing whims?

Time for a Shackleton's high seat chair. Drum brakes on the car?

So what you're admitting to is that either you prefer bikes that are more ugly and/or that you can't ride properly/be in control unless you have discs instead of caliper brakes, which one is it or is it both? 

Discs on a road bike are an utter nonsense, discs on a steel road bike are simply for plebs.

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hmf [2 posts] 8 months ago
2 likes
Yorkshire wallet wrote:
perfect1964 wrote:

 Why all disc brakes? Or is this Road CC servicing the bike industry's marketing whims?

Time for a Shackleton's high seat chair. Drum brakes on the car?

 

Haha, brilliant. Or maybe we can all go back to those shite shifters at the stem?

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luiandlui [17 posts] 8 months ago
5 likes

 

[/quote]

So what you're admitting to is that either you prefer bikes that are more ugly and/or that you can't ride properly/be in control unless you have discs instead of caliper brakes, which one is it or is it both? 

Discs on a road bike are an utter nonsense, discs on a steel road bike are simply for plebs.

[/quote]

What if you think disc brakes look better than claiper brakes ? Is it OK then ?

 

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kil0ran [1078 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:
Yorkshire wallet wrote:
perfect1964 wrote:

 Why all disc brakes? Or is this Road CC servicing the bike industry's marketing whims?

Time for a Shackleton's high seat chair. Drum brakes on the car?

So what you're admitting to is that either you prefer bikes that are more ugly and/or that you can't ride properly/be in control unless you have discs instead of caliper brakes, which one is it or is it both? 

Discs on a road bike are an utter nonsense, discs on a steel road bike are simply for plebs.

I've got discs on my steel tourer and rim brakes on my fast/dry bike. Prefer the look and feel of the rims, pretty much set and forget, whereas the discs have long lever throw and need constant fettling. In the wet they undoubtedly haul me up faster, particularly because the bike is hauling 30kgs of child and tagalong. Horses for courses but agree the disc brake marketing juggernaut overstates the need. 

In my bike journey to date I've been seduced in turn by electronic shifting, internal routing, big tyre clearance, and disc brakes and yet my favourite bike is rim-braked and will just about accommodate a 25mm tyre. Favourite mainly because its a simple thing, cost buttons, and is seriously lighter/faster than my tourer.

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Peowpeowpeowlasers [605 posts] 8 months ago
4 likes

I have discs on my winter bike and they never "need constant fettling".  Perhaps this is because they're hydraulic and not cable operated.  The only time I go near them is to change the pads.

I'll take discs over rims any day, primarily because the former doesn't wear the latter.  Replacing a rim is much, much more expensive than replacing a disc.

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Sub4 [72 posts] 8 months ago
1 like
Peowpeowpeowlasers wrote:

I have discs on my winter bike and they never "need constant fettling".  Perhaps this is because they're hydraulic and not cable operated.  The only time I go near them is to change the pads.

I'll take discs over rims any day, primarily because the former doesn't wear the latter.  Replacing a rim is much, much more expensive than replacing a disc.

My Genesis winter bike has them & I wouldn’t swap now. I was a bit of a sceptic, but got the bike at a good price & justified it on the grounds that I wouldn’t wear through a set of wheels every winter. It’s been superb. So much that I ride it well into the ‘summer bike’ season.

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KendalRed [221 posts] 8 months ago
1 like

Loved it when the camera lingered on the Mason seat tube with 'UK Designed' clearly visible, then a moment later the comentator said the frame is designed in Italy!

Oh, and the Kona...Roadhouse or Roundhouse?

A signature steel headbadge on the Donhue? No there isn't!

Honestly David, you need to actually watch and edit these things before you put them out there!

Having said that, some gorgeous frames on show here - love that Donhue, but not sure I could get it past Mrs Kendalred as another N+1. Not that I could afford it anyway. I'll stick to my Equlibrium for the winter and my Rourke 853 for the summer (both weeks!)

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Tony Farrelly [2961 posts] 8 months ago
1 like

KendalRed wrote:

Loved it when the camera lingered on the Mason seat tube with 'UK Designed' clearly visible, then a moment later the comentator said the frame is designed in Italy!

Oh, and the Kona...Roadhouse or Roundhouse?

A signature steel headbadge on the Donhue? No there isn't!

Honestly David, you need to actually watch and edit these things before you put them out there!

Having said that, some gorgeous frames on show here - love that Donhue, but not sure I could get it past Mrs Kendalred as another N+1. Not that I could afford it anyway. I'll stick to my Equlibrium for the winter and my Rourke 853 for the summer (both weeks!)

Re the Mason what the video actually says is:

"The frame is made in Italy from Columbus tubing, each tube handpicked by designer Dom Mason for a specific purpose. This has allowed him to fine tune the feel and response of the frame."

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alansmurphy [1871 posts] 8 months ago
2 likes
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:
Yorkshire wallet wrote:
perfect1964 wrote:

 Why all disc brakes? Or is this Road CC servicing the bike industry's marketing whims?

Time for a Shackleton's high seat chair. Drum brakes on the car?

So what you're admitting to is that either you prefer bikes that are more ugly and/or that you can't ride properly/be in control unless you have discs instead of caliper brakes, which one is it or is it both? 

Discs on a road bike are an utter nonsense, discs on a steel road bike are simply for plebs.

 

Not necessarily more ugly, are you Trinny or Susanah?

 

Can Tom Boonen ride a bike properly?

 

Discs on a steel road bike are for an ordinary person or one from the lower social classes? Thus you're admitting to being a snob...

 

 

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KendalRed [221 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes
Tony Farrelly wrote:
KendalRed wrote:

Loved it when the camera lingered on the Mason seat tube with 'UK Designed' clearly visible, then a moment later the comentator said the frame is designed in Italy!

Oh, and the Kona...Roadhouse or Roundhouse?

A signature steel headbadge on the Donhue? No there isn't!

Honestly David, you need to actually watch and edit these things before you put them out there!

Having said that, some gorgeous frames on show here - love that Donhue, but not sure I could get it past Mrs Kendalred as another N+1. Not that I could afford it anyway. I'll stick to my Equlibrium for the winter and my Rourke 853 for the summer (both weeks!)

Re the Mason what the video actually says is:

"The frame is made in Italy from Columbus tubing, each tube handpicked by designer Dom Mason for a specific purpose. This has allowed him to fine tune the feel and response of the frame."

Nope - 'the frame is designed in Italy from Columbus tubing...' is what comes out of my speakers, although given you can't 'design' something 'from' Columbus tubing, I suspect he meant 'made'.

Either that or I need new speakers on my PC (or a hearing test!). Anyway, too much written about something so trivial, so lets leave it eh?

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RobD [658 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes

I really want one of those Fairlights, maybe end of year bonus time might justify a new bike. I'd go for the 105 version if the levers weren't so ugly, so it'll have to be Ultegra

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StraelGuy [1517 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes

That's what I've got rob, 105 but with 685/805 brifters/brakes and i love it.

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darrenleroy [301 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes

Would a DIY job drilling holes into the downtube to accomodate internal cabling compromise the structure of the Fairlight Strael? It's beautiful but would be more so with fewer cables showing in my opinion. 

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StraelGuy [1517 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes
darrenleroy wrote:

Would a DIY job drilling holes into the downtube to accomodate internal cabling compromise the structure of the Fairlight Strael? It's beautiful but would be more so with fewer cables showing in my opinion. 

 

Which hospital ward do you generally prefer? We'll bring you flowers and Lucozade . probably not a good idea. The frame has small fitting with bungs for Di2 wires but it's definitely external cabling only.

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FatTed [17 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes

Or eTap

 

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fukawitribe [2547 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes
risoto wrote:
perfect1964 wrote:

 Why all disc brakes? Or is this Road CC servicing the bike industry's marketing whims?

Right, steel and disc brakes don't go together.

Sarcasm or trolling ?

risoto wrote:

I've tried all 3 braking systems and still prefer 'the feel' of good old caliper brakes. Disc brakes, in my experience, are very expensive (so are the pads), heavy, complicated to maintain/service, noisy, apparently need through-axle as quick-release lever not strong enough (=heavyier, longer time to take out the wheel to change the tube), fragile  (the rotor bends, small stones inside caliper, dirty pads etc).

Each to their own but just to counter some.. (and talking about hydraulic road disc here...)

* more expensive, yes - 'very' is arguable - the main extras seem to be in the STIs, e.g. Dura Ace hydraulic pots and rotor together are about 10% more RRP than their rim calipers (direct mount or single pivot). Pads expensive ? Nah, not really - decent pad pricing is pretty similar for discs or rims

* heavy, not really, especially once you factored in cabling - heavier ? Yeah a bit, seems around 300-350g is about right for Shimano from their last few groupsets and perhaps a little less for SRAM. Haven't looked up the Campagnolo weights but given their history i'd doubt they'd be much worse than that.

* complicated to maintain/service - absolutely not

* noisy - sometimes in some situations they can squeal some, rest of the time not much difference (different pitch though)

* "need" thru-axle, not really but it's preferable for a couple of reasons - and with quick release thru-axles (e.g. RAT) the front is often quick to change than QRs + lawyer tabs and the rear somewhat slower.

* fragile, you are having a laugh by now aren't you ? Pad comtamination is the only thing out of that list that I would say they can be more susceptible to, although the main reason for that is Conan the Home Mechanic spraying everything with crap.

 

Personal taste is great, all for it, but if you've managed to have experience of hydraulic road disc setups that are simultaneously "very expensive", "heavy, complicated to maintain/service, noisy, apparently need through-axle" and "fragile" then i'd be quite surprised.

Avatar
risoto [75 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes
perfect1964 wrote:

 Why all disc brakes? Or is this Road CC servicing the bike industry's marketing whims?

Right, steel and disc brakes don't go together.

I've tried all 3 braking systems and still prefer 'the feel' of good old caliper brakes. Disc brakes, in my experience, are very expensive (so are the pads), heavy, complicated to maintain/service, noisy, apparently need through-axle as quick-release lever not strong enough (=heavyier, longer time to take out the wheel to change the tube), fragile  (the rotor bends, small stones inside caliper, dirty pads etc). Admit they start braking immediately in the rain saving you a couple of yards if you don't know how to brake and they're great for MTB's. For the road - no advantage. Next step - maybe ABS! It's the fasion and so more money for the industry. I'm curious to see whether the pro peleton will start using them (yes, I know a few do once in a while).

Another 'fashion' - one-by drivetrains. Great, there was a team in the Giro using them. Riddled with problems with the chain coming off, one rider on the team, on 3T bikes, apparently lost a victory due to this. Sounds good in theory and again a money maker for the industry. Hmmm.

One more thing - i want new wheels. I've spent a couple of nights with no luck to find the following:

- Front wheel - trough axle, 6 bolt disc mounting

- Rear wheel - quick release, perhaps with adapter (I suppose the wheels are through axle by definition, but I don't know and don't care to spend hours to find out). And 6 bolt disc mount.

One more thing - no standards exist. So when I search for brake pads for my BB7's, there are 3 different surfaces. I have no idea what to choose. Installing rotor - how many different systems exists - my guess is 47 :). I am lucky, so far I haven't had to replace the pads but as far as I have researched the issue you just take them out with no need for tools. so far so good. How do you adjust them?. You need to know wether both sides or just one side moves. BB7 - the pads must be adjusted so that there is 2/3's of space to the rotor for the left adjuster wheen and 1/3 for the left. Yes, that is very easy, not complicated at all!

Avatar
risoto [75 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes
fukawitribe wrote:
risoto wrote:
perfect1964 wrote:

 Why all disc brakes? Or is this Road CC servicing the bike industry's marketing whims?

Right, steel and disc brakes don't go together.

Sarcasm or trolling ?

risoto wrote:

I've tried all 3 braking systems and still prefer 'the feel' of good old caliper brakes. Disc brakes, in my experience, are very expensive (so are the pads), heavy, complicated to maintain/service, noisy, apparently need through-axle as quick-release lever not strong enough (=heavyier, longer time to take out the wheel to change the tube), fragile  (the rotor bends, small stones inside caliper, dirty pads etc).

Each to their own but just to counter some.. (and talking about hydraulic road disc here...)

* more expensive, yes - 'very' is arguable - the main extras seem to be in the STIs, e.g. Dura Ace hydraulic pots and rotor together are about 10% more RRP than their rim calipers (direct mount or single pivot). Pads expensive ? Nah, not really - decent pad pricing is pretty similar for discs or rims

* heavy, not really, especially once you factored in cabling - heavier ? Yeah a bit, seems around 300-350g is about right for Shimano from their last few groupsets and perhaps a little less for SRAM. Haven't looked up the Campagnolo weights but given their history i'd doubt they'd be much worse than that.

* complicated to maintain/service - absolutely not

* noisy - sometimes in some situations they can squeal some, rest of the time not much difference (different pitch though)

* "need" thru-axle, not really but it's preferable for a couple of reasons - and with quick release thru-axles (e.g. RAT) the front is often quick to change than QRs + lawyer tabs and the rear somewhat slower.

* fragile, you are having a laugh by now aren't you ? Pad comtamination is the only thing out of that list that I would say they can be more susceptible to, although the main reason for that is Conan the Home Mechanic spraying everything with crap.

 

Personal taste is great, all for it, but if you've managed to have experience of hydraulic road disc setups that are simultaneously "very expensive", "heavy, complicated to maintain/service, noisy, apparently need through-axle" and "fragile" then i'd be quite surprised.

 

Just my experience. I own both hydralic and mechanical. I  forgot to mention the complications of replacing the liquid in the hydraulics. Rotors bend quite easily if you crash or bang the wheel about.

Avatar
fukawitribe [2547 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes
risoto wrote:
fukawitribe wrote:

....

Personal taste is great, all for it, but if you've managed to have experience of hydraulic road disc setups that are simultaneously "very expensive", "heavy, complicated to maintain/service, noisy, apparently need through-axle" and "fragile" then i'd be quite surprised.

 

Just my experience. I own both hydralic and mechanical. I  forgot to mention the complications of replacing the liquid in the hydraulics. Rotors bend quite easily if you crash or bang the wheel about.

No, rotors really don't bend 'quite easily' unless you give them a good smack - and you can use a rotor truing tool to put them back with no drama. Speaking of which ... why are you 'replacing the liquid in the hydraulics' ? Full bleeds are something that your average road user probably might want to do literally every once in a blue moon, Avids (and Fortune) can be a faff (or used to be) but Shimano and SRAM are generally straight-forward. 

Avatar
fukawitribe [2547 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes
risoto wrote:

 

One more thing - i want new wheels. I've spent a couple of nights with no luck to find the following:

- Front wheel - trough axle, 6 bolt disc mounting

- Rear wheel - quick release, perhaps with adapter (I suppose the wheels are through axle by definition, but I don't know and don't care to spend hours to find out). And 6 bolt disc mount.

http://www.wiggle.co.uk/fulcrum-racing-5-db-road-disc-wheelset/?lang=en&...|shKh3za75_dc|mcrid|67090789502|mkw||mmt||mrd|100505139uk|mslid||&mkwid=shKh3za75_dc&pcrid=67090789502&prd=100505139uk&pgrid=17507338502&ptaid=pla-127999944302

 

...the second shopping hit from Googling "6 bolt disc wheelset qt thru axle". 

 

risoto wrote:

One more thing - no standards exist. So when I search for brake pads for my BB7's, there are 3 different surfaces. I have no idea what to choose. Installing rotor - how many different systems exists - my guess is 47 :).

Same as with rim brake cartridge pads - everyones got a standard, or four.