Reverence: Straight Round Tubes

Tradition and innovation sit mostly comfortably alongside each other in Cycling. The bicycle itself is inherently a very simple machine, the basic design of which has remained the same for centuries; frame, two wheels, cranks, saddle, handlebars. It’s what has been done to these elements along the way that has shaped what the modern road bike (because mountain bikes are way out there and another realm altogether) now looks like.

To me, they look like crap.

The ‘advancements’ made through the use of carbon fibre have without doubt benefitted those who really need to benefit in incremental steps, and that is Pro riders. These guys and gals are paid to ride a bicycle as fast as they can and to get it across a line hundreds of kilometres away from where they started before hundreds of others, sometimes by the barest of margins. That’s not us. We ride because we love the freedom, the health benefits, all that bullshit that Bicycling magazine will give you 7 tips on how to do it. We don’t need aero-tubed frames and deep dish carbon wheels, but we want them. Sure, all this stuff makes our experience better, and I’m not suggesting we all ride around on K-Mart bikes, even though we’d still probably have some form of fun if we did. Even if you race, even A grade at club level, or have a crack at Nationals, the bike isn’t going to make you win. I’ll repeat; you’re not a Pro.

This whole ‘aero’ frame fad that has taken over the peloton is all well and good when the sport’s top prizes are at stake. When rolling around with your mates and having a coffee before and a beer after is the modus operandi, then why not do it with a modicum of style? Aero bikes are not stylish. Those oversized, flattened, sharp edged carbon members (I refuse to call them tubes) are just downright ugly. The curvy swooping lines and bent-six-ways stays are an abomination. And some of the stems popping up now look like tumours growing from Frankenstein’s neck. I don’t like them, in case you’re not picking up on that.

The more I look at the new crop of ’boutique’ builders working with steel, the more I realise how much of a blight these carbon race frames are. My eyes are attuned to the simplicity of round, straight tubes, with a sensible diameter, and if they’re held together with lugs, well that’s not a bad thing either. But even these simple things of beauty can be sullied by another modern invention, the sloping top tube. A lot of the bikes that appeared in my feeds from the recent NAHMBS featured quite radically sloping tt’s, and whenever a flat tt’ed bike popped up it was even more apparent that flat is where it’s at. And I’m not saying this because I own such a bike; in fact, there was a period after purchasing my Jaegher where I questioned whether I should have had some slope built in. But the more I witness the glut of ugly that is is the Pro peloton, I’m glad I listened to the denizens who lovingly handcrafted my beauty, and kept the tubes like they are meant to be: flat, round and straight.

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180 Replies to “Reverence: Straight Round Tubes”

  1. total reverence for Columbus MxL (oversized) tubes, oval, tapered, deflection, classic. my MxL collection is underway with my one beloved Mx Leader. Merckx MxL bladed aero fork is pure fascination

  2. Round tubes are sexy. Those eight-sided tubes used by Colnago are sexier. Especially lugged.

  3. Straight round tubes offer classic clean lines agree. Beautiful bikes indeed. And if you paint ’em all black you can’t tell who made the bike. They’re all the same. Maybe some diff in lugs ? And some fine detail.

    That’s not the case with C bikes. I can tell a Venge from a Madone from an Evo etc even if all painted black… C bikes are right now rep’ing the golden age of frame design!




  4. Fuckin Spot on, Bevan … I mean Brett.

    And that is why I am having Steven Hampsten create my next bike in straight Titanium tubes put together by Kent Eriksen. It is going to be fucking brilliant!

    I was just reading a back page article in a back issue of Rouleur the other day by Robert Millar (all of his articles are amazing) and it was fantastic.  It was about his dislike of everyone owning black bikes.  Wish I could find a link as it would fit in perfectly with this article.

  5. @brett

    Yes.  No argument.  Round tubed steel bikes are both beautiful and functional.  Especially if it is a Jaegher frame that is custom built and fits like a glove.  I too would be singing the same song as you Brett.  I sold away a steel framed bike and have regretted it since.  But I vow to have another, which will be custom.  The dilemma is: which frame builder to choose?  Every year, there is a new batch of builders coming on the scene.  My criteria requires that I can actually visit  the builder’s shop for a proper fit.

  6. Sloping top tubes are the devil. Force the stem up too high, negating any possibility of obtaining proper seat/bar drop differential. Sloping TT’s contribute to unnecessary rule violations, especially for unwitting new cyclists who have not been introduced to la Vie Velominatus.

  7. Yes! Clean round tubes. Flawlessly joined. Rational geometry. Sloped or not is fine. It appears that many CF frames are shaped to make them recognizable rather than for engineering reasons. Electric cars are having the same problem with an apparent competition to see who can produce the most hideous shape, although there are attractive exceptions with both of them.

  8. @brett

    Hear, hear! Love you views on this topic as they mirror my own! All of my race steeds are custom, round tube steel beauties! I have included shots of my two track weapons taken just outside the convention at NAHBS. I have the fortune of having a really good relationship with Don Walker( oaky..the pink + Blue beauty is the 5th frame I have bought from him) and I help him run his booth at the show.  Please enjoy the steel goodness! I think @frank needs to get some photos of his new Walker up on the site. :-)

  9. @Chipomarc

    This is why round tubes don’t work nowadays

    Did you not listen to anything I said? Who gives a rats about that bullshit? Or maybe Chipomarc is a cleverly disguised anagram log-in for Cavendish!

  10. Carbon bikes can be beautiful too, if they have round(ish) straight tubes. @rigid‘s Time is a fine example, as are the Colnagos and even some of the Ridleys.

  11. The Blackbird (2014 Cervelo R5) flirts dangerously close with, perhaps even crosses, the divide with its very large downtube. Although I suppose I’m just trying to justify why my current road stable of N+1=1 isn’t ugly because it certainly isn’t as beautiful as the bike above. @EBruner‘s Colnago even had me utter an “Oh Shit” out loud, in the office, in the most appreciative way possible.

    My N+1, if it isn’t a disc brake sporting CX abomination, will certainly be flat, round, and straight.

    Why? Because it’s fucking fantastic. That’s why.

  12. @brett

    Carbon bikes can be beautiful too, if they have round(ish) straight tubes. @rigid‘s Time is a fine example, as are the Colnagos and even some of the Ridleys.

    Lets not forget the Cannondales, possibly not the roundest but nice and straight.

  13. @Oli Any single one of your beauty’s have more class alone than my entire garage full of bikes! That Bianchi !!! Oh my.

    I’m guessing if I count all of the wheels in my garage it might total 50+. Bikes, scooters, motorcycle, car (the missus’, rest are outside) and other misc wheels and wheeled stuff all add up. It’s a significant wheel count. My buddy counts cylinders. I count wheels.

    And none have the class of those bikes you posted pic’s of! Simply awesome.

    And yes, aero schmaero… I hear ya’ll on who cares? I’ve seen a cat show up on a decade plus year old straight tubed Ti Lynsky and smash, as in win, a race full of carbon, including aero, bikes.

    Good friend of mine just took delivery of a Moots Psycho frame with the flat out most gorgeously shaped top tube btw. Looks straight / level from a distance but when up close it’s like comparing the subtle beauty of the Smokey Mtns with the in your face grandeur of the Rockies.

    Anyways folks, things that have distinct styling are most certainly not uncool. Maybe ugly, maybe smoking’ hot. But not uncool yes? And what’s going on with the C lay up and frame design right now is really special.

    Cheers all

  14. @Chipomarc

    This is why round tubes don’t work nowadays

    I knew there was something wrong, but I just couldn’t figure out what changed.  Turns out my round tubes don’t work nowadays!  Thanks for putting that to rest @Chipomarc.

  15. I have steel round tubed bikes and aero bikes. I love them all like my children. That said, my next bike will be a custom steel bike. Kinda like having a kid but picking his genes.

  16. A good friend and I were talking about bikes a while back, I won’t bore you with the details, but the conversation ended like this.

    “Sure, getting the right bike is important, but John Tomac will whoop all our asses on a Huffy with toe clips”.

  17. I’ve got a Time RXR Ulteam

    I’ve got a Focus Izalco 1.0 Pro Team

    I’m not sure why, when I have these:

  18. Oh my! Some very lovely bikes above! (Why a Shimano chain on the Gios though?)


    I forgot this one:



  19. @Oli

    Oh my! Some very lovely bikes above! (Why a Shimano chain on the Gios though?)

    I forgot this one:

    It’s a SRAM chain.  SInce the bike gets ridden, I didn’t think it made sense to put a $100 plus Regina chain on it

  20. @brett

    Carbon bikes can be beautiful too, if they have round(ish) straight tubes. @rigid‘s Time is a fine example, as are the Colnagos and even some of the Ridley


    Carbon bikes can be beautiful too, if they have round(ish) straight tubes. @rigid‘s Time is a fine example, as are the Colnagos and even some of the Ridleys.

    Carbon Colnago and Time??


  21. @bovary1031

    Oh my, what a flawless piece of history. I would love to feel those pantogd’ shift levers in my own fat little Italian fingers.

  22. @Oli

    just one question, the bikes of course are awesome…. but how many times did you check that the Bianchi was not going to fall over in the water before stepping back to take thr pic?

  23. Some of these are undoubtedly beautiful but a few (not naming names…) well, there’s a reason they don’t make ’em like that any more.

    I appreciate the aesthetics of a classic steel bike but once you’re on top of it what matters is how it feels not how it looks.

    For that I’ll take a light, stiff carbon frame nine times out of ten, and they can look pretty too.


  24. Meant to show the pics like this;



    And this will be the next commuter if either the Planet X dies or I get some free cash(yes it has disc brakes);


  25. Where straight round tubes started to change shape – Columbus MAX

    Opposite ends oval.

    I love and hate this frame! love having it, hate riding it!

  26. @Oli

    Oh my! Some very lovely bikes above! (Why a Shimano chain on the Gios though?)

    I forgot this one:

    Vitus – think it’s still on my “Bucket List”!

  27. I love well-made steel/alloy/titanium bikes and could quickly give you a short list of five that I’d buy tomorrow.  However, lets not forget one thing: carbon fibre doesn’t fatigue, corrode or bend, metal does.  Carbon fibre is basically the ultimate material to make something light, strong and durable, like a bike frame. Or wheels. Or almost anything except the tyres.

    (I suspect I’m putting science before religion here)

  28. Circa 1991. Custom built by John Hollands (Reisterstown, MD), who is now retired. Reynolds 653. Original Reynolds fork replaced with a Kinesis carbon fiber fork. Other retro-mod upgrades over time. This is the bike I raced in the 90s.

  29. @PT

    Carbon fibre does fatigue or specifically the resin that holds it all together will eventually start to break down, then it becomes a real noodle as it starts to delaminate.  This will happen earlier with cheaper resins.

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