Recently I bought a new bike which has the following characteristics:

  • Size of frames: M (44cm) / L (48cm) / XL (52cm)
  • Wheel size / Number of gears: 26 "/ 21
  • Frame: HI-TEN Steel
  • Fork: HI-TEN steel fixed 26"
  • Hedsch: A -HEAD 1-1 / 8 "
  • Stem: ZOOM, Steel A-HEAD, ML 80mm / XL 110mm

I'm not a bike expert, but a friend of mine made a negative remark about the hi-ten frame saying that he would prefer an aluminium bike frame, or maybe another kind of steel.

I'm mainly going to use this bike to get around through my city, and nothing serious like mountaneering etc. I would like to know what issues can the hi-ten steel frame cause and should I change it for another one (aluminium frame bike) if I can?

  • 10
    Congrats on your new bike! As long as you ride it, any bike is better than not having a bike. Perhaps your friend is just a bike snob (not a compliment) or perhaps he is envious that you could afford a new bike.
    – Criggie
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 19:45
  • 4
    If you don't have to carry it up three flights of stairs, weight doesn't really matter. The components seem decent enough for a bike getting around in the city. If you are happy riding your bike enjoy it and ignore the limitless snobbery of other cyclists.
    – gschenk
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 20:16
  • 1
    Steel is far easier to repair than aluminum or carbon fiber, and its failure modes tend to be graceful rather than catastrophic -- there are situations where one can quite reasonably prefer it. Commented May 1, 2018 at 21:07
  • I would far rather have a steel bike than aluminum or carbon or something else exotic. A little heavier, perhaps, but generally more durable and usually with a smother ride. "Hi-Ten" steel is a poorer quality steel than Cro-Moly, et al, and thus the frame must be heavier for the same strength, but the difference isn't enormous. Commented May 1, 2018 at 22:58
  • 1
    (And don't get taken by the "steel rusts" complaint. The other parts of the bike -- whether steel or aluminum -- will succumb to weather and rust long before the frame does.) Commented May 1, 2018 at 23:00

4 Answers 4


I have 4 bikes, and the one I keep for just riding around a city is high-ten steel. Yes, they're heavy, and normally cheap, but they can be tough and practical.

What's more important is that it works for you - that it's the right size and convenient.

  • 1
    I just read as "I have 14 bikes" and did a double take :D
    – Swifty
    Commented Jan 19, 2021 at 19:19

High tensile or 'hi-ten' steel is the lowest end material used for inexpensive bikes. The next level up is so called 'cro-moly' steel (alloys using chromium and molybdenum).

High tensile steel frames are relatively heavy because the steel is relatively weak necessitating thicker wall tubes be used. A steel frame is also more susceptible to corrosion, but this can be mitigated by taking care of the bike.

Cro-moly steel or even aluminum framed bikes can still be heavy if they are equipped with inexpensive heavier components.

If the bike works for you it's fine. If you had a aluminum framed bike some other friend would comment that they would prefer a bike with a carbon-fiber composite frame.

  • 3
    And when you have a carbon frame, some other other friend will educate you about the virtues of a steel frame :)
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Jan 18, 2021 at 7:11

There was a time when all bikes where made of steel, people rode them around cities, and nothing terrible happened.

You don't have to change it if you don't mind the weight.

It 's more prone to rust, but it's not a big problem if you take good care of it. I ride a steel bike from the mid-80's around the city, even when it rains, and it barely has any rust. You can prevent rust by keeping your bike clean and applying grease to rust-prone areas - basically, places where the frame is touching another part or water can collect, like the collar of the seating tube and bolt holes.

(It should go without saying that you should keep the transmission well lubricated too if you don't want that to rust, but that's the same regardless of what your frame is made of.)

It helps if you store it inside, or cover it if it's stored outside. But even if you keep it outside it shouldn't rust too much as long as you don't neglect it.

(That's true where I live, I guess it might rust faster if you live in a very humid area.)


Actually a lot of bikes are a mixture of Cr-Mo front triangles (TT/DT/ST) and Hi-ten rear seat stays and chain stays. These are called (Tri-Moly). Reason is simple, Cr-Mo although stronger does flex more than steel, so by using stiffer Hi-Ten for the rear SS & CS's this transmits the riders power more efficiently because the rear end isn't flexing under the down/power stroke "torque".

100% Cr-mo bikes are known as "Wet Noodles" because they flex all over the place. Yes they are light and do not crack as easy do to the flexing, but they are somewhat sad in getting the power torque to the ground because the torque is eaten up in the flex. And yes it will rust just the same as a Hi-ten will. back in the day "Sling Shot" tried to introduce right and left side drive (two sprockets and drivers) One on each side of the bike to minimize the flex of the 100% cr-mo frame and sprung front tri. It never really took off.

Tri-Moly bikes have less flex so more power is transmitted to the ground.

Alloy bikes. The stiffest but at a much greater chance of failure "Cracking". The stiff tube transmits the vibration of use/shock to the welds and they crack easy.

A bike is a bike. I have a bike that is Hi-Ten and it is not rusted and it is 40 years old, a BMX bike at that, that sees mud, rain and everything else thrown at it and it has not cracked or bent. I can live with the extra 3 pounds.

Reynolds is also a awesome not so much used anymore material that I would love to see make an appearance again. enter image description here

  • 1
    Most of this answer is incorrect. All types of steel have nearly identical stiffness (Young's modulus), from the most expensive exotic steel to the cheapest thing out of the melting pot in China. Stiffness is also relatively unaffected by heat treatment. Commented Jan 18, 2021 at 4:06
  • It works the other way round: since CrMo is stronger, you need less of it, and if you don't use larger tube diameters to compensate for thinner tube walls, you'll end up with flexy frame. If you build stiff frame out of small diameter steel tubes, there's no point wasting money on CrMo because any steel is strong enough.
    – ojs
    Commented Jan 18, 2021 at 7:43

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