How to Select a Steel Bike Frame

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How to Select a Steel Bike Frame

Choosing a bicycle requires more thought and effort than simply searching for bikes on eBay and picking the one that looks the best. First-time buyers might be daunted by the numerous options available, especially when browsing online where there is a plethora of choice. Before making any decision, they should first consider the material of the bike frame.

The bike frame is the main component or part of the bicycle. It is where other parts such as the wheels are fitted onto. The material used for the bike frame can affect the performance, weight, and the cost of the bicycle.

The Different Types of Steel

Steel is one of the traditional materials used for bicycle frames. It is generally favoured because it is versatile, relatively inexpensive, and strong. However, it is also one of the heaviest materials. Manufacturers often combine steel with other alloys to create lighter frames. The two most common types of steel frames are chromoly and high tensile.


Chromoly is a form of steel that is combined with chromium and molybdenum. The addition makes the steel frames lighter and stronger than regular steel.  Chromoly frames offer flexibility or “springiness” to riders. Chromoly frames are usually more expensive than high tensile ones.

High Tensile

High tensile or hi-ten steel is also known as carbon steel. It is a relatively inexpensive type of steel used in bike frames. It is also a weaker and heavier type of steel compared to chromoly steel.

Steel Frame Construction

The way steel frames are assembled is equally as important as the type of steel used. Each method can affect the overall performance and weight of the frame.

Lugged Steel Frame Construction

This process connects the frame’s cylindrical tubes with socket-like sleeves called lugs. A lugged steel frame can be easily repaired. It allows for tube replacement without affecting other tubes. Lugs usually have a simple pointed shape, which maximises the strength of the joint. However, lugs can be filed by hand and cut into various shapes, either as a sign of artistry or a method of reducing weight.

TIG Welding

TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding connects the tubes of a frame without the use of lugs. Frame tubes are precisely aligned and fixed into place until welding is complete. TIG welding has become more popular in bicycle frame construction now that newer bike frames can withstand high welding temperatures.

Fillet Brazing

Fillet brazing is another way of constructing steel bike frames without the use of lugs. Instead, the frame tubes are cut and a fillet of heated brass connects the joint. Using fillet brazing can result in a “cleaner” aesthetic as it produces a smoother and curved appearance.

Shopping for Bike Frames

Getting the right size for the bike frame is crucial for the buyers’ riding experience. The wrong frame size can affect the performance and comfort of riders. Bicycle sizes may vary from one brand to the other. However, most bike frames are based on the height and body frame measurements of would-be riders. These measurements will aid everyone in finding the right size for them.

Taking Measurements


Measuring the inseam for the bike frame is different from a person’s pants size.

  • Riders should stand with their backs straight against a wall, with feet four to six inches apart.
  • A book should be placed, with the binding up, in between the legs to mimic a bicycle seat.
  • Another person will then measure from the top of the book straight down to the floor.

Arm length

The arm length measurement will help determine the top-tube length. The top tube refers to the crossbar that connects the seat to the handlebar.

  • Cyclists should make a fist around a pen or pencil, extending their arms at a 45 degree angle from his side.
  • Another person should measure the length from the end of his collarbone to the pen or pencil in his hand.


Measuring the torso will also help determine the top-tube length.

  • All should stand with his back straight against a wall, with feet four to six inches apart.
  • The clavicle notch should be located. This is the notch that forms a “v” just above the sternum.
  • Another person measure from the clavicle notch down to the floor.

Bike Frame Sizes According to Height

Height may be used to determine the proper frame size. However, using the inseam measurement is preferred.


Bike Frame Size

4’10” - 5’1”

46-48 cm

5’0” - 5’3”

48-50 cm

5’2” - 5’5”

50-52 cm

5’4” - 5’7”

52-54 cm

5’6” - 5’9”

54-56 cm

5’8” - 5’11”

56-58 cm

5’10” - 6’1”

58-60 cm

6’0” - 6’3”

60-62 cm

6’2” - 6’5”

62-64 cm

Calculating for Road Bikes

The ideal frame size can be determined by multiplying the inseam measurement by 0.67.

Frame size = (inseam measurement [cm]) x 0.67

Road bike frames are often measured in centimetres. If the inseam measurement is in inches, the measurement must be first multiplied by 2.54 before multiplying by 0.67.

Frame size = (inseam measurement [inches] x 2.57) x 0.67

Calculating for Mountain Bikes

Calculating for the correct mountain bicycle frame requires additional space between the bike and the cyclists to avoid injuries from sudden stops or crashes. Two to five inches must be added to the inseam measurement before multiplying the number by 0.67.

Frame size = (inseam measurement [inches] + 2-5 inches) x 0.67
Mountain bike frames are measured in inches. If the inseam measurement is centimetres, the measurement must be divided by 2.54 before proceeding to the formula.

Frame size = ({inseam measurement [cm] / 2.54} + 2-5 inches) x 0.67

Calculating for Women-specific bikes

Women-specific bike frames usually have a sloping top tube. The frame size can usually be determined by height.

Top Tubes vs. Seat Tubes

When people discuss frame sizes, they often refer to the length of the seat tube. This is the upright tube that holds the saddle or seat post. But for a comfortable ride, they must also take into consideration the length of the top tube. This is the tube that connects the seat to the handlebar. The correct top tube length can also add to the comfort of riders. The right top tube length depends on the buyers’ torso heights and preferred riding styles. Those with shorter torsos or those who prefer a more upright riding style will benefit from a shorter top tube. Those with longer torsos are more suited for longer top tubes. Longer top tubes are also ideal for those who prefer a low, slightly crouched riding style.

Buying Bike Frames on eBay

Buying steel bicycle frames online allows buyers the flexibility of browsing through numerous options without hopping from one store to the other. eBay offers thousands of bike frames at competitive prices from different sellers.

Looking for steel bike frames begins by visiting the Sporting Goods portal. Buyers can streamline the search by selecting the Cycling tab and opting for the Bicycles and Frames option. They can further customise the search by selecting the type of bike they want.

They can also use the search box in the site. Sellers may list their products differently so buyers should try different search word combinations such as “steel bike frame,” “steel bicycle frame,” or “bike frame steel.” They can also make their searches as specific as possible, such as “lugged chromoly bike frame.”

While reading through listings, buyers should carefully review the details posted. Frame sizes rely on the buyers’ body measurements. They should look at all of the specifications listed on the post. The differences in the units of measurements used might cause confusion if not properly double-checked. They can also ask the seller for additional details about the item. eBay sellers will likely be able to give you clear guidance on what model is the best for you.  This will help buyers make a well-informed decision before purchasing the item. Buyers can place a bid, put down their best offer or buy the item immediately.

eBay offers users protection in the form of the Buyer Protection Program. The program can help address possible issues such as late deliveries or mislabeled items. Buyers can also read reviews about sellers to get an idea of the seller’s reliability or the quality of his items.


Selecting a bicycle frame requires much thought and deliberation from interested buyers. It should reflect the buyer's lifestyle, budget, and even their body. Steel bike frames are sturdy bike frames that offer great durability. While steel bicycle frames may not be the lightest in the market, there are different types of steel frames that are relatively light.

But the durability of a frame will not matter if it is the wrong size. Using precise measurements of riders can determine the correct size, thereby ensuring that the cyclists have bicycles that are suited to them. Aside from body measurements, the riding style of the buyers must be also taken into consideration. Choosing the correct bike frame will benefit your riding experience, decreasing the chance of strain on your body.

Given there numerous options for bicycle frames, buyers should not buy one on a whim. What they want might not be the bike frame they need. They should take the time and effort into reviewing the possible options, many of which can be found on eBay.

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