On One steel 456
On One appear to be developing a family of 456 frames with the original steel, titanium, carbon as well as the Summer Season versions. I bought an 456Ti in July 2008 and it has been my main mtb ever since. After communication with Luke via the STW forum we met up to try each others bikes and offer our opinions on both the Steel 456 and Titanium 456.
Both frames were 18″ size.
The 456Ti looks like two separate bikes joined together, the tubes of the front triangle are very ‘substantial’, the down tube in particular is huge and bi-ovalised from top to bottom providing large weld areas around the headtube and bottom bracket. In contrast the outer diameter of both the seat and chain stays are about that of a marker pen. Leaning on the saddle it is possible to see the frame rear triangle flex vertically.
The outer diameter of the tubes on the steel frame look much more in proportion with each other than the Ti version with both the seat and chain stays appearing to be no larger than those on the Ti version.
We have no information on the thickness of the tubes used on either frame.
The bikes were set up differently according to our personal riding and comfort preferences. My 456Ti has a Fox 140mm 15QR TALAS fork that I just leave in the 140mm travel setting, X9 transmission, Mavic 831 rims with Hope ProII hubs, Formula ORO K24 brakes with 180 mm rotors. Luke’s 456 steel had Stans ZTR rims, a Pace air fork, Magura Louise brakes and XTR transmission. The biggest difference was the handlebar department. I use an Azonic B52 high rise bar and a Thomson 90mm x 15 deg rise stem, it is fitted with a 2.1″ Trailraker on the rear and a Michelin all mountain extreme tyre on the front. Luke’s bike had flat bars and a 0 deg rise stem. It was fitted with Maxxis Minion 2.35 supertacky tyres. Both bikes weighed in at about 26lbs.
We swapped pedals and seatposts then set off me on Luke’s steel bike and Luke on my Ti version.
The test loop had a section of dried mud cow-hoof pocked marked field that was very bumpy, a gentle doubletrack climb, plenty of rooty and twisty singletrack and a short but steep gully climb.
My first impression of the steel frame was of immediate familiarity, despite the lower bars I felt at home; however as we got to the more technical section of the test loop the differences in set up had an impact on my riding. The steel frame also had a noticable feeling of 100% direct power to the rear wheel, much more so than the Ti version, in fact the steel frame felt a gear faster to my legs and lungs.
Chatting away we hit the dried mud of a pock marked field. With no option but to ride over it a difference in the frames was immediately noticable. The steel frame transferred every bump and judder into me, whereas Luke commented that the Ti frame was noticeably much more comfortable (as if the Ti456 had an inch of suspension) and allowed him to keep pedalling smoothly as I started to get bounced about, I was quickly dropped. Luke said that 20 miles felt a long way on the steel 456, whereas I have done 60 miles on the Ti version with zero discomfort.
The singletrack also showed up a marked difference in the frames. I rode everything but was conscious of the roots and small stumps as I went across the tree rootballs. Luke on the other hand immediately said that the Ti frame was much more forgiving and comfortable than his familier steel version. The low bars on Luke’s bike made it much more difficult for me to wheely over the many fallen trees, I’m sure I would get used to it but I missed out a couple of the bigger trees.
As soon as we hit the gully climb the steel bike was on blast off. Those who know me will testify that I tolerate hills as a means to more ‘fun’ stuff, in view of this I was doubly shocked.
Both the steel and Ti version have the 456 magic geometry that we both feel is perfect for a hardtail trail bike, we both commented that the On One 456 is an absolutely ‘sorted’ geometry for a hardtail. We have both owned and ridden aluminium and UK designed steel frames from other small UK firms and agreed that the geometry of the On One 456 is streets ahead of everything we have tried. It is easy to see why On One have kept a common geometry while expanding the choice of frames (frame materials) available to the customer.
At the end of the test we both told each other that if we ever want to sell our frames then a buyer is in line.
The steel and Ti are at opposite ends of the 456 price range, they have the same (fabulous) geometry and as our bikes show the final weight of the bike will depend heavily on the components that are fitted to it.
Is the Ti version worth approximately five times the steel version?
If the bottom line price of a frame is the only consideration then the steel 456 should be at the top of everyone’s list for a hardtail trail bike. At the current price it is almost given away.
However, value is not just a bottom line price and in our experience buying an mtb is rarely a purely objective decision, the heart often over-rules the head. The Ti frame has the same awesome geometry but it does give a different ride, a more comfortable, zippy (Luke’s description) and forgiving ride. The lower frame weight will also enable a much lighter bike to be built. Ti does not rust and needs very little looking after to retain the original finish.
The geometry dictates the suitability of a mtb for the intended use, the 456 geometry is fantastic.
If you have the money buy the Ti456, the geometry, additional comfort and ease of maintenance make it a superb bike. If you are on a budget or want a bike that can be abused without too much thought for the cost of it get the steel 456.
Bottom line. Try any version of the On One 456 before spending any money on a hardtail frame.