Upgrade aluminium frame to Reynolds 531?

cyconoob Posts: 11
edited October 2009 in Road buying advice

I'm very new to road bikes, and don't do enough cycling to justify spending a lot on a bike at the moment. I've got a basic Raleigh Airlite, with an aluminium frame, which I'm reasonably happy with for what I do. I've seen a local advert for a road bike in a suitable frame size, and I'm wondering if it would be an upgrade worth going for... or not?

The frame of the bike the guy is selling is Reynolds 531, which I know used to be considered good, but I'm not sure if this would be any better than my ali framed Airlite?

The gears have been upgraded to Shimano STI's, and that does appeal to me - just the fact that I'd comfortably be able to change gear or brake without moving my hand position. But the bike is probably 15 years old, although apparently in very good nick. It is only round the corner, so I'll have a quick look and try out, but I'd be interested if anybody can give me any suggestions.




  • alfablue
    alfablue Posts: 8,497
    I think it could be a sideways move. 531 is known for its quality ride and longevity, it may be heavier than your current frame. Are the tubes 531c (C for competition - thinner, lighter) or 531 ST (super tourist - thicker, stronger good for loaded touring). The geometry of the bike may be different, may be a more relaxed, comfy, maybe slower ride - that may suit you, but what do you want to do with the bike? What bike is this one?

    You could get some secondhand STI shifters for £80-£100 if that's what you really want.
  • skyd0g
    skyd0g Posts: 2,540
    Very few mainstream manufacturers use steel frames these days (other than specialist custom frame makers), so steel still has its fans.

    As the frame is 15 years old, it's old... ...but could still give a nice ride. It may depend on how good/old/worn the groupset is as to whether it's a good buy.

    IMHO, I'd probably say it would be a sideways move, rather than a step-forwards (depending on how much it's being sold for). It would generally be a bike most people would consider as a winter hack, to keep their "best bike" for summer.
    Cycling weakly
  • I found this an interesting commentary on the merits of different materials.


    Biased towards steel, but well written so you can pick up on what aspects of frame handling makes you tick.
  • Thanks for all the information - I'll give it a try and see how comfortable it is out of curiosity as it is literally about 2 streets away! It is a Holdsworth bike, but I don't know which kind of 531 it is. The seller is asking about 200 quid for it, having apparently replaced and / or upgraded quite a bit on it. I guess the only way I'll know is by getting on it and taking it for a spin...


  • ride_whenever
    ride_whenever Posts: 13,279
    I'd make the move, purely because i prefer the feel of 531 framesets over what CAN be rather dull and harsh aluminium frames.

    So as you say, swing a leg over...
  • alfablue
    alfablue Posts: 8,497
    I think you should only get seduced by this bike if you cherish it as a bit of cycling history. I doubt if it will be a revolutionary improvement for you. If you can afford multiple bikes, none of which really meets your needs, then okay, but more likely, like most of us, you have to spend your upgrade money carefully.

    It seems like Holdworth badged bikes may have been produced up to 1992

    Some info on the last models, extracted from here: http://www.nkilgariff.com/

    After the 1987 takeover by Falcon Cycles Ltd (an Elswick PLC Company), they offered Holdsworth "Racers", Claud Butler Tourers (neglecting MTBs) and Falcon "Sports Cycles". The Holdsworth Derwent is from this era, the Corsair is c1990.

    Year Holdsworth Model Colours Frame Sizes
    1990 Professional Sports models
    1991 Professional 346 Black 21, 22, 23.5, 24.5
    Criterium 345 Pearlescent Pink 21, 22, 23.5, 24.5
    1992 Professional 619 14sp Midnight Blue 21", 22", 23", 24"
    Criterium 618 14speed Pearlescent Pink 21", 22", 23", 24"
  • sturmey
    sturmey Posts: 964
    I would urge caution on this. I have three 531 bikes plus an aluminium audax and a carbon fibre bike. The Reynolds framed machines are all slower/less responsive than the other 2 bikes even the lightest one, which is Reynolds 531 Professional tubing(extra light).

    But more than anything it is the rear chainstay spacing which will be your limiting factor as these old steel bikes were made to accept rear wheels with shorter axles. You might be able to get a modern rear wheel in with 130mm spacing but don't be planning on putting on 9 or 10 speed cassettes-the chainline will be affected. 7 speed might be your limit.
    I am only relating my own experience from the 531 bikes I own-other people may have different experiences.
    Plus, I have a suspicion that some of the later 531 frames had 130mm spacing at the rear chainstays anyway- you might be advised to ask the seller what his is.
  • amaferanga
    amaferanga Posts: 6,789
    Sounds more like a downgrade to me....
    More problems but still living....
  • MrChuck
    MrChuck Posts: 1,663
    If you ride it and like it better then I suppose you might say it's an upgrade, but otherwise it's hard to see it that way.
  • Pross
    Pross Posts: 42,130
    I'd say it's a downgrade. I own a 653 Reynolds frame which is / was the next up from a 531 and from the aluminium bikes I've tried out lately in the same price range as an Airlight I would say modern alu frames are far lighter. That said you may find that steel gives a more comfortable ride and it depends on what sort of riding you are doing.
  • Smokin Joe
    Smokin Joe Posts: 2,706
    I'd be very wary of an old steel frame. Internal rust is a real possiblity.

    I've never found aluminium to give a harsh ride either. Get the right size, sort your positioning out properly and with good quality tyres and saddle and comfort won't be an issue.
  • ride_whenever
    ride_whenever Posts: 13,279
    rust is pretty irrelevant really, it would take an awful lot of rust to be a problem (rust occupies about 1000 times the volume as steel (IIRC which i probably don't)

    It will be heavier, but weight isn't necessarily everything, give it a try and see.