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Friday 1st December 2023

1995-1996: The Evolution of Steel with 853 and 631

By the early 1990s, Reynolds’ raw material for bicycle tubing use was made using “long draw” benches at the Oldbury, West Midlands factory by sister companies within the TI Group (Accles and Pollock) instead of in Tyseley, Birmingham from the 1970s. Accles created a subsidiary, which became known as Apollo Golf Shafts, who were our main suppliers of raw material until their demise in 2000.


Innovation is an important part of the Reynolds ethos and thus came the change of frame fabrication for high-end, relatively high-volume, steel frames from brazing to TIG welding. Reynolds had been experimenting with suitable alloys for this type of application. Having found a material with air-hardening properties (when cooled in air after being welded, the alloy composition promoted a fine grain structure in the weld zone that improves fatigue life), this was developed and tested for applications in the bicycle frame sector.

Created as an upgrade to the existing industry standard Chrome-Moly tubing. Early builders did find the increased hardness an operational challenge for tool life and cutting operations but, as in the case for 753, adapted their processes to cope with this higher-strength steel.

After internal discussions on naming the brand (differing opinions included “Hammer” because it was also used for side-impact beams in car doors), this was launched as Reynolds 853, with a distinctive new decal shape to emphasise the change from the rectangular 753/531 decals and looking towards our 100th anniversary in 1998. 853 was launched with a key new customer in 1995, LeMond. 631 was launched a year later, in 1996.

They used the new material on bikes like the LeMond Zurich 853. Those frames were fabricated in Wisconsin USA. Since then, the 853 tube options have evolved with ever larger tube diameters and tyre clearance requirements to suit 21st-century frame designs. 853 and 631 has proved to be an extremely versatile material. Today you can buy downhill mountain bikes, bikepacking rigs, and elegant performance road bikes all in 853. Truly a tubeset for every rider.

853 and the cold-worked version 631 are core products for our Birmingham factory, as stringent ISO frame testing requires a highly durable material. The raw material is now made for Reynolds in Germany from 100% recycled raw input scrap and can be recycled again at the end of its long product life. Reynolds continues with development projects for 631 and 853 on a number of new customer projects that are underway now.

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