What to Look For
There aren't many bicycle manufacturers using steel for their high-end bikes. Most of those using steel are new frame builders or those who enjoy the traditional materials for building bikes. Using steel and building custom frames is an acquired skill. Make sure to check and see if the manufacturer offers a warranty or guarantee on their frames. You should try to find a steel bike with at least a five-year warranty on the frame itself. If you find a frame builder you want to purchase from, but don't know much about, the best way to check their credentials is by asking around at local bike shops or find someone who currently owns one of their bikes.
Craftsmanship is the key element in a steel-framed bike. Make sure your fabricator is an artisan, not just some guy slapping some steel tubing together. Most frame builders start as apprentices for other master frame builders. Any company accomplished at producing steel frame bikes will have some sort of resume or history detailing whom they’ve built bikes for in the past. Comparing a poorly built frame alongside a professional frame will highlight visible differences in the welding and detail. The most important distinction would be in ride the quality. Some examples of popular and proven steel-frame builders are Dario Pegoretti and Independent Fabrications.
Where to Buy
You’re most likely going to have to order a top-end steel frame from the manufacturer. There is a chance you can find some of the stock models online from retailers such as Gita Sporting Goods, which carries Pegoretti frame sets.
Plan on spending anywhere in the price range of $2,000 to $5,000 just for a steel frame set. The cost of the entire bike normally depends on the options you choose such as graphics and color, components, and frame geometry.