I started this reference on Columbus tubing to keep track of what seems like a hundred different tubesets…but it’s probably only 50. I don’t claim it to be correct, or complete – it’s a work in progress! Scroll down for a list of the sites where I’ve sourced information.
My intent is to see it in some sort of timeline, please let me know if you think I have it wrong…
I think this was the first tube set the new company made after it had been split from the parent company in 1977.
The tubing name was derived from the original company founder – A.L. Colombo.
Aelle was a straight-guage (non-butted) manganese alloy tubeset for amateur and touring cyclists, built of cold-drawn, microalloyed-steel thin-wall tubing which makes it especially lightweight. CMn Steel – Weight: 2345
Used by a majority of the Italian bike industry during the late 1970s and early 1980s. All-purpose, high-performance tube set for road races over even terrain. Double-butted tubes and cold-rolled fork blades. Cyclex Steel – Weight: 1925 g
SL down tube was drawn and butted to .9/.6/.9 mm.
Heavy-duty, high-performance tubeset especially recommended for large frames. Double-butted tubing with cold-rolled fork blades. Cyclex Steel – Weight: 2215 g
SP down tube was drawn and butted 1.0/.7/1.0 mm
Released in the early 1980s as the pinnacle of Columbus tubing, SLX was a “Superbutted” tube set specially designed for professional cyclists. It featured five internal spirals for greater rigidity, but the spirals are found in the joint area only. Double-butted tube ends. Cyclex Steel – Weight: 1966 g
“Superbutted” tube set with increased thickness for professional cyclists. Ideal for larqe frames. Double-butted tube ends. Same five-spiral butting as the SLX. Cyclex Steel – Weight: 2325 g
Possibly a tubeset of SP or SL, labelled as Tenax and used by Schwinn in the mid-80s.
There are also reports that Tenax was rebadged Cromor.
1980. Columbus Air was the Italian manufacturer’s initial attempt at an aerodynamic tubeset. The intial version used a teardrop shaped down tube, seat tube and seat stays in conjunction with an oval top tube and chain stays, and a round head tube. Later versions had teardrop shaped chain stays. The tubeset was designed primarily for time trials and aerodynamic efficiency and therefore it is not practical to compare it directly to other round Columbus tubesets. Due to the teardrop shapes the resulting frames weighed more than SL, but had less strength. The rear triangles in particular had a reputation for being whippy, due to the thin seat stays. However, this was considered acceptable given the intended TT use and aerodynamic advantages.Of particular note, the seat tube came in two versions. One with a standard round top end, to accept a normal seat post and another which carried the teardrop section right to the top, requiring a teardrop section seatpost. If you have the latter, you may have some difficulty finding a seatpost, unless it is provided with the frame. Most frames built with this tubing were outfitted with Shimano Dura Ace AX, or less likely, 600AX.
Released in 1986, TSX was made of Cyclex Cromo Steel and is lighter than the SLX tubeset, even though all the main tubes used internal helicoidal reinforcements through the entire tube.
TSX was made for professional use, coupling maximum performance with reduced weight. It is particularly suitable for stage races of more than 150 Km over mixed terrain, because the full-length internal reinforcements give greater rigidity against tube flexing and torsion. Cyclex Steel – Weight: 1945 g
Used in the last Merckx Corsa Extra frames, 95-98. Many reports that it’s the same as PRX.
Rare tubeset from Cyclex steel.’Elica Continua’ translated as ‘Continuous Helix’ but some reports have the internal reinforcements as ribs and not spirals. There are suggestions that the PR designation is for Paris-Roubaix. Heavier than SLX by 300g, reported to be suited to heavier riders or punishing races.
Starting in 1987, MAX was the tubeset for special racing bikes, drawn from the exclusive Nivacrom® steel which gave exceptional strength characteristics. Lightened by avoiding the internal helicoidal reinforcements of other Columbus tubing, the elliptical cross-sections are oriented in opposition to the highest active and passive stresses.
This tubeset was designed to optimise efficiency under the demands of extreme loads: sprint, time trials, climbing and strong centrifugal acceleration when descending. Weight: 1900 g
Merckx used a variant of the MAX tube set for their MX-Leader frameset, known as MXL. It used a smaller diameter top tube, reportedly because Eddy didn’t like the look of the oversize tube!
Exclusively designed for the toughest off-road races. The oversized oriented elliptical cross-sections have thicknesses of as little as 0.5-0.6 mm, thanks to the exceptional characteristics of the exclusive Nivacrom® steel.The oversized unicrown fork blades are cold-rolled for greater elastic strength and resilience. Weight: 2180 g
Tubeset for time trials over even terrain, climbs and triathlon events. Super-lightweight thanks to the reduced thickness of Nivacrom steel tubing, yet with a very high yield point. Double-butted tubes and ovalised butted unicrown fork blades. Weight: 1670g
In 1991 Columbus introduced some Differential Butted Shape butts (DBS) tubesets in which the shape of the butt actually follows the area of the tube where most of the stress is. GENIUS was the first of them. The butted ends on GENIUS are shorter, so the whole set was the first one strictly designed for TiG welding. A wide selection of tube thicknesses and diameters allowed GENIUS tubing to be used in many different types of frame types. Nivacrom® steel.
In 1994, to celebrate 110 years of Bianchi, Columbus made MEGATUBE solely for the Treviglio company. They claimed it was the first oversize tube for high-performance, creating strong and light frames. Megatube has become one of the strong points of the Milanese company, with more than 14 different shapes.
1994, specifically for MTB use.
In cooperation with Trafiltubi and Aubert & Duval, the new Columbus seamless tube set in stainless steel was created. Starting from a specific request of the military industry, Columbus searched for a valid substitute for cadmium plated temper hardening steels, which could no longer be produced because of their highly polluting manufacturing process.
A new martensitic stainless steel, with high content of Chromium and Molybdenum and Nickel as alloy elements which increase the mechanical and weldability characteristics, was created. The martensitic main structure contains traces of austenite that reduces the possibility of crack formation especially during the welding process. The great weldability properties of the new XCr stainless steel, together with its high fatigue resistance and its extraordinary geometrical stability at high temperatures, make this material the natural element for welded structures such as bicycle frames.
Thanks to the high stiffness/weight and UTS/weight ratios (better than titanium and aluminium alloys) together with the elevated characteristics of corrosion resistance, it is possible to manufacture triple butted tubes to build extremely light and (virtually) indestructible frames.
Mid-90’s saw the introduction of Thron. Thron is still popular, and is the immediate predecessor to Brain. It’s just regular Cyclex, the standard Columbus steel for a couple of decades, but has shorter butts, is a little manipulated, and has an OS version. CrMo, butted down to 0.5mm
Introduced mid-late ’90s, an improvement over Thron and Reynolds 531, so mid-high range
1996: NEMO, of Nivacrom, basically similar to EL-OS, but differentially butted, rather than symetrically, the butted sections are shorter, and with a slightly thinner tube section at the ends. the most sophisticated expression of cycling engineering: from a study on stress applied to the frame, produced using a portable recording system and with the subsequent FEM calculation (Finished Elements Measurement) the map of stresses in the frame and the ZBC technology (Zone Butted Concept) emerged. Reinforcements were located and adjusted to the actual work load.
1999: Columbus introduces THERMACROM the most innovative cycling purposed steel: It gives incredible lightness and the most durable, high performance mechanical characteristics.
Zona (0.7-0.5-0.7). In order to offer a tubing only 0.7mm at the butt, Columbus developed a reduced price Nivacrome that is 1000 Newtons/square meter tensile strength. This compares to the 900 used in Brain OS (and old SLX) and 1200 used in EL-OS, Genius, and Torelli/Nemo 747.
2004: Columbus introduces Spirit. Steel is coming back in the cycling field with this innovative, high performance tube-set.
Neuron (0.7-0.5-0.7). This is a very sophisticated tubing, much finer that one would guess from the 0.5mm wall thickness. Columbus pulled out almost all the stops to make a lightweight 0.5mm tubing, using zone butting, elliptical butting, the works. The result is a tubing that is lightweight, yet very stiff. Mondonico continues to offer frames made of Neuron because it makes a good, stiff, light frame. This tubing still has a very devoted following among serious steel frame lovers.
EL-OS. (0.7-0.4-0.7). These sophisticated tubes are comparable to Torelli/Nemo 747 in the front triangle. They exceed Torelli/Nemo specification in the rear triangle. These tubesets have double-butted chainstays that are drawn down to 0.4mm. The longer traditional butts of EL-OS offer some performance advantages. The slightly greater mass at the head tube joints make the front end of the frame a bit more stable, or as one Italian said, “robust”.
Drawing on the experience with the EL set in the toughest professional competitions, this set features tubes of comparable lightness but with increased diameters for greater rigidity thanks to the use of the exclusive Nivacrom Steel – Weight: 1800 g
Road set especially suited for amateur and touring cyclists who demand stout, lightweight racing frames. CrMo Steel – Weight: 2300 g
The cheapest tubeset that Columbus produced in the late 70s/early 80s. Straight gauge tubing like Aelle but not the same, Zeta was 0.9mm in thickness and Aelle 0.8mm. Carbon-manganese steel.
Tubeset for off-road competitions and high-performance riding. It combines the excellent performance of Nivacrom steel with the traditional diameters. Weight: 2220 g
Niva OR OS
Oversized, round-section tubing for maximum off-road performance. The butted tubes are Nivacrom® steel, which has made it possible to increase diameter while reducing thickness, and hence weight. These features, and in particular the oversized tube cross-sections, ensure excellent rigidity and good handling over rugged terrain, making this set idea for competitions. Nivacrom Steel – Weight: 2000 g
The GPX tubeset was produced in a limited number in 1995, exclusively for Pinarello. Super double butted, reinforced tubes of Cylex Steel.
Late 90s. Columbus Matrix was the first name for Colombus Cromor; Matrix became Cromor when Trek asserted their right to the Matrix name.
Cold-drawn, chrome-moly butted tubing, this set is for the more demanding riders who favour versatile, high-performance light frames, but can also be used for larger frames. Cr Mo Steel – Weight: 2190 g
Set for off-road experts who want to take on any terrain, regardless of difficulty, enjoying the maximum safety and dependability of an indestructible vehicle.The cold-drawn, chrome-moly tubing has butted ends. The butted unicrown fork blades have increased thickness in the weld areas. CrMo Steel • Weight: 2495 g
Chromor OR OS
Chrome-moly set specially designed for the most demanding mountain-bike enthusiasts. Oversized tube diameters give the frame excellent rigidity and stability, offering both pro and amateur cyclists a good measure of safety coupled with the characteristic lightness of Columbus butted tubing. CrMo Steel – Weight: 2580 g
Custom tube set for Eddy Merckx. CrMo.
Superbutted tube set for track use or demanding amateurs. Same five-spiral butting as the SLX. Cyclex Steel.
Butted set for light touring tandems. Designed for carrying touring equipment.
Altain, Tecnos, Super ’91, Endurance, SSP, MX, Aelle OR, Ego, MS, MINIMAX, GPX, SLPX,
Common tube diameters
Standard – 1″ top, 1-1/8″ seat and down tubes, 14mm seat stays, 22.2mm chainstays. Common tube sets include Columbus SL, SP, SLX, TSX, SPX, EL, Neuron; Reynolds 531, 753, 853; Dedacciai ZeroUno, ZeroTre; True Temper Versus, Versus HT, Platinum
Oversize – 1-1/8″ top and seat tube, 1-1/4″ down tube, 16mm seat stays, 24mm ovalized chain stays. Columbus EL OS, Neuron, Nemo, Foco, Brain, Thorn, Zona; Reynolds 853, 725; Dedacciai Zero, ZeroUno, ZeroTre; True Temper Platinum, Versus, Versus HT
Super Oversize – anything larger than OS. Columbus Foco, Zona, Sprit; Reynolds 853; Dedacciai Zero, EOM16.5; True Temper Platinum, S3