This is an excellent question, Jamie. Our climate does not treat steel frames kindly. My Elite is 3 years old and has been my do it all commuter and sport ride. Since it spends lots of time on and off the turbo in the winter, the first place on the frame to suffer were the rear dropouts where paint chipped and showed signs of rusting within 18 months. In my opinion, the Elite should be built a la Cielo with only polished stainless steel dropout faces. And not nasty plug in dropouts either. They're cheap looking. It's a small detail but it's the sort of attention to detail which makes the difference.
The purge holes at the bottom of the seat stays also show signs of oxidisation run off leading me to believe that there is some rust in these too. The bottom bracket started to show signs of oxidisation within 12 months of use. Finally my aluminium seatpost seized over the last year despite being well lubricated.
All in all, I would conclude that Spirit is not particularly rust resistant and that frames are not treated preventatively as matter of course prior to be handed over to their owners.
Having said all of that, the frame fits like a glove and rides like a dream! But, I will be looking at Cielo or a Rourke 853 or 931 for my next frame a few years down the line. Part of that is to try something new, part is because I don't think that the smartest decisions were made in my build. Perhaps at the time I didn't know the right question to ask Mark so am partly culpable. But I'm gonna ride my bike when it rains so you live and learn.
The Elite frame has always had the option of stainless steel fittings and dropouts, customer choice, 2013 frames will have these as standard. Spirit tubes are as corrosion resistant as any other steel tubes. The BB and dropoouts are not Spirit and can corode if not looked after but this is very unusual indeed.
I choose Long Shen LR12 micro cast dropouts which are plug in. These are far superior to the cheaper slot and braze type mentioned and far prettier in my opinion. The Elite frame is mainly custom made so you can choose any dropout you like at the point of order, plug in are superior, I use them, Dario uses them, as does Ron Cooper, Roberts, De Rosa etc!!
I'm Biased of course but genuinely the Elite is the best riding steel frame there is. If corrosion is a worry then go stainless but I have steel frames out there 25 years old, still going strong! Our fit and handling is un-comparable.
Jamie and Andy for extra tube protection use JP Weigles frame protector, availble at www.framebuilding.com, really worth using.
Thanks for your reply Mark. I'm very happy to hear that you're switching to stainless dropouts as standard in the future. It's a very positive step for buyers of Elite's. Thank you for listening.
I would like to point out though that Dario by his own admission uses cast dropouts specifically because they are cheaper and allow him to hit a price point, not because of their quality. You don't see them on the Marcelo or Responsorium models. Richard Sachs uses slot and braze exclusively. Seven, IF, Firefly, Waterford, Rourke use slot and braze or custom rather than plug in. Plug ins are cheaper, faster and easier for a frame builder, that's why they get used.