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Poll: Stiffest AND Best Riding Titanium Bikes?(32 posts)

Poll: Stiffest AND Best Riding Titanium Bikes?Fez
Sep 24, 2003 10:45 AM
Since this poll is subjective in nature, lets hear some well-rounded opinions.

What is the stiffest road geometry titanium bike out there? The Vortex (especially newer ones) comes to mind, but are there stiffer choices elsewhere? How would it measure up to a custom tuned (for stiffness) Serotta, Spectrum, Moots, IF or Seven?

For those who wanted extra-stiff Ti, how would you rate the ride as far as comfort?

I've recently had the pleasure of going on extended test rides on the Siena, Tuscany, Classic, Vortex, Seven Axiom and Serotta Legend. All had Open Pros or Ksyriums on them, but the perceived performance difference between the softest and firmest riding bike was pretty subtle.

I had no idea what the Seven and Serotta were tuned to, so I think the Vortex was the stiffest and lightest, but not necessarily the best riding.
You left several out ...irregardless
Sep 24, 2003 11:01 AM
LS Ultimate and Merckx Millenium. Both have baseball bat sized downtubes and are designed for sprinter types. Neither is the softest riding bike made by their manufacturer.
Dean El Diente CTIGregory Taylor
Sep 24, 2003 11:07 AM
I've been riding one of these since last December -- I like to think of it as a titanium Cannondale. That comment is based on the fact that it has a fairly large diameter downtube which stiffens it up for high-torque efforts. Ride-wise, it's a LOT smoother than my CAAD3 (then again, what isn't), comparable in lateral stiffness (at least from a seat-of-the-pants feel) and you can go all day on it with no problems. I don't know how much the carbon seat stay plays into that equation -- the guys at Dean said that it stiffens the bike up a bit.

The great thing about Dean is that they can custom-tune the tubeset at no additional cost, if you stick with the stock geometry. They tweaked the tube selection for my bike, and it turned out nice. It's a sweet ride, and cheaper than each of the framesets that you mention.
Sep 24, 2003 11:21 AM
OK, stock geo, no problem. Then what exactly do they do to custom-tune the ride?

Play with the butting inside the tubes?

Or do they actually use different external diameter tubing based on your request?
They play with the tubing gauge....Gregory Taylor
Sep 24, 2003 12:14 PM
The El Diente uses straight-gauge tubing. Working with the Dean Dudes (mostly John, the main Dean Dude), they came up with a mix of tubes with different wall thicknesses to get what I was looking for based on my style and weight. I got thicker gauge downtube and chainstays.
Titus FCR, Exogrid and IsogridpedalAZ
Sep 24, 2003 11:09 AM
A custom ti frame maker can make it as stiff and you want, within reason. It also depends on where you want it stiff, e.g., bottom bracket versus seat stays.
re: Poll: Stiffest AND Best Riding Titanium Bikes?Heron Todd
Sep 24, 2003 11:17 AM
Most titanium frames are not very stiff. Titanium is a strong material but not necessarily stiff. Stiffness will come from wall thickness and tube diameter. Adding wall thickness increases weight. So, don't expect a real lightweight frame to be very stiff.

When it comes to tube diameter, there are a few considerations. First, most tubes in the frame stressed torsionally (they want to twist), and the shape that is torsionally stiffest is a round tube. If a frame is oval-shaped (or any other shape), it will not be as torsionally stiff as a round tube of the same cross-section area.

Second, when you increase the diameter of a tube, it can make it difficult to fit a smaller tube at a junction (e.g. welding a 1-3/8" tube to a 1-1/8" tube or a BB shell). So, you often have to ovalize the tubes to make them fit. This is the real reason why you see so much ovalized tubing.

Third, you then have a trade-off between increasing the diameter and keeping the tube round. This is why some in the industry are working on new oversized BB shell and headtube standards. It will allow builders to use larger diameter tubing without resorting to as much ovalizing.

So, how do you know which frames are stiffest? I'd look more at the 3+ pound frames than the 2.5 pound frames, and I'd look for the ones with minimal ovalization of the tubing.

So, how do I know all this? I've been working on creating a nice stiff titanium touring frame for Heron. I'm not there yet so I don't have anything to sell you, but we are working on it.

Todd Kuzma
Heron Bicycles
LaSalle, IL
re: Poll: Stiffest AND Best Riding Titanium Bikes?CurtSD
Sep 24, 2003 11:23 AM
I haven't compared it to any of the others on your list, but you might want to try a Colnago Ovalmaster as well.
colnago ovalmaster, serotta legend...both stiff (nm)ColnagoFE
Sep 24, 2003 11:26 AM
re: Poll: Stiffest AND Best Riding Titanium Bikes?gtx
Sep 24, 2003 11:34 AM
IMO, differences in vertical compliance are imperceptible but differences in lateral stiffness are quite perceptible (for example bb stiffness when sprinting out of the saddle). But most perceived comfort is a result of fit/geometry, not materials used. If you want ti, just find one that fits you and has the geometry you prefer and is stiff enough through the bb for your tastes. Just realize that a very stiff ti frame with an oversized downtube, etc., won't necessarily have that "ti feel" that people pay big bucks for. And one with a very short wheelbase, steep angles and short c-stays is probably gonna be a uncomfortable or "harsh" riding. But my short answer to your question would probably be the Merckx Millenium, which combines oversized tubing (very fat dowtube, etc.) with the traditional Merckx Century geometry--relaxed angles, longer c-stays and longer wheelbase.
there is not one best ti bike, but the best one for you isdidier carpentier
Sep 24, 2003 11:38 AM
I build titanium bicycle in Switzerland. there isn't bad titanium bicycle these days (just about). But do you really wanna own a ti bike.
Titanium by nature isn't really stiff in the bicycle application (3-2,5 or 6-4 or 5-1). people choose titanium for other reasons:
durability, sobriety, confortable ride, lack of corrotion, standing, purety of the metal.
Unless you are Cipolini or weight 250 pounds, you may get a standard shelve-made bicycle, you'll have no problems at all.
If you can afford, go custom, SEVEN or MOOTS if you want the quality and the name. check out my GREY production line, I have a distributor in the USA, we are very flexible and pretty affordable and our product has a dedication for the best possible quality.
please do not hesitate to email me for more details.
If you want a stiffer Ti bike, 2 come to mind, both are 6/4 Tirussw19
Sep 24, 2003 2:43 PM
The Vortex, as you mention, and the Colnago Ovalmaster. Both are 6/4 Ti as opposed to 3/2.5 that most everyone else mentioned. I have an Ovalmaster and I love it. I have also riden a Vortex as I thought of getting one last year. It's also really nice. Both seemed as stiff to me as my Aluminium bikes (Cannondale Caad 3 and Pinarello Paris) but I like the geometry better on the Colnago. Plus the paint is way better. If you like the look of bare Ti, the Litespeed may be for you.

Not only are both those frames 6/4 Ti, but they are both very manipulated tubesets to help stiffen them. But that is the ride both those companies were shooting for with each of those models. Many other of the bikes you mentioned, the company was not trying to build a stiff bike, but a comfy one. Moots and Spectrum for example... and the IF Ti Crown Jewel. All 3 of those bikes the companies were aiming to make a bike light yet still ride like a classic steel bike. I talked to one of the guys at Moots a few years back when they first started building bikes, and he told me that they were trying to build a bike that rode like a 5 and 1/2 pound Columbus SLX frame but in the sub 3 pound frame range. It's a pretty accurate description of how their bikes feel, and anyone who has owned an SLX bike will know what I am talking about here. That feel of bike, along with older 531 bikes are what the whole "steel is real" mantra is referring to. Those bikes rode better than anything ever built since... but they are also 2 to 3 pounds heavier for just the frame than most current Ti and Al bikes.

Sep 24, 2003 3:13 PM
I'm a medium sized guy, not a big guy, so the Ovalmaster is out.

I was wondering what your opinion of the Vortex is; specifically how the ride compares its 3/2.5 brothers. I was wondering if that low weight and stiffness comes at the expense of comfort and ride quality.

I wanted something on the stiff end of what a Ti builder can offer, since my every day Ti ride is very comfortable, but not very stiff.

And how much of the firm feeling ride is attributable to wheel selection? For example, the Classic I tested had Open Pros. The Vortex I tested had Ksyrium.
Sep 24, 2003 7:51 PM
The wheel thing is very easily solved... just test ride each with the same wheels if you are riding both at the same shop.

I like the Ovalmaster a lot! But I actually like the ride of my Pinarello Paris better. It's a stiff aluminium bike, and I like that feel. I am a bigger guy and I love stiff bikes. In my racing days, I was a sprinter, so I wanted the stiffest bottom bracket shell I could get out of a bike. The Ovalmaster delivers there. But the Vortex did too. But your taste may be drastically different than mine so I would suggest you try to ride one. For that kind of money, you would want to ride it first. It's a bit stiffer than a Classic from my perspective but it was more noticable out of the saddle. My thoughts were that it was a lot like a very smooth aluminium bike on very smooth pavement. I liked it, but I liked the Colnago better. I want to get a Lemond Tete d' Course this year and see if the Ti/Carbon hype is any good. But for me, my favorite of my bikes is still my Paris, I just love stiff aluminium bikes.

I know that didn't help much... just go ride them if you can. It will tell you more than I can.

Russ, I have ridden them...Fez
Sep 25, 2003 5:57 AM
I rode the Vortex and the Classic (and a bunch more).

I guess I set the expectation bar too high for the Vortex. I expected it to really knock my socks off and instantly impress me, I guess because of all the hype (and the huge price tag compared to other Ti frames).

On the flats I was almost disappointed, because it didn't seem that much better than the rest. Finally, when I took it up some climbs I could see the improvement, but it was subtle. Out of the saddle it shined. Even in the saddle it just seemed more efficient. Climbs in the same gear (39x23) were just easier than on the Classic.

High speed accelerations were more powerful. Descending was better as well. It took me a while before I could see how good the Vortex is. But many "lesser" Ti bikes would be fine for those easy 3 hour rides.
If you want a stiffer Ti bike, 2 come to mind, both are 6/4 TiHeron Todd
Sep 24, 2003 8:26 PM
>Not only are both those frames 6/4 Ti, but they are both very manipulated tubesets to help stiffen them

The tubing isn't manipulated to make it stiffer (at least not directly). The tubing is ovalized or otherwise worked to make oversized tubes fit together at the joints. So, in a way, ovalizing helps the builder use a larger diameter tube, which helps stiffness, but there is also some loss in torsional stiffness when you go away from a round tube.

With 6/4 tubing, you will sometimes see tubing made from folded sheet stock because working 6/4 tubing is very expensive. It's often easier to fold a diamond shape tube from flat stock than it is to ovalize a round tube.

That is not to say that the frames you mention are not stiff. 6/4 alloy is somewhat stiffer than 3/2.5, but it is harder to use. If the designers used 6/4 in order to lower the weight of the frame, it might very well be more flexible than a 3/2.5 equivalent. One of the flexiest frames I've ever ridden was made from 6/4.

>That feel of bike, along with older 531 bikes are what the whole "steel is real" mantra is referring to. Those bikes rode better than anything ever built since... but they are also 2 to 3 pounds heavier for just the frame than most current Ti and Al bikes.

Take note from a guy who sells those "steel is real" frames and is developing a titanium frame. Our lugged, steel Herons using OS double-butted cromoly weigh around 4.25 pounds in a 56 cm size. It will be one of the stiffest steel frames torsionally that you'll find. We feel that we can build a titanium frame with the same torsional stiffness that weighs about 1 pound less.

Todd Kuzma
Heron Bicycles
LaSalle, IL
Heron Todd -- Thanks For The Insight....Gregory Taylor
Sep 25, 2003 5:38 AM
It's neat to hear from the folks that are actually holding the welding torch. Even if we disagree, it's valuable to hear from the actual framebuilders regarding what they think works and what doesn't.

I went and thought about my Dean and, based on your comments, I can now understand how they wound up with a stiff ti frame that I like. The frameset is a hair under 3 lbs., and the tubeset is large diameter but not heavily manipulated.

Keep us posted on your ti-bike efforts....
Heron Todd -- Thanks For The Insight....Heron Todd
Sep 25, 2003 8:08 AM
Thanks for the comments, but I'm not the guy holding the torch. Our frames are made by the good folks at Waterford.

Todd Kuzma
Heron Bicycles
LaSalle, IL 815-223-1776
re: Poll: Stiffest AND Best Riding Titanium Bikes?lyleseven
Sep 24, 2003 3:50 PM
Seven will build you a custom fit stiff Ti bike. You can spec it in, or they will do it for you just by telling them what end product you want. I do own one, so I am biased, but I also own three other bikes which are not Ti, and I think Seven has the greatest combination to get exactly what you want. There are a lot of good choices out there for Ti bikes, w/o getting the Aluminum stiffness feel.
LS Ultimatepmf1
Sep 25, 2003 8:59 AM
I've got a 1999 model with the bent seat tube. Its stiff, but I like it. If you're a larger, aggressive rider, its a good choice. Its a good crit bike.

If you want stiff though, look at aluminium bikes. You could save a lot of money as well.
What kind of riding do you do on it?Fez
Sep 25, 2003 9:17 AM
What do you think of the ride? How would you compare to other Ti bikes?

I had classic road race geometries in mind. Ultimate has those real short stays now. While I would guess the Ultimate is stiffer than the Vortex, I would guess its a great crit bike, but unsure about it for long rides on the open road.
What kind of riding do you do on it?pmf1
Sep 25, 2003 9:44 AM
I don't race on it, but I've ridden plenty of centuries on it, no problem. Its the only ti bike I've ever owned, so I have no idea how it compares to others. Just curious, but why is stiffness your most important criterion? All of the high end bikes you name (and many others) are not noodles.

I don't think the Ultimate geometry feels all that different from my other road bikes (Colnago C-40, Kestrel 200 Sci), or any of the other road bikes I've owned over the years. Frankly, I think most people will fit on most stock bikes just fine.

I'd guess the older Ultimate and new Vortex with the bladed downtube have a pretty similar ride.

I've always considered the LS Vortex to be at the top of the heap in ti bikes. If I had the choice of any ti bike out there, the Vortex would be it. Still, $6000 is a lot for a titanium bike. I bought my Ultimate on a close-out in 2000. It was a 1999 and the frame had changed to meet 2000 UCI specs. I figured for $1600 for a frame and Look HSC2 fork, how could I go wrong? I've never regretted it.

For a long ride, nothing beats the C-40 though.

You can't go wrong with any of the bikes you're considering.
Sep 25, 2003 10:06 AM
Just kidding. Racing (a little), group rides, and weekly training rides.

The reason stiffness is a concern is because my current Ti bike is on the medium end of the scale. Very comfortable, but probably not that stiff. If I get a new ride, I don't want it to be exactly the same - I want it to be as light and stiff as possible, but w/o an overly harsh ride.

I'm pretty close to scoring a Vortex.
Sep 25, 2003 10:28 AM
Frankly, it suprises me that titanium is still so widespread. When it first became popular, it was much lighter than steel, carbon was not popular and/or unproven, and aluminium bikes were pretty nasty (e.g., those old Cannondale frames). These days, a bike made of Reynolds 853 weighs in at very close to what many titanium bikes weigh with an equal ride at 1/3 the cost. To me, titanium bikes make alot less sense than they did 10-12 years ago.

If you're going to drop a large chunk of change, look at some carbon bikes while you're at it. For the price of a Vortex, you could get any carbon bike you want.
Why TiFez
Sep 25, 2003 11:43 AM
My main draw to Ti is the durability and low worries. Lots of people drop big bucks on a bike and then complain about the paint. I used to hear those complaints about OCLV paint jobs. No problem like that with brushed Ti.

Also, no rust or corrosion worries. And when I had painted bikes, I had to be careful I didn't damage the paint finish. Stuff happens, and I got a lot of unsightly gouges and scratches on the clearcoat and the paint. With Ti, cable rub, chain drop, and washing dirt and grit is hardly a problem. Had to be much more careful about those things with a painted frame.

I don't abuse my frame, but I pretty much have never had to even think about giving it special care. The damn chain has come off more than I would like to admit and I can't even see one mark on the chain stay. Other than a little evidence of cable rub on the top tube, it looks almost like new.

The weight isn't much of an issue. There are 2.5lb carbon, al and Ti bikes out there. The only carbon bikes I have ridden are Kestrel, OCLV and Giant TCR. Nice, but I think I prefer Ti. I have not ridden a C-40. In fact, I have never seen C-40s available for a test ride at any bike shop. I guess you just have to buy one sight unseeen.

And I heard a rumor that Ti rides pretty nice.
Why Tipmf1
Sep 25, 2003 11:56 AM
Yep, for the no worry reason, my ti bike is primarily used for commuting (38 mile round trip) and bike tours. I never have to worry about it getting bonked around.

Frankly, I think carbon has a nicer ride though. It doesn't rust or corrode. But then again, if you keep your bike inside, even a steel bike will last a lot longer than you'll have the desire to ride it.

Its all in the eye of the beholder.
You're probably the only oneFez
Sep 25, 2003 12:20 PM
who commutes on a LS Ultimate, if that is your commuter.

I can just hear this at a cocktail party:

"Yeah, the Ultimate handles the curves of the W&OD/Custis/Mt Vernon trail real well."

"It allows me to leave the house 10 minutes later than if I was commuting on an old steel commuter."

Just kidding, of course.
Its DC afterallpmf1
Sep 26, 2003 4:46 AM
The land of the $350,000 3 bedroom starter homes with BMW 540's in the driveway.

I ain't the only one riding a Litespeed to work. Not by a long shot.

Try doing the Seagull Century. Every DC bike rider shows up there. Any fancy bike you can think of -- you'll see at least 3 of them.
350K for a 3 bedroom starter home?djg
Sep 26, 2003 5:33 AM
Depends on the neighborhood. 350 might be a little low these days.

I rode the CT1 to work yesterday. I'm sure I trimmed at least 20 seconds off my commute. Round-trip, anyway.
Sep 26, 2003 6:27 AM
Depends on the location. Anything in the good parts of Fairfax or Montgomery counties is unfortunately going to run a lot more. Ask me how I know.

Want new construction? Forget it at that price, or prepare to live in a townhouse or condo with very little space.

I am surprised how people can become packrats in this day and age when living space is at such a premium.
Sep 26, 2003 12:25 PM
You don't want to know what new construction costs in my neighborhood. 350 doesn't even buy a tear-down anymore.
what neighborhood are you talking about?Fez
Sep 26, 2003 12:34 PM
I could point you to some great new construction in Maryland that is surrounded by the interstate and associated on and off ramps. What a great area to come home to.

Price: starts at $1.1m