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Titanium bikes(27 posts)

Titanium bikeskevinacohn
Oct 5, 2003 5:55 PM
What's everyone's opinion on titanium bikes (Litespeed, inparticular)? Compared to steel, aluminum, and carbon fiber, how does everyone feel about comfort, strength, weight, etc.
Oct 5, 2003 6:25 PM
Here's a brand new 59cm Titus compact frame I just weighed on Friday before starting the build it up. 1544 grams including the seat post clamp.
RE: WeightYe Olde Balde One
Oct 5, 2003 6:44 PM
What is that cassette I can see in the picture?


PS: Nice welds!
Litespeed: the fred's bike of choice! nmMShaw
Oct 5, 2003 6:40 PM
Yeah, I betAFred
Oct 6, 2003 1:33 PM
I can drop your sorry @ss any day of the week on my Classic.
re: Titanium bikeslyleseven
Oct 5, 2003 7:11 PM
I have a Seven Axiom and I can't say enough good things about its ride, performance and comfort. I have ridden aluminum, carbon fiber, and steel. Ti is my favorite. If you are not a really big guy you can get an Alta Seven and it is stiff, comfortable and under 3 lbs if weight is a big issue. Seven will customize your frame to your needs and likes. Incredible company to deal with.
Fred or Wilmabsdc
Oct 5, 2003 7:18 PM
Titanium is generally considered to be a good material for building frames but is a little overpriced. Frames can be made with other materials that are just as comfortable, strong or light as titanium. But it's hard to beat titanium for combining all three qualities into one frame.

As for Litespeed, they are the largest titanium builder. I think they tend to over-engineer their frames. This results in a strong, stiff frame, that lacks a little in comfort.

I own three titanium bikes right now. Two are Litespeeds. What I like the most about titanium bikes is that they are tanks. The tubes don't ding easily. There is no paint to chip. No fibers to crack. No rust. Just ride it and toss it in the corner.

Bottom line: If you've got the cash, Fred-up and get an overpriced titanium bike. If cash is an issue, be a Wilma and get yourself a cheaper frame. Just try not to worry so much about what Fred is doing.
Oct 6, 2003 5:57 AM
I had my first ride on a Ti roadbike (Litespeed Ghisallo) yesterday, coming off a relatively inexpensive carbon fiber bike(Giant). With only one ride (mountainous) in, the tentative verdict is:

Less Comfortable
Way Faster

If I wanted to be comfortable i would have stayed home on the sofa and watched the food network.
re: Titanium bikesJas0n
Oct 5, 2003 8:03 PM
personally, i have never been a big fan of ti bikes; they seem to be too little, for way too much. having put in a bunch of time on guru ti and merlin ti bikes (the shop i work at sells alot of boutique frames), i still like carbon ten times better. right now, i ride a calfee drangonfly. i find carbon to be stiffer than ti, and the ti bikes which arent rubbery, i thought were too heavy (i realize for some this isnt an issue). as far as comfort goes, it seems the trend in everything is towards carbon, even from ti companies. i find it ironic that some claim ti is more comfortable than carbon, but every company out there (including most ti companies), are incorporating carbon into their design (merlin cielo, etc ...). i have found carbon to be as comfortable as road bikes get (given the same tire/wheel/saddle/etc... build). then there is the whole weight issue. my dragonfly is 2 pounds for the frame. i dont think ti can get that light and still be as stiff as my d'fly (or the 5900 i just sold). for me its carbon, but i have to admit, ti does look pretty, but then again, so does a clear coat carbon frame. keep tearin it up
Reasons for carbon useFez
Oct 6, 2003 6:24 AM
There are probably more marketing than engineering reasons for carbon use.

Ti is getting old school. Carbon is hot - you see it used in places like forks, bars, stems, seatposts, seatstays, cranks, shifters, etc. Those plain Ti frames needed a little something new to keep up with the times, so carbon stays are the most common thing you see.

On more exotic bikes, there seems to be no consensus on how carbon is used. The Merlin Cielo and Lemond frames use carbon in different places.

Since many have posted that ride and stiffness is a product of tube design and shape, I'm sure the Ti frame builders could engineer any ride characteristic they wanted without using carbon fiber. But currently, it makes good marketing sense to use carbon - it looks pretty and attracts potential buyers with something new. And sometimes it actually is cheaper for the frame builder to do so - I think someone here said the carbon stays are premade and can be bonded to the frame cheaper than welding metal tubes.
More questionskevinacohn
Oct 5, 2003 9:43 PM
Thanks everyone for the responses.

So the question is... where does the money go when you're buying a titanium bike? I mean... if the frame isn't as comfortable as carbon, and not that much lighter, why does it cost (at times) an extra $1,000?

Consider: the MSRP of the 2004 Cannondale R3000 is $3,499. This is a 15.5 lb bike, all told (well, excluding pedals), with a great aluminum frame and 2004 Dura-Ace components. On the flipside, Litespeed's 2003 Classic, the same price (+/- $100) has a titanium frame and Ultegra components.

Which is the better buy?
consider Fondriest...C-40
Oct 6, 2003 5:25 AM
If you're seriously looking at at $3500 C'dale, take a look at Fondriest. With the current sales, you can build a DuraAce 9 speed bike for $2100-2600, depending on the frame chosen. Better yet, a 10 speed campy chorus bike for the same price. Even the lowest price Madonna di Campliglio has carbon seatstays and a paint job that is as good as any C'dale. The ride is also excellent, even compared to a high end carbon fiber bike (like the Colnago C-40 that I also own).

As for your question about the cost of Ti frames, relative to carbon, you have to compare apples to apples. There are Ti frames priced well below $1000 to more than $3000. Litespeed makes the Excel Sports Macalu which retails for $1000. For the lighter rider, it should have all the stiffness needed. Carbon frames are also sold over a very wide price range. In many cases you are paying twice as much to get a frame that's a few insignificant ounces lighter (or allegedly stiffer or "more efficient"). Like all things, there is a point of diminishing returns. If you're a lightweight like me, just about any frame is stiff enough.

Aluminum will always be the cheapest of the three, if compared properly.

As for the ride generalizations, it is not accurate to generalize about materials. Any of the materials can be made into a frame that is so stiff that it rides like $hit. Aluminum will have the greatest tendency to produce a harsh ride due to the larger tubes necessary to reduce frame flex and produce an acceptable frame life. I've had Al and Ti frames that were quite uncomfortable. The newest Al and Al/carbon frames seem to be a substantial improvement over the Al frames produced 5-10 years ago.
Inexpensive Tigeeker
Oct 6, 2003 6:17 AM
Plenty of inexpensive Ti frames out there. One example is Habanero, Straight-gauge tubing (slightly heavier but stiff), welded in Far East (may not have snob value, but plenty of "Italian" bikes also are), $695 frame w/o fork, $300 more for custom. Also Airborne and many others.
re: Titanium bikesmerlint3
Oct 5, 2003 11:58 PM
The "best buy" depends on your butt and wallet. Go ride as many different bikes as possible. I went from a Cannondale 3.0 which was stiff as all get out to my Merlin Extra-light. My Merlin is awesome, especially on long rides. Its hard to appreciate this on a parking lot test. This is a legacy frame and I can easily justify the extra cost considering I will own it for life. Titanium is rather expensive metal and requires careful attention and procedures when welding.

You can buy less expensive bikes than the top tier of Merlin, Seven or Litespeed. For instance Airborne bikes are Ti bikes made in China and lots of folks like the way the ride. One nice "feature" of Merlin is the 1 cm increments in sizes, so that you can get almost a custom fit. Fit is just as or more important to your comfort than the frame material.

Re the integration of carbon into say seatstays of tiframes, I believe in some cases this is to keep up with the market place, whether or not it adds to the ride quality is debatable. I rather suspect it is less expensive to glue in a premade seat stay then to have all Ti.
re: Titanium bikestarwheel
Oct 6, 2003 5:12 AM
If you can afford them, titanium bikes are reasonable compromise between the ride qualities of aluminum and steel. Personally I prefer the ride of a good steel frame, but weight weenies seem to have taken over the biking industry. I've got a steel and a titanium Merckx that are the same size and geometry, with identical saddles and wheels. Both bikes handle the same, but the ti model is about 2 lbs. lighter, which is noticable on the hills. On flat to rolling terrain, I prefer the ride of the steel bike. Steel frames have a springiness that let you feel the road without beating you up. The big advantage (and drawback) to titanium is the bare metal finish -- which is easy to maintain and won't chip paint or rust. The downside is that bare ti is boring and lacks much of the personality of a painted frame.

Plenty of cyclists will swear that frame material makes no difference, that ride quality is solely due to fit, geometry and design. I haven't ridden enough different frames to consider myself an expert on this. What I can say is that I owned one aluminum frame, a fairly high quality Bianchi with carbon fork, and I didn't like the ride -- it was too stiff and transmitted lots of road buzz on rough pavement. I will never buy another aluminum frame for that reason, even though others claim that there are aluminum frames as comfortable as any other. Every steel frame I have owned (4) has been very comfortable, even without carbon forks. My ti frame is comfortable as well, but seems to lack some of the "springy" quality that my steel bikes have all had. The most comfortable bike I have owned is a Gios Compact Pro with a steel fork. The frame has steep angles, short wheelbase and chainstays -- which one might think would lead to a harsh ride -- but it smooths out rough pavement better than any bike I have ridden, including the ti Merckx with carbon fork.
re: Titanium bikeskevinacohn
Oct 6, 2003 6:33 AM
Okay, so I understand I may be making an unfair comparison. Let me rephrase my question yet again...

If you had the choice between an aluminum frame OR a carbon or titanium frame, when the aluminum came with much better components (say, a $1,000 price difference) and better wheels than the carbon or titanium, which would you go with?

I guess this is asking for people's opinions as much as anything else. I'm not buying based on other people's opinions, I'm just curious as to other people's experience with this kind of decision.

Thanks again.
Oct 6, 2003 7:14 AM
The Cannondale has great wheels and components. But most either like the frameset or hate it. The frame and fork are one of the hardest and expensive parts to upgrade, due to parts cost and potential incompatibility.

I believe a good bike is built around a well fitting frame and fork. Its a lot easier to replace most components than it is to replace a frame and fork.
Oct 6, 2003 10:20 AM
I've actually done the opposite. I've had the same D/A parts on 3-4 different frames over the last few years.

Makes for a (fairly) inexpensive way to try out different frames when you don't have to go buy all the parts every time. I buy frames used more often than not, so someone else usually takes the hit on depreciation...

My last frame purchase was a last year's model Specialized S-Works. Got frame and fork for $400 plus shipping. Retail (full pop)on the new ones is about $1300... I sold my 2000 model S-Works for $200 so it netted out to $200 for a brand new f/f.

I've been doing this riding thing for a while now and know what fits me. If you don't know what fits, replacing frames can be very pricy.

re: Titanium bikeslyleseven
Oct 6, 2003 7:49 AM
Your really have to ride the aluminum with those factors in mind and see if you like the ride itself. No doubt that Ti or carbon will give you the better ride. I have had all of these bikes and my favorite is Ti, custom made with stiffer downtube, etc., to reduce flex. Carbon is smooth riding, until you hit a large bump or pothole, then you can feel it more so than Ti or steel. If money is your concern, and the alum bike rides smooth enough, go for it.
Let me ask you this?Len J
Oct 6, 2003 7:50 AM
Two questions:

1.) How long are you going to keep the Frame?

The longer you keep it the less important the Price difference is. Titanium will last longer than either Carbon or Aluminum, hands down. So the longer you intend to keep it the more I would give the nod to Titanium.

2.) Do you ride in bad conditions frequently?

Again, the more you ride in crud, the more I would look to Titanium.

Finally, just like all materials, not all Titanium rides the same. If you don't believe me, ride a cheap titanium bike (Most likely flexy) and then ride a Lightspeed Ultimate (One of the stiffest bikes made). Or better yet ride these and then ride a Serotta. All three have significantly different feels.

Don't listen to the old wives tale about too expoensive, too flexy and no paint. Anyone saying this hasn't ridden many Ti bikes. They are clearly more expensive but IMO worth the money if you intend to keep them awile. And Flexy is right up there with the "All aluminum is harsh" B/S the uninformed spout.

I have a Serotta that is 3/4 paint and 1/4 polished Ti & I think it is gorgeous (I know, I'm not objective).

BTW, The reason it is more expensive is that it is much harder to work than other materials. Any oxygen (I think) while it is being welded can screw up the weld.

Good Luck


PS as someone else said, ride as many as you can before you make your decision, different models by different manufacturers do ride differently. I know, I test rode just about everything out there before I bought my Serotta.
cost more $, usually flexy, don't rust, no paint needed (nm)ColnagoFE
Oct 6, 2003 7:28 AM
re: Titanium bikesCritLover
Oct 6, 2003 8:09 AM
As far as the investment goes, it depends if you're talking short run or long run. I purchased a Seven Axiom five years ago w/ultegra parts and felt that the components could be upgraded, but the custom fit frame would last me 20 years (bike lust withstanding). So far I have upgraded everyhting on the bike (multiple times and currently waiting for the DA 10speed), and now considering getting a paint job.

The bike is so comfortable that I wouldn't trade it for anything currently out there. Yes, it costs more than aluminum, although some alu frames prices have gone through the roof lately. Also, the bikes are as boring as the individual riding it- creativity is key!

Also, Litespeed ti doesn't really impress me for what it costs, but I'm sure the ride is great. Serotta has a wide variety of frames that would get you closer to the price range of the C'dale but with a custom fit and ride.

The cannondale sounds like a good deal if you want a super low weight machine with the top shelf components. I don't think it's on the same level as a custom ti, but it's definitely not a bad investment, and would need little upgrades. After all is said and done it's still a personal choice based upon specific ride preferences and styles.

Good luck-

Here's some pics of some not-so-boring ti!
the second oneCritLover
Oct 6, 2003 8:12 AM
Might not match up to the Serotta, but it's cheaper to change the decals, saddle and tape rather than the whole paint job. Last year's color was orange, and before that it was Bianchi celeste.

And sorry about the bad pic, didn't realize it'd be so busy.
re: Titanium bikeskevinacohn
Oct 6, 2003 9:55 AM
Thanks to everyone for the help.
One more opinionEric_H
Oct 6, 2003 11:02 AM
I think it really has to come down to your intentions with the bike. If you are buying it for recreational riding and perhaps some casual racing, then I would recommend a Ti bike (or steel). Both materials offer excellent fatigue life and are more durable overall than either aluminum or carbon. However, if the frame is to be a race bike and if you are really concerned about absolute performance despite limited durability, then I feel aluminum or carbon are the best choices.

For the record, I have raced for the past 10 years on the following: lugged steel (SLX, EL/OS), light TIG-welded steel (FOCO), aluminum (Easton Scandium), aluminum/carbon mix (Easton Scandium with carbon stays), and titanium (Merlin XL). This season I was on a custom team frame with a Scandium front triangle and carbon rear end. Unfortunately it broke and I finished the season on my Merlin XL. Making the switch quickly in mid-season gave me some additional perspective. From a pure racing perspective, the Merlin does not perform as well. It is noticeably more flexy under hard acceleration or while climbing out of the saddle (and it is a frame-only response as I was using all the same components between bikes). Does this additional flex cost me in a racing situation? Hard to say, but it is definitely noticeable.

I love my Merlin. For long rides it is superb. It has a wonderful ride quality and definitely leaves me less fatigued over 4 or 5 hours. Its properities ensure excellent fatigue strength so it should survive many more seasons of riding. However, it is not a pure-bred race machine compared to current offerings in aluminum or carbon. I am having a custom Columbus Starship frame built for 2004. I fully realize this is a very light tubeset and the frame will likely not have a lifespan of more than 2-3 seasons. But for racing performance it is what I want.
One more opinionmerlint3
Oct 6, 2003 12:30 PM
I agree on the above, horses for courses. My Merlin is awesome for long training or centuries. A C-Dale for crits would be more efficient.

FYI .. Merlin is supposedly making the XL stiffer for 04 with larger diameter chainstays, (7/8 -> 1") and stiffer BB. (same with Aegilis and couple of other models)
Stiffer MerlinsEric_H
Oct 6, 2003 4:33 PM
I read that as well. I think if I was to do the Ti thing all over again I would probably go for a custom Seven Axiom. They seem to be able to build the bike exactly how the buyer wants and in the big picture the price is not too much more than a stock Merlin XL.