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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Sorry if these are naive questions, but I'm genuinely confused about the process.

Having experienced two warranty claims on my beloved steel frame in less than ten years, it seems pretty clear to me I probably NEED the durability of a titanium frame. However, before I drop $3K on a ti frame, I'd like to feel a little more certainty that I'll WANT the ride that frame offers. I know that ti has a great reputation for its ride, generally, but given the varying frame styles, geometry, tube thicknesses, etc., I'm sure there's a fairly broad range of riding experiences among the various ti bikes.

The problem I'm having is that I can't find any local (within sixty miles) bike shops that have titanium demo bikes that I can ride-- they'll build them up for me after I order them, but all sales are final, etc.

Is it really the case that people make such a significant purchase based on reputation, or have I just not been creative enough in finding a way to take a test ride? I see lots of guys out on the road riding ti, but I don't know anyone well enough to feel comfortable asking if I can take it for a spin.

Those of you who own ti bikes-- did you ride them first before you bought, or did you take the leap of faith that it'd be all you expected of it? I know there are lots of folks on this board that have ti bikes but still prefer rides from other materials, but is there anyone who was so disappointed by the bike that he thought, "What have I done?"

When people talk about going "custom," do you start with a particular frame you'd actually ridden, and like generally, but then ask the mfr. to "tweak" the specs to accommodate particular quirks of your body geometry? Or do you start with the Serotta fitting bike and design your own frame geometry? I'm intrigued by the idea of going custom (paying for it is another matter) if it allows for the possibility of replicating the geometry of my late-lamented steel steed with the sturdier Ti material, but I'm still very wary that even a perfectly copied frame with a different material will lead to disappointing results.

Thoughts?
 

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Wow three years and two posts, congratulations on having a life:). I bought my custom titanium frame from a builder purely over the computer and 8000 miles away. The result was perfect for me so either I was lucky or Carl Strong http://www.strongframes.com knows what he is doing. Really no question there. I guess trust is something that experience breeds. If it were me I would get in touch with a top titanium builder with the specs from your frail but beloved bike and tell them what you want. Then sit back and wait. Good luck. Forgot check out the warranty on his titanium frame steel for that matter. "Warranty:
I want you to be completely satisfied. Because I believe in the quality of my work, I warranty the materials and craftsmanship of your frame as well as guarantee the fit.
Standard Steel or Titanium – Life "
 

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I ordered a custom Ti frame over the 'net without having ridden one. The builder asked how I wanted it to feel and I answered "mellow". Overnight I swapped the parts from a custom steel frame to the Ti one and repeated the same ride as from the day before. During that ride I stopped twice to check for tires going soft. It truly felt "mellow" from the steel frame. Ten years later (next month) I still use that frame as it just can't be improved upon. It was made by Seven Cycles.
 

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Bought my Moots simply on the basis that I wanted one.
I had never even seen one in person.
All I knew was that I had to have it.
And I could not be happier.
 

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I rode a Merlin Extralight in 93 and that's when I knew ti was the material for me. Back then it was difficult to find a high end frame built up to take a test ride, which was really frustrating. You might want to post on RBR to see if anybody has a ti bike in your area that's your size to test ride. Lots of bikers would be happy to let you take their bike for a spin. Remember to beer them if you find someone's bike to ride. Even if you can't ride one first, I'm sure you'll be happy if you communicate with a reputable builder about what ride characteristics you want. Good Luck
 

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To get the custom titanium frame you want, all you need is a frame of reference (no pun intended) and a way to articulate your desires.

If you're going full custom, merely tell the builder what you currently ride, even if it's steel. Describe it's ride qualities and how you would like your custom frame to feel, comparatively speaking. It's the custom framebuilder's job to do the rest.

I don't think you can go wrong with any of the major brands out there now such as Moots and Lynskey, even if you can only afford a stock geometry.

"...of replicating the geometry of my late-lamented steel steed with the sturdier Ti material, but I'm still very wary that even a perfectly copied frame with a different material will lead to disappointing results..."
This is a great starting point. You obviously understand the difference between geometry and material ride qualities. You can't separate the fact that a steel and titanium frame of the same geometries will ride differently give the materials' respective qualities, but the titanium tube dimensions CAN be customized to minimize differences. I wouldn't worry too much about it.

I've NEVER test ridden any of the frames I've purchased. I looked at the geometries and if they were close enough, I bought them. I was never disappointed.

And kiwisimon's suggestion of Strong Frames is excellent. To read how someone else went through the process of ordering a custom titanium frame, read this:

http://strong.weswu.com/part-1-introduction/
 

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I've never test ridden a frame before buying either. If you know the size and geometry you want, that's the most important thing. And if you are buying custom, tell the builder what you are looking for in a frame, and he should be able to match that. Don't worry about the frame being ti in terms of ride quality. I've got two Eddy Merckx frames, one steel and the other ti, with the same geometry and size. If you could ride them with your eyes closed, you could hardly tell the difference in handling and ride quality.

I don't know your budget, but I would check out the following builders if considering a custom ti: Lynskey, Strong, Ericksen, Spectrum, Davidson, Dean. If not custom, Moots, Merlin and Litespeed have their fans. Litespeed sometimes gets a bad rap because they're the "Trek" of ti frames, but like Trek they are big for a reason. My Merckx AX was made by Litespeed to Merckx specs, and it has been a fantastic frame with many years and thousands of miles of use.
 

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hrdperipatetic said:
I'm sure there's a fairly broad range of riding experiences among the various ti bikes.
You're absolutely correct. As a matter of fact, the range is so broad that test-riding an existing Ti bike to get a feel for one that's in your future is, in my view, a waste of time. I'd just buy what I want to buy and enjoy the newness of it.
 

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The shop I work PT @ does not offer test rides. The theory is that you can't tell how a bike rides, or how it handles by riding around the block a few times. We size everybody correctly, ask a bunch of questions about what they want out of a bike, then find them the correct bike for them. And then make that bike fit them perfectly without the bike ever leaving the store.
So I guess my point is, a test ride will tell you nothing, and is not needed. Especially if you are getting custom geo.
 

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mtbbmet said:
The shop I work PT @ does not offer test rides. The theory is that you can't tell how a bike rides, or how it handles by riding around the block a few times. We size everybody correctly, ask a bunch of questions about what they want out of a bike, then find them the correct bike for them. And then make that bike fit them perfectly without the bike ever leaving the store.
So I guess my point is, a test ride will tell you nothing, and is not needed. Especially if you are getting custom geo.
And if it's custom (size, geometry and handling) then there is no stock shop sample that could mimic this. So a test ride is pointless.
 

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"NEED" titanium???

hrdperipatetic said:
Having experienced two warranty claims on my beloved steel frame in less than ten years, it seems pretty clear to me I probably NEED the durability of a titanium frame.
This sounds like a faulty argument to me. What you need is a frame with a good design that is built well. I doubt the steel was the problem with your previous frames, just the design or construction. You may WANT titanium, and I don't have a problem with that.
 

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terry b said:
I've gone through 25+ road bikes in the last 10 or so years without ever having a test ride.
Maybe if you had, you'd have bought somewhat fewer! :D

I bought mine unridden. I had the opportunity to ride a few other Ti bikes, and was able to interpolate to what this bike ought to be like - and hit it fairly well.

The rest has nothing to do with Terry's post.

I disagree that you can't tell anything from a test ride. True, you can't from a roll around the parking lot - but many worthwhile bike shops will let you take a bike for the day or two. More likely in high-end shops on high-end gear. In between, plenty of shops have plotted a mile or two loop that can help the knowledgeble buyer. To say that it can't help is to say that there's no meaningful difference in bikes, which makes the entire question moot.

And while a custom shop can't completely replicate the experience of your custom bike, a good one will be able to set a 'tester' bike for fit and handling, and (perhaps) another to help gauge ride. Though to be sure, ride qualities vary so much based on saddle, tires, bars, and pressure that it's a questionable exercise anyway. Yes, that conflicts somewhat with the previous statement. But not entirely, if it's a good shop with a decent variety of test equipment.

Finally, while they're not my particular favorites, Seven is well-regarded for their ability to extract the desired ride qualities based on their questionaire. You may not want one of their bikes, but you might want to consider downloading their custom fitting brochure. It will give you a good sense of the sort of conversation you need to have with someone to get just the bike you want.

So yeah, it's a little risky to aim at a stock bike with no more information than the geo chart and some marketing and magazine BS. But where you can have a knowledgable conversation with the builder or rep (whether stock, 'semi-custom', or full custom) it's perfectly reasonable.
 

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I've gone through 25+ road bikes in the last 10 or so years without ever having a test ride.

Coming off of MTBs, I bought my first roadie over the phone from Eric Sampson, a titanium frame with DA9 components. I knew nothing about road bike fit, but I also don't have any strange conformational quirks. The fit parameters I ride today started with that phone call and is now the result of many small tweaks as I got better at understanding what was comfortable.

The custom business has exploded as of late and it's completely predicated on buying without a test ride. And you don't see many testamonials from people saying that the builder screwed them up. You do see some odd looking bikes from builders like Serotta who use a "philosophy", but they're the exception and I don't think we ever know much about the buyer's need and input to their buying process. Again, the complaints and oddities are exceptions, not the rule.

If you know what you need you can buy what you want with a pretty high probability of success. I'm wondering though why you think that your experience with steel "demands the reliability of titanium" because if you're wrecking equipment, titanium is going to break just like steel. I don't think ti is any more reliable than steel in any way other than the lack of a paint job and that old red herring - rust. But, you know far more about your situation than I do.
 

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danl1 said:
Seven is well-regarded for their ability to extract the desired ride qualities based on their questionaire.
When I ordered my Seven, after the measurements had gone in (body and currect bike plus bike parts list) Matt from Seven gave me the final phonecall after he had worked up the design. He suggested an extra 1/2 degree of slackness on my seat tube angle "to get the head of your seat post in the center of the saddle rail adjustment". Those were his words.

I told him that my seat post head was in the center of the saddle rail adjustment (on my then current custom steel frame).

His reply was "Oh no it isn't. Go take a look." I did and he was dead right. My saddle was jammed all the way back on its adjustment. You could have knocked me over with a feather. From a bunch of measurements and a component list he knew more about my bike than I did. From then on HE was in charge of my order.
 

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hrdperipatetic said:
Having experienced two warranty claims on my beloved steel frame in less than ten years, it seems pretty clear to me I probably NEED the durability of a titanium frame.
Why would you think a TI frame is going to be any more durable than a steel frame?

Other than being proof against corrosion, I haven't ever heard anything mentioned about one being more durable than the other.

I bought my Ti frame (Merlin Extralight) untested because it was a flat out bargain. I have spent a lot of time on other mfgr's Ti bikes over the years, so I sort-of knew what to expect. I can't complain about the ride quality, but I do wish I had been able to get a slightly smaller frame.... but only by about 1cm. Nothing a shorter stem can't fix.

If you've got the disposable income, go for it. If you're pinching pennies and don't mind an extra pound - get a custom steel frame.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Both claims were due to corrosion. I don't ride in the rain, so it must be that I sweat acid! More seriously, I ride year-round in a region where the road salt goes down in November and doesn't get washed away until the April rains come.
 

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I've been riding for 30 years now and the bike that has been with me the longest is a 24 year old Falcon. I recently parted ways with a Litespeed titanium after 14 years, not because it failed me but it was just too damn flexible. You never mention your personal dimensions. Height, weight etc. Are you certain you need to go custom? If your dimensions are reasonable you might want to try an extended test ride on a stock frameset. My LBS is awesome when it comes to demo bikes. He has no issues with you riding his bikes for 2 or more weeks. As far as titanium vs. steel is concerned I'd give steel another try. I can't imagine why your steel frame would fail twice in a 10 year period,unless perhaps you're a Clydesdale.
 

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My first Ti frame was back around 1990 when Tom Kellogg was offering the Merlin built, but designed by Tom, Spectrum. I drove to Tom's barn and test rode his bike. I am MUCH taller than Tom but the ride gave me an idea of how the bike felt. At that time they only offered stock frames.

After riding that bike for nearly a decade I ordered a custom Seven Axiom. Most of the Seven people worked for Merlin so they knew the Spectrum well. I told them what I liked and did not like about the Spectrum and my Axiom does exactly what I wanted. I even asked for tough to hit qualities such as "comfortable but not flexy" and "a bit stiff but not harsh". They suggested the sloping top tube which helps the fit but took a while to get used to. Now all bikes seem to have that look but back a few years it seemed odd.

Tim McTeague
 
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