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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
All:

I am considering a new frame, and while the carbon revolution has taken over much of the market, I am curious about titanium frames. It may be my age, but there is something about metal that makes me happy. When I knock my knuckle against many carbon frames, I find myself worrying about cracking the egg. I realize this is irrational, but a new bike is a major purchase, and I want to be absolutely comfortable with my final decision.

Regarding titanium, I see Merlin/Litespeed and Titus. Any thoughts?

Also, I saw a titanium/carbon bike (Merlin?) at a LBS recently. It had the carbon applied in a matrix pattern that was cut out of the TI. VERY cool looking. No idea of the functionality. Anyone know what this is/was?

Finally: $...TI is remarkably expensive. Is this a supply/demand issue?

Thanks in advance for constructive posts/discussion!
 

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RayWhitney said:
Also, I saw a titanium/carbon bike (Merlin?) at a LBS recently. It had the carbon applied in a matrix pattern that was cut out of the TI. VERY cool looking. No idea of the functionality. Anyone know what this is/was?
That sounds like a Titus. IMO, it's attractive more than meaningfully functional as compared to a solid bike of either material.

You'll get a long list of semi- and full-custom builders, I suspect. There are some brands that aren't all that pricey (see habcycles.com among others) some that are terriffically expensive (see serotta, seven and others) and some that hit excellent value for price (I'd point to Lynskey.)

Price is in part about the material, part about the relative difficulties of working with it, and part supply/demand.

I don't know anything about their reputation, but adrenalinebikes.com has about the broadest selection of titanium bikes I've seen in one place. Might be fun for the shopping, at least.
 

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Serotta, Merlin, Moots, Eriksen, Strong, Kish, Litespeed, etc. Just do a search and start your research. Read a lot and educate yourself and then you can ask meaningful questions. The Serotta forum is a good source for searching titanium. They will be positive about the Legend and Ottrott but also discuss many other builders also.

I personally have a naked titanium Serotta Legend that will be my bike forever.

Forgot Seven and Roark.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
dekindy said:
Serotta, Merlin, Moots, Eriksen, Strong, Kish, Litespeed, etc. Just do a search and start your research. Read a lot and educate yourself and then you can ask meaningful questions. The Serotta forum is a good source for searching titanium. They will be positive about the Legend and Ottrott but also discuss many other builders also.

I personally have a naked titanium Serotta Legend that will be my bike forever.
Fair comment.

I have been researching, but the thing I do not get is much first-hand information from a rider's perspective. I have been reading the major brands, but I do not have a sense of the carbon vs TI (or the carbon + TI) argument.

As to Serotta, it seems that there is a passionate love/hate discussion around these boards. I try to avoid religious wars as much s possible! :D

For perspective, I have been riding a 15-year-old steel Bianchi. So, I am not beholden to any technology.

Thanks!
 

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not really answering your specific ti questions, but

It's really hard to generalize. There are plenty of threads about materials.

I'd say the biggest advantage of ti is, relatively speaking, you can beat the crap out of it in terms of denting tubes and scraping the finish. It's actually a really good material for racing and mountain biking because of this. They can be expensive though. I've been on some stiff ti frames that were quite harsh riding (actually felt that they were harsher and heavier than many comparably-stiff aluminum frames). Litespeed Ultimate would be a good example. Have also ridden a soft, springy one (Litespeed Classic or one of the older Mongooses), with little ground in between. I don't think the ride quality on ti frames is all that refined considering the price. The good news is, if you like soft and springy, fatigue isn't a huge issue like it is with aluminum. You can get a soft and springy steel frame for ~$1000 less though, and with modern steel tubing, there isn't a huge weight difference.

There are so many variables behind carbon - I've been on solid and wimpy frames with huge differences in ride feel, and the two aren't necessarily correlated. Fatigue is debatable since there are so many different weaves and manufacturing processes. Just from what I've seen, they do seem to be prone to cracking if hit in the wrong direction, more so than other materials, but again, you're rolling the dice anytime this happens and I wouldn't base material choice off this. One of the most crashworthy frames out there were the Trek 5000 series and early Madones. In comparison, a relatively gentle hit in the wrong place on a Cervelo R3 can trash it (doesn't mean it's not a great frame - I have no idea what it's regular use fatigue life is like - probably quite good).

Aluminum is arguably the most fragile or expendable material, although I still have a Klein Quantum that I think is one of the best frames ever made and will never, ever sell. Rides like a stiff steel frame. A Cannondale Caad9 is slightly harsher, but substantially lighter and marginally stiffer if that's your thing. Both these frames flex so little that you'll be old and gray before they wear out. Hit em the wrong way though and they will fold as easily as a carbon frame can crack.

Some of the new steel alloys look pretty impressive on paper. If I were getting one all around road bike and had the money, I'd get a custom steel frame from Carl Strong. Only slightly heavier than ti or carbon, and a bit more fragile than ti, but the cost is far less for a bike that fits perfectly and is still the gold standard in road feel without harshness (in my opinion).

Finally, I'm not a fan of mixing materials. Example - Litespeed put carbon stays on their ti frames for a while - which adds weight, messes with ride properties, and is one more joint to fail. Same thing with carbon on aluminum frames. It's not the end of the world, but I sure wouldn't consider it a selling factor and think you should make decisions based off other things.
 

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RayWhitney said:
All:

Also, I saw a titanium/carbon bike (Merlin?) at a LBS recently. It had the carbon applied in a matrix pattern that was cut out of the TI. VERY cool looking. No idea of the functionality. Anyone know what this is/was?
I think this may have been a Holland. there are several around here in the O.C.
 

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I have 3 bikes, TREK 5200 carbon, Bianchi Veloce steel, and Ti. Each has it's merits for different rides. If forced to choose only one, it would be my 2004 Litespeed Classic. I have found that by changing whell and tire combinations, each bike rides differently. I don't have any regrets purchasing any of these bikes.
 

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rward325 said:
I think this may have been a Holland. there are several around here in the O.C.
It's called "exogrid" or something like that. Bill Holland licenses that technology from Titus. As far as I know, those are the only two sources for tubes like that. That was the case a couple years ago, at least, and I haven't seen any others. Cool-looking and a great ride, from what I hear, but quite pricey.

Bill Holland is a super-nice guy and builds some seriously nice bikes in his one-man shop outside San Diego. I'll probably have my 3-2.5 Holland bike forever. If you're looking to work directly with the builder, you should definitely consider him.

-Bill D.
 

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The kind of rider that buys Ti usually puts ride comfort/quality above rigidity. That doesn't mean Ti is flexy it's just that Ti, unlike other materials is only done really well by a few builders. I would recommend Lynskey and Litespeed. They can work with the metal in ways nobody else has the capacity to do (shaping, cold working). Be careful of bikes like the Litespeed Ultimate, its a great frame but with the large aero tubes it rides more like aluminum which you can buy for much less. I have a mid-90's Litespeed Classic that I'll likely keep forever. If I had to replace it I'd go for the Icon.
 

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i know people with eriksen bikes and they seem to love them. (2 are hardtail mtn bikes tho)
 

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another 2 cents

I have a LItespeed Classic also. It is a very compliant frame. Not squirmy or like a noodle. It's hard to describe. It's just a different feel. Comfortable on long rides though. Sometimes I like it and sometimes I don't. But you know, I usually pick my steel bike to ride.
 

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I tested 14 road bikes before I decided on Litespeed. The Ti frame impressed me the most (your mileage may vary). Been happy with my choice ever since.

Lynskey *just* announced a new Ti road bike called Cooper. It looks like the frame can be had for $1400 with the complete bike (SRAM) for under $3,000!

Ride before you buy (if possable) to make sure Ti is for you.
 

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Fair question

A lot will have to do with your size, weight and strength, your style of riding and what sort of riding you do.

I'm 169cm and weight about 59kg, so small and light. I used to race but those days are long past and now just ride for fun with the occasional club ride with the A group thrown in the mix. A smooth rider and easy on equipment. I used to be able to climb with anyone but now I don't get dropped, I'm suffering.

I own or have owned lots of steel, one Al, 3 Ti, one carbon/steel spine bike and a C40.

The Ti's are a 1999 Litespeed Vortex, 1999 Litespeed Ultimate and a Merckx EX, made by Litespeed but with tubes and geometry spec'd by Merckx.

The Vortex was bought new and for me, a revelation in weight and responsiveness. It muted a lot of road buzz in a way that's different from steel but didn't approach carbon's dampening characteristics. I put about 30,000+ miles on it and sold it for more than 50% of the price I paid new. One note, the frame developed a crack by the meeting of the down and head tubes. Litespeed replaced it for free, refinished the bike including new decals and put in a headtube for a 1.125" steerer versus the 1.0" which was original. I cannot say anything bad about their warranty service. I was not a great fan of the geometry as the BB was IMHO a bit too high for my personal preferences but other than that, a great bike for relaxed or highly energetic riding.

I bought the Ultimate recently on EBay and it's a bit different. Ride is much stiffer in the BB area and it responds immediately when out of the saddle. Ha ha, geometry is the same as the Vortex so same BB height issue.

I bought the Merckx used as well and it's a great bike. It does not quite have the lively feel the Vortex did but it fits well, handles well and the BB is lower.

One thing with all three, picking the right fork is critical. My first fork on the Vortex was a Look HSC-2 with straight blades. While light and vertically compliant, it wasn't very stiff in cornering. Towards the end I replaced it with an Alpha Q which made all the difference in the World.

The Ultimate has a Reynolds Ouzo with an Al steerer and again, it's a nice fork.

The Merckx has a Colnago Force fork which is all carbon except the drop outs but not as light as the Star. It's one of my favorite forks in terms of dampening as well as fork leg stability and a great match for the Merckx.

How does these compare to steel for me? The weight's one thing and only a factor if you live in an area and/or do a lot of climbing. Stiffness in sprinting and out of the saddle climbing I would generally give the nod to steel although I've owned some noodles in my time. Ride comfort, generally to Ti unless you ride on really rough roads in which case the stability of steel for me seems to be better.

I currently live in Shanghai which at various times resembles a build site and the roads are generally torn up at all times. After about 2 years on the Merckx, I switched out all the components and wheels to a Colnago Master Olympic with a Flash fork, carbon legs, steel steerer. The whole rig is easily over a kilo heavier but the ability to go at speed over really bad, broken, patched and potholed pavement is noticeable. Also, Shanghai is flat as a pancake.

Compared to carbon fiber, I used to ride my Merckx during the week and the C40 on club rides. The Merckx had heavier training wheels while the C40 had Neutrons with Veloflex tires. It was like night and day. Mostly weight but also the ride quality. The C40 dampens everything almost to the point where it's a bit dead. I don't view this as a negative, just different. One thing about Ti is that it's pretty hard to damage unless a welded area comes undone.

Forgot, I also have a Lemond Team Saturn. Unfortunately, it's in Stateside storage so I have no comment on its ride.

Okay, that's my .02




RayWhitney said:
Fair comment.

I have been researching, but the thing I do not get is much first-hand information from a rider's perspective. I have been reading the major brands, but I do not have a sense of the carbon vs TI (or the carbon + TI) argument.

As to Serotta, it seems that there is a passionate love/hate discussion around these boards. I try to avoid religious wars as much s possible! :D

For perspective, I have been riding a 15-year-old steel Bianchi. So, I am not beholden to any technology.

Thanks!
 

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material vs. design

Ray,

You are going to hear a number of different opinions, and they are just that -- opinions. Rider characteristics (weight, build) and preferred use of the bike (crits, climbing, touring) will influence the rider's ultimate decision. What you pick should be for you, no one else. But what others have already said in this thread should be on considerable assistance. Glad that you are enlisting the perspective of others. Here is mine, for what little it might add.

Some will tell you that a competent builder, working from deep experience with materials, can design a bike with a geometry and a feel that will delight you. I tend to come down on that side -- pick a builder (or manufacturer) first, after exploring what they can do best and what they don't do. Even if you don't elect custom (and many will tell you that is not "necessary" unless your physique is somewhat peculiar), you will at least be starting from some point other than Square One.

My first "better" bike was a mid-80s steel Bianchi. It rode like the wind (and probably still would, except that it has been on a trainer for more than a decade & I am well into later age). I never rode like the wind, but I loved it. The Campione d'Italia is also heavy by today's standards and lacking any of the bells or whistles available in the modern age of cycling. So I looked around for a new bike when I resolved to get back into biking as serious outdoor exercise for the 2000s.

I have now picked up more than a couple bikes -- steel (4), ti (1), bamboo (1) and carbon (1), all used except the Boo -- and all but 2 delighted me. (One was both too large and too stiff for me, at 130 lb., and the other is simply too much bike for me) And, yes, they are all different.

I own a pretty high-end carbon fibre Colnago, and rode it about a year. It's a great bike. It literally leaps ahead with very little gas. It flies, probably faster than the wind. But I couldn't fall in love with that beautiful bike, and we parted after I'd given it about 500 miles (and my spouse an almost equal amount). Carbon just doesn't give ME the kind of all-over feedback I like. And I probably don't ride fast enough to extract from that bike even a tiny bit of what it is capable of. I don't do any strenuous climbing, nor any superfast downhills. It also didn't quite fit my spouse, so on to other possibilities. But that single experience doesn't mean you should not try out CF. Indeed, you may wind up riding CF exclusively.

In comparison, I have found that I really do like both modern steel and ti. Perhaps b/c I grew up with steel, I still tend to pick one of my steel steeds when I go out on the road (recreational riding only).

But my ti bike (a Guru, also picked up used) is very very sweet -- probably the most comfortable frame in my own small stable for long-distance touring. It has a wonderful Alpha Q fork. That said, my bamboo bike is also unbelievably comfortable. It is the only bike custom-built for me (a gift from a friend). With an Alpha Q fork. So, yes, I do cheat and use carbon forks (& more carbon bars than otherwise). The bamboo bike wears Ambrosio Krono wheels and rides, literally, like a hovercraft, even though it is my heaviest bike by far, just over 20 lb.

If I were a racer, I'd select the Landshark, made out of Less than Zero, an Easton SLX fork and KOM (Cirro) wheelset. Or possibly the CSI (also with Cirro wheels).

Wheels and forks can also have, as others have written, surprising influence on what your frame feels like.

You already know the First Rule: be sure it fits you.

Enjoy your search, and keep us updated with your findings!!
 

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I've got an Eddy Merckx AX ti frame and I love it. However, it took me a while to realize what a nice frame it is. My main problem with ti is that it can be so boring in appearance. I bought the Merckx ti used because it was a great price and I already had a Merckx Corsa 01 (steel) in the same size. For a long time, I continued to ride the Corsa as my main ride, but over time the AX has become my go-to bike for long rides.

My ti Merckx handles nearly identical to the steel one, but it rides a little smoother, probably due to the carbon fork. What I like about it is never having to worry about scratching the paint or getting rust from leaving it wet. It truly is a lifetime frame.

In addition to the brands mentioned above, also check out Ericksen. If I were buying a new ti frame, I would seriously consider custom unless I found a stock frame with perfect geometry. The reason I would consider custom is that the ride qualities can be tweaked quite a bit to your needs, plus a ti frame should last your lifetime.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Wow...Thanks!

Thank you to all for your most considerate, thoughtful, and actionable information!

Much of the feedback has reinforced things I (thought I) knew. But I learned a great deal.

I will certainly let you know what I discover/decide as this process matures!

Again, thanks a ton!
 
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