Ever wondered why people buy titanium? We put on our sensible pants to find pragmatic reasons to buy Ti.
Words - James Raison
If you want a bike frame that’s good value, light, and stiff then you gotta go...
carbon fibre. I know, I know you were probably expecting me to sing the praise titanium as the material that’ll lead us to the promised land of cycling perfection. But titanium is not an everyman frame material. Generally speaking carbon fibre is better for most people. So what are the pragmatic reasons to buy Ti over carbon fibre?
Well, there's a couple of titanium frames in the La Velocita stable so we thought it was time to discuss our experiences.
Mike’s Baum and my Curve Belgie Spirit are two great examples of pragmatic reasons why you’d drop the extra clams on Ti. There’s been plenty written around the internet about the nature of these materials so we’ve donned our sensible hats for this one.
We've also got an article for the Pragmatic reasons to buy an aluminium frame so read that once you're done!
Titanium gives you the flexibility to make a bike absolutely yours if you use a custom maker. That milimeter perfect fit is very much owned by the metals. That means custom titanium frames can be very special indeed.
There's two very nice road bikes in my shed right now (sorry I know them being in the shed is on the disrespectful side, but that's another story). There's my 2016 BMC SLR01, an absolute top end bike, super light, fast, stiff, comfortable... I love it... Then there's the fairly new arrival, my Baum Corretto a completely custom titanium beast built to my exact weight, proportions and riding style... it's beautiful.
Both bikes are awesome. They both look great, they both ride great... they are both priced in the 'ridiculous' bracket and would be worthy of carrying a rider much better than me.
So when I go for a ride which bike do a reach for? It's the Baum every single time. In fact the poor old BMC has not had a single outing since the Baum intruder arrived.
Why you ask? Well it's the fit. It's just perfect, everything is exactly where my body needs it to be. It's ride is smooth and delicious, I can go down hills with more confidence as my body is put in the perfect position... and it's truly one of a kind. Yes it's a bit heavier, yes it's not quite as sharp. The BMC still has the edge when accelerating, but when you’re riding along your favourite road and are truely at one with the bike, it's a special experience that I don't think I'll ever get bored of.
I went for Titanium specifically because it wasn’t carbon. I used cold, calculated, emotionless machine logic to buy a bike that I could abuse.
Carbon fibre is a bit like an egg; directionally strong but weak when hit in certain places. This is especially true of modern bikes with creative layups that see bike makers pushing for incredible thinness in non-load bearing spots. Some carbon frames sport warning stickers not to sit on the top tube or your vast bulk could damage it. That’s not all carbon bikes, but it’s an extreme illustration of the point.
My Curve Belgie Spirit has led a hard life as an ultra-endurance rig coated in bags, a foul weather hack, getting thrown into an aeroplane’s underbelly, and a gravel grinder. This bike rolls with every punch I give it. I don’t worry if it falls down at the local cafe. It’ll probably dent the bricks.
There's safety in titanium. It can take a lot of punishment without the vulnerability of carbon fibre. Titanium is a material that can be abused.
There’s a distinctive and lovely ride quality to titanium that is incredibly neutral. It’s like the perfect centre of all the other materials. The stiffness of aluminium but without the harshness, the slight spring of steel without feeling spongy, and much of the raciness of carbon fibre without getting beaten up.
It would be naive to call it the best ride quality of all frame materials because that depends on personal preference and the finishing kit around those tubes. There’s no doubting that it’s a pleasurable ride though. Long-time titanium frame owners will get a bit misty-eyed about their rigs. Mostly because titanium’s longevity means you’ll still be riding it in 20 years.
Riding titanium frames is a real pleasure. People wouldn't be dropping so much money on these frames if they were pigs to ride. The titanium bikes I've ridden have been smooth, calm, composed, and predictable. They're the grand tourers of the bicycle world.
This shouldn’t be your main reason for buying Ti, but what’s not to love about those lovely rounded tubes?
Sometimes I just like pretty things. The limitations in shaping titanium means it isn’t being pressed or blown into fugly shapes. Some modern carbon fibre bikes are gopping awful to look at.
With titanium you can sit back and enjoy the timeless lines and angles of bikes with good ‘ole metal tubes. Go on, show me an ugly titanium bike. There aren't any. It's literally impossible to make titanium ugly.
We don’t want to be seen as fanboys so here’s some reasons not to buy Ti:
Expense. Even cheap ones are comparatively pricey when stacked against other materials.
Weight. It’s heavier than carbon fibre so you’ll have to spend a big pile of cash to harass the UCI 6.8 kg limit.
Creaks. Unfortunately titanium can be a total bastard when it comes into contact with itself, or other metals. That can mean very creaky bottom brackets, seatposts, or headsets. It’s not universal, but it can be infuriating and hard to stamp out.
Excitement. Titanium is the most placid bike frame material and usually makes very well-behaved and polite bikes. Carbon fibre and aluminium are still the place to go for a rough and rowdy frame with excitement to boot.
Titanium is a lovely material for bike frames and we encourage you to buy it if you have the cash to splash. Hopefully our article has given you more perspective on what you'll be getting if you do invest in the wonder material. If you don't have the funds then carbon fibre is still a great material to buy. As is steel. As is aluminium.
Wanna read more about our titanium bikes? Check out: