Published on April 9th, 2016 | by admin0
Titanium Road Bike Frames
Quite often, whilst on my rides, I’m asked about my bike. Most like to know what material the frame is as they have not seen it before as it does look a little different from the more common carbon and steel bike. My bike frame is a Litespeed Titanium. It is actually a good few years old but with a little buff with “Mr Sheen” from time to time, looks like new. I actually have several bikes including a top of the range Cervelo R5 which is equipped with SRAM Red and Zip 303 Tubulars which weighs in at under 6kg. I have to admit though my Litespeed which weighs in over a kilogram heavier is by far my favourite.
You only need to take a look at the bikes on display at any local club ride to understand that Titanium bikes are far from popular nor cutting edge when comparted to high tech carbon frames. So why do some cyclists like myself prefer titanium in preference to high tech carbon? Well for me, I find the ride of my Titanium frame unique plus simply love the way my titanium frame “soaks up” the imperfections of the road giving me, in my opinion of course, a much smoother ride compared to carbon. There are though other advantages and disadvantages for Titanium frames.
Benefits of Titanium Frames
For someone like myself who rides ultra-cycling events, comfort is of prime importance. A niggle such as a sore back during a club ride can easily be an event ending problem during a 500Km event. For me there is no doubt that my titanium bike gives a much more forgiven ride, eliminating most of the road buzz that seems to be amplified on an expensive carbon bike. Titanium is a much softer material than carbon so can in effect soak up road buzz. The downside in regards to titanium is that with the softness of the frame you do lose a little power, but for me this does not really matter.
Another great benefit of Titanium is that it does not rust hence why many prefer unpainted titanium frames. Better still any scratches can be easily rubbed away with ultra-fine Scotch-Brite Pads. I recently found a very scratched 2002 Litespeed Vortex listed on EBay. Now I can tell you that I have seen this frame, the 2002 version, sell in the past for up to £1000 second hand. I was not too bothered about the scratches as I knew from experience these could be quickly rubbed out. Others though, were put off by the condition of the frame which enabled me to purchase it for just over £400.
Take a look at the picture below showing scratches on a section of the frame.
Most of the frame was in the same sort of condition. With a couple of Scotch-Brite Pads the frame was soon looking like new again. See how the scratches were removed from frame. I spent an hour giving the whole frame a light rub down with more effort given to the scratched areas.
Titanium is much lighter than Steel although heavier than carbon. The weight difference between a decent Titanium Road Frame and a decent Carbon Road Frame is only around 200 to 300 grams. Carbon though is by no means as durable as Titanium. Crashes, miss-shifts or mishaps during shipping often result in Carbon cracking or breaking which often ends the life of a carbon frame. Titanium is far more robust than carbon and actually has a better tensile strength than steel.
In regards to stiffness there is no doubt that carbon wins hands down. Titanium frames are generally softer than carbon with many titanium frames suffering from at least a little flex under extreme pressure. Remember though it is the softness of titanium which aids the smoothness of the ride so the payback is worth it in my opinion. Another drawback is that new Titanium Road frames are on the whole more expensive than carbon. Carbon frames are mass produced from moulds whereas of course, Titanium frames are made from welding tubes.
Buying a Second Hand Titanium Frame
For many cyclists, many think that the be all and end all is carbon resulting in the fact that there are many bargains to be had, especially online. I have seen quality Titanium frames listed wrongly as aluminium or even steel on online auctions sites plus have seen many frames listed in poor condition when in reality they could have been looking like new with just a little work. If you are prepared to search through online auction and classified websites then you will be able to pick up a quality titanium road frame for less than £500, or even much less if you are a little lucky.
Firstly let me say that all titanium frames are not equal. Just like carbon and steel frames there is good and bad. It is though easy to research different titanium frames simply by doing a few searches online. In regards to the 2002 Litespeed Vortex I purchased many regards this model as the best titanium frame Litespeed ever produced. This model was used for multiple Tour de France stage wins and is made using the highest spec 6/4 titanium tubing. You can still find many positive reviews of this frame online although later versions, which were produced even lighter were reported to suffer from flex when under pressure, hence the reason I was after a 2002 model. So if you find a titanium frame online that interests you then make sure you do a little research.
The actual weld quality of different brands of titanium bike frames varies immensely. Take the time to examine the weld quality. If you are looking to buy online then ask for pictures of the welds.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand quality titanium welding. Compare the above photo with the one below.
Take the time to examine around the weld areas for cracks as well as the headset and other main pressure points of the frame. Despite what you may read, some Titanium frames do break.
Buying A New Titanium Road Frame
If you decide that you want to splash out on a new titanium road frame then you may be surprised to know you will be spoilt for choice. Titanium is making a mighty comeback with smaller independent frame makers. Many even offer to make a custom Titanium frame to your exact requirements.
Some of the quality Titanium Road Frame producers include:
- Litespeed Bicycles
- Firefly Bicycles
- Seven Cycles
- Eriksen Cycles
- Van Nicholas
- Merlin Cycles
- 22 Bicycles
- Enigma Bicycle Works