Owning a fine titanium bike is a bucket list
ambition for many cyclists, because while steel
is a really nice material for making a bicycle frame, titanium is
an even nicer choice. Titanium road bikes were once rare and expensive
because titanium is notoriously difficult to work with but the cost of a
titanium bike has dropped significantly in recent years. Titanium road
bikes are now, if not affordable, at least a viable alternative to
top-end steel and carbon fibre bikes.
Titanium bikes are prized for the longevity that comes
from the metal's resistance to corrosion and fatigue, and for its
rather lovely silver-grey colour
With a density between steel and aluminium, titanium is
a great material for bikes; a titanium bike can be lighter than steel
without the big tubes of aluminium or carbon fibre
Fans of titanium bikes also point to a 'springy' ride
quality that helps them float over bumps
On the downside, you can't get a titanium bike repaired
at any old local framebulder; welding titanium requires the right
equipment and skill
Titanium bikes are desirable because titanium is lighter than steel and
stronger than aluminium or most steel alloys. Titanium's high fatigue
resistance means a titanium bike should last forever. It’s those traits
that have ensured it has continued to be a popular choice with cyclists
wanting a fine riding bike that will last the length of time. Plus of
course there is the fabled ride quality of titanium bikes, which is
reminiscent of a steel frame with plenty of spring and high comfort, but
it can be used to build a stiff race bike depending on tubing diameters
Most titanium bikes have frames are made from 3Al/2.5V tubing (where
titanium is alloyed with 3% aluminium and 2.5% vanadium) and 6Al/4V, a
harder grade of titanium, is seen on much more expensive framesets.
Because it’s hard and expensive to make 6Al/4V into seamless tubes, it’s
often used for machined parts like dropouts and head tubes.
The unique colour of titanium ensures it stands out against most other
road bikes. Various finishes are available, the tubes can be brushed or
bead-blasted and can even be painted if you prefer, but many people buying
titanium do so partly for its unique and timeless appearance. A titanium
frame will still look good in 10 years time.
Titanium has been used to make bicycle frames for about 30 years. In the
early days, there was only a handful of brands specialising in titanium,
and US brands like Seven, Serotta, Litespeed and Merlin built an enviable
reputation for their expertise with the material. Titanium frames are now
commonly manufactured in the Far East which has led to prices coming down
quite a lot, into the realms of affordability for many.
Here are 14 titanium road bikes we’ve reviewed — and loved — in recent
Ribble has been very clever when it comes to the design of its Endurance
Ti Disc Enthusiast. By using tube profiles that exploit the natural smooth
ride feel of titanium, and geometry designed to offer the compact, aero
position of a race bike but without the associated fast and sometimes
twitchy handling, Ribble delivers a bike you can ride quickly and
comfortably regardless of the distance.
Bike designers and testers often wax lyrical about the ride feel you get
from a titanium frame, but it's true – it's one of the best out there.
Just like any frame material, though, the tube profiles, wall thicknesses
and the way each tube interacts with the others all play their part; get
it right and your titanium frame will deliver a smooth ride that removes
plenty of high-frequency road buzz feel while still delivering on
Ribble has got it right. Long distances on the Enthusiast are a joy – you
can really cover a lot of miles very quickly, and it'd make a great audax
or sportive machine – but it's not just because of the comfort levels
coming from the frame and fork, it's also to do with the geometry.
If you want the performance and stiffness of a carbon fibre race bike but
with the subtle hints of a titanium ride quality, the J.Guillem Major
definitely needs to be on your shopping list. Its comfort levels might be
at odds with the UK road surfaces at times, but boy does this thing shift,
and it looks a beauty too.
The Major isn't a race bike but it does have more than a nod to
performance, so the fact that it is quick shouldn't come as a huge shock,
but just how well it did perform blew me away.
Putting a little more pressure on the pedals and removing it from the
saddle and, to an extent, my arms and wrists, took the edge off the
firmness and the Major felt like a completely different bike.
Allroad, that's what Litespeed has labelled its Cherohala SE frame, which
builds into a titanium bike that's just as happy on the tarmac as it is on
the local towpath or gravel track. It's not perfect on either, but it has
a surprisingly large crossover area which makes for a fun and quick ride.
With its heavily sloped top tube and tall head tube, the proportions of
the Cherohala's frame didn't look like they were going to offer up an
exciting ride on the road. Not so. This thing is quick. Not in an
adrenaline-fuelled, mass-acceleration or demon-descending kind of way –
that's not what it's about – but if you want to cover big distances
quickly without fuss, this is a great titanium bike to do it on.
South Coast-based Reilly Cycleworks has produced the Gradient as a
do-everything adventure and gravel bike, with a lovingly finished titanium
frame and smart specification in the £2,399 complete bike we tested. It
provides a ride that is as lovely as the bike is to look at, with space
for wide tyres for heading off into the wilderness or adding dirt and
gravel roads to your route, and a high level of refinement.
The name of the first model released by Bristol's Snowdon Bikes is apt –
the Paradox. It doesn't look it, but this speedy flat-bar titanium road
bike will take many a drop-bar carbon whippet to the cleaners. And your
lower back will thank you.
The Alchemy Eros is a sublime titanium road bike. It handles with grace
and finesse and compares very well to not only the best titanium bikes but
to many of the best carbon fibre frames too.
If there's a downside to the Alchemy it's that the price is prohibitively
expensive and puts it out of touch for many. You are buying a frame that
is made in the US, though, and there are a plethora of custom options so
you can detail a very bespoke bike.
One of the newest brands offering titanium road bikes is J.Laverack, with
the debut J.ACK, a titanium frame with disc brakes and internal cable
routing. The J.ACK has been designed to conquer any road or off-road
surface, with space for wide tyres (up to 33mm) and plenty of clearance
around them for mudguards. All cables are neatly routed inside the frame
to keep the lines clean.
The new brand of Mark Reilly, formerly of Enigma Bicycle Works, the T325
is the most affordable titanium bike in the range. His 30 years of frame
building experience shows in the frame, which is lovingly designed with
neat details such as an externally reinforced head tube, oversized main
tubes, space for 28mm tyres and internal routing for a Di2 groupset. At a
claimed 1,275g, the frame is a worthy alternative to a carbon fibre race
The Kinesis Tripster ATR can handle a really wide range of riding, and
it's a beautifully made, comfortable and responsive titanium bike. There's
very little we wouldn't be happy doing on it.
ATR stands for Adventure-Tour-Race and that's the clue that it was
Kinesis' ambition to make this bike as versatile as possible. The frame is
beautifully put together. The welds are extremely neat and the minimal
graphics – and laser-etched head badge – are just what you want on a
titanium bike, leaving most of the bike as bare metal.
Throughout a huge range of types of ride, and lots of commuting and
shorter excursions, the ATR confirmed itself as a composed and comfortable
ride. It's quick if you want it to be, but also relaxed and easy to pilot.
For the most part, it's lovely.
The latest incarnation, the Tripster ATR v3 includes the Kinesis Range
carbon fibre fork.
The Psychlo X from legendary framebuilders Moots is a extremely talented
titanium bike, with bags of speed complemented by comfort and assured
handling. It's adept at cyclo-cross racing but is really capable of rides
of far bigger scope and imagination than an hour around a muddy field, the
mainstay of 'cross races in the UK. It's a popular bike with the gravel
race and adventure set in the US, and if you want a bike of such
capability, the Psychlo X will fulfill your wishes.
With exquisite attention to detail, understated looks and a cracking good
ride on road, forest paths and gravel tracks, with space for wide tyres on
700C or 650B wheels, the J.Guillem Atalaya Gravel is an enticing choice in
the premium titanium gravel bike market.
Shaking down a rough bridleway, tyres scrabbling for grip on the dry
dirt, before emerging back on to a country lane, all smiles and giggles,
we were won over by the J.Guillem Atalaya Gravel with its feeling of
control and capability on a variety of terrain.
That's the beauty of riding big tyre road bikes, of course, but not all
gravel bikes are cut from the same cloth. With the Atalaya there's enough
compliance to help it deal with everything from poorly surfaced country
lanes to bridleways and forest tracks.
US titanium frame builder Mosaic Bespoke Bicycles hail from Boulder in
Colorado, founded by Aaron Barcheck who used to work for Dean Titanium
Bicycles. That expertise shows in the RT-1, a finely built titanium frame
with custom butted, size-specific 3Al/2.5V titanium tubes with a full
bespoke option available. The ride performance is, as you’d hope,
excellent, with a pleasingly taut characteristic that likes to go fast,
all of the time.
The Sabbath September Disc is an titanium road bike aimed at riding Audax
events that’s right at home on the daily commute, club ride or sportive,
with disc brakes and the titanium frame joined up front by a carbon fibre
fork. The September Disc was one of the first breed of new versatile
titanium bikes designed with disc brakes, and the 3Al/2.5V takes up to
35mm tyres with mudguards. If you want one bike to do just about
everything, with the exception of racing, the Sabbath is a fine choice.
With the same front triangle, including a 44mm head tube and downtube, as
the Enigma Evade titanium bike we tested a few of years ago, the Evoke is
Enigma's 'fast endurance' bike, now equipped with discs and the necessary
frame and fork refinement to make them work well. If it's like the Evade —
and there's no reason to expect otherwise — it will offer a rewarding ride
for those cyclists that like to press hard on the pedals.
Do you ride titanium?
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David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.