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 and profiles.
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 16 titanium road bikes we’ve reviewed — and loved — in recent years.
The Moots Vamoots Disc RSL is one of those bikes that, once you've had the chance to ride it, you just aren't going to want to give back. It delivers the performance of many high-end carbon fibre race machines while retaining that beautiful titanium ride. As in: how can a frame as firm as this still offer such a sublime feel and so much feedback?
Like all materials used in frame manufacturing, though, everything still comes down to great design. Tube profiles, wall thicknesses and geometry are the key, and Moots has absolutely nailed it with the Vamoots Disc RSL.
When you get aboard the Vamoots it's great to feel just what can be achieved with titanium. This frame feels incredibly tight, and just goads you into pushing it as hard as you can into every bend or straight that you can find. It's just so balanced. So much feedback through the frame and fork that you can be properly at one with the machine, every ripple felt and change of camber dealt with by just the tiniest flick of the handlebar or shift of bodyweight.
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 stiffness.
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.
The Aspect from Mason Cycles is a thing of beauty, not only in the way it looks but also in the way it rides. The frameset offers so much depth in the way it behaves thanks to the tubeset, the fork and the geometry all working together to give a sublime ride quality and an excellent level of feedback no matter how rough the road surface is.
Titanium frames often have a very specific feel about them, offering that smoothness of a quality steel frame yet with a firmness edging towards that of an aluminium alloy one. Mason has exploited this very cleverly indeed.
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 bike.
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.