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Titanium is still a viable — and beautiful — lightweight alternative

Steel is a really nice material for making a bicycle frame, but for many cyclists, titanium is an even nicer choice. Once a very rare and exotic material and a luxury choice for those rich enough to afford it - titanium is notoriously difficult to work with - the cost of a titanium frame has dropped significantly in recent years, to the point where it could almost be deemed, if not affordable, at least a viable alternative to top-end steel and carbon fibre frames.

Titanium is desirable because it’s lighter than steel and stronger than steel and aluminium, and its high fatigue strength means a titanium frame should last forever. It’s those traits that have ensured it has continued to be a popular choice with cyclists wanting a fine riding frame that will last the length of time. Plus of course there is the fabled ride quality, 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.

Enigma Evade - seat tube

Most titanium 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 12 titanium road bikes we’ve reviewed — and loved — in recent years.

J.Guillem Atalaya — from ~£3,500

j_guillem_atalaya.jpg

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.

Read our review of the J.Guillem Atalaya

Litespeed Cherohala SE — £2,699.95 (frame & headset)

litespeed_cherohala_se.jpg

Allroad, that's what Litespeed has labelled its Cherohala SE titanium frameset, a 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 machine to do it on.

Read our review of the Litespeed Cherohala SE
Find a Litespeed dealer

Reilly Gradient — £1,899 (frame, fork & headset)

Reilly Gradient.jpg

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 this £2,399 complete bike. 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.

Read our review of the Reilly Gradient

Snowdon Paradox — £1,975 (frame only)

Snowdon Paradox.jpg

The name of the first model released by Bristol's Snowdon Bikes is apt – the Paradox. It doesn't look it, but it'll take many a drop-bar carbon whippet to the cleaners. And your lower back will thank you.

Read our review of the Snowdon Paradox

Alchemy Eros — £3,999 (frame and fork)

Alchemy Eros.jpg

The Alchemy Eros is a sublime road bike. It handles with grace and finesse and compares very well to not only the best titanium road 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.

Read our review of the Alchemy Eros
Find an Alchemy dealer

On-One Pickenflick frame & fork — £610

On One Pickenflick

Last year’s road.cc Cyclocross and Adventure Bike of the Year winner, the On-One Pickenflick, is one of the most affordable 3Al/2.5V titanium frames we’ve ever come across, though it's not quite the staggering bargain that it's been in the past. The Pickenflick is a cyclocross bike at heart, but On-One sells it as a bike for adventure riding and sportive use. It has the versatility that a lot of UK cyclists look for, with geometry designed for comfort and features including disc brakes, space for wide tyres and eyelets for mudguards and racks.

Read our review of the On-One Pickenflick

J.Laverack J.ACK — £1,950 (frame only)

J.Laverack J.ACK - riding 1

One of the newest bicycle brands to launch this year is the 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.

Read our review of the J.Laverack J.ACK frameset

Reilly T325 — £1,399 (frame only)

Reilly T325 - Riding 3

The new brand of Mark Reilly, formerly of Enigma Bicycle Works, the T325 is the most affordable 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.

Read our review of the Reilly T325

​ Kinesis Tripster ATR — £1,850 (frame only)

Kinesis Tripster ATR - full bike (2).jpg

The Kinesis Tripster ATR can handle a really wide range of riding, and it's beautifully made, comfortable and responsive. 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 frame, 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.

Read our review of the Kinesis Tripster ATR

Moots Psychlo X — from £5,800

Moots Psychlo X

The Psychlo X from legendary titanium framebuilders Moots is a extremely talented 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.

Read our review of the Moots Psychlo X

Mosaic RT-1 — from £4,799

Mosaic RT-1 Riding

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 finale 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.

Read our review of the Mosaic RT-1

Sabbath September Disc — £1,200 (frame, fork & headset)

Sabbath September Disc-2

The Sabbath September Disc is an audax bike 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 road 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.

Read our review of the Sabbath September Disc

Enigma Evade Ti — from £3,399

Enigma Evade - riding 1

The latest bike from Enigma is the beautiful Evade, which combines oversized main tubes with a 44mm head tube to offer a high level of stiffness. That ensures it offers a rewarding ride for those cyclists that like to press hard on the pedals. It’s rare to see a painted titanium frame but Enigma has done a wonderful job here, marrying the decals to the finishing components and wheels.

Read our review of the Enigma Evade Ti

Do you ride titanium?

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The aim of road.cc buyer's guides is to give you the most, authoritative, objective and up-to-date buying advice. We continuously update and republish our guides, checking prices, availability and looking for the best deals.

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As far as possible that means recommending equipment that we have actually reviewed, but we also include products that are popular, highly-regarded benchmarks in their categories.

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Road.cc buyer's guides are maintained and updated by John Stevenson. Email John with comments, corrections or queries.

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.

19 comments

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srchar [1214 posts] 1 month ago
3 likes

"loveliest" - what is this place, mumsnet?

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fluffed [124 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

You'll be amazed at the reasons why these top 10 frames are lovely!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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heliuscc [5 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

According to the Reilly website, the cheapest Gradient is now £2999 not £2399.

 

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Jones The Steam [40 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Pickenflick doesn't have mudguard or rack mounts. Which is a shame  2

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pastyfacepaddy [35 posts] 1 month ago
1 like
Jones The Steam wrote:

Pickenflick doesn't have mudguard or rack mounts. Which is a shame  2

True, I use race blade XL's on mine in winter road bike format, ass saver for off road.
I think their new gravel / adventure ti frame has mounts for both though.

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Hoffmonkey [8 posts] 1 month ago
1 like

Planet X are cheap and the quality so far seems to be on point. I purchased a Tempest V2 for £499 and stuck components on it from my wrecked GT Grade. The Tempest V3 was on sale for £610 last time I checked and the bike was designed by Mark Reilly.

Wheels by JRA are loooovely. I added those as a bit of a treat!

Loving it so far!

 

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Jones The Steam [40 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes
Hoffmonkey wrote:

Planet X are cheap and the quality so far seems to be on point. I purchased a Tempest V2 for £499 and stuck components on it from my wrecked GT Grade. The Tempest V3 was on sale for £610 last time I checked and the bike was designed by Mark Reilly.

That looks like it'd do the job for me - will add it to the "wish list"!

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benthebikeman [3 posts] 1 month ago
1 like

Plus one for the Planet X Tempest, I have used it off road and on road, Audax, Commuting and Bikebacking... Love it! Loads of clearance even with bg 700c and mudguards, eyelets, bosses and great finish. A bargain at £599 a year ago once I got over myself and pressed buy! Mark Reilly designs a great bike!

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benthebikeman [3 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Plus one for the Planet X Tempest, I have used it off road and on road, Audax, Commuting and Bikebacking... Love it! Loads of clearance even with bg 700c and mudguards, eyelets, bosses and great finish. A bargain at £599 a year ago once I got over myself and pressed buy! Mark Reilly designs a great bike!

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benthebikeman [3 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Plus one for the Planet X Tempest, I have used it off road and on road, Audax, Commuting and Bikebacking... Love it! Loads of clearance even with bg 700c and mudguards, eyelets, bosses and great finish. A bargain at £599 a year ago once I got over myself and pressed buy! Mark Reilly designs a great bike!

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JohnDoe [1 post] 1 month ago
0 likes

I understand from talking to people in the business that very, very few titanium bikes are made by the companies you're buying them from.

Almost all come from the East, used to be Russia to start with, but then became China.

Most of the companies selling these bikes do not have a titanium wielding capability.  One of two do - I think Enigma does, if I'm not getting my companies mixed up; the son of the owner is a titanium wielder and they can and do make frames BUT they make about 10% of their titanium frames.  The rest come from China.

I've found some companies (not thinking of Engima - I have no idea if they do or not; I'm thinking more of some American companies) can go to considerable lengths to appear to be making their own frames.

If you're going to buy titanium, and if it matters to you where the frame is made, be sure to specifically ask if the seller is actually going to wield the frame.

 

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Chris Hayes [396 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

If you can afford it, you're better off getting a US-made titanium frame; a Seven, Moots, or Lynskey: at least their pedigree is proven.  I have a couple of old Litespeeds - a 2003 Siena, and a 2004 Vortex.  They come up on eBay from time-to-time at pretty reasonable prices... well worth checking out as they are fairly difficult to break.

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MNgraveur [106 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

I have two ti frames, one “salsa” and one “motobecane”. Both are made by Ora in Taiwan. Both are excellent frames. Ora makes ti frames for just about everyone- don’t be afraid to buy “motobecane” or a similar discount brand in ti.

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MNgraveur [106 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

I have two ti frames, one “salsa” and one “motobecane”. Both are made by Ora in Taiwan. Both are excellent frames. Ora makes ti frames for just about everyone- don’t be afraid to buy “motobecane” or a similar discount brand in ti.

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ShinyBits [14 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes
benthebikeman wrote:

Plus one for the Planet X Tempest, I have used it off road and on road, Audax, Commuting and Bikebacking... Love it! Loads of clearance even with bg 700c and mudguards, eyelets, bosses and great finish. A bargain at £599 a year ago once I got over myself and pressed buy! Mark Reilly designs a great bike!

I was drooling over a Reilly Gradient until I recently read that he'd designed the Tempest - looks like you did yourself out of a sale there, Mark! Like you say, I now just need to "get over myself" and buy one! 

Could any owners confirm the Tempest V3 frame clearances (and fork for that matter)? Planet X website says 38mm, but then forum postings suggest much more, like 50mm. They sell a 650B version although it only comes with 42mm tyes which doesn't bode well. I'd really want at least 700x42.

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alanmc [7 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes
ShinyBits wrote:

I was drooling over a Reilly Gradient until I recently read that he'd designed the Tempest - looks like you did yourself out of a sale there, Mark! Like you say, I now just need to "get over myself" and buy one! 

Could any owners confirm the Tempest V3 frame clearances (and fork for that matter)? Planet X website says 38mm, but then forum postings suggest much more, like 50mm. They sell a 650B version although it only comes with 42mm tyes which doesn't bode well. I'd really want at least 700x42.

Mine is a V1, so may be different, but I have no problem running 42mm WT nanos, with plenty room to spare.

As a couple of previous comments have said, it's a great and very adaptable bike.

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ShinyBits [14 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes
alanmc wrote:

Mine is a V1, so may be different, but I have no problem running 42mm WT nanos, with plenty room to spare.

As a couple of previous comments have said, it's a great and very adaptable bike.

Thanks  Alanmc. After further research on certain other bike forums, 650x49 seems to be possible. So no worries at all! I wish Planet X would spend a bit longer making their bike listings better rather than shifting £5 baselayers!  3

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shutuplegz [70 posts] 4 days ago
0 likes

I very nearly bought a Tempest this week but PlanetX sales support were so awful (by the time they had responded to my queries the 'discount code' (which they then claimed didn't exist) had run out)  in the end I gave up as the price had gone back up and they then wouldn't honour the offer price even though the bike was still available. I think it was the fact they kept telling me that that bike wasn't available at the offer price, even though they had sent out emails featuring this bike 'on offer' that annoyed me the most.

In the process I found them very slow and difficult to deal with, almost to the point of being rude at times, and this was me trying to spend money with them! It was as if they just weren't interested in my custom, so I will take it elsewhere. I was also concerned that if it was this difficult to spend money with them, how difficult would it be to deal with them if there was a problem - based on comments  have read on road.cc and other forums - very difficult. So perhaps I dodged a bullet anyway? They look like good frames/specs so it is a shame they didn't want to sell me one!

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Dingaling [50 posts] 4 days ago
0 likes
shutuplegz wrote:

I very nearly bought a Tempest this week but PlanetX sales support were so awful (by the time they had responded to my queries the 'discount code' (which they then claimed didn't exist) had run out)  in the end I gave up as the price had gone back up and they then wouldn't honour the offer price even though the bike was still available. I think it was the fact they kept telling me that that bike wasn't available at the offer price, even though they had sent out emails featuring this bike 'on offer' that annoyed me the most.

Interesting that you should have this experience. 

As a result of this article I decided to try a ti frame and had decided on a J. ACK with all the bells and whistles. After emails and a long phone call over about 10 days I received a quote. I emailed back that some details about components in the quote still needed resolving and I had also called the phone no. given on the website and left a message asking to be called back (23rd Feb.). A week went by, then another week went by with no response to either the email or phone message. I decided that I really should not have to chase a bike builder to sell me a bike for over 6 grand.

After looking at the Van Nicholas Yukon that has recently been announced, though not available until May, I've decided on a Genesis Croix de Fer Ti. Shame about the J. Ack, I was really looking forward to it, so now I hope the Genesis works well.