Titanium - The Magic Metal
Ti - The Ugly Duckling Element
Most every cyclist has an opinion about titanium. The dull battleship grey tubing with the tactile experience of low-grade sand-paper has dutifully polarised since its first run-out in the late 1980's. It may well be magic but has just never been 'sexy' in the same way as carbon fibre. It has therefore never become de-rigour or mainstream. But that has never particularly bothered us at Cyclefit, mostly because our own love-affair with this ugly duckling element is well into into its second decade.
Rare, Or just Difficult?
Actually not so rare. Titanium is quite common in the earth's crust, principially in rutile and ilmenite. The challenge is in the extraction into a useable form. And this hideously expensive and tortuously complicated. To make it worse the whole process has to be surgically micro-managed to maintain the structure's integrity. In the west this means that titanium attracts a substantial price premium simply because to even get to a raw (un-machined and un-butted) tube can easily cost $60 per foot out of the mill!
Light, Stiff, Expensive. Pick All Three!
If it is possible to make carbon into a lighter frame than titanium (Guru Photon at 640 gramms for example) and aluminium into a stiffer one - so what purpose can titanium have in contemporary bicycle design beyond being grey and expensive?
It's The Physics Stupid
Well the answer is hidden deep in the numbers.
* Ti is half the weight of steel by volume (but still heavier than aluminium and carbon by volume)
* Ti's elongation figures are several times higher than steel, ti or carbon - this means ti is not a brittle material which makes it very safe and predictable.
* Stiffness - The same stiffness by volume as steel. And significantly more than aluminium.
* Fatigue Strength - Ti, unlike aluminium, will happily accept an infinite cycle of repeated loads without any structural change to the metal. Think riding full clout over cobbles - as long as the material has been impeccably treated and welded, theoretically you can keep going on an infinite loop.
* Corrosion - It doesn't.
* Ride - Depends upon construction and design - can be stiff and hard (Passoni Top Force) or compliant and comfortable (Seven Axiom SLX)
So titanium's appeal reside in its broad basket of qualities. BUT everything is predicated on how the raw material has been handled from the moment it leaves the ground till it first turns a wheel in anger. One compromise, impurity or contaminated weld and there is a strong risk of impeded performance or failure. Never has the term 'reassuringly expensive' had such importance and resonance.
All Ti Is Not Created Equal
Just like fine wine the provenance of titanium and the mill that produced it is essential to the ride quality and durability of the bicycle frame. There are three essential blends of ti that have been used to make frames:
* Commercially Pure or CP - Half the strength of 3AL-2.5V (below). Not not used much anymore by respected frame-builders.
* 3AL-2.5V - This is an alloy consisting of 3% aluminum, 2.5% vanadium,and 94.5% pure titanium. The best all-round performing material for a seamless tube because of superb: fatigue life, consistency, form-ability, and corrosion resistance.
6AL-4V Alloy - An alloy of 6% aluminum, 4% vanadium, and 90% titanium, 6-4 titanium. Hardly ever possible to draw into a seamless tube (essential for a strong bicycle frame). But 6-4's strength and hardness makes it ideal for parts like drop-outs (Seven and Serotta)
Titanium At Cyclefit
To get the most out of this majestic but difficult material we only work with companies whose factories we know personally and who take special pride and care with titanium. Furthermore we only work with factories who take great pains to source their titanium from the finest mills in the USA and Europe.
We are proud to work with:
Seven, Guru and Serotta from the USA and Passoni from Italy.
Custom Seven Titanium Prices:
Axiom S - £3135 - frame and fork
Axiom SL - £3925 frame and fork
Axiom SLX - £4615 frame and fork
Custom Passoni Titanium Prices:
Top Force - £5899 frame and fork
Top Evolution - £5395 frame and fork
Custom Serotta Titanium prices:
legend SE - £4999 frame and fork
Guru Titanium prices:
Stock Praemio - £2400 frame and fork
Custom Praemio - £2995 frame and fork