What Makes Titanium Perfect for Gravel and Adventure Bikes?
I never should have sold that bike.
It never fails. Whenever we attend an event or expo, several riders run their hand over one of the bikes on display, reminiscing about their experience with titanium. And if they no longer own that bicycle, they inevitably express sadness about having let it go.
So what is it that makes titanium the ideal material for gravel and adventure bikes? And just what is it about riding titanium that leaves such an impression?
We could do a deep dive into the material properties of titanium and make a case that its low density and high tensile strength make for more durable frames than carbon fiber; how its elongation properties can be used to make a comfortable ride with near-infinite fatigue life, which leads to that lively feel so often associated with Ti. But while great-riding frames aren’t a given in any material, the truth of the matter is that today’s engineers can build great-riding, lightweight, and durable bikes out of aluminum, steel, and carbon as well as titanium.
There’s no doubt that part of titanium’s prestige can be chalked up to its traditional position at the higher end of the pricing spectrum. Because the raw material is itself expensive, raw tubes and fittings cost more than steel and aluminum. Titanium also takes more care to weld than other materials. It’s not difficult per se, but oxygen is the enemy of a durable titanium joint and the weld zone must be flooded with inert gas to ensure a strong connection. Next to steel and aluminum, titanium machining takes time and patience, requiring slower cutting speeds and sharp cutting tools. These input costs drive the price of a finished titanium frame up which, along with the fact that tube-to-tube construction lends itself to custom geometry, have traditionally made it the choice of well-heeled riders.
Durability and Ease Of Maintenance Make Titanium The Ideal Material for Gravel and Adventure Bikes
As wonderful as it is on the road, part of what makes titanium particularly suited to gravel, adventure, and bikepacking bikes is the metal’s real-world livability. Not only can titanium weather cyclical loads and return to shape longer than you or I are likely to be riding, but it is corrosion resistant, wear resistant, and doesn’t require painting. That means that rubbing from heels, bags, or cables is of little concern. Anyone who has felt panic in their throat from the sound of an airborne rock striking carbon can be (relatively) unconcerned when stones hit their titanium downtube.
Titanium’s cosmetics are durable as well: the moderate scratches and the bag-induced buffing that inevitably come with use can be easily be buffed out with a Scotch-Brite pad. It’s not uncommon to see decade-old titanium frames that look almost new, even those that have seen thousands of miles of off-road use.
Titanium is Timeless
But there’s something more than practical advantages. There’s a quiet confidence to an unadorned titanium frame that –in not trying overly hard to make an impression- makes it stand out in a pack or at a coffee stop, drawing comments and compliments in a way that the latest and greatest carbon frame simply won’t. Classic in appearance, a titanium frame built with up-to-date standards will take years, rather than months, to become dated. On the whole, titanium frames tend to be retired as the result of evolving component standards rather than changing fashions or any concern about their strength or safety.
In a time where we have become increasingly aware of the environmental and societal impact of disposable products, titanium’s durability, use tolerance, and crash resilience are more important than ever before. There’s a comfort in knowing that the titanium bicycle you buy today will be ridden, by someone, in ten, fifteen, or twenty years. Even if they’re no longer being raced or serving as their owners’ primary ride, it’s not unusual to see decades-old titanium frames brought out for special days, reborn as commuters, or outfitted for child carrying duty. While the ‘forever bike’ is as mythical for many riders as the ‘one bike stable’, a forward-looking titanium frame is about as close to that ideal as we have.
The Price of Titanium Bike Frames Has Stayed Relatively Stable
Now for the best part: while mid-tier and premium carbon fiber frames have crept up in price, titanium has largely stayed steady. Builders dedicated to the material have become established and stock sizes have reduced the time and effort it takes to build each frame. As a result, production titanium frames have brought modern titanium frames within reach of more riders than ever before.
And with functional and aesthetically-pleasing features like tapered head tubes, cast bottom bracket assemblies, and internal cable routing, titanium bikes have never been better. We think of the frames we sell as being bikes for people who like bikes- those who appreciate a well-considered and beautifully executed details.
Is A Titanium Gravel Bike Right For You?
If you’re a rider who likes the idea of a frame that will provide a comfortable, lively ride for years to come then there’s a good chance the answer is yes. If you understand that stiffness and weight–while they do have some impact–aren’t the main determinants of a good ride then probably yes. And if you like the idea of purchasing something that can be truly used as a vehicle for adventure, then almost certainly.
We Specialize In Titanium Gravel and Adventure Bikes
At Lindarets, our passion for all disciplines of cycling spans decades. But as our personal riding style has gravitated toward distance mixed-terrain and mountain biking around our home base of Albuquerque, NM, we've had the opportunity to explore products best suited for this emerging category of riding. For gravel, monstercross, bikepacking, and endurance mountain biking, titanium bike frames continue to impress.
Over the last several years and thousands of miles of riding, we've partnered with two niche titanium frame builders, J.Guillem and Chiru Endurance Bikes, who are ahead of the curve in both their frame design and titanium manufacturing mastery. And they do it at at a price that may surprise you.
With these frames, a mix of modern componentry, and some of our own unique in-house designed products, we're able to offer a fine assortment of titanium gravel, adventure, and endurance mountain bike builds. Bicycles with ride quality, details, and durability that will delight for years to come. While these builds provide the best balance of quality, price, and performance possible, the truth is that most bicycles are built to suit their owners. We love nothing more than to spend the time tailoring a build to your terrain, goals, and budget. Simply contact us to explore your custom build options.