Working in titanium, we meet a lot of people who hear about our venture and immediately ask ‘why should I buy a titanium bike?’ We thought we would try to answer that question.
The metal of the Gods…
Named after the Titans of Greek mythology famed for their legendary strength, titanium is twice as strong as aluminum and nearly half the weight of steel. Frames made from titanium have incredible longevity, a supreme ride quality and look superb. Depending on the design and tubing diameters, frames can either be built to be springy and comfortable, or for a stiffer, speed-focused ride. Titanium is resistant to the hardest of knocks and those slow-growing unseen cracks from bolt-tightening, rough roads, drops and crashes. So why isn’t it more popular?
The raw material is still very expensive, and costs more than aluminum, steel and carbon; this obviously results in a higher cost of the end product. However, more significantly, it is notoriously challenging to work with, requiring more specialist equipment and more skill to work. Consequently, manufacturing costs are increased, and unlike carbon, it’s not so easily manufactured in volume for big market.
When working with titanium, relatively little of the heat generated during machining is ejected with the waste material. Instead the heat is transferred to the tool, necessitating slower cuts. Unlike when welding steel or aluminum, welding titanium must be done in a tightly controlled atmosphere known as an ‘argon purge’ or ‘shield’. This floods the weld with inert gas, dispelling oxygen, water vapour and any other gases which are harmful to the weld. If allowed, these would be absorbed into the sponge-like molten titanium, resulting in a weld with the brittleness of glass.
This makes working with titanium a more time-consuming process, requiring a highly skilled specialist welder.
So why buy titanium?
Titanium creates a famously composed and comfortable ride quality. When you ride titanium for the first time you really do feel the difference, yet it remains responsive to accelerations. If you were to buy raw frame building tubes off the shelf you can expect the least dense material to be aluminium, then titanium, followed by steel. Aluminum’s properties mean that the tubes need to be larger to compensate for this comparative weakness, giving it a relatively stiff ride. Steel’s density makes it heavy, and the skinniness of the tubes required for a light frame can become overly flexible. Titanium is neither of these extremes, sitting nicely in the middle with modest tube diameters ensuring sufficient compliance within the frame and a material density low enough to satisfy weight targets.
What to consider when buying ti…
As with any frame, choosing the best titanium option for you depends on what sort of ride you’re looking for. The main thing to consider is the grade of titanium used. There are potential two grades: Grade 5 and Grade 9. Grade 5, made from 6AL-4V titanium, has a higher strength-to-weight ratio and is therefore slightly stiffer. This option tends to be more expensive due to the way it’s manufactured, and the tubes are very rare and difficult to produce. The second grade, Grade 9, made from 3AL-2.5V tubing, gives a more forgiving ride and the tubing is more readily available commercially, making this option the more affordable. This is the most popular grade or titanium used for making bicycles.
At IRIS Bicycles, we have chosen Grade 9 titanium tubing and all the machined parts – the headtube, bottom brackets and dropouts – are made from the stiffer Grade 5 titanium.
If you’ve got any questions about our frames, please do get in touch. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember that your titanium bike will become your ‘go to’ for years to come and might even outlast your own cycling career.
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