“Do you particularly like Titanium bikes?”

Borrowed, Lynskey Helix
“…and if so why?”  A pair of questions I was recently asked on my YouTube channel.

Good questions and the answer was too long for a comment. 

Two years ago we visited my friends in Frances.  He allowed me to ride his winter bike - a Lynskey Helix - during our stay.

My wife borrowed his wife’s Lynskey Sportive.  Both Lynskey’s are, of course, titanium.

It was my first ride of a titanium bike, so clearly I’m no expert in this matter.  However, I liked the ride, weight, stiffness and durability of titanium, all of which I felt made it an excellent choice for a winter bike.
First visit, riding with French club
Price was the only downside.  Not having limitless resources, a new bike had  to wait, but I sold my Tri-bike in anticipation.  Waiting was good.  Gravel bikes developed.  Titanium gravel bikes appeared which added an extra dimension to the benefits of this material, because titanium is pretty much the ultimate material for a gravel bike.

Kinesis ATR demo bike at home in Scotland
Brands that previously marketed their bikes as round-the-world robust steeds made them with wider clearances and the ideal road/off road compromise bikes appeared.  All this happened quite fast and companies like Kinesis (which make superb adventure bikes) sold out of my frame size.

Which is why I tried the Sonder Camino Ti and loved the quality for the price. 

Is it titanium perfect?  No, because it’s not light enough to replace really light, fast road / aero bikes.

However, unlike carbon it makes a fabulous bike for the British winter when road salt does lots of damage.  It's robust too - my Specialized Roubaix has lots of chips to the frame lacquer which not only look bad, they make me doubt  the integrity of the frame beneath.  That doesn’t happen with titanium.

My Roubaix taking punishment in Morocco
This week I’ve been back in France,  staying with my friend,  his Lynskey Helix.  There's another video coming 12th Feb 2020.  I’m struck by the differences to the Camino Ti (lighter, shorter and stiffer, more like a regular road bike) and also the similarities (a very comfortable ride, even when it’s not really the right size for me).

If I could only have one bike then it would be titanium with large clearances for winter, for touring and for off-road adventures, pretty much like the Camino Ti.

Fast summer bike
If I could have two, then I’d add a light fast carbon road bike for glorious summer days when the road calls.  Which is pretty much exactly what I have.  Although there's always room for another...

Here's the video which prompted the question.


Unknown said...

Hi Simon,
Thanks for all the inputs on ti and also Sonder.

I'm planning to build a gravel bike using the Sonder Camino frame. The most difficult part being to decide if ti is worth the extra 1000£.
I'll ride it about 2-3 times a week, for commuting in city and then in middle mountains a few weekends.

This would be my only bike.
Do you think the extra cost is worth it ? Does it really ride better ?

I'm going for Hunt wheels, Wtb resolute and GRX drivetrain. With Al, it's 1600. With Ti, 2600.

Best regards,
Michael (from Toulouse - France)

Simon Willis said...

Hi Michael
I appreciate you asking, but I would urge you to ask other people as well, perhaps in the Sonder Facebook Group. You might find someone near you whose ride you can try (I did, but that was Scotland not France). Decisions like these need lots of inputs before you can form a settled opinion.

Personally, I think at Ti Camino is worth it for the riding you're doing, especially as it's your only bike.

It's lighter than the Alu version, which could become significant in higher mountains or steeper hills.

It won't chip and scratch like any bike with a lacquer coating, and over time that's significant.

It won't need quite so much care in winter, although the components will.

Ride-wise there's not that huge a difference. The Alu feels a bit sharper and the Ti a little more laid-back, but that might just be my personal bias creeping in.

Whether it's worth the extra £1000 - well, obviously I thought it was. That's a decision for you.

The important thing is to reach a decision that you're happy with, because you'll be riding it for a while.

Unknown said...

Thanks for your reply Simon !
Don't worry, I already looked everywhere on the internet ;).
In fact, I'm really tempted by the titanium, for the material itself, the look and the toughness.
When I first started looking at a new bike, months ago, I was going for MTB because I don't know anything else. But overtime I thought this is not the right kind of bike for my usage. I don't do crazy downhill off road ;). At this time, I was looking at steel frame and suspension for around 800-900. So it's not that far from titanium.

Currently I ride my wife's entry level MTB : 14kg, steel, rigid fork.
In the city it's too slow, being heavy and having an entry level transmission. However, I kind of find it more fun on offroad tracks. I assume that might be the steel effect. I also discovered I prefer to put my hands like if I was on the hoods even if it has a flat bar !

Anyway, I'll let you know when I make my choice.
Thanks !