Bikes and Gear Features

Sponsored Features

We provide cycling enthusiasts with the finest components and gear, from the best brands, at the lowest possible prices and deliver it faster than anyone else.
Titanium Road Bikes
Nothing Like It: Titanium Dream Bikes
Titanium bikes aren’t popular or cutting-edge—but their ride is unique and absolutely astounding. We tested five custom models from some of the best builders. Maybe one will be your next ride.
ByAndrew J. Bernstein
StumbleUpon Share
Printer Friendly Version

Titanium Dream Bike Reviews

Spectrum Custom Super

The master's prescription

Kent Eriksen Road

It's what you asked for

Baum Corretto

Titanium is exotic again


The longer you ride it,
the more it reveals


Exactly the bike you want

In 1991, a year after winning his third Tour de France, Greg LeMond’s Z Team came back to the race on prototypes of the Merlin Extra Light. The first titanium bike to fully achieve the metal’s promise, it was as strong as steel but lighter, and possessed a unique and pleasing road feel—slightly more forgiving, with a little extra spring and, somewhat counterintuitively, also more stiffness. Though ­LeMond failed to win a fourth title, his bike sparked a fervor for titanium that lasted through the mid ’90s.

Today, the competition to build frames that are ever lighter, stiffer, and more aerodynamic has made carbon composites the most desired material for performance road bikes. But to some of the grand masters of bike building, and to a select number of revered engineers and designers who have tried all the materials, there is still nothing quite like titanium.

“You can use body English with a ti bike because it has some springiness that lets the bike react to you,” says Rob Vandermark, who created that iconic Extra Light. “With a stiffer bike, particularly newer carbon bikes, the stiffness initially feels really good, but there’s no interaction.”

Vandermark, an early employee at Merlin Cycles and founder of Seven Cycles, has a nearly unmatched pedigree in custom-bike circles. One person at his level is Tom Kellogg, whose frames were ridden to two professional world championships and 20 national titles ­between 1977 and 1980, a track record that led to his ­collaboration with Vandermark on the Extra Light. Among custom and production builders, Kellogg’s own Spectrum bikes are some of the most respected in the world—even though they’re made with the untrendy gray metal. He points to ti’s nonlinear modulus as the source of the metal’s unique ride: That characteristic means the more force you apply, the harder it becomes to bend. “If you try to bend a piece it will at first give a little,” says Kellogg. “But the further you try to flex it, the more resistant it becomes.” On the road, that trait means you know exactly what’s going on at the intersection of your tire and the pavement—a sensation demanded by performance-oriented riders—but the initial flex means you’re not bothered by rough pavement. Bikes made from steel, aluminum, and carbon can also achieve that result, it’s just that titanium does so with a blend of ride sensations nothing else quite matches, kind of like the way any alcoholic beverage can get you inebriated but only a single-malt Scotch possesses its distinctive, refined combination of tastes.

Tom Kellogg, the man behind Spectrum Cycles, helped to modernize Ti frames. (Joshua Simpson)

Vandermark and Kellogg also point to ti’s longevity—the metal does not rust or corrode, is less likely to be damaged in a crash than bikes made from other materials, and has a longer fatigue life than steel or aluminum. But those are additional benefits, nice qualities to get in a new bike, rather than an abiding reason to buy one. Put simply: It’s all about the ride. We tested five custom bikes to find out if that mysterious, magic ride feel still stands out in the era of carbon. And we found ourselves in agreement with Vandermark, who told us, “Ti will never be back to its former heyday, but we’re seeing it becoming a larger share of our business at Seven. There’s some backlash against the limitations of the carbon ride as the material is pushed to be as light and stiff as possible. It’s great to see good riders enjoy titanium bikes in a way that stiffer frames just won’t allow.”

Want more Bicycling? Subscribe today and get 2 free gifts.
Facebook Icon Twitter Icon Yahoo! Icon LinkedIn Icon


Excellent article. I became verifying continuously this website that i’m inspired! Worthwhile information precisely the remainder of the part My partner and i contend with such details considerably. buy knives online canada
At age 63, I'm faced with the enviable problem of having to buy a more expensive road bike every year, just to go a bit slower than the year before! I'm not old or iconoclastic enough for a titanium bike yet, although I'm the same age as most of the geezers I see riding Ti. But the arthritis gets worse every year, so I guess there's still hope for Lynskey, or LiteSpeed, or most likely, Seven. I'll stick with my Cervelo RS when I'm in the group, Bianchi Virata Steel when I want to tool around. Stay tuned!
Hmmm...not sure the journalist's timeline is correct..I have one of the earliest Merlins (s/n#492, 1989 yr of production). Maybe Tim Kellogg hadn't finished his corn flakes, as it has no "extralight" or 3.2.5 stickers on it, for some reason.
yea sure like to own a ti frame someday. like a lightspeed or something. have a moderately priced aluminum frame classic design and with a carbon fork and a carbon seatpost its very comfy and can "get up" very quickly. i like the momentum and not really interested in a carbon frame, never really was....
I have gotten years of great rides out of my custom Serotta Legend SE. From day one the bike has fit me perfectly. I plan to ride it for many years in the future. Parts, wheels and tires may come and go but my naked Ti frame will last forever. Buy the best from the start and you'll never look back. The more you ride it the easier it is to forget how much it cost. Ben Serotta has been building custom dream bikes for over 40 years and you'll never meet a man more committed to you having the perfect bike. But yet just like Bill Holland you didn't have him on your list?
I would never own a CF bike; I had friends over the years who have had CF bikes and they all had problems with breakage. My next bike will definitely be titanium, and the Motobecane series of TI bikes are the best deal on the market for TI bikes and they get rave reviews. Why spend 3 times more for the cost of a custom TI bike over the cost of a Motobecane TI when the Motobecane is at least 95% of a bike the more expensive ones are?
I'm not saying that the only good Ti bike is a $12K custom, but clearly Motobecane is the cheapest for a reason. What you are suggesting is that you cannot tell the difference between a Hyundai and a Mercedes.
After starting out with a carbon fiber bike, I became interested in a ti bike. I bought a Motobecane Le Champion Titanium I found on craigslist for $1,000. It quickly became my favorite bike. Light, like aluminum, but no road "buzz." Handles like an extension of my body. The frame is nicely put together, and I don't worry (much) about scratches or damage, as with carbon fiber. Yes, I have upgraded or changed some components (aero bars, seat, seatpost, wheel & tires, brakes) but that's part of the fun/obsession.
I'm certain that all of these bikes are fantastic, but I cannot figure out how you left Holland Cycles out of this comparison.
My Lynskey custom MTB is a blast to ride. Saving up for a TI Road Bike. Carbon Fiber is the hot rage now but all too often I hear of voids and cracks with lengthy repairs or warranty issues that leaves me feeling hesitant about the latest and greatest technology. TI bikes for longevity is fantastic. Components come and go and to me, the workmanship on a TI bike is art in motion. Great article.
Two years ago I went looking for a new road bike. I had tested a number of carbon fiber bikes when I saw a Lynsky titanium bike. Just for grins I took it out for a ride and fell in love. It's unbelievable how good it feels to ride. I have several other bikes that are carbon and one steel, but that titanium bike is my favorite to ride.
Forgot to mention below, I'm a retired Engineer and the feel of the ride and metal is why I chose the extralight over steel
Darn my next bike won't be Titanium. It already is. It'a a 1999 Extralight Merlin w/all Campy. Mr Kellogg's name is on the frame.Can't get any better than that...:) Thank you Tom...