If you’re thinking about buying a titanium bike, I understand why. You’re probably after a combination of ride quality, cool factor and longevity.
People can debate the ride quality to death – there are plenty of variables that can impact this, especially tire pressure. Also, some people think the stealth fighter look of carbon fiber beats the Cold War jet fighter appearance of titanium.
But nobody is about to debate the longevity of titanium with you. It has impact resistance that you won’t find in carbon fiber bikes. If you can actually get a titanium frame to fail, it’s not going to crack into pieces. It can handle rock spray, hard impact, shitty weather and just about anything else you can throw at it.
As you’ve probably guessed, I’m a titanium bike fan.
I’ll also admit that buying a titanium bike isn’t easy. They’re more expensive and harder to come by than most steel, aluminum or carbon fiber bikes. That makes it imperative that you get the right one.
So here are a few tips for buying a titanium bike. Some are from my own experience, while others are from other titanium bike owners.
Avoid Buying Titanium Frames with Paint
I love my Domahidy titanium singlespeed. The designer conceived it from the ground up to have a Gates Carbon Drive system instead of a chain.
He made the bottom bracket area overbuilt to handle all the power output of someone cranking hard on a singlespeed. He got nearly everything perfect.
Then he went and painted it.
Admittedly, it looked pretty for a long time. But mountain bikes go through a lot. And their paint gets ratty over time.
In retrospect, I should’ve had it stripped and buffed before hanging a single component on it.
Double-Check the Seatpost Size
If you’re buying a singlespeed, you’re certain to pour over plenty of specs. And you shouldn’t miss the humble seatpost diameter.
One of my fellow ti bike owners wound up with an oddball 28.6mm seatpost size; he’s having a hard time finding the right replacement seatpost.
He still loves the bike, but he’s less than thrilled with the scarcity of seatposts in that diameter.
Buying Used? Be Patient
Titanium’s longevity means that plenty of people are eager to get a hold of even older ti frames. Personally, I wouldn’t touch anything that doesn’t have disc brake tabs and thru-axles, both of which are relatively modern.
But some people love the classics. And it seems like they never sleep, constantly scanning and sniping on eBay, SteveBay, Craigslist, and anywhere else people post used bikes.
You might be tempted to settle for “close enough.” Don’t. The right deal will eventually come. If you settle, you’ll be the next person to list that titanium bike and hoping to break even.
Buy the Frame Builder, Not Just the Frame
When I bought my two titanium frames, I didn’t just click “Buy” and hope for the best. I emailed the frame builders and I asked questions.
Going full-custom and made-to-measure just isn’t an option for me.
I waited for good deals to appear, and then I started asking questions. In both cases, I got prompt, courteous replies. This told me that these were companies I wanted to support with my dollars.
They also gave me peace of mind that I was getting the right size and the right frame for my riding style.
Talk to Titanium Bike Owners
There’s no shortage of people who love titanium frames. Get in touch with them and see what their thoughts are on certain brands and models. Find out which ones are re-branded frames made overseas – and also find out which of those made overseas are better.
Along the same lines, there are plenty of American companies selling titanium bikes that don’t actually make those frames themselves. Find out who does.
Check Facebook for titanium bike owners groups to get started.
I also look to Spanner Bikes, which is chock-full of helpful titanium bike knowledge.
Wrapping up Tips For Buying a Titanium Bike
This is all pretty basic stuff that you could apply to buying any kind of bike frame — aside from maybe the part about paint.
But it’s always good to check your enthusiasm, especially when something looks like a great deal. Do your due diligence and get yourself a bike that will last the long haul.