Author Topic: Titanium vs. Steel: Worth it?  (Read 311 times)

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Offline dhurwitz

Titanium vs. Steel: Worth it?
« on: November 01, 2018, 08:27:40 pm »

Newbie to the forums here.  I'm sure this has been discussed here before, but I could not find it, so forgive me for asking again.

I am planning a ride from coast to coast, and my previous touring bike (a steel Bianchi) bit the dust. So I am buying a new bike. Fortunately, I can afford Ti, but it is so damn expensive and, well, ostentatious.  Lots of people ride lots of fully-loaded miles on steel touring bikes.  Is Ti worth it?  And why?

Full disclosure:  If I get Ti, it will be painted, although I think the bare metal is more beautiful.

Offline danny dea

Re: Titanium vs. Steel: Worth it?
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2018, 12:29:46 am »
Over the past 35 years I have had three touring bikes, all steel.  All were comfortable to ride and I never had any complaints or problems with steel frames.  Having said that, I would go with titanium if the expense is no issue.  I have ridden road and mt. bike ti frames and really liked the ride quality.  A lot of road vibration seemed to be absorbed by the frame and made for a nice smooth ride.  My only complaint with the road frame was that I got more flex in the rear triangle when climbing than on my other bikes.  I think that was more an issue of frame design than material, but may be something to look at.  Also it was in race conditions so relatively big gears and pushing hard.  I like the idea of the frame being rust "proof" (for all practical purposes), and anytime you can save a little weight, why not.  I'm no expert on frame building or material, but have ridden a lot of miles on all the different frame materials so this is just my opinion.  I'm sure there will be others. 

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Titanium vs. Steel: Worth it?
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2018, 10:00:21 am »
Frame material gets a lot of press, but it's just one part of the overall design process.  I think the one place titanium has the edge is corrosion (or rust).  On a single tour of 1-6 months, that's not going to make a difference.  If you live by the sea and the bike is exposed to salt spray, or keep your bike outside in the rain for years at a time, that's when titanium wins.

If you're touring with a load, you're going to want a frame that doesn't flex or you'll get shimmy.  There may be a narrow point (e.g., rider plus load = 247 pounds) where a frame feels like it has just a little flex but doesn't shimmy.  Add 5 pounds of food and that bike may start to shimmy on a long, steep downhill, or take 25 pounds off and it feels like a solid block of metal.  Far better to depend on larger tires at slightly lower pressure to soak up road shock (although nothing short of full suspension is going to make the expansion joints in eastern Colorado less than miserable).

I'm thinking about N+1, and my focus is going to be getting a custom bike built by someone who knows how to balance material, expected uses, rider weight, and possible touring load.  For the same money I might get a production titanium bike, built like a cookie cutter, and hope it works for me.  Either is a valid choice.  But I expect the custom will have a higher probability that I'll be riding and enjoying it in 10-15 years.

Offline aggie

Re: Titanium vs. Steel: Worth it?
« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2018, 06:55:03 pm »
If you can afford it and want a bike that will last a very long time I'd go for it.  A custom bike fitted to your riding style will make long days in the saddle more tolerable.  I have a custom Ti touring bike and it has been my primary bike for the last 15 years and I have no intention of getting another touring bike.  If I did I would get another Ti bike.

Offline paddleboy17

Re: Titanium vs. Steel: Worth it?
« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2018, 11:42:32 am »
If your only reason to go Ti is to save weight, I think at best you would save a pound.  I think aluminum gets you a pound and a half, and carbon might get you 2 pounds.

I would get  a steel frame from a proven frame builder, and see if you could not take pound out of your kit.
« Last Edit: November 06, 2018, 11:44:54 am by paddleboy17 »

Offline hikerjer

Re: Titanium vs. Steel: Worth it?
« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2018, 10:56:51 pm »
I guess if you want and can afford a Ti touring bike, then go for it.  For most of us it's just not worth it. There is a reason that steel is the overwhelming choice for touring frames and it's not just it's lower cost. BTW, if I had Ti bike, I'd make damn sure I had it fully insured.

Offline dhurwitz

Re: Titanium vs. Steel: Worth it?
« Reply #6 on: November 08, 2018, 09:16:00 pm »
Thanks for all the input! It was really helpful.  After a ton of thought, and significant pre- and post- purchase anxiety, I just put down a deposit on a ti bike! 

Weight was not really an issue for me.  Ride quality was the main reason.  Almost everyone who has ridden both say that at the end of a long, hard day in the saddle, you will hurt less on ti than on steel.  I hope that is true.

I am going to start a new thread on the next big question at hand:  to paint or not to paint.