There are bikes that turn heads and there is the Independent Fabrication Ti Factory Lightweight, the latest creation from the company that has carved itself a niche as a manufacturer of some of the most desirable bikes we have ever seen.
The Ti Factory Lightweight was born to race, and was inspired by the original Factory Lightweight muscle cars that came out of Detroit in the 60s, hot rods designed for all-out speed with huge power delivery.
“We set out to make a modern metal (mostly) race bike in the same spirit as the muscle cars that came out of Detroit,” says the company; “everything you need for performance, and nothing extraneous, wrapped in aggressive aesthetics.”
“This is a strict racing machine, designed and engineered for sprinting, climbing and fast criteriums,” it continues. So carbon fibre would seem the natural choice, right? Not so, a fact ably proved otherwise when we got the chance to swing a leg over Mosquito Bikes’ own Ti Factory Lightweight and hit the road.
What defines the Ti Factory Lightweight, which sits third in the company’s range beneath the stunning XS and Corvid, is a frame constructed from both titanium and carbon. Not a first for the company, the XS successfully used titanium lugs with carbon tubes, but the Ti Factory Lightweight takes a different approaching, blending a full length carbon seat tube with a titanium frame.
A frame designed for racing needs to be stiff. Racing is defined by explosive surges in power, sprinting to close down gaps, bridge across to breaks, cornering at high speeds, and a desperate lunge for the finish line. The frame needs to transmit all your power to the rear wheel; there needs to be no hesitation in changing direction at a moment’s notice, it needs to corner on a dime, like it’s on rails… It needs to inspire confidence so the rider can wring every last ounce of energy and power to cross the line first, arms held aloft in a victorious salute.
Modern design trends
To achieve this, the Ti Factory Lightweight makes use of a number of modern frame design trends, some of which are rapidly becoming industry standard. Firstly, IF opted for a 44mm headtube, which allows the Enve all-carbon fork to use a tapered steerer tube. From this stems a huge 44.5mm diameter downtube and fat top tube, the former meeting a BB30 press-fit bottom bracket shell.
You only need to take a look at the picture of the rear stays to see how oversized they are, with just a gentle curvature to aid heel clearance. Special dropouts, with a small overall size and drilled faces and engraved on the inside, were developed.
And in this mix is a full length carbon fibre seat tube, which is lopped off at the top and fitted with an Enve seat clamp. IF’s crown logo is a cutaway in the front of the clamp, and two bolts secure it to the carbon tube. The saddle is carried in a single bolt clamp mechanism that is both quick and easy to setup.
Sure the seat clamp arrangement is stunning to look at, but the large size of the seat tube meant that the bulky clamp protruded too much at the sides, and I found that the inside of my thighs would brush the clamp on most pedal strokes. An irritating thing to have happen when riding, and while it might not affect all riders, we feel a cleaner solution could be found.
My one complaint out of the way, I can concentrate on how it actually rode. I only had a few rides on it, but crammed in the miles to get a good opinion of how the IF performs. I wasn’t really sure what to expect before I rode it, how stiff it would be. Would the titanium and carbon mix work well, would it be uncomfortable? I needn’t have worried; the IF was, in a word, stunning.
When you first ride it you get an overriding sense of silky smoothness, it rides the roads and their bumps and ripples incredibly well, with a compliant manner that I wasn’t expecting. Handling is great, with good turn-in speed, well weighted steering and a meaty feeling from the stiff front end, the excellent Enve fork affording the right balance of feedback and comfort.
I’d expected the carbon tube to deliver a harsh and unflattering ride quality on anything other than a billboard smooth road, but happily for my back the opposite turned out to be the case. Somewhere the IF manages to be comfortable, and granted my longest ride was only 3.5hrs but that’s still long enough to find any test bike concerns in the comfort stakes. Like the fork up front, there’s just enough of the road surface relayed to your bum so you can ‘feel’ the road beneath you, but without sending the nastier shocks through.
And it’s stiff. Out of the saddle, seated accelerations, snapping out of corners, there’s no lag, but interestingly the sensation is dulled slightly, albeit not in a negative mushy way. It doesn’t have the no-compromise stiff feeling that most top-end carbon frames possess; instead there’s just enough give in the titanium tubes, despite their oversized diameters, to take the edge off, ensuring a smooth transition from just pootling to full gas.
It’s an addictive quality, and makes the handsome Ti Factory Lightweight an alluring and satisfying bike to ride.
Independent Fabrication Ti Factory Lightweight: £3,950, frame + fork