Seven of the best... titanium bikes for 2016
Seven stunning titanium bikes from Kinesis, Boardman, No. 22, Van Nicholas, Enigma, Genesis and Lynskey
by Colin Henrys
A titanium bike has a reputation as being a 'bike for life' and, whether or not that's true, even in a world dominated by carbon fibre, titanium remains an excellent metal from which to make a frame.
It's lighter than steel and has an enviably smooth ride quality, while if in the hands of a skilled builder, retaining a level of stiffness which ensures there's still plenty of fun to be hand. It's lighter than steel, too, but on the flip side, is often more expensive.
The 'bike for life' tag comes from titanium's anti-corrosive properties, along with the fact it can be repaired, whether that's polishing the surface of the metal itself, or handling a knock to the hard-wearing frame. As an aside, there's no doubt in our mind that a well designed titanium can look damn good, too.
So it's little surprise titanium still remains a popular option with riders making a long-term, considered purchase they expect to stand the test of time.
If you're still not convinced or are in the market for a ti bike, we've picked out six which caught out eye for 2016.
Kinesis GF_Ti Disc
Kinesis first launched the Gran Fondo Titanium frame in 2012, and are now onto their third iteration of the frame which, for the first time, comes in a disc brake version - earning it inclusion in the RCUK 100 for 2016.
Besides getting a disc brake update, including a new disc-ready carbon-fibre fork, the frame's also had an aesthetic makeover, with the laser-etched graphics on the downtube adding a further touch of class on an already fine-looking machine.
Otherwise, the GF_Ti Disc seeks to retain the sprightly ride quality, top-notch handling, efficiency and turn of speed which impressed us when we rode the 2014 version of the rim brake frame.
The oversized headtube and bowed rear serve help strike a balance between comfort and rigidity, and the integrated rack and mudguard mounts make the GF_Ti Disc a versatile beast. If you're not ready to take the leap to disc brakes, the rim brake version of the frameset costs £1,549.99.
Price: £1,799.99 (frameset only)
Website: Kinesis Bikes
Boardman SLR Titanium
Chris Boardman’s eponymous brand made its first foray into the world of titanium for the 2016 range and the end result is the Boardman SLR Titanium.
In fact, Boardman Bikes say ti was second only to carbon fibre when they looked in detail at the best frame material for a disc-equipped road bike and the SLR Endurance Titanium is offered in two builds, with Shimano UItegra (Boardman SLR Titanium 9.2) and Shimano Ultegra Di2 (Boardman SLR Titanium 9.4).
And, while the SLR Titanium – built around the same all-day geometry as the carbon SLR Endurance - is certainly a looker, it's designed to be more than simple pleasing on the eye.
Boardman pitch the SLR Endurance Titanium as a comfortable, strong endurance road bike that matches quality looks with equally impressive performance. Like the Kinesis GF_Ti Disc, it's made from 3AL 2.5V titanium (the standard grade of ti for road bikes), and Boardman say the smooth ride and level of power transfer served up by the frame (as well as the thru-axles at the front and rear) make it a 365 days a year machine.
Price: £1,999.99 (frameset only), £3,499.99 (Shimano Ultegra), £4,999.99 (Shimano Ultegra Di2
Website: Boardman Bikes
No. 22 Great Divide
The No. 22 Great Divide takes its name from the American-Canadian border running through the Rocky Mountains, home to some of North America’s most beautiful roads.
It’s a fitting name too, given No. 22’s latest bike was designed in Canada, hand-built in America and design to tackle some of the toughest roads the area has to offer.
Once again, it's built from 3AL 2.5V titanium and, when we reviewed it back in 2013, we described it as a machine which "combines low weight, high comfort levels, and neutral handling with good power transfer" and as a bike ideally suited to "long distance riding". It's why, three years later, it's still one of our favourites, but it's now also available in a disc brake version.
No. 22 sell the Great Divide as a frame only for $2,599, or as a frameset with a carbon fork for $2,999. That gives you the chance to put together your own dream build, but otherwise there's also the option of a complete bike with Shimano Ultegra and Reynolds Attack carbon clincher wheels for $5,999.
Price: $2,599 (frame only), $2,999 (frameset only), $5,999 (Shimano Ultegra)
Website: No. 22
Van Nicholas Astraeus
Titanium specialists Van Nicholas don’t hold back with the hyperbole when it comes to the Astraeus – the ‘pinnacle of titanium racing bike design’ which ‘sets the benchmark for titanium frames’.
Bold claims, but the Astraeus stands apart from the majority of titanium bikes thanks to the frame's hydroformed tubing, which includes a striking diamond-shaped toptube and a biaxial downtube.
Van Nicholas say those tube profiles help marry the expected ride quality of titanium with top levels of stiffness, calling the Astraeus a ‘a climber’s dream’. At the very least it’s a stunning machine thanks to the polished finish, engraved headtube and 3D sculpted dropouts.
The Astraeus is available as a frameset only for €2,699 but Van Nic's online bike builder gives you stacks of options. If the range-topping Astraeus doesn't take your fancy then the Van Nicholas road line-up includes no less than nine titanium frames, starting at €1,099.
Price: €2,699 (frameset only)
Website: Van Nicholas
Enigma Excel Ti
The Enigma Excel is one of our favourite titanium bikes. It combines all of the qualities you'd expect from a titanium machine - classy looks, a ride quality which won't bash you up for 100 miles - with a hot performance streak.
It falls into Enigma's 'fast endurance' category and that's an accurate way to describe the Excel, which has a well balanced geometry which remains fairly racy. It's Sussex-based Enigma's flagship road machine and is made from a high grade of 6AL 4V titanium to up the strength and stiffness over standard 3AL 2V ti.
Other features of the frame include an oversized 44mm headtube, CNC-machined dropouts and clearance for 28mm tyres. It's light for titanium, too, at a claimed 1,250g.
Otherwise there's plenty of choice across the Enigma range, including the more affordable Evade Ti, which is also part of the 'fast endurance' range, and a line-up of bikes in the more relaxed 'endurance' collection. Oh, and if you want something really, special, Engima have launched the limited edition Exemplar to celebrate their tenth anniversary - yours for £10,999. We went and took a look at it at Bespoked Bristol.
Price: £2,399 (frame only), £2,674.99 (frameset only), £4,099 (Shimano Ultegra), £4,699 (Shimano Ultegra Di2), £6,299 (Shimano Dura-Ace), £6,899 (Shimano Dura-Ace Di2)
Website: Enigma Bicycle Works
Genesis Croix de Fer Ti
The Croix de Fer has been part of Genesis' range for some time. It's a super-versatile do-it-all bike - and now it's available in titanium to sit alongside the standard Reynolds 725 steel version.
"So here we have it; a full, no-holds-barred 3AL-2.5V double-butted Titanium version of the CdF with all the bells and whistles for people wanting a faster, lighter CdF that retains the cross-terrain capacity for which the CdF is famous. Heck, it’s even fully internal Di2-ready for those wanting to go the whole hog!" say Genesis.
That's the Croix de Fer in a nutshell - it's designed to handle whatever the ride wants to throw at it. To that ends it's got tons of tyre clearance, rack and mudguard mounts, and a geometry which gives the Croix de Fer planted, stable and still nimble handling.
Genesis sell the Croix de Fer Ti as a frameset only for £1,799.99 if you want to put together your own spec, otherwise there's a £2,999.99 build with Shimano 105, hydraulic disc brakes, tubeless-ready wheels and an interesting RandoX handlebar with flared drops, designed to offer more comfort and control on the drops when riding off-road.
Lynskey Helix Sport Disc
If there's one made inextricably linked with titanium then it's Lynskey.
The American brand has been building titanium frames for 30 years and to celebrate that anniversary have introduced the Legacy frame for 2016. It's a frame which harks back to a bygone era with clean lines, a classic geometry and a pinch bolt seatclamp.
However, the Helix Sport Disc feature here is a thoroughly up-to-date titanium frame. The helixed toptube and downtube are designed to boost stiffness, while the geometry strikes a balance between race and endurance.
The Helix is available with rim brakes but we've focussed on the new disc-ready frame, made from 3AL 2V titanium and with interchangeable quick-release/thru-axle dropouts.
Price: £1,900 (frameset only)