Previously a frame designer and builder in steel, Justin Burls has become increasingly popular for the titanium frames bearing his name. Titanium is a great material to build a bicycle frame from, but its unique characteristics and that fabled ‘ride quality’ it offers are perhaps best utilised in a bike designed for comfort.
Which brings us neatly on this Audax bike. It’s been designed for a bit of light touring, winter riding and training. Burls will build a frame to any specification and fit you desire, and similarly will build a bike up with any components you want if you don’t want to take the plunge and build up your own frame.
Burls ti frames are made from 3Al/2.5V titanium, and they’re all built in Russia. The country was making many of the big brand titanium frames before many companies began sourcing frames from the Far East.
Its quality is apparent, with this frame showing off welds as neat as any we’ve seen on many more expensive frames. That’s a good thing, because while prices of titanium frames have dropped in the past decade, buying one is still a considerable investment.
As said before, Burls will design you a frame to fit, but with this tester designed around a 71.5 degree head and 72.5 seat angles, a good combination for comfort and relaxed handling is achieved.
This frame came with all the braze-on’s for mudguard and rack mounts that you’d expect of such a frame. While our frame was a compact design, semi-compact and classic horizontal top tube options are available upon request. Not such a familiar sight is a non-integrated headset, but something that Burls, along with several other top titanium frame builders, prefers.
We’d hazard a guess that most people reading this are doing so with a view to buying a frame, and building it up themselves. Burls will build your bike, however, if the thought of getting your hands dirty is too much.
Campagnolo’s Centaur 10-speed groupset balances price, performance and weight well, with only the lack of carbon cranks separating it, visually at least, from the higher-ranking Campagnolo offerings. The cranks use the same Ultra Torque fitment system, so they’re as stiff as Chorus and Record, and some may argue they look classier – they’re certainly a good match for the clean, classic lines of the frame.
Wheels were Ksyrium SL’s, but have been superseded with an updated version for 2008. They’re a competent wheelset nonetheless, with 18/20 aero bladed spokes front and rear respectively. Tyres are a pair of superfast but surprisingly puncture prone Michelin Pro2 Race.
ITM’s carbon fibre 4Ever fork is designed for bikes destined to be fitted with mudguards and offers more than enough clearance for guards. It’ll take tyres up to 25mm too. Finishing kit is from Reynolds, stem, Deda, handlebar, Cane Creek, headset and Flite, saddle.
Finally, the mudguards, and here SKS fills the role perfectly. This is the first time RCUK has seen the carbon fibre-finish models before, and as nice as they look, we can’t quite make up our mind whether we’re rather stick with plain black items.
This is a bike you can ride all day. It’s comfortable and relaxed to ride, due in part to the laid back geometry but also the titanium frame. RCUK has tested its fair share of titanium frames recently, and the Burls was rare in that it offered, more than any other, that famed ride quality that draws riders to the material.
There’s a tendency for many frames to be over-engineered, with the effect that the desired springiness gets lost as the designers try to eke out more stiffness from the material. While such qualities may be fine for the rider seeking a race-tuned frameset, the skinny tubes of the Burls give it a reassuringly comfortable ride.
Road bumps and broken Tarmac are handled well by the frame, and all-day comfort is guaranteed. The relaxed handling suits the aim of the bike to perfection, making it a lovely cruiser for long rides. It’s nimble, though, and while some all-out performance is lost in the pursuit of comfort, it’s neither so heavy nor sloth-like in the handling department that you can’t have a bit of fun and enjoy the odd burst of speed.