This blog usually concentrates on the Far Eastern suppliers you can approach to have a custom titanium frame made for a decent price, although there are many other folks around the world offering a similar service. I’d briefly made a mention about Triton bikes from Russia as I know they worked in titanium. Although having had experience of getting parts made in Russia, back in the day, I also felt they had a reputation of being rather flexible with their material specifications!
Dmitry from Triton had spotted my concerns and wanted to set me straight:
…you should know that Russia is the world’s leading exporter for titanium. Most of it is sold within aerospace industry. With Boeing being the major customer. When I was starting up Triton I thought that would help me. It didn’t. Unfortunately the tubes designed for aerospace didn’t suit bicycle use.
A few suppliers tried to offer their tubing to us but unfortunately I had to reject the samples. That’s concerning the thin walled precision main tubes (down, seat, top tube and stays). However we do use Russian made thick walled raw tubing to machine headtubes and BB shells. That’s when you shave off 80% of a tube and a machinist makes it a precision part. Thanks to our machinist Nikolai with over 40 years of experience in the aerospace industry.
Which is interesting – so if your tubes aren’t sourced locally where do you get them from?
I visited China to find the supplier of proper precision Ti 3-2.5 tubes. I chose two suppliers for annealed and CWSR tubes. The factories are clean, they test and do quality checks on the run. They provide the certificates. What’s also important and it is a matter of guarantee that our Ti suppliers make their tubes for the well-known US based Ti frame brands. After speaking to fellow German framebuilder at the Eurobike show I also found out we have the same supplier for tubes.
We have also started working with Italian based Dedacciai. We received a large shipment of tapered ovalized road bike specific chainstays and S-shaped ovalized tapered 29er chainstays from Italy. Same chainstays you would find in the very best boutique frames made in the USA.
So takes care of tubing how about other frame components?
We source the dropouts and parts from the US-based Paragon Machine Works and Loco Machine.
I visited Paragon last year and if you go to Paragon website you can see photos of our bikes at their main page.
One part that really caught my eye was a new design of chainstay bridge that they were making to give plenty of clearance for the combination of fat tyres and short stays that’s all the rage at the moment. Seeming to take the hardest route possible, they CNC machine the hollow yoke from two solid pieces of plate that are then welded together!
Guys – you’re giving yourselves a lot of work there, what’s the benefit? Surely you could machine an I-beam section design from a single piece of metal – or use a plate design as many others do?
There are reasons for a hollow design! Our yoke is inspired by the Paragon 3″ yoke they make in Ti and steel. I was asking Mark from Paragon back in the day whether they would start making the 2.5″ yokes for standard XC and AM bikes. They said they were not planning it so we had to take a long way round of designing and FEA testing one ourselves.
Buying a thick plate of titanium for many yokes is an investment. It costs thousands really. So we use 12mm thick plates to make the shells of the yoke rather than trying to make something from a single piece of thicker plate.
Ti is heavy. Which means you have to make the walls thin. Ours are as thin as 1.6mm in the thinnest parts of the yoke. If you made a yoke with an I-beam structure out of titanium it has to be thick to make it strong enough – which means heavy! Our design is a boxed yoke. With the walls welded together, it’s almost like double I-beam with no chance of flex, our FEA (Finite Element Analysis) tests proved that.
It looks like you’re going for the quality market rather than trying to compete on price?
Although our frames are yet slightly more affordable than the US frames our quality and capabilities have reached and exceeded some of our US colleagues. That’s what our customers say too. We have many customers with five or six Ti/custom bikes in the stable. So they have something for comparison.
We have had one warranty case so far within hundreds of frames. Tubes have never failed.
I remember that you had a reputation for producing crazy titanium trials frames, what sort of bikes are you making currently? Are you able to cope with custom requests for unusual gearing?
How about a versatile Ti 29er machine for your next Tour Divide race? Frame that would allow 2.5″ tyre clearance (with our new CNC machined hollow yoke), belt drive compatibility, Rohloff cabling, extra bottle cage mounts and double bent downtube for a larger front triangle for frame bag? We can do this.
Light roadie frame, Di2 ready, all internal cable routing? Easy.
Pinion bottom bracket gearbox frame? We can do it!
Dmitry tells me that his order books are pretty healthy currently and the lead time for a custom frame is around three months. His main market covers the US, Europe and Australia so no matter where you live you should be OK.
He also told me about their plans for making a range of frames available from stock that would be held in a German warehouse for speedy delivery – watch this space as they say.
As usual more info over on their site: http://tritonbikes.com/ and if you know of someone producing interesting looking machines then drop me a line as I’m sure there are other people out there who would be just as curious…