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Rich’s TiCom titanium super commuter from Titan part 2: The Build

Part 2 of Rich’s story follows on from his intense design phase that we looked at in part 1: The Design. He’d decided to try a little crowd-sourcing to work on the details and had thrown himself at the mercy of the Singletrack World Forum with some interesting results.

The features had been decided, the design choices made and the frame drawing signed off, just the agonising wait for that large box to turn up in the post. How did it turn out? Pretty good as it happens, take a look:


Not everything went 100% to plan though:

I have realised that I’ve ballsed up a bit on mudguard clearance with the frame design. The 2 bridges which run between the chainstays and the seat stays are a bit closer to the tyre than I’d like. On the recommendation of somafunk I fitted some PDW mudguards which have more clearance compared to the original ones that were just too tight on my 28mm Schwalbe Duranos.

One thing I’ve noticed a couple of times, and perhaps should have considered during the design phase was toe overlap. I have a bit on my road bike, but obviously with mudguards there is more. Nearly caught me out a couple of times!

Rich also noticed a bit more drag than he was expecting from the back end. Taking a closer look he found that the Di2 actuator didn’t appear to be sitting straight and was rubbing against the rear sprocket! This could have been due to the unusual combination of parts he was using, or perhaps the rear dropouts being slightly out of line.

Something's not quite right there, the Di2 actuator is rubbing the sprocket slightly.

Something’s not quite right there, the Di2 actuator is rubbing the sprocket slightly.

He managed to work around it by removing a little material from the side of the actuator and the sprocket to get the clearance he needed. Considering the complexity of what he was putting together I think he did pretty well only having those hitches!

And how about all the wiring and fittings needed to make the electronic gear shift work?

The Di2 kit has gone relatively smoothly. Unfortunately I found the display didn’t mount very well on the integrated bar/stem combo that I’d chosen; it looked a little messy. Following some advice from a friend I worked out that it didn’t matter where the display was connected in the wiring loom so I zip-tied it to the battery and hid it in my seat tube!

I had only the word of Madison that the R785 hydraulic Di2 levers would work properly with my Alfine Di2, so I was very pleased to discover that they worked straight away. The Shimano Eport software showed everything present and correct, so the shifting was good to go.

Following on from that Rich had to tweak the setup slightly as he found himself with a flat shifter battery on a couple of occasions as he couldn’t see the charge gauge. The display now sits along side his Garmin on the handlebars where he can keep an eye on it, this also means he doesn’t have to pull the post out to connect the Di2 battery charger either.

Moar wiring?

Rich also specced a Shimano dynamo hub to avoid the need to recharge batteries; because of the variable output you also need to use dynamo specific lights. He mounted a Supernova E3 on the front fork, plus a Busch & Muller mudguard light and a stealthy Supernova LED adapted to fit inside the seatpost! Drilling holes into a carbon seatpost? Hmm, safer in an aluminium one perhaps, but I’m not sure.

His plans for the electronics didn’t stop there, ideally Rich would like to charge up the Di2 battery via the dynamo and run a pair of Mobius ActionCams for traffic monitoring. These are both still a work in progress though while Rich irons out the technical challenges.

Running internal cables for the lighting means Rich could do super neat things like these integrated LED's in the seat post!

Running internal cables for the lighting means Rich could do super neat things like these integrated LED’s in the seat post!

Time for the usual question about who you decided to work with, and how you got on with them…

Titan were able to give me the best price. They were happy to accommodate all of my bizarre requests without any issue, while XACD had a basic price and any deviation added a considerable amount more. I also found the XACD person I was corresponding with to be rather belligerent and argumentative! Can’t remember if I requested a quote from Waltly.

I have been very impressed with Titan, initially because they were happy to include all of my variations over a normal frame without any extra cost, and then because of the quality when it arrived. If I’m being critical then the rear brake mount looks a little clumsy, but everything appears to be straight which is probably more important!

Speaking of money, Rich was also happy to share details of how much it all cost to put things together:

Frame (Chinese titanium) £580
Forks/post/bars/rims (Chinese carbon) £378
Hubs/Cranks/Di2 bits (Alfine) £441
Belt drive kit (Gates) £263
Brakes/Shifters (R785) £420
Lights (Supernova) £165
Misc (spokes/headset/tyres/EBB etc) £188

Grand total roughly £2435 plus a few bits I already have spare (saddle, pedals, tubes) Certainly not the cheapest commuting machine ever, but hopefully it’ll be nice to ride, virtually maintenance-free and pretty versatile.

You’ve had a chance to ride it now – what are your thoughts?

The overall bike has come out at 11.5kg or 25.3lb, so it’s no featherweight for sure. The Alfine hubs are pretty hefty beasts though, so the majority of the weight is in the wheels. The frame tubing isn’t butted, but the difference in price between XACD and Titan was so significant that I didn’t think the increase was justified to shave a few grammes.

Be aware that the combination of the dynamo hub, belt drive and Alfine hub make the bike noticeably slower than a conventional road bike. I’m not sure how much each component adds to the overall amount, but I certainly wouldn’t plan to race this bike, and it would probably be hard work on a group ride too. However for pottering to and from work where an extra 5% journey time is irrelevant, I am more than happy to pay the price for the convenience of everything else. Hopefully it’ll make me faster when I do jump on my MTB or road bike!

The bike was very well received over on the forum too, it looks like the build might well have inspired a number of other people to put their own ultimate commuters together.

Brant gave some additional feedback highlighting his areas of concern – the busy bottom bracket area that had many holes in to accommodate the wiring and brake hoses. He felt that given the highly stressed nature of that part of the frame they would be prime candidates for cracks to start propagating from.

Rich has been watching them like a hawk but so far no issues…


Time for the final – and what would you do differently next time?

In hindsight I would agree about the tapered headtube, XACD had quoted a crazy amount extra for tapered so I think I had mentally crossed it off my list by the time I requested a quote from Titan. That would also have left the door open for more choice of forks too, as the Spot was virtually the only once I could find which met my requirements.

I might also look for a better way of finishing off the cable holes in the frame as they are a little sharp edged currently. Either with some welded in rings or perhaps little plastic inserts. There’s no rubbing damage as far as I can see but it would be good to have them looking a bit neater.

A drain hole in the bottom bracket shell would probably help with the problem of water sitting in there too. I’ve a feeling it might have caused the bolts in the BioCentric adjuster to seize!

A bike like that and he leaves it outside? Rich must work in a nice are, good to see a bit of snow does't put him off riding !

A bike like that and he leaves it outside? Rich must work in a nice area!

And relax! Probably one of the most involved builds we’ve seen for a while but it’s good to see how much of his original thinking and ideas Rich managed to fit into his first frame. It sounds like he might be slightly disappointed with the extra drag he’s getting from the Shimano gearbox hub, but it’s probably a small price to pay for the ultimate low maintenance commuter; something that he can just jump on a ride whatever the weather.

If you fancy a bit of background reading and catching up on the latest comments, the original thread is over here:

Have you designed your own frame that you’ve had made in the Far East? Would you like to see it here to perhaps inspire other people? Drop me a line via the Contacts page…