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David’s Christmas custom titanium road bike from Titan

OK, we’ve done the Christmas thing and now you’re wondering how long your New Years Resolution of getting out and riding more is going to last, right?

The good news is that I know at least one person that got what they wanted for Christmas, let’s hear from David who had a Titan make him up a custom titanium road frame (how did Santa get it down the chimney though?)

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Just a few words on my relationship with bikes… I’m 43, live in France, got two kids and not enough time to ride my bike… I manage to ride 5-6000 km a year, I don’t race but spend each years hours climbing alpine cols as fast as I can 😉 I own a 2011 Scott Addict, which I upgraded down to 5.75 kg with carbon wheels. Problem was, the lighter my carbon bike was, the more I had scruples riding it on bad roads (as the unpaved but gorgeous Colle delle Finestre in Italy) or on wet roads, especially in winter.

So, the idea of building a second, cheaper, bike was growing. As I already had a few original parts from the Scott and two pairs of wheels, what I needed most was a decent frame. I spent time on VeloBuild but didn’t find a generic carbon frame I liked. I searched for a vintage aluminium Klein to upgrade, but most were too big or too old, as were the second-hand titanium frames. I still needed a frame under €1000 to keep the budget reasonable.

I think I can see where we’re headed here 🙂 But how do you chose who to deal with?

Then I remembered that a few sites were selling ‘no name’ titanium frames without any detail on where they were coming from (as Planet X does in the UK). I suspected their sources were in China and tried « chinese titanium frame » on Google. Many answers, mostly on US forums, talking about XACD, Titan Product, Walty, then a very good site called ‘Spanner’.

Minute after minute I was gathering information about the different options available, good and bad experiences… mostly good experiences and good-looking bikes! XACD was not really reassuring, Walty seemed small… Titan Product became my favorite: their frames looked great on their site, so I filled in the contact form asking a few questions on their products.

To be fair I think Waltly and Titan are probably a similar size, but it’s interesting to see how people pick a company to work with. Often I think it’s just a ‘gut feeling’ that people go with, which is probably as good as way as any!

Answers came very quickly from ‘Sophie’, in a clear enough English for me. She told me everything I needed, from the size charts and drawings to the head set needed, tube options, etc. That was even a bit too much possibilities for me! Price was interesting, around $800, which was on budget. I took my time, compared their chart to my Scott and decided that I needed a 48cm (the smallest one).

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David’s right, he might have got carried away with the chain stay and seat tube diameter, but overall I think it’s a pretty neat

And now for the scary bit ‘show me the money’…

Next step was pre order, which meant paying one-third, $233 via Paypal and a few days later I got the first drawings. I changed a few things here and there (dropouts and headtube style, height of the bottle cage) chose the tube diameters, and in the end say ‘OK you can build MY frame’ to these unknown Chinese people ;-).

First pictures of the frame were sent to me six weeks later, on Dec 9th. This gave me just enough time to gather the last components I needed, especially the fork, headset and barrel adjusters that usually come with the frame.

For the big reveal – how did it turn out and does it ride as you expected?

The frame pictures looked good so I paid the final balance via Paypal on Dec 15th and Sophie gave me an EMS tracking number. Five days later (yes, only FIVE), the frame was in my garage! Christmas week was perfect for building the bike, and result is really better than expected. The mix of titanium and carbon parts looks good and as far as I could try it the bike does well on the road too. It seems as stiff as the Scott but more comfortable and is fun to ride. Well, I’ve only ridden 30km so far, but it seems good.

The build was easy, hopefully the headset is straight as the the upper bearing was a little harder to press in than the lower (headset diameter is 41.2mm, bearing diameter is 41.0, I suspect the top of the headset to be slightly oval).

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The usual neat welding we’d expect to see around the bottom bracket area.

Now for the big question – is there anything you would do differently next time?

Of course I made a few mistakes: I wanted it to be stiff and chose a 34.9mm diameter for seat tube and 25.4mm for chain stays, that probably wasn’t necessary for my 200 watts and the chain stays really look, well, fat! Respectively 31.6mm and 22mm would have been enough. For reference the top tube is 31.6mm and down tube 38.1mm (the smallest diameters that Titan offer).

On the other hand I don’t regret my choice of a straight headset, the tapered one looks heavy and would cost $50 more. Frame weight is 1.385 kg which is not light, with thinner seat tubes and chain stays I guess 1.300 is achievable for a small frame size like mine. Weight with carbon wheels is 6.6kg, 7.6kg with aluminium rims. Total cost is about €870 (frame $800, shipping $157, customs €70), which in the end is a good surprise 😉

Excellent stuff, another happy customer! I was going to say I thought David’s frame looked pretty good to me, although checking the drawing closely I can see what he means. It’s unusual to have a top tube that’s a smaller diameter than the seat tube for example.

His suggestion of speccing a 31.6mm seat tube (for a 27.2mm seatpost) and 22mm chainstays sounds very reasonable – especially given the size of the frame. I’m with David on the headtube too, I think tapered ones are fine on a carbon frame but they look very odd in metal, either titanium or steel!

You’ve always got the option of putting the cable guides on the headtube too, so you’ll avoid any cable rub. Although I can see how some folks might feel that leaves them sticking out a little too far.

Otherwise there’s not much more to add, he could have thought about double butting the main tubes to take a bit of weight out perhaps, but I’m not sure if Titan offer that. For the moment though it’s time to wish for some nice weather to get a bit of riding in and enjoy that new bike feeling!

Have you had a custom frame made in the Far East that you’d like to share with the rest of the world? Do feel free to drop me a line via the Contacts page and you might well see it up here too…