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Titanium vs. Steel in 2015?

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Titanium vs. Steel in 2015?

Old 07-07-15, 12:44 PM
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Jarrett2
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Titanium vs. Steel in 2015?

I'd like to hear from folks that have owned/ridden both materials.

I'm now somewhat familiar with Reynolds 520 and 853 steel bikes and I'm sold. I dig them. So much so, I'd like to build one that is "mine."

Every time I talk to a bike business about building a custom steel bike, I keep hearing over and over unanimously, "If you like steel, you'll love titanium."

Essentially saying, if you are in the process of building a really nice bike, you should go with titanium over steel.

Of course, there a very few (as in no) opportunities to ride a bunch of titanium bikes to see for myself.

For those that have experience with both (of the modern variety) do you agree? Is titanium just simply better than steel?
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Old 07-07-15, 01:02 PM
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Tough call, but I can try to help. I had a Lynskey R230 that I loved (had to sell because I needed some funds) and a custom steel bike. I don't know what the steel bike is specifically made from, I didn't ask. I just specified compliant, and narrow tubing (for the look).

Both bikes are of similar geometry, the Ti had an Enve fork, steel a steel fork. Identical components, with the steel being quite a bit heavier as weight wasn't the goal.

So, the ride... honestly, I think the Lynskey rode better, but the steel frame had far more sentimental value, so I sold the Lynskey knowing I could always easily order another. I never actually noticed myself having faster times on either bike more often than the other, and my favorite climb PR was set on the heavier steel. In the end, I do not think you can go wrong, but starting from scratch, I would say I did prefer the ride of Titanium, with Steel as a VERY close second.
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Old 07-07-15, 01:21 PM
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I would guess that like most "X vs Y" threads on here, people's personal preference or what they currently are riding will prejudice them too much to be able to give you a subjective reading of the real differences. That and unless you're riding two bikes from the same manufacturer with the same geometry, you're not going to see a valid comparison.

I would suggest that a if you have a good frame designer and builder, you're not going to find that Steel vs Ti is not going to give you a significantly different ride quality. Unlike Aluminum where the frames have to be built stiff to avoid fatigue, the characteristics of Ti and Steel are not staggeringly different. Not to say they aren't different of course, Ti bikes typically have wider tubing for example.

What you will find however is that a custom Ti frame is going to cost you a lot more money than a comparable steel one.

The upside of course is that they are relatively bombproof, don't have corrosion issues like steel can, and if you like that sort of thing, can have that cool unpainted Ti look.

EDIT: Salsa make some bikes in both Steel and Ti (like the Colossal), perhaps test ride of both will give you a better idea?

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Old 07-07-15, 01:33 PM
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Good question and i hear the same thing about titanium over steel as well. Hope to learn from peoples responses.
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Old 07-07-15, 01:39 PM
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Every steel frame I have used since I was a teenager has broken, including several Taiwanese frames made from Tange MTB tubing, a custom road bike made from True Temper tubing, and others.

My current mountain bike has a robust (not super light) Ti frame which is the only MTB frame I have ever had last more than two years.

Someone gave me an 853 mtb frame (Nashbar) and I have thus far hesitated to build it up because it is so pretty and I don't want to break it, although on paper a bike made from 853 should be stronger than the other bikes.
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Old 07-07-15, 01:58 PM
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The ride difference isn't huge. I now have two ti frames, with a triple and fixed. Both have steel forks. My other bikes and all but one before these were steel with steel forks. The various steel bikes varied quite a lot for handling and comfort on rough roads but all were always ride-able. Both steel and ti have road vibration on rough surfaces. With ti it is less jarring and tiring but it is only a matter of degrees. (But I do have to periodically squelch the urge to ride that really bad pavement just for fun.)

Ti bikes are not all the same for road vibrations. Mine are solid, stiff bikes and transmit a fair amount. The Merlin I took a spin on decades ago, far less. (That bike also had steel forks, that being pre-carbon.)

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Old 07-07-15, 02:03 PM
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My 2004 IF steel frame has a potentially fatal rust issue. That won't be an issue with my new Engin Ti. That's good enough for me.
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Old 07-07-15, 02:31 PM
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The softest, most noodly bike I ever had was steel. The stiffest, most harsh bike I ever had was steel.
I rode (briefly) a ti Moots and it felt like a spring. I own a ti Seven Axiom Race and it is similar to a Cannondale I used to have in terms of stiffness.

There is a lot more to the ride than the material.
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Old 07-07-15, 02:42 PM
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I own both a Merlin Ti and a Bridgestone steel and have ridden many steels. I like steel considerably better than Ti. In my experience I would rate the Ti ride similar to a CF ride, just ok, acceptable. The Bridgestone ride is rather fabulous.
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Old 07-07-15, 02:44 PM
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The modern high end steel and titanium frames are both simply awesome. You can't go wrong. Made to order custom frame- even better.
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Old 07-07-15, 04:13 PM
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Both steel and Ti can be tuned or designed to be soft and compliant or stiff. Ti has the benefit of corrosion resistance and better fatigue resistance but steel is no slouch with fatigue. I like the look of raw brushed Ti and like the idea of a forever frame, so I chose Ti but considered steel.

When buying used, Ti seems like a great option, no worry about cracks, fatigue or hidden corrosion as with other materials.
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Old 07-07-15, 04:31 PM
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I agree with the above post. I've had both including a Seven Ti and a Waterford. Both ride great. I also test rode multiple Ti frames and didn't like them. The same with steel including others I owned. Both materials can be made to ride just about anyway someone wants.
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Old 07-07-15, 04:32 PM
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Titanium is prettier than steel; I can tell you that much.
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Old 07-07-15, 05:45 PM
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They're both great materials for bicycle frames and both can be tuned for desired stiffness/flexibility/rider weight and power by choosing appropriate tube diameters, wall thickness, and butting. The stainless steel tubes from Reynolds, Columbus, and KVA virtually eliminate rust as an issue with steel, and for a given size and geometry frame, the weight is a wash.

This 61cm Reynolds 953 polished stainless Waterford RS-22 frame weighs 1650g.

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Old 07-07-15, 06:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Scooper View Post
They're both great materials for bicycle frames and both can be tuned for desired stiffness/flexibility/rider weight and power by choosing appropriate tube diameters, wall thickness, and butting. The stainless steel tubes from Reynolds, Columbus, and KVA virtually eliminate rust as an issue with steel, and for a given size and geometry frame, the weight is a wash.

This 61cm Reynolds 953 polished stainless Waterford RS-22 frame weighs 1650g.

I don't know about that "weight is a wash" thing. My Merlin 54 cm Works CR weighs a scant 1,207 g sans fork, of course.
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Old 07-07-15, 06:24 PM
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Originally Posted by rpenmanparker View Post
I don't know about that "weight is a wash" thing. My Merlin 54 cm Works CR weighs a scant 1,207 g sans fork, of course.
I don't doubt that, but a 61cm frame has more material than a 54cm frame; a better comparison would be 54cm to 54cm or 61cm to 61cm with the same geometry (specifically traditional level top tube or compact, chainstay length, etc.).
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Old 07-07-15, 06:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Scooper View Post
I don't doubt that, but a 61cm frame has more material than a 54cm frame; a better comparison would be 54cm to 54cm or 61cm to 61cm with the same geometry (specifically traditional level top tube or compact, chainstay length, etc.).
Sure, but we are talking about a whole pound. As for geometry and frame style, well you have to use the one that you think optimizes you favored material, not the one that justifies your weight concept. Just sayin'.
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Old 07-07-15, 06:32 PM
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Old 07-07-15, 06:33 PM
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IMO, the price premium for Ti isn't worth it. The ride is not much (if any) better and modern steels are even pretty competitive from a weight standpoint.
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Old 07-07-15, 06:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Scooper View Post
They're both great materials for bicycle frames and both can be tuned for desired stiffness/flexibility/rider weight and power by choosing appropriate tube diameters, wall thickness, and butting. The stainless steel tubes from Reynolds, Columbus, and KVA virtually eliminate rust as an issue with steel, and for a given size and geometry frame, the weight is a wash.

This 61cm Reynolds 953 polished stainless Waterford RS-22 frame weighs 1650g.

Stainless can still rust.

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Old 07-07-15, 06:37 PM
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Originally Posted by halfspeed View Post
Not enough chromium and nickel...or too much salt or acid. Sweat I bet.
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Old 07-07-15, 06:39 PM
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Originally Posted by rpenmanparker View Post
Not enough chromium and nickel.
Too much rust.
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Old 07-07-15, 06:39 PM
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Originally Posted by halfspeed View Post
Stainless can still rust.
True that, but the resistance to corrosion varies a lot with the specific alloy. This is a 2007 frame with around eight thousand miles on it in all kinds of weather and based about a mile from the Pacific, but hasn't a hint of rust anywhere.
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Old 07-07-15, 06:53 PM
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Both are viable. If you are looking custom, more choices with steel. If you already have a builder in mind, talk to them directly. I have both custom steel and Ti frames btw.
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Old 07-07-15, 08:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Jarrett2 View Post

Every time I talk to a bike business about building a custom steel bike, I keep hearing over and over unanimously, "If you like steel, you'll love titanium."
That's because they would LOVE to sell you a custom Ti frame for double or triple the price.

I have both steel and titanium bikes. For ride quality, both are great.

Titanium wins out in weight and longevity. If you want a lighter bike that will last forever, go with titanium.
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