Some of the people that have been on this site for a while now will know me and some of those will also know that I have started a kayak and bike shop in Somerton Park selling titanium bikes the shop is aptly named Ti Bikes Adelaide (http://www.tibikes.com.au).
We are stockists of the Dutch brand Van Nicholas (http://www.vannicholas.com),
Dean Bikes (http://www.deanbikes.com/home.html) from the U.S.A.,
and the Taiwanese brand Rikulau (http://www.rikulau.com/rikulau_english/index.php).
Over a cup of coffee the other day Gus asked me if I would put down a few words about the “wonder” metal and its use in bike frames.
I honestly believe that cyclists looking for a new bike would be well served by the choice available to them today and I think titanium provides a viable alternative to the modern carbon frame, when you consider the longevity of the frame along with the ride quality, and now with the costs involved nowadays being somewhere in the region of a good quality carbon frame this wonder material has become more attainable for us “mere mortals”. I think it’s fair to say that these days very few of us have bottomless pockets when it comes to buying our bikes (although I am sure most of us wouldn’t mind) and there is no doubt that a good quality Ti frame will outlast a carbon one in “real world” use.
Titanium is a relatively new metal. It was only discovered in 1791 by William Gregor in Cornwall, Great Britain. German chemist Martin Heinrich Klaproth rediscovered the metal about four years later, and named it after the Titans of Greek mythology.
The name is fitting because, for a brief time, it was the material of choice for the titans of the bicycle world. In the 1990s, titanium had its heyday as a viable high-end frame material. It was lighter than steel, stronger than aluminium and easier to work with than carbon fibre. Numerous manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon, but perhaps none of it would have happened had it not been for the Cold War. “It is fair to say that Russia’s extensive use of titanium for military projects spurred modern day development of titanium,” said Mark Lynskey. “Russia’s development was centred on grade two or pure titanium, as they did not have sufficient sources of vanadium to strengthen the metal.”
Usually, Grade 9 Titanium is used for bike frames. This alloy contains 94.5% Ti, 3% Aluminium and 2.5% Vanadium, or the 3Al-2.5V alloy as its more commonly known as. Its primary use was, and still is, hydraulic tubing for commercial aircraft. It is used because it combines the variety of benefits of Grade 5 with an ease of machining you don’t get in other similar grades. This means that it is significantly stronger than the ‘pure’ grades of Titanium (1-4), but is easier to weld and make into something useful, essential for keeping prices in commercial range.
Titanium’s excellent strength combined with its corrosion resistance, fatigue resistance and crack resistance means that a frame made of Titanium can last for a lifetime, unlike other bikes that can, without maintenance, swiftly fall into disrepair. Titanium is also well renowned for its excellent ride comfort, due to the fact that it is not stiff. This also means that in an accident, Titanium will not ‘snap’ like other, stiffer metals, it will in fact give a little, and thus survive in situations that other bikes would not. And, of course, weight being all important for cyclists, Titanium’s relatively low density is a dream come true. The only material to match Titanium for all of its other features, Steel, is far surpassed in this field.
There are five key Physical Properties that affect materials usefulness in bike frames:
1. Material Density
2. Stiffness of material
3. Yield strength
5. Fatigue and Endurance limits
Points 1 and 2 are all about weight and ride quality; points 3 and 4 are about how well a bike will respond in a crash, and point 5 is how long a frame will last under the stresses of use. This source details the differences between each. Evidently, this is just a rating for each property, and does not include any evidence or data, but it gives a good representation of what makes Titanium so good
I don’t expect anyone to take my word for all this, so if you are interested in experiencing the “magic carpet” ride of titanium for yourself I invite you to drop in to the shop and experience it for yourself on one of our demo bikes (which by the way is all of them)
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