Titanium mountain bikes – a niche within the niche of titanium bicycles
While asserting the importance of titanium mountain bikes, I came to the conclusion that my personal experience in biking is somewhat scarce. And I really want to publish only top hand, professional information regarding anything related to titanium metal.
That’s why I had to reach out and search for the best in this field. This personal quest was not as long as you may think. The result presented itself in the form of Moots Cycles, Inc. a reputable established manufacturer of titanium mountain bikes.
We have approached, Brad Bingham, from the production department, with our questions:
TE : Is the phrase “a titanium bicycle frame lasts for a lifetime” true or false?
TE : Is titanium the primary material for building mountain bicycle frame and components?
BRAD: For Moots Cycles it is. In the industry as whole titanium is not a primary material. Carbon fiber and aluminum would make up the large majority of frame building material for the mountain bike category.
TE : What are the main competitors of titanium in mountain biking industry?
BRAD: Regarding materials that directly compete; carbon fiber and aluminum. Carbon fiber bicycle frames can be built to be very light and stiff, but do not have the durability to match titanium. Aluminum bicycle frames can be built to withstand the rigors of abuse that titanium mountain bikes see, but will not be as light as a carbon fiber frame. Titanium has the strength, lightweight and durability to produce a great riding bike that is light and will survive a lifetime of abuse. Specifically regarding manufacturers of titanium bicycles; Moots, Litespeed, Seven Cycles, Independent Fabrications, Salsa, Lynskey and Serrotta would be the largest fabricators of titanium bicycles in the US.
TE : What are the requirements for small-scale workshops in order to accommodate a “sensible” material such as titanium, especially regarding welding and machining operations?
BRAD: Welding method is DC TIG. Machines with maximum amperage of 150 will do just fine in the welding of titanium frames. Gas coverage during the weld process is of greatest importance. This requires the use of a large diameter gas lens and a means to keeping the frame internally purged with an inert gas during the welding process.Machining of titanium and its alloys is most similar to stainless steel and can be performed by many manual milling and turning machines. The rigidity of the machine and the quality of cutting tool is of greatest importance.
TE : What is the preferred titanium alloy for building optimal bicycle frames?
BRAD: 3/2.5 alloy is most commonly used in the production of bicycle frames due to it’s availability in a large range of tubing sizes from respected tubing mills in the US. CP titanium is often used for many of the fitments that are machined and attached to the frame for the routing of cables. 6/4 titanium is rarely used due to the very limited availability of seamless high quality tubing.
TE : Can you explain the process of choosing the right diameter and thickness for titanium tubing used in the production process of a titanium mountain bike?
BRAD: Pulling from 20+ years of experience building titanium frames we select our tubing based on previous experience. Due to the superb strength of titanium there is a large window when designing a frame. We select diameter and wall thicknesses based on the rider’s body shape and riding style + the desired ride quality that they are looking for.
TE : What are the manufacturing processes used for making parts and components other than bicycle frames, such as cassettes, brakes, etc?
BRAD: Moots Cycles produces only bicycle frames, stems and seat posts + a small amount of miscellaneous parts. All of these components are built using similar tooling and processes as our frames.
TE : Is there any component on a titanium mountain bike that is not worth making out of titanium, such as spokes, for instance?
BRAD: Just about any component would benefit from being produced in titanium. Unfortunately cost limitations make this all but impossible.
TE : What are the main differences between a titanium mountain bike built by industry specialists and products made by newcomers or people that are just trying to make a quick profit on a lucrative market?
BRAD: The experience that is lacked by a new comer is their greatest disadvantage. Having built thousands of frames we have learned how to work with titanium and predict its nature through varying processes.
TE : Which are the weakest points for a titanium bike that are prone to failure in a normal usage of a titanium bike?
BRAD: If built properly there are none!
TE : What are the most common causes for such failures, if they exist, and what are the preventive measures a biker can employ in order to avoid them?
BRAD: Most failures are caused by rider error, e.g. crashing, driving your bike into the garage while still attached to the car. Failure to notice issues such as a wheel out of alignment that is causing the tire to rub on the frame and remove enough material to compromise the frames integrity is a common error.
TE : How can a purchaser quickly test if a bike or a certain bike component is really made out of titanium?
BRAD: Purchase your titanium frame from a respected, well known industry leader such as Moots.
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