by Wil Barrett
December 8, 2016
Back in Issue #108 of Singletrack Magazine, we took three exotic mountain bikes and put them in the hands of Jason Miles as part of the ‘Titanium Hardtail‘ group test. You may have seen the reviews published in the review section of Singletrackworld.com over the past week, which includes Jason’s thoughts on how each bike.
Now you can read the complete Titanium Hardtail Bike Test article that we’ve published here. Love them moving pictures? Head to the bottom of the article, and check out a few small video clips we made for each bike.
Want to read this feature along with everything else in Issue #108? Then you can buy a print or digital copy of the magazine on our online shop here, or better yet, subscribe to Singletrack, and get access to ALL of our back issues – how good is that!
Words: Jason Miles
Photos: Chipps Chippendale
Titanium bicycles. ‘The last bike you’ll ever need’ or ‘the bike for life’ or something. In reality there’s no need to build a bike frame out of titanium tubing – nice steel tubes match it for ride quality, it’s often not as stiff, light and responsive as carbon or high-end aluminium, it costs a small fortune to buy one and it’s really tricky to work with.
But who cares about all that? It’s a bike made out of titanium!
In the olden days, a Ti bike was considered by many to be the material for posh pushbikes. All of the fastest bikes were made of it and the fastest riders were seemingly on bikes made from this amazing and shiny material. Ti had been used for years by the Russian military, while developments in the cold war aerospace industry brought titanium tubing (which isn’t ‘pure’ titanium, it’s got vanadium and aluminium in it too) into mainstream production.
In some respects, a Ti frame seems quite sensible. The corrosion resistance is handy in our perpetually damp climate, if you scratch it you can buff it out easily enough and the fatigue resistance of the material means that the frame should last a long, long time.
The ride quality can be quite something too – it would be easy to slip into the usual clichés about mythical ride properties, springiness and vibration-absorbing magic, but a well-made Ti frame can be incredibly comfortable and can feel like you’re riding something high-quality and worth the extra outlay. The expense can sometimes only make sense to those who have ridden one, in other words.
Is all that enough to drive someone to pay three or four times the price of a similar (sometimes almost identical) frame in a cheaper material though? Probably not. It doesn’t seem sensible at all, which means people probably buy titanium bicycles just because they want one. It sounds irrational, but then, many people buy really expensive televisions the size of Texas so that they can see a colossal Simon Cowell in their living room. Or a gigantic fridge that can stockpile three month’s shopping. After all, it is only money and you can’t take it with you…
What we’ve got here are three modern titanium hardtails. They’re all quite different from each other, but they’ve all got 29 inch wheels and two of them are available as cheaper, less exotic versions for those of us with different priorities, less money and/or less understanding partners. But these are titanium, which is always better, OK?
If there are still 29er doubters out there (I’m sure there are), then any one of these bikes is likely to change their perception.
In the case of the Stanton and the Kona, they don’t ride like 29ers in the ‘traditional’ sense at all – the handling of both is more akin to a smaller-wheeled bike and yet they retain many of the proven momentum and sustained speed benefits of 29 inch wheels. If you squint, neither particularly look like big-wheelers either. While the Stanton Sherpa is brilliant at most things that a UK-based mountain biker would want out of a bike, the Kona Honzo is somewhat more narrow in its appeal.
The Tomir on the other hand looks exactly like the ‘conventional’ idea of a 29er – especially with the rigid fork on our test model; however, take a closer look and you’ll see details, ingenuity and a level of workmanship that you just don’t see with frames from mainstream brands.
All of these bikes also illustrate that it doesn’t matter how good a steel, carbon or aluminium frame is, there are people who still simply want titanium for no particular sensible reason…
…and that’s good, because as long as folk are buying them, other folk will keep making them.
J. Guillem Tomir
The Tomir is an example of top-drawer framebuilding which anyone would be proud to show off. It’s marketed by J.Guillem as a race bike so in that context it’s a fast, responsive bike and with……read more here.
Kona Honza Ti
It’s hard to tell how anyone could justify buying a Honzo Ti. The same bike is available as an aluminium frame with a much lower price tag, probably the same……read more here.
Stanton Sherpa Ti
Whether you’re heading out for a couple of hours tearing around a trail centre, you’ve got all day to ride from your door to the furthest point on the horizon and then back again, or you’ve got……read more here.