Three titanium hardtails fit for an action hero.
Words Andi Photography James Vincent
Titanium. Four syllables that in the bike world may well hint at a significant birthday, or a recent (or impending) divorce. But just as Die Hard is not just a Christmas movie, so a titanium hardtail need not be a once in a lifetime purchase. Well, it probably will be, because that’s half the point – it’ll still be going when John McClane is fighting terrorists over the River Styx. The point is, you shouldn’t wait for some sort of crisis or Big Life Moment to consider buying yourself a piece of the sexy silver stuff. And if you are having a Big Life Moment, well, it’s cheaper than a Porsche and less painful than a tattoo.
While the question of whether Bruce Willis in a vest is a sex object might be up for debate, there can surely be no division of opinion over the appeal of a titanium frame. Smooth tubing, tidy joins and frame flourishes and finishes make a titanium bike the little black dress of the cycling world – always classy, with timeless appeal. But it’s not all aesthetics: as well as the longevity of a titanium frame, they’re light and comfortable to ride.
Yes, there’s a price to pay for being strong, light and sexy, but the tag might not be quite so high as you’d expect. Indeed, our trio of rides here are almost half the price of the last titanium bike test we did for the magazine, so there should be no need to set up any elaborate robbery plots to add one of these to your shed. We’ve got an international line up for you: the Danish Kingdom Bike, the British Sonder, and the Nordest from Tenerife. Which one will have us shouting ‘Yippee-ki-yay’ as we hit the trails? There’s only one way to find out.
Get the detonators.
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Kingdom Vendetta X2
Nordest Bardino Ti
Sonder Signal Ti
When each of our titanium hardtails arrived with us on test, I instantly became a little concerned. Each one is made of the same material, each has a very similar design, and they all have a Cane Creek Helm fork – OK, one of them is a coil at least, but still. Surely this trio of titanium was going to ride in a similar fashion?
Actually, no they didn’t and in fact each of the three bikes proved to excel in different areas.
Personally, the Kingdom Vendetta X2 was the bike that really grabbed my attention. The visually stunning frame, combined with a wish list mix of componentry was the bike that I believed I would instantly fall in love with, and I did enjoy it a lot. The super-low frame makes the Vendetta the easiest of the bunch to chuck around while the 29in wheels and long wheelbase ensure stability is matched by almost instantaneous acceleration. If I were to choose a hardtail primarily for woodland playgrounds, jumps and descending, the Vendetta X2 would be my pick. In a larger size I reckon it would be an excellent all-rounder too.
The Nordest Bardino Ti sits at the other end of the spectrum. With a frame designed to work with up to 170mm travel forks and the ability to run huge volume 2.8in x 27.5in plus tyres, this is the bike that I would be picking for a trip to the Megavalanche. As mentioned in the review, our test bike doesn’t really represent the bikes that Nordest sells on its website, but the odd mix of parts did give me an idea of how versatile the design is. Personally, I’d go for a plus tyre with a thicker carcass so I could run lower pressures without the worry of punctures, and go and find the gnarliest rock gardens I dare ride.
Sitting between the Kingdom and Nordest is the Sonder Signal Ti. Not only does it sit between them in terms of price (frame only pricing at least), but also in ability. While the Sonder isn’t as low-slung as the Kingdom, I didn’t feel that it was any less lively or playful. What’s more, the generous reach made for an excellent climbing position. I love the fact that Sonder adjusts chainstay length depending on frame size, and this translates into a very well balanced bike that is eager to pop its front wheel up when asked, but won’t loop out and embarrass you in the car park.
The choice of which Ti Hard hardtail suits you best really comes down to the type of riding you plan on riding the most, but however or wherever you ride you’ll have a lot of fun on any of them. Happy trails, Hans.