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  • Cotic no longer doing Titanium Bikes
  • woodlikesbikes
    Free Member

    I had pretty much decided to buy a new Enigma Explor frame to replace my much loved but sadly starting to rust Roadrat. But this morning I got an email from Cy at Cotic explaining that they were no longer going to make any more titanium frames with the main reasons being the environmental footprint of titanium bikes being nearly as bad as carbon. This threw my whole new bike plans out the window as one of the reasons I commute on a bike is to minimise the damage I do.

    It’s a very well written email from Cy explaining the points:

    • But when you consider titanium, it misses two of steel’s big attributes, and is marginal on the third.
    • According to the Reynolds report, titanium produces 3 times the CO2 of steel production. It’s almost always made from virgin material; mined ore. Cross referencing this against the Trek report, this makes it almost as polluting as carbon fibre.
    • Titanium does have high fatigue resistance and is also completely corrosion resistant too, which is great. However the difficulty in welding it completely cleanly and other difficulties in processing does mean titanium frames tend to have a higher failure rate than steel over time
    • Whilst titanium can be recycled, it’s rarely done. Even when it is, it’s a very difficult, high energy consumption process compared to steel and aluminium. It needs a lot of heat, and a vacuum furnace to stop it disastrously interacting with oxygen during the heating

    I’m coming up to eight years on the Roadrat and do fancy a titanium bike – mostly to avoid the rust issue but also because I hear that titanium is similarly nice to ride as steel. But should I now reconsider?

    swanny853
    Full Member

    If my extremely rough back of a mental envelope from swiftly googled numbers are right, the difference between a carbon frame and steel is ~40kg of CO2e. Assuming 200g/mile for car emissions you’ll have to ride a couple of hundred miles extra rather than driving to make the difference up.

    I like Cotic’s approach but I am also looking at this in the context of degrees of difference. It would certainly tip me to steel but it wouldn’t stop me buying carbon (or titanium) entirely.

    https://www.pinkbike.com/news/starling-environmental-impact-report-finds-carbon-produces-16x-more-co2-than-steel.html

    https://www.nimblefins.co.uk/average-co2-emissions-car-uk

    munrobiker
    Free Member

    What’s wrong with the roadrat? There are plenty of bikes around with fifty year old steel frames that are just fine.

    simondbarnes
    Full Member

    There are plenty of bikes around with fifty year old steel frames that are just fine.

    There are also plenty that have completely rusted through 🙂

    DickBarton
    Full Member

    Get another roadrat or equivalent – 8 years is a decent amount of time for a commuter that is likely to go away wet and less loved…

    andrewh
    Free Member

    If you’ve got the frame geometry of the titanium Cotic you like but can longer get, and a decent chunk of money, go and have a chat with someone like Travers and see if you can have a copy made.

    My race bike is titanium and I love it. I also love my MK1 Solaris, when I win the lottery I’m having a Ti copy of that made!

    epicyclo
    Full Member

    When making the environmental comparison between steel and titanium, is the environmental cost of the paint process on the steel bike considered?

    frankconway
    Full Member

    +1 for talking with Travers.

    reeksy
    Full Member

    I got the email too. I’m cynical. It’s warm and fuzzy marketing, but brand differentiation is important, so fair play.

    If you follow Cy’s thread to its logical conclusion, then the best bike to buy would be a standard design mass produced unit. It would be the Trek Marlin. But we don’t buy bikes with our heads, we buy with our hearts.

    I haven’t read enough detail to know what the rate of ‘environmental damage’ there is between different materials. Is a titanium frame potentially worth 7 steel frames, 2 frames? That’s really quite important given that the two Cotic frames i had both failed in less than 6 months.

    More context is needed, too. What’s the environmental cost of a titanium frame versus a flight to Benidorm, or driving to work versus riding your ti weapon for a year?

    chiefgrooveguru
    Full Member

    “ If you follow Cy’s thread to its logical conclusion, then the best bike to buy would be a standard design mass produced unit.”

    Really? Surely the best bike on those grounds would be one made of locally made steel made from recycled iron, welded and painted locally and built so strong that it outlasts all its owners (and is considered so valuable that it escapes being discarded as scrap like lesser frames).

    Very much not a standard designed overseas made mass produced bike.

    reeksy
    Full Member

    No, that’s wankery. Don’t get me wrong, I want the hipster option to be better, but I don’t believe that would serve the world’s bicycle needs if we’re wanting the most environmentally friendly option. There’s no way that process will work out best from a lifecycle perspective.

    Mass-produced optimisation is boring as all hell, but there’d be less wastage per unit etc, etc, etc.

    and is considered so valuable that it escapes being discarded as scrap like lesser frames.

    That’s unquantifiable.

    Northwind
    Full Member

    I think every word there is probably true. I really like the fact that my Rocketmax was at least partly built about 2 miles from my old house, then painted and assembled a van drive away, and gets ridden most within about 50 miles of where it was welded. But I’ve got to be honest and say it feels pretty trivial in the grand scheme of things. Like, for all that good stuff I still rack up a ton of miles driving to ride, I’d still fly all over the place if I could afford it. I bought the bike to replace a decade old Trek that was still perfectly good, if I really wanted to cut my bike pollution I’d have kept riding that. And all of these pluses and minuses are utterly lost in the rounding compared with the really problematic superpolluters, while our country rows back on every commitment…

    Also at the same time I can’t help but wonder if he’d have gone down the same train of thought if he was selling a hundred Sodas a week 🙂

    qwerty
    Free Member

    Ted James for funky Titanium if you can catch him between: surfing, BMXing, skateboarding, MTBing, making things to make other things.

    jkomo
    Full Member

    TBH if you are riding a bike for eight years, you’re doing your bit. As far as titanium goes, does it last as long as steel despite the corrosion resistance, considering the chances of it cracking within eight years? Maybe look at a fancy Reynolds 953 or something.

    Daffy
    Full Member

    As is often the case, this a very simplistic review or resource utilisation and end of life recycling.

    Titanium comes in a variety of grades, the most common for bikes is Ti Grade 9, rarer is the aerospace Grade 5.  Both of these are alloys and both are more expensive  to recycle effectively due to their alloying elements and their interaction with atmosphere, BUT, they can be far more easily recycled into Ti grade 2, which is what Apple is using in their watches and phones and is more commonly used where high strength AND lightweight is not required.

    It’s also total rubbish to suggest that recycling doesn’t improve the environmental footprint, but the chain usually goes from rutile>refining>alloying>ingot>working>wherever to separating>alloying>ingot>working>wherever.

    The removal/reduction of the mining and refining stage is a huge CO2 reduction if considered in isolation.

    The common misconception is that Ti can be recycled like steel, but it cannot, it needs to be almost returned to pure and then re-alloyed and its the alloying elements, particularly vanadium which add to the cost.

    RustyNissanPrairie
    Full Member

    However the difficulty in welding it completely cleanly

    I’ve said this before on titanium discussions – the bike industry cannot weld titanium to a good enough standard. I’d be surprised if many titanium bicycle manufacturers are using fully vacuum purged chambers.

    csb
    Full Member

    Why no mention of aluminum as a corrosion free commuter?

    landslide
    Full Member

    Maybe look at a fancy Reynolds 953 or something.

    Apparently, stainless steel is worse from a CO2 pov. From Cy’s email:

    As an aside, it’s worth noting carbon fibre is:
    Very high CO2 impact (a little higher than titanium and about the same as stainless steel)

    crossed
    Full Member

    Having seen the price of the new 853 Escapade frames, I’m not sure many could afford one if it was titanium!

    cookeaa
    Full Member

    I’m with Cy, Titanium was a wonder material for making bikes, in about 1992.
    But it’s no easier to reliably weld it today than it was 30 odd years ago, composites have Ti beaten on most performance metrics, steel wins on longevity. Rust anxiety is a red herring, the people wringing their hands over corrosion are going to store these bikes indoors and keep them maintained, and baring a catastrophic crash those frames will outlive their original owners…

    But we don’t buy bikes with our heads, we buy with our hearts.

    I buy mine with money, and that is a factor, Titanium’s price isn’t really reflected in its performance (IMO).

    Carbon emissions are just a little icing on the cake I suppose, but it might be a deciding factor for some people.

    bol
    Full Member

    I’ve always loved titanium bikes, but don’t look at them as forever bikes. The longest one I’ve owned has lasted before cracking is 12 years. A couple have died within three years. I think the environmental impact is marginal in use, relative to all the other things we tend to buy and use.

    chakaping
    Free Member

    Also at the same time I can’t help but wonder if he’d have gone down the same train of thought if he was selling a hundred Sodas a week

    I thought this, and also that (as he’s hinted) he could probably do without the warranty liability of all those cracked “bike for life” frames.

    Sounds like your Roadrat has given sterling service OP, I’d be looking at another steel bike.

    grimep
    Free Member

    Well that’s them off my buy list, CO2 environmental footprint cobblers. Probably a cost thing and the difficulty of working with Ti

    wbo
    Free Member

    I can imagine that if you’re a small/medium builder the p.i.t.a. of Ti must be servicing the  guarantee on ‘frames for life’ that seem to be very far from it.

    BadlyWiredDog
    Full Member

    The thing about end-of -ife recycling is that regardless of the theoretical feasibility, the actual mechanism rarely exists. Where’s the industry-sponsored information and mechanism for recycling used frames? Let alone smaller components? Where are the collection bins in bike shops where you can deposit, say, used chains, brake pads, sprockets, cassettes etc?

    I get that some of this stuff will be extracted from general waste, but how about the bike industry taking responsibility for end-of-life processes?

    Same for technical clothing. I once asked a major outdoors brand what the mechanism was for recycling their ‘recyclable’ waterproof fabrics. Seven years later, they still haven’t told me, most likely because that mechanism doesn’t exist and only a tiny proportion of polyester fabrics are ever recycled. Virtually all recycled polyester fabrics are made from PET drinks bottles, not from end-of-life polyester.

    I get that this is all immensely complicated beyond the very simple ‘make less stuff, make more durable stuff, repair it when it fails, then repair it again, then at end of life, find credible ways of re-using and recycling that stuff”, but the way industries in general gloss over the realities is depressing.

    maccruiskeen
    Full Member

    Titanium comes in a variety of grades, the most common for bikes is Ti Grade 9, rarer is the aerospace Grade 5. Both of these are alloys and both are more expensive to recycle effectively due to their alloying elements and their interaction with atmosphere, BUT, they can be far more easily recycled into Ti grade 2, which is what Apple is using in their watches and phones and is more commonly used where high strength AND lightweight is not required.

    It’s great to say that something ‘can’ be recycled. But thats not the same as being able to say that it is being recycled. I’m sure theres plenty of post-industrial recycling – the offcuts and swarf from production will be of a known grade and have a route back to manufacture – but whats the route for post-consumer recycling.

    I checked at my local tip and theres nowhere to recycle titanium. Non of the scrap yards in this corner of the country list titanium as a material they take. How is a that ‘frame for life’ thats either cracked, or yesterdays angles, or yesterdays BB or dropouts or whatever going to find its back into the manufacturing cycle? Instead of joining the growing number of frames hanging on garage walls.

    Daffy
    Full Member

    The scrap price of the material tells you all most of what need to know about it’s likelihood to be recycled.  Steel is 20-30p per kg.  Stainless is 60-90p per kg, Titanium is 610 – 650p per kg.  If there was no value in recycling it, people wouldn’t be paying for it.

    DaveyBoyWonder
    Free Member

    Could it just be a warm fuzzy feeling for wrapping up a message of “titanium frames are expensive to produce and the market is so small its barely worth bothering with)? I’m sure buying any frame built in the far east isn’t the most environmentally sound thing which is the same for anything – all these people buying shite off Temu etc.

    BadlyWiredDog
    Full Member

    Could it just be a warm fuzzy feeling for wrapping up a message of “titanium frames are expensive to produce and the market is so small its barely worth bothering with)?

    It can be both, no? The general problem with sustainability is that it’s really complex. The ecological costs of a particular item aren’t always where you think they are. The packaging and transportation of some stuff may actually be more damaging than the production of the thing itself. And how do you factor in durability? Is it better to incur more ecological cost initially in the production of a really durable product that will last for years or use a ‘more sustainable’ alternative that has only 20% of the lifespan. Even if the latter has only 10% of the eco costs of the former, what about the costs of transporting it to the consumer an additional four times over?

    How would the overall ecological burden of a ti frame manufactured in the UK compare to a steel frame made in the far east and shipped across the globe for example? My Lynskey-made Ragley Ti was shipped to the US for warranty repair then back to me. Is that more sustainable than manufacturing an entire new frame? I have no idea, but it’s not as straightforward as just comparing initial production costs for an item. Would the repair and shipping cost offset the eco burden if I’d simply bought a ‘more sustainable’ frame to replace it? Not asking serious objection questions, just illustrating that it’s maybe not as simple as it at first appears.

    nickc
    Full Member

     Instead of joining the growing number of frames hanging on garage walls.

    As far as the lifetime of the frame is concerned, is this functionally any different from a frame that’s being  used?

    maccruiskeen
    Full Member

    As far as the lifetime of the frame is concerned, is this functionally any different from a frame that’s being used?

    Its probably being ridden as much as 95% of the bicycles in the UK

    What’s the number look like for the CO2 generation offset if you keep pounding the miles out on a bike vs the 1 year and done riders?

    maccruiskeen
    Full Member

    How would the overall ecological burden of a ti frame manufactured in the UK compare to a steel frame made in the far east and shipped across the globe for example?

    I remember an article once say that the payload on container ship travel at about 1000 MPG / ton and given a frame only weights a couple of kilos there’ll be less of a CO2 footprint from port to port than there is when its travelling in the boot of your car on your way back from the shop.

    We don’t really mine and refine titanium in the UK in any volume (we exported 1 metric ton of ore in 2022) so even a UK made frame will have travelled, as tubes, or refine Ti, from… somewhere – china? the US? Australia?

    5lab
    Full Member

    Titanium’s price isn’t really reflected in its performance (IMO).

    Imo this is why it exists as a frame material. Ti is undeniably more expensive than steel with limited benefits, a bit like a posh watch vs a Casio. However, being in a position to treat yourself to a ti bike (or a posh watch) is something that makes the purchase worthwhile to some people – it’s deliberate extravagance which itself gives some people a feeling of warmth

    squirrelking
    Free Member

    Why no mention of aluminum as a corrosion free commuter?

    Because it’s not.

    Have you seen what happens to aluminium when it’s been bathed in salt?

    ndthornton
    Free Member

    If you ride bikes for fun rather than doing some other polluting hobby and especially if you also use a bike to commute some or all of the time then you really shouldn’t be worrying about the environmental impact of the bike frame(s) you own. Choose the bike frame that makes you the happiest as that will increase the amount of time you spend riding it…which is what really counts. If you commute on a bike made of Rhino horn that’s still better for the environment than driving.

    Drac
    Full Member

    May have already been mentioned but might be worth looking for a secondhand Ti, reusing something already produced and giving you a chance to own one.

    Well that’s them off my buy list, CO2 environmental footprint cobblers. Probably a cost thing and the difficulty of working with Ti

    Likely a combination of all three but at least their doing there bit of not producing something unnecessarily. Have you bought a lot of their Ti frames in the past?

    rOcKeTdOg
    Full Member

    Surely buy a 2nd hand Ti frame, it’s already got it’s CO2 quota done and by using it you are avoiding the costs of recycling/disposal.

    Warm and fuzzy all round

    chakaping
    Free Member

    Surely buy a 2nd hand Ti frame

    With their reputation for cracking, I’d be wary personally.

    munrobiker
    Free Member

    if you also use a bike to commute some or all of the time then you really shouldn’t be worrying about the environmental impact of the bike frame(s) you own.

    You can do both. I ride almost everywhere by bike, but it doesn’t mean I don’t think about the environmental impact of any of my purchases (bike or otherwise).

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