Titanium vs Steel – could/can you honestly tell the difference?

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  • Titanium vs Steel – could/can you honestly tell the difference?
  • psychle
    Member

    Two identical frames as far as geometry etc is concerned, let’s say one is an IF Steel Deluxe and the other is a Ti Deluxe. Both are painted frames, so you can’t see which is which; out on the trail, in all honesty, would you be able to tell the difference between the two??

    damo2576
    Member

    Steel one would be rusty?

    Premier Icon midlifecrashes
    Subscriber

    Weight would be vastly different (around the wallet area in particular).

    i went from a steel frame to the equivalent ti frame and can’t tell much if any difference.
    little bit lighter maybe, but my 15.5 stone bulk cancels out any advantage that that might have offered.

    just to add, both brilliant though, and got the ti for a good price so not dissapointed.

    I can’t. Genesis io id and aged raleigh special products titanium from yonks ago.

    Both xc frames hardtail 100mm ish travel Other differences make so much difference that I would not be able to honestly say I can feel a difference even when they have similar setups.

    Not to say others can’t but I can feel the difference as I adjust the fork for example but I don’t think I can dfeel any difference int eh frame materials

    Premier Icon thisisnotaspoon
    Subscriber

    Dirt did just that test with the charge blender, people liked whichever one they were told to like (this one is more springy, steeper/slacker, stronger etc etc) depsite the only imediate difference being one having a QR seatclamp (testers thought this one was better in a list of MBR buzz words kid of way).

    Premier Icon kelvin
    Subscriber
    Premier Icon Jerome
    Subscriber

    Had a few steel and ti frames over years.
    Currently on an Indy fab steel delux.
    No difference in my opinion between good steel and ti..
    Much more around the bike is designed/ put together..
    J.

    b r
    Member

    Yes, when you pick it up is the obvious one.

    My steel frame is comfy at slow to medium speeds, and my Ti at medium to higher speeds.

    I notice it also when covering a lot of (offroad) miles, over 30 miles the steel starts to ‘jar’, whereas the Ti is fine into the mid 40’s and beyond.

    And both cheap identical(ish) 456’s with the same componants.

    Premier Icon cinnamon_girl
    Subscriber

    Yes, I feel less beaten up on my Ti compared to my steel. Both with pretty much identical geometry, identical wheels, brakes, tyres, chainset, cranks, pedals, saddle. Forks with 20mm difference and different seat posts.

    Around 3 lbs difference in weight.

    Have tested this on a 35 mile undulating x-c route. My body doesn’t lie!!

    psychle
    Member

    Around 3 lbs difference in weight.

    Really? That seems a lot?

    No difference in my opinion between good steel and ti

    That’s what I’m wondering really… I’m in a fortunate position to be able to order an IF frame at a good price, choice of Ti or Steel, just trying to decide if the Ti is justifiable really! Talking around a grands difference in price or thereabouts…

    Premier Icon epicyclo
    Subscriber

    Assuming good design, I wouldn’t.

    But to me the USP of Ti is the scrub clean no paint look. 953 would also do this I suppose. Being light is a bonus.

    psychle
    Member

    Here’s what IF has to say on this (just received an email back from their ever helpful sales team!)

    The difference between ti and steel kind of depends on the bike. On a mountain bike with big tires and a suspension fork, you probably can’t notice the difference between the ride of ti and steel. Ti saves a good bit of weight on mountain bikes, though, close to 3/4lb. Ti is also corrosion resistant and therefore more durable.

    On a road frame you’ll notice it more. Ti feels a bit more glassy than steel. Steel is smooth but transmits more of the road to you. The weight difference is less, probably closer to 1/2lb

    james-o
    Member

    IF’s answer is a bit generic, with respect to their experience! there’s more to it than descriptions of ‘feel’. it depends almost entirely on tube dimensions. the density alone isn’t likely to make a difference in shock transmission when you have tyres and saddles in between.

    the potential flex difference is something i would notice if the tubes were the same size. if they were both designed to a stiffness level rather than a tube dimension it would be harder to tell based on weight alone.

    i know some ti frames i prefer to steel, and others where i prefer a steel frame over a ti. it’s about more than materials.

    james-o
    Member

    if you’re trying to decide between a ti or steel IF (lucky to have that tough decision to make!) i tink you need to talk dimensions and whether you want a stiff or flexible ride, and how important is weight?

    if you want stiff but weight needs to be low = ti
    if you want a softer ride but weight needs to be low = ti or maybe light steel
    if you want softer ride but weight is not an issue = steel
    if you want stiff but weight is not an issue = steel

    so it’s weight as a decider first, then get the tube dims right for the stiffness / comfort mix.

    TiRed
    Member

    If you’re buying IF, most people would assume it’s steel anyway – that’s always been their USP – custom steel. 😆 . Now if you were to buy a Merlin, there’d be the opposite conclusion.

    My titanium road bike is lovely, so is my steel Kona singlespeed. I can tell them apart.

    Premier Icon cynic-al
    Subscriber

    I reckon YES

    Weight and about £700 in the bank. I’m riding a steel bike and have ridden Ti and I can’t tell the difference.

    Premier Icon ac282
    Subscriber

    Ti won’t weight 3 lbs less. more like 1.5 lbs at most for frames of comparable quality.

    it depends on how experienced a rider you are to notice imo.

    nicko74
    Member

    c_g, there must be something to make it a 3lb difference other than steel vs Ti…?

    As I recall, ST did a steel vs ti blind taste test, with two versions of a charge duster, one white, one black. I believe the white one was regarded as betterer, possibly because it was lighter due to absorbing fewer photons than the black. Not sure how that related to the frame material however.

    IainAhh
    Member

    I am not sure the steel one would be that rusty if the finish is half decent.
    I have a 15 year old steel mtb now used as a commuter.
    There is some cable wear right through the paint and knocks etc so slight rust in places. But considering this frame has had a lot of mtb use and onto winter no3 it is holding up really well.

    I would think a steel frame / bike would be changed /upgraded for another long before any rust would be a problem.

    Premier Icon cinnamon_girl
    Subscriber

    Complete bikes have a difference of around 3 lbs. Not the frame! I know I’m a bimbo but really … 🙄

    Of course my comments are purely based on having an old shonky body so comfort is paramount.

    Sam
    Member

    IME of having ridden frames of the exact same geometry but one from Ti and one from steel both with the same design intent yes, I can definitely notice a significant difference and it’s about more than weight.

    mboy
    Member

    Too many other variables to comment on unless you’re comparing the same frame geometry with the same component build, as per the Charge Duster (steel V ti) comparison above… As long as all components and the setups were the same!

    Personally, I think you’ll notice a lot more things such as tyre pressures, tyre sizes, suspension travel, weight etc. before you notice the frame material. Ti MTB frames will typically be about 3/4-1lb lighter than an equivalent steel frame. Though some budget ti frames (think XACD, or the ti Pipedream Sirius) are over 4lb anyway, so they’re saving no weight over a steel frame for half the price! You’ve got to spend mega bucks for a ti frame that’s gonna save loads of weight too…

    The only way you would likely notice the frame material is if the ti frame is significantly more flexy, as its inherent strength allows less material to be used, which usually means more frame flex. I’ve ridden a few ti frames, and I felt that of those I rode, only the Cove Hummer was actually stiff enough for me consider it as an MTB frame for my own use (and I’m not even 12 stone, nor am I a hard rider). The Cotic Soda I had a quick play with was MEGA flexy (one of the first batches though), and the Airborne I owned… Well I was worried the back wheel was gonna overtake the front one day, so I sold it pronto!

    Ti frames made right are wonderful pieces of kit, and arguably the nicest material out there to make a bike frame from. They are however perhaps the worst value upgrade out there in terms of performance per £ spent… Ti frames are VERY much a vanity purchase, and those who argue otherwise really have got too much money and spare time on their hands… The extra £1k or so the average ti frame is over a steel would buy you soooooo much more in terms of performance if you spent it elsewhere on the bike (wheels, forks, brakes etc.).

    But the point of Ti is, if you’ve got the money, then why the hell not! I still lust after one badly… I’d love one! Not for any rational reason (even if I had the money, I couldn’t rationalise it), but purely cos it’s the ultimate… Even if the return on investment is next to nothing on the extra over a good steel frame.

    All the above is written in relation to MTB’s by the way, I accept that Ti makes more sense on road bikes that are getting ridden long distances over steel, as there’s less wheel/tyre flex and Ti will add a bit more inherent comfort over the average long distance Audax or whatever… Of course to compete in Road racing you’re gonna be running some kind of Carbon framed bike anyway, which will be 1.5lb lighter, so it’s kind’ve irrelevant at the competition end of things!

    geetee1972
    Member

    I like JamesQ’s answers

    if you want stiff but weight needs to be low = ti
    if you want a softer ride but weight needs to be low = ti or maybe light steel
    if you want softer ride but weight is not an issue = steel
    if you want stiff but weight is not an issue = steel

    It gives some good insight I think into the nuance between steel and ti.

    On the weight difference issue, that’s an interesting one.

    The difference between a Cotic Soda and a Soul is 1.2lbs, but the Soda (3.2lbs) is only warrantied for Forks up to 120mm
    Between a Ragley Blue Pig and a Ragley Ti the difference is 2.3lbs; 5.8lbs for the Blue Pig, which can handle a 150mm fork and 3.5lbs for the Ti, which can also handle a 150mm fork.
    Oddly, the Ragley Ti would appear to weigh almost the same as the Cotic Soda (there’s .3lbs in it) but be a much strongrer frame.

    Premier Icon metalheart
    Subscriber

    Having demoed a Cotic Soda this week with a set up that wasn’t a million miles away from my Soul I would say definitely yes! I could tell the difference. For a start the Soda is more lively and I was surprised at just how direct the transmission was.

    Lighter wheels would account for some of the difference but not really once rolling.

    Just my 2p worth.

    toys19
    Member

    there’s a lot of bollocks being talked here that’s for sure.

    nicko74
    Member

    Testiclays!

    grantway
    Member

    Only the Price 😆

    doubleshot
    Member

    I am fortunate to have one of both with the exact same geometry, yes there is a difference – but they are subtle. In brief the steel if more lively, snappy and quick, it smooths the trail out nicely as well; whereas the ti is more supple, forgiving and takes the edge off more, great for longer, rougher rides. Really either is a good option as long as the ride is tailored to your riding style in both geometry and tube selection. Figure out first what you are looking for and then go shopping from there.

    Ringo
    Member

    I’m in the middle of having a ti frame made up by if the main reason I went ti was the lifetimes warranty and the fact I already own a steel frame. I have had to sell all sorts to get the money together though

    Kings Cloths rule applies.

    That said, I love my Ti bike more than I did my almost identical steel version, quite a bit more in fact but perhaps not 7 times more.

    I think even the comparison of two identically specced bikes from the same manufacturer isn’t a valid one.
    Your average Ti frame will have double butted main tubes and straight gauge rear stays.. This is just a cost measure, as butting just the main tubes requires less machine time etc than doing all of them but gives a bigger weight saving. The more you spend, the more they can take away, and the more they can manipulate tube shapes for stiffness or springiness.
    Most (decent) steel frames will have all the tubes double or triple butted. It depends entirely on the cost and frame material, but there will be a world of difference between a £200 steel frame and a £800-1000 steel frame, along with a big difference in ride feel and a good pound in weight. The same applies with Ti.
    You could compare cheap steel with expensive Ti and say “OMG WOW!” or start with some decent tubed steel and compare it with average-joe Ti find the difference not so great.
    I still *want* a Ti frame, but after having a decent Columbus tubed steel frame, it would have to be really bloody good to be betterer.

    Premier Icon epicyclo
    Subscriber

    Anyone got comments on 953 frames v Ti?

    I’n not keen on steel frames, like trying to wrestle with a wriggly snake and i’ve had a few over the years.
    Had a few decent alu frames too,they are much more neutral albeit a bit hard and unforgiving

    Think ti is a good combo of both, admittedly you have to compare like for like in the quality stakes and so much is down to the geometry too

    I’n not keen on steel frames, like trying to wrestle with a wriggly snake and i’ve had a few over the years.

    But that’s my point.. Cheap, expensive, material? I had an old (2003) inbred and it was like trying to stir jelly when going uphill. I stuck a load of luggage on it and rode halfway round New Zealand on it, and could watch the front triangle flex and wobble on the climbs. my Columbus tubed Enigma climbs just as well as my old Klein Attitude, although that was hard work after a couple of hours.

    Dibbs
    Member

    I’ve got a Whyte 19 Ti and two Whyte 19 Alloy’s, I got as far as picking up the 19 Steel demo bike but it just felt heavy and dead so I didn’t even bother to ride it.

    Premier Icon supersessions9-2
    Subscriber

    a decent frame builder could make a ti frame that rides like steel or a steel frame which rides like ti. Which is a stupid statement obviously. Speak to your bike supplier and tell him what you want and forget what it’s made of and get a bike that rides how you like it to .

    doubleshot
    Member

    @epicyclo- yes! I will never ever sell my IF 953 SSX. It is the best bike i have ever owned period. It takes the two worlds of steel and Ti an melts them into an utopia of pure riding pleasure.

    Quick an snappy – even more so than a steel bike, yet very damp smoothing out rough roads and trails. Get this – freakin light! My crosser weighs a mere 7kg. Granted the parts spec has as much to do with that as the frame, but you never get a steel cross down to that and maintain the the BB stiffness or not create a noodle.

    Unfortunately 953 is hard as hell to work and expensive, plus like ti they can butt the stays. There is still a lot of potential to be pulled out of this material.

    Flickr page

    These are some pics of it on my flickr page, and there are more of me racing it in the same fotostream

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