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Why Is Titanium Is All The Rave In The Gravel Bike Scene?

Published on December 23rd, 2021

Well known for having indestructible strength and fluid suppleness, titanium has long been recognized as one of the best materials in the bicycle industry. In the blooming gravel bike scene, this couldn’t be more true.

Over the last few years, titanium has gained significant traction as a highly desired option for adventure savvy cyclists. With the booming gravel bike scene and a growing desire to explore remote territories and low traffic roads, titanium has carved a well-deserved niche as the ultimate material for all-road bikes.

Well-made titanium bikes are arguably the best option money can buy. But instead of arguing about it, we break down ten compelling reasons why we believe titanium bikes are, in fact, the best bikes.

1. Titanium Absorbs Vibrations & Impact for a Smooth Ride

A popular choice for cyclists embarking on multiday adventure rides, bikepacking trips, and ultra-distance gravel races, titanium is the indisputable grand champion of the bicycle world.

If you know, you know – pedaling a titanium gravel bike frame is a distinct pleasure. The ride quality is incredibly smooth and composed, and like a good friend, predictable and responsive. We’ll get more into strength and longevity below, but the level of resilience, vibrational dampening, and impact absorption experienced while riding titanium cannot be understated.

Titanium is a happy medium of all the other materials. It offers comparable stiffness of steel and aluminum but without the abrasiveness on rough terrain. It provides the floaty suppleness of steel without feeling spongy, and it’s typically far lighter in weight. Titanium metal also checks all the boxes for race worthiness commonly sought in carbon fiber bikes but without the fear of a cracked frame.

2. Titanium Gravel Bikes are Some of the Strongest Bikes

If there’s one thing that defines titanium, it’s that it offers the highest strength-to-weight ratio of all known metals. For bikes designed for rigorous all-terrain riding, titanium is a top-choice option that’s virtually unbreakable.

One commonly used metric is tensile strength, which is measured by pulling a material apart. This test shows the limits where the material reaches its yield point (or yield strength) as well as tensile strength (or ultimate strength).

In simple terms, yield strength is the amount of tension beyond which the material deforms and ultimate tensile strength is the absolute peak tension a material can handle, or close to its fracture point. A higher tensile strength (which is noted as σM and is expressed in megapascals (MPa) indicates a material that offers high compressive strength, stiffness, and ductility.

  • Aluminum Alloy 6061 has the ultimate tensile strength of 310 MPa and yield strength of 270 MPa.
  • Steel Alloy 4130 has the ultimate tensile strength of about 560 MPa and yield strength of 460 MPa.
  • Titanium Alloy 3AL-2.5V (the material used in our frames) has the ultimate tensile strength of 620 MPa and yield strength of 500 MPa.

In short, steel is about twice stronger than aluminum, and titanium is marginally stronger than steel. Factor in its lightweight composition and the overall strength-to-weight ratio of titanium wins.

3. Titanium Bikes Do Not Corrode

A fascinating quality about titanium is its passive oxide protective layer, which naturally occurs when titanium is exposed to air. This organic protective “film” provides remarkable corrosion resistance, even in aggressive environments and conditions.

This feature is a big deal among true cyclists, particularly in genres of mountain bikes, gravel bikes, bikepacking bikes, and adventure bike racing. While certain types of corrosion can occur in any metal that’s exposed to the perfect storm of elements, the science essentially says that it takes a lot to corrode titanium (like prolonged exposure to sulfuric acid and hot chloride solutions).

But because titanium bikes are not exposed to 100°C temperature swings and hydrochloric acid, the fact of the matter is, titanium bikes simply do not corrode.

4. Titanium Offers Raceworthy Performance Without Compromising Resilience

Many cyclists choose titanium because they want the lightweight compliance carbon but without the vulnerabilities when put through the wringer.

Not to dis on carbon fiber, as the performance evolution of carbon bikes is unquestionably impressive. Quality-made carbon bikes are directionally strong and often very lightweight. But in many cases, they’re vulnerable to intense pushing or pulling to the side and can be weak when struck in certain places.

Many issues with carbon frames arise at the bottom bracket. Since you can’t thread the bottom bracket cup into carbon fiber, all carbon frames must be sleeved with an alloy to receive the bottom rack and cups. This often becomes a trouble zone with carbon frames either cracking, coming apart, creaking, etc.

Titanium frames and all other alloy frames do not need an insert. The bottom bracket shell can just be threaded. It’s a much better system.

5. Titanium Bikes Are Easier to Maintain

In terms of maintaining a bike’s cleanliness and like-new appearance, again, titanium is an obvious winner. Nicks, scratches, and scrapes can all be sanded, polished, and buffed out on a titanium frame versus a carbon-painted frame or any painted frame for that matter.

You can wash a titanium bike like you would any other bike. You can use bike cleaners (like Muc-Off), dish soap, or diluted alcohol solution. Because titanium is incredibly resistant to chemicals, no soaps or solutions are going to harm the frame.

Sure, there’s no denying the stunning beauty of a nicely polished titanium bike. But factor in the durability, agility, longevity, and performance, and the choice is clear.

This article was contributed by Tyler Tafelsky.