Chinese titanium frame

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dondelion
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Chinese titanium frame

Postby dondelion » 15 Dec 2015, 6:56am

I'm in the market for a fast tourer/adventure/do everything machine capable of on or off road with big tyres and rack/mudguard mounts. My Surly LHT 26" is great but a pig to ride unloaded so is for expedition use only. Initially I fancied the All City Space Horse but it's only in green and I don't want green. Then I saw some stuff about Chinese titanium frames and contacted them for a quote - £750ish for Ti frame and forks including delivery. At that price I'm pretty tempted...
Has anyone else done this? I've a mate who's a learner steel frame builder giving me advice on geometry (unfortunately he's not quite ready to bash me out a frame yet) and I'm probably just going to clone the Space Horse. Are there any Ti specifics I should know about?
I prefer skinny classic tubes so what feasible sizes can I have in titanium? Do they have to be much larger than steel? I'm 70kg and this will be my ultralight touring bike with maximum maybe 10kg luggage.
I like the look of a titanium fork and the option of low rider mounts. What considerations should I have for the fork? Will it be alright for disc brakes? Not many Ti forks out there for examples.
The company I think I'm going to use is Waltly http://www.waltlytitanium.com/

Any pointers appreciated,

Don

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Audax67
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Re: Chinese titanium frame

Postby Audax67 » 15 Dec 2015, 9:22am

I'm chary of Ti forks. 10 years ago I had a chum who had a Passoni all-Ti bike she used for Audax and her forks were whippy - got the shimmy if she looked at them too hard. If they can't get it right dot dot dot. Says a lot that a glance at the Passoni site nowadays shows lots of carbon forks.
Have we got time for another cuppa?

andrewjoseph
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Re: Chinese titanium frame

Postby andrewjoseph » 15 Dec 2015, 10:20am

we've got Ti touring frame and disc brake forks from justin burls.[url]burls.co.uk[/url]

i had him put the front brake on the right leading edge of fork. he queried the forces involved with his russian builders and they were happy to put it there. no problems with over 5 years fully loaded cycle camping use. ( we've not been camping for the whole 5 years, that would be silly. :wink: )
--
Burls Ti Tourer for tarmac
Saracen aluminium full suss for trails.

Brucey
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Re: Chinese titanium frame

Postby Brucey » 15 Dec 2015, 10:24am

re direct sourced frame; plenty of people have done as you propose to do but you will have to balance the pros (cheapness, custom geometry) against the cons (which include your rights as a consumer, warranty, and dealing with a remote vendor in the event of any problems).

On balance if a similar frame can be had from a UK retailer with a decent warranty/customer support for a bit more cash then this is a more attractive route in many ways.

So maybe take a look at Van Nicholas, Burls, etc. Also worth a look (but not ideal for you because it lacks rack/mudguard bosses)

https://www.planetx.co.uk/i/q/FROOTIPFCC/on-one-pickenflick-titanium-cyclocross-frameset

-but that it comes with a 10 year warranty and costs £999 for frame and fork means it is good value for what it is. It has an oversized steerer etc so it should be pretty strong. At your weight I'd expect it to be more than strong enough for your use provided you don't intend to carry a heavy load, so provided you can find a way of attaching the rack etc you should be OK.

Also worth a look are the offerings from Spa cycles, or Kinesis tripster etc. The spa adventure machine

http://www.spacycles.co.uk/products.php?plid=m1b0s21p3104

will work out about the same money as a DIY build using a cheap frame sourced direct, except that someone else has done the hard work for you. The standard build from Spa is perhaps overkill for your purposes but this can be varied and the frame itself isn't too heavy.

As a general comment 700C wheels are nicer to ride on more of the time than 26" ones but once you start to fit 700C with fat tyres and make them strong enough for a few knocks, they do start to become a bit heavy. It is much easier to build a 26" wheeled machine to survive all the knocks etc.

Re skinny tubes in Ti; yes you can have them as skinny as steel, but this comes at cost of either stiffness or weight; in tubes of the same OD a Ti frame that is the same stiffness as a steel one will also be about the same weight (this is because the specific modulus of steel and Ti are almost identical). So if you want to have a lighter weight frame in Ti then it pretty much has to be built in somewhat oversize tubes. Provided this isn't overdone you can have a nice-feeling frame that is both light weight and still reasonably dent-resistant.

Re Ti fork; not that I'm a big fan of Carbon forks per se, but I'd be concerned about using a Ti fork and might prefer an overbuilt CF one in this case. Ti forks tend to be made with lots of welds in the crown area (more possible points for failure, overlapping HAZs etc), and the backside shielding is awkward to do well. Between these all things it is questionable if it is a good idea to start with and it is certainly easy enough for this to be done badly; there have been several instances of multiple failures in Ti forks originating from factories in the far east . In the main frame, if it cracks then it will be annoying but it is unlikely to be super-dangerous. By contrast if a Ti fork crown starts to crack in one of the many weld HAZs, it will progress to failure quite abruptly and this is obviously incredibly dangerous. Add in that your fork might be a one-off design and will see the (far higher) stresses of disc brake use and it doesn't sound like a good recipe to me. Worst case is that you end up trying to sue the (far away, 'limited warranty') manufacturers from the comfort of your hospital bed (or your nearest and dearest are trying to do this whilst you languish in your coffin... :shock: ).

hth

cheers
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531colin
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Re: Chinese titanium frame

Postby 531colin » 15 Dec 2015, 11:57am

I'm 70kg. There may be a disc fork that is reasonably comfortable on tracks with say a 700 x 35 tyre, but the ones I've ridden so far have ranged from trying to shake my hands off the bars to just unacceptable. Try and get some test rides, I would be interested if you can find something that works.
You are a light man looking for a light tourer thats comfortable to ride un-loaded. If you ditch the disc brakes and the low-rider bosses, you can have a light steel fork.
Titanium is about a third less dense than steel, and also less stiff in about the same proportion. Years ago we were looking for a titanium fork to use with cantilever brakes. We weren't offered the option of tapered blades, which may not matter with discs (but straight will be stiffer than taper). Steel inch steerers have thicker walls at the bottom in order to be stiff enough, inch and eighth are plain gauge tube, as far as I know. Inch and eighth titanium steerers in plain gauge were flexy enough to "servo" the front cantilever brake (the steerer flexing where the inner wire is bare from the hanger to the brake). You could possibly get round this by sleeving the bottom of the steerer internally, or by using a tapered steerer but thats outside my experience.
The stiffness of a tube increases hugely with diameter and many diameters of titanium tube are available, so you can tune the stiffness of a frame fairly finely, apart from chain and seat stays where there is a limited range available and limited space between a big tyre and the chainwheel. I don't recall being offered titanium tubes in a variety of wall thickness, from memory it seems to be 0.9mm gauge and a range of diameters that are in fact Imperial (inch) sizes but quoted as metric equivalents. Seat tubes usually seem to be plain gauge tubes sleeved at the top to accommodate a 27.2mm seatpost....I think that derives from the internal diameter of an inch and eighth steel seat tube, after reaming.....
However, if you go looking for a bike with the load-carrying ability of a LHT then it will probably have similar ride characteristics unloaded.....can you say in what way your Trucker is a "pig".....is it bumpy, slow......?
If there is a test bike in the shop it would be worth getting a test ride on a Spa Roughstuff bike.
If you want road STI levers it limits your choices a bit. You can get 700 x 35 tyres under a mini vee brake, or you can use discs. My preference is to forgo the STIs and use full-size Vee brakes and a reasonably compliant fork.

hamster
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Re: Chinese titanium frame

Postby hamster » 15 Dec 2015, 1:32pm

I suspect you are asking too much: fast tourer/adventure/do everything machine capable of on or off road with big tyres and rack/mudguard mounts

Fast tourer would be an Audax bike with 700 x 28c tyres, slightly wider rim, mudguards and space for a light rack for 5kg of stuff. It would be a joy on tarmac. Weight would be 9-10kg. Load it up with big panniers and the frame will flex while the nervous geometry that was a joy unladen makes it feel like it is trying to kill you.

Off road with big tyres and adventure implies camping nights away with 2 days of food and kit to survive whatever the weather can chuck at you. It would be around 15kg of luggage, possible in 4 panniers. That needs stable steering, a tough frame and wider wheels to take the fat tyres. The bike looks to be around 12-13kg+. The LHT fits this bill - but to handle well when laden does indeed mean truck-like handling unladen.

I think you need to clarify your priorities.

PH
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Re: Chinese titanium frame

Postby PH » 15 Dec 2015, 1:43pm

I had a Rohloff hybrid/trekking frame made in China by XCAD around six years ago. I enjoyed the process, doing the research, learning along the way. At the time there was only one frame that came close to ticking my boxes (Van Nick Amazon Rohloff) and that was over twice the price. The favourable exchange rate at the time (Priced in $) meant it was still considerably cheaper than having a custom steel frame built in the UK.
If your manufacturer is anything like XACD you get a final drawing to sign off and you need to be really careful that it’s right. I had several drawing go back ad forth as I made minor changes and didn’t notice that the chainstay bridge position altered when I changed something else. It’s no big deal, but I don’t have the mudguard clearance I’d have liked. For a commercial enterprise this would be the prototype and you’d expect to make a few changes between that and the final version. As a one off, you don’t have that luxury.
Then there’s the issue of warranty. After getting mine I suddenly started seeing lots of stuff on ti frames cracking, I hadn’t seen any before! XCAD offer a warranty but it is at best a bit vague. At the minimum I’d have to pay both ways shipping which for a single item will eat up a fair chunk of the replacement cost. Then the manufacturer would need to agree it was a manufacturing fault, then they might decide to repair or replace and all repairs I’ve seen have been pretty ugly.
I love the way my bike rides, but then I also love the way my two steel bikes ride. I can’t make a direct comparison, there’s so many other differences, though I would be surprised if the same bike in the right steel tubeset would feel much different. Ti has all the other advantages of course, after six years of almost daily use it still looks new and I have no qualms about leaving it outside at work in all weathers.
I’ve been asked if I’d do it again. I wouldn’t say no, but there’d have to be a pretty convincing argument that what I wanted wasn’t already available.

De Sisti
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Re: Chinese titanium frame

Postby De Sisti » 15 Dec 2015, 2:41pm

I've bought 3 frames from xacd. One developed a crack at the bottom of the seat tube (near the bottom bracket), but the other two* have been fine and are still in use 8 years later.

* I did sell one to a friend who's still chuffed with it.

(Don't start with that nonsense about a 33% failure rate of their frames) :wink:

dondelion
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Re: Chinese titanium frame

Postby dondelion » 15 Dec 2015, 7:05pm

I've just come back from a couple of years touring on my Surly LHT and for expedition use in the likes of Mongolia and Tajikistan it was absolutely perfect. For carrying large loads long distances on bad roads I can't think of anything better, especially for a £300 frame. After a couple of rides on my battered vintage steel (ie still not very light) road bike I now find that I want something much zippier than the Surly for long distance road rides, off roading and ultralight tours. Something titanium seems to fit the bill - the frame won't get damaged by our weather, it's light, it's a bit bling and I've not already got a titanium frame. After 2 years in a tent I want to treat myself but unfortunately £1k+ for a titanium frame is too much for me. As PH said, I'm quite enjoying the process of designing my own frame but it might just be the thrill of a possible bargain, as without forks, the frame will be about £600 - the same price as a CroMo adventure frame. Will the titanium be worth it? I've never ridden it...
So far I've looked at steel frames from All City, Salsa, Surly, Soma, Velo Orange and similar. If there is a lightweight, affordable, steel adventure frame that can take big (50mm or so) tyres I might not have seen feel free to suggest it.
I don't see why I can't have almost everything in one frame. It really comes down to tyres and even my skinny road rims can theoretically take up to 44mm tyres if I had the clearance. Just put 28s on for audax, 35s for touring and knobblies off road. A combination of a Trekkertent (700g), 2 season quilt (350g), Tubus Airy (300g) and Arkel Dry Lite panniers (400g) should keep my UK camping weight sub 5kg - my long term expedition setup was about 12kg. Lots of lightweight kit out there so I don't think I need something too beefy.
there have been several instances of multiple failures in Ti forks originating from factories in the far east
- any links for this? Any recommended nice steel fork alternative?
I'm dithering about whether I need actually need discs - again, it might just be because I haven't already got anything with them. If I'm putting together a new bike, might as well be experimental. I'm using Retroshifts and they'll work with v-brakes or discs. My thinking is that discs would be better in the wet and off road.
Without rack and guard mounts the Planet X frame doesn't appeal. It's ugly too! The Spa looks great but it's only available in May - 6 whole months away. And I don't need an entire bike as I already have my trusty Retroshifts from my Surly together with bars, saddle, stem and seatpost. I don't think I will need both the Ti bike and the Surly to be rideable at the same time - if I'm riding my Surly again, it's because I've gone off adventuring!

Thanks everyone for your comments thus far, it's all food for thought.

Brucey
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Re: Chinese titanium frame

Postby Brucey » 15 Dec 2015, 8:16pm

re broken Ti forks;

http://pardo.net/bike/pic/fail-001/FAIL-121.html

will give you a flavour of one episode. I've seen several threads on various forums concerning these broken forks and others, and some of the photos showed clear signs of contamination/backside shield/purge failure. It is the risk/consequence balance that is of concern with forks...

The PX frame is a bit ugly but if you want a lightweight fork on a bike of that kind, it is probably the way to do it. A steel fork that is robust enough for that use is the thick end of 1kg, maybe more. The 'ugly' OS/tapered steerer on the PX is one way of beefing everything up without paying a weight penalty. That being the case there is a 'beauty is as beauty does' argument.

As another poster commented, worth a look at the Spa Ti roughstuff, if the 53cm frame is the right size for you.

Worth commenting also that the frame and fork are only about 1/4 the bare bike's weight and only about 1/8th the laden bike's weight. This being the case the frame is only part of the weight saving equation.

Disc brakes are not ideal weight-wise but if you are going offroad much it is pretty much a choice between them or coated rims, most likely.

The dream of a 'do it all bike' is a compelling one, but striking the right balance between 'stiff/strong enough for the load' and 'resilient enough to be comfy when unladen/ with skinny tyres' is a tricky one.

cheers
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mig
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Re: Chinese titanium frame

Postby mig » 15 Dec 2015, 8:33pm

moots.com will make you one.

irc
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Re: Chinese titanium frame

Postby irc » 15 Dec 2015, 9:47pm

Surly Crosscheck? Big tyre clearance. Intended as a do-it-all capable bike. Must be a much better ride unloaded than the LHT. The frameset is cheap. With light wheels/tyres could be fairly nippy I think.

dondelion
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Re: Chinese titanium frame

Postby dondelion » 15 Dec 2015, 10:14pm

Cross Check is great but...I've got a Surly LHT. And I had a Pacer before. Don't want to be too much of a fanboy! I've just seen the Cotic Escapade in my favourite shade of yellow and it's only £350. It's not really spoiling myself though! But given that I only want to spend up to about £700, I appear to be stuck with either CroMo or risk the imported titanium. Tough decision...

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531colin
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Re: Chinese titanium frame

Postby 531colin » 15 Dec 2015, 11:01pm

Salsa Vaya has a bit of a following on here, eg....http://forum.ctc.org.uk/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=70333
Worth a test ride?

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531colin
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Re: Chinese titanium frame

Postby 531colin » 15 Dec 2015, 11:02pm

irc wrote:Surly Crosscheck? ......... Must be a much better ride unloaded than the LHT............


LHT fork 2.6 pound Crosscheck fork 2.4 pound...http://surlybikes.com/uploads/downloads/Surly_Fork_Info.pdf
LHT frame 5.15 pound for a 58cm http://surlybikes.com/files/SURLYLongHaul.pdf
Crosscheck 4.74 pound for a 58 cm http://www.sheldonbrown.com/harris/surly-specs.html

I know those numbers come from here, there and everywhere, and Surly's quoted weights vary over time http://forum.ctc.org.uk/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=102231&start=15 but the difference is hardly staggering, is it? Its the same material (Cromo) and I bet the tube sizes are pretty similar (I could gauge a couple up, next time I'm in the shop). If theres a bit more lump to the Trucker, then it should be stiffer, so when you press the pedal down, the bike goes forward instead of flexing the frame?

I feel quite sorry for the poor old LHT, its the example that gets dragged out every time somebody thinks about moaning how their tourer doesn't ride like their Sunday best road bike. I bet it all started when some journalist reviewed it and couldn't find anything properly wrong with it.