Seeking advice on titanium frame

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Anonymous's picture

"I am considering getting a custom titanium frame and outfitting it with the Ultegra components on my present bike (reliable aluminum Fuji).

The shift levers and some other things are brand new. Of course I would replace handlebars or whatever needed it according to new fit.

I do not want to spend three thousand dollars or more that it would take to get an all-new bike. I know I want titanium, unpainted.

Charlie McCorkell at Habitat told me they could build the bike for me inexpensively. However, he said it might be better to have the framebuilder do it. He thinks the top tube of my present 49cm frame is one inch too long for me.

Maybe I will wait until the end of the year to do this, maybe until next week.


--What do I need to know in selecting a manufacturer of a custom frame? Any personal recommendations?

--Is there any difference between Merlin, Seven, Serotta, etc.?

--How can I find out about geometries and what effect they have on your riding?

--Do you generally get what you pay for in this stratosphere, or is cheaper sometimes better?

--Should I expect a lifetime warranty on the frame?

--Other considerations?

I will appreciate any and all advice as I am totally ignorant on this subject. Thanks.

P.S. I am also reading through old MB threads on ""titanium,"" so apologies for duplication here."

Anonymous's picture
DC (not verified)

"I would personally recommend a Spectrum or a Serotta. I do not care for Seven's ankle-biter chainstays and ""we are the only true custom"" drivel, but that is me. To my mind T. Kellog and Ben Serotta (or K. Bedford at Serotta) have more experience building frames than NKOTB Rob V at Seven. When Rob was learning his craft at Merlin, the master was none other than Tom K. himself, and Ben had been building frames since Mr. Seven was in diapers. Serotta has a niche for larger riders (the Legend is really one of the only choices, if not the only Ti choice for heavier riders due to tubing choices). The extra tube manipulation required costs money, for sure, so if you do not require a frame that stiff (i.e. you are under 200 lbs), then opt not to pay for it. For example, a Spectrum Ti Super or a Serotta Concours run about the same and are both wonderful bikes that can be tuned to the needs of most folks. Since you have the opportunity, why not visit T. Kellog's barn? You will not be disappointed ..."

Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
Thanks Anthony Donato...

...for another insightful, expertly composed response. I'm ever so obliged for your thoughtfulness.

But don't you have a bike or a wheelset or some free tickets you can give me? I still want us to be friends.

Anonymous's picture
Anthony Donato (not verified)
Here we go again...

But I value my time other than spending it here w/this stupidity and games.
Haven’t used my AOL acct. w/ in weeks and never had a chance to get home last night and use it either.

However, don’t flatter yourself.
But dreams do come true.

Anyway, I’ll let you know if I have free tickets for a Promotional Psychological Evaluation at Bellvue Hospital especially for an avid cyclist like yourself and to the anonymous poster that you replied to (which I think is sad because you think it’s me).


Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
It's an interesting coincidence ...

"...that neither you nor Mr. Hyde can properly conjugate a verb or choose the correct preposition. And that you both suffer from the same tortured syntax.

""Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things; and an evil man, out of the evil treasure, bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, that every idle [unprofitable or pernicious] word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof on a day of judgment. For by thy words thou wilt be acquitted, and by thy words thou wilt be condemned.""--Matt. 12:34-37.


Anonymous's picture
"Chainwheel" (not verified)
What are your expectations?

"""I am considering getting a custom titanium frame and outfitting it with the Ultegra components on my present bike (reliable aluminum Fuji).""
""I know I want titanium, unpainted.""

""Charlie McCorkell at Habitat...thinks the top tube of my present 49cm frame is one inch too long for me.""

""I will appreciate any and all advice as I am totally ignorant on this subject.""

Well, since you asked...

The first question you have to ask yourself is: ""What will this Ti frame do for me that my reliable Fuji won't?""

If you expect it to make you a faster rider, I think you will be disappointed.

If there is something wrong with the fit of your current bike that can't be fixed by tweaking the saddle, stem, and bars, then perhaps a new frame makes sense. Be aware that small (49 cm) frames are prone to ""toe overlap."" That may be the reason for the long top tube on your Fuji. Also be aware that the risk in getting a custom frame is that you can't ride it before you buy it. I remember a woman listing a custom frame for sale on this board because it didn't fit right!

Small frames in particular can be quirky. You may want to consider 650c wheels to get a more ""normal"" geometry.

A Ti frame will not be exceptionally light, and there is nothing magical about its ""ride quality."" Its main advantages are that it doesn't require paint, and it won't rust. See:

As for the effect of geometry, the most important characteristic is trail. Trail will determine how the bike handles (stable, twitchy, etc.). More trail produces more stability. See:

Long chainstays (while not currently in vogue) will provide a more stable and comfortable ride. Clearance for wider tires is another factor that has no downside, and is worth pursuing if you go custom.

""S"" shaped stays and such are strictly marketing gimmicks.


Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
Good question.

"I can't say what my expectations are at this point, though I need to give it some thought.

As for becoming a faster rider, no, that's not one of them. (More to the point here is shedding the insulation acquired over that long, cold winter....)

I don't know how scientific this is, but I tend to ride much faster and more aggressively on my Specialized aluminum single-speed, which has essentially the same frame as the Fuji but none of the encumbrances. Maybe that has more to do with the adrenalin rush of riding in NYC traffic. Such a healthy sport. Of course the distances are much shorter.

At any rate, my present road frame is fine though as I said too long, and I've tweaked the saddle and stem about as much as possible. I'm wondering if small adjustments aren't more significant the shorter you are (I'm 5'4"")--there's less room for error. At some point, my Fuji frame will need to be replaced, at which time I would like to rectify the fit.

As for titanium, I like the durability (and look) of unpainted metal, and am presuming that titanium is not as stiff as aluminum and not as heavy as steel. Will obviously need to test ride some.

I appreciate the words of caution. I will check out the link on trail, and all others on this thread.

Thanks everyone for the pointers!


Anonymous's picture
Ann (not verified)
5'4 isn't that short

"""He thinks the top tube of my present 49cm frame is one inch too long for me.""

""my present road frame is fine though as I said too long""

Really? I'm also 5'4. I have 2 Trek and am test riding a third (5200). I found I ""need"" a 53cm toptube! Granted, everyone's build differently, you may have short upper body. Still, most people thought I'm ""all legs"", can't imagine anyone with even shorter upper than me. :o)

5'4 isn't really that out of the norm, unless you have very unusual portions. Maybe you can test ride a few bikes just to get a ""feel"" for what geometry works better for you before going ""custom""..."

Anonymous's picture
"Chainwheel" (not verified)
Weight and Stiffness

"""[I] am presuming that titanium is not as stiff as aluminum and not as heavy as steel.""

Looking strictly at material properties, Aluminum is the LEAST stiff of the three materials. Steel is the the most stiff. (Just the opposite of common perception.)

What makes one bike stiffer than another is not just the material used, but things like tubing diameter and wall thickness.

Aluminum is the lightest (least dense) of the three materials, but due to it's flexiness, its tubes need to be fatter to provide an acceptable ride. Part of Aluminum's reputation for being harsh may be due to the audible qualities of the fat tubes when ridden on rough roads.

Ti is in the middle as far as both weight and flexibility (compared to steel and aluminum).


Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
Tube diameter

So is a smaller-diameter, thin-walled tube preferable in terms of dampening vibration?

I don't happen to like the looks of the fat tubes. If form is function, I like sleek and skinny better. And what's the reason for the oval tubing?

Last night I test rode a Merlin someone has for sale. Just a few blocks on rutted Riverside Drive, but I could tell immediately that it is much more comfortable than aluminum. That would be an appreciable difference on a hundred-mile ride.

Anonymous's picture
"Chainwheel" (not verified)

"""So is a smaller-diameter, thin-walled tube preferable in terms of dampening vibration?""

Not by much. The standard dual-triangle road frame is very stiff in the vertical direction. The amount of compliance in the frame is miniscule compared to the tires. By far, tire width and pressure make the greatest difference in shock absorption and ride quality.

Frames are much more flexible in the horizontal plane, and that's where fat tubes make a big difference.


Anonymous's picture
Fixer (not verified)

A full 20 oz water bottle weighs about a pound.

Do you feel noticeably faster when your bottle is nearly empty?

Anonymous's picture
Just me (not verified)
Yep! Evenmore so if there's water refill at the top ;o)

On a more serious note, yesterday was a hot day and I carried 2 bottles of water. Yes, the bike was noticably heavier when I pick it up.

A lighter bike doesn't make me go any faster overall. Only on hills do I notice I get to spin a higher gear with the same cadence. If my understanding of how gear works. I believe I get up the hills faster with a lighter bike. I also don't feel as tired afte the climb.

Anonymous's picture
Fixer (not verified)

"Yes, the bike was noticably heavier when I pick it up

No question, it definitely feels heavier when you lift it.

But if an extra pound on your frame made that much of a difference you would've noticed it by now. ""Gee, why is it so easy to pedal now? Oh! My bottle's empty!""

But of course, if you spent three grand on a lighter frame, you'd notice it right away!"

Anonymous's picture
"Chainwheel" (not verified)
Water Effect

"""Do you feel noticeably faster when your bottle is nearly empty?""

Depends on whether or not the water is still with me. ;->

But your point is well taken. Except on VERY hilly rides, a pound isn't gonna make a big difference for mere mortals.


Anonymous's picture
Carol (not verified)

For a small woman, I would highly recommend an Independant Fabrication Ti. Sid's does a terrific job of measuring and fitting - they are especially atuned to fitting women. IF has excellent craftsmanship. I'm extremely pleased with my IF Ti. Very small frame with 650c wheels - no problem with toe overlap. And if you're not racing, the 650c wheels really don't have any negative impact on your riding (except there aren't many people you can borrow a tube from, so you have to carry a couple of spares).

Anonymous's picture
Peter Storey (not verified)
Deal direct if you can . . .

Some custom builders deal directly with customers, interviewing them about their needs, riding style and measuring them in person. Some of them will want to ride with you, observing your position, pedalling style, etc.

Others insist that you go through one of their authorized dealers. Be careful here. If the guy you're dealing with actually knows something about frames, it's basically harmless, and you'll probably have a good experience. But if he doesn't, or if he only understands racing fits, or doesn't understand small frame/women's issues . . . well, you get the idea. Either way, it's hard to see what the intermediary adds that's of benefit to the customer (as opposed to deflecting a lot of questions that the builder would otherwise have to answer himself). And if I found an intermediary who could do a better job of designing the frame than the builder himself, I'd look for another builder.

I know people who have had good luck with IFs through Sid's and with Sevens through Belmont Wheelworks. Still, I think there's something to be said for being measured by the guy who's going to build the frame; if it doesn't fit, there's only one person to blame.

Peter Storey

Anonymous's picture
frank (not verified)

all brand names you have mentioned are ok. frankly, i think the best combination of dealer attention/cost comes with a seven. i am sure others will disagree (some vehemently) but i believe that the dealers i have met for merlin/litespeed leave something to be desired and, while serottas are beautiful bikes, they strike me as overpriced. an interesting option you may wish to consider is a spectrum, esp if you have the inclination/time to go visit mr kellogg to get a personal fitting. other options include independent fabrication or moots. harry havnoonian is also a nearby producer you may wish to touch base with. i chose to go see john at conrad's when i purchased my seven. chacun a son gout or something like that.

Anonymous's picture
Steve W (not verified)
Strong Frames

"Another company that does custom Ti is Strong Frames ( Their prices seem very competitive especially against the better known brands. They also have a variety of shapes for the tubes that they can use in the custom design of ""your"" frame. The downside is that they are in Bozeman, Montana so a visit may not be in the cards.

It is certainly heresay but I have seen good things written about this company. I believe Carl Strong works with most of the clients to ensure that custonm frames meet client needs and expectations.

I have also seen a few examples in the NY area. I asked the riders what they thought of the bike and company and the responses were all favorable.

The research part is almost as much as getting the ride.

Good Luck,


Anonymous's picture
Evan Marks (not verified)
On the other hand... you really need a custom fit or are you just satisfying a desire?

Check out and

Anonymous's picture
David Schlichting (not verified)
Ti Frame

Probably a slightly different application, but the theory is valid: I had Tom Kellog build my Spectrum Ti touring frame a few years ago. He spent plenty of time interviewing me and taking the requiste measurements. Fit is perfect and bike is solid as a rock with panniers on 50mph Alpine descents. Surely the other brands are as well excellent products, but drive out there and get a fitting my an accepted master. For people who ride as much as we do, it's worth it.

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