Friday, May 20, 2011

Tentatively Titanium

As many have figured out by now, I am being loaned a Seven roadbike as part of a sponsorship deal with the Ride Studio Cafe in Lexington, MA. I will have it for a little while, and it is the bike on which I will attempt future paceline training rides - if it ever stops raining long enough for them to resume!

My acquaintance with this bicycle goes back to last Autumn, when I first discovered the Ride Studio Cafe and the Seven demo models that dwelt within its space.

I half-joked with the owner then, that I would like to test ride one: Some of my friends in Europe are big fans and they were excited to learn that I lived in such close proximity to Seven Cycles. He was on board with the idea, and eventually the test ride took place. That was two weeks ago, and I intended to post a test ride report earlier. But now that I have the bike for longer, I will wait to write a proper review until after I return it - in the meantime offering some initial thoughts. 

Seven Cycles are built in Watertown, MA - which is 5 miles from where I live. And it seems like every local bicycle mechanic and framebuilder I know has either worked for them or has some sort of connection with them, and almost certainly owns at least one of their bikes. This creates a weird discrepancy: Knowing so many people who own them, I cannot help but think of Seven bikes as commonplace. But then I also keep hearing oohs and aahs from non-locals about how expensive and precious they are. 

The model I rode is the Axiom S: titanium frame with carbon fiber fork, fitted with the Campagnolo Chorus component group, Mavic racing wheels and 23mm tires. More than a little intimidated by the set-up, I expected the bicycle to ride like my idea of a racing bike: stiff, harsh, aggressive. In fact, I half expected not to be able to ride it at all, not to feel comfortable with the handling. But the handling was easy, and the ride quality was not what I expected.

I don't know how to describe the Seven without a reference point. Ideally, I would like to have something to compare it to other than lugged steel and a couple of very brief aluminum and carbon fiber experiences. But speaking from my current, limited viewpoint, I can only describe the sensation as "extreme road dampening" - to the point of not being able to feel the ground. This is a different feeling from the way fat tires roll over potholes, or a flexible steel frame dampens shock. This is something else, and it feels weird. It's like the ground isn't there. I see the bump. I see my 23mm front tire start going over the bump. But I don't feel it. Throughout this, the frame and fork are very stiff - there is hardy any flex at all. Having thought that flexible frames dampened shock and stiff frames translate into harsh rides, I am a little confused.

Furthermore - and this is even harder to put into words - it is as if I can't feel the bike while I am riding it. I feel the cranks being turned by my legs, I feel the handlebars at the points where I am holding them, and I feel my butt on the saddle... but the frame feels almost absent. 

The combination of these sensations leaves me with a disembodied feeling - as if I am floating above the road instead of making contact with it. Is that a good thing? 
  
With its sleek titanium surface, curved stays and ethereal ride quality, the Seven to me is like some alien machine rather than a bike. I've gone on four rides on it so far, and I feel comfortable with its precise, stable and distinctly non-twitchy handling. But the "floaty" feeling puzzles me.

It's been raining here non stop for over a week, yet I've been stubbornly cycling. Covered in a layer of crud after such rides, the Seven seems more down to earth and I find myself welcoming that. When clean, the titanium has an almost clinical quality that intimidates me, but the dirt makes it warmer and less machine-like. Maybe it is a bike after all.

Hopefully the rain will soon stop, so that I can practice some hills and see how the Seven really compares to my other bikes. I am sure it will be faster, but will it feel safe? The fact that I am comfortable riding it in the rain is a good sign, but I'd like to learn more about its handling, especially on descents. And I would love to know how a bicycle this stiff and aggressive can produce such an extreme road dampening effect. 

What are your thoughts on titanium frames? 

79 comments:

  1. I know what you mean. I borrowed a carbon bike and it had a dead, but comfortable ride. At the time, I rode a big tubed aluminum bike which was rigid and much more harsh.

    I must say I liked the carbon frame, but there was something about it that didn't seem permanent. I think this comes from my experience with sports equipment like skis, golf clubs, and tennis racquets having a definable life.

    They say a pair of composite skis are good for 30 to 45 days before the fibers lose their structural integrity from flexing all the time, same type of thing thing for club shafts and racquet frames. That's one of the reasons why people are always buying new gear each year. A look at the classifieds in Roadbikereview.com shows a lot of carbon stuff for sale only a few years old.

    So thats my take on the fork. Where this fits in with titanium, I don't know, except Ti's supposed to have the same properties as aluminum with a more supple ride. Each of these is a man made element unlike steel, a product of iron ore. Titanium, like aluminum, should last longer than carbon.

    Today, I ride lugged steel, a Sam Hillbourne like you. It has that light and lively feel I remember from bikes I owned a generation ago. The fact that it imparts a sense of permanence unlike carbon is important to me. It is an heirloom bike, carbon is not. Titanium is somewhere in between, I think

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  2. Just as with any other material, geometry, manipulation of the tubing and quality of construction determines how it rides. Generally, I've found Ti to be much "springier" than steel frames, which gives it great vibration-damping qualities, but with the tradeoff of sometimes being too flexy for big riders (some models to the point where the rear brake rubs under heavy pedaling).
    I have ridden "Clydesdale-friendly" Ti bikes, but they tend to feature some oddly shaped and often cartoonishly-oversized frame tubes, which add to that "alien spacecraft" look, as well as being extremely expensive.
    On the up side of Ti, it's light and extremely durable, with a tendency to bounce back from crashes and even survive a run-in with a car (fortunately in that case, so did the rider!).

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  3. I haven't test ridden an Axiom, but having test ridden bikes with carbon forks and curved stays, my experiences were somewhat similar ... And there is a word for what you're describing, the word is 'suspension'. ;)

    But, seriously, think about it ... suspension isn't just what you get from pneumatic cushion, it's any design feature that separates us from the road, and carbon fiber is very good at delivering that sort road dampening effect. It's like you're pedaling a car.

    Personally, it's not my ideal, but this sort of thing is very much an individual preference, especially for distance riders. Some people like being able to feel the road; others find road buzz a distraction.

    It is kind of amazing how many good bike builders have come out of Massachusetts and how deeply rooted the industry is here. Portland can have Vanilla and the Bay Area can have Rivendell, but I'll take a city where it's easy to trip over Sevens, IF's, ANT's and the occasional ancient Fat City.

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  4. In your last photo, the saddle looks like it's just hovering way out over the rear wheel. Am I seeing this right? Maybe this is why you have the floaty, disembodied sensation?

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  5. Well now you've gone and done it, Velouria. Just when I've finished building and started enjoying my Rivendell, you've got me curious to ride my Ti bike again to see if I get the floaty feeling you describe. Alas, I don't have enough parts (or time) to do that. It's fine, I'm keeping the frame and I may build it back up eventually. I don't think that I would feel exactly what you are describing. My frame is an older Performance (Chinese) titanium, so not as sophisticated as your Seven. It's also smaller (50), so may feel a bit more harsh. But I was never uncomfortable on that bike in the sense of feeling too much of the road; I did feel it. What I noticed about the Riv was how smooth it felt. I attributed most of this to the tires, Nifty Swiftys, at about 33mm. I had mounted cheap 28mm tires on the Ti frame, and I doubt that they contributed to the ride at all. Anyway, I don't consider that I have nearly the sensitivity that you do in discerning the different aspects of a bicycle's ride. I'm glad that you're enjoying the Seven and I'm sure that the paceline will be a much better experience with it! Steve in MD

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  6. It's great that you are giving a racing bike an honest look, especially since it's quite different from your norm. A Seven is a bike that people, including myself, love to hate on as a sign of conspicuous consumption. Though that says nothing of the bike's merits. I am eager to read more of your thoughts on the bike long term.

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  7. Of course I've heard all the talk of ti frames, but to be honest, I don't think I've touched a piece of ti since I worked on jet engines 35 years ago. Surely a rare and valuable thing, a ti frame, enjoy it, and I'm looking forward to the write-up.

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  8. The ride quality of titanium is legendary, but often people who try riding a frame made of Columbus XCR steel find it even silkier still. There is a company here in the UK that makes lovely fast road bikes out of both metals and they tell me that a lot of people who come in very definitely wanting the exotica of titanium, go for a test spin on one of their XCR frames and come back ten mines later and change their minds on the spot.

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  9. I'm sorta jealous. That bike is such a fine thing. I tend to keep my bikes a long time and I typically resist spending much(relatively) building them, lots of last years hot parts on closeout, take offs from the cat one guys etc. etc. But bikes like this make me want to sell half of what I own and just place an order. I'm still going to be riding it in 20 years so it's a bargain, right?

    That comfy disconnected feeling you describe might be from finding yourself on a bike that really suits you in a rare way. Or it might be your new helmet straps are way too tight...

    I've had lots of nice steel bikes, owned and raced a few Cannondales and other aluminum bikes and have ridden a few mid to higher grade carbon bikes pretty hard and there's something to really like about them all. But I prefer steel bikes and the best steel bikes seem to be Titanium if you understand what I'm trying to say. They ride nice and lively, they don't sound like Tupperware, they can be as stiff as you want them to be and they last forever. I'm way past the point of being able to use the extra performance you can squeeze out of a bike that is 7 ounces lighter(really, I probably never could). Bikes like Sevens of IFs just check all my boxes and make me pant. If you only need a few really special things to get through life in a satisfying way It's nice to know where to find them. For me it seems like I'm eventually going to have to wander up to Boston and get a new bike.

    Spindizzy

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  10. By the way, if you'd like to introduce some road sensation into the ride I'd like to suggest a Brooks B17 in solid Maple. That should do it...

    Spindizzy

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  11. I've never owned, ridden, or even touched a titanium bicycle. But that bike is making me want to.

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  12. I love the panda-ish shot you took of yourself. You look so surprised!

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  13. Having ridden bicycles made from a few different materials I would guess that the ride qualities you are describing are more a result of frame design than frame material. Probably a good dose of tire pressure and wheels as well.

    Do you have an opportunity to review a smaller frame? This bike frame looks way too large. You're not going to experience the intended ride qualities of the frame if the sizing is as off as it is with this frame.

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  14. Amy - That's the nose of the saddle : )

    The saddle is the one thing that starts to feel uncomfortable about the bike after 10-15 miles or so. The edges are very sharp and start to cut into my butt. I will be replacing it with one of my own saddles as soon as the pouring rain stops.

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  15. To me Ti feels like a very viscous liquid, alu like a shot of gin, steel in between. They damp vibrations differently.

    It also takes a smidge more windup than cromo or alu, but returns energy in spades when designed properly.

    “Throughout this, the frame and fork are very stiff - there is hardy any flex at all.” There’s flex in the right places, stiff in the others. The fork is flexing a lot, also in the right places.

    Going to what Roff said, recognizing the “slow” feeling of Ti the shop put on Ksyriums, a notoriously rigid wheel, to give the bike a more lively feel. It’s a pretty common practice, really.

    Coincidentally the Zoncolan is an epic climb featured in tomorrow’s Giro stage.
    While I don’t hate on Sevens because of their pricing, my issue with them is the way they design for middle-of-the-road tastes. They can build a very good race bike but insist on leaving that tech in that category with no trickle down to lower lines. Consequently they feel a bit lifeless to me. Seven is somewhat successful though because of this forumula.

    Cris – Riv is in my back yard but I don't consider them a local builder, but a local shop. We have a lot of good builders like Sycip, Soulcraft, Rock Lobster, Retrotec, Potts, etc. but I went with an IF just because.

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  16. Anonymous said...
    "Having ridden bicycles made from a few different materials I would guess that the ride qualities you are describing are more a result of frame design than frame material. Probably a good dose of tire pressure and wheels as well."


    Can't comment on the first sentence, except that I cannot imagine steel feeling like this. Maybe I am wrong and need to try something like Reynolds 853, but I find it hard to imagine. But it is definitely not the wheels or tires. The tires are pumped to the max and these particular wheels are actually making the ride harsher than it would otherwise be.

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  17. The max recommended tire pressure is too much for your weight. A lower pressure for better corner traction and control. It'll feel really slow but you won't be. I'm thinking 85-90.

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  18. "Do you have an opportunity to review a smaller frame? This bike frame looks way too large. You're not going to experience the intended ride qualities of the frame if the sizing is as off as it is with this frame."

    The frame is a demo model and as such is not really in anybody's size. The seat tube is about 2cm too big for me, but the top tube length is just about perfect. So we thought this bike was a better fit than a bike with the opposite problem. The saddle shoved so far down doesn't look good, but the fit is spot on once I'm riding the bike.

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  19. having both, a sturdy rivbike-ish and a lightweight ti bike i guess the hovering sensation's coming from the different inertia. you can throw around the light bike between your legs like nothing while the heavier bike (with bag, lock, ...) just doesn't want to.

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  20. GR Jim - You really think I could have the pressure that low? Hmm. Oh, and I thought you got the IF when you lived on the East Coast? I am curious what exactly was the "just because." They are common as dirt around here too, just like Sevens : )

    Roff - Columbus XCR is the stainless stuff? I think Rainbow Bike was made of equivalent tubing. But it was different from the ti - definitely more flex. Though I understand titanium bikes can be made both flexible and non-flexible. Too many factors in all of this!

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  21. East Coast? Where's that? I lived in PA as a little kid, put my order with Chris Chance then, we were 12...no. I did live in PA for awhile, tho.

    I'm a transplanted Midwesterner in Cali.


    Before I got it I rode everything rideable: Looks, Sevens Serottas, Specialized, crappy CF, lightweight steel. Maybe 35 bikes in all. Basically I wanted to buy a road bike and be done with it. IF was on the verge of bankruptcy, so Matt Bracken and Joe Ingram sweated blood to grown their dealer network, including here.
    The biggest problem with custom is you really don’t know what you’re going to get. With the ability to ride a few IFs I found a bike that spoke to me. The custom for me is big because I have a weird body.
    Ok, a few snafus later I received a super bike. If I were living with one of the earlier errors I’d be less happy now. The tubing diameters were upped and it’s now a rocket.
    “Common as dirt” – IFs may be common but each one rides differently but with a signature specialness. Either a rider feels it or doesn’t. Sevens may be commonplace but so is the ride of anything short of an Elium, which goes fast but doesn’t have a ride you go: I could ride this until my dying day.
    IFs historical philosophy is very different from Sevens: they’ve primarily been a race bike tech-driven company. Seven has been a nice bike-selling company. The reality now is they’re closer, but IF is still close to the very top in how to build a fast, pleasurable, lightweight ride. There's a new company that might be taking over though.

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  22. Forgot, tire pressure. I have wide rims but my pressures for a standard rim were 95 front, 100 rear. I'm anywhere between 155 to 170+lbs.

    Tire pressure is personal preference, so how hard a person corners and what degree of "squishiness" varies to confidence level. I'm guessing you're about 130ish, so would just start at 95/100 and see how that feels. Ride it for a week or so. Lower pressure 2-3 psi every week until you find it's too low, then go back up. Finding your sweet spot a fun journey.

    With my wide rims I'm running 85/90 on the fast bike, which is feels great.

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  23. Columbus XCR is stainless and similar to Reynolds 953. I prefer it, myself to Reynolds. the finish is nicer, for one thing, even in un-built tube sets, right out of the wrapper. XCR gives a fantastic ride, better than Ti in my opinion and in the opinion of a good few others I know - many with far more experience that me in comparing the two. (I am an aficionado of lugged steel, my bikes being made of Columbus Spirit tubing - roughly the same as Reynolds 853.

    Although I very much like XCR - and since September last year it has been possible to get XCR tube sets for lugged frames, thanks to lobbying by Dario Pegoretti - because i prefer the aesthetics of the old style narrower tubes, I have opted for Spirit on the hand-built tourer I am having made.

    Rigidity is also a factor of tubing diameter, you see, not just material. And in the case of the narrower tubed, classic style tourers I like I would not have been getting the full benefit of XCR - just bragging rights and a bigger bill.

    There are indeed lots of factors to consider

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  24. In my Mtn.bike racing days a number of folks at the shop had Merlins and they were sweet! Price mostly kept me away, but I will break down one of these days??? A properly constructed Ti frame should be stiff in the laterally in the rear triangle so that it does not flex too much when sprinting or climbing out of the saddle, but can be more vertically complient! It's best quality is not the smoothness, but more the springyness that others have noted! Unlike an aluminum frame that transmits almost all you energy to the ground, a Ti frame wil "load up" and release the energy as it flex's! In most frames this flexyness would be bad, but in a Ti frame it's GOOD (or can be). The prospect of a Ti frame leaves me a little torn, First there is the price, but more over, what do you do once you have one; they don't rust & are darn near indestructable! SO for someone like you or I who are constantly shopping and up grading, there's not really anywhere to go, once you get a Ti frame, You're done!! Lastly the Ti look although nice I am sure might get old after a while!??

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  25. re: XCR. I read Roff's comment backwards. When deciding between Ti and Reynolds 953 stainless, then not yet on the market, IF described the Reynolds as being firmer and like a really nice steel ride.

    XCR came out later so I assumed it built up firmer than Ti like the 953, but from what you and Roff say it's the opposite.

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  26. I would also agree with Ground Round Jim as regards tyre pressure. I am about the same size as him - about 165-170lbs and I find that 95 front/100 rear is plenty. I believe Greg Lemond used to race at similar tyre pressure. And anything over 110psi on the road is simply counterproductive.

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  27. stevep33 said...
    "...A Seven is a bike that people, including myself, love to hate on as a sign of conspicuous consumption. "


    This is what I was trying to get at in (the 4th paragraph of) the post. It's hard for me to think of Sevens that way, because I know local bike enthusiasts earning just over minimum wage who've got one. Or two. It's a local company with very strong community ties; everyone knows the great framebuilders who work there and wants to support them. To me, a $3K+ Trek Madone or other overpriced mass-produced bike is a sign of conspicuous consumption. A fine bike built locally by people I know? Nope, sorry. I would be happy to give them my money, should I ever be in a position to.

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  28. A mention each of Dario and LeMond - this is turning into a guy place to hang out.

    Both are gods, of course.

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  29. I totally agree with Velouria as regards the conspicuous consumption aspects of buying one of the high-end Treks etc, but buying a fine hand-made bike built by artisans in your own community is an altogether different proposition. I am in the happy position of being able to do just that, my builder living only 15 miles away from me along the Sussex coast, and I was more than pleased to fork over my money.

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  30. Speaking of consumption - how much are those anyway?
    I figure somewhere between $3000 and $10,000, but I would like to know where. Much less than a porsche, or civic, or course.

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  31. If you are the type who could be happy with one (road bike for example) it could be the last road bike you buy, so altough initial cash outlay is high, you should never really need to upgrade. Kind of a pay me now or pay me later senario.

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  32. BTW Van Nicholas sells titanium frames for a little over $1K American. This is better, I think, than anywhere else (even including shipping + customs. I connect to their site www.vannicholas.com every so often to drool and dream.

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  33. dweendaddy - The retail for the Axiom S model with custom geometry & spec is $2,695 for the frame. Steel frames start at $2,095.

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  34. Jon Webb - Thanks, never heard of them before (though I don't see any road frames for under 1KEur, which is $1400). There is also Eriksen titanium and I'm sure there are others. But I wouldn't assume that they all ride the same or even similar, with it being just a matter of money. It would be nice to compare of course!

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  35. "Amy - That's the nose of the saddle : )"

    LOL, wow, yeah, I guess I wasn't fully awake when I was looking at that this morning! :)

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  36. http://www.michelinbicycletire.com/michelinbicycle/index.cfm?event=airpressure.view

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  37. You are right, they are closer to $1400 US. Stupid exchange rate. Still seems cheap. Maybe if the Euro crashes...
    They describe a ride similar to what you experienced.

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  38. masmojo - I would be happy with three: one touring bike, one fixed gear roadbike, and one racy geared roadbike. If I were to ever get a Seven, it would be for the latter category and I'm indeed pretty sure that I would not need another... unless the carbon fork snaps : )

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  39. The only experience I've had with non-steel was our aluminum Dahon. When it developed a crack in the headtube weld, we never saw it and then one day it split apart violently when my son rode over a pot hole, sending him crashing and skinning up the palm of his hand pretty badly.

    Riding the Dahon was very comfortable, but now I'm pretty weary of anything that isn't steel and isn't lugged. Logically I know there are many good metals out there and most welds are great, but I just have a hard time trusting other stuff. Reynolds is where it's at for me now.

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  40. Rona - I've heard the same story about Dahons from at least 2 other people, which is why I don't touch them. But I think this has more to do with quality of construction than the materials used. Lugged steel bikes do fail at the joints.

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  41. Yeah.. I've seen some examples of lugs giving out in photos on the internet, but I've yet to experience it myself. It's just now I have the creeps and it's horribly illogical and irrational and I know it...lol. I'll certainly never buying another Dahon again!

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  42. oh, speaking of carbon failure ... I know that there's a vigorous debate about the fragility of carbon, especially 'modern, well-engineered carbon' versus 'early, still-figuring-it-out carbon' ... but this past weekend, I was at Hanscom, waiting for riders to come in to the finish. It was probably around 11 or so, at night ... my friend Bruce had just bid us farewell and was riding his Cannondale T400 (aluminum, btw) back to his home and as I watched him vanish into the night, I could see a glint of reflected light off a metal rim and I realized that somebody was walking down the road ... carrying a bike.

    I jogged up to this fellow and saw the bike in his arms, swinging at an unnatural angle and then realized that the headtube had completely separated from his downtube and top tubes. It was a Ti\Carbon Serotta Ottrott. He was making a left onto Hanscom Dr from Virginia Road and missed seeing the median in the darkness. Hit the concrete head on and went over his handlebars. When he got up, he didn't have any injuries but the carbon down and top tube had fractured. He finished. Proudly, and on his own power. But it looked like he was cradling a dead pet.

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  43. Self portrait? Cheeky.

    Riding carbon fiber forked bicycles and unobstructed photos of your face. What's going on?

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  44. Cris - That sounds horrible, I am glad he wasn't hurt.

    The CF fork on the Seven scares me; I've been reading too much Lauterbrunnental Leaflet literature for it not too. On my initial test ride I half expected it to crack spontaneously and impale me within the first 30 minutes. Ti Sevens are available with steel forks instead of carbon, so that's one way to go.

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  45. Really, Dahon? Are you referring to the folders? I always thought they were a decent quality bike for the money. I rode a used 2007 muP8 all over England/Ireland and even took it on some short tours without a hitch. But then again, I only had it for a year and the previous owner didn't ride it much...

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  46. I would always prefer a steel fork if given a choice, and if I do break down and buy a real custom I'm going to make sure I have that choice. It's partly because of the failure issue(it's rare but occurs more often than steel fork failure) and because I just don't dig on the appearance of carbon forks. If I'm going to spend that much on a bike I'm going to ride for years and years, I'm not going to pay to look at that.

    Spindizzy

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  47. MFarrington - google "dahon cracked frame"

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  48. Here are some good thoughts and a nifty calculator for tire pressure. Based on an article in Bicycle Quarterly.

    Fun little calculator that lets you play around with the values.

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  49. I'm confident in my CF fork because it has a good rep and I know its provenance - no crashes, handled with kid gloves.

    When the time comes to put it out to pasture I'll replace it with either a new, EU-standard carbon or lightweight steel.

    GP's scare tactics aside, I'm wary of your Seven's fork, used as it is, perhaps heavily.

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  50. Nerd rant:

    There's some overlap between Ti and Steel, but as a general rule, Ti is less rigid than steel in the same applications.

    Ti can be hardened into an alloy, but it becomes brittle, so it's often only used as a coating. Strangely enough, steel can be hardened even more than Ti, and remain tougher, which is why there are so few solid Ti knives and tools. Ti ball bearings for instance, would wear out much more quickly than steel, for little to no performance advantage under normal circumstances.

    But one big advantage is Ti's highly inert qualities. It's like having super quality stainless steel. Stainless steel is somewhat weak and heavy, so you don't see it used often in structures like bikes. But Ti manages to be even more inert than stainless steel, while approaching some of the toughness of carbon steels. It'll probably outlast you by more than a lifetime if you don't abuse it. Ti just doesn’t seem to age.

    Aluminum is notoriously brittle. Just like flexing a soda can pop top back and forth, it breaks easily if it is flexed enough times. Even a small flex, given enough time will cause failure. It’s why planes have very strict service lives for parts. That's also why good aluminum frames are built extra stiff to reduce flex to the absolute minimum to extend service life. Why people describe aluminum frames as stiff--it's not so much the material, but an intentional design choice.

    Carbon fiber just scares me for use as a structural material. It's too soft to take abuse. A fall or two that leaves a nice gash can create a stress riser which will lead to premature and sudden failure. Worse, it's usually made to just a minimum of strength to save weight on the racy parts it's often designed for. You rarely see overbuilt carbon parts (because it’s not much better than cheaper aluminum parts at that point).

    It's fine if you continuously and carefully inspect your bike, in addition to replacing it at regular intervals, but I personally think that's ridiculous for anyone not in the top leagues of racing.

    It is with some irony that the most important parts on a bike for safety that tend to take a lot of abuse and scratches: handles, seat posts, forks+steering tube, wheels, are often the first parts that get the carbon fiber treatment. I value my teeth and butt very much, and do not trust them to carbon components for my personal bike. Others feel differently of course.

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  51. V - you seem to be liking this paceline. Perhaps you will become the Jackie Phelan of this generation. Pacelines never bothered me, but certain other sports did (kick boxing tournaments come to mind), so I understand your apprehension and applaud you for facing it down.

    On frame materials, I have not experienced Ti. I like the dull silver finish. Large tubed aluminum I have lived with and not liked at all. Big tubes, big welds. No thanks.

    I look forward to reading your report on this bike.

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  52. Peppy (the just ship them to me instead cat)May 20, 2011 at 6:38 PM

    Yeah, but you can probably google anything cracked frame.

    The head/down tube joint is a stressed area of the frame, I think. Not sure what goes on with folders, but I imagine it's high stress there, too.

    The advantage to steel is that it often bends slowly over a few seconds so your bike bottoms out and you stop thinking "what the?" instead of explode all over the pavement. But I think even steel can break in an unfortunate way. Riding bikes is just dangerous, I advise against it.

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  53. Not really, Peppy. Google "brompton cracked frame" and then compare the results to "dahon cracked frame"

    arevee - It's more like I am curious to know whether it really will be easier on a light roadbike. It's possible that I just generally suck at roadcycling, whether on a Seven or on a Rivendell!

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  54. OH MAN, I hate to agree with "Peppy the Amazing Mouse Fondling Cat" but one of steels many gifts to those of us that ride other peoples half used up junk is that it doesn't just throw up it's hands and fly to pieces when it dies.

    It will do amazing things while going down for the last time. Like the cowboys in the movies who still manage to pull the unconscious heroine out of the burning barn with thirteen arrows sticking out of their neck, steel just prefers to drag it out. Aluminum just falls down with an astonished look like a Frat-boy in a Motel shooting. Carbon has the reputation of being a strung out speed addict just waiting to throw itself in front of a bus. I'm not sure it deserves that reputation but I'm not going to spend any money to experiment.

    It feels good to just make these blanket statements without any kind of proof or experience to back it up. Sort of makes me feel like a bigshot. I cant wait till someone starts a discussion about whats wrong with triathlon bikes!

    Spindizzy

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  55. "And I would love to know how a bicycle this stiff and aggressive can produce such an extreme road dampening effect."

    Why?

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  56. Peppy (the Olympics committee can you hear me cat)May 20, 2011 at 10:37 PM

    I think triathlon would be a lot more fun (to watch) if they (like in biathlon) had to run with the bike strapped to their backs, then bike on it, then--without changing clothes--strap it back to their backs and swim. Oh, that's right. Swimming would be last.

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  57. Excessive tire pressure > loss of traction,both cornering and braking, flats,rapid wear, reduced comfort. It's even slower because you bounce and skitter too much.
    Wide tires are much less sensitive to pressure. Close enough is fine for big rubber.
    If it's only 23mm it needs tune.
    And check the width, stated size may not be actual size. All the advice in the thread is wrong if your 23 is really 21.5.
    Finally, your pressure gauge may not match my pressure gauge. Test and decide for yourself. Racing gear is more technical than what you've been riding. It's more work. It may sound you're being nitpicked, this stuff is real, everyone who rides race gear sweats all these details.

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  58. "It may sound you're being nitpicked, this stuff is real, everyone who rides race gear sweats all these details."

    Not at all. I appreciate the advice; I know nothing about this stuff.

    My reasoning for opting to err on the higher pressure side was fear of pinch flats. But I also fear loss of traction, so now I am motivated to lower the pressure. This is high maintenance!

    GR Jim - Because I thought those two things were incompatible.

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  59. No. Body. Checks the width of their tires w/a caliper to determine variance from norm to adjust tire pressure at any level unless they're ADHD. If they are, they're not winning races.

    Points about tire pressure gauge calibration are valid.

    The marriage of incompatibilities into something outstanding is a trade secret and differentiates the builders. You're asking for the golden key.

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  60. Yo Peppy(the insufferable antifreeze sipping cat), It would be even cooler if, like in biathlon, the bikes were also RIFLES!! And not just wimpy 22rimfires either. I'd like to see something manly like a 460 Weatherby built into the toptube. Like, BANG, dude...

    I wonder if you could get the USCF and the NRA to codify some rules.

    Spindizzy

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  61. @Velouria - I recently read an older interview with Jackie Phelan and she mentioned causing a number of paceline pile ups. Road bike attitude was one reason she crossed over to Mountain Biking. As you may know, re-learning childhood skills is a lot easier than trying to learn something from scratch as an adult. The aforementioned kick boxing and piano lessons come to mind as recent examples of adult vs. childhood learning. There is not a metronome in existance that can tick-tock as slowly as I need to play properly - and I've been working on this for 5 years! Luckily, bicycling was a childhood learning, so it is second nature to me now.

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  62. arevee--you could google for metronome. I needed it for something and there are online flash/java applets that can beat as fast/slowly as you like.

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  63. Re: the whole Dahon cracked frame thing: When not in use and stored at home, I keep my Dahon u-locked (I control the keys)to keep the kids off. Same goes for my Hooligan 8. These small bikes are tempting bikes for the kids, especially for my son given the "be like Dad" thing. I bought him a sturdy BMX bike and am teaching him to ride it and wrench it. (I hope he outgrows it)

    It's not clear to me that misusing a bike is the bike's fault or the fault of the manufacturer, especially given that manufacturers make plain and obvious in documentation: don't misuse this bike. They have every incentive to make this plain and obvious, correct?

    Further, it's not clear to me that mindless Google searches such as comparing Dahon to Brompton in terms of frame failure are valid...there are too many intervening factors, perhaps? Could it be? Is Google too easy?

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  64. Spindizzy, I wonder how fast you'd need to be riding in order for the recoil to not knock you off the bike. Assuming the rules allowed firing at your competitors to front. Maybe BQ could do some research.

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  65. @MDI - I was sort of joking about the metronome. My point is that I have found later life learnings don't come as easily - though it is recommended that we keep doing them to keep our minds as sharp as they can be. Perhaps I should take up sewing next . . . and that is not a joke.

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  66. Anon 1:30 - Google is easier than personal introductions to those I know with cracked Dahon frames. Sure, there are many factors. But you will find entire threads with multiple owners describing Dahon failures, and you will not find the same for Brompton or, say, Bike Friday. Having said that, I know many happy Dahon owners with no frame problems to speak of. Here's a nice write-up from an acquaintance of mine who went on a 320 mile multi-day tour on hers.

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  67. What a beautiful bike. I request Seven's new catalog each year just so I can flip through the pages and dream. I've never ridden a titanium bike, but there's something so sleek and elemental about that unpainted frame. Really a thing of beauty.

    Thanks for the post!

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  68. Velouria 7:15 writes:

    "Google is easier..."

    And therein lies a big part of the problem (and the problem is not limited to bikey things, of course--how could it be?)

    We can play Google all night long and get exactly nowhere.

    Cheers?

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  69. Jason - I agree about the unpainted titanium frames. It took me a while to process that this is it, the frame - no clear coating, nothing. The finish is matte/satin and oddly soft to the touch. Pretty interesting as far as materials go.

    Anon - Depends how we play. Google, as a synonym for online research, is not a dirty word. It is simply a way to access a multitude of sources - some legitimate, others not. The same can be said of any type of research, including collections of hearsay accounts of frame failures. Cheers : )

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  70. Velouria 8:50

    Nope, I'm not giving out my expensive (though the employer pays for it) Lexis username and password. ;)

    Anecdote: I tried to ride my Dahon Mariner from Bermuda to Azores. I didn't get very far. I almost drowned. Bike's fault.

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  71. Spindizzy said...
    "I would always prefer a steel fork if given a choice, and if I do break down and buy a real custom I'm going to make sure I have that choice. It's partly because of the failure issue(it's rare but occurs more often than steel fork failure) and because I just don't dig on the appearance of carbon forks."


    They do give that choice, and the steel fork even reduces the price of course. But: First off, it's an ugly steel fork. Unicrown and clunky looking. I don't like. Second, the CF fork supposedly contributes to the ride quality. it's a proprietary Seven fork and their reputation for durability is excellent. If I were getting this particular bike, I think I'd stick with the fork as well. It feels good and I don't want my aesthetic biases to interfere with that.

    Ground Round Jim said...
    "I'm wary of your Seven's fork, used as it is, perhaps heavily."


    I've thought about that too, but decided to risk it. I ride carefully and it's only for a few weeks. Meanwhile I've examined it as thoroughly as I could, but of course that's no guarantee.

    BTW: Is it typical to prophylactically replace carbon forks after every year or two on bikes that have them? I've heard that, but it must get expensive.

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  72. And people comment about your funny syntax.

    If a guy can get a new frame/fork every year at a discount and has a good job in the race scene, he may do it. If not, he may ride it out. Chances are if he's racing a heavy schedule he'll be crashed out at some point then everything's up in the air.

    Me? No way. Racing days are over. As I said earlier, provenance and rep is key. I looked on the Seven site and there's basically no substantive info on the fork except for its price. If there's a deep anecdotal knowledge pool about it in Boston then I'd go with the consensus. You seem to be very cautious; I really doubt you're going to tax it severely enough for it to fail. I'd bang it around gently in various ways and listen/feel for anything that sounds off. Get off the bike, roll it very gently into a curb. Pick up the front wheel and gently bang it on the pavement. Hold the front brake so it's locked, rock the bike back and forth. You're trying to hear a higher-pitched sound or feel a slight, abrupt give. Use a good light and look for texture aberrations, also use your finger to feel for them.

    Axioms seem slightly overbuilt vs. pure race standards, so their "consumer-friendly" take on things could apply to their fork design, I dunno.

    Today, being rapture, was throw down day for the hipsters so they decided to chase the guy in lycra soft pedaling with his wife. The world didn't end, fun times.

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  73. For those of you who are drooling over the bike, I just saw a Seven Axiom SL 56-58cm on Cincinnati C-List. I don't know enough to know if the price is good, but who knows- it could be a good opportunity for one of you. http://cincinnati.craigslist.org/bik/2393006710.html

    Hope we get to hear about another paceline, soon, Velouria!

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  74. just try Matt Chester custom Ti bike

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  75. For Van Nicholas frames on a super sale, check here - http://www.on-one.co.uk/i/q/FRVAPIRH/van-nicholas-pioneer-rohloff-frame

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  76. I think you need a frame that fits...

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  77. Hello, Velouria,

    I just happened upon your blog. Your lyrical, elegant prose with its 19th Century rhythms is reason enough to check and see what you're writing about from time to time.

    I've been racing and riding titanium bicycles for a number of years, and currently own three Van Nicholas machines, along with a Ti tandem. I've also had a handful of Litespeeds, Sevens and Moots.

    Titanium is pretty much an ideal material for bicycles--the ride is unique, the frames last forever (infinite fatigue life), etc. It may even be better for urban than for high performance bikes. Van Nicholas is doing the most sophisticated work in the Ti urban genre. His women's Amazon with Rohloff and belt drive is arguably the most versatile and one of the best handling women's road bikes ever made. My partner has one, and finds it simply perfect.

    If you ever find yourself in Santa Fe, we would be delighted to arrange a test ride. But you may also want to be in touch at some point with Jan Willem Sintnicholaas--the owner of Van Nicholas. I find his designs, especially for urban/touring/utility Ti bikes the best in the world, and simply more sophisticated than those of the main American builders, who tend to have backgrounds in mountain biking or road racing. You may as well.

    Best regards,

    M

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  78. Hello,
    My first serious rode bike was a carbon Trek Madone. I guess that riding a bike that was in the Tour would give me an advantage with the group I ride with. After 10,000 miles on the Trek, I figured that I was never going to learn how to descend and exceed 45mph without being terrified. Other riders on a Litespeed or Seven would pass me on a mountain pass descent like I was standing still. At a local bike show I came across a Moots Vamoots RSL and went for a test ride. I haven't ridden the Trek Madone since my Moots arrived and will never go back to carbon. The titanium Moots Vamoots RSL with SRAM red at 15.2 pounds is simply a great combination of stiffness, ride quality, responsiveness and weight. Descending is no longer terrifying and I don't get passed. In my case, the titanium Moots Vamoots RSL is the reason.

    David

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