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Titanium Bicycle Can Save Your Life

The "carbon" bicycle is a carbon fiber-reinforced composite material where, like all composite materials, mechanical properties are not isotropic. Like their aerospace counterparts, composite components for bicycles have low density compared to metallics but they are not damage tolerant. They also risk damage from UV light and moisture. The pros can overlook these drawbacks by simply swapping parts or changing bikes, no matter the expense, "carbon" bikes have become consumables in stage and criterion racing. The average weekend warrior will probably not want to spend $2000 every 6-12 months (although some bike snobs probably will). The rest of us mere mortals might prefer to put our money in a somewhat less risky material combination. Hence, the titanium frame bicycle is here to save our bacon (figuratively). Although titanium's density is about 2.5-3 times that of a composite, the combination of strength, modulus and toughness make it a much better long-term option. Titanium isn't affected by UV light and corrosion resistance is excellent. Pro riders do say that they prefer "carbon" bikes as they like the stiffer rides that composite frames offer but with strength only being carried in the major axis of the reinforcing fibers, the risk of catastrophic failure in a crash that occurs due to stress being applied normal to the major fiber axis is incredibly high. Whereas any time that you wipe out on your titanium frame bike, you can pretty much guarantee that nothing will happen to the bulk material, which are simply formed and welded tubes made from titanium sheet. Weakness might exist in the welds, yes, but the same is true of "carbon" bike components which are simply autoclaved and glued. Once cracked, or dented, composite components can never again carry the load as efficiently as they did prior to the damage, even if additional resin is poured to act as a "bandage", once broken, the fibers are broken forever. Whereas, in a crash, if there is any damage to a titanium component, the titanium bicycle part can be re-formed and re-welded if necessary. Titanium can also be recycled - making it more environmentally friendly than leaving shards of resin and fiber all over the road.

Another thing worth mentioning is that there are various grades of composite that are available and cheaper is not necessarily better in this area. Titanium frame bikes tend to be for the most part Ti-3Al-2.5V (Grade 9) with a few additional pressed and machined parts made from Ti-6Al-4V(Grade 5). 3-2.5 is the most typical material for frame parts, since it has a better cold formability than 6-4 but a higher strength than CP Grade 1 or 2. It's true that you could lift your lightweight "carbon" bike with one hand, but, it might not be around as long as you'd like to to be, especially if you are prone to crashing. You could still lift your titanium bike with one hand and rest easy in the knowledge that you could probably hand down your titanium bike to your children!