Carbon or Titanium road bike, next/forever/last bike?

Hello, I was looking for some feedback and any information I should think about and consider regarding my next bike purchase. I am in no rush and it is likely 1-2 years away.
Context:
I am 47, 4-5 years of endurance training, mostly on bike but I do run and swim a bit. My riding is almost exclusively road (inside on trainer Oct - May, outside May - Sept).
I am not a racer and don’t plan on starting. I can see myself continuing to do gran fondos and weekend club rides. I live in Vancouver, BC Canada and learned that a local bike shop, Landyatchz, does custom bikes and can do a Titanium road model (https://landyachtzbikes.com/custom-bikes-1146/).

Current bike is a 2016 Cervelo S3. Bought it used a few years ago.
Bike I started cycling with before Cervelo was my friend’s Cannondale CAAD 4 (currently using as my trainer bike).

I thought the titanium option may be a good and practical route to take for my next, potentially last, bike. I believe the all in cost could be around $5,000 CAD for “105” level componentry.

Any questions I should ask myself or consider on if this route would be a good choice for my situation or if I should consider a different route would be appreciated.

What led you to the point where you’re considering a custom bike? Have you had issues finding a good fit? Or, will you be speccing the bike/frame so that it can do more than road, for adventures in the future?

Personally, I’d go the titanium route, purely based on aesthetics. I think they look amazing. It’s a fair lump of cash though so I would encourage you to be 100% certain that your local bike shop can provide the product and the service you hope to receive.

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First of all, no bike is going to last forever and unless you are crashing, all frame materials will likely hold up to regular use. What usually makes bikes obsolete are changing standards and expectations. Personally, I don’t care one iota about frame material. While my heart loves their looks, my head is slightly biased against titanium bikes, simply because they tend to be more expensive and heavier than carbon frames.

Typically, independently of frame material frames will outlast all other components (again, unless you crash or have an accident), and IMHO a major factor is standards. My previous mountain bike (10 years old, aluminum) went obsolete, because it was the last generation of 26" mountain bikes, did not have through axles, etc. So I was unable to find a modern components for it and e. g. its fork and damper were on its last legs. On road bikes the churn of standards is slower, but it is still happening. E. g. rim brakes are going away, and in 10 years I reckon you will not get parts for rim brake bikes.

Another reason you might want a new bike is features. For example, you discover the magic of gravel riding and suddenly your road frame won’t work for you, because it cannot fit 40 mm tires.

I had a look at your post. While you write that you are riding “almost exclusively road”, you live in BC with lots of options for offroading (I hear). You also wrote you don’t want to race and it doesn’t seem like you want to squeeze every last ml of performance out of your bike. So I’d recommend you get something like the Open UP, 3T Exploro or similar bikes from Moot and the like. They will handle like (endurance) road bikes, but accept wide tires. The Open UP and the Exploro accept 2.1" mountain bike tires, but you can use 28 mm road tires on them as well if you prefer. And on road tires, they will handle exactly like a road bike and most people won’t notice the extra clearance. Depending on your wallet, these machines are not heavy. Rides of Japan’s Open UP was eventually no longer UCI legal, i. e. lighter than 6.8 kg.

If speed isn’t your primary concern, but comfort is, I’d go for 35 mm tires, either slicks or something with minimal tread (depending on road conditions and whether you are riding in the wet). The tire much more than frame material determines comfort.

Secondly, I’d look at Rival eTap AXS or 105 as my groupset with potential specific updates (e. g. a Red crank or Ultegra IceTech rotors). There is no functional difference between 105-level components and up, only weight. The money you save here you should invest into contact points (handlebars, seat post, saddle and pedals), a power meter (this is the TR forum after all) and wheels — in that order. Yes, saddles can be expensive, but a good saddle and handlebars that suit you are so, so important. You are not going to ride a bike you don’t feel comfortable on.

Thirdly, let’s not kid ourselves, looks matter. I had a look at the site you linked to and some of their example bikes look really, really pretty. I also noticed that they offered versions with large clearance, which is what I’d recommend.

PS Don’t tell your partner that this is going to be your last bike. Otherwise you’ll get into a @Nate_Pearson situation where you made a promise that you probably should not have made :wink:

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I have a titanium road bike and titanium MTB, so yeah…titanium.
In time i will also have a titanium cyclocross bike.

As suggested above, consider a (titanium) gravelish bike. More options, wider tires is always nice. Titanium frame with squishy tires is a dream ride, bad pavement gets smoothed out nicely.

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Something like a Moots Routt 45 is what I would get

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Lol, when my Scandium frame failed after circa 25,000 miles I replaced it with a ti frame which I thought would be my forever bike but after 41,000 miles I got struck down with health problems which might have led in part to me seeking a change. I ended up replacing it with a more aero framed custom ti frame which I specced with rim brakes and circa 16,000 miles (3 year) later, I feel 99% that I made the right choice but there’s always that niggle that the bike market might force me to replace it eventually with a disc brake frame :joy:

If I am forced down that route and can afford it, I suspect comfort will have become more important than speed to me, I’ll go for a ti gravel bike with discs with a set of wheels set up with slicks also for that rare occasion I want speed.

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For my road/gravel bike & mtb singespeed, I prefer a metal frame & steel has been the most affordable & I like the ride quality vs aluminum frames I’ve ridden. The issue I have is corrosion. I sweat A LOT!!! No really it’s bad. I always have corrosion growing out of my aluminum stems whether they have steel or ti bolts, the sweat also gets under the finish on frames around cable guides, etc which ends up ruining the paint as it rusts the frame. So, I’m running ti frame on my gravel bike & also on my hardtail mtb. My full suspension bike is carbon & Iove it but years ago I did crash a carbon frame & punched a huge hole on the down tube on a granite property marker. To be fair, I think that crash would’ve destroyed an aluminum frame, too. In any case, if you’re looking for a forever bike, I think your best bet is titanium & probably something leaning toward the gravel end of the spectrum for all round versatility.

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Thank you for all the feedback. I am definitely considering a groadie style bike. Maybe have 2 wheelsets so can swap between road (28mm) and gravel (37+mm) easily.
I should speak to Landyatchz to understand the all in cost based on certain specs to see how it compares to buying some new or used (e.g. Giant Revolt, 3T Exploro, Specialized Diverge, Cervelo Aespero, …).

I was under the understanding that carbon fiber may have a shorter lifespan (vs titanium, steel, or Aluminum) even without it being crashed?

I totally agree about changing standards and that may be the impetus for wanting to change bikes. As such I think disc brakes, electronic shifting, ability to go up to 50+mm tires, are all a requirement.

I broke every steel bike I’ve ever owned. I rode a Litespeed ti for 15 years and it never broke but I’ve heard of a lot of others with titanium bikes and broken welds over the years.

Personally I haven’t broken a carbon bike yet. I think most carbon bikes break in crashes or other mishaps. They are more easily repaired than ti or steel and it’s probably not too expensive if you don’t need a full matching paint job and can live with a carbon “band-aid”.

Those Landyatchz look awesome. It’s just going to come down to whether you want one or not.

With parts standards changing more frequently I’m not sure the forever bike is still a perfect concept. For a bike to be a forever bike, you need to be able to buy a new groupset for it 10-15 years from now. But if you still had this frame 10 years from now and needed parts I’m sure there is something you could cobble together to keep it on the road.

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While electronic shifting has lots of advantages, I would not put long-term reliability, stability of standards nor long-term availability of replacement parts in that category. Consumer electronics never fare well in these regards.

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Not if well made. As an example, Calfee provides a warrantee of 25 years on their CF frames. They are light and response and all the other buzz words.

It is not very difficult to get longevity out of a good bicycle. My Calfee was built in 2004 and am still using 10 speed, generation 1, Di2 parts on it. I don’t get dropped in races or left behind on group rides because my favorite bike happens to be older. I just like this frame a lot and the parts are fine for my riding.

Cheers,

Darth

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I always wanted a Calfee. Actually I bought a used Dragonfly a while back but I think it had a custom tubeset because it was as stiff as a board and rattled my teeth.

I was going to add that I think that buying a carbon bike that isn’t on the bleeding edge of lightness is a good idea. Like buy the Specialized Tarmac over the S-Works. Stay away from any 600 gram frame that says that you can’t sit on the top tube.

My Colnago C59 is around 1000 grams but it is robust and has lasted.

Trek, Spec, and Giant I believe come with lifetime warranties which are relatively easy to collect on if you live in the US.

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I’d just add that if going down the ti route I can’t see why you would get the frame painted. One of the best aspects of a raw ti frame is that, like mine, it will look the same 15 years on.

I have a ti (Van Nicholas) and a carbon (Cervelo). I love them both but they do slightly different things - multi-day credit card vs fast day rides respectively. Not sure I could manage if I had to choose but I guess the ti would win out as it’s more versatile, less maintenance and has the air of indistructability.

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One can assume unless you’ve bought a really weird setup, you’ll find chainrings, cassettes, chains and bearings (BB and hub) a couple of decades from now. My on-the-trainer bike is close to 40 years old, 7-sp Shimano 105, and I have few problems finding parts for it. That’s one of the benefits of the Internet (compensating partly for the millions of people abusing all-caps and exclamation marks): you can find pretty much anything, including 7-sp Shimano cassettes.

I can still get brand new freewheels and downtube shifters for my 80’s bike (which is in pieces right now).

I wouldn’t worry too much about the doomsayers talking about not being able to get road parts anytime soon.

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Yes and no. My brother’s old mountain bike has a 9-speed XT drive train and we couldn’t find any original Shimano chain rings for it nor any high quality cassettes (say, Deore and up). So you have to get creative and rely on the used market for parts. My previous mountain bike had a 10-year-old XT drive train. I could get SLX cassettes for it, but no XT cassettes.

The other thing is that after 10 years or so, many of the groupset’s components are simply worn out. On my last mountain bike, my rear trigger shifter was well-worn and the rear derailleur was EOL. I had already replaced the cage and the pulley wheels. Sure, I could have scavenged for a used shifter (which will not match the other trigger shifter), a used rear mech, etc. But at a certain point you just gotta accept that life has moved on. 10 years of heavy use, usually 5+ days a week, is a good run in my book. You did your job and now you can rest. (In my case, I actually gave the bike to someone else who wanted to go into mountain biking.)

Not in a way that matters. Have a look at airplanes: carbon composites have been around for decades now. How many big airlines with carbon wings or carbon rudders are just falling apart or have come crashing down? When it comes to fatigue, carbon parts are typically more resistant than metal parts, and often by a significant margin. Barring manufacturing defects, as far as I understand one of the main culprits is UV exposure, which makes the resin more brittle, and water ingress, which may lead to delamination. With metal frames it is often the welds that start cracking.

The other thing about life span is what exactly is the actual life span of the part. Is is going to be useful to you that a barely used titanium frame can last 100 years? Or that a carbon frame might last “only” 30 years? Apart from retro bikes (which is a different community), I don’t see much reason to want a life span of more than 15 years or so. I reckon you’d go through two groupsets, many saddles, etc.

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On a mountain bike, this is more the case, as everything gets beaten around more. On the road, it depends a lot on annual mileage, the type of riding (lots of flat roads = shifters and brakes last forever), and the level of maintenance.

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I’ll just put a few words of warning about the “forever” bike idea from my own recent experience.

I had an aluminum gravel bike with mech GRX and carbon road bike with 105. Both were good bikes, but I had the idea of selling them both to get 1 higher end “forever bike”. I bought a Lynskey GR300 gravel bike with GRX Di2 last spring, and had 2 sets of wheels so I could tackle any terrain. It was prime COVID time so I barely lost any money selling the bikes and enjoyed my Lyskey for a bit last year.

To get a good road fit, I needed a longer and lower stem. I was on the road 80% of the time so figured that was fine…then got my butt handed to me on a few gnarly gravel descents where the geo put me too far forward and it was downright scary.

Fast forward to today…and I now have a Specialized Roubaix and Salsa Cutthroat. I can tackle any terrain by chosing the right bike. There are no more fit compromises…I need to be a bit more upright with wider bars to be comfortable off road. I’d be hesitant to buy a “forever” bike unless you know, for sure, it’ll fit well and handle whatever terrain you intend to throw at it.

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“Forever Bike” vs N+1 Acquisition Syndrome

Immovable Object meet Irresistible Force

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Titanium is definitely worth consideration, I’ve moved recently from a highly customised carbon bike to a (pair of) titanium framed bikes and I love them both. Looks aside, would I make the move again? Absolutely.

There’s nothing “wrong” with CF, or in fact any other of the conventional frame materials, they just strike a different balance. CF is great, light, the bike can have basically whatever properties you design it to have, and it’s tough enough to stand up to basically everything riding wise, short of a major crash. Crash aside, where it falls down (and mine did), is that it collects little bits of damage from stupid stuff, you lean it against the wrong post, someone knocks it in the rack at the cafe, you clip the top tube with your cleat when dismounting, you know, the silly stuff you can only avoid by not riding, individually they might not be a worry, but over time they can add to a big problem (mine became nearly impossible to route cables near the end, just a combination of little stuff that made it hard to live with). Ti, just buff scratches out and, defects aside, you basically can’t destroy it short of crashing. Speaking of crashing, I had a major, like, really major, carbon bike shattering style, crash on one of them in Sept, frame was absolutely fine.

So in all likelihood (going under a lorry wheel aside) it’ll last as long as components are available, a period measured in decades judging by the availability of parts for older group sets and frame standards.

Yes, my light fast Ti bike is a few hundred grams heavier than the Carbon bike it replaced (it was a frame swap so it reuses almost all components from it’s ancestor, so fair comparison), but honestly I’m not racing so that doesn’t bother me at all, and all my ride speed records are on the Ti bike…

Yes you absolutely need to be sure it’s the “right” bike for you in terms of fit and terrain ability (my other Ti bike is a gravel bike, so I’ve got all bases covered), but if you’re confident in fit and use case, there’s no reason not to, and many reasons to, go for a bike which may not be forever (little ever is), but whose useful life can reliably be of the order of decades.

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