thoughts on Ti

RAD (Ride All Day) Ti

it all started in 2015 with steel RAD, which whit of Meriwether Cycles built for me in 2015. RAD (Ride All Day) was a bike we had talked about making for years.  after riding a whole bunch of really great steel road bikes, i found myself wanting to get out further, farther and on more gnarly and varied terrain.  none of my “real” road bikes (think 73/73 geometry, caliper brakes and nothing larger than a 30mm tire fitting in the stays) could handle really rough terrain or trail and weren’t super comfortable for long jaunts on mixed terrain.  so, we came up with RAD, an “all road” machine with a 72 degree head angle that could take a 40mm 700c, which was a favorite at the time (funny how we used to think that tire was wide!).

steel RAD, Scotland touring/Grinduro mode, with 650b Switchback Hill tires, Revelate/Outershell bags and Rodeo Labs carbon Spork fork (with googly eyes!)

not that i was unhappy with steel RAD, it’s the best bike i’ve ever owned, hands down. we used Reynolds 853 for the main triangle and Columbus Life for the stays.  it’s lively, springy, resilient and super comfortable for…you guessed it, “RAD” rides.   it has taken me EVERYwhere from fondos to Grinduros to touring Moab and Scotland with light bikepacking gear. i’ve probably put 10,000 miles on it and it puts a smile on my face every time we head out for an adventure.

but, then whit started working in Ti. i wasn’t even thinking Ti, but we had been talking a “RAD v2” for the last year or so.  so when he asked if we should do v2 in titanium, my “wheels” started turning. room for bigger tires (i’ve come to love 650b and 47-50mm tires), maybe a little slacker head tube angle for Grinduro-ish riding and really steep and technical terrain. overall, i wasn’t really wanting (or “needing”) another bike and certainly wasn’t jonesing for a change of materials. i didn’t even have any experience riding Ti, just knew it was light, strong, silver and didn’t rust.

so, the dialogue began.  he suggested the slacker head tube angle (we chose 71.5 as opposed to 72 degrees), a longer wheelbase, more fork offset, a higher bottom bracket, longer top tube and shorter stem for more control on rugged terrain.  i had been running a carbon Spork on RAD, but whit convinced me to at least try one of his steel segmented forks before we committed to building anything.  so, we traded and i ran the steel fork on RAD for about a month.  it is heavier than carbon, but we both agreed that the ride quality was superior, especially on trail and rougher roads.  there was just a bit more flex with the steel and i noticed it cornered better with a slightly more lateral movement that really allowed the wheel to stay in contact with road or trail over imperfections and burl.

before i knew it, i was next in the queue and things got really real when the tubing was purchased, the massive Ti Cycles head tube ordered and the Reynolds 3D printed Ti dropouts arrived at his shop – dang!  numbers and geometry weren’t going to be that much different than steel RAD, but i was getting excited about the changes; namely the ability to run the wider, higher volume 650b tires that i’d come to love.

the first ride wasn’t like…”oh my god, where has Ti been all my life?!”, but more subtle in ride quality and performance. the first few climbs getting out of the neighborhood, i realized how STIFF it was compared to steel RAD. with every crank of the pedals, the bike just shot forward like a rocket, instant momentum – wow! my build is pretty practical and isn’t super light or super expensive, but the bike felt lively, punchy and snappy. the inaugural ride had to be a mix of tarmac, dirt and trail, i love spicing it up and keeping things “interesting” and challenging, it’s how i ride a lot and pretty much what we built this bike for.

here’s where things got interesting and more subtle differences were revealed. once on dirt and trail, there was this “smoothness” i didn’t expect.  hard to pin down, not quite the dampening (and sometimes dead feel) of carbon, but a silky and smooth “gloss” over the ruts, washboards and rougher trail.  it had almost a floating/isolation quality yet that stiffness was still there when you put the hammer down, initiated a tough climb or stood out of the saddle.

since receiving the bike i’ve taken it on all kinds of adventures that mix tarmac, dirt, trail, 4WD, you name it and the bike can easily handle it all.  whit also made the custom stem in Ti, with 7 degrees of rise and 100mm length.  this is a bit shorter than what i normally ride, but we made the top tube a bit longer to compensate and give me a more setback and upright stance on the bike for all day comfort and technical descents.  i must say it IS super comfortable through all terrains and conditions – we got the fit just right!

the fork is whit’s design, based on the Fat Chance Yo Eddy fork we had years ago on our singlespeeds and loved and rode to death!  he also added the three bolt bosses for water bottles or luggage when doing tours or longer rides.  the steel fork is heavier than the carbon Spork i had been riding previously, but the ride quality is really smooth and supple in comparison.  there is just enough flex to take the edge off the rough stuff, yet it’s super stable in corners and at speed.  there is also a third water bottle on the downtube for longer adventures when one doesn’t want to carry a pack with water bladder.

so, RAD Ti!  i’m pretty enthralled and can’t wait to take it on some longer tours and bikepacks into the mountains before the snow falls.  thanks whit for your insight, experience and design, this is one amazing machine!

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