Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Unintended Titanium: An Adventure Bike Experience

A few months ago (or likely more as time seems to be slipping through my fingers faster than usual), I wrote briefly about cleaning out bicycles and how I often acquire different bicycles over winter. This past fall and winter was no different as I cleared out three bicycles and found myself with a new bike.

To go back in time just a bit, after ridding some of the excess from my life in regard to bicycles, I thought the one thing truly missing from my fold was a dedicated road bike. However, I didn't want a road bike that would take only sub-28mm tires, so finding what I was looking for was a bit of a challenge. Granted, there are many more wide-tire-capable bikes of all types today then have been available in the past, but it's still somewhat difficult to find true road bikes with the ability to take a wider tire -- particularly when the rider would prefer a steel bike. While steel bikes with wider clearances are usually easier to find, steel road bikes with wide tire clearances are just as much a unicorn as any other material.

Searching went on for some time, and as the hunt continued, I started to ponder whether I wanted a truly road-only bike, or if it would be better to look at something that is lighter weight that could function as a road bike, but that would also permit off-road riding on a whim. An adventure/gravel bike seemed to make sense in some ways, so the search kind of veered off in that direction. Whether that was the right decision to make is questionable to me at this point, but it's how I ended up with the choice I made.
To make the long hunting story short, I ended up purchasing a Kinesis Tripster ATR frame. It is neither a road bike, nor is it steel. It is, however, my first experience riding a titanium frame. Because of this, I found it somewhat difficult to quantify benefits of the frame material, but I will certainly share what I can from my experience.

Initially, I was excited to find the frame at a discounted price which is kind of what pushed me into the Tripster direction (never a good reason to buy a bike, I'll admit). I was having difficulty deciding between a few frames though and not being able to test any of them, and after having read a plethora of information and reviews on each, this frame seemed like a good bet.

In typical EVL fashion, this bike was built, then re-configured, and then put back to the original set up. After initially setting it up as a "road" build with drop bars and a double compact crank, I thought that it might work better with my Jones bars and a triple crank instead. The problem, however, was that we just couldn't get the shifting to work with this set up. Ugh. So, back we went to the first build, with very minor modifications.

The Tripster was ridden in both configurations, but with the triple set up it wasn't taken far due to the shifting issues. After having it rebuilt as a more road-centered ride, I struggled through a few more rides. I continued to think that the reason for the struggling was my lack of ability, lack of riding alone for any distance and so on, but after one final ride that sent me over the edge, I just couldn't bring myself to get back on the bike.

Since I have bikes that function in a more intermediate role (gravel, can carry a bit of a load, etc), it didn't make sense to keep this bike. Ultimately, the frame was sold to someone who was looking for more of an "adventure" bike, for which I believe this bike to be perfectly suited. As a road bike, however, it was less than ideal.

The qualities of this bike and geometry make it well-suited for long distance gravel adventures, but despite the ATR (Adventure, Tour, Race) designation, I didn't find it to be particularly race-like. It was incredibly comfortable and I could easily see how throwing some bags on it and taking it on a long distance adventure would be a perfect use of this bike, but trying to turn it into a road bike for faster paved rides was a huge mistake and definitely didn't bring out the best qualities for this particular bicycle.

What I did find intriguing about this option was the frame material.  Again, having never ridden a titanium bike prior to this experience, I have no way to know how it compares to others, but I have to say that I was impressed by the feel of the ride. It's something that has stuck with me, even months after saying goodbye to the bike. If this is how every titanium frame feels, my goodness, I'm amazed that more people don't ride it! I know that it comes at a cost, but it really was one of the, if not the smoothest ride I've ever experienced. It was one of those experiences that could easily send me down the rabbit hole in which all I ever want to ride are titanium frames -- it was that good.

Even to this moment, I don't know if it was the combination of the geometry and the material or just the material that brought the smoothness of the bike. I suppose the only true way to know with certainty is to have more titanium bike tests, though I don't see that as a horribly likely option because I don't possess the financial means to do multiple tests at this price point.  Still, it doesn't keep me from wondering about this material and how it could be beneficial for various types of bikes from road to mountain and those types in between.

As for the plan of obtaining a dedicated road bike, I have since made another purchase (in steel) that I'll be starting to test soon. It took a bit of time to figure out which direction to go for the next test, and I'm trying not to get my hopes up too high, but I believe this round will make more sense for my needs moving forward.

6 comments:

  1. One of the things I love about this blog is that you actually try out all the ideas that pass through my mind (and some that have never occurred to me!). I’ve been curious about titanium too, but don’t see a Ti bike in my future.

    By the way the recumbent trike is a ton of fun! I ended up with a Greenspeed GT 2, which was one of the only frames that could fit my short legs. I put 100 miles on it in its first week and had a ball.

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    1. I always think I'm done experimenting and yet seem to still find myself looking at other options. I'm still convinced the perfect combination can be had. :)

      I'm so glad you're having fun with your recumbent! Do you find you miss sitting up higher, or have you adjusted to sitting lower to the ground? Do you think you have as much power (I always wonder about the positioning and how it affects personal output), or perhaps you don't really care because it sounds like you're enjoying regardless. It's so great to read that you're enjoying your newest addition.

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    2. I didn’t have any adjustment period at all, though I’ve heard that others do. This trike is my “just for fun” ride. I use it for when Matt and I go out together, a couple of times a week. We chat and look around and don’t even try to go fast. It has been great to have a different position. I’m on the Bianchi all week long for transportation purposes and found my neck and shoulders getting stiff if I went out for longer fun rides on the weekends. The trike has completely eliminated that problem. Matt says recumbent trike are like “BarcaLounger with pedals.” That’s about right.

      I’ve never formally measured power, but my sense is that, except for hills, I’m riding about the same on this as I do on the Bianchi. I’ve heard lots of people say that it takes a while to develop recumbent muscles for climbing. The thing is, we don’t have any hills to speak of around here, so I’m only speaking of things like the on-ramp to a bridge.

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    3. Oops - I forgot your question about sitting up higher. I think that if I were riding this with substantial traffic I would miss being up higher. We’re mostly on rail trails and out on country roads, so it doesn’t matter much. Being down closer to the ground lets me notice different things about the ride. Also, my face is pointed up instead of down and it simply takes less skill to operate, which frees up my brain for other purposes. The result is that I’m looking around a lot more. I’m definitely staying on Vixen (the Bianchi Volpe) for transportation purposes though.

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    4. Thank you for sharing all of this. It's great to have a bike that's used for fun rides and not always for pushing or speed or something else, so I think it's great that you're using this as a way to just enjoy what's around.

      Sometimes I forget that not everyone is surrounded by mountains... I traveled through Tennessee once upon a time and I recall it being very green, but other than a bit outside of Chattanooga, I don't recall it being particularly hilly (of course, I didn't see the entire state either). Anyway, I was just thinking that I imagine it to be similar to the recumbent style bikes at the gym (which I do not particularly enjoy), but then again, the upright style bikes aren't really like being on an actual bike, so that's probably not a fair assessment. I appreciate all of this feedback though. It's helpful to store it in the back of my brain because somehow I seem to end up trying things that I don't think I ever will. :)

      Keep pedaling and enjoying!

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    5. It is not at all like a recumbent at the gym. Those are awful (and not just because pedaling while going nowhere is terrible).

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