Q&A: Metals' Mettle

Could you advise me on whether a carbon Focus Cayo Expert would be better value than a titanium Enigma Esprit frame, especially for longevity?

Q: I have £1300 to spend and would like a bike for cyclosportives with hills, hilly triathlons and so on. I have never had a carbon bike – I've favoured steel in the past – and am fairly sceptical about their qualities. Could you advise me on whether a carbon Focus Cayo Expert would be better value than a titanium Enigma Esprit frame, especially for longevity? I like my bikes to last…

Chris Morley

A: Carbon is versatile stuff and the fibre sheets used in the moulding process can be layed up to suit a wide range of requirements, from those who like to feel every nuance of the road surface through to those who cite comfort above all other considerations. Titanium falls into two distinct camps – on the one hand, the popular 3AL/2.5V grade that makes up 95 per cent of titanium frame manufacture is rather like steel and occupies the middle ground between outright stiffness and rider comfort; on the other, butted titanium has a soft, spring-like quality that is good for sportives, but these sort of frames are outside most people's budget, including yours.

The Focus Cayo Expert at £1399 (www. wiggle.co.uk) is excellent value for money – the 2007 model, our Bike of the Year, is currently available for £999 – but if comfort is one of your priorities, you're better off going for a titanium Enigma  (www.enigmabikes.com). At £2699 the Esprit is out of your budget (£1250 frame only), but the Eclipse is available in a frame-only package for £899 complete with Enigma full carbon fork and integrated headset, so you should be able to stay within your £1300 budget based on £200 for wheels, tyres and finishing kit, with the remaining £200 on, say, Campagnolo Mirage components or Shimano 9-speed Tiagra components.

While I feel that carbon fibre frames like the Cayo Expert's have a better overall stiffness-to-weight ratio than the titanium Enigma, consider the fact that the titanium frame will look as good in 10 years as it does today.

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