Up against carbon fibre, aluminium and even steel, titanium road frames are currently lagging behind a little in the popularity stakes. This doesn’t reflect its suitability as a frame material or its ride quality, but rather its affordability. However, Spin, a relatively new name in the titanium bike world, say they wouldn’t make their frames from anything else.
We posted a review of their Spitfire MkII sportive bike just this week, and hot on its heels is the more race-orientated Spitfire MkIII Supermarine. With claims of being both stiffer and lighter than its little brother, Spin say the MkIII has been tuned with the sole purpose of speed in mind.
The frame, which has a hand-brushed finish, has a lifetime warranty – an indicator of titanium's durability. As with the MkII, it’s sold as a frame module (with fork, headset, seatpost, stem and handlebar), for £2,350. Spin also offer full builds using mainly own-brand kit; the bike shown here checks out at £4,150.
Spin reckon it’s a shame to buy a titanium frame only to deck it out in carbon and aluminium components. They insist they're fans of both materials, but only where it’s strictly necessary. Reflecting this, the MkIII comes with a titanium seatpost and stem but a carbon fork and bar
Titanium finds its way into many of the MkIII's components, including this oversized stem
With a propensity for giving their components over-the-top names, the oversized down and seat tubes (Super Massive Black Hole and Fatty Arbuckle) and fork (Fork In Hell) don't disappoint. So how does it ride? Procycling magazine's operations editor and titanium newbie Jamie Wilkins took it for a spin and gave us his initial thoughts:
"From the first pedal stroke the Spitfire MkIII Supermarine feels unique and not just because of the non-round Rotor Q-Rings. Fans of titanium love to wax lyrical about its ride character and within a few miles you can start to appreciate what they’re talking about. The MkIII is really comfortable but not in the same way as a carbon fibre bike. It’s smooth and effective against all size bumps, from poor tarmac to big potholes, but where a top carbon fibre frame isolates you from the road with a dampened feel the Spitfire MkIII talks to you a lot more.
"You can actually feel the frame and post compress and rebound like a spring. This is the ‘zingy’ quality that gets talked about so much. It’s definitely a matter of taste because it feels rather bouncy after a carbon fibre race bike – a fair comparison because this is Spin’s race frame. The Fizik Arione saddle and carbon fibre handlebar add extra comfort too, the latter trading off some stiffness for vibration-damping and getting a good return on the deal.
"As this is presented as a race frame, pedalling stiffness is essential and this is where we started to miss our usual carbon fibre ride. When you’re out of the saddle, pulling on the bars and stomping on the pedals there’s some tangible sway in the bottom bracket and some wag in the rear triangle – no more than many comfort-orientated carbon fibre frames but enough that we wouldn’t choose to race on it. This is no sprinter’s frame. Of course, at less than extreme levels of effort you’ll never notice.
Jamie thinks too much bottom bracket sway would force him to leave the MkIII at home come race day
"A bike like this will always be limited to niche appeal. So what’s the niche for the Spin Spitfire MkIII Supermarine? We’d say that it’s well suited to those looking to ride long sportives with some vigour, who are fans of titanium, and who like bikes with really long names!"
- Frame: Spin Spitfire Mk III Supermarine, titanium
- Fork: Spin Fork In Hell, 380g, full-carbon
- Headset: Spin Hendrix, titanium, with Purple Haze or King Mirror Polished finish
- Seatpost: Spin Monolithic T-Zero, titanium main tube, clamp housing, bosses and bolts
- Seat Clamp: Spin QuickLight, titanium, in King Mirror Polished or Hendrix Purple Haze finish
- Stem: Spin Monolithic Bi-Axial, titanium, 31.8mm, available in 100, 110, 120 and 130mm lengths and +/- 10 degrees rise
- Handlebar: Spin QuickLight Compact Ergonomic, carbon fibre, 31.8mm, with dual integral cable routing channels
- Wheels: Spin Speed Metal (gun metal finish hubs, Quicksilver 30mm polished aluminium rims, DT Swiss Aerospeed spokes)
- Crankset: Rotor Agilis cranks and Q-Rings
- Groupset: SRAM Red (SRAM Force front derailleur)
- Saddle: Fizik Arione