Lighter than steel and stronger than aluminium, titanium has long been considered one of the best – and luxurious – metals for making a bicycle frame.
While carbon fibre is clearly the material of choice for top racing frames, titanium is no slouch either when put to good use. Titanium might give up some weight compared to the best carbon frames, but the ride quality is excellent, with a renowned smoothness over rough ground.
Beyond those enticing qualities, titanium also boasts excellent fatigue life, and thanks to its inherent corrosion resistance, can be left unpainted for a unique, elegant finish that will look as good in 25 years as it does now.
Titanium does have a reputation for being expensive, and that’s not undeserved, but if the prospect of a titanium frame is appealing, it’s worth taking into account the complete life of a bike. If it lasts you the rest of your riding life, then the value proposition starts to look a lot better for titanium.
We’ve rounded up five of the best titanium road bikes as reviewed by the BikeRadar team.
The best titanium road bikes in 2020
Reilly Gradient: £3,249
Reilly T325: £3,798
Sabbath Mondays Child Mark II: £2,880
Dolan Titanium ADX Disc Ultegra: £2,402
Kinesis GTD: £4,000
Moots Vamoots Disc RSL: £4,505
Spa Cycles Elan: £2,180
It really is the chassis where the Reilly wins big. Robert Smith
- £3,249 (as pictured)
- Awesome handling
- Beautiful frameset
Built up with a selection of smart components, Reilly’s Gradient is capable of tackling all kinds of on and off-road adventures.
The frameset is the real star of the show though. As well as being stunning to look at, the Reilly Axis “ultra-butted” tubing and frame angles imbue the bike with a lively ride that balances speed and comfort incredibly well.
As befitting of an adventure bike it also has mounts for luggage, mudguards and a third bottle cage as standard, and Reilly backs its workmanship with a lifetime warranty on the frame.
The Reilly T325 is a titanium bike with a racy edge. David Caudery / Immediate Media
- £3,798 (as pictured)
- Fun and fast
- Wonderful ride quality
A bike for the person who wants one bike to race forever more, Reily’s T325 has a semi-compact frame for added stiffness and an aggressively short head-tube to help you get into a long and low position.
It’s not quite as light as an equivalent carbon race bike, but unless you’re only riding hill climbs or a real weight weenie, you probably won’t notice this, so good is the ride quality.
Reilly also offers a lifetime warranty on the frame.
Sabbath Mondays Child Mark II
The Sabbath Mondays Child Mark II will tackle out-of-the-saddle climbs with no problems. David Caudery / Immediate Media
- £2,880 (as pictured)
- Fast, efficient frame
- Quality wheels and groupset
With its oversized head tube and bottom bracket, as well as a semi-compact frame design, Sabbath’s Mondays Child is stiff enough to race, with its confidence-inspiring geometry making it a particularly noteworthy descender.
Its high-stiffness does mean a little sacrifice in ride comfort, but the smartly specced tubeless-ready wheels and tubeless Schwalbe Pro One tyres soften the ride enough for all-day comfort.
The frame also comes with a lifetime warranty, so you needn’t worry about it lasting the distance either.
Dolan Titanium ADX Disc Ultegra
Dolan has a reputation for producing value-packed bikes. Dolan
- £2,402 (as pictured)
- Smooth riding frame with good value spec
- Clearance for chunky tyres
Dolan has a well-earned reputation for producing good value bikes, and its Titanium ADX Disc is likely to only reinforce that.
The smart-looking frame and Deda carbon fork come kitted out with Shimano’s excellent Ultegra groupset and a host of other quality components, all at a very reasonable price for a titanium bike.
With its tall head tube (205mm on our tester’s 58.5cm test bike) it has a sportive-focussed geometry, but this is a bike designed to pamper you over long distance. Unless you have the flexibility of a professional road racer, you’ll likely appreciate the elevated position.
You’ll also probably appreciate the generous tyre clearance – thanks to addition of disc brakes, the Dolan has clearance for up to 35mm tyres, so you can go big enough to smooth out rough roads or take on light gravel.
An all-year, titanium mile-eater and bags of fun, too. David Caudery / Immediate Media
- £4,000 (as pictured)
- Lovely frame with great kit
- Plenty of customisation options available
Though Kinesis is better known for its range of aluminium bikes, it has quietly offered a decent titanium road bike for a long time. The GTD name is an abbreviation of ‘Go The Distance’, which is just what it’s designed to do – this is an ultra-endurance, mile-munching machine.
Its disc brake setup allows clearance for up to 34mm tyres, meaning you can comfortably fit big rubber, too.
At £2,100 for the frameset alone it doesn’t come cheap, but built up with quality components it offers a brilliant package for audaxing, fast-touring and all-year round road riding.
Moots Vamoots Disc RSL
The Moots Vamoots Disc RSL Ben Delaney / Immediate Media
- $14,505 (as pictured)
- Exquisite craftsmanship
- Very pricey
Sitting on the racier end of the spectrum the Vamoots Disc RSL has stiff, oversized tubing and aggressive angles and fit, but still maintains that classic, smooth titanium ride quality the material is so prized for.
Unlike many small frame builders, Moots is able to incorporate modern manufacturing processes like 3D printing (which is used to make the dropouts, for example) into their process. The result is a beautifully constructed bike that blends the best of classic and modern production methods.
It all comes at a cost though – whether you spec it with the latest and greatest components or go for something more workmanlike, there’s no getting away from the fact that this is a rather expensive bike, to say the least. If your pockets are deep enough though, you’re unlikely to be disappointed.
Spa Cycles Elan
Ideal for just about any terrain: flat, rolling, climbing, descending… David Caudery / Immediate Media
- £2,180 (as pictured)
- Comfortable, do-anything bike
- Old-school style
Spa Cycles has been catering to the needs of British touring cyclists for over 40 years, so the company knows a thing or two about what works for that type of riding.
The Elan combines smart, old-school styling and features such as external cable routing and a threaded bottom bracket, with modern touches including disc brakes and decent tyre clearance, making for a reliable, do-anything bike that will serve you well for a very long time.
The riding position is comfortably upright thanks to its tall-ish head tube, but our tester found the frame stiff enough to get moving when cranking it up in the drops.
The 10-speed Shimano 105 drivetrain (complete with a triple chainset for a true blast from the past) that came on our test bike is a little dated, but it performed admirably and Spa Cycles nevertheless offers plenty of customisation options if it’s not to your taste.
Van Nicholas Yukon Disc
The Yukon Disc falls somewhere between a tourer and race bike. David Caudery / Immediate Media
- £3,911 (as pictured)
- Great handling
- High quality, customisable build
Van Nicholas is a Dutch-based brand that has done more than its fair share to popularise titanium bikes – and for good reason. The Yukon Disc has a great frame that could be made to truly sing with a few different component choices (as on our test bike).
At 9.67kg including full-length mudguards, it’s pretty lightweight for a touring bike, and its 34t x 34t bottom gear ought to be low enough to winch you up steep pitches. Likewise, there’s very little flex from the frame, making it an efficient climber.
Curiously, though, the bike has clearance for up 35mm tyres, but our test rig came set up with 25mm Mavic tyres – not bad tyres by any stretch, but a little slim for something that’s designed to be an all-day mile muncher. An upgrade to something with more volume would likely make a significant difference because the bike we tested was a little firm at the rear end.
Finally, the slightly dropped seatstays might not appeal to the purists, but it’s a modern design touch that differentiates the Yukon Disc from its peers.
What to look for when buying a titanium bike
Like any kind of bike, geometry plays a massive part in the way a titanium bike rides and handles, so you want to ensure the bike you purchase matches the type of riding you intend to do on it.
Titanium bikes tend to be designed for long-distance riding, so the geometry will often be relatively relaxed, with a taller head tube, slacker angles and a longer wheelbase.
The slacker steerer angles and longer wheelbase aid stability and give a slightly slower, more deliberate response to steering compared to a twitchy race bike.
It also puts you in a more upright position, with less weight on your hands and less strain on your neck, shoulder and back muscles. You might have to sacrifice a little in aerodynamics, but over the course of a long ride across rough terrain the gains in comfort could pay dividends.
If you want to race or have a more aggressive position on the bike, you’ll be looking for a frame with a shorter head tube, steeper angles and shorter chainstays.
The advent of disc brakes for road bikes has not only been great for slowing you down, but has opened up the possibility for manufacturers to build in much greater tyre clearance to bikes. Subsequently, many titanium road bikes are now offering clearance for up to 35mm road tyres.
This not only brings benefits in terms of comfort and potentially reduced rolling resistance, but it also has the potential to massively increase a bike’s versatility, moving firmly into gravel bike territory.
This is ideal if, for example, you live in a country (like the United Kingdom, where BikeRadar is based) where the road quality generally varies from bad to appalling.
Even if you prefer rim brakes, many modern rim brake calipers can accommodate up to 28mm tyres on wide rims, so it’s worth checking the frame and fork can handle that as well.
A titanium bike is likely to cost a fair amount more than an equivalent carbon, aluminium or steel bike, simply because the nature of the material makes it more difficult to construct frames and parts from.
Without going into too much detail, the machining, welding and finishing of titanium bikes are more labour-intensive processes that require specialist skills and equipment, compared to other frame building materials. All of this increases production costs and, inevitably, these costs are passed on to the consumer.
However, where a titanium bike makes up for its initial cost is in longevity. It’s an extremely resilient material, meaning titanium bikes can take a lot of knocks and punishment without trouble.
With that in mind, many manufacturers will offer a lifetime warranty on titanium frames to the original owner, giving you peace of mind that should you run into any production issues further down the line they’ll have you covered.