On-One Ti 456 - First ride review£1,999.00

The king keeps his crown

BikeRadar score4.5/5

The first titanium 456 built in the US by Lynskey was a radical bike for its time, with slack angles front and rear, a triple-butted top tube and massive mud clearances, all for under a grand. It became an instant cult classic. For their latest Ti 456, On-One have gone East with renowned high-value titanium specialists Van Nicholas.

They've taken the proven 456 geometry and made it ready to take the latest radical ride upgrades such as tapered forks, chainguides, alternative transmissions and dropper seatposts. Massive front end stability and stiffness for a Ti frame make it a top technical terrier when you push the pace, yet it’s supple enough to join the best riding dots all day long and contest every summit sprint. Add an absolute bargain price and the Ti 456 regains its place as the technical titanium hardtail to beat.

Ride & handling: Versatile, mileage happy, technically tenacious all-rounder

While the 66-degree unsagged head angle of our bike wasn’t as slack as the 64.5-degree angle quoted on the website it’s still a relaxed front end by hardtail standards. The bike feels steady in steering terms, and we had proper handling test sessions with all the snow and ice late in 2010, early 2011. Fitting a short stem keeps handling lively and direction change swift, although if we were building it up ourselves we’d go for a broader bar to increase control leverage.

Even with the 660mm FSA Carbon Pro that comes as stock, you can still feel the more accurate bite and grip delivered by the tapered head tube and tapered fork, particularly on tight turning descents. There’s nothing twangy or twisty about the front end either, with the stout diameter tubes keeping tracking keen from bars to back wheel. The low bike weight (11.32kg/24.96lb, medium size) means the Ti 456 surges forward keenly too.

As you’d hope from a Ti bike, a lot of the harshness you’d expect from an alloy frame of the same weight is screened out by the resilience of the material. It skims over sharp bits rather than smacking into trail trauma when you’re too tired to avoid it. The slack but accurate front end and ability to drop the seat right down or fit an adjustable height seatpost means it’s suited to the steepest, most technical descents.

Regular downhill rattlers will love the extra chain security potential offered by the ISCG mounts and the high bottom bracket reduces the danger of grounding the pedals or chainring on uneven terrain. This is a bonus given the extra grip offered by the compliance of the titanium stays. This together with the low weight and reasonably long top tube makes the Ti 456 an outstanding technical climber compared to most short top tube, restricted breathing space hardcore hardtails.

Smart between the stays disc brake positioning is thoroughly practical: smart between the stays disc brake positioning is thoroughly practical
Smart between the stays disc brake positioning is thoroughly practical: smart between the stays disc brake positioning is thoroughly practical

It also makes it a more versatile long-distance trail bike; something which the more supple ride of titanium obviously helps with. The flipside of this longer and slacker than usual geometry is that you have to get used to the way it hides its ability to go mental rather than pushing you forward onto the attack all the time. Even with an inline seatpost pushing the saddle forward, the slack seat angle means you’re still sitting halfway back along the chainstays in vertical terms with the front end feeling passive and light on traction.

This makes the front end easier to lift over boulders or off drops, increasing rider confidence in terrain where hardtails normally struggle. Plus if you get out of the saddle and/or point it downhill your body weight naturally shifts forwards, letting you drive the stiff front end hard into trouble, while the back end skips through behind.

Frame & equipment: Chassis is fully ready to take all the latest performance boosting tweaks

The most obvious change for 2011 is the tapered head tube with conventional 1.5in bottom cup and inset 1.125in top cup, mated with a big-butted down tube to stiffen the front end. The bottom bracket gets ISCG 05 chainguard tabs and the dropouts are designed to take swap-out bolt-on extension plates for geared, singlespeed or hub gear use. These include an ‘inside the stays’ brake mount, although it’s IS (International Standard) rather than post mount.

The Dekerf-style multi-piece wishbone seatstays give mud room for up to 2.4in tyres, there are full rear rack mounts and a new 31.6mm seat tube makes it dropper post compatible. There are no clips for remote cable routing, but the top tube gear, down tube and chainstay rear brake arrangement is neat. The top tube is still triple butted with a fat centre section to reduce brake lever bash damage, but now it’s straight rather than curved. By switching manufacturers, On-One have saved £200 off the price without any visually obvious drop in build quality.

While most original Ti 456s we know were built from a frame-only purchase, On-One put together silly value complete bike deals. Our £1,999 sample came with 30-speed SRAM X9 transmission and Avid Elixir CR brakes, plus a 150mm travel RockShox Revelation RLT fork in the latest 15mm Maxle axle version. On-One’s latest wheels are light and tight, although this is the second sample we’ve had where we got the same alarming cracking noises from the fast reacting freehub on maximum torque climbs.

A bike this technically adept deserves grippier tyres than the cheaper Performance compound Schwalbe Rocket Rons we had, but that’s just a case of ticking something else on the order. A short, light On-One stem with mid-width bars sets up a decent cockpit, and the inline Thomson seatpost reduces the effect of the slack seat angle.

Titanium frame and a bargain price make the ti 456 a top trail contender: titanium frame and a bargain price make the ti 456 a top trail contender
Titanium frame and a bargain price make the ti 456 a top trail contender: titanium frame and a bargain price make the ti 456 a top trail contender

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK
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