It seems surprising that Salsa haven’t added titanium to their frame materials repertoire until now. The steel Ala Carte has been a classic for as long as many of us have been riding mountain bikes, and it was one of the ﬁrst frames to feature ‘modern geometry’ for a cross-country hardtail: 71° at the head, 73° at the seat.
The new Ala Carte Ti offers sprightly but direct and incredibly conﬁdent handling, and the sort of trail responses that seem to let you draw energy from terrain as you skim over it. If you’ve never tried a top-end titanium frame, this might all sound a bit dubious but all we can say is, try one before you reject the notion.
Ride & handling: Smooth riding singletrack slayer with titanium 'zing'
The very best titanium frames have a distinctive ride feel that’s tough to describe without using clichés, such as “like a loaded spring”. Unfortunately it’s true, so we’ll use that one again.
When you launch yourself across bumpy terrain on a well-sorted titanium structure like this it feels as though it gains energy from the bumps, and shimmers you across them before they’ve had a chance to become obstacles.
It’s not as radical as the action of a spring unloading (because a taut frame can’t really ‘unload’) but more like the reverb of a tuning fork, offering precisely the note you were looking for.
But the Salsa is much more than just a highly tuned superlight. It’s built tough enough to ride as hard and fast as the 100mm-travel fork will allow, and is at its best with a wide riser bar and big treads: the Schwalbe Rocket Rons ﬁtted made things nervous on gnarly descents.
Climbing is fast, the response to acceleration is instant to the point of inspiring and, if your ﬁtness allows, you’re likely to quickly become one of those riders that everyone tries to keep up with on the best bits of singletrack.
Frame: Premium quality chassis with beautifully subtle attention to detail
Lynskey build titanium frames for several manufacturers but they aren’t all created equal. The Salsa is built with top quality seamless 3/2.5 titanium (3% aluminium, 2.5% vanadium) tubes, with a brushed satin ﬁnish and subtle etched graphics.
The tube proﬁling is as subtle as the graphics, with only the big down tube deviating from the traditionally circular: it’s biaxially ovalised for extra strength at the head tube and bottom bracket and curved at the head tube for extra fork clearance.
The head tube is ring-reinforced and there’s a brace tube between the stays to neutralise disc brake stress. The dropouts cap the ends of the stays, the gear hanger is a bolt-on unit and there’s a forward facing seat clamp.
The Ala Carte comes as a frame only, so we had ours built up with a Fox 32 Float fork and own-brand Salsa cockpit parts, including bar, stem, post, saddle, grips and quick-release skewers.