Titanium isn’t the most wallet-friendly material for building bikes, but there is no shortage of titanium enthusiasts out there who love it. Although it’s more pricey than steel and aluminum, titanium can match the stiffness of aluminum frames at a lighter weight, with a ride quality that matches the compliance of a steel frame, as well as the overall strength and durability of steel.
After 30 years of mountain biking, Singletracks reader Wade Spenader has ridden numerous bikes, but wanted to find out what titanium was all about. The pandemic provided the perfect opportunity for him to slow down, think about his next bike, and find the right one. A used Voodoo D-Jab hardtail called his name.
“I’ve been riding mountain bikes since 1986. I really learned to ride technical terrain while in college at Chico State. We rode fully rigid bikes with toe clips. While I have had a number of different bikes in my time, I’ve always wanted a titanium hardtail. I love the look of titanium, the ride quality and the fact that it will last forever. I found this particular frame being sold on the internet, lightly used, for a decent price. So I bought the frame with the idea of building it up slowly over time. The pandemic sped things up as I had more time on my hands to do research. I had different ideas of how to build it up but I eventually settled on creating a bike that was both aesthetically beautiful and that would last a long, long time. I want to be able to get on it 20 years from now and just go! I wanted to honor the D-Jabs titanium heart and put a lot of titanium parts on it. Durability was more important than weight (although I wanted to keep it light). Tricking it out with anodized parts was tempting but I went with a look that would always be timeless.”
Spenader says he mostly rides cross-country or trail-style terrain on the hardtail.
“I’m more of a cross country rider than anything else. Back in the day, that’s how we rode. Climb up so you can descend down. I like technical terrain and I like to go fast but I don’t take big risks (too old for that now). Currently, it is my daily bike as I am enjoying it so much.”
Not only is the frame titanium, Spenader added Thomson Ti handlebars, a LiteSpeed seat post, and a Cane Creek titanium eeWings crankset for the best ride feel possible. The right materials in the right places can take away the harshness of the trail.
“I continue to be blown away at the bike’s compliance on the trail. It just absorbs the bumps so well! I’ll ride it into a rough section trail, expecting my teeth to chatter, and it just soaks up the hits. I have yet to go on a ride and miss my full suspension bike. It is efficient, fast, and compliant all in one. I know the frame is a huge part of the feel but I also believe the titanium handlebar and seat post help in the absorption of trail bumps. I also run 2.3-inch Specialized Ground Control [tires] which have a nice rounded profile that give the bike a bit more cush.”
So much cush in fact, that he has yet to get a dropper post. “Perhaps I’m old school but the dropper post is one advancement I’ve not embraced. As the industry has evolved, I have adopted suspension, clipless pedals and tubeless tires but don’t really see the value of a dropper post for the areas I ride. Plus, I like having one less cable coming off the handlebar and appreciate the weight savings of a rigid post.”
His favorite part though? The crankset, interestingly enough. The Cane Creek eeWings titanium cranks don’t come cheap, but people seem to love them. Cane Creek says that they are around the same weight as carbon cranks, but 20-30% stiffer, and they have a pretty unheard of ten-year warranty.
“They are the stiffest crankset I’ve ever ridden and they are absolutely beautiful. I just look at them and it motivates me to ride.” And, that’s exactly what a great bike ought to do.
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