On Test: Motobecane Fly Team Titanium 29er

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Motobecane is known for selling affordable mountain bikes, but it turns out affordable doesn’t have to mean “low end,” as the Fly Team Ti 29er clearly demonstrates. This race bike is built on a titanium frame and features a full XTR drivetrain and brakeset, plus top-shelf components.  I just so happen to have one of these bikes in for review, and so far I’m very impressed with both the build and the ride quality. Here’s everything you need to know about how the bike is put together.

Frame

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The Motobecane Fly Team Ti frame is butted and hand-crafted in Taiwan out of “aerospace grade” titanium. The frame is clear coated, which puts all the titanium goodness on display to maximize the jealousy factor (conveniently, clear coat also saves weight over a painted frame.) All the frame work appears to be very well done with trim, smooth welds, and precisely-shaped tubes.

When talking about any bike frame, the geometry is the key and clearly the Fly Team is designed to be a cross-country race machine that’s still fun to ride. The 70-degree head tube angle is toward the slack end for an XC bike, most of which feature angles between 69.5 and 71 degrees, which means this bike should climb well without being too awkward on the descents. Because it’s a hardtail, the chainstays can be super short–just 435mm, which should make the bike very maneuverable and snappy. The 1108mm (size medium) wheelbase is pretty much average for an XC bike–a pretty safe choice.

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The top tube length is also fairly standard compared to most XC 29er mountain bikes (643mm for the XL frame I’m testing.) But when you factor in the longish stem this bike ships with (see below), the rider is effectively stretched into a more aggressive XC-race stance.

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One interesting item to note is that the 15.5 and 17.5-inch frames feature a slightly slacker head tube angle, perhaps in an effort to minimize toe rub issues. This seems like a thoughtful tweak that to me suggests this is a well-considered design.

Components

Mountain bike frames are sexy (especially titanium ones!) but honestly components tend to get even more of the glory in the eyes of consumers. And why not? Components do all the hard work of spinning, clicking, and bouncing!

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The Fly Team Ti ships with the brand new Shimano XTR M9000 2×11 drivetrain in all its glory: shifters, front and rear derailleurs, cranks, cassette, the works. If you haven’t seen the new group it’s truly a wonder to behold with curvy, shiny bits and a futuristic design. Not only that, it actually works pretty well on the trail but I’ll save that for a separate review.

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Keeping with the XTR theme, the Fly Team Ti ships with XTR ICE brakes with 160mm center lock rotors and carbon levers. These are the brakes everyone raves about and not surprisingly, they perform well on this bike.

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The front fork is a RockShox Reba RL 100mm with a tapered steerer, a venerable fork for sure and a very solid choice for this type of bike.  Motobecane spec’d Ritchey WCS components (bar, stem, seatpost, saddle) which are basically Ritchey’s top-of-the-line goods. At 710mm, the bars seem fairly wide when paired with the stems Motobecane is speccing (130mm for the 21″ frame I’m testing) but the current adage of “wider is better” means most consumers won’t have a complaint.

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The Fly Team Ti rolls on Vuelta Superlight 29er wheels which feature bladed spokes and come “tubeless compatible.” The wheels are fairly lightweight, weighing in around 1550g for the pair. Note: the rims are narrow (19mm) but for an XC race machine like this, narrow rims are a good choice.

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Based on the “affordable” reputation Motobecane has built, It’s hard to say where the company skimped on this build, if at all. On first glance, the grips appear cheesy but they’re actually Ritchey WCS Truegrip foam grips, beloved by many riders (and also really lightweight.) Personally I would want to swap these out for some good lock-ons and fortunately that’s pretty much the cheapest upgrade on a bike.

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The Kenda Small Block 8 tires included on the Fly Team bike are a safe choice but they’re really not great all-rounders. I love these tires on hard pack… but that’s just about it. The stock tires are also a bit too skinny (2.1″) for my tastes, even on an XC rig (and especially mounted on 19mm rims). Fortunately the frame is designed to accommodate tires up to 2.35″ so the second upgrade I would make would be to swap the 2.1″ Small Block 8s for 2.35″ Maxxis Ikons. Still, it’s hard to argue with the Small Block 8 as a fast rolling tire, which makes it a good choice for this bike’s intended use.

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Out of the box, this bike (size XL, 21″) weighs 23.3lbs. (without pedals).

Set up

The Fly Team Ti is mainly available for purchase online and when you order this bike direct, it shows up on your doorstep in a box. Most of the difficult assembly bits have been taken care of but you’ll still need to install rotors (get out your cassette and crank tools!), attach brake calipers, mount the bars and seatpost, and attach the rear derailleur. The test bike I received needed zero derailleur adjustment once everything was attached, though the brakes do feel a bit soft like they could use a fluid top-off.  All told, the assembly process took me about two hours and required just a few tools.

I’ve only been riding the Fly Team Ti for about a week now, so you’ll have to stay tuned for my full review where I’ll talk about how this bike rides. But from a purely superficial standpoint, it’s pretty apparent that this bike, offered at $3,495.99 online, is a great deal. Heck, the XTR group and fork alone retail for close to that; a couple friends have mentioned that buying this bike is like getting a titanium frame for free.

Check back soon for a full review of the Motobecane Fly Team Ti 29er.

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