Titanium bikes have an almost mythical reputation; a gloriously comfortable ride, classic looks, unmatched longevity, bulletproof strength and a dazzling finish that’s impervious to dents and scratching. There’s also the fact that there just aren’t many of these gleaming beasts on the road. Scarcity is an attractant, but beware; owning something in short supply strokes the ego and can incite envy in the crowd. There’s something about titanium bikes that conveys an aura of prestige. There is a certain elegance and honesty about them.
Perhaps it’s the understated nature of the silvery polished tubes; so refined compared to the gaudy colours and lairy decals emblazoned on many other bikes on the market. Mercedes Benz used this ‘restraint in colour’ concept to great effect in their advertising, where for a long time virtually every car shown in their print ads was silver, reinforcing the reputation of style and distinction with the colour of the precious metal.
Titanium frames tend to be conservative in design; straight, minimally shaped tubular members delivering simplicity of form that harks back to the romance of a classical steel diamond frame of bygone days. It’s a stark contrast compared to many of the hydroformed aluminium and convoluted carbon frames currently in production. But there’s no denying they do look good.
One of the reasons titanium tube has been so expensive was its short supply. During the cold war most of the world’s supply of titanium was commandeered by the world’s defence industries and so what titanium tubing was available was prohibitively expensive. Scarcity is an attractant. Ownership of unique, sophisticated goods strokes the ego. It’s not surprising then that titanium bikes cast a spell on some people.
Another cause of the low numbers of titanium frames on the market in the past has been that building frames from titanium is difficult compared to steel. Titanium can soften and gall if sharp tools and proper cooling methods are not used. However manufacturing processes for titanium frames have come a long way in recent years to enable more shaping of tubes to enhance the frames engineering properties. Indeed Lynskey have created their distinctive Helix frame from titanium tube that has been swaged and twisted to create a frame which not only looks good but they claim adds to the stiffness of the frame, perhaps allaying one of the main fears about titanium frames.
The Lynskey heritage began with production of titanium frames under another name. In 1986 Litespeed bikes began at the hands of David Lynskey. The business and brand was sold and 20 years passed before the family once again entered the market with their namesake bikes. The family connection to the business is proudly shown in the head tube badge incorporating the father’s signature, a shamrock for his Irish heritage and a hunting hawk for his wife’s British heritage. It’s a nice touch.
Conservatively sized tube is used throughout the frame and the top and down tubes have been shaped to form a ‘roundcornered diamond’ cross section. The down tube has also been compressed laterally to create a taller junction at the head tube, and vertically to create a wider joint at the bottom bracket. The seat tube is round for most of its length, just widened slightly at the bottom bracket as well. Seat stays feature the helix twisted shaping (as seen in all the tubes for their Helix frame). Welding at all junctions is ground back but not totally obscured. Lynskey have made a feature of the welds where the stays join the dropouts; leaving it as a smooth raised ring around the join—I’d rather have seen this totally removed so there’s a smooth section right through; as it is it looks like a concession to efficiency where prefab dropouts are quickly welded to the stay ends. The dropouts themselves feature a shamrock cut-out, another classy reference to the Irish past. Tubes are brushed and the simple black and white decals finish off an exceptionally good looking frame.
This bike is a custom spec with top end parts from SRAM Zipp and Enve. Fully decked out with SRAM RED 22 groupset from front to back, the gears and brakes on this bike function exceptionally well. RED 22 has been designed to allow selection of any chainring/cassette combination without consideration of cross chaining. On the road I thought this goal had been achieved quite well; you get to use the full 22 gearing options you technically have with two chainrings and an 11-cog cluster, swapping cogs at will with impunity.
However the feeling that ‘I really shouldn’t do this’ when climbing in the big-big combination didn’t leave me throughout the test.
Even though SRAM have released their hydro braking options—rim or disc, I wondered how you could need more than the braking offered by these RED22 cable actuated rim brakes. The stopping delivered by this package really is confidence inspiring; effortless one-fingered action to deliver powerful stopping from the hoods; it’s a step up from the older model RED I have used before.
I usually run brake pads with minimal clearance to the rim, preferring the immediate braking response when squeezing the brake levers. The Zipp 30s were dead straight so there was no problem there, but I did get a little front brake rub due to cable drag when turning sharply. I think this is mainly due to an excessively tight bend in the cable between the bars and callipers – a longer cable would probably sort this out. Backing off the adjuster one turn fixed it straight away, but it goes to show setup is crucial.
Zipp’s 30 wheelset looks good and performed well, and stayed straight throughout the test. Even though they run an 18/20 spoke count they’re not super light and don’t have the full aero pedigree usually associated with Zipp wheels, but they roll along nicely wrapped in Zipp’s Tangente 23mm clinchers and hold their line well cornering at speed.
Up front there’s more Zipp and some Enve too. A 110mm six-degree Service Course SL stem and 44cm service Course SL bars, mated with the Enve Road 2.0 carbon fork running through a Chris King Threadless Set kept this rig on track with no flexing to be seen.
Lynskey’s home brand titanium seatpost looks very much the part complimenting the frame nicely and topped with Selle Italia flow SLR saddle makes for a comfortable perch.
I had a great time riding this bike. The inherent flex of the titanium has been well managed through clever design, tube selection, shaping and joining to provide stiffness for efficient power delivery and predictable steering.
On the road this bike is a delight to ride. The compliance of the frame and seatpost make for a sublimely comfortable seated ride—which happily is not paid for in poor performance. At the risk of sounding excessively complimentary, again and again the smoothness of this bike surprised me as I rode over long rough chip roads, expansion joints on bridges, and joins in asphalt roads. It just soaks it all up. And knowing how comfortable it is I was hoping for the best but expecting otherwise as I headed for the hills. But climbing and sprinting the R340
package was light and responsive enough to surprise me again. I began to understand the
experience I have heard from time to time from others, of becoming one with the bike.
It just felt so solid and smooth, delivered feedback from the road and pedalling response that somehow just felt right. It’s definitely not the lightest or fastest bike I’ve ridden, but it must be a contender for the most enjoyable. And for the most part enjoyment is what it’s all about.
The R340 is a superb frame, masterfully engineered in titanium, immaculately welded and finished with a gleaming brushed satin polish. The test bike was spec’d with top shelf components from major brands SRAM Zipp and Enve. A top quality package.
Lynskey’s experience and years of product development are evident in this bike. The frame is light and stiff enough to be a real contender for racing or for the serious social rider. SRAM’s RED22 the Zipp 30s and Enve fork compliment the R340 frame well and would also be at home on the stiffer lighter R430.
At a price of $1.00 per gram, value might seem poor. Given this bike will probably last for 20 or more years you might prefer to gauge value at a low $389 per year—call it a dollar a day. Neither of these measures does it justice. The bike is a custom spec; it’s light, stylish, high functioning, bulletproof, drool-worthy, rare as hen’s teeth—and worth every penny.
Lynskey produce high quality titanium bikes. This R340 is a sophisticated, well made, well spec’d performance machine for the discerning cyclist. But beyond the reputation of titanium and its sleek good looks, this is a bike that needs to be ridden to be appreciated.
Frame: Lynskey R340 titanium 3AL/2.5V
Fork: Enve Road 2.0 carbon
Stem: Zipp Service Course SL carbon 110mm
Handlebars: Zipp Service Course SL carbon 44cm
Saddle: Selle Italia Flow SLR
Seat Post: Lynskey titanium
Shift Levers: SRAM RED22
Brakes: SRAM RED22 cable
F Derailleur: SRAM RED22
R Derailleur: SRAM RED22
Cassette: SRAM RED22 12-25
Chain: SRAM RED22
Crank: SRAM RED22
Wheels: 2014 Zipp 30
Tyres: Zipp Tangente 23mm
Titanium is used in areas where weight reduction is critical while maintaining high strength and rigidity. Commercial (99.2% pure) grades of titanium are as strong as some low-grade steel alloys, but are 45% lighter. Titanium is 60% more dense than aluminium, but more
than twice as strong as the most commonly used 6061-T6 aluminium alloy. So it is light and strong but not overly stiff, much less so than aluminium alloys and carbon fibre.
Titanium has a fatigue limit; it’s able to withstand significant force below which there appears to be no number of cycles that will cause failure. Aluminium does not have a distinct limit and will eventually fail even from small stress amplitudes. Due to their high tensile strength to density ratio, high corrosion resistance, fatigue resistance, high crack resistance, titanium alloys are used in aircraft, armour plating, naval ships, spacecraft, missiles—and bicycles!
About two thirds of all titanium metal produced is used in aircraft engines and frames. The Airbus A380 uses around 77 tonnes, including about 11 tonnes in the engines. The titanium 6AL-4V alloy (90% titanium, 6% aluminium, 4% vanadium) accounts for almost 50% of all alloys used in aircraft applications.