If you’ve read about my dream bike build, you already know that I have an affinity for titanium as a bike frame material – at least theoretically. At the recently held 2016 Philippine Bike Demo Day, I got the chance to put it to the test.
Lynskey Performance Designs Philippines was one of the distributors on hand. Considering their status as a boutique manufacturer, one that specializes in titanium, I found it mildly amusing that they had at least a dozen demonstrator bikes there – split between road and mountain. They even had a titanium fat bike in there.
Ralph and the crew were gracious enough to lend me their Pro Cross model. This is Lynskey’s cyclocross bike, one with some very unique design elements. Like old-school cross bikes, the Pro Cross routes all its cables externally with cable stops along the top tube, to facilitate carrying the bike on the shoulder in races. Also quite striking is the way the downtube twists along its length as it links the bottom bracket shell and the head tube, similar to the Helix road bike frame. Even with all this, however, the Pro Cross has a nod to practicality with complete mount points for fenders – even at the seatstay bridge and chainstay bridge.
Fortunately for my frame evaluation purposes, the Pro Cross demo bike was almost exactly the same size as Hyro, my Giant TCX SLR 2, and built up very similarly. Shimano’s fourth-tier Tiagra 4700 drivetrain handles power transmission with a 50/34T crank and what seems to be an 11-28T 10-speed cassette, all turned by Shimano’s Deore XT trail SPD pedals. Braking comes courtesy of TRP’s Spyre-C mechanical disc brake calipers – basically OEM Spyre models. Lightweight Axis disc brake wheels were shod with Clement’s LAS 33 mm file-tread tires.
As Lynskey primarily sells framesets only, the demo bike had a few mismatched parts – particularly the through-axle fork. Zertz elastomers give away its origin from a Specialized Roubaix. The 90 cm stem and saddle (can’t tell if it was a Romin or a Toupe, probably the latter) are also from the big S, atop a 27.2 mm-diameter seatpost. A compact drop handlebar completes the build kit.
Riding the bike around for twenty minutes, I had forgotten to ask Ralph to raise the saddle about 3 mm or so. Other than that, I paid careful attention to how the frame behaved.
Immediately noticeable is just how smoother the ride is on the Pro Cross. The bike muffles surface irregularities and road acne better than my TCX, which tends to go for a purist, direct approach to road feel. At first I thought the comfort was down to the 33 mm Clement file-treads, but when I was told they were inflated to 60 psi, I knew the cushy ride was down to the frame itself.
Even with the plusher ride, however, the titanium bike is just as responsive to out-of-the-saddle efforts and climbing. It’s usefully stiff, and it helps that the bare Pro Cross is a little lighter than my commuter-kitted TCX. The Spyre-C brakes are as reliable as I’ve ever known them, despite some light squealing on this particular bike. Shift quality on Tiagra 4700 easily trumps my 105 5700 drivetrain – such is the lightness of effort needed to click through cogs and even chainrings.
There are a few details on the bike I’m not too keen on though. The top tube cable routing had some zip ties on it that snagged on my shorts. I’m also not a fan of the PF30 bottom bracket shell, about which I’ve heard too many horror stories to recommend. Finally, the seatstay-mounted rear brake caliper means mounting a rear rack is going to be a little more complicated.
There’s also the price. Despite greater efficiencies these days, titanium still isn’t cheap, and Lynskey’s rightfully built itself a reputation as a premium frame builder. With proper care, such a bike frame has the ability to outlive you, though, without the susceptibility to rust and the slight weight penalty that steel has.
I guess titanium is the stuff my bike frame dreams are made of. I’m glad to know it’s as good as it’s ballyhooed to be. Now how much is the going rate for a kidney these days?