Test ride impressions: Titanium – Lynskey Pro Cross

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.

The Lynskey Pro Cross demo bike. Basic size and geometry are very similar to my TCX, as was much of its build kit – great for a back-to-back comparison.

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?

Raiding the 2016 Philippine Bike Demo Day

Every Sunday morning, Filinvest City in Alabang plays host to joggers, cyclists, and even the occasional Zumba dancing crowd. December 11, 2016 played out a little differently: the place was the venue for the second Philippine Bike Demo Day.

Moving to the south of Metro Manila from its inaugural holding in San Mateo, Rizal’s Timberland, I was told the event now also aims to attract a larger crowd compared to the previous mountain-bike-specific focus. As such, a huge smattering of cycling-related brands and their Philippine distributors were on hand to raise awareness, and even perhaps get riders to sample their wares on the saddle.

Registration was done either in advance online, or at the event itself, for PhP150. A large area was provided for visitor bike parking. You need to provide two government-issue ID cards to test-ride the demo bikes, though.

Quite notably, there were a lot of road bike brands in attendance. Aside from the big players such as Trek, Giant, Cannondale and Specialized, boutique manufacturers such as Storck, BH, Lynskey and Colnago had presence.

Even the clothing apparel brands were out and about, too. I saw Pearl Izumi Philippines in attendance, as well as local custom jersey and bib shorts tailor Podium Designs, offshoot of Manila’s RapidFire Cycles. I didn’t avail of the event shirt, but apparently Edlee Designs, another local name in custom jerseys and Lycra shorts, was responsible for those.

Perhaps the most distinctive exhibitor there was Gruppo Veloce Sportivo, which was on hand to promote Vintage Electric Bicycles instead of their boutique cycling goods. According to proprietor JP Cariño, these vintage motorcycle-aping, battery-powered electric bikes have enough energy density for 54 kilometers of easy riding at 35 km/h. They are capable of faster speeds, but expect a corresponding drop in battery life. Funny enough, I noticed that the bikes are equipped with Schwalbe’s fat 26″ tires and Shimano’s Alfine hydraulic brakes, so they do take from the bicycle parts bin.

I had shoehorned my visit into the time I had for my Sunday morning long ride, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to test as many bikes as I could. However, I did manage to try out Lynskey’s ProCross, the Tennessee titanium specialist’s cyclocross bike. Impressions to follow.

Shortly after my ride with it, I bumped into my buddy Mario Ramos, who was keen on trying out a titanium frame for himself as well.

Overall, the event was good, but it boggled Mario and I to no end that the organizers tried to keep holding back the demo rides until well into 9 am in the morning. They say it was in the interest of safety, but preventing the demo bikes being ridden defeats the point of the event, I think. Oh well.

I leave you with a few photos of things I found interesting at the event.

Gruppo Veloce Sportivo’s stall was located in between BMC’s and Colnago Manila’s. Most of the electric bikes on display were on slicks.

Right behind Lynskey’s booth was a smattering of the brand’s mountain bikes and even a fat bike. That’s a lot of titanium.

Newton, the Quezon City-based distributors of Cat Eye, Mavic and Cannondale, had this Minoura FG540 hybrid roller trainer on display. It has a 7-step remote-actuated resistance unit mounted to the Cannondale SuperSix Evo’s handlebars. Very cool.

The bike parking sticker on my TCX.