Saturday, August 15, 2009

Return of the TitanFlex!

This afternoon I returned the TitanFlex to its creator, Tom Piszkin. I didn't get another ride in due to other commitments.

Thanks, Tom, for such a generous 5-day demo, and for your endless patience answering my many, many questions!

And I also just learned I could add images to my blog posts! Here's a shot of Tom with the TitanFlex Veteran I've been demoing, just before he removed my wheels, pedals, saddle, bottle cage, and cadence/speed sensor:

This shot shows the "cleanbrake" front brake control Tom invented:
After I got used to it, I found it to be very convenient. I'm still an aero newbie, and having such easy access to the front brake boosted my confidence, and permitted me to stay in aero more of the time.

Here are a few shots showing some TitanFlex Veteran construction details that are nicely visible on the unpainted frame. First, a close-up of the cable entry into the top of the frame:

Next, a shot of the front derailleur cable exit. This photo was taken with the camera between and just above the rear dropouts. The extra cable length from the front derailleur was tucked back into the frame to get it out of the way, rather than cutting it just for my demo.

The next photo shows how the front derailleur cable tube is routed out of the monocoque frame. This hole is normally plugged before the frame is painted.

Next, a shot of the Cane Creek fork with the rear-mounted brake:
The above image also shows an almost edge-on view of the monocoque frame. The body of the frame is truly hollow, containing no inner tubes. The inserts for the bottle cages attach only to welded sheet metal. The monocoque TitanFlex Veteran frame uses only 4 short tubes: One to close the triangle between the chainstays and the seatstays, one for the headtube, one for the bottom bracket, and one to hold the beam tube.

The TitanFlex Transition frame replaces the monocoque section with a pair of shaped aluminum tubes. This link shows side-by side images of each frame type, and this link provides detailed dimensions for all TitanFlex frames. The frame I demoed is the Veteran 700-ST (Stretch), and it's detailed diagram is here.

Since this was a newbie demo, and not a formal review or test ride, I'm rather limited in the lessons and conclusions I can draw from this demo. But there certainly are some very obvious things I can state:

First, since this demo was also my first ride on a TT bike, I now know I really like riding in a deep aero position, and I've shown I can achieve a PR on a windy day, even when I'm tired. Clearly, a TT bike is in my future! However, this does not mean I will ever retire my road bike, since a TT bike is not the safest thing to ride on streets filled with traffic, nor is it practical for very long rides.

Second, the TitanFlex clearly achieves dramatic vibration and bump reduction in a very light frame. This behavior was it's primary design motivation, and it achieves that goal in spades.

Third, the extreme adjustability of the TitanFlex geometry, provided by beam tube and seatpost positioning, means almost any TitanFlex frame can be fit to almost any rider. The Veteran 700-ST ("STretch") frame I demoed was, by any "normal" measure, way too "long" for me, with a bottom bracket to front dropout distance of 62.4 cm. By comparison, this distance on my Trek Madone road bike is about 58.5 cm. Despite this apparent size difference, the TitanFlex frame was easily adjusted to match the precise fit JT (of Moment Cycle Sport) had optimized for me.

So, if a rider can get a precise fit using any of several TitanFlex frames, what factors should drive the TitanFlex frame selection process? I mean, for most bikes, we can only select among those specific frames that can fit us, which is usually just one or two frames from each manufacturer (with various accessory and component options across a wide price spectrum). Then you have to trade off between whatever features each frame designer chose to provide and how they were implemented. It seems to me that TitanFlex turns this upside down, where you can select the design features you want, knowing you are certain to get a frame that fits.

Fourth, and finally, when TitanFlex bikes are compared to other road and time trial bikes on the market, it is clearly competitive on price, performance, and features. And the TitanFlex delivers one important additional feature no other performance bike currently on the market even tries to deliver: Extreme vibration reduction. Even if you don't need that feature, it is included, and I expect it would prove valuable to all riders, from elite to newbie.

Given that Tom Piszkin is both a local manufacturer and seller, and is also a generous TCSD sponsor, I believe every TCSD member should give a TitanFlex serious consideration before buying any other bike. I suggest that the first question in our minds when we start thinking about getting a new bike should be: "Why not a TitanFlex?" We should ask this question no matter what kind of bike we need, and no matter what our budget is.

I recommend seeing Tom first, then compare his product to everything else on the market. If you do find that some other bike suits you better than a TitanFlex, please let Tom know why, to give him the opportunity to tailor his future products to better meet all our needs. Tom doesn't try to address all possible bike markets, but I do believe he targets triathletes particularly well.

Tom is one of "us", and he certainly deserves the chance to earn our business!

One final note: After several conversations with Tom, I developed a general idea of the size of his annual sales. His gift of $4000 of TitanFlex products to the TCSD 25th Anniversary Party represents a significant percentage of his total revenues, and I suspect a surprisingly large percentage of his total 2009 profits. I seriously doubt that any other TCSD sponsor is donating anywhere near this percentage of their revenues to the club! (Though I do know of several TCSD sponsors who donate even when it hurts.)

Ask Tom why he's doing this. You'll like his answers!

Reminder: The opinions expressed here are those of a total TT newbie. If you can improve this dire situation, please add your comments!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Bob,

    A little off topic here but I was following some of your commentary on another thread via Joe Friel regarding cleat positioning. Wondering if you might have some time to discuss the outcome of your experimentation via email or phone.