7 Things You Didn’t Know About Titanium | GCN Tech Does Science


(collisions reverberating) – We’ve looked at the myths
surrounding carbon fiber. We’ve lifted the lid on aluminum. We’ve investigated whether
steel is in fact real; it was. But, there is still a big gap in the GCN Material Sciences Course. And that, is titanium. For a while, in the early ’90s, titanium was going to
be the next big thing. And to be fair, it briefly was, but little by little it became
eclipsed by carbon fiber. Nevertheless though, it still has a legion of super loyal
fans, and quite right too. So if you’re not onboard
the titanium train yet, or perhaps more accurately,
military aircraft or submarine, what do you need to know? (relaxed chill music) Despite having the reputation
that it’s the preserve of the Russian or American military, which to be fair, it kind of was, titanium is actually the
ninth most common element in the earth’s crust. And as well as using it to make bikes, you can also find it
in sun cream and paper, to make it whiter. Clearly though, what makes paper white doesn’t really help very much
when you’re making bikes, other than perhaps drawing
up your initial ideas, and that is because it’s titanium oxide that’s used in paper, whereas
when we’re making bikes we need a titanium alloy. The very first titanium
bikes were actually though made out of pure titanium,
but they were very flexible and they weren’t very much good. And it wasn’t until a
titanium alloy called 3AL/2.5V that that changed, having blended in 3% aluminum and 2.5% vanadium. The other common titanium
alloy for bikes is 6AL/4V. Both have a very high
Young’s modulus, which is a measure of the
stiffness of the material, so they have a gPA of about 110 as opposed to, let’s say 6061 aluminum, which has a GPa about about 69. And they also have a much
higher yield strength, so that is the point at which a material stops returning to its original position when a stress is removed. So six-four titanium has an MPa of 1000, whereas again 6061 aluminum
has an MPa of just 270. And what that means is that the material won’t deform or bend or buckle in a crash. Three two-five actually
has a lower yield strength than six-four titanium, but
then that’s one of the reasons why it is used almost
exclusively in bike-building, because six-four titanium is
incredibly hard to work with. It’s more brittle and less ductile, so forming it into simple shapes, like, I don’t know, tubes for a start, is incredibly hard. And actually most six-four titanium tubes are rolled from sheet
metal and then welded, whereas three-2.5 tends to be seamless. And so that actually gives a
more consistent overall tube, and therefore is better from
a quality control perspective. So in other words,
basically, although on paper the material properties
of six-four titanium might look better, it won’t
necessarily yield a better bike. Titanium is renowned as being
super light, but in fact, as a material, it’s actually
60% denser than aluminum. However, given what we’ve just heard about the other material properties, you can still see why titanium frames tend to come out slightly
lighter than aluminum ones. So, the best examples of each would be about 1000 grams for a titanium frame and about 1100 grams for aluminum. So, 100 grams in it. And the reason that difference
is actually still quite small is probably down to a measure
of just how much easier it is to work and manipulate aluminum, and we we’ll come on to
that a little bit later on. And we also have to bear in mind that super light titanium frames will also have exceedingly
thin-walled tubing as a result of that extra density. And then when we compare it to steel, titanium is as strong but 45% less dense. And so that explains why titanium frames are significantly lighter than steel. That toughness in terms
of material properties does make titanium very
difficult to work with, as we’ve already touched on. Fortunately though,
much of that difficulty is actually dealt with by the
tube manufacturers themselves. One of those things is that
internally butted tubes can’t be made safely from titanium. Basically the danger is that
titanium can be overworked, and then that would lead to
a weakness in the material. Now on the flip side, what you can do is externally butt the tubing, so instead of a mandrel
working away inside the tube, titanium is shaved off from the outside. However that does rely heavily on the straightness of the
tubing in the first place, because any imperfections in that would also then be reflected
in the wall thicknesses. So, that’s probably why this
bike behind me (taps frame) is made out of straight
gauge titanium tubing. Titanium is also a little
bit trickier to weld than steel or aluminum, and that’s because it’s reactive to oxygen
at higher temperatures, meaning that when it is welded, it needs to be done in
an absence of that gas. Now to be fair, all metals need to be welded in an inert gas environment, but titanium is particularly sensitive. So to put it in context,
if you’re welding steel an acceptable purge, so called, needs to be about 1000
parts of oxygen per million, whereas with titanium, it’s
just 10 parts per million. So that is a little bit
of challenge to a welder, and if any oxygen does get into the weld, then the titanium oxidizes. Which, if you remember
from earlier in the video, is a very white, almost
worthless white powder. The technique then is to weld
in an inert argon atmosphere, so basically you pipe
argon gas into the tubes, and then externally to the weld as well, but then that ensures that
it’s all nice and strong. The last thing that can
make titanium a bit tricky is working. So you see, we mentioned earlier that aluminum can be
engineered and manipulated into all sorts of complicated shapes, but with titanium, even bending a simple S-bend chainstay, for example, extreme care has to be taken
you don’t overwork the material which can then lead to it becoming brittle and therefore weak. In order to avoid that, the
titanium needs to be annealed, which is where you heat it up and then you allow it to cool
down slowly in between each incremental step of the process. It’s quite time consuming,
labor intensive, and it’s another reason why titanium bikes tend to be quite expensive. Is it expensive though? Well, yes compared to aluminum bikes. But it’s probably on a
part with custom steel, and significantly cheaper,
you’ve got to say, than top-end carbon fiber. It is a boutique material, and so yes, there is a boutique cost as well. So the raw material is
between $10 and $12 per kilo. Finished tubes are between
$100 to $120 per kilo. But that puts it a little
bit more than standard steel and on a par with stainless steel. But dare I say though, and because it’s not quite so
fashionable at the moment perhaps, in the cycling world, there are some relative
bargains to be had. And to be fair, we’ve given you an awful lot of information so far, but we’ve not quite got to the nub yet of why titanium has such a loyal following and can be, frankly, so great. You can get a custom titanium
frame really quite easily and it’s going to be considerably lighter than an equivalent custom steel frame, so about 400 grams lighter. I’d guess an average custom
steel frame is about 1600 grams; titanium could be about 1200 grams. Which is pretty important
if you are looking to build a super light road bike. Yes titanium is reactive, but your frame is not going to corrode, not like steel, not like aluminum; it is going to last. And so for many people,
the Ti bike is the keeper. Beauty is very much in
the eye of the beholder, but I think titanium has
undeniably a special something. I mean look at the raw finish on this; it’s like it’s glowing. Ah, the ride quality,
even harder to pin down than aesthetics. Now traditionally, titanium
has a ride feel like no other. But the boundaries between
materials are blurring; engineering is taking
things to new places. So steel can now be as stiff as aluminum; aluminum can now be as
forgiving as carbon fiber. But titanium traditionally
has always been about zing. I heard it described back in the day like a great titanium frame
was trying to spring forward and gain momentum off every
bump or ripple in the road. And that, to my mind,
sounds pretty amazing. Now unfortunately, I’ve
literally never spent any proper time on a titanium bike. So at some point soon
I hope to remedy that. Well there is your Titanium 101. Hopefully you can add it now as a material that you know as much about as steel, aluminum, and carbon fiber. Please give this video a big thumbs up; if nothing else you’ve been
looking at some bike porn for the last few minutes. And if you want to watch
one of those videos, refresh your knowledge
about the other materials, why not check out the one
about aluminum just down there.

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100 thoughts on “7 Things You Didn’t Know About Titanium | GCN Tech Does Science

  1. a good but cheap alu frame is the best everyday training/commuter city bike… cause bikes get stolen and crashed if you use them…carbon is for serious racing and titanium is for over 40 bike fans…

  2. You should now do a bit on Magnesium frames. 60% lighter than aluminum but as strong as carbon fiber. You can use the Pinarello Dogma AK-61 frame as an example (2007 frame, which won the TDF by the way).

  3. In summary, titanium frames can replace Roubaix-style frames (northern Classics racing) and your all around daily steed but not the Venge or the Tarmac niches. The end of the road for World Cup use coincided with CF brands splitting their bikes in to specialty roles with special designs for that "triad" of design goals/roles.

  4. So, just bought a Ti frameset Wittson Illuminati Ti. It is made from Grade 9 Ti with star shaped tubes and all sorts of double butting and 'stuff'. Sounds like, from your words, that it will either be MEGA awesome or will harden and crack apart in a few minutes. Hope its MEGA awesome.

  5. In addition to plenty of carbon and aluminum bikes, we still have two Litespeed Ti bikes from the '90's, with updated components. They're both still like new, and are essentially indestructible and quite lightweight. Both ride well, and will probably be sold off by our heirs one day. I love my carbon bikes, but Ti is for life.

  6. I moved from a scott addict to a Seven SLX titanium. I will never forget that first ride home from the shop. thought the bike had suspension.

  7. Mpa means megapascal. It's a unit of pressure or force over area. So one pascal is one Newton applied over one square meter and a Megapascal Is one million Newtons applied over one square meter. 1000Mpa is one billion Newtons over one square meter… it basically means titanium is crazy strong!

  8. Ti frames can last long, but manufacturers keep changing specs, like BB, head tube, seat post, rear drop …. so actually it won't last very long.

  9. We're not supposed to fall in love with material things. Not true with my 2005 Litespeed Tuscany. The complete bike with Ultegra it weighs 18.5 lbs. The bike has a variety of formed tubes. The top tube has a cloverleaf cross section, the down tube is a wide flatish oval shape, the seat tube is round and seat stays are curved in 2 directions. The pedal to rear wheel power transfer is on par with steel and the ride is very forgiving. The bare metal is pretty and this video has inspired me to replace the decals! Keep up the good work at GCN. I have

  10. Another attempt by manufacturers to get buyers to opt-in on Ti for no good reason. If it's not rotational mass don't waste money on Ti.

  11. Really, I don't think it was intended for anyone but manufacturers and you. Manufacturers to get out the nonsense they hope will mean more money by paying a professional mouth and you just wanting people to throw pennies your way. As I said regurgitated bullshit voiced by a sociopath for other money grubbing fucks.

  12. You need to recheck your steel tubing. I have been a frame builder at R+E Cycles in Seattle for nearly 20 years and our steel frames are lighter than any titanium frame when using our high carbon steel alloys. Check your steel manufacturers bud. Ti builds are 4x's the price of high carbon steel frames and heavier as I mentioned. Stainless tubesets are on par with ti tubes. Rodbikes.com if you want info from a company that has been building since 1973. Sounds to me like you read magazines and havent been talking to frame builders.

  13. Titanium can be repaired again and again but aluminium loses its heat treatment when welded and carbon fibre repairs are 50% weaker than the original I have two titanium frames I have repaired both are still going strong after six years …Manhattan Project is a real carbon titanium hybrid an out and out race bike from 2001. But out of all my bikes I have a soft spot for my 2008 pinarello Paris frame so stiff and light

  14. titanium has some advantages. no paint means you can repair them easier when they break. titanium is supposed to have less issues with dents affecting strength. if the tubes are properly hydroformed and all that stiffness isnt as much of an issue depending on rider weight. tube diameter and stiffness are highly related especially on the uber light ti frames, so larger riders needs larger tubes. hydroforming and some of the complex shaping we see done with aluminium and even carbon fiber it regards to shapes could potentially be applied to titanium to get a better effect then whats been done in the past.

    tapered steerer tubes would deffs help stiffness of ti forks and frames. i mean, theres a reason ti is in freestyle bmx but carbon really isnt besides a few spots. and ti still gets used in racing frames, though carbon seems to be more popular. some alloying research, looking into some of the newer hydroforming techniques and optimizing for the material would be awesome. not everyone wants high end carbon frames even if they are willing to drop on high end frames. if carbon can get cheap enough to replace alloy in all but the lowest end bikes then i think titanium would be a cool high end material to look into. could even lead to some awesome hybrid material frames, ive seen some old roadbike frames with carbon seat stays and other bits on the frame for weight savings and stiffness. ti bb shell and some other bits bonded to carbon.

    carbon fiber while strong does get easily destroyed by certain things. and it breaks in a spectacularly bad way. aluminium would be lighter but not as strong.

  15. Non coated/painted brushed or polished titanium. Coolest naked material ever. It has this muted hi-tech grey sheen to it, hard to describe.

  16. I love titanium, I have 2 road bikes and 1 mtn bike, both road bikes are 15 plus years old and still going

  17. Its pronounced Ti-tanium, not Tit-tanium. I know you're a brit and can't speak properly but please try a bit harder

  18. I've tried titanium frame once. I can say it's amazing, compared ordinary aluminium and steel frames, very soft and smooth, and reduce vibration. But only carbon fibre allow to made an anisotropic frame, low vibration and the dame time very rigid to pedaling.

  19. Don’t have a single interest in bikes, but this video was superb. And that shop layout….thumbs up just for that.

  20. titanium bikes are shit cause they flex waaaay too much. Okay for a road ride maybe, but any trail riding on Ti bikes is shitty.

  21. About welding titanium you can use 100% argon gas are you going to use a mixed gas 25% Oregon and 75% helium

  22. The only thing about titanium no one can deal with yet is that if you want to cast titanium into a pre frame shape it's extremely hard to do because the whole molding process of the mold has to maintain the temperature until the injection of the titanium's completed are elsewise you'll have some priests little fication and mess up the casting

  23. Reynolds 853 air hardened steel has a Youngs modulus slightly below titanium and weighs just a bit less and yet costs about 1/3 less. Carbon is the "magical marketing material"=stiff yet flexible-huh?. My Schwinn Peloton with Reynolds 853 was a size too big for me. I bought a high end used carbon fiber Diamondback. I dont race anymore. The steel frame with carbon fork was INFINITELY more forgiving. The carbon bikes are so stiff they make my teeth chatter. If I were to buy a road bike again, I'd lust after Titanium but would buy an 853 Reynolds air hardened steel frame, for its compliant ride but stiff bottom bracket that allowed a rider who could squat 500lbs, to get out of the saddle and beat almost anyone in a 1/4 mile sprint. Carbon is a marketing come on. I wouldnt even buy a saddle with carbon rails, ONLY titanium, it absorbs that much road shock.

  24. I've got Al, carbon, steel, combos of the above and an old Ti Merckx. The Merckx get 90+% of the ride time. Hard to explain but it does everything very well and looks really cool. Plus zero worries.

  25. titanium.The Queen of bumpy roads or cobblestones.
    Nothing to compare with,always stays in the same stiffness and doesn’t rust or oxydize and has that
    special shiny glance to it

  26. I was riding a titanium frame back in the early 90s. You are spot on about the details on this material. Despite having several carbon bikes in my collection, my titanium will be my doomsday ride.

  27. I built my dream bike in 1981. It was a custom boron reinforced welded all aluminum frame by the MIT materials science graduate Gary Klein.
    The craftsmanship was gloriously sculptural and flawless. It was the most extic and expensive bike frame at the time other than super craftsmanship custom steel "art" frames.
    One of my riding friends was a material science major with him at MIT. That's how I found out about him.
    Up until that time there had a few one off experimental aluminum frames ("glued and screwed" lugs).
    I lived Milwaukee Wi. and worked in a bike store during college.
    The USA national championship bicycle races were held along the Milwaukee Lake Michigan shore front with several steep but short hill climbs for a few years.
    You could hear those early iterations of experimental aluminum bikes creaking as they climbed.
    I had been itching for several years to decide what I wanted. Albert Eisentraut hand crafted the most glorious works of art steel bikes at that time and I was thinking of "pulling the trigger" on one of those.
    I happened to be wandering around one of the local bike stores and by accident saw this really "out the world" built up bike frame. It had FAT welded tubes and was quite light. The finish work was somewhat rough, but it was intriguing. It was an aluminum Klein bike! Non-main stream modern stuff had always appealed to me. I found out that my friend who knew Gary was the local "rep" to area dealers (like two stores) and got the specs/pricing etc. for me.
    The more I heard the more compelling it became. I saw the most recent bike (second generation) and got more excited. When the third generation appeared I was hooked and he now had a drool worthy glossy brochure to wallow over.
    I soon actually was able to speak to him by phone and work out what he was willing to do.
    I chose my custom color paint, it was going to be a six speed with one chainring crank (Zeus), (I did a lot of touring and was in pretty good shape to climb the hills) which meant only one shift lever, a Huret cut-out interior (lighter weight lever, of course, Campy track pedals and Record derailleur, Cinelli stem, Triple T handle bars, Modolo brakes (better crafted and finished than Campagnolo brakes), Unicanitor nylon track saddle, Campy seat post, alloy wheels with High-E hubs and sew-up tires.
    Back in the 80's the owner of the Milwaukee Sentinel newspaper, who was a bike rider, wanted to create a week long ride fashioned after the the pioneers started a bike ride across Iowa, RAGBRAI (Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa).

  28. Their ride, 46th year, continues to be held. It's one week and is different every year. The ride is limited to ONLY 8,500 participants.
    The Sentinel ride was one week long and first started in 1981. The ride was limited to 325 riders on each of three routes. One started in Lacrosse, another in Wausau and third in Fish Creek in Door County Wi. The finish was one week later at Greenfield Park in West Allis Wi. a suburb of Milwaukee. The newspaper threw an afternoon picnic for the returning 975 participants and families. The whole nine yards. Brats, burgers, roasted corn, baked beans etc. I rode in nine of them until 1989.
    Especially during the earlier rides I would lean my bike against a wall as did everyone else, BUT mine always had a crowd of 10-15 looking at and discussing their thoughts about what they were seeing.
    There was nothing like it to be seen anywhere. FAT tubes compared to the standard steel framed bikes, plus it was a six speed while all the others were standard 10 "speed". Then there was the extreme "milled and drilled" modification. To us crazies less weight the better so I took my parts to a machine shop and tiny holes drilled in the front chainring teeth, in the jockey wheel cages and had the crank arms milled this, of course, was done without any calculated info as to possible material failure.
    And then, maybe part of the curiosity had to do with my color choice.
    I, in my mind, thought I remembered it on a bike in the Nationals.
    To find a chip I went to an automotive paint store and paged through their paint books and BINGO the color turned out to be a 1957 Cadillac…..
    ready for this……? It was called "Dusty Rose", a greyed out pink!!!
    It actually was quite tasteful, not bright or flashy, muted rather. The initial problem was that Gary Klein didn't want to do it because he thought it was too wild, however I talked him into it.
    Look at bike colors now, who would have "thunk it"! The bike rode like a train on rails, really stable, but not harsh. It climbed and cornered well. I never felt any squirmyness at speed. Very comfortable.
    Gary Klein had successful business for quite a while and then the Trek bike company based in Wi. bought his company out.

  29. I totally agree if weight, aero, aesthetics are your top priority carbon bikes are the best, however steel is real but titanium IMO if you just want an all around great bike is the best because it's super strong, does not rust, there is no paint so paint chips and cracks are not an issue, cosmetically easy to maintain and monitor for defects, light weight, can't delaminate or be effected by UV, no fatigue. I understand any bike can be defective or brake but if you are spending thousands of dollars and don't 100% care about weight looks or simply going as fast as possible than yeah titanium is a great every day bike material which makes it a great material for a majority of riders

  30. I have had 2x Titanium bolts SNAP in half by only using hand tools so WHAT is WRONG with TITANIUM?? Or is it that the Chinese are cutting back on % of Ti in the material?

  31. I purchased a Serotta Ottrott,titanium carbon frame in 2005,many years later with about 10,000 miles,the bike still rides great.

  32. I bought my GT Xziang 29er frame in Korat, Thailand for 620 dollars US. There's one, Medium, frame remaining as of August 5th 2019.

  33. My Serotta Concourse CS ti bike has always been a great smooth ride! My very first road bike was a low end Cannondale aluminum, so much rougher on the road.

  34. When are you going to do a segment on BAMBOO frames??? I hear they ride like a dream but awesome for sprints and can last a "lifetime". There is a company in Cambodia called Rattan making fine examples.

  35. Now you need a primer on magnesium. I know of two manufacturers, one of which built my custom tandem, which is lighter than aluminum, more comfortable steel, and has virtually no flex — even at 55 mph or loaded for touring.

  36. Titanium was very popular in 90s because the military use dropped of with the end of the cold war and producers were desperate for a customer base. As tech has gone forward other uses have been found that are easier to produce like bolts and nuts and other such paraphernalia.

  37. after having ridden on chromoly steel, I think this is the best material for bike, the material retains the springiness which then releases itself, resulting in fast more effortless riding, its beautiful..

  38. I have three carbon bikes: an Alan from 1988, an ICE from 1998 and a Neuvation from 2011. The evolution has been mostly in compliance without sacrificing power stiffness, secondary to monocoque construction with infinitely variable tube material, shape and thickness. This suits me in my old age in terms of comfort. Can a Ti frame with fixed radius and thickness tubes really match that?

  39. can any body help me i need a screw who didn't rust nor collect salt in water plus pass electricity which metal i use help me plz.. i use normal metal screws it rusted plus collect salts under water in few days they didn't abe to pass electricity due rust and white salt layer gether on it

  40. i ride my bike (common touring bike) almost every day but i consider my self not as a cyclist, anyway i love the nerdiness of this topic.

  41. I have 3 ti bikes. Seven. Seven. Guru.
    I’ve had many other ti and steel frames in the past. I’ve ridden steel across China and Aussie and USA. I’ve ridden
    Ti across India and USA and Europe.
    I like Ti because often I find myself in the middle of a 10hr ride in the rain.
    Ti no rust.

  42. Great video on titanium and its working characteristics. If you want to spend some time on a test ti ride, give me a shout.. 🙂

  43. My history was Aluminium MTB: and I broke an Orange E3, a Marin Rocky Ridge, a GT xcr1000 plus 2 more which I forget. Then I bought Kona Heihei Ti, 2nd hand 10 years old and I have had more than 15 years. It rides so so smooth, no creaks, ever (the telltale of frame fatigue). I like it so much I had a painting commissioned of it and that's on my wall. I will take HeiHei to the grave, its going to outlast me.

  44. You say ti dose not corrode, it doesn't bit it can cold weld as i found out trying to remove a bottom bracket from my kona king kahuna, luckily it was extracted an frame was saved

  45. I first heard about Titanium from a 1986 Bicycle Guide Magazine (remember them) article where they talked about this wonderful new frame material with outrageous properties that was an absolute bitch to work with….oh and did I mention, just a little bit bit pricey, I still have a key fob made from 6/4 plate that I got from a Point Reyes Bikes employee.

  46. i'd love to submerge that frame in a bathtub with water and baking soda, and run a 30V DC Current through it to anodise it to a stunning blue.. or 60 V DC to make it Gold… 🙂
    Anodising Titanium is really easy, and recently i saw a video of an American bike builder that makes titanium frames, and the anodise their brand name on the frames.. Stunning!

  47. Titanium+Hammer=No more elbow pain and mch less weigh in your belt my fellow working men. Yes $200 sucks for a hammer, but it's worth it in the long run.

  48. It would be nice to afford all those bikes. A titanium one? Absolutely. Just envious. People compare their titanium bike to their other bikes and prefer, of course, their titanium ones. No one writes in and says, I just threw €3000 out the window. But in any case, isn't this comparing apples and pears? Is the carbon bike they compare with one with a comfortable wheel base, moderate seat and head tube angles? Probably not. If the titanium bike is built like an out and out racing machine, it'll be just as 'uncomfortable', as the carbon and aluminium bikes. No?

  49. I'm really not into buying TI frames, but I'd like to look into TI components, like handle bars, stems, forks, chainring, etc., where you don't want the flex of carbon or aluminum.

  50. I'm surprised you didn't take that titanium bike that's right in front of you out on a ride before the episode so you could have an opinion

  51. My bike is steel. I picked it out of the trash. A little elbow grease later I'm laughing all the way to the bank. 😂

  52. I've owned one Titanium bike in my life. it was an airborne "soft-tail" mountain bike. And it was a piece of shit. The disc brake mount broke off after a few months. I haven't seen a titanium mountain bike in MANY years. Everything is aluminum or carbon these days.

  53. Probably it's use is about as justifiable as those 'spendy' titanium hammers. Good or evil, the use of 'hammers' in construction is increasingly proscribed….by other kinds of fastenings…..

  54. I've run my Airborne, Lancaster As a road bike a downhillbike and is currently my xc rig, I prefer it to my yeti 575 and my foes fly. Love ti, the metal of the gods!

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