In search of Titanium in New England
I just got back in from Boston where VeloNews ad rep Nick Ramey and I narrowly missed New England’s, “Worst Winter Storm of the Year — so far.” Thanks to a bit of sweet-talking from Ramey, we were able to sneak aboard one of the last flights out of Bean-town before the FAA cracked-down as hard on outgoing flights from Logan International as Tipper Gore did on harsh lyrics.
But we weren’t just in town to shuck oysters and draw butter. Nope, we both actually had a bit of work to do while visiting a few key manufacturers. I needed to visit with two of the country’s top titanium manufacturers to help round-out a feature story we’re working on here for the magazine. With all the hoopla about carbon these days (I freely admit we’re just as guilty as the rest) we decided it’s probably a good idea to let our readers know that there’s more to building state-of-art bicycles these days than molding carbon fiber.
Steel is still great and there are many fine, fine aluminum racing bikes available in 2004, but if you’re looking for the optimum material to have your next race built from, you should still seriously consider titanium. Look for the first VeloNews issue of 2004 to get the full report.
While in the Boston area, I visited with Seven Cycles and Independent Fabrication. Between the two companies you couldn’t find a better example of varying company philosophies to achieve essentially the same goal of building the highest performance bicycles possible. Both strive to produce the finest titanium (and steel) bicycles on the planet, but the similarities end there.
At Seven, Ramey and I entered a superbly manicured “showroom quality” foyer to be greeted by the charming Jennifer Miller. From there she escorted us on a well-planned tour of the facility and introduced us to the staff. After the organized tour (complete with mandatory safety glasses) I was able to spend some quality time with president Rob Vandermark to find out what makes his company tick and his current views of the titanium market.
From that precisely scheduled visit to Seven, Ramey and I hopped in our rental Bonneville to make our afternoon appointment with Indy Fab. Of course, we immediately got totally lost on the mish-mash of roads that snake through metropolitan Boston – a city with a road system that was apparently just laid out on top of 17th century goat paths. I was glad to have that cell phone, because with a bit of air traffic control from IF’s Matt Bracken, we were able to find the humble digs of the employee-owned company.
Once inside we witnessed the organized but “character-filled” offices and shop. Bracken went on to also show one of the elements that makes IF bikes so unique – a complete in-house paint station. While most manufacturers farm-out their paint jobs, IF has complete control over their process, allowing customers to have their wildest imaginations captured in PPG paint (we witnessed one bike with a paint job which cost more than the titanium frame it was adorned on.)
To sum up the difference between Seven Cycles and Independent Fabrication, let me put it this way: at Seven we were handed safety glasses, at IF we were handed a couple of tall frosty brews. Both build exquisite bicycles, but couldn’t be more different in company attitude. The choice is yours.
Now for a bit of fresh produce, just picked:
While it might seem a bit corny to you weight conscious racers, more recreational riders might appreciate the 45-degree adjustability of Ritchey’s new $80 Adjustable Stem. At 225 grams, it’s no flyweight, but still it’s no porker. Using the same design as Ritchey’s Pro Stem, this adjustable version offers easy Allen key adjustability in a quality forged stem. For riders in search of the optimum angle, the Adjustable Stem might serve as a great way to try out multiple positions (in race circumstances) to finally decide on one eventually fixed angle. It is available in 80, 100 and 120mm lengths.
Sure, cyclo-cross season is all-but-over, but it’s never too late to upgrade. Cane Creek just sent over these pretty cool 87-gram Crosstop Brake Levers. Compatible with either caliper or cantilever brakes, and available in 26.0 or 31.8mm handlebar clamp configurations, the $30 levers promise increased braking control from the flats of any drop bar. A clean 2.5mm Allen bolt is designed to take-up any slop in the pivot for sure-fire operation down the road (or off it).