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All Ti'd Up

Being the ninth most abundant element on the earth's surface you'd think titanium would be easy to extract and cheap to source- you'd be dead wrong. Discovered in the late 1790's it wasn't extracted in its pure form until 1910. Despite the fact that you'll find it in almost everything, soil, water, plants, even in you and me and in Polo mints; it wasn't worked as a structural metal until the Space Race came to town.

Now you might not know this but if you want to thank anyone for the beautiful titanium bicycles that you ride around on then you should probably first doff your cap towards JFK's tomb. Without the USA ploughing gazillions of dollars into beating the Russians to the moon (or pretending to reach the moon depending on your tin-foil hat wearing proclivities) there'd be no titanium bikes, frankly there's be no carbon bikes either. You see, the Space Race was singlehandedly responsible for commercialising the manufacture of titanium and carbon fibre parts. It's as simple as that. So just as JFK was responsible for starting the Space Race, so one man was responsible for stopping the Cold War that followed and in doing so releasing all the engineers and materials scientists from their bunkers to work for sporting goods companies.

Because that's how it happened. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the patron saint of high-end sporting goods -David Hasselhoff.  

Ok, so the Hoff may not be genuinely responsible for the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, but he's as good a person as anyone to thank for the glut of scientists and boffins that left their defence contracts to go and work for bike companies and other sporting goods manufacturers in the late '80s. But I digress.

Titanium can genuinely lay claim to being a wonder metal. It has a melting point over 3000 oF. It can be stronger than steel yet is up to 45% lighter. It's largely unaffected by the environment, it doesn't rot, rust or fall to bits and to top it all it looks absolutely mint when buffed out and then matted back to that sweet satin sheen. If there's one material that's just perfect for making a bike that could outlast every other, one material for building the elegantly timeless and blindingly fast bike that you intend to keep forever then titanium is it.

Titanium isn't cheap to extract from the ground, it takes three times more energy to extract a kilogram of titanium than it does the much more abundant aluminium and there's eight times less titanium that aluminium in the earth's crust anyway. So we're beginning to get the picture, it's rare, it takes a Yorkshire pit village full of coal to get it out of the ground and into a usable form, and even when you do you have to weld it up at insane temperatures while surrounded by a cloud of none-reactive Noble gas. It's not an easy task to produce such neat welds.

So why use it? Well, that's simple, there's no other material quite like it. Titanium tubing has the same spring in its step that the very best steel frames can have yet it's up to 45% lighter for the same strength- so you can build a frame as strong, but lighter. Titanium also has amazing corrosion resistance that even the very best stainless steels struggle to match, so titanium frames can last forever. Titanium also has another ace up its sleeve, it's ductile, and so it can be extruded, die-formed and swaged. Titanium is remarkably easy to fashion into a whole variety of different tubing shapes and that means it a great material to make bike frames from.

Why do we like it so much, well partly for its great looks, partly because titanium bikes are such a great investment due to their longevity but more than anything we love them for the way they ride. A great titanium frame easily takes the edge off the worst roads, helping to make a day out on less than perfect surfaces into an enjoyable epic. When riding off-road it's no different, titanium can make for the perfect hardtail bike, soaking up the trail buzz and helping to flatten out the tracks as you ride along. Add in titanium's incredible corrosion resistance that allows you to abuse your bikes at the jet wash and it's easy to see why this wonder metal is a firm favourite with Planet X and On-One customers. That's why we're currently part way through introducing a whole new squadron of titanium road bikes which includes the new Hurricane disc brake equipped Audax bike, with space for bigger tyre and mudguards. There's the new Spitfire road bike with sleek compact lines and calliper brakes and the disc brake equipped Meteor model. For the more adventurous amongst you, we have the titanium Gravel Road Tempest bike coming soon as well as the Typhoon cyclocross bike. The boys at On-One towers have also been hard at work on a selection of new titanium hardtails that they'll introduce to you over the coming months.

If you want a bike that's built to last the distance and you are looking to add something special to your stable of bikes we'll be launching several of these bikes over the next few weeks, so keep your eyes peeled for a squadron of titanium tubed beauties coming from Planet X. And don't forget there's always the Spitfire, Hurricane, Fireline Evo 29er and Pickenflick  titanium bikes for those of you who just can't wait.

In the meantime here's the song we've been piping into the R&D department to keep them focussed on the new Ti bikes!

4 May 2016