Finally, the search came to an end, and I am now the proud owner of this beautiful small carbon 2010 Titus FTM (short for Full Tilt Moto).
As you can see in that second post, I was pretty excited about getting a Santa Cruz Blur LTc. In February 2010, I started spec'ing out components. It was taking me forever. You'll understand why if you take a look on competitivecyclist.com at the options provided for each individual component! I was pulling hair out by the handful just trying to figure out what stem I wanted. Just then, Titus sneaked in a demo weekend in Santa Cruz. Erik had read about their new FTM and urged me to go check it out. I went by myself. There was only the Aluminum version for the small FTM (discrimination!!!). Disappointed, but not wanting to waste a trip, I checked it out. After a short ride at De Laveaga park where the trails were still wet from the rain before, I called Erik on my drive home, "I'm in trouble!" We canceled our plan to go to Fairfax for a Turner demo and instead returned to Santa Cruz the next day. I played on the Aluminum FTM while Erik rode a carbon FTM and an El Guapo. He came back saying "I want one each." Now, we are in real trouble! Fortunately, he was half joking because he had not made up his mind if he wanted a 29er, but he confirmed that the carbon FTM could make a great bike for me.
I got a small carbon FTM (I think it was the first one of that size ever assembled) to test ride on my favorite trails in Henry Coe (ride report). Again, the bike did not disappoint. I even got ahold of Santa Cruz Blur LTc, in both small and medium, to test ride back to back with the FTM. I had to make a hard decision between a small FTMc and a medium LTc (both have a similar top tube length). They are very efficient on gradual climbs and stable on descents, but they both have their own personalities. I feel LTc is a little more playful, meaning that I was able to move the bike under me more at ease, while FTMc feels just a tad more predictable on short bursts of steep hill climbs. In the end, it was the nuances that helped me make up my mind:
- There is a water bottle cage mount inside the FTM frame. Most trail bikes, esp. in small size, can only take a cage mounted underneath the down tube, which would make me nervous. I like using a water bottle on short rides.
- FTM carbon is designed with internal cable routing. I love that! It offers a clean look of the frame and is easy to clean.
Actually, Blur LTc has its appealing nuances too. For example:
- Their headquarter is only one hour away from home. If I really needed support, I could probably go camp out in their court yard and there is no way they can ignore me, right?
- I found that the Titus forum is not as active as the Santa Cruz forum. And the user base is much smaller. That means, if you ask a question on Titus, you may not get as much input there as on the Santa Cruz forum. I guess this is what you get for buying a "boutique" bike.
In the end, the water bottle cage mount won. I made the purchase through Spokesman Bicycles in Santa Cruz. It took exactly one month from the day I pulled the trigger to the day I got the complete bike.
I'd never built a bike and I'd never seen one built, so I requested to watch the process and document along the way. In case anyone else wants to copy the idea, I should make it clear that a bike builder is usually paid by the job, so it is unfair to him if you keep getting in the way or keep asking questions. I promised to have duct tape across my mouth, which I didn't quite keep, but despite Travis, the bike builder, being super cool about me watching, I refrained myself from asking many questions.
Below is a short video I put together that documented this process along with some pictures at the end. Check it out!
First and foremost, I want to thank Erik for his patience and support. I had dragged him to many bike demos when he would rather be climbing at Pinnacles.
I want to give big thumbs up to all the bike shops that host bike demos. You understand that mountain bikes need to be ridden on real trails in order to show their true personalities. I've been to a few demos hosted by Passion Trail Bikes (Belmont), Trailhead Cyclery (San Jose), Sunshine Bicycle Center (Fairfax), Mike's Bikes (Palo Alto), Another Bike Shop (Santa Cruz), and Calmar Bicycles (Santa Clara). I have also had help from Bike Works (Half Moon Bay) and Roaring Mouse Cycles (San Francisco) to ride their own demo bikes.
I've also met many top notch bike manufacture reps. Mike Wirth from Titus is one that really stood out. He really knows his stuff and I learned a lot about the past and the future of Titus bikes from just talking to him. Both he and Danny Ward from Santa Cruz have helped me tremendously in my quest for the perfect bike. There are also some individuals such as Jiro from bikeskills.com and Sam, a fellow dirt diva, who lent me their bikes when I was looking for one to test ride. My dear friend Jeanne is always there to hear me mumble about all the nuances and subtle differences among bikes even when they had stopped making much sense. I think she was as excited as I was, if not more, when I got my bike, and urged me to go ride at Water Dog so she could take pictures of my first ride on the bike. Those pictures at the end of the video were her master pieces. Thank you Jeanne!
Last but not least, I want to thank Spokesman Bicycles in Santa Cruz from whom I bought the bike. They are by no means convenient for me being so far away. However, I enjoyed interacting with the people there when I picked up the Titus demo bike from them. Wade, the owner, is well respected in the circle (I read about that online so it must be true). I had my bikes fitted by him. He spent quite some time studying me, the rider. I think every bike fitter should be equipped with a massage table like he does. I also liked the 3D fitting system he has — I like anything high tech (if I can afford it). When I complained that my short stem would not accommodate a Garmin GPS bike mount, he custom made one for me that secures to the headset cap. Genius! The interaction with Matt, the sales guy (my impression anyway), was just fun fun fun. (Is that even possible?) I like it that he's authorized to make all the decisions in negotiations, which made the process very simple, straightforward, and guilt free. Travis, the bike builder, young yet apparently a bike building veteran, graciously allowed me to watch the process. He is the star in my movie. He is organized and efficient. A job that took him an hour and half would probably have taken me two days to complete. Oh, and Casey (is his last name really Chainsaw?), I wish I could follow him around just to hear him talk about suspensions. That, my friend, is what they call music to my ears.
I went with the XTR Build kit with a few adjustments (*):
Frame: FTM carbon small (black/red)
Fork: 2010 FOX 32 Talas RLC 140mm
Rear Shock: Fox RP 23
Wheels: CB Cobalt (Silver rims with black spokes)
Front Tire*: Conti Rubber Queen UST 2.2
Rear Tire*: Conti Rubber Queen UST 2.2
Crank: XTR 22-32-44 170mm
Chain: XTR HG7701 (I added SRAM powerlink)
Cassette: XTR 11-34
Front Deraileur: XTR
Rear Derailleur: XTR shadow
Front shifter: XTR (not Rapid Fire? need to double check)
Rear sifter: XTR
Handlebars: FSA SLK Riser (660mm – 50mm = 610mm)
Stem*: Specialized 60mm
Saddle: Fizik Gobi XM (not liking it) => WTB Vigo (heavier but more comfortable for me)
Seat Post: Titus Carbon SB
Grips*: Specialized Grappler Locking
Pedals: Shimano SPD M515 (need to upgrade)
Water Bottle Cage: Arundel Sideloader
Total weight: 26.0 lbs
It think it's because of the beefy tires and the pedals. Darn, I haven't even put my Gravity Dropper seatpost and the WTB Vigo saddle on yet! There goes my light bike dream.
Size : S
Top Tube (horizontal): 22.75
Head Angle: 69.00
Seat Angle: 72.75
Ch-Stay Length: 16.85
H-tube Length : 4.00
BB Height: 13.25
Taken by Jeanne at Water Dog on March 24, 2010.
Taken by Charlie (Skyline35 on MTBR) at Henry Coe on May 15, 2010