Monday, March 22nd, 2010

MTB: My Ultimate Trail Bike — 2010 Titus FTM Carbon

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).

For the past year or so, I have considered nearly a dozen bikes and test ridden a handful (see my earlier post). I almost bought a Santa Cruz Blur LTc (see another post). In the end, I went with the FTM for its bottle cage mount among other features (more on those later).

Bike Searching

I started my bike searching more than a year ago, which had two earlier posts to prove: In Search of the Perfect Bike and Oh, I think I’m in love… .

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.

Bike Building

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!

Acknowledgments

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.

Bike Setup

FTM carbon from Titus website

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
Brakeset: XTR
Handlebars: FSA SLK Riser (660mm – 50mm = 610mm)
Stem*: Specialized 60mm
Headset: FSA
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.

Geometry:

Size : S
Top Tube (horizontal): 22.75
Head Angle: 69.00
Seat Angle: 72.75
Ch-Stay Length: 16.85
C-C: 12.80
C-Top: 16.50
H-tube Length : 4.00
Wheel-Base: 43.20
BB Height: 13.25
Standover: 27.57

Action shots:

Taken by Jeanne at Water Dog on March 24, 2010.


Taken by Charlie (Skyline35 on MTBR) at Henry Coe on May 15, 2010

23 Responses

  1. Patrick Herlihyon 25 Mar 2010 at 3:34 pm

    This is so exciting.. congratulations Mei!

    Great components but I'm especially jealous of the wheels – I'm kinda hoping for another wheel failure so I can justify buying some CB Cobalts :)

    mudworm

    Thanks Patrick! I didn't know about these wheels until this purchase. They do look pretty cool. I only wish they could spin faster so I wouldn't get dropped by you all the time.

  2. gmatson 25 Mar 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Aloha,

    Just wanted to congratulate you on your ride. That's a really sweet bike and I thoroughly enjoyed following the process you went through to get your dream ride. I've been mountain biking since the mid 80's and have built up a few bikes over the years. Enjoyed reading your blog about the process you've gone through to get your FTM. Enjoyed your posting about how you were able to witness the birth of your bike. I've ridden many of the trails you spoke of in your search and have been to a few of the bike shops you spoke of. Being way out here in Hawaii, I am just jealous about not having all those resources so close to me. Enjoy the ride, enjoy the trails. Thanks again for sharing.

    Aloha,
    g

    mudworm

    Hi the MTB'er from Hawaii, Thanks for reading my posts and leaving the comment! I hope you get to come back to the Bay Area and revisit the trails and the shops from time to time!

  3. Krishnaon 25 Mar 2010 at 7:48 pm

    Wow! That looks really fun. Hope to see you out on the trails soon. Boggs maybe?

    mudworm

    Hi Krishna, there is a better chance that I run into you at Water Dog, and you probably will be on a single speed rigid from what I've heard. We'll not be at Boggs this year, but I sure hope to go back to the area again. Boggs and Oat Hill Mine Road are both fun.

  4. Robb Spenceon 25 Mar 2010 at 9:12 pm

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us.That is just"dawg gone exciting". You really put a lot of work into your "New Ride".I just purchased a new Stumpjumper in December and the more I ride it the more I love it. It still stays in the living room when I'm not riding it.
    Well after reading your all inspiring blog I think I'll go polish my bike so I can get it dirty tomorrow on some single track at Mt.Diablo then get home and clean it so I can do it all over again on Saturday and Sunday.
    Thanks and have a blast!
    -Robb

    mudworm

    Hi Robb, thanks for your kind words. Initially, I wasn't going to ride because it rained yesterday, but I'm inspired by your positive attitude: "I think I’ll go polish my bike so I can get it dirty tomorrow on some single track at Mt.Diablo then get home and clean it so I can do it all over again on Saturday and Sunday." I shall take the "New Ride" to see Skeggs today.

  5. Alison Chaikenon 26 Mar 2010 at 11:38 am

    I am impressed by the thoroughness of your investigation, truly worthy of an engineer!

    MTBs sure have a lot more demos than road bikes. I wonder why? I guess the answer is that MTBs need to be ridden on trails, so shops must transport the bikes to trailheads, while LBS just lend road bikes to potential buyers.

    mudworm

    I'm not a geek though. ;-)

  6. Calvin Doon 26 Mar 2010 at 4:30 pm

    Sweet sweet ride!!! I can see why you'd want to introduce her to mud slowly.

    Love the video! That's guy's fast, esp. with the stans tubeless setup, which I'm looking forward to as much as changing out disc brake pads.

    BTW, we have a friend in common… Erik Bratton and I have worked together for quite a while now. One of these days we'll actually ride to work together.

    mudworm

    So I heard. Bratton is a good friend of ours. Actually, he was the one who first told me that I should climb with Erik (now husband). Bastard! :mrgreen:

  7. tim ROEHRLon 27 Mar 2010 at 1:57 pm

    SHARP LOOKING MACHINE. LOOK FORWARD TO RIDING TOGETHER OUT AT COE. I STILL NEED TO INITIATE MY NEW BIKE TO THE MUD

    mudworm

    Take her out, Tim! Let her see the trails in their prime condition right now! Friends and we are meeting at Coe Hunting Hollow parking lot at 9 tomorrow (Jeanne will join us). Having one person really sick among us (Erik), I know we'll be going super slow. But you are welcome to join us.

  8. Alfioon 08 Apr 2010 at 11:54 am

    please what model of FSA headset use it? is the same of TREK road head set?

    please i write from caracas………….thank you

    mudworm

    Hi Alfio, I don't know anything about the TREK road headset. I wish I could give you the exact model on my bike, but it's been installed and now it has a Specialized top cap on. All I can see from the bottom is FSA logo and it seems to be carbon.

  9. Alistairon 24 Jul 2010 at 5:40 pm

    hey there mei, I've got a couple of Tits bikes; 09 FTM and X-Carbon. I'm keen to see a photo of the new carbon chain stays around the rear tyre on the FTMc. I want to see the clearance as its the one thing I don't like on my FTM. Can you send me one of your bike please? Pretty please. If its better than mine I'll probably get a 2010 or 2011 whe they release them. Thanks a million!!
    Alistair

    mudworm

    Sorry I just saw this comment. My bike has been in the shop and I won't have time to go pick it up until later this week. However, what you are looking for — tire clearance in the carbon chain stay — is available in this MTBR thread. Hope that helps.

  10. Sorcereron 08 Nov 2010 at 12:06 am

    Hi Mei,

    Your ride is amazing, just like you!

    Titus is no longer in business. It is all over the mtbr forums. This is sad news. This news went public last week. Tough times.

    You know my Chris rides a Motolite, since 2005 (I think that's the year she got it). I was looking at the FTMs for sale at Jenson, but we aren't going to buy one.

    -Paul

    mudworm

    Hi Paul, Yeah, it's unfortunately if a good bike brand goes away like this. Oh well, there are so many awesome bikes out there. Hope Chris finds her perfect ride!

    Now, is my ride the only small FTM carbon in the Bay Area? I feel special. ;-)

  11. Goeezeeon 27 Mar 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Hello there,

    You have a sweet looking rig there. Btw, how tall are you? How much space do you have between the top tube and your, err, crotch?! :blush: What's your inseam? I am only 5'4" with a 29.5" inseam and am wondering a size s will even fit me! Or should I be looking at another make which has an xs size.

    Are you using the full 140mm on your fork or do you use less to lower the bike somewhat?

    Thanks!

    mudworm

    Hi, I just replied to you by email with details.

    I like more clearance, but I can tell you that during my extensive riding last summer (some on some limit pushing terrains), the top tube never got in my way.

    Since I have the Talus, I try to make the most of it. Most of my riding is either climbing or descending, I go back and forth between 110 and 140 all the time. But I use 110 solely because I'm climbing and trying to be efficient, not because I feel tall with 140 setting. I do use Gravity Dropper a lot if I feel I need to drop a couple of inches though.

    Oh, just saw your comment on my About page.

    >I am in the midst of searching for the perfect bike for me as well. After almost a year of riding the carbon FTM how do you like it till now? (that is if you are still riding it). I am a small rider, just 5'4" and i am wondering if size s will suit me well. Or should I look elsewhere at other manufacturers who make frames in xs. How tall are you?

    If anything, I sometimes feel I was a little stretched out in my arms, but photos seem to look fine. Maybe that's because my previous bike had a shorter top tube and I was too used to it. I didn't think the factor affected my riding negatively. I just adapted to it. Otherwise, the bike feels pretty stable. which I think is partly a result of the larger size.

    >Any input from your experiences would help tremendously. The do's and don'ts or the can and can'ts of the ftm carbon.

    I love my side loading bottle holder. I did have a cracked rear triangle (in the horizontal non-chain stay) when I laid the bike down on a slope once (not violently). I got a crash replacement for it. The incidence didn't bother me much because I think that was pure coincidence. But if you ride in rocks a lot and are not afraid of crashing, I don't know if the carbon rear triangle should be a concern — on the other hand, my husband said most other material will break too if the force hits in the right (or wrong) direction.

    >From a cosmetic point of view, what say you between the black and the blue model?!

    I can't put a finger to it, but the black/red definitely appeals to me more. But maybe that's because I came from China. :mrgreen: Blue looks nice too.

  12. Tracyon 01 Aug 2011 at 7:15 am

    Thanks for the post. I am seriously considering an LT-C to fulfill my dream of building and riding my own dream bike from the frame up. Due to geography, I am not able to put hands on any of the bikes I am looking at, although I am seriously considering driving 20 hours (each way) next summer to demo some of them before making a final decision. I apologize, because it seems pretty personal to ask, but I would love to know how you fit on the small blur LT. It sounded like you may have considered/demo both small and medium sizes. I am 5'2 and have a 29 1/2 inch inseam. If you wouldn't mind I would love to know how your measurments compare and your thoughts on fit. Thanks again for your post!