DeKerf Prodigy Ti

At one time in the not-so-distant past, titanium was heralded as the ultimate material for road frames. Then carbon madness took over the road world, and suddenly, all of us rushed into the carbon era as if there were no alternative material from which to create bicycles. Many RBA testers are convinced that for weight, strength and ride quality, carbon is not only en vogue, it is a superior material-and there is some truth to this. There is, however, a frame-building movement back to titanium for it’s special feel, strength, beauty and durability. Will you see it on the Pro Tour any time soon? Maybe not, but keep your eyes open on group rides around the country, as a growing number of titanium aficionados revel in the mystique of this lustrous, silver-gray metallic element. The artistry of the Dekerf Prodigy Ti is one of the reasons this movement has steam.

Chris DeKerf is known as the ‘quiet perfectionist.’ Chris ran the hand-built division at Rocky Mountain Bicycles, and in 1991, went out on his own, where he continued to build frames for Rocky Mountain and other large bike companies. All frames are made by hand in their Vancouver, B.C., factory, and in 1993, the first Dekerf (a mountain bike) was made. One year later, in 1994, the Softride road frame was launched in emerald green and tangerine colors. Accolades and growth ensued for Chris and his company. They celebrated their tenth anniversary in 2001 with the creation of the cult favorite: Dekerf Bug Juice custom beer. By 2006, though, the custom frame business was in a slump and after some soul-searching, Chris considered closing Dekerf, and made his announcement to his clients and friends.

‘We were seriously considering closing in 2006, then all of a sudden, there was this overwhelming support, where we got a hundred orders in three weeks,’ Chris recounts. ‘So, we re-thought our decision and realized that maybe there is more support for the brand, and at that point we moved forward and never looked back.’

That is good news. The Dekerf brand represents the attention to detail, vision and creativity that fuels the most passionate cycling enthusiasts, and if you do fall in love with a machine like the Prodigy Ti, you can look forward to a lasting relationship-it won’t be a two-season tryst with some curvy piece of fantastic plastic.

It all begins here with the elegant Dekerf. The combination of butted and ovalized, titanium main tubes, tapered chainstays, and Dekerf’s distinctive pierced monostay rear triangle gives the Prodigy Ti its simple and stunning look. Dekerf’s titanium seat collar and the unpainted, naked titanium tubing with its delicate welds make the bike almost as delicious to look at as it is to ride.

Dekerf offers the Prodigy Titanium as a custom frame to its customers, but for our review they built us up a complete package with SRAM Red, a Race Face Next bar and carbon seatpost, silver Fizik bar tape, Cole Shuriken Lite carbon tubular wheels with Ritchey Race tubular tires. Our Prodigy was quite a package, one that would run upwards of $6000. The Race Face Next seatpost stood out for us on this bike as we passed it around for testing. Its clamping mechanism is intuitive, simple to adjust and effective. We would happily swap out that seatpost with any we have tried in the past year. Another performance enhancer was the Reynolds Ouzo Pro carbon fork, which steered beautifully, and worked along with the titanium frame to buffer road shock.

The Prodigy Ti is a custom bike, so the numbers will be up to you, Dekerf, and your local dealer to work out. Our 58-centimeter Prodigy Ti was built up as a race bike with 73-degree head and seat tube angles, a 57.5-centimeter top tube length, a 26.7-millimeter bottom bracket height and 40.4-millimeter chainstays. Our Dekerf Prodigy Ti weighed in at 15.5 pounds.

You know that feeling you get on a ride every so often that reminds us why we spend so much time obsessing about bikes, about people who ride bikes, about where we will ride next? It’s the feeling that reminds us that we are part of this dream club of cyclists around the world, ordained to climb up and swoop down hills, and take corners faster than sane people should. 

Ten minutes on the Dekerf Prodigy Ti and we had that feeling. The Prodigy is smooth, stable, quick, responsive and distinct. It corners with confidence, climbs well, and in the drops, seems to answer all calls for quick efforts. You feel the road on a titanium bike, but the Prodigy didn’t leave our hands or body sore after riding on uneven  road surfaces, but we knew where we had spent the day, and in most cases, we prefer it that way. We talked to Chris DeKerf about the attributes of his titanium frames over his Reynolds 853 steel versions, and he commented, “There’s weight benefit with titanium and a ride quality which is really different from steel. One isn’t better than the other, but I know some people prefer the resilient ride quality. Titanium is unique. There’s an aesthetic look to it, a raw look.”

The Dekerf Prodigy Ti was a pleasure to ride. The raw, naked look of titanium, the care that went into each weld, made us ride with pride, and the responsiveness of the bike under power and on the road led to an experience which was one of the best we have had in a long time. The Dekerf Prodigy demonstrates that 18 years of frame building experience and a passion for one of the earth’s rarest metals could keep that titanium movement growing strongly. Watch out, carbon?

Price: $3200 (frame only-includes custom sizing and build). The Prodigy Ti as tested is $6000 plus.
Weight: 15.5 pounds