RBA Test: GT Edge Titanium

Forget for the moment that it wasn’t GT’s original design. Regardless, in the annals of bicycle frame designs, GT’s signature triple triangle is easily among the more recognizable of all time. And even though the frame shape reached its zenith of popularity two decades or so ago, it has retained its iconic status, especially in Southern California where the GT brand was founded by Gary Turner and the late, great Richard Long. Although GT remains best known as a mountain bike brand, the company (part of a family of brands that includes Cannondale, Schwinn and Mongoose) has never stopped fiddling with skinny tires, and when we first laid eyes on a built-up titanium road frame at last year’s Eurobike show, we immediately chased the product manager down to see about testing the bike. The Edge frame is part of GT’s 2013 Heritage collection of bikes, which also includes reissues of their popular mountain bikes: the gazillion-selling aluminum Zaskar and the polished titanium Xizang.

THE FRAME
As is with many steel frames, the 3/2.5 titanium Edge revels in detailed elements that are hard to come by with carbon fiber. The frame has a matte, bead-blasted finish, with polished highlights found in the GT logo, rear brake bridge and dropouts, and subtle racing stripes running down the top tube and chainstays. As GT product manager Patrick Kaye tells the story, GT specifically chose a small production frame shop in Taiwan to best control the build process necessary to reflect the bike’s ‘heritage’ status. To that end, we would say, ‘mission accomplished.’ The welds are small, tight and even, and the frame tubes are elegantly shaped. The point where the top tube pierces the seat tube and extends for just a stub is one place where the frame builder’s handiwork seems to have best coalesced. Another detail of the frame that shines is the machined billet head tube.

The Edge runs with a 1 1/8- to 1 1/4-inch tapered carbon fork (with carbon steerer), 73-degree head and 73.5-degree seat angles, but, alas, no internal cable routing. Try as we might, we could never square the printed wheelbase with reality; our Large frame ran with the XL frame’s 100.2cm wheelbase. When it came time to spec a bottom bracket, Patrick says they considered the full panoply of choices: ‘We built a few frames with BB30/PF30/BB86 and standard threaded BBs to test torsion stiffness at the BB and overall ride quality. We found that with the use of the triple triangle, the tube profiles chosen combined with the CNC’d head tube that a standard threaded BB provided enough pedaling stiffness without sacrificing that distinctive titanium feel.’

THE PARTS

With frame in hand, we decided to use it for a double-duty test of Shimano’s new Dura-Ace 9000 drivetrain- So the naked frame headed to Shimano was outfitted with a new Shimano Dura-Ace/Pro Components package. Without a doubt, the completely redesigned Shimano parts are a true standout in terms of both design and performance. The four-arm crank is an especially impressive piece of metal work that gives a hint of the high-brow design capabilities that Shimano is capable of when not hiding behind the more stodgy and utilitarian design traits that they seem captive to. In terms of performance, Shimano continues to rule the world of light action shifting. No, not everybody is a fan (lever throw is still on the long side for some), but consistent and quick ease of shifting is the drivetrain property that the Japanese component giant has carved out as its own, and the ‘no trespassing’ sign is there for all to appreciate.

THE RIDE
Back in the late ’90s when titanium bikes were thought of as the belle of the ball, the market was alive with a plethora of innovative brands churning out some nicely designed bikes. Of course, there were also a few brands that rushed to jump on the titanium bandwagon with a commodity mindset and sought to capture market share with cheap bikes made with low-grade, ‘commercially pure’ titanium. Few, if any, of these bikes typified the famed ‘Ti ride quality’ that names like Litespeed, Merlin, Dean and Eriksen were able to achieve with their thoughtfully designed and manufactured frames. GT always put a good effort into the bikes they made back in the day, and this modern recreation proves that some things never change. This is as comfortable of an all-day ride bike as you’ll find, and the details they sweated in its design and construction shine through in the ride. The 160mm-tall head tube is right in the ballpark to provide ample upright positioning without teetering close to comfort-bike height. This bike was fun and comfortable to ride. The only place where the Edge came up short was when we headed out to the weekly group ride. When sprinting out of turns, the bike exhibited a sluggish feel that was far from the snappy response we get with carbon.

THE VERDICT
Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? In the last year we have tested a variety of non-carbon bikes, and more often than not we come away asking ourselves, ‘Why does everyone spend so much time talking about carbon fiber bikes?’ Yes, we know they can be lighter and stiffer than their aluminum, steel or titanium counterparts, but that doesn’t take away from the reality that on an objective cost/benefit analysis, many of these ‘metal’ bikes, too, offer up some impressive performance.

At just over two grand in price, the GT Edge offers a package of uniqueness, durability and ride quality that can’t easily be found with similarly priced carbon frames. Being the always-attention-seeking journos that we are, we would, of course, prefer a fully polished frame that better screamed, ‘That’s right; it’s titanium!’ But so be it, we’re happy to ride the bike as is.

PUNCH LINES

? The famous triple triangle
? Thoughtful design and build
? Smooth ride, but slow to accelerate

STATS
Price: $2220
Weight: 17.2 pounds
Sizes: XS, S, M, L (tested), XL, XXL
For more info: GT Bicycles

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