In the annals of sound financial advice, one key argument is to invest only in quality assets, so as to avoid replacements (a.k.a. duplicate purchases). For major goods, like cars, this mentality is easily adopted. But in the outdoors industry, the desire for “the next best thing” often trumps the longview. A bike with 15 percent less drag? A pack with more capacity and less weight? Shoes with new laces? The instinct is to always upgrade.
For those with the means, today’s road bike marketplace rewards this habit. Each year turns out lighter, stiffer bikes, more advanced electronic shifting, and improved disc brakes. It’s all great, but it also — technologically speaking — becomes redundant. If the only thing a rider needs is a competent road bicycle with good feel and a bit of snap, those minor grams, slight aerodynamic increases and shifts in components won’t translate to life-shattering improvements. You’re better off sticking with something good, and ignoring the marketing frenzy.
“It’s not always going to be the lightest, not always going to be the stiffest, but it’s going to get a 9/10 in every category.”
This is the argument for the “forever bike” — a one-time purchase that’ll outlast its rider. If purchased today, one of the best prospects comes from Aaron Barcheck’s shop in Boulder, Colorado — the Mosaic RT-1d, a titanium performance road bike equipped with disc brakes and customizable to fit any contemporary groupset. Barcheck sent an RT-1d to me a few months back, and — if it wasn’t obvious from appearances, with the raw titanium finish, Rolf Prima wheels, Enve fork, Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 components and Chris King Headset — the bike proved, after a good thousand miles, that it is a machine to retire with.
Barcheck began shaping with titanium at Colorado’s Dean Bicycles, where he worked for seven years. He immediately gravitated to the metal, which doesn’t need to be coddled, is rust-proof and easily refinished, and almost never suffers catastrophic failure (unlike carbon). Not to mention the ride quality, for which the material is famously comfortable. “Titanium is this really awesome, versatile material,” Barcheck said. “It’s not always going to be the lightest, not always going to be the stiffest, but it’s going to get a nine out of ten in every category. And when it’s machined the right way, mitered the right way, welded the right way and finished the right way, it should be a bike you’re going to have for a really, really long time.”
Titanium doesn’t need to be coddled. It’s rust-proof, almost never has a catastrophic failure (like carbon fiber is prone to do), and if the surface ages, it’s easily refinished.
When Barcheck struck out on his own to start Mosaic, the RT-1 was his first and flagship frame. In the subsequent seven years, Barcheck has refined the RT-1 and continues to do so with each new custom order. Where the double-butted or thin-walled straight gauge tubing is placed depends on the rider’s body and needs; by now, Barcheck has the calibrating dialed. And, with the future-proofing of disc breaks and electronic shifting, along with a wider clearance for larger tires (I rode with 28mm ones) the bike accommodates everything from crit racing to all-day gravel rides.
“People are exploring in different ways, and they’re riding bikes in new ways,” Barcheck said. “They’re trying to get off the road a bit, they’re getting on dirt roads, on gravel roads. So you want something that is durable. A frame that can keep up with all that. That’s not just a Colorado trend — that’s across the country.”
The RT-1d’s titanium construction balanced the mix of stiff and responsive with quality road absorption. It handled short races and long rides in equal measure, and, as collateral, it was the envy of every bike shop employee. At $5,500 for the frameset, it’s not light on the wallet. But if you’re playing the long game on bicycles, investing in a titanium, disc and electronic shifting equipped frame custom made for you isn’t the shabbiest piece of financial advice.