Monday, July 4, 2011

Thoughts on the Ti cycles Montra

When I first heard that Ti cycles was developing a carbon bike in-house, my first reaction was:  excellent!   I wasn't expecting anything to compete with the Cervelos and Specialized(s?) of the world, but I figured we could atleast have an alternative to the made-in-China/Taiwan generic framesets which represent excellent bang for the buck.

The initial tech blurb also seems promising.

The bike comes in 2 version, aluminum and carbon.    The monocoque carbon frame uses Toray T700 carbon, a decent mid-level grade of carbon which is ideal for this frame.   After all, there is no point using really expensive T2000 carbon to make a $3000 frameset - who in their right mind would pay that for a first-time effort by a brand which has no experience with building performance bicycles?   

The frame also features BB30, which theoretically allows for better stiffness and power transfer.   Another positive sign - Ti Cycles seems to be taking this seriously.

Indeed, the advertising certainly doesn't hold back:

The Montra
Now, a bike that makes the world an unending open road and is the power of those who were born to achieve greater things sounds like a pretty damn special thing.

However, one look at the specs and it is very likely that those who were born to achieve greater things will also end up buying better bicycles than this.

Because what Ti cycles has done is take this frameset, spec it out with Rival derailleurs and Apeks brakes, put reasonably decent Shimano RS10 wheels on it and then proceeded to fuck up the entire bike by putting flat bars and trigger shifters on it!

And in their wisdom, they have decided to sell this Frankenbike for Rs 71,000 ($1600).

Now, just for the sake of comparison,  $1500 gets you a carbon Litespeed M1 with full Rival drivetrain. Yes, that includes Rival shifters.   I have a friend who has this bike - it's an awesome bike and for the price, it is a steal. And it is a Litespeed.   Not a Montra/Mothra/Mantra/Tantra.

Let's play "Understand the Cycling Market 101":

Question - who makes up the target market for carbon bikes?
Answer:   Racers or sports cyclists - people who like riding fast, either alone or in group rides.

Question - who rides performance hybrids?
Answer:   Recreational cyclists - tourers, butterfly-counters and utility cyclists

Question - which of the above 2 segment spends a lot of money for marginal gains in performance, such as BB30 bottom brackets, stiffer carbon fiber, 100gm lighter frameset, 10W aero savings?
Answer:   _______

Clue:   It isn't who Ti Cycles thinks it is.

And here is a clue about people who like to ride fast - they want road bikes, with drop bars and integrated shifters.    Why?   Because drop bars are more aero.    More aero == faster.     Flat bars = more upright == less aero == slower.

Now sure, there are companies that make flat-barred road bikes.   I believe Trek, Cannondale and Specialized all have them.    But these are niche products in their line.    You don't see Spesh trumpeting their Secteur or whatever on the pages of the sports magazines - you see the Tarmac with El Pistolero.  There is a reason for that.

Making a carbon flat-barred bike as your top-of-the-line bike is roughly equivalent to putting a Porsche engine into a Mahindra jeep and pitching it as your signature performance vehicle.    It.  Does.  Not.   Compute.

In this context, the BB30 is the icing on the cake - that is like putting spoilers on the back of that Mahindra jeep with the Porsche engine.    Make a bike that is about as un-aero as possible for a carbon road bike to be (at moderate speeds, over 80% of your effort is spent fighting air resistance), and then try to gain 0.1% of that back with a slightly stiffer crank.  Baby Jesus wept when it saw this.

Ironically, I think the Aluminum version on the Montra - a flat-barred road bike which takes 700x28 tires and sells for Rs 25,800 - looks to be a real winner and seems to address a real niche that hitherto has been missing.

There is a guy who wants to take up cycling (or maybe he already has a Hero Octane or similar bike and wants something nicer).    He has no plans to race, follow training plans or whatever.    Being a casual rider, he doesn't want to spend Rs 40,000 for a road bike.   Plus, he isn't sure if the drop bars/aggressive position are  for his style of riding.     But he'd still like a nice, relatively light bike that is capable of handling the less-than-smooth tarmac of our cities and that is relatively easy to ride.     Sound familiar?   BZ is full of people like this.  

What are their options?   The Schwinns, which are pretty basic spec-wise and not too light.    Or the Bianchi/Trek hybrids in the Rs 20k range, which are excellent bikes but again, relatively modestly-specced.   Or even - horror of horrors - an emm tee bee.

The Al Montra is an excellent alternative for these riders.  

However, Ti cycles seems to be following the idea that just b/c there is a market for Rs 25k hybrids, there is also a market for Rs 70k hybrids.     Sadly, no.

Ti Cycles, if you are reading this - you have specced/priced the carbon Montra at a level where it is neither fish nor fowl.   It is far too expensive for a performance hybrid (which is what it is),  and not specced to be a speed machine (which is what most people who spend Rs 70k for a carbon bike want).

So please put drop bars on that bike and integrated shifters (Apeks, perhaps).  Or sell it just as a frameset for Rs 25,000-30,000 so that people can dress it up however they want!


  1. As always, very well put Guads!

  2. Super perspective. someone please forward to TI :)

  3. Was looking for Montra reviews, and came across this pointed analysis. I ride a Schwinn, bought in 2010, at modest 17k and find it best value for money. Why don't we have single speed bikes with all-aluminium frame, rims?