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Putting the Soul in Titanium: Sage Skyline Disc

From Issue 90

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Titanium seems to suffer these days from a perception that it’s only for older cyclists. That may be partly due to Ti’s dominance as the most-lusted-after metal peaking over two decades ago, right when carbon was just catching on in the pro ranks. Perhaps it’s the notion that titanium’s compliance makes it only good for endurance or comfort frames. Well, Sage is here to challenge those perceptions, creating bikes with soul that cyclists of all ages can enjoy. Ones that are comfortable, but can still throw down.

PELOTON

THE DETAILS

Sage hasn’t just added disc brakes to its rim version and called it a day. The Portland, Oregon, manufacturer has completely rethought the Skyline design, retooling it to the new capabilities and design challenges elicited by disc brakes. The compact frame design is now more aggressive than before and has clearance for 32mm tires, expanding the Skyline’s repertoire of terrain to light off-road riding.

Sage may have one of the most thought-out designs in the metal-frame game. Everywhere you look, there are tiny details you won’t find anywhere else. For example, to maintain short 410mm chainstays for responsiveness, while allowing for wider tires and a full-sized crank with a normal Q factor, Sage has added what it calls a yoke to the drive-side chainstay. This piece of flat titanium welds onto a shortened chainstay tube, providing room for both tire and crank.

For a smooth ride that’s built to last, Sage has turned to 3/2.5 titanium, which has some of the best rust and corrosion resistance of any metal alloy. Double-butted tubes in the down tube and top tube have removed weight and added compliance to the large-diameter tubes. To create more strength and precise steering, the down tube is also biovalized, with a vertical oval shape at the head tube and a horizontal oval at the bottom bracket for the maximum area when welding.

While the company would like to use butted tubes for the seat tube, it doesn’t, because removing material from the tube’s middle in the butting process (where the bottle cages are mounted) can increase frame stress and the likelihood of cracking at the bottle-cage mounts. Sage’s solution is to weld two separate tubes together for the seat tube—one thicker butted tube up top, to provide a stronger weld point for the top tube and seatstays, and a thinner straight-gauge tube below, which has almost no chance of stress fracturing. (This process is unnecessary for the down tube due to the strong biovalized tubing and the different types of stress experienced there, making this type of stress fracture unlikely.)

Just like adding holes for bottle cages weakens the tubing, adding large holes for internal routing of mechanical cables increases the odds of a frame cracking. Sage has a patented solution called the Cable Clip System (CCS) that provides the smallest hole possible for internal Di2 routing, while also allowing easy-to-service external mechanical cable routing. A single bolt holds the cable guidance system in place on the down tube; removing the bolt reveals the smallest hole possible for routing electronic wires, without leaving behind unused cable stops that look out of place. It creates a stronger frame that looks purpose-built for both mechanical and electronic, which is fitting for a bike that will certainly outlast many drivetrains.

With all the attention to detail and new design features, which no doubt increase production time, Sage still manages to deliver the Skyline frame for $2,900. A frameset with a Chris King headset and an Enve 2.0 road fork brings the price tag up to $3,652.

THE RIDE

It’s a bit of a cliché to say titanium has a soul, but the Skyline does feel alive. It really has a character all its own. Smooth and stable, it likes to have a bit of fun too.

It takes all of three pedal strokes to realize the Skyline is stable—we’re talking descend-on-the-tops (but please don’t, really!) levels of stability. The 3/2.5 titanium tubing neutralizes road buzz, allowing the Skyline to hold a line so buttery smooth that at times it feels like you’re along for a ride on a magnetically levitating bullet train. That tracking makes descents a joy too. It holds speed through corners, and the short 410mm chainstays make it ready to snap into action exiting every turn.

The Skyline has a need for speed. The stiffness of the large diameter tubing will have you churning through the cassette, hitting the 11 before you know it. Even as you unleash the watts, it remains impeccably smooth and stable, tracking a straight line no matter the speed. But the sublime ride quality has some tradeoffs.

There’s no dancing around the fact that titanium won’t compete with carbon on weight. Weighing 18.69 pounds for a 54cm, the Skyline is no exception. On steep pitches or extended bouts of climbing, you’ll notice the extra weight that comes with a titanium frame; it just doesn’t match up with the lightness of carbon. When climbing, the Skyline would rather you stay seated and chug along at a steady pace, rather than chase attack after attack out of the saddle.

True mountain goats will want to look elsewhere. But those who just dabble in the vertical mileage—probably most of us—will find that the brilliant moments on flat terrain outweigh the times you need to expend a little more energy to get over a ridge line. There’s a lot to love from this smooth and compliant ride that’s putting the soul in titanium.

SPECIFICATION

$7,240 as tested; 18.69 lbs / 8.48kg (54cm)

Shimano Ultegra R8000 mechanical (52/36 crank, 11–28 cassette); HED Belgium Plus Disc wheels with Chris King R45D hubs; Enve 2.0 Road Disc Fork; 3T ARX II Team Stealth stem and Ergonova Team Stealth bars; Sage Beccus saddle

sagetitanium.com

This review originally appeared in issue 90.