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review

Baldwin Titanium custom frame

8
£2,950.00

VERDICT:

8
10
Beautifully crafted, custom frame handbuilt in the UK providing a great balance of looks and performance
Weight: 
0g
Contact: 
www.baldwintitanium.co.uk

At road.cc every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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Baldwin Titanium is a relatively new company, established in 2012 with an actual launch just last year. From their base in East Yorkshire the aim is to create custom built, one off titanium road bikes. While framebuilding in the UK is seeing a bit of a resurgence at the moment steel tends to be the material of choice so its good to see someone specialising in titanium.

Frame

If you fancy your own bespoke titanium machine Baldwin will need your measurements which can be gone about in a couple of ways. A fitting session is the best option to get analysed and discuss exactly what you want from your bike, whether you're after race, touring, cross etc. If you already have a bike setup you're happy with Baldwin will email you a form to fill out from which they can work.

The frame we've got is made from plain gauge tubing supplied by Paragon Machine Works though should you want a butted option or just fancy Reynolds you can spec that to. The titanium itself is 3Al/2.5V (3% Aluminium, 2.5% Vanadium) Grade 9 which is the standard titanium alloy for bike manufacturing.

Straight away the build quality is impressive. I like the way the blasted finish gives everything a blended, natural look with the welds being neat and minimal. Don't think minimal means fragile though, Baldwin were very happy to share the destructive & non-destructive test reports for their welds and offer a lifetime guarantee to the original owner.

The Baldwin uses an integrated head tube which is a beefy looking affair in relation to the rest of the frame. The main triangle is a pretty simple affair with no oversizing, shaping or diameter changes along their lengths. The seat and down tube meet at a standard bottom bracket shell although thanks to the imminent delivery of a new custom jig options such as BB30 will be possible. Basically it's much the same as the rest of the bike: flick through the catalogues and spec exactly what you want.

The rear end is pretty slender too with the pencil thin seat stays and surprisingly unfussy chainstays. Nothing is overbuilt or squared off to increase performance, rather the builder uses the properties of the material to get on with the job.

The dropouts certainly give plenty of clearance for whatever quick release lever you fancy using. The drive side has a replaceable mech hanger attached, always a bonus should you drop it.

The cable guide and water bottle bosses are welded nicely to the frame rather than riveted, always a neat touch and the seat tube uses an alloy sleeve for the post which is soon to be changed to a composite one.

The geometry and sizing isn't the only thing that's individual to the customer either. You can have your Baldwin supplied as a frame only or a fully specced bike depending on your preferences or budget. There are finish options to, blasted is the standard or you can have it brushed or even painted should you desire.

Ride

The Baldwin is stiff, probably the stiffest titanium frame I've ridden in terms of forgiveness from the material with feedback more akin to an aluminium frame but with just that hint of elasticity that titanium is renowned for. Admittedly the frame is a small size but it's obviously been built with performance in mind.

The front end continues that theme with the short head tube providing very direct handling. The Baldwin tracked nicely descending and through fast bends, with the titanium still soaking up the bumps and rough road surfaces despite that underlying stiffness.

Climbing and sprinting hard both require plenty of stiffness around the bottom bracket area and can often be the Achilles heel of titanium frames. There were no such issues here highlighting the performance aspirations of this particular frame.

All this stiffness though doesn't mean an uncomfortable ride. There is still enough plushness there for big miles; this frame would be perfect for a fast paced sportive or club run blast.

The build here complements the frame as well. The Ultegra mechanical groupset is a good match for the performance of the frame as are the Easton wheels, providing a balance between speed and comfort. The Deda cockpit is stiff, oversized alloy and matches the tight handling, and the chunky stem works well with the small diameter tubing.

Something we haven't seen before is the Aerozine crankset. Rather than threaded holes for the pedals it comes with adaptors to allow you to choose between 170, 172.5, or 175mm length. As well as making it easy for shops to offer a range of sizes, it's possibly also a simple solution for riders with leg length imbalances. They also provide the seatpost as well which looks smart in its polished alloy finish.

Price

So whats this all going to cost you then? The overall price is just as custom as your new bike but as a ballpark figure a frameset starts at £2950. That'll get you a plain gauge tubeset with Reynolds double-butted tubes upping that to £3150. The frameset comprises the custom handbuilt frame with a choice of Columbus or Deda fork, Ritchey headset, and a choice of seatpost and associated fittings.

The build time is around about seven weeks depending on how busy the workshop is and Baldwin will send you photos on progress. A nice touch I reckon as for me the whole point of having something bespoke is that the designing, building and speccing process is just as much fun as the delivered product.

Overall

Custom frames are always difficult to review if they've been designed and built for someone else but from what I've seen here a Baldwin frame is going to deliver whatever you've asked it to do. The build quality is very good as is the overall finish and it's definitely a good looking machine. Spending a lot of time on oversized carbon or alloy bikes tends to make you forget how beautiful a small diameter tubed titanium bike looks, and the straight top tube adds to that classical theme.

The fact that its a smaller size than I'd normally ride will influence the feedback a touch but the ride quality of the plain gauge tubing is very different from any other titanium bike I've ridden and I rather liked the directness of it.

The price is going to divide people's opinion but it comes down to how much you value the individuality and the benefits of having a truly bespoke frame. A frame built to your exacting standards and preferences then backed up with a lifetime warranty doesn't seem too bad in my eyes for your three grand.

On the whole the Baldwin is a well built, beautifully finished bike backed up with (judging by their social media activity anyway) a high level of customer service and knowledge with the added bonus of your own frame being handbuilt in the UK.

Verdict

Beautifully crafted, custom frame handbuilt in the UK providing a great balance of looks and performance

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Baldwin Titanium

Size tested: n/a

About the bike

State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.

Custom built titanium frame

Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?

All Baldwins are full custom so are specced for each individual customer. The build time takes around 7 weeks which Baldwin says allows them to create the best quality frame that they can. The build quality is very good and some of the best we've seen on a titanium frame.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
9/10

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

The build quality of the frame is very tidy with neat welds and a tough blasted finish.

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

This frame is manufactured from grade 9 titanium alloy, a mix of titanium with 3% aluminium and 2.5% vanadium in plain gauge tubing.

You can spec whatever tubing you desire though from the catalogues though should you fancy butted.

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

Custom

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

N/A

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

Yes, the plain gauge tubing provided a very stiff ride but with the added bonus of the titanium's natural shock absorbing properties.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

Yes plenty of stiffness around the BB area and at the headtube.

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

Very well, it was a joy to ride hard.

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?

N/A

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral.

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

The steering did seem to slow down if a lot of weight was applied over the front end, climbing or sprinting for instance. Bear in mind this bike was built for somebody else who may have specced this or be a different weight, height, sex etc. where it wouldn't cause a problem

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?

N/A

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?

N/A

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?

N/A

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
8/10

The drivetrain

Wheels and tyres

Controls

Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)

N/A, All custom kit

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.

Would you consider buying the bike? Yes.

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
8/10

Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?

The performance marks and comments shouldn't be taken too seriously''if this frame had been built to my measurements it would have ridden differently.

The comments on build quality and finish though ring true regardless of who the frame is built for.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 35  Height: 180cm  Weight: 76kg

I usually ride: Whatever needs testing or Genesis Flyer, fixed of course!  My best bike is: Kinesis T2 with full Centaur Red

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,

 

With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!

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