this first about our reviews
Guru's 2006 Aero-Ti is the nicest
titanium triathlon bike we've found.
When you look at high end, hand
made titanium triathlon bikes you are playing in very deep
water. Most of the bikes have alluring good looks on the surface
and the undeniable luster of titanium. To really understand
the difference in bikes, and what makes one shine above the
others you have to take a long, close look and go a little
deeper than skin deep. Over the past two model years we’ve
put the magnifying glass on the most popular titanium tri
bikes. Now we have a winner.
The bottom line on finding the
“best” bike boils down to two things: Fit and
Fit means that a given manufacturer
has a geometry design and frame configuration that makes sense
for the average body types in the average sizes. It also means
that either extreme of the size scale their may be the opportunity
to easily tune the geometry to better suit the rider. But
from the get go the design of the frame has to make sense.
The head tube, seat tube and top tube need to have some reasonably
proportional relationship to one another.
I owned and raced several
titanium tri bikes to learn what the ownership experience
was like. The Aero Ti was the best.
|Ownership experience is a difficult thing
for a customer to grasp when they are standing in the
middle of a bunch of shiny bikes under glamorous track
lighting in a well merchandised store, or while surfing
“expert” reviews on the internet. Ownership
experience happens when the rubber meets the road- for
years down the road. It is the long term ownership experience
with the bike: How good is it over the long haul. What
goes wrong with the bike? Is maintenance easy? Does
the bike need constant maintenance, tuning and care?
Can the bike survive in the real triathlon world of
fallen transition racks, flight cases, poor bike maintenance,
amateur bike mechanics and long drives to races on roof
racks? When the honeymoon is over what will it be like
to really live with this bike? Another part of ownership
experience is price and value.
Customers tend to compare prices
based on the quantity of money required to initiate the purchase.
But that is not the price of the bike. That is just what it
costs to acquire the bike. It says nothing about how much
money it costs to own the bike in the long term. That is particularly
important with titanium bikes that can be repaired if broken
or defective, but are among the most expensive repairs in
the cycling industry. It is very easy for a $3000 complete
titanium bike to cost $5000 (or more) to own and operate for
three race seasons not factoring the cost of missed events
due to the bike being out of service for maintenance or frame
repairs. Ultimately, like everything else, you get what you
pay for. Also, one way or another, you will pay. The ownership
histories of titanium bikes we have seen show us you have
the choice of paying up front and having a trouble free ownership
experience, or using less money to acquire the bike and having
some unplanned down time combined the remainder of the expense
to own the bike. You pay when you buy or you pay while you
own. When you pay when you buy the only currency you spend
is money. When you pay when you own you pay with money and
with time. Warranties are in place on every titanium bike
we know of, but no warranty is free, all are subject to restrictions,
most indicate repair rather than replacement and all subject
the owner to a period of time when the bike they paid for
is not available to ride during repair. My take on warranties
is that if you have to use it, the bike has already failed
and the ownership experience is compromised. Ownership experience,
not price, is what determines whether or not your bike was
|In 2004 I built a Guru Aero Ti to take
to the Bonita Ironman New Zealand Triathlon. I decided
on the bike after looking at a short list of titanium
triathlon bikes. I found, at the time, the Aero Ti was
the best. Since 2004, the Aero Ti has only gotten better.
This is the older 2005 Aero
Ti I used at Ironman New Zealand in full race trim.
When you use words like “the
best” it pays to have some qualifiers. This is what
I mean when I say the Aero Ti is best titanium triathlon bike:
The Aero Ti uses 3/2.5 Vanadium
Titanium alloy, not the 6/4 alloy. We have seen a markedly
higher incidence of broken frames with 6/4 alloy bikes
in our store during the past 3 years. We have seen far
fewer 3/2.5 bikes fail, and none of them were Guru brand
The Aero Ti does not use
decorative seat tube extensions that protrude above the
top tube of the frame. The trend to extend the seat tube
significantly (more than 3-4 centimeters) above the top
tube provides the rider with no empirical benefit in fit
or performance, limits the ability to adjust saddle height
to a narrower range of saddle heights and adds unnecessary
weight to the frame high on the bike where it is least
Weld quality and consistency
on the Guru Aero-Ti is the smoothest of any titanium bike
we have seen except perhaps Serotta and Seven, and it
is on par with those. Smoother, straighter welds mean
a stronger bike with less chance of an expensive frame
failure. We have never seen a Guru brand titanium bicycle
fail in any way.
Your component group
will shift and brake more smoothly and for a longer period
of time between adjustments because the cable routing
on the Aero Ti has no sharp corners, sudden bends in the
cable and minimal areas where the frame is contact with
the control cables themselves. This means less cable friction
and smoother operation of both brakes and derailleurs.
Those are four of the reasons the
Guru Aero Ti eclipses the other titanium triathlon bikes.
There are more.
Every Aero Ti is hand made in
Montreal, Quebec by Guru craftsmen.
|Guru got their start in 1989 as a four
person hand made bicycle company. They started life as
a bike company and have grown slowly over the past seventeen
years to a family business in Montreal, Quebec with 30
employees. It remains a small business in spirit if not
in volume. Family members still answer the phone, not
machines or receptionists who have never thrown a leg
over a bike. I really believe that makes a difference.
Also, Guru is owned by, well, Guru. There are no financiers
to report to, no one who funnels in money and expects
results. It is a family business. Guru is accountable
to the most important financiers in the customer service
and retail industry: Their customers. We have sold a lot
of Guru bicycles. The care that goes into them is apparent
when we unpack them and build them. No company is perfect,
but our relationship with Guru has proven they are accountable
and responsible and are concerned about the customers’
Guru’s quiet start came to
an end in Sydney, Australia at the 2000 Olympics. Sydney was
the first Olympics to feature triathlon as a competitive sport
and the Men’s Triathlon was one by Canadian Simon Whitfield
on a Canadian built Guru. But the notoriety Guru received
from their Olympic win would not have worked had the product
not been able to back up the hype. Huffy (labeled) bicycles
have won the Olympics (Los Angeles) and the Ironman (Mark
Allen) but have not garnered any market share at the high
end. Guru’s Olympic Gold was not the end of a marketing
campaign for Guru, it was the beginning. Six years after the
influx of brand identity from Whitfield’s win in Sydney,
Guru has continued to mature, develop and improve. The Olympic
flame in Sydney may have been extinguished six years ago,
but the passionate fire that burns for quality, design and
workmanship at Guru is more intense than ever. That shows
in Guru’s titanium masterpiece, the Aero Ti.
|There are a number of reasons to own a
titanium triathlon bike; the one we hear most commonly
is durability. There is a general perception that titanium
is the most durable frame material available. The problem
with generalizing about frame materials: you simply can’t
generalize. While 3/2.5 titanium alloy has certainly earned
a reputation for durability I would argue that 6/4 titanium
deserves the opposite reputation. There has been an odd
upswing in the number of failed 6/4 bikes in the last
12 months in our store. Invariably, when we see a titanium
bike fail, it is 6/4 alloy, not 3/2.5 titanium alloy.
Guru uses the more reliable 3/2.5 alloy in the Aero-Ti.
3/2.5 Vanadium Titanium is the
alloy of choice for tri bikes.
The Alpha Q is the lightest
and most comfortable of the bladed, aero forks.
|Another feature of 3/2.5 (when used
in a good design) is a more forgiving ride than 6/4. I’m
not a big fan of attributing ride quality to frame material.
The reality is that ride quality depends more on tire
choice and wheel choice than frame material. But frame
material and design does influence ride quality. To improve
ride quality and smooth out the bumps Guru uses a proprietary
rear stay assembly molded from carbon fiber in combination
with the slightly softer 3/2.5 alloy. The seat stays of
the frame are radiused in a gentle arc for better shock
absorption. I rode an Aero-Ti on the chip and seal pavement
of New Zealand at Ironman New Zealand and I can tell the
molded rear end has a buzz-reducing effect. Not all carbon
rear ends are created equal (again, you simply can’t
make generalizations) but the one of the Aero-Ti does
exert a nice pacifying effect on road shock.
|At the front of the bike Guru has been
specing the True Temper Alpha Q aero fork. Because of
its beefy fork crown and tapered legs (not straight bladed
legs all the way to the wheel dropout like other aero
forks) this fork gives you very nice front end ride quality.
If is quieter than full-length bladed carbon forks and
lighter too. The steer tube on the True Temper Alpha Q
is very thin walled carbon. That saves more weight. Strength
is not sacrificed due to a unique bonded steer tube plug
installed by the bike builder once the fork steer tube
is cut to length. This system works very well. Your builder
does need to be familiar with the fork installation process
and understand how to install the plug correctly. Failure
to use the plug properly will certainly damage the thin
wall fork steer tube when you tighten the stem. Be sure
your builder understands how to correctly install the
steer tube plug and that you wait 24 hours for the plug
to set correctly before riding.
The Easton cockpit is sizeable
to the individual rider and entirely carbon fiber.
Guru has also become fond of the
Easton Delta Force base bars and the Aero Force aerobar combination.
The carbon fiber Delta Force base bar is only 230 grams compared
to over 280 for a Visiontech aluminum wing shaped base bar.
These are good aerobars but both extensions are a little long
for my taste. No worries though, the owner’s manual
does say it is OK to cut them down to length. This is different
than the Easton Attack one piece aerobar which, according
to its installation manual, cannot be cut down to length due
to the inserts to accommodate shifter and brake lever mounting.
The Easton cockpit is light, has nice looking graphics and
gives combines with the Alpha Q fork to make the front end
of the bike a nice comfortable place to rest your elbows for
I like the Easton cockpit and used the Attack integrated version
for a season including one Ironman. I do think the extensions
and grip sections of the base bars and the aerobars are too
long for medium to smallish people. Be sure you ask your bike
fitter to size your aerobar cockpit to you when you get your
final fitting. Easton did well to enable bike builders to
customize this cockpit by cutting it to length.
An elegant and functional main frame
with no cosemetic
(and heavy) bells and whistles.
The main frame of the Aero-Ti is
simple and elegant. The head tube runs a tad high with a minor
extension above the top tube. I certainly prefer this configuration
(within reason) to a stack of spacers to get the correct saddle
to handlebar drop. One minor criticism is that most Aero-Ti’s
are shipped with one water bottle attachment point on the
seat tube. It would be nice to have two so you didn’t
have to use a behind the saddle bottle carrier.
The frame design uses only the tubing
needed for an accurate fit: No useless seat tube extensions.
Looking at the main frame and the
overall appearance of the bike is also where you get a feel
for the subtle elegance and genuine integrity of the bike’s
construction and design. This bike does not depend on flashy
graphics or big decals for its good looks. Nothing about the
design is built for novelty. It is all form follows function.
Perhaps the only nod to the purely aesthetic is the option
to paint the bike. Over the past two years most of the Guru
Aero-Ti’s we’ve bought and built have been painted
at the customer’s request. Guru’s alluring paint
and meticulous finish quality along with an almost infinite
combination of colors makes this an attractive opportunity
for the customer to individualize their bike. While Guru’s
paint is unique in the industry for its incredible quality,
it is almost a shame to paint the bike since the titanium
metal work underneath is so perfect. As with all painted Gurus
the graphics are not decals but actually painted on and a
permanent part of the durable finish. Run your fingers over
a Guru paint job: It is remarkably smooth and perfect in appearance
and to the touch.
The rear triangle is a complex
and beautifully executed combination of titanium and
|The seat tube and bottom bracket of this
bike is where it takes a clear lead over every other titanium
bike out there. You don’t have to be a bike expert
to tell why the Aero-Ti is the most carefully made titanium
triathlon bike. It boils down to attention to detail.
Guru frame builders took the time to meticulously create
each weld. This is no small task when working with titanium
since the work must be done in an inert gas environment
(usually argon). Once the welds are completed to Guru’s
rather high standards they are moderately finished to
make them smooth and remove places for cracks to start
(stress raisers). What is left are welds that sometimes
appear so clean it is tough to find the seam in the metal.
Compare these to every other titanium bike brand. Make
the call yourself. There is no denying the outcome. Guru’s
welds are the clear leader in quality, strength, attention
to detail and appearance. Other bikes look like a high
school metal shop project in comparison. The seat tube
has an aero cut out that may or may not provide an actual
aero benefit. It looks nice, and consumers like that.
The jury is out on whether this design really provides
a performance advantage in the real world. It does provide
a heftier interface with the bottom bracket shell, and
that makes hard efforts feel sturdier underfoot. Climbing
on the Aero-Ti, especially hard climbing, is a joy.
The forward offset seat post is unique
to Guru and is easy to adjust.
At the top of the seat tube Guru
uses a proprietary, exclusive bladed, carbon fiber, aerodynamic
seatpost with a moderately forward offset. This is another
example of how well Guru truly understands triathletes. Their
triathlon geometry actually works. The seatpost head adjustment
is another elegant and ingenious design. It uses a separate
bolt to adjust the fore/aft and the angle. In other words,
you slide the saddle front to back with one adjustment, and
you change the angle with another. Both adjustments are infinite
so you can put the saddle anywhere you want along the rails
and at any angle. The adjustments lock down tight with only
about 5 nm of torque (give or take) since the tolerances are
all so tight. Most customers will never appreciate this subtlety
since they will never adjust their own saddle, but it is a
big convenience for the bike fitter and makes positioning
the customer much easier and more precise.
This is one area I think customers
need to become more critical. Flip the bike over you are buying
and look at the underside. Some manufacturers hide a multitude
of short cuts under the bike where they count on you never
looking. When you look at the bottom of the Guru Aero-Ti it
only looks better compared to other ti triathlon bikes.