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My Ti.
By Tom Demerly.

Read this first about our reviews

2006 Guru Aero Ti
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 ownership experience.

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 a bargain.

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 bikes.
  • 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 desirable.
  • 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’ ownership experience.

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 112 miles.

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 carbon.

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.

The Guru Aero-Ti on the left and another manufacturer's (not Guru)
bottom bracket on the right. Which one do you think is made with greater attention to detail?

The bottom bracket is another unique feature of the Aero Ti. Guru’s new cable routing enters the frame near the head tube on the down tube and doesn’t resurface until the rear chainstay. The Aero Ti cables route inside the bottom bracket shell keeping them clean and free from damage. Initially this arrangement did not set well with me since the entire cable length is concealed Getting access to it for maintenance is no small task. However, once I saw how well the system works I have confidence in it and understand the philosophy: If the cable is protected throughout its length it won’t need maintenance. That said, if you had to replace a cable the night before an important race do leave it to a competent mechanic, preferably one who has routed the control cables on a Guru. I like the cable routing; it works fine and is elegantly clean. It likely will make your cables last longer too. For the overwhelming majority of triathletes, especially those who travel with their bike frequently and aren’t mechanically adept, this is the best set-up. It is a different paradigm though: it isn’t convenient to perform quick cable changes but, then again, since it is protected inside the frame, you won’t need to.

The internal cable routing locks the nerve center of the bike inside titanium armor.

The seat stays are a molded wishbone carbon design that is one unified piece of carbon fiber from dropout over the top of the rear wheel to the other dropout. The carbon rear wishbone is really more like a fork than a separate set of two seat stays since it is one piece. And just like a carbon fiber fork it does have an affect on ride quality- not as much as a carbon fork- but there is some affect. On the chip and seal pavement of New Zealand the carbon rear end reduced the high frequency vibration I felt in the saddle area as compared to an all titanium bike. Not all carbon rear ends are created equal, and some do very little for ride quality. Almost all add weight to a frame since a portion of the upper wishbone is usually very thick wall or completely solid. In the case of the Aero Ti I think the addition of the carbon rear end is better than a titanium seat stay would have been.

Curved carbon fiber seat stays add to an already comfortable ride for long distance comfort.

Moving to the back of the seat tube on the Aero-Ti frame is where the gloves come off in comparison to other titanium triathlon bikes. The Aero-Ti wins with a knock out in the first round. This is a difficult area to get right on a bike and Guru obviously put a lot of work into the aero wheel cut-out on the back of the seat tube. We looked at the cut-out on two other titanium triathlon bikes and, compared to the Guru Aero-Ti, weld smoothness, alignment of the weld bead and the overall design of the seat tube the Aero-Ti frankly embarrasses the others. One of the other bikes we looked at was so poorly welded and designed the front derailleur cable rubbed a sharp corner on the seat tube creating substantial friction. The cut-out on the back of the Aero-Ti seat tube is so clean, smooth and well made you almost have to wonder how long it took them to get it this perfect. It is like precise metal sculpture. Other brands of titanium triathlon bikes frankly look bad in comparison. Do yourself a favor if you are shopping for a titanium triathlon bike: flip the bike over and look under the bottom bracket and behind the seat tube. I think you’ll be surprised at what you find on many brands. You’ll be pleasantly surprised on the Guru Aero-Ti.

.. ..
Look carefully at the weld seam and the workmanship at the
back of the aero cut-out: Smooth, seamless and perfectly executed.

At the back of the bike the dropouts are nice, precisely cut and otherwise unremarkable. They are durable and work perfectly. Titanium bikes don’t use replaceable rear derailleur hangers since they generally don’t need them. It is bastardly difficult to bend a ti derailleur hanger and the hanger on the Aero-Ti has the strength normally attributed to a titanium triathlon bike.

Another brand has a much rougher appearance and a
pointy protrusion that actually rubs the front derailleur cable.

A peek under the right chainstay reveals the cool little orifice that the rear derailleur cable jumps out of just before you go to the rear derailleur. Again, the cable is housed in protective titanium armor over almost all of its length inside the frame. The cable stops are actually welded into the frame making them bombproof.

The dropouts are compact, light and easy to use.

Fitting the Aero-Ti is a bike fitter’s (and customers’) dream. The frame is built and designed for function by people who actually ride. It isn’t just built for looks. There is no useless seat tube extension. The ratio of top tube length to seat tube length on the stock sizes is intelligent and trends toward the slightly long. Guru offers seven stock sizes on their geometry chart from 46 cm to 57 cm. The biggest opportunity with Guru is that custom geometry is not only free (no upcharge!) but it is also fast. Guru’s custom geometry bikes are built directly in-process with the bikes from their geometry chart so there is no extra time in getting a custom geo bike. Another advantage is that Guru doesn’t try to completely re-write the book on frame geometry with their customs. They make the changes they need to for a precise fit and keep the good handling the bikes are known for.

The exit point of the rear derailleur cable.

If there is anything remarkable about Guru fit it is that the names of the sizes will sound small to you when the bike is correctly sized. That is the somewhat typical function of size names versus dimensions and another reason why having a good bike fitter is so important. If you are used to hearing that you ride something like a 55 cm then your bike fitter may put you on a 53cm Guru Aero Ti and the posture and fit will be perfect.

The Aero-Ti is available in full custom geometry and stock sizes. No charge for custom. The design of the frame does away with useless cosemetic seat tube extensions (far right) that perform no function to the rider but add weight to the bike. The clean Guru design is in the center above, another brand on the right.

We spend over two years looking at titanium triathlon bicycles in comparison. It was an interesting case study since there are only a few models available in this popular frame material and all of them are not created equal. In the course of our comparison we bought (no test bikes were given or lent to us), built and rode over a dozen titanium triathlon bikes from several manufacturers. We also looked at others that were available but lagged so far behind in key features they didn’t even qualify for the comparison. Over the course of the comparison, going back to 2004 when it all began, the Guru Aero-Ti took the lead early and then went on to pull ahead over the next two years. In the end it you really don’t have to be an expert on bikes to see the Guru Aero-Ti is the nicest titanium triathlon bike from any manufacturer. You just have to look at it side-by-side in comparison to the others. Once you make the comparison, the Guru Aero-Ti is clearly the best ti triathlon bike available.

Guru's 2006 Aero Ti: Master class titanium.



© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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