Condensed Answer: Many titanium bikes use carbon forks because carbon makes it easier to produce an affordable fork in all kinds of shapes.
Moreover, to avoid excessive flex, titanium forks would have to be thicker – a detail that makes them a non-aesthetic part when installed on a road bike with slim lines.
Reasons Why Titanium Bikes Come With Carbon Forks
- Carbon is Easier To Customize
Carbon gives freedom to engineers and designers because the fibers can be arranged in a way that compliments the function of the component.
In the case of forks, the goal is to find the perfect balance between lateral stiffness and vertical flex so that the fork offers stability but also compliance in the needed directions. Carbon facilitates that goal.
It’s also worth mentioning that carbon components can easily be shaped differently. Most of the time, manufacturers take advantage of this property by making the fork and/or frame tubing in a teardrop shape to reduce drag.
Titanium, on the other hand, does not offer the same degree of customization.
- Non-road Bike Friendly
Road bike forks have to be light but also stiff and somewhat compliant – a difficult task to accomplish by using titanium while also keeping the final product slim.
Titanium components are not cheap. By using a carbon fork instead of a titanium one, a manufacturer can offer a bike with a titanium frame at a more bearable price. If the fork was made out of titanium too, the final cost will climb significantly.
- Carbon Manufacturing is Strong
At the moment, carbon dominates the high-end cycling segment. Consequently, the entire industry subsidizes the production and distribution of carbon. The greater demand results in more opportunities and lower prices.
In different, titanium is more of a niche material when it comes to cycling. The smaller demand creates lower availability and higher prices.
- Extra Weight
Titanium forks cannot offer the needed strength without extra material and thus weight.
Consequently, it makes more sense to equip a bike that’s meant to be light with a fork made out of carbon.
- Limited Choice
The number of titanium forks on the market is low. This limits the choice of companies and end customers.
Carbon is considered a futuristic material enjoying a high status. Titanium is also high in the hierarchy, but it’s not “mainstream” cool. Thus, a bike that has a titanium frame and a carbon fork combines the best of both exotic worlds and fills a lucrative niche.
- Fork Flex Is Difficult to Control With Geometry Changes
The stiffness of a frame can be adjusted via the frame’s geometry. The same is hard to do with forks due to the lower number of variables that can be changed. At the end of the day, all forks have the same basic structure – three tubes attached to one another.
Consequently, manufacturers have a hard time producing a stiff titanium fork without using extra-large tubing or significantly changing the shape of the fork.
This is one of the reasons why you see titanium forks with an unorthodox design. The goal is to make the fork perform as needed without making it beefier. However, those forks are expensive to mass-produce.
FAQ: Do titanium forks have any advantages?
Titanium forks carry the advantages of titanium as a material which are:
- Light and strong
Titanium can match the strength of steel for half the weight.
Steel frames rust if not maintained properly. Conversely, titanium is practically immune to corrosion.
- Unique Color and Appearance
That said, the advantages of titan forks are not enough to make the industry switch to titanium. Titanium may be lighter and stronger than steel, but it’s still heavier than aluminum and carbon. With the right engineering aluminum and carbon parts can be made brutally strong and light.
The corrosion resistance of carbon isn’t enough to turn the table either because aluminum and carbon are also resistant to the elements, albeit not nearly to the same degree as titanium.
Steel is the most corrosive material, but if the paint of the fork is intact, and the user treats the insides of the tubes with a rust protector, the component can last for decades.
FAQ: Why is carbon chosen over other materials?
A titanium frame can technically be combined with a steel or aluminum fork. However, this is rarely the case for the following reasons:
- Aluminum is light but not compliant. Thus, aluminum forks transmit road regularities accurately and offer a harsh rider. Hence why they’re absent from the vast majority of high-end bicycles.
2. Steel is compliant and offers a high degree of comfort, but it’s not light. Therefore, people who want to have a light but also comfortable bike go for carbon.
3. Carbon is a trendy material.
It’s worth mentioning that carbon could be seen as an overrated material when compared to steel because:
- Components made out of carbon require frequent inspection. A small crack can cause failure.
- When carbon fails it often does so fully and unexpectedly. Hence why many people consider carbon a dangerous material.
- Carbon can’t handle external abuse. If a carbon component is hit, it can break or at least crack. Conversely, steel is tough and elastic. It’s more likely to bend than to fail completely.
If you want to learn more about the differences between steel and carbon forks, consider reading the dedicated post.