Living the Dream: David Rosen's Flow Motion Titanium Hardtail

Jun 24, 2019
by Richard Cunningham  
Sage Flow Motion

Dave Rosen was in the prime of life, making bank as a production analyst for Nike's apparel division. An avowed bike nerd and avid rider, Rosen could (and did) buy any bike he wanted. He was "that guy" - the one who showed up at group rides sporting the latest carbon superbike before the print had dried on its stellar magazine reviews. Rosen's fantastic plastic addiction, however, fizzled out abruptly during a trip to Frostbike in 2011.

"I remember I was sitting with my friend Rob when I announced that I felt like titanium is due for a comeback. He looked at me like, 'What are you talking about?' I told him that I was totally sick of carbon.

"I was on the carbon craze like everybody else. I'd show up at a group ride and it seemed like everyone was on the same bike. They had no personality. Hey, carbon bikes are great. There's no question about it. My S-Works Tarmacs were amazing. One day, though, my mountain bike fell over onto my Tarmac 3, and the handlebar hit the top tube. It didn't hit that hard, but it sounded like shattering glass. I had to replace the frame."

That was the turning point for Rosen. As luck would have it, he was invited to race for a friend who had
Davis Rosen Sage Titanium Bicycles
Dave Rosen, Founder: Sage Titanium Bicycles
begun to import inexpensive titanium bikes from China. Team members were free to design their own geometry, so he went wild. He loved the feel and the look of titanium, but the clincher was being able to experience his own geometry. The team vaporized along with his friend's business venture a short time afterward, but that brief introduction set Rosen's life on a new course.

Sage Flow Motion

Sage Titanium Bicycles

Armed with his experience with sourcing high-end products in Asia, and knowledge gleaned from his stint on the team, Rosen launched Sage Titanium Bicycles in 2012. He'll be the first to tell you that he's never picked up a welding torch in his life, but on the plus side, he knows a hell of a lot about bikes. He's one of cycling's super-nerds who grew up during the purple parts era poring over magazine reviews and can probably quote, from memory, the details of every pro bike check ever published.

Also to his credit, Rosen is a stickler for details and doesn't stray very far from what he knows best. Sage's modest range of cyclocross, road, and mountain bikes are all rigid frames. If you get the geometry, alloys, tube diameters and wall-thickness right, and your manufacturing quality is up to snuff, it's hard to mess that up.

Like everybody else at the time, Rosen sourced his first frames from a reputable Chinese manufacturer, anticipating he'd be offering a truly high-end product at a price that would lure up-scale customers away from the carbon monopolies of Trek, Specialized and Cervelo, while undercutting the (justifiably) stratospheric asking prices of established custom titanium marquis like Seven, Merlin and Moots. Predictably, the first production run was everything he had hoped for.

bigquotesHead badges should be riveted or bolted onto the frame. I prefer classic, old-school style. No stickers, and no paint.Dave Rosen

Rosen believed he had done his homework. He'd hired quality control experts to monitor production, and spent plenty of time with his Chinese factory to
Sage Flow Motion
ensure that his designs were being executed as he intended. Elated with the fit and finish of his first Sage titanium frames, Rosen placed a second order and threw himself into his start-up business.

Chinese manufacturing relationships, however, are often like watching a fireworks show, only in reverse. Instead of a gradual buildup, followed by dazzling perfection, they begin with the grand finale - beautiful products, handshakes, on-time delivery and anticipation of good things to come - followed by a series of gradual let-downs in quality and fulfillment. Veterans will tell you that you almost have to live in the factories while your bikes are being manufactured to stem the tide. After the second and third shipments arrived, Rosen's dream began to unravel.

Sage Flow Motion

"The first frames that came in were fine," says Rosen. "But then they started getting progressively worse. The second batch, the water bottle bosses were in the wrong place. Later, they changed to swaged-tapered chainstays which started cracking before we even sold them. So, after 2013, I was like, 'No,no no. I need to change this!''

But Rosen's issues were larger than shepherding his Chinese supplier back up to speed. His first year in the bicycle business indicated that he may have missed the mark entirely. His customers, it turned out, were very much like him. They were educated, bicycle savvy types with discretionary income who were more interested in quality and performance than searching for the best deal they could wrangle for their next bike purchase. After some soul searching, he moved all of his production home.
Sage Flow Motion

"Customers liked the idea of this retro titanium thing that I was doing," he explained. "And I was trying to push it out a little further than I could if I were a custom builder. I figured that if Moots was up there, and if I came down to here, I could be a cheaper alternative to Moots. But, you pay cheap, you get cheap. What I realized next, was that customers who were interested in my bikes were already prepared to pay for a Moots, so why not offer that level of quality? In 2014, I moved my production to the United States and decided that we're just going premium and we'd make Sage a premium experience. Really, that's always been the bike I wanted to ride anyway. It's Dura-Ace, it's XTR..."

Rosen's come-to-Jesus moment put Sage Titanium Bicycles on the straight and narrow path. He prefers to withhold the names of his US frame makers, divulging only that one is in Tennessee and the other is a lesser known, highly respected builder in Portland, Oregon, where Rosen is based. Sage's modest range includes one model in four genres: Road, Gravel, Cyclocross and Mountain. Prices range from $2,900 USD for a frame only, to upwards of $12,000 if you want to go crazy with custom features and components.

Customers can choose from Rosen's ready-made geometry, or customize their frame numbers for an extra charge. Sage's website has a "bike builder" function that walks you through a range of component and color selections so you can fool around as long as you need to personalize both your bike and its final price. If you want advice, Rosen will be happy to walk you through the process. He's ridden and raced everything he sells.

Being a Portlandian, Rosen is an avowed cyclocross racer, where his PDXCX has earned high praise. Rosen's love affair with riding and racing, however, began on a mountain bike. Those were the years when he fell in love with titanium and was indoctrinated into the customization mentality - when the seeds were sewn that sprouted between cracks in his corporate sidewalk and blossomed into this custom bicycle business. I was surprised to discover then, that Rosen dragged his feet for a long time before he designed his first mountain bike.
Sage Flow Motion
Sage's builds use Shimano drivetrains exclusively. The rigid X-12 type derailleur hanger is protected by a break-away bolt.

"I've been mountain biking forever. My first mountain bike had to be good, right out of the gate," says Rosen. But, is it cross country? Is it all mountain? Who's going to ride it? Where is it going to be ridden? There are so many niches now. I kept thinking about it for two years, but I was at a loss - until I booked my first trip to Whistler. I think I was riding 'Lord of the Squirrels' when I realized that this was it. This is what the Flow Motion is made for. It's super fun to ride downhill and it can climb whatever you want."

bigquotesI think I was riding Lord of the Squirrels when I realized that this was it. This is what the Flow Motion is made for.Dave Rosen

Sage Flow Motion
Sage Flow Motion
• AM hardtail, 3/2.5 alloy titanium
• Fork travel: 150/160mm
• 65.5º head angle, 74º seat angle, 425mm chainstay
• Reach: 412mm to 479mm
• Custom geometry option
• Wheels: 27.5" standard / 29" with tires up to 2.2"
• Hand-made in Portland, Oregon, from USA-made tubing
• Sizes: Small, medium, large, & X-large
• MSRP: Frame only- $3,400 USD, builds start at $7,862
• Contact: Sage Titanium Bicycles

I looked forward to riding the Flow Motion. It had been years since the last time I'd thrown a leg over a hardtail and a lot has changed since then - influenced by the likes of Chromag and the slack-geometry uprising presently raging in the UK. Rosen said that he stopped short of the Pole's rider-forward geometry because he was aiming at more balanced performance - a bike with excellent technical descending skills that was lighter and more nimble at the controls over a wider range of speed and intensity. That's also why he chose 27.5-inch wheels.

"A pure race bike," he says, "has to be built for narrow, very specific purpose. The Flow Motion is made for fun - you can hop on and do anything with it, and it really loves to go downhill."

Eyeing up its construction, my medium-sized frame was up there with the better titanium bikes I've seen. Welds were near-perfect, double-pass beads where they were in plain sight, while down by the bottom bracket area, the joints were less attractive, but still, well-executed. (Titanium must be welded in an oxygen-free environment, at strictly controlled heat ranges, so welders often join the parts first with a smaller, carefully controlled weld and then pass over that a second time to reinforce the joint with additional metal in a smoother, more attractive pattern.)
Sage Flow Motion
The only internal cable routes to the dropper post.

Look closer and you'll pick out nice details like no chainstay bridge for extra tire and mud clearance, plenty of insertion room for long-stroke dropper posts, a sturdy X-12 rear axle system with a break-away derailleur hanger bolt, and a beautifully machined head tube that can accept either straight or tapered steerer tubes. The absence of rear suspension means you can stow two full-sized bottles inside the frame, and the fact that this bike is made from brushed, 3/2.5 alloy titanium means it will never rust, and that you can restore its finish to new with a fine Scotch Brite pad at home.

Rosen set me up with a shop demo, outfitted with his lower end, Shimano XT build. That was fine in my book - can't argue with perfect shifts and reliable brakes. The 150mm Fox 36 fork ensured that I could plow through anything, and it rolled on Maxxis Minion DHF and DHR tires. I checked the price on Sage's bike builder and it came out to $7,738 - steep, but not unexpected for a quality US-made titanium build.

Riding It

The simplicity of the Flow Motion became apparent setting up the bike. Check the air pressure in the tires, turn the damping clickers to my favorite settings, and pressurize the fork to 20-percent sag. Boom! Let's ride.

I was anticipating a harsh ride, but that never materialized. The combination of Stan's low-profile rims and low-pressure Maxxis 2.5" WT tires helped take the edge off the terrain, but I'll attribute the rest to the bike's balanced feel in the cockpit. On paper, the 74-degree seat tube angle almost seems slack by today's trend, but without rear suspension, it feels more like a suspension bike with a 75 or even a 76-degree seat angle, especially while climbing. Where I'm going here, is that being more centered between the wheels seems to mute a lot of pounding that I once associated with riding hardtails.

Adapting to its rigid rear end took all of about ten minutes, which meant that I could enjoy the Flow Motion's finer attributes on my first outing. Armed with a 44-millimeter fork offset, steering is light and absolutely precise feeling. Like most slack-ish front ends and almost every hardtail I've liked, the Sage corners best when you pressurize the bottom bracket and lean into the front wheel a little. When it drifts, you'll hardly notice it, because the bike stays composed.

Assume the hardtail hover (butt about an inch or two over the saddle) and the Flow Motion glides over the kind of rooted and rocky chatter that you'd expect on the more aggressive end of the blue-line trail rating. You'll have to work harder, though, to keep up with the dual-suspension crowd on anything that resembles a black. That said, I never balked at a steep drop or dicey descent aboard the Sage. It's quite forgiving and solid feeling under saddle.

I had the most fun, however, when I was popping off of rock slabs, and punching little jumps and natural features that my long-travel trail bikes would have completely ignored. If you want smooth fast and
Sage Flow Motion
A little busy downstairs, but it's simple.
flowy, the Sage will happily comply, but given the slightest ramp, all it takes is a little down-force on the tail-end and it will take flight. Same with bermed corners. Compress the bike in at the apex and it will almost set up for the next turn automatically.

First Impressions
bigquotesI'm not going to lie, I'd rather have a lightweight, 150-millimeter-travel dual suspension bike for my daily driver. That said, I will unabashedly admit that I returned from every ride aboard the Flow Motion with a "slap me, I'm stupid" smile. The short time I had the bike was not enough for a full review, but I can tell you for sure that Rosen got the fun part right when he designed it. If you live where it's mucky most of the time, owning a rust proof all-mountain bike with fewer moving parts is also worth consideration. I anticipate some will criticize Dave as one more corporate outsider who bought his way into the sacred hall of custom bike makers. Ride his bike though, and you'll know otherwise. It's the real deal. Rosen's probably not making bank, but his new office has wheels. Cheers for living the dream.RC

Author Info:
RichardCunningham avatar

Member since Mar 23, 2011
974 articles

  • 69 0
 "I prefer classic, old-school style. No stickers, and no paint."

  • 25 0
 Love the look of raw titanium, I don't think I could personally bring myself to pay $7862 for a hard tail though.
  • 12 0
 @VPS13: Agreed. It would have to be a small percentage of my income and I'd have to donate as much to feel okay about it.

At the same time, I could not judge anyone that spent that much on this bike, as mountain biking is my therapy/cardio/escape and passion. I totally get it. $7862 is less than a pack a day smoker spends on cigarettes in 2-3 years. It's only a little more than a beer a day bar fly spends in the same time frame. Mountain bikes make you live longer, live happier, and in general be a better human.

I still agree, I could never spend this much on this type of bike. I'd rather regularly buy and ride to death lots of aluminum dh bikes. Or Enduro bikes. Or XC bikes.

TL;DR as long as it has 2 wheels and makes you smile go for it. And I'm a cheap bastard.
  • 14 30
flag duzzi (Jun 24, 2019 at 8:53) (Below Threshold)
 Mountain Bike Fiction at its best: "On paper, the 74-degree seat tube angle almost seems slack by today's trend, but without rear suspension, it feels more like a suspension bike with a 75 or even a 76-degree seat angle". RC can spot the difference of one degree in seat angle between a hard tail and a suspended bike! Wow! And he does not even realize that moving the rails of a saddle is equivalent to a 1 to 2 degree change in seat tube angle!!!!!!! Keep up the good work RC!

Other than other sprinkled nonsense (the hardtail is "smooth and flowy"), the bike itself is very very very nice.
  • 41 2
 @duzzi: Here's the long version for you: Ride enough bikes and one or two degrees is readily apparent. We try to run the saddles in the middle (at least to begin with) to accurately assess the bike's geometry. The point, however, is that rear suspension compresses when climbing and accelerating and is affected by static sag (most riders use 30% rear and 20 to 15% front. all of that slackens the effective seat tube angle. A hardtail's seat tube angle actually becomes slightly steeper as the fork drops to sag, and while it can be argued that the fork extends under acceleration and also contributes to a slacker seat tube angle, the change is minimal because of the distance between axles and its minimal sag.
  • 2 0
 @freekandy: Agree 100 percent man, I can totally understand someone buying and loving this bike, Im sure I would be caught staring at it in the garage after fresh wash. Just seems a steep price to me considering I could get into a pretty good DH and AM (two bikes) steed for the same dollar figure. Obviously it might not look nearly as good but just how my thought process works I guess. Different strokes for different folks, absolutely beautiful bike though!
  • 5 43
flag duzzi (Jun 24, 2019 at 11:39) (Below Threshold)
 @RichardCunningham: Maybe some study of trigonometry might help? From an ergonomic point of view the ONLY thing that a different seat angle achieves on a frame is to allow the seat to be positioned more or less forward. And of course the seat angle can be altered by the seat post: that's why we have set back (and set forward for road bikes) seat posts.

So, no, you would not be able to tell the difference between a 74 or 75 or 76 seat angle, no matter how many bikes you ride, unless your body geometry required a seat position that the combination SA, seat, and seat post does not allow.
  • 22 1
 @duzzi: what a load of bullshit, dude.
  • 10 0
 Gorgeous bike. Unfortunate price. That's a $3,500-4k bike at best, complete. This industry has lost all sense of reality when it comes to pricing.
  • 2 1
 @RichardCunningham: & the other point is the greater parity of actual and theoretical STAs more likely to be found in hardtail frames, at least until recently. Where were all the leggy riders to commend you for dealing with it a little in the Alpine Trail review?!

@duzzi: look at the actual STA of a 5010.2, for example. It's probably 65 degree. For the taller, leggier, and/or flat pedal rider, saddle adjustment at rail may not be enough to overcome this at ride height. Is this sufficiently trigonometric?
  • 5 0
 @VPS13: I get what you're saying, but I look at this differently. But that's also because my terrain is likely very different from what you are riding. See, I'm from the Netherlands, got two small kids and my rides are typically either tech practice (hops, rocks, manuals etc) or intense but short blasts of standing pedaling, pumping and jumping. I don't do epic rides unless I go abroad (which is only a small part of my rides). So I'm having most fun on a hardtail whereas others may say 5" travel is perfect, others say 6" travel is perfect and so on. Get the bike that leaves just enough challenges for you to make it fun without losing all your momentum because your terrain is just too rough. A low fun hardtail just makes a huge lot of sense for me. So yeah, paying a good amount for a hardtail frame exactly the way I wanted it made perfect sense whereas I can't justify the expense of a cool full suspension frame that goes for similar money. But it comes down to knowing what you want, because an expensive steel or titanium frame is commitment. It is going to last. Even if you manage to break it, it can probably be fixed. There is no new suspension tech. You buy the frame that works for you and after that, you don't really have a good excuse to replace it Wink . So whereas (as I understand from polls etc) it is common to replace an aluminium or carbon full suspension frame (that goes for similar money as these hardtails) after three years, you expect to keep a steel or titanium hardtail for ten or twenty years. In that light, for someone who at least rides the hardtail fairly frequent, paying that kind of money for a hardtail frame you like isn't all that strange.
  • 7 1
 @NYShred: If you're building titanium frames in the US with aerospace grade titanium that price for the frame is pretty ballpark. Everything costs more with titanium and I know of some Ti frame manufacturers that actually go in on a material lot/mill run costing in excess of 100k USD. Titanium requires a back purge so you're spending more money on backing gas (argon) and all synthetics (head tube, bottom bracket, dropouts, cable guides/bosses. I build chromoly frames out of the sheer ease of manufacturing compared to Titanium. It's not any harder to produce it's just way more expensive. I'd gripe more about every set of pedals costing 100-150 vs. a well built frame.
  • 1 1
 @coyotecycleworks: thanks for the honesty and insight man! Seeing this write up however makes me want to get back in touch with my frame sponsor from 2002 about commissioning a custom Ti frame that I wanted back then but couldn’t afford.
  • 1 1
 @There’s this thing called a dropper post. You might want to study its effects with seat angle. Come back and tell us what u learn.
  • 2 0
 @vinay: Understand completely, all about what and where you're riding and finding the perfect bike to fit that for you Smile Cant deny the longevity and build quality of a frame like this so I can understand why the input costs to building them would be reflected in the price.
  • 3 0
 @VPS13: Yeah man, exactly as you say it. Last weekend I attended a training in the Belgian Ardennes in the area of Spa. I was on my BTR Ranger, one instructor was on a steel Pipedream Moxie, the other was on a steel Stanton Slackline. Even though my frame may have cost a little bit more (just because it was built to order whereas the other ones go in series production), my build is relatively cheap/ancient (Zee rear mech, Truvativ Ruktion cranks...) theirs looked like it was top of the line everything. XTR, Hope brakes, carbon rims... Sure some rear suspension may allow you to go faster in places. But for the lower speed steep and tech stuff we were working on, I felt a hardtail like this brought just enough challenges whilst (because of the roomy cockpit) also allowed you to move around just enough to make it work. So for someone who typically rides this kind of stuff, there is no reason to hold back on the build. But if your terrain is really rough but you still need enough speed to clear big gaps, there is probably no substitute for efficient suspension.
  • 1 0
 @duzzi: Where's the fiction here?

The truth in the logic he was conveying here instantly registered with me.

The way my 165mm Horst Link bike slinks / squats into its travel and lightens the front end on climbs easily has it losing many degrees of seat tube angle. Not hard to notice compared to a hardtail.

A hardtail - especially one with a supple fork - also tends to fulcrum around the rear axle and drive the fork.
  • 1 0
 @VPS13: Yeah, for that price I'd get a couple Commencal's, A Supreme and Meta, or maybe a Clash and call it good, so I'm totally with you.
  • 61 1
 "prefers rivets or bolts" - uses screws :V :V :V
  • 12 0
 Yep. Shocked and disturbed by that. Awful. Also, that squirrel snare of a rear derailleur cable loop put me off...
  • 4 0
 You’d think he’d line them screw heads up for his fellow sticklers for details.
  • 2 0
 @JTepic: rear brake line in not much better. Testing the limits of zip ties...
  • 19 0
 You best not be putting a Phillips head anywhere on my bike.
  • 8 2
 those head badge screws ruin the otherwise tasteful graphic design. didn't consider how it would be fastened when it was originally concepted. fail.
  • 9 1
 Philips head does not means it's not a bolt. The fact that it goes into a pre-tapped hole (whether in the headtube itself, or in a bolt inside the headtube) makes it a bolt. A screw can work on it's own, a bolt needs something to thread into, the head design doesn't matter at all.
  • 3 0
 @just6979: thanks for the clarification.

Better executions should be more like 333fab head badge, held on with tiny, 1.5mm socket head bolts, precisely located and not overlapping other geometry/printing.
  • 2 0
 @just6979: we might not all agree on the too big overhanging philips heads, but let’s agree they’re called machine screws
  • 2 0
 @drangus: I was annoyed that they were phillips head screws and not a hex drive button head cap screw.
  • 1 0
 @acali: yep definitely needed to be a button head allen screw or a rivet.
  • 3 0
 @coyotecycleworks: makes me wonder if a sneaker designer ever cracks a McMaster Carr catalog
  • 2 0
 @drangus: doubt it, that or MSC
  • 2 0
 @just6979: Yeah, I was just going to echo what drangus said, which is that I was under the impression that a fastener with a flat or phillips head, but intended to go into a pre-tapped hole, is typically called a "machine screw".

With a fitting for a wrench of some sort on the head, it would generally then be called a bolt.

I know terminology can vary around the world, like how what we call a "bushing" in the USA, as used in many pedal bodies, is often referred to as a "solid bearing" or even just a "bearing" in the UK, whereas when we hear "bearing" we automatically think of a bearing with a rolling element like a ball or roller bearing. Having said that, all of us fastener pedants and this frame company seem to be located in the USA, so it shouldn't be tough to get on the same page.
  • 1 0
 @just6979: until it's in there for a while, there's some galvanic corrosion and you try to remove it (torq masterrace for me).
  • 1 0
 @just6979: I'll have a pack of "Phillips Head Bolts"........said no one ever

the inventor of the philips SCREW is actually american !
  • 1 0
 @thekaiser: Nah Philips was american, means the same in the UK
  • 30 1
 Biggest 29" tire it can fit is a 2.2? Not great news in these days of 29er everything.
A 140mm forked 29er,with clearance up to 2.6 tires would appeal to a way bigger market.
  • 4 0
 Agree, other brands redesigned their frames because their initial version would only take 29x2.4" on a skinny day.
  • 5 1
 Naked bikes...
  • 3 0
 I think it's because it accepts standard sized, not plus, 27.5 wheels and 29 wheels. With 425mm chainstays and standard chainstay tubes, there would be no room. A machined yoke or drive side plate design would create more room, but would add to the price. It is designed around 27.5 and considered a race bike. Most 29er XC race tires are on the small side of 2.2, so it makes sense. Also, with a fixed axle, BB height would change, 2.2 would keep it lower and less of a change in ride feel. That said, I run a 2.5 front/2.35 or 2.2 rear on my hardtails with no issues. The mixed tire size is old school and for me, has a better feel in the corners.
  • 2 0
 Yup. I've got a Cove Ti Hummer. It fits 29x2.5 WT with a little to spare and up to 27.5 x 2.6. The Chromag Ti fits even more fitting a 27.5 x 2.8. The geo is spot on though for this Sage
  • 2 0
 @leelau: Pipedream Moxie v2 waiting to be built at home. Should fit about the same.
  • 1 0
 Check new Orbea Laufey 29er 2.6 inch tires and aggressive geo with great specs.
  • 15 3
 I should know better than to make more than one comment about anything on the internet, but this subject matter is important to me...

For those of you who are griping about the cost - stop for a minute and think about the economics of this, or any manufacturable product for a few minutes. What are you comparing it to and what's important to you? Would you rather drive a Yugo or an Accord? They'll both get you from A to B...for a while. One of them is more expensive than the other, is built of higher quality parts, will have longer maintenance intervals and will ultimately last longer.

You have no idea about the shortcuts that happen in most Chinese factories, why it's important or what risk they pose to you. A bike is a vehicle whether you use it for recreation or transportation. I regularly ride bench cut trails with downhill sections that span a few miles and speeds of 20+mph. Whether it's something that you think about or not, if you're riding a bike like that, your life is literally at risk, however small that risk may be. Riding bikes is how I get my kicks and I'm willing to accept a certain amount of risk but not that my bike could come apart all of a sudden.

The economic side of this is simple. Why should a small manufacturer (although in this case, Sage is the designer) attempt to compete with manufacturers that compete in a race to the (price) bottom? What's the incentive for that? I'm friends with the guy in Portland who makes the frames. He's a great guy, works hard and has two kids. He needs to get paid for his time. He's got a mortgage, healthcare to pay for and a future to plan for. I don't know what he's making from it but I hope it's a fair wage. My experience in contract building is as you might expect...the designer understandably wants to keep their margin as high as possible and often tries to find ways to pay less, transfer liability, transfer workflow (like some design decisions, material sourcing etc, manufacturing changes) to the builder. The point is that everyone in the chain needs to make what they need to make in order to keep their kids fed and the shop lights on. No surprise that it costs more in the US than it does in China and the costs reflect that.

Add to that that small builders don't have the advantage of tier 1 OE pricing. For years I thought I had it good when I could buy a RockShox fork for a bit less than half of retail...that was until I learned that big manufacturers got the same fork for roughly 30% of my cost. For the record, they were getting an $800 retail fork for $110. If you want to complain about pricing, get some insider information of the landed cost of high end frames from big manufacturers.

If you don't want to pay $7K for a bike, don't. Go ride whatever makes you happy. You often get what you pay for but no one but you can qualify whether or not an expensive bike is going to give you more smiles per mile than an inexpensive one. I just with there was more manufacturing I may just do something about that.
  • 9 0
 The Cove Hummer, probably made by the same people, can be purchased for 25% less than the Flow Motion, has bigger clearances for rear tires, a sweet machined set of chain stays, and cable routing under the top tube, as well as a sweet curving downtube on the Hummer.
It's made in the USA, so why does the Flow Motion demands such a premium over the Hummer? Cove Bikes also has the added expense of a bricks and mortar building and inventory to consider.
I get spending money on a bike made domestically, but at what point does the law of diminishing returns kick in?
At what point are you paying 33% more for the same Accord in red vs. blue?
  • 2 1
 @woofer2609: Dave priced it that way is why. It could be due to his costs, it could be because he wants to make more money on it. Who's to say? Either way is legit to me, it's his business and he can price however he wants as long as people are willing to buy them. Judging by the number of times Moots is mentioned in this article, perhaps he's trying to position himself as a Moots competitor with more progressive geometry rather than as a Cover competitor.

If you want to get back to cars, some Audi and VW share the same chassis and are at least partially built in the same factory(s) yet one of them is priced higher than the other. Are Audi fundamentally better in a way that justifies the cost or are they trying to position themselves as a BMW competitor?
  • 1 0
 I may have missed it, but I didn't see anyone suggesting Sage was price gouging, just that they wouldn't pay that much for this bike. A don't think they would argue with what you wrote, especially the last paragraph, but I don't get why you are on THEM because they said the bike was too expensive for them to justify.
  • 2 0
 @marky-d: nor am I claiming that he's price gouging. But the bikes in this article are being compared to cheap import bikes in some comments about the price of this bike. I'm also not putting down anyone who doesn't want to buy it because of price or otherwise. If you don't want to buy something, don't buy it. Saying that it's too expensive sort of implies that if it were cheaper you might give it a shot. I've tried to make an argument as to why it might not be possible to compete on price with import frames. There's a reason why it's more expensive and the majority of consumers and bike news editors don't understand why.
  • 2 0
 @commondemoninator: For sure, it can be priced at whatever someone wants to price it at, but I would think that the premium would be due to better features, not just a name.
Cove, (and I'm just using them as an example) has what might appear to have a superior product, and has been round for 25 years or so.
I wish anyone going out there on a limb to start a business luck, but to introduce a product at a higher price point than a competitor, and not have the experience that competitor has, seems like an odd business model, but as you say, he can price however he wants.
  • 1 0
 @woofer2609: I can't speak for Sage but there could be economy of scale variables here too. There are so many things that affect price structure. I'd love to see PinkBike do a series of articles on how it all works. There's cost to manufacture, actual landed cost, marketing, warehousing, OE component goes on and on and it all changes with quantity.
  • 2 0
 I'm shopping for a Ti frame. It's an emotional purchase. There is no practical reason to spend $3500 on a frame. You want it because it's a piece of artwork, albeit one that you can ride. The people complaining about price don't understand this. At some point they might, or maybe they never will. It doesn't really matter.

Not going to comment on the brands I'm considering but I will say Flow Motion isn't one of them. It lacks the refinement to compete with the other beauties. Since the number of people willing to spend a small fortune on a frame is so limited if he wants to play in the rarefied air of Moots and Seven he needs to pay attention to every little detail. He can definitely get there, just isn't there yet.
  • 2 1
 So youre saying that buying a 10.000€ bike is absolutely better than a 3000€ bike just because its Made in the US+ Higher mark up?

Thats somewhat naive- a YT Capra wont be much worse than a CC Santa Cruz etc.

And claiming that Chinese people shortcut and make scetchy frames is a little bit much- they have better welders and machines than most other US/European manufactures...
  • 3 0
 @NotNamed: I’m not making commentary on the ability or pride of workmanship of Chinese people, but I am commenting on priorities of the factories and that to get a consistently high quality frame made there, you need to have your people placed in China to follow up regularly. This has been proven true over and over again across many industries. David’s experience is not unfamiliar to others who have gone through the same process.
  • 1 1
 @commondemoninator: quality control in outsourcing is not unique to China, Taiwan, Germany, UK...I have the same exact issues with contractors 100mi away. Buy your own equipment, hire the best staff, charge premium prices, seems to be the business model everyone here is comfortable with. Oh, and don’t use philips heads on ~$8000 bikes Smile
  • 6 1
 Standard tyre width only - completely missing the point of a modern hardtail. 27.5 x 2.8 changes the (hardtail) game. Positive review of a bike falling short of modern trail bike basics proves PB is without critical judgement.
  • 7 0
 Running naked gear cable under the chainstay like that? On a 3400 dollar frame?
  • 1 0
 Agreed. Why design it so shit can get in between inner and outer when it's so easy to keep the outer continuous.
  • 2 0
 Makes for quite the cable housing bend to the derailleur, doesn't it? Not a good combo.
  • 4 0
 I just built up a custom Ti hardtail with similar geometry and I seriously can't rave about it enough. These things are much more capable than you think and they climb like crazy! A few days ago I rode with my friends while they were on gravel bikes and we kept basically the same climbing pace on dirt for 3k feet. I've been mountain biking for about 15 or so years now. I've had XC bikes, DH bikes, a gravel bike and a few 160 enduro full sussers. This Ti hardtail is one of the most fun and definitely the most versatile bike I've ever had. Honestly think that every mountain biker should have a hardtail and make it Ti if you can afford it!
  • 1 0
 lusenator@ how much did the build cost you?
  • 1 0
 @enger: It was a full custom part by part build, I haven't added it all up but I'm not a good person to ask if you're thinking about one yourself because I went all out (Sram AXS, eewing cranks, etc etc). So the cost for my bike is pretty up there.

The range you could pay for a ti hardtail is really wide depending on what you want to put into it. But I would say get great brakes, decent fork and sturdy wheels. I did Sram g2 ultimate, fox 34 elite, and ibis carbon rims. This stuff helps the bike handle really well and feels confident. I'd say you could cheap out a bit on drivetrain and cockpit stuff.

I also put in tannus tire armor front and rear, that in combination with the ti frame dampens the trail quite a bit.
  • 1 0
 @lusenator: sounds like a bad ass ride!!
  • 1 0
 @enger: It's amazing man, total dream build, if you want to see it look up my instagram
  • 5 2
 Love my hardtails and i’d probably love ‘em more in titanium. I however, value my marriage too much for the US made bike, how about getting the Chinese versions back on track!
  • 3 0
 Looks great _except_ for that horrendous looking XT cassette. That gray color is the gray of seagull shit, and those little tiny slots do nothing to break up the monolith of ugly back there.
  • 1 0
 Lol true, but XT drivetrain is like $200, and works well enough. Sure I could buy a $1000 eagle but it's not 5 times better. I run XT cause it's cheap, ugly and works.
  • 5 0
 So, like, double the price of a lynskey-branded lynskey
  • 3 2
 This is what a hand crafted quality frame cost when made in North America. About the same cost as a dual suspension carbon frame from China. The difference is that you are playing Russian Roulette buying a made in China frame. It may or may not be a piece of crap waiting to explode. I would buy a hand built steel from from Cromag if I wanted something as classy and prestigious as these Titanium frames.
  • 2 0
 So why is an Stanton Switchback FS (with shock) or an Nicolai cheaper than this hardtail?
We have Higher wages, our labour laws are way more strict than in the US.

Why are made in US things that expensive? The 11-6 is stupid expensive also
  • 1 0
 I'd take it even with it's little pecadillos! Do I buy into the buttery smoothness, not so much as I lived through the 80's on unsuspended bikes and know that if you push it it will become a flying ass hammer pretty quickly. Oh and @duzzi are you always so cranky? Come on man, this is only bike stuff and not arms and legs ... who cares if there is literary license?? I'm just glad that there are folks able to show us what's possible Smile Now beers for everyone! (cept' the under aged... )
  • 5 0
 29er tires up to 2.2? How 2003.
  • 3 3
 Also those style cable bosses always weather and then strip, should ve gone internal with a rubber grommet where the cable enters and exits exactly like where the dropper cable exits out of the seat tube.just my opinion though. Very very sweet the rear dropouts, very cool and unique.
  • 3 0
 I like it a lot, never had a Ti bike but a modern geo Ti hardtail would be rad.
  • 1 0 a Kingdom Vendetta then!? lol
  • 3 0
 It's awesome to see people making bikes to last and only get better over time. Who's fabricating them in the USA?
  • 3 0
 Lynskey is in Tennessee.
  • 1 4
 @leelau: When did FSA buy Lynskey? You must represent them. These average quality frames appear to be comprised of nostalgia, vanity, and delusion as much as titanium. I'll take a Dirt Surfer or four Rootdowns.
  • 7 0
 @ceecee: definitely separate companies. My preference is to stay independent so as to be able to point out industry BS/eccentricities.

But your point is well made. A Rootdown is pretty much the best value for money: just look at the used listings for example. Really there's no logical reason dollar-wise to drop this much money on a Ti hardtail; or any bike for that matter.

Having said that MTB is not about logic but I digress
  • 2 0
 @ceecee: What's with the hate?
  • 4 0
 Cable entry on shimano derailleurs is just abysmal.
  • 1 0
 Depends. In this case it is gimped only because the cable runs on the chain stay. If it was routed under the top tube and down the seat stay, it would be a very gentle curve. Not the fault of the derailleur, but of the frame design.
  • 2 0
 @woofer2609: most full suspension bikes route cables through the chainstay though
  • 4 0
 And I thought “high spec” Chameleon was too much money for a HT
  • 2 0
 Nice, but far from perfect. Plus the price! Sonder do a full Ti complete bike for 1600 quid and theres lots of Ti frames for less than this.
  • 3 0
 Kingdom, enough said. Cheap compared to this frame too!
  • 1 0
 All my road bikes from the 60's and 70's have the tubing variety (specifically Reynolds) designated with stickers, as did all my RMB 853 Blizzards. Come to think of it, I've never sen a frame material disclosed otherwise....
  • 2 0
 So the market for this frame is basically nobody. Nobody on Pinkbike anyway. For $3400 you can get a mid-range aluminum full suspension, or a mid-high-range hardtail.
  • 2 0
 Or get a kingdom vendetta for less than half that price. Plus it looks very similar. I have one. It rocks!
  • 1 0
 I bought a Habanero back in 2003 and it is still going strong; now a single speed.
Looking at their web page they are still making bike frames @ US$ 995. Geometry is a bit dated though.
  • 1 1
 Nice to see some real talk on a bike website regarding Chinese manufacturing, not a common occurrence. Yeah a cracked frame is not as serious as toxic baby formula or contaminated pet food, but bikers are paying a very high price for products manufactured in a country that cheats on everything they can get away with where the quality falls whenever they do not have constant foreign supervision.
  • 6 7
 Very pretty, but...

Screwed on HT badge? Nope. Why add the extra stress riser for zero gain? Yes, it's highly unlikey to cause an issue, but I'd glue on a couple of screwheads if the aesthetic turned me on that much.

No chainstay bridge? An area of massive stress without support is asking for trouble imo. There's a reason they have been standard on frames since forever. I'd be checking in there for cracks regularly.

44/56 head tube seems like a no brainer to me. Allows messing around with the full range of anglesets to change the character of the bike. Also gives a huge area to weld a phat downtube onto.

I've had two custom frames direct from China for £800 - £850. Fair play to the guy for making US manufacturing work, but I'd find it hard (impossible!!) to justify the extra cost.

Regardless of the details, a really good Ti hardtail is a thing of joy to own and use!
  • 1 0
 Also would be very concerned without a chainstay bridge.
  • 37 1
 I have no affiliation with Sage but I am a titanium frame builder so I thought I'd correct a few misgivings you have. There's not nearly enough stress on the front of a head tube to be concerned about screw holes. If you're worried about that, then you should be terrified of the huge vent holes underneath the HT and DT joints. But you should be even more scared if no vent holes were drilled. Tapered head tubes are a pain in the nuts to incorporate into a build. The majority of us use hole saws to cut the tubes. You can't easily cut a tapered miter and few who attempt it, do it well, leaving gaps in the joint that pull and twist the frame during the weld process. I created the headset with the 1.5 bearing and 44mm cup skirt for this very reason. It's been nearly a decade and still remains the best way to use a tapered steerer on a metal bike. Bikes don't need chainstay bridges. It's a great place to pop on a fender mount on a road bike but mostly it's just a shelf to collect mud. When you get into shorter stay bikes, you reduce the amount of room between the front of the bridge and the back of the BB shell. Sometimes it's impossible to get a welding torch in there to actually complete the weld in the acute angle of the joint and getting good gas coverage is often difficult...which results in alpha case which, unlike the lack of a bridge, is something to actually be concerned about. Good on you if you've successfully had a few frames in China that haven't broken yet. I've been building for 14 years and have been in the industry for 25 and my experience tells me that anyone who owns an unbroken Chinese ti frame retired it before it had the chance to break. That's the nature of the move on before the end of life and it's relegated to commuter duty or something. I used to teach and we had some guys come, from China, to learn ti manufacturing. They ignored everything showed them, argued that back purge was unnecessary and in the end had unrideable bikes...and they were going back home to start up a manufacturing business...scary.
  • 10 0
 @commondemoninator: IME trumps IMO every time.
  • 4 0
 @commondemoninator: thanks for adding that experience/explanation
  • 4 2
 @commondemoninator: I've successfully had one Ti frame from Tennessee which did crack Wink

Honestly though, you're kidding yourself if you really think a big Chinese outfit which has been successfully producing Ti bikes for a couple of decades is turning out rubbish, just because you met a couple of Chinese chancers once upon a time.
  • 6 0
 @bedmaker: Two very good points. Your experience with a ti frame made in Tennessee isn't unlike experiences other people have had from ti bike makers in Tennessee. I know a little bit about this, what shortcuts they take, why their failure rate is what is is (or has been what it was) and you're not going to get an argument from me about that. This isn't the appropriate venue for me to discuss it though.

On your point of my experience with the gentlemen from China and conflating that into an argument against Chinese manufacturing, you're right about that too. It is but one example of the mindset that's often present though.

I'm going to go out on a limb to assume that you don't have access the people in the industry who ARE using Chinese manufacturing and can tell you what they go through to ensure a quality product. What you CAN do, is read some of the stories of people who have. What you'll see over and over again is that they either have to place an engineer in China to oversee/work closely with the manufacturer to ensure that their QC points are being met, or they will not be met, period. What Sage experienced isn't unlike other stories I've heard first hand...first run looks good, subsequent runs get worse and worse. I have friends in other high end in footwear, one an engineer for a big S named bike company, and one in an industry that produces scanning electron microscopes and other electron beam machines and the stories are the same. You have to oversee the QC points in the MFG process or you're going to get something that has going through ever cost saving shortcut imaginable.
  • 2 0
 it wood be nice to see some cove bikes hard tails too and nice chromag bikes too.
  • 3 0
 It's great to see so much hardtail content lately. I love my ti hardtail.
  • 3 0
 Yeah, yeah yeah. But guys? TWO water bottle bosses inside the frame!
  • 3 0
 No 36ers, no motor, no gear box for $7K?
  • 3 1
 It's 2019, exposed shifting cable is unacceptable. Full length cable housing has been the norm for well over a decade.
  • 1 0
 Looks like ribble are about to bring out a ti hard tail so that should be interesting ....
  • 2 0
 No excuse for not having ti torque bolts on that headbadge.. phillips screws? wtf.
  • 2 1
 I can't see past the idea that anyone would be putting a MaxxGrip rear tyre on a bike like this.
  • 5 0
 If you're paying close to $8k for a US made Ti hardtail, who really cares about going through $80 tyres like a hot knife through butter?
  • 4 0
 @P3N54: or cables + housing, apparently, since the shift housing is not continuous
  • 4 0
 Since hardtails have less rear end traction then full suspension, it makes good sense to me to add a more grippy tire in the back.
  • 2 0
 @gnarnaimo: totally agree, higher volume tyres and a soft compound make a ton of sense on HTs
  • 1 0
 @gnarnaimo: A thousand times yes. This and the fact that a large enough volume tire gives you some modicum of suspension, or at least some conformity to obstacles.
  • 1 0
 I have an ardent race on the back of my ti hardtail and can tell I should have gone for more grip. Like gnarnaimo points out rear suspension gives your rear tire a lot of traction that the tire doesnt have on its own. Down something chattery your rear tire on a hardtail will just skip over bumps and lose traction. So there's some thought and intention behind them doing this.

Plus hardtails climb so well I don't think a grippy tire in the back will make much of a difference on how it performs in that regard. I guess it depends what youre riding too? If youre riding super steep trail climbs often then maxx grip in the rear is a great idea, but if its smoother fire roads then go with something with low tread.
  • 1 0
 Cable routing under the downtube is such a bad idea, especially with those aluminium tabs!?
  • 2 0
 I dig it! love my hardtail, but I love that one moooor
  • 2 0
 Stopped reading at "Frame only- $3,400 USD, builds start at $7,862"
  • 1 0
 AS much as I love ti, I'd have to agree. I have a Vassago ti frame at under 2K, and for this type of bike, I'd go for the new Spec Fuse frame 10/10 times over this frame, where I'd save $2600 and have room for 2.6" tires.
  • 1 1
 You could get a lot of drugs for $7000. Which I would imagine would give you a much more satisfying ride than a $7000 hard tail. At least do something with the cables man.
  • 1 0
 I'll take two please and do they come with pedals
  • 1 0
 Gorgeous... but 2.2's? This 2002?
  • 1 0
 Nitrogen FFS.
  • 1 1
 someone remind me why titanium is desirable.
  • 2 1
 Ride one and you will nothing looks as nice!
  • 1 0
 ...just say no.
  • 1 0
 ...and stay in school.
  • 1 1
 Looks like a niner ros
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