Sampling the finer things in life can be dangerous. When you get a taste, after lusting from afar, reality can be disappointing to say the least. However, on rare occasions (the truly dangerous ones) it turns out to be exactly what you hoped it might be and more. Then you are in serious trouble. It became clear early on that this Titus is one of those rare occasions, and that I am headed down the road to ruin at breakneck speed.
Easy on the eyes and easy on the lungs too, the El Guapo is a lightweight all around performer.
Titus is a high-end manufacturer based in Tempe Arizona without a large presence in Canada. The company got its start in 1991 creating titanium frames and custom sizing bikes to riders. They went on to do work for Horst Leitner (designer of “Horst link” suspension) and Titus suspension bikes were born. Their first long travel bike was the Quasi Moto way back in 1998. It was a small success for the company and it was subsequently updated and branded the Super Moto in 2003. In 2006 the El Guapo (translates as: “The handsome one”) became Titus’s next logical step in the evolution of long-travel bikes. After two years of field testing and rider feedback the 2009 Guapo received a significant redesign.
Updates for the 2009 frame include a completely new front triangle. It features curved tube profiles achieve through a forming process called ATF (Advanced Thermal Forming). It also sports an uninterrupted seat tube, a first for Titus long-travel bikes. To top off the package they tossed in a 1.5 head tube and ISCG tabs to expand the frame’s versatility. The end result is bike that is very capable and looks good just standing still. I told the crew at Titus I thought their new all-mountain flagship was ready for a shot at the Shore and they agreed.
The 1.5 headtube is new for ’09 and combined with the stiffness of the 36mm stanchions on the Float fork, this rocket goes where you point it.
Let’s get one thing straight: this is a sexy bike. Posting pictures of it after it arrived, I think this bike generated more good-natured hate mail from my riding friends than any other ride I have ever had. Things like “You B******! That thing looks amazing!” and “You suck! Can’t wait to see it on the trail” were pretty common.
Having had it out for couple of quick laps on the trail I can affirm that my riding pals are not alone. This bike is a little like an exotic car; when people see it they just have to come over and talk to you about it. The similarities to a high end automobile do not end there. The bike is hand crafted and build quality is superb (if you like beautiful welds, you can spend hours ogling this frame). It is light and very fast. Once you get used to it and dial in the suspension it is a joy to corner on. Last but not least, every once in a while you just have to stop, look down and then pinch yourself to make sure it is real.
The metal work all over the frame is top notch, especially the welds. In the early going the XT brakes seem very, very good: lots of power, good modulation and near-silent on the trail.
You can tell a lot about how a bike company thinks of itself by how the bike arrives on your doorstep. The Titus packing job was immaculate. There were no wasted materials, no sloppy work. It had just enough of everything to make sure the bike arrived as perfectly as it left their shop. It was cleanly built and everything down to the length of the cable housings was just right.
That attention to detail made building the bike up a breeze and the first impression of it assembled was powerful. Graceful but aggressive lines, a solid parts kit and low overall weight make this a bike that just screams “Let’s go!”. Even with a modest XT build kit the bike weighs in just a hair over 31.4 pound with pedals. This translates to a snappy acceleration and easy climbing on the trail.
The rear swingarm seems stiffer than the drinks at the local dockworker’s tavern. The area is also very easy to clean after a muddy ride, a big plus for a suspension bike being ridden in these parts.
Titus licenses the Horst link 4-bar suspension design from Specialized. The engineers at Titus are highly familiar with setup as they have used it from the very beginning. Instead of expending a lot of resources moving between various suspension platforms Titus has chosen to refine the Horst link setup over the years. Their dedication to system shows. Having the El Guapo pedal as well as it descends was a primary goal, and if my short time on the bike is a good indication, they definitely hit their target.
Several features including the pivot placements, effective use of the platform valving on Fox’s RP23 rear shock and a very sturdy design where the chainstay pivots attaches (behind the bottom bracket shell) all add up to create a bike that really snaps forward when you apply power, whether pointed uphill or on the flats. Most folks are familiar with the 4-bar design’s good manners when the trail turns downwards. Simply open up the platform valve on the shock and things get buttery, no brake-jack, no fuss. The Guapo looks set to be a good all-around performer but a summer in the saddle will tell the whole tale.
More gorgeous finish work on the frame. Viewed from the back or the top the rear linkage looks almost bulky, but from the side you can see how the bike retains its overall low weight. The second bolt hole in the forward frame mount is the setting for use with the coil-over shock.
One of the lesser known facts about the El Guapo is that it was designed to work with either a rear air shock or a coil-over setup. The bike came with a Fox Float 36 RC2 on the front and an RP23 on the back, but Titus was kind enough to send along the coil suspension kit as well; in the form of a Fox 36 Van RC2 and a DHX 5.0 rear shock. It is an embarrassment of riches but what’s a lowly bike tester to do? I’ll grin (all the time) and bear it. As the weather gets warmer and the shuttle trails shed their blanket of snow, I will swap setups and see how the springs and the air compare.
The tool-free 20mm quick release on the Fox Float is well designed and easy to use. The combination of large diameter parts from the headtube all the way to the hub makes this featherweight steed steer as well as its much heavier DH cousins.
In this price range manufacturers usually know that their customers are very specific (some might say “fussy”) about the parts they want on their bike. That being said, Titus does not offer build kits for the El Gupao this year. Mine came clad in a full Shimano XT group with a DT Swiss EX 1750 wheelset wrapped with Kenda Nevegal’s, an FSA Gravity stem and a Cane Creek 1.5 headset. The remaining bits are mostly Maxim parts.
I will need to make a few quick changes right away to get the bike ready for trails around here. The big ring will be replaced by a bashguard and the seat (A Fizik Gobi) has to go. It has a pointed profile in the back that makes sliding off the back a scary proposition. Getting poked in the guts by that the first time was enough; once bitten, twice shy. I’m voting with the boys; a new saddle it is. Overall though, there is very little to do and the bike will be all set for a full season of abuse. I’ll bring you the Guapo’s full report card later on this summer.
In the U.S. the 2009 El Guapo retails for US$2195 (frame only) and US$3370 when you add a Fox 36 TALAS RC2 up front. In Canada it is being distributed as a frame only with a suggested retail of CAD$2845.
Here in Canada Titus is distributed exclusively by Orange Sport Supply here in North Van.
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