Test: 2009 Titus FTM

We recently discovered that the FTM supplied to us by Titus for this test did not use the production seatstays. The production versions suffered a reportedly high failure rate. Since our test, Titus has gone out of business and a company has purchased their name. This leaves owners of the FTM out on their own. Based on reliable sources, the defect was bad enough that it should have triggered a recall. We would recommend owners of this model to stop riding them. The failure of any seatstay is a serious and dangerous situation.

Had we known the bike had pre-production parts, we would have never tested the bike. Since the bike did use parts that were not available to Titus customers at the time, it makes our test findings totally invalid.

The 2009 Titus FTM (Full Tilt Moto) is a brand-new model that falls into the same trailbike category as the perennial favorite, the Titus Motolite. The FTM offers a half-inch more rear wheel travel than the Motolite and a completely different frame. That frame is available in aluminum (tested here), titanium and Exogrid (the proprietary Titus tubing that uses a laser cut titanium tube with a carbon insert).

The Titus FTM is a trailbike. It is intended for the rider who wants one bike to handle it all. That means it has to pedal efficiently, climb well, descend with confidence and still offer a lively feel.

The FTM is available in three frame materials, and we stuck with the most affordable of the three—aluminum. The aluminum frame uses optimized, hydroformed, butted 6000 series aluminum tubing. Titus calls the FTM’s stays their Light Rail System. It features asymmetrical, hydroformed chain stays and a one-piece carbon fiber seat stay with forged and machined dropouts. The shock’s rocker link is a one-piece, compression-molded carbon fiber design. Unlike the Motolite, which offers two rear wheel travel settings depending on the shock’s mounting position on the rocker link, the FTM’s geometry is optimized for 5.5 inches of travel, and that’s what you get.

The FTM is sold as a frame and shock. Titus offers four build kits that can have your FTM rolling for between $3595 (Kit 1) and $7195 (XTR kit). Our FTM was a custom blend of parts that would run you about $4795. The beauty of the FTM is that it doesn’t use any proprietary component designs. Sure, the shock is valved for this bike, but unlike a design that requires a unique shock, fork or drivetrain, the FTM was engineered to accept conventional components. That means if Fox upgrades their Float shock next year or the year after, the FTM will accept the upgrade easily. This is a big plus for riders who plan to ride a new bike for years.

The FTM falls into the same riding category as the Motolite, and the Motolite is a bike we have recommended for years, so comparisons are inevitable. We can tell you right now, the FTM is totally different from the Motolite in both appearance and performance.

Moving out: Titus made sure the FTM was ergonomically correct. The cables are expertly routed, the frame and stays all tuck in so there is no unwanted contact with the rider, and rider position feels more centered than on the Motolite. While 19.25 inches (measured from the center of the bottom bracket to the top of the seat tube) is large for a medium frame, it doesn’t feel that large in the saddle. Don’t let that number scare you. This is a medium-sized trailbike.

Hammering: Our FTM had a reasonable weight, and felt lighter than it actually was. The bike moves out well, whether you choose a small gear to spin or a big gear to torque. The FTM’s rear suspension (the Horst-link owned and licensed from Specialized) requires the shock to be run with the shock’s ProPedal lever on, or you will feel unwanted movement.

Cornering: This is where the FTM pulls away from the Motolite (a bike we love). The FTM gives its rider a much more connected feel with the front wheel. Whereas the Motolite has always felt a little tall in the front, the FTM feels hunkered down, even with the fork’s travel adjustment set to full. It loves tight, twisty, fast singletrack and doesn’t lose its zest for corners when the speed increases. This is a bike that will have you hammering the boring sections so you can reach the tight, techie stuff.

Climbing: We had our best results with the shock’s ProPedal turned on to the firmest setting, the same setting as when hammering. The lower-feeling front end allows the FTM rider to leave the fork in its full travel and just spin up the climbs. You don’t need a lot of position change to maintain traction, except on the steepest of sections.

Descending: Open up the shock’s ProPedal lever and let her rip. The Titus Light Rail System works well to hold the line you are trying to nail. In fact, the Light Rail System is a big part of why the wrecking crew loved hammering and cornering this bike. The quality rear suspension travel, the Fox fork with the 15-millimeter thru-axle and solid chassis all work together for an exhilarating feeling on the descents. And when you get a little too crazy, you’ve got those amazing Magura Marta brakes to slow you back down to a safe speed.

You may be tempted to set the shock’s ProPedal on the softest setting and simply leave it on all the time. That works, but not as well as switching between full-strength ProPedal and wide open. Luckily, the shock position makes the reach to the ProPedal lever intuitive. As far as changing stuff, we couldn’t come up with anything. This bike is ready to go.

Not recommended. See note at the top of the page.

Price   $2295 (frame and shock)
Country of origin   USA
Weight   27.9 pounds
Hotline   (800) 858-4887
Frame tested   19″ (medium)
Bottom bracket height   14″
Chain stay length   16.85″
Top tube length   23.5″
Head tube angle   69.25°
Seat tube angle   71.75°
Standover height   30″
Wheelbase   43.5″
Suspension travel (front)   5.5″
Suspension travel (rear)   5.3″
Frame material   Aluminum
Fork   Fox 32 TALAS RLC 15QR
Shock   Fox Float RP23
Rims   DT Swiss 4.2d
Tires   Kenda Nevegal (2.35″)
Hubs   DT Swiss 370
Brakes   Magura Marta
Crankset   FSA Afterburner
Handlebar   Maxm MX-5 (26.25″ wide)
Shifters   Shimano XT
Front derailleur   Shimano XT
Rear derailleur   Shimano XT Shadow
Chainrings   FSA (44/32/22)
Cassette   Shimano (11-34)
Pedals   None (weighed with Shimano XTR)

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